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THE BEST: NYC Espresso


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The last thing I wanna do is recommend an Illy product (not my favorite) but heck this is interesting.

According to my recent issue of Food Arts on Thurs, Sept 15 Illy is opening some boutique outlet in SoHo for a bit to teach chefs, etc more about coffee and espresso.

more info here:

http://www.illyusa.com/galleria/pr/galleria_illy.htm

they are also selling this machine for a "deal" geared at offices:

http://illyusa.com/illyofficeespresso/

but i read here that the above machine is a piece of crappola (figures):

http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/general/151470

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yep, the restaurant i mentioned really is asking well past the "proper" price for an espresso. i personally think it's greedy. sure, it's quite good but not worth that kinda loot -- they take advantage imho.

to be fair, i once had my uncle ask me to buy him a coffee at a hotel bar in nyc while he ran up to his room to retrieve something. when he came down i handed him what was a $10 coffee -- so i suppose that really was my first incident of coffee bean related cardiac arrest.

if u wanna find a good deal on beans in nyc checkout puerto rico trading company. they have a few spots around town. unrelated, i noticed they also served as a background set for a gov. pataki commercial -- not surprising, it's been in biz for over 100 years -- quite the successful NYC biz.

Edited by henryjunior (log)
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  • 2 months later...
but i read here that the above machine is a piece of crappola (figures):

http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/general/151470

The Pasquini Livia A90 is actually not a bad machine but at its current online retail price of about $1,500 there are far better choices. As a matter of fact you can get machines as good or better for under $1,000. But the units that Illy was shipping to many people on this deal were "factory refurbs" that were said, in some cases (this is anecdotal to me - I did not buy one), to either be faulty because they weren't really refurbed or had other issues. But the Livia is not inherently a "bad" machine.

if u wanna find a good deal on beans in nyc checkout puerto rico trading company

That would be Porto Rico - they have a store on Bleecker and one elsewhere in town. Ehhh... beans not so fresh there unless you hit it lucky. They keep them in big open barrels (exposure to air = not a good thing) and no one on staff (at least when I was there) could ever tell me the actual roast date of anything they had in stock. I wouldn't buy beans for espresso there but for cheap prices on beans to use for drip coffee - they're not a bad option if you happen to pick a bean that's fresh enough.

But back to the real topic at hand: the best espresso in NYC.

Based on a tip I read here at egullet (where else?) I tried Casa this weekend when I was in the city on a visit. It's on 9th Ave, west side of the street three doors north of 40th. There's a spices/olives/Mediterranean specialty foods guy next door and the Sea Breeze Fish Market is on the corner.

Not sure when they open on weekdays but on Saturday they opened at 9 AM. I ended up spending my entire morning there quaffing at least three double ristretto's, a short cappuccino and a machiatto. They are really doing it right. Not sure if it's the best in NYC as I have not yet tried some of the other suspects on the list but at the very least... they must be in the top 3 - 5. BUt it is the best espresso I've ever had in NYC. For sure.

The owner Mike was running the shop. As it turns out... the real name is Casa @ Cupcake Cafe. Mike and his wife own the Cupcake Cafe Bakery a few doors down 9th on the other side of the street (corner of 39th IIRC). He did plenty of research, chose his machine carefully and has a limited menu - one small "to-go" size for cappa's or Americano's (no regular drip coffee served), and either a ten oz cappa cup or a 2 oz demitasse for espresso. He also sells some baked goods from his bakery and has a double waffle iron for some darn good fresh made waffles.

Lots of crema and a smooth flavor profile. Yes... there was a hint of bitterness but I think that's a characteristic of the blend (he's using La Coulombe at the moment). Mike is a very engaging guy and truly has a passion for the bean. They have a similar set-up (La Marzocco two group machine and a Swift grinder) at another store they operate on 18th Street but he admits that quality there can be hit or miss contingent on what barista is working (as mentioned in the original thread reference to Casa - the British guy Andrew is the one who should make your shots if you really want the goods - otherwise go to 9th Ave and see Mike).

Mike also mentioned that during his search for a bean supplier he talked to Intelligentsia Roasters of Chicago (or to someone selling their beans). That interaction resulted in someone from Elephant and Castle on Greenwich Street visiting his shop. Ostensibly they are using quality beans and have a rigorous barista training program and process control.

By chance have any of you been there and if so did you try the espresso or perhaps a cappuccino?

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Thanks for that post, phaelon.

