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The Manhattan Coffee Pilgrimage: Drip Coffee

November 2, 2010

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m not the hugest drip coffee fan; it gets cold quickly and has none of the texture of foamed milk. On the other hand, the variety you get with drip coffee just can’t be tasted in even the best espresso. If I want to be able to truly taste coffee, I’d better start with the slow-drip stuff. Still, I refuse to compromise my dislike for super “fruity” (aka acidic) coffee, so that usually means choosing South American over African (I realize that this is a huge generalization and coffee varies from region to region, but this is what I’ve experienced).

Third Rail Coffee (240 Sullivan street).

Located on the fringe between Soho and West Village, Third Rail is also next to Peanut Butter and Co, which yes, is overpriced, but a cute idea. Out of all the coffee I sampled in New York, Third Rail’s was the weakest.Roasters used: combination of Intelligentsia, Stumptown and possibly Counter Culture (I forget).

  1. Ordered: iced coffee, which was transparent both in appearance and taste. Probably good for those who like their coffee weaker, but it was too weak for me. On my next attempt, I ordered the house blend, an El Salvador that was good and full-bodied, but nothing to write home about. I’m not discounting, it though– last time I was in NYC I ordered a cappuccino, and man, was it good. Clearly espresso is where it’s at here.

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea location: 224 West 20th Street)

  1. Roasters: They roast their own beans, and each batch is cupped separately.
  2. Ordered: Coffee tasting flight: what a deal! I would have ordered espresso, but seeing as how you could sample any three Clover varietals of your choice (about 4 oz each), how could I resist? The barista recommended the Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Out of the three, the Guatemalan was definitely my favorite: it tasted richer and mellower, as opposed to the El Salvador, which was cleaner (veering into potentially dangerous acidic territory here). The Honduras was a balance between the two, managing to be full-bodied and bright at the same time.

Ninth Street Espresso (341 E. 10th street. Because there really isn’t enough coffee in the East Village)

  1. Roaster: Intelligentsia for Ninth Street Espresso. Alphabet City espresso blend.
  2. Ordered: Cold brew. What’s the difference between a cold brew and regular iced coffee, you ask? As you might suspect, cold brewed ice coffee is brewed… well… cold, whereas iced coffee is usually brewed double-strength and then refrigerated. Because you have to make a concentrate at room temperature and wait for 12 hours, cold-brewing is a time-consuming process, one that results in a much smoother taste.
  • My first cold brew (at Stumptown, see Espresso post) caught me a little off guard– Being used to Intelligentsia’s aggressively strong iced coffee, it seemed almost diluted, a bright, tea-like drink that would definitely be ruined by adding milk. Once I got it through my head that I was dealing with two different animals here, I stopped mentally comparing cold brew to iced coffee and tried to taste it for what it was. In Ninth Street Espresso’s case, that meant sampling the best iced coffee I have ever had. Usually, I can’t bring myself to describe coffee as flowery, fruity, chocolatey, etc, but the cold brew was so sweet and subdued, I really did taste dark chocolate and berries in it. As I sipped it, I saw dark blue and purple (every now and then I get flashes of synesthesia), as opposed to the reddish brown hues I usually see when I drink coffee. It was an experience.


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