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Favorite locally roasted NYC coffee?

Hey, all--

I am on the hunt for an NYC/Brooklyn roasted coffee that I can truly love. I have an admittedly picky coffee palette, so I thought I'd turn to some discerning NYC foodies for help. I'm looking for a strong, smooth, rich blend on the slightly sweet side, with as little acidic bite in the finish as possible.

So far, I've tried the infamous Stumptown, Gorilla, and Oslo labels, which I've brewed at home, and I had a cup of Gimme from my neighborhood coffee shop. Oslo has probably been my favorite, though is a bit too far on the over-roasted, burnt flavor side for me. I remember liking Gorilla as well, but I've since had trouble figuring out which blend I tried. (I've learned from experience that any brew with notes of citrus or fruit will be too light and tart in the finish for me, and all the Gorillas I found at Whole Foods the other day mentioned words like "light, fruity, cherries, orange" etc.)
I know Stumptown is the favorite of many, and I can recognize that it's really good quality, but for me it also falls into the too-light over-fruity category. The cup of Gimme that I tried was suuuuper weak--not sure if that was the coffee shop or the coffee.

I know I sound a little (OK, maybe a lot) crazy here, but I've gotten spoiled by having local roasts in Chicago, Maine and Kentucky that I grew to love and rely on. I'm sure my perfect NYC match exists, I'm just tired of taste-testing. Any recommendations/thoughts are very welcome!

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Stumptown
18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

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  1. Cafe Grumpy roasts in Brooklyn.
    http://www.cafegrumpy.com/

    Does Gimme! Coffee, the Ithaca-based roaster, count as "local" enough for you?
    http://www.gimmecoffee.com/static/com...

    Have you tried Blue Bottle yet?
    http://www.bluebottlecoffee.net/locat...

    Which Stumptown blend did you try, BTW?

    -----
    Cafe Grumpy
    224 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011

    Gimme! Coffee
    228 Mott St, New York, NY 10012

    Stumptown
    18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

    4 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thank you, Kathryn!

      I haven't yet tried Grumpy or Blue Bottle, but both look promising so I'll definitely give them a shot. I did try Gimme! as brewed by my local coffee shop, but found it too weak (not sure if that was b/c of the way it was brewed or the coffee). I've tried all of Stumptown's blends, only one of which I kind of liked... overall, the finish is just too tart for me.

      Thanks for the recommendations of the others--I'll definitely investigate! : )

      -----
      Stumptown
      18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

      1. re: Brittmarie

        I actually find Blue Bottle too strong for me sometimes, so that might be the ticket for you.

        Definitely try Gimme! again at one of the Gimme! shops, then?

        Good luck!

        1. re: kathryn

          Thanks, Kathryn--I'll stop by Blue Bottle soon! Their roasts look really high-end and elegant... can't wait to try! And yes, I should give Gimme! a second chance. I've considered trying to home brew it & might do that, too.
          I'll let you know how it goes. : )

        2. re: Brittmarie

          What was the coffee shop where you tried it?

      2. Have you gone to Porto Rico on Bleecker?

        4 Replies
        1. re: penthouse pup

          2nd Porto Rico. They have PLENTY of different blends and roasts that they roast freshly every day. I'm sure their knowledeable staff can make some good recommendations based on the description of what you're looking for. And you buy the quantity you want, so you're not committed to an entire pound as you're looking for the right blend for you. Definitely give them a shot.

          1. re: edwardspk

            I think we're looking for the same thing in coffee, Brittmarie, and am glad you started this thread.

            For years, we've bring drinking the Organic French Peruvian at Porto Rico. I've tried many of their coffees through the years, and most have been either too acidic or too weak for my taste. Our last few purchases there have been disappointing, and consequently, every morning's coffee has been too. I think we're on the market for a new bean. I don't know if my coffee palate has expanded, if they're going down hill, or of the last few batches we bought were atypical duds. Our recent beans have been too weak, too burnt tasting, and too flat, with little complexity of flavor.

            1. re: rose water

              Yes, Rose! I've been really surprised by my level of pickiness lately with coffee and am not sure if my tastes have changed, or if New York coffee just isn't as good as the roasters I've experienced elsewhere. That doesn't quite seem possible--NYC is sort of universally known as THE place for good coffee, so I'm guessing I just need to keep trying. There are some great suggestions on here so far, so I feel encouraged in the hunt. ; )
              Let me know how your search goes & I'll keep you posted on mine!

            2. re: edwardspk

              Cool, thank you both for this suggestion! Looks like they just opened a Wburg location, too, which would be very convenient for me... I'll have to give it a go. And I love that you don't have to buy a whole bag--that's what makes taste testing so $$!

          2. La Colombe Torrefaction. Based in Philly, which is "local" as far as I'm concerned.

            -----
            La Colombe Torrefaction
            319 Church St, New York, NY 10013

            1. I would give Roasting Plant a shot. They roast it once you pick your coffee. They have a good selection to choose from.

              http://www.roastingplant.com/

              -----
              Roasting Plant
              81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

              5 Replies
              1. re: Miss Needle

                They roast on the premises but the beans are rested 24 hrs before usage. That's what they told me when they first opened.

                When you order, though, they grind the whole beans in a vacuum tube system, and make your cup on the spot.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Oh, I did not know that. Thanks for the info!

                  OP, I think you may like Kona coffee. Very low acidity with what I can best describe it as a chocolately flavor. I don't really drink coffee very often, but DH does. He used to get Kona at Roasting Plant until they stopped selling it. I think Porto Rico also carries it, but DH ends up mail ordering it from Hawaii. It's pretty strong and it sounds like it would suit your taste from what you describe.

                  http://onakaranch.com/hapacowboy.html

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Yes! My sister tried Kona for a while when she had sensitive stomach issues & she really liked it. Might have to hunt that down at Porto Rico when I go... thank you!

                2. re: Miss Needle

                  Wow, Roasting Plant looks amazing! They have a location very close to work--might be stopping by tonight... : ) Thank you