New York’s always been a coffee town. Those blue-and-white deli cups are iconic for a reason, after all (and don’t get us started on the green and white ones).
But as any good Italian will tell you, that coffee we gulp down every morning is, for the most part, pure swill. A real coffee is espresso. And pulling a proper shot of espresso is both a science and an art — one that’s increasingly practiced in serious coffee bars all around the city.
With the right technique and intuition, a great barista will produce espresso that is rich, aromatic, and complex, and crowned by a compact, mottled crema (the foam that sits atop the liquid on a well-extracted shot of espresso; it’s created by naturally occurring oils in the beans). At the espresso bars below, the attention to detail borders on obsessive — as it should.
Ninth Street Espresso: Just east of Avenue C, this shop uses an Alphabet City Blend custom roasted by Chicago-based Intelligentsia. All of Ninth Street’s espresso drinks use three times the regular quantity of beans for the yield of a single shot, resulting in increased natural oils and a luxurious espresso with nutty hints of caramel.
Culture Espresso: At this hip coffee bar in Midtown (yes, such a thing exists), the baristas pull espresso from Intelligentsia Black Cat coffee beans, whose flavor is redolent of cherries, chocolate, and sweet Meyer lemon. The origins of the beans used in the Black Cat blend change, depending on what’s in season.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters: Right off the lobby of the Ace Hotel, you can order a shot of espresso as smooth and intense as the demeanor of the bearded barista who pulls it. Stumptown is based in Portland, Oregon, but the company prides itself on roasting its Hair Bender espresso beans in small batches at a roasting plant in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Order one and bring your demitasse to the lobby’s retro lounge and settle into a plush wing chair. Now that’s how you drink coffee.
Culture Espresso, 72 West 38th Street, 212.302.0200
Ninth Street Espresso
Alphabet City: 700 East Ninth Street, 212.358.9225
Tompkins Square: 341 East 10th Street, 212.777.3508