I live in the neighborhood and often pass by there on a weekend, usually as I'm going to or coming from somewhere else, and keep meaning to stop in but ...

I always wondered how they could get away with callling themselves the Cupcake Cafe. :rolleyes:

I'm an old coffee drinker but an espresso newbie, so that sounds like a good place to start. Probably this weekend. :smile:

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Funny, I always thought the owner Mike is the weakest of the barristas there. However, I've only had his cappucino, so perhaps his espresso is excellent. I know they are religious over there about cleaning and maintaining their espresso machine.

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Funny, I always thought the owner Mike is the weakest of the barristas there.  However, I've only had his cappucino, so perhaps his espresso is excellent.  I know they are religious over there about cleaning and maintaining their espresso machine.

He admitted right up front that Andrew is the best barista on staff. When they first got into the espresso game they were able to keep some staff on hand that got trained/supervised by Andrew and, according to Mike, quality was fairly consistent.

More recently they've had some major business challenges that have necessitated running leaner staff levels and he admitted up front that consistency is not what it once was - there afre no "dedicated barista's" (i.e. people who work only in that position.

Mike made some very good shots when I was there and took plenty of time initially getting the machine and grinder where he wanted it before he would serve me a shot (I was the first customer of the day and walked in while he was still setting up). He discard at least four shots before he got one he was willign to serve me. And he did a hell of a good job steaming the milk.

I haven't experienced any of their other barista's at work but it's possible that Mike has gotten a bit of a crash course if he has to spend more time behind the machine these days.

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  • 3 months later...

Anybody heard of a place with an Italian name owned by a Swedish fellow and located somewhere around 56th and 6th Ave?

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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Zibetto Espresso Bar, owned and helmed by a great Swedish duo, Krim and Anastasio (he claims to be Swedish "by passport only"). Krim will spend half his time in Sweden and the other half in here in NY, while Anastasio's the only full-timer. Their Italian-style service will be lapped up by their well-heeled, in-and-out clients in the area. Per their espresso and general drink quality, all one has to know is that they're using Danesi. Espresso is not ground to order (though occasionally it is); the spent grounds of previous shots are not cleaned out; they do not use volumetric dosing, instead relying on the one-click method for a "single" and two-clicks for a "double;" tamping is done using a plastic tamp attached to the grinder and with a sparing touch equivalent to maybe five to eight pounds of pressure; and single baskets are used for single shots. Their milk texturizing, however, is spot on, and as good as the five to seven best places in the NY area. All of this is to say that they are nice guys and a welcome addition to the New York coffee scene, and where else can one get this sort of coffee anywhere north of 13th Street? (Answer: You can't.)

il

Edited by IML (log)
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  All of this is to say that they are nice guys and a welcome addition to the New York coffee scene, and where else can one get this sort of coffee anywhere north of 13th Street? (Answer:  You can't.)

I don't question that they're nice guys and good milk texturing is hard to find in any city - especially NY. But Casa @ Cupcake Cafe serves far better espresso made with much greater attention to detail thjan what you describe. And they're well north of 13th at 40th and 9th.

But that is a good spot to know for time when I'm in that part of the city - I don't recall ever seeing many options near there other than *bucks.

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Compared to the overall experience one gets at Casa @ Cupcake Cafe, the Zibetto guys are the real deal. They come from a lineage of Scandanavian baristi trained in the Northern Italian style (think Trieste) that focuses more on overall drink preparation. I.e., well proportioned milk to espresso; proper texturizing; involved drink art; and so on. There's a reason the World Barista Championships are dominated by these guys. Andrew @ Casa is great, though, but it hardly makes a case for frequenting the entire shop, where good coffee is sketchy at best.

Edited by IML (log)
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If it's north of 13th street, well, to me Via Quadrono on 73rd btw Mad and 5th is head and shoulders above Joe's and Tarralucci y Vino (who have a newish spot on 18th street). BTW I've tried the 13th street Joe's a few times and have come away very disappointed. Burnt flavor, very long pulls both in terms of time and quantity. For my money in NYC it's either Tarralucci or Via Quadrono with heavy emphasis on the latter. I'm eager to try Zibetto.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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When I read this statement....

Per their espresso and general drink quality, all one has to know is that they're using Danesi. Espresso is not ground to order (though occasionally it is); the spent grounds of previous shots are not cleaned out; they do not use volumetric dosing, instead relying on the one-click method for a "single" and two-clicks for a "double;" tamping is done using a plastic tamp attached to the grinder and with a sparing touch equivalent to maybe five to eight pounds of pressure; and single baskets are used for single shots.

