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THE BEST: NYC Espresso


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I know this is a "best of" thread... I just gotta post a beware or expect the worst warning for the Joe's on 13th street and 5th avenue. I went for a quick shot the other day remembering that the ever-trustworthy NY Magazine said it was the best espresso in NYC.

It took the barista nearly ten minutes by my watch to make three drinks. My espresso was nearly undrinkable. It's a mistake to trade money for coffee at this place. I should have remembered from the last time I was there.

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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  • 10 months later...

I was in the city the week before last on business and made a trip to the new Cafe Grumpy location in Chelsea. It's on 20th between 7th and 8th - on the south side of the street and a quick walk from the 23rd Street subway station.

It's a small and sleek place - plenty of curvy wood, good light and a very pared down look. This is the new generation of coffee bar and it bodes well for the future. There's a three group Synesso Cyncra espresso machine, a few grinders and not one but TWO Clover brewers.

No conventional drip or press pot coffee and no airpots - just a simple menu of six or eight single origin (mostly single estate) varietals. The Clover brews coffee by the cup one cup at a time. It can be programmed for different temperature, steep time etc for each bean in order to bring out the best and most subtle nuances of each different bean type. This is, literally, a revolution in coffee brewing and the coffee isastoundingly good. I had a cop of Kenyan that was complex, slightly fruity andsmoother than just about any coffee I have ever consumed despite a very big flavor profile.

I started with a triple ristretto espresso - about 3/4 to 1 oz of crema laden goodness - so sweet it definitely didn't require any sugar (which I usally add to my straight espresso). The espresso I tried was that week's special - Bin 35 Mountain Top espresso from Australia. Yes... they grow coffee in Australia and this was spectacular. It was expertly roasted by the good folks at Ecco Caffe and ranks up there among the top three espresso shots I have ever consumed. Definitely on a par with the shots you'll get at Cafe Vivace in Seattle and that's really, really good.

I followed that with a machiatto and a cappuccino made from the current house espresso- a blend from 49th Parallel Roasters in British Colombia.

If you're in Manhattan I suggest putting the new Grumpy location on your must-visit list.

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Note also that Ninth Street Espresso has a new branch on 13th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. Much more convenient than the other branch to the subway, many people's offices, shopping, and... well, everything except my apartment, AFAIK. :)

I'd say Grumpy and 9th St lead the pack in Manhattan; although I'm actually not all that fond of Counter Culture's roast, the baristas at 9th St kick serious butt in terms of technique. I've actually never had anything less than excellent texture on my milk (although I've heard the baristas grumping about the Synesso wand as well) and the coffee is just great.

IML: I'm afraid I can't say I was all that impressed with Zibetto. (Also, of course, one *can* "get this sort of coffee north of 13th Street" now that Grumpy opened its Manhattan branch. ;) )

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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I am relatively new to the world of espresso (as a connoisseur) I have enjoyed it for some time butt never thought much about it--till now.

Recently have been patronizing "Jack's Coffee" near the seaport (an offshoot of the Village establishment.

Anyone have an assessment of their offerings?

thanks

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Note also that Ninth Street Espresso has a new branch on 13th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. Much more convenient than the other branch to the subway, many people's offices, shopping, and... well, everything except my apartment, AFAIK. :)

I'd say Grumpy and 9th St lead the pack in Manhattan; although I'm actually not all that fond of Counter Culture's roast, the baristas at 9th St kick serious butt in terms of technique. I've actually never had anything less than excellent texture on my milk (although I've heard the baristas grumping about the Synesso wand as well) and the coffee is just great.

IML: I'm afraid I can't say I was all that impressed with Zibetto. (Also, of course, one *can* "get this sort of coffee north of 13th Street" now that Grumpy opened its Manhattan branch. ;)  )

Mayur, do you drink a straight espresso or one with milk? I ask because I'm increasingly finding a disparity in judgement between lovers of one and the other. I'm a Seattle native and have the good fortune to visit there a couple of times a year. As much espresso as they pull there, it's pretty uncommon for people to drink it without milk. I think the baristas have drifted toward pulling tighter packs with finer grinds and darker roasts so that the coffee can speak through the milk I've found this to be the case at Victrola and Ninth street as well. When this same shot is alone in a cup, to me it's too much.

