Background: Unravel wanted to bring roasting back to the cafe.
Steve Holt has pushed the boundaries of exceptional coffee for over a decade as a partner at Ninety Plus Coffee
, a collection of coffee farms in Panama and Ethiopia that grow some of the world’s most prized coffees. When he left the company in 2018 to launch Unravel Coffee—a coffee shop and eventual roaster—he knew he wanted to do things differently.
“I didn’t want to have to find and pay for a separate location for roasting or go through that massive learning curve of roasting on a gas roaster. You have to be in front of those roasters the entire time and pay for extra staff to roast. I wanted a roaster at our shop location that our staff could roast on.”
Solution: A consistent roaster that baristas operate inside the shop.
Steve has rustled some feathers over the years with his views on roasting coffee. He believes that coffee companies should leverage technology to make roasting more consistent, less burdensome, and a captivating experience for both the operator and customer.
“Roasting is no different than an espresso machine. You’re putting coffee in and expecting a result to come out. Let the technology do the work. I don’t need to be standing in front of a roaster all day. If you have a recipe and the technology and the mechanics to produce something, why would you try to repeat that as a human when the machine can actually do it for you?”
When Steve discovered the Bellwether Roaster as he was in the beginning stages of planning Unravel, he knew it was the perfect fit. It matched his ambitious goals.
- Roasting coffee in each cafe he opens, with consistent quality results every roast
- Engaging baristas with the roasting process as part of regular bar duties
- Establishing new revenue streams by selling bagged coffee in‑store and online
Unravel Coffee opened its first Denver, CO location in January 2018 with a Bellwether Roaster.
Results: Unravel created a unique experience and new revenue streams.
Steve and his team quickly learned how to roast coffees they were sourcing independently on the Bellwether with their own custom roast profiles.
“We adapted super quick. It’s very intuitive and easy to adjust. And my staff here is involved in those decisions that we make, from roasting and tasting and making adjustments.”
When Steve expanded to a second location in Breckenridge, CO in December 2019, he added an additional Bellwether Roaster on‑site. This second roaster will also supply coffee to a future Unravel location in Vail, CO.
“Each location shares the same roast profiles, so each location doesn’t need its own style of roaster going in and changing things—it’s all built‑in to the technology. It’s quite consistent."
The team now roasts upwards of 400 pounds per month—all without all the hassle of opening a warehouse, buying tons of equipment, and training specialized staff.
“It’s like a bar task, it’s actually faster to load a batch of coffee in the Bellwether than to prepare an espresso‑based beverage.”
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Unravel was forced to close its locations for in‑store coffee sales, but Steve was easily able to ramp‑up roasting to meet the rising demand for online coffee sales.
“We can pretty much roast any day of the week, then send the coffee out either the same day or next day. We saw an increase of about 400% in our online sales from mid‑March to mid‑May.”
Unravel’s newest location will be in an area of downtown Denver with heavy foot traffic, and the company’s third Bellwether Roaster will be visible from the sidewalk. Steve is certain this will draw attention and new customers while it roasts in clear view.
“It’ll be good to showcase roasting close‑up and personal. You’re just standing right next to the roaster, and we’ll be pushing more whole bean sales through that experience.”
Most importantly, Steve is proud that Unravel stands among industry giants when it comes to delivering uncompromising coffee quality to his customers and community.
“You can get coffee just as good, if not better, than some of the bigger players. But the greatest benefit is that you own this. Now it’s your cafe and coffee. You’re the head chef, and you can really sell that to your customers.”
Ready to start roasting like Unravel?