I saw a list of all the things that typically contribute to espresso that is below average in quality or average at very best. Not trying to be argumentative here and I'll have to try their shots to offer an accurate assessment but all the best espresso I've ever had in North America comes from places that

  • * use beans no more than 14 days past roast date - not Illy, Danesi, Lavazza et al which are almost certain to be older than that
    * grind every shot to order
    * click however many times it takes to get the right dose in the basket
    * use a separate hand tamper with 25 - 35 lbs of pressure
    * offer only double shots made with either a double or a "triple" basket and most often these are ristretto shots
    * wipe the basket clean of spent grounds after every shot before dosing for the next one

I agree and acknowledge that the World Barista Championships are dominated by Scandinavians but having that ancestry or cultural lineage is not enough. Are you saying that they use the fairly fast and loose techniques you desribed yet are somehow producing espresso of a quality akin to that which would satisfy the stringent requirements of a WBC caliber barista or a WBC judge?

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phaelon56: Look, it should be obvious that you and I are in the biz -- why else would I make note of what I viewed as Zibetto's shortcomings? The only difference between us is that I don't believe in using beans nine days out from roast date, and even then it's pushing it. Anyway, there isn't a lot of comraderie going on in the New York coffee scene, and I'm not out to nitpick over somebody's technique. It's cool to have some guys here from across the pond, and I'm sure they'll have many things to share with those of us in the industry here in the city.

il

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Dropped in on Zibetto's today. It's a really cool place. Two shots, not exactly alike. Both very good. I'm perplexed about this Danesi coffee. Seems to fly in the face of the axiom about freshness. In any case, I intend to stop by for an espresso whenever I'm near Zibetto. It's the closest thing to the Italian experience we've got in NYC.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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Given how much variability a human can introduce (less than clean machine, choice of water, tamping etc.), I suspect that any decent coffee beans in the right hands can turn something out that is quite good and some really good coffee beans can turn out garbage in the wrong hands. I think that coffee beans differences are somewhat overrated, in the right hands any good brand can make very good coffee. Even Starbucks with automatic machines seems to vary!!!

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I was not going to interject but, since the point of north America was brought up, Did you ever tried lacolombe. They roast their own coffee plus select thier own beans. A lot of the top restuarnants use La colombe. Jean- George, Ducasse, Daniel. ect. Maybe just a shot.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Given how much variability a human can introduce (less than clean machine, choice of water, tamping etc.), I suspect that any decent coffee beans in the right hands can turn something out that is quite good and some really good coffee beans can turn out garbage in the wrong hands.  I think that coffee beans differences are somewhat overrated, in the right hands any good brand can make very good coffee.  Even Starbucks with automatic machines seems to vary!!!

There's both truth and error in the above perepctive (in my opinion).

Mediocre or average espresso blends, especially those that are not fresh enough or are over-roasted, can never create great espresso even in the hands of a master barista with great equipment. But it is definitely true that bad equipment or a poorly trained barista or both factors can produce real swill even from the best and freshest beans.

My latest results in NYC: I was there weekend before last and was unable to visit all the places I wanted to try but I did get to 9th Street espresso two days in a row and also made a visit to Blue Spoon.

I had a few machiatto's and a cappuccino at 9th Street and was well pleased with both. They use good technique, the right machine (a Synesso Cyncra) and have a rich blend with just the tiniest hint of a bitter undertone (in a good way). The drip coffee I sampled from them was also pretty good. I really liek 9th Street but it's a bit of ahike for me when I'm in town as my business and personal travel never takes me to LES - it's a schlepp over there for me.

Blue Spoon blew me away. They were using a Simonelli machine (not a great choice) but are pulling shots with Intelligentsia's Black Cat blend. I had a doubel ristretto and it stands out in my memory as the most complex and intriguing flavor profile I've ever tasted in an espresso. I knocked back the espresso and took a small cup of drip coffee with me. Twenty minutes later when the drip coffee was nearly all consumed I still had instense flavor artifacts lingering on the back of my tongue from the Black cat. The bad news is that Blue Spoon is closed on weekends.

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Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint. They too have the Synesso Cyncra machine (quite amazing to behold) and they source their beans from Victrola, a roaster in Seattle. I sampled a straight espresso and a macchiato. Both were exceptional. Espresso exhibited wonderful crema and a remarkably smooth finish. Very well rounded. Not the slightest hint of unpleasant bitterness. Macchiato was the same with the added layer of lactic sweetness.

I realize it is out of the way for most nyers, but if you're in the area, check it out. It's worth it.

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Gimme Coffee just down the way in Williamsburg is very good but Victrola's Streamline is my current favorit espresso blend for straight shots or machiatto's. And the Synesso helps - that's what they make it on at Victrola.

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Murkcury: Who pulled your shots at Grumpy? I'll pass along the kudos to the deserving barista. Incidentally, Grumpy's trainer, Sam Crane, was Victrola's first roaster, not counting co-owner Chris Sharp. As an added sidenote, the Synesso is not without its flaws. Temperature-surfing is still needed, as there are still considerable thermal fluctuations between shots, with the biggest problem being the steam wand. Although every Synesso allows its owner to punch in the relative pressure of the wand (by regulating the temperature of the steam's heat element), it still has too much power. Everybody I've talked to who has worked on one (the guys at Joe, Ninth Street, many Seattleites, and so on) do not gun the throttle much past halfway open, and are not necessarily pleased with the microfoam texture it produces, unless one were texturizing, say, a gallon of milk in each batch.

Phaelon56: While Victrola's product ranks in the top-tier of espresso in this country, serious questions should be asked about the future of its operations and product quality, especially after the company's recent decision to let their head roaster, Tonx, go (and all on the eve of Victrola 2, their soon-to-be mega-roastery). So far there has been a seamlessness between Streamline's current integrity, and older batches roasted by Tonx, which means Chad picked up the reins and quickly came up to speed. (He also has some interesting ideas on where to take the blend in coming months.)

In other NYC coffee-related news, Gimme! just switched to La Marzocco's first commercially-available PID'ed machine, the GB/5. Not only has it affected the way their blend tastes, sales have recently skyrocketed.

Today the Boston Globe published a so-so article on espresso, including a short list of where to go in NYC. It was written by a friend of Erin's (from Joe 13th), so it has its obvious biases. Read Ken Nye plagiarizing Schomer (i.e., "good coffee should taste exactly as it smells"), or why Starbucks is bad.

Edited by IML (log)
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While Victrola's product ranks in the top-tier of espresso in this country, serious questions should be asked about the future of its operations and product quality, especially after the company's recent decision to let their head roaster, Tonx, go (and all on the eve of Victrola 2, their soon-to-be mega-roastery).

That's a shock. Tony is a great guy and highly respected in the roasting community here in the US as well as getting some props from overseas. I'm sure he'll land on his feet and hope to hear of his future position soon.

In other NYC coffee-related news, Gimme! just switched to La Marzocco's first commercially-available PID'ed machine, the GB/5.  Not only has it affected the way their blend tastes, sales have recently skyrocketed.

Do you mean that sales at the Williamsburg store have skyrocketed and is the implication that better quality being produced by the GB/5 is a factor in this?Just curious. I have yet to try shots from a GB/5 but was mightily impressed by my experience with a beta model of the GS3 this past winter.

Yet despite the advances in equipment... a good barista is still the key. I can drive an hour south to Ithaca and in a 1 mile radius go to three different shops where the exact same espresso blend is pulled on three different machines: a La Marzocco Linea, a Mirage and also on a Faema "no-stop". It's not possible to do a real side by side A/B/C comparison due to lack of physical adjacency but the shots in all three places are routinely of very high quality and consistency.

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murkcury: I am Ian. Glad you liked what you had.

phaelon56: Tonx is a dear friend of mine. He stopped by NY momentarily after the SCAA show, and it was great to see him. Kyle, who was probably Victrola's best barista, was also forced out. Both are planning a trip to NY very, very soon.

Don't ask me why Gimme! experienced a higher volume of sales. They just have. I cannot attribute it to the machine, but they were hopping yesterday and the day before. Maybe they hyped this thing up? Dunno, really.

il

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If either Tonx or Kyle were somehow lured into settling on the East coast for awhile it would be Seattle's loss and our gain. With you guys open in Greenpoint... Gimme in Williamsburg... Ken on LES and even John Hornall showing up in Philly... rumors of Intelly coming to town...

the espresso scene appears to be finally heating up. That's all good.

You should expect to see an interesting new craft/artisan micro-roasting operation appear in the Northeast during the next six months as well. That's a definite.

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