Additionally, I want to make the following statement:

There can be too much crema.

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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Mayur, do you drink a straight espresso or one with milk?  I ask because I'm increasingly finding a disparity in judgement between lovers of one and the other.  I'm a Seattle native and have the good fortune to visit there a couple of times a year.  As much espresso as they pull there, it's pretty uncommon for people to drink it without milk.  I think the baristas have drifted toward pulling tighter packs with finer grinds and darker roasts so that the coffee can speak through the milk  I've found this to be the case at Victrola and Ninth street as well.  When this same shot is alone in a cup, to me it's too much.
I drink both. Depends largely on the time of day (milk from breakfast until lunch, none afterward). I pretty much never drink lattes, since that's just too much milk for my tastes.

I agree with you that Ninth Street's Counter Culture roast can be pulled to be too "dark" tasting and overconcentrated; I actually can't for the life of me get it to turn out any other way using my machine. However, I also think that baristas should recognize the difference between pulling for a milk drink and pulling for a straight shot, and I've usually found that to be the case at Ninth Street. In fact, I'm not quite sure how they pull it off.

Additionally, I want to make the following statement:

There can be too much crema.

Damn right! Overextraction for texture's sake is hardly a good idea!
Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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That said, I prefer the espresso (Ecco Northern Italian Reserve) at Grumpy; ironic, given that the roaster suggests this as being a good blend/roast for milk drinks.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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You know it's a funny thing about the ninth street blend. I bought beans and worked with them a little to see if I could get a gentler shot and found the same thing. And I remember thinking that the roast was really good.

Well in any case I live a block away from their new location on 13th street. I went there this morning and I'll probably drop in tonight. It's a good cup of coffee.

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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Note also that Ninth Street Espresso has a new branch on 13th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. Much more convenient than the other branch to the subway, many people's offices, shopping, and... well, everything except my apartment, AFAIK. :)

I'd say Grumpy and 9th St lead the pack in Manhattan; although I'm actually not all that fond of Counter Culture's roast, the baristas at 9th St kick serious butt in terms of technique. I've actually never had anything less than excellent texture on my milk (although I've heard the baristas grumping about the Synesso wand as well) and the coffee is just great.

IML: I'm afraid I can't say I was all that impressed with Zibetto. (Also, of course, one *can* "get this sort of coffee north of 13th Street" now that Grumpy opened its Manhattan branch. ;) )

Mayur great to see you again.

9th St coffee is excellent.

It will be interesting to see how well La Colombe is recieved by new yorkers when it opens.

Though they have supplied most of the best known chefs in Manhattan, they arent well known to the public, but technique-wise, the current cafes are similar in style to 9th street.

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Mayur great to see you again.

9th St coffee is excellent.

It will be interesting to see how well La Colombe is recieved by new yorkers when it opens.

Though they have supplied most of the best known chefs in Manhattan, they arent well known to the public, but technique-wise, the current cafes are similar in style to 9th street.

Likewise! We must have an espresso some time when you're up in NYC!

La Colombe will be an interesting play in NY; I imagine they'll put some serious cash into creating a presence! Now if we can just get Capogiro to branch out here...

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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Do you know when and where?

By summers end, lower manhanttan.

La Colombe will be an interesting play in NY; I imagine they'll put some serious cash into creating a presence! Now if we can just get Capogiro to branch out here...

They certainly do have the money but the thing is they are all about the coffee and just a few pastries and teas. No Chai lattes, flavored coffees, internet access.

Personally I like thier simple rusticity and they have excellent Baristas.

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I stopped by Grumpy on 20th street today. Instead of another belligerant statement about crema like the one I made upthread, I'll pose statement #2 as a question:

Should crema be black?

Lurking behind the acidity and black crema, I tasted some nice flavors. It was a little distracting however, listening to the barista in the vintage cycling jersey guilelessly pontificate about how drinking their three dollar ethiopian coffees helps ethiopian people lead better lives.

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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  • 2 years later...

