Roasting the Mosting: Austin’s Cuvée Coffee named among America’s best

Logan Dubel, Senior Life&Arts Reporter

When Mike McKim lost his telecommunications job in the early 2000s, he said he wanted to find a craft, not just a job. After visiting his coffee roasting uncle, he bought a roaster, and his imagination started brewing. 

“It’s like every craft brewery owner you’ve ever met,’” McKim said. “They start making beer in their garage and give it to friends and family, who tell them it’s delicious. Then, one day, you’re like, ‘Maybe I’ll open a brewery.’ I was super into the craft of roasting, and there wasn’t a lot of science known at the time. I was at the forefront.”

Sixteen years after falling in love with roasting, McKim opened Cuvée Coffee on East 6th Street in 2014, featuring a bar pouring coffee from beer taps and airy blue walls designed with guitars and cacti. Earlier this month, Trips to Discover named Cuvée one of the top 25 coffee shops in the country. The business — which put specialty, custom-roasted coffee on the map in Texas — currently boasts two coffee bars, an expanding brewery and an online store. 

Years before opening his café, McKim sold espresso machines and roasted coffee in a warehouse on weekends after discovering his passion. Cuvée slowly started appearing in independent shops and on shelves at H-E-B. 

The company hit its stride in 2011, inventing specialty coffee staples, such as the nitro cold brew, brewing coffee like canned beer and popularizing cold coffee. Their signature foam’s creamy texture commonly appears in Starbucks drinks today. When making its nitrogenated cans, Cuvée adds widgets — devices also used by Guinness beer — to imitate a fresh taste. 

McKim’s son, Cole, grew up around Cuvée, and now at 21, manages the brewery. Even as a child, he said he felt pride in the brand.

“The coolest part was walking through the grocery store, seeing the product on the shelf and people buying it; I just wanted to go up to them and say, ‘I made that,’” Cole said. “It’s craftsmanship, and people use coffee to get up in the morning, so I feel like I’m helping the world.”

Although Cuvée pioneered specialty coffee, Mike McKim said he prioritizes accessibility from the roastery to the register. 

“Specialty coffee can be intimidating and elitist,” McKim said. “One of the speeches I give to our new staff is that as a barista, this is not your platform to amaze people with your knowledge but to serve them exactly what they want. If they have questions, make them feel comfortable if they don’t know what to order.” 

Gabriel Farrow, who graduated from UT in 2021, frequently shares food reviews on TikTok and said he found Cuvée while searching for a new coffee adventure. 

“It’s a quintessentially awesome vibe… You get attached,” Farrow said. “It encapsulates Austin, Texas. The baristas are super friendly and open-minded, and it’s a welcoming experience from the get-go … They are on national lists because their coffee is damn good.” 

McKim recently opened another shop, C Bar, which offers coffee cocktails along 48 East Ave. Even as the company grows, McKim said seeing his brand recognized feels humbling.

“We’re on a list like this because we’ve been doing this a long time,” McKim said. “My frontline staff feels pride when they see something like this. Being first to market (specialty coffee), as sexy as that sounds, was difficult. There’s the saying that pioneers get all the arrows and settlers get all the land, and we’ve always been pioneers.”