While it has been a while since this topic was last active, it certainly isn't because of inactivity on the espresso scene in New York. Espresso may even be the new hamburger, banh mi, pizza, you name it...because once New Yorkers think they have it figured out, all hell breaks loose and there will be an espresso place on every damn corner.

My main problem with much of the espresso here is a question I posed on the Coffee & Tea forum some time ago, after an article appeared in the Times. In it, I asked about the super short, not necessarily hot enough espresso I was being served. Everywhere I went. Triple ristrettos. Barely hot enough. Gak.

On CoffeeGeek, I posed the question as well, and got a number of plausible answers...the one that made the most sense was this one:

But to the comment, it's important to note that many of the cafes mentioned in the Times article are not trying at all to emulate Italy or Italian-style espressos.  They are more from the Seattle/Portland school of espresso-making.

Not realizing what the Seattle/Portland "school" was, I found that in general it means that the shot is destined to be used in a milk-based drink, which then makes perfect sense. And I'd venture a guess that at most of the high-end espresso places here, 90% of their drinks are NOT espressos. They're a variation thereof. Lattes, cappucinos, shots in the dark, yada, yada.

Now I think I may have finally found the shop that I've been looking for. During the search, a Rancilio Silvia in my kitchen has become my espresso of choice. Possibly because I find most of the espressos drawn in this city to be, in many cases, just okay, and in other cases, plain lousy. And at $2 - $3 a pop, I figured the Silvia would pay for itself rather quickly (it has). FWIW, I basically pull Black Cat from Intellegentsia.

Digressions aside, La Colombe on Lafayette St. between Prince and Houston Sts. appears to be the real deal (at least to my taste). I hadn't ever tried the one down in Tribeca - it's just too damn far to go for an espresso (and Silvia is here). But I had tried the flagship, down in Philadelphia. And certainly the fact that some of the top restaurants here serve their coffee added to the mystique.

What'd I get? A perfectly drawn espresso, served at the correct temperature, after a shot glass of water - sorta like they do in Italy (and at Gimme as well). Coffee roasted 3 - 4 days prior and hitting its stride. A bit of a primer from Todd the barista, also explaining how a lot of cafes like to do triples so the espresso comes through the 5 - 7 oz. of milk in a latte or a cap. All that for $2. The search is over.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Greetings,

I've only recently become enthused for espresso but after reading this, maybe I haven't really had the experience of a really good shot.

Since I've been paying attention, I've only had the espresso at Keste and Morandi. Keste didn't have the bitterness that Morandi typically does and I'm only now realizing that espresso isn't necessarily bitter!

So now, I would like to try one of the egullet-approved places.

Can someone recommend a place in the West Village ?

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I live in the neighborhood and would recommend Jack's (w.10th between 7th ave. & greenwich ave.), which I think pulls the finest espresso in Manhattan. That said, I haven't yet been to La Colombe or Gimme Coffee, so my mind and palate might still be swayed.

I've visited most of the haute espresso joints around the city (including Joe, 9th St., Cafe Grumpy, Abraco) and have not found espresso better than Jack's -- perfect temperature, chewy mouthfeel, not too bitter, perfect amount of crema, incredible aroma. Jack's is so good that it left me totally underwhelmed when I visited my old hometown fave, Blue Bottle Coffee in SF. Unfortunately, I can't say nearly the same thing for Jack's South Street location -- there's an oddly noticeable difference in the training and quality of the baristas.

However, I must warn you: Jack's pulls all of their shots triple ristretto. Reasonable minds differ on whether this is good or bad, as you can see from weinoo's comments upthread, so YMMV. (IMHO, properly pulled triple ristretto results in a rich, full-bodied shot that is hot but not scalding and less bitter than a double shot of similar liquid volume). Granted, you might not be the type who likes a thicker, sweeter shot, and of course this being NY, there are certainly places trying to capitalize on the triple ristretto trend that are doing it wrong.

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I'm still trying to figure out what I like, so I like the idea of being able to try a triple ristretto without being self-conscious about trying to pronounce it.

I did try Joe the art of coffee yesterday. I used to put one sugar pack in each shot I've had in the past, but I think those days are behind me. Considering the level these guys operate, it seems unnecessary and almost vulgar!

Jack's is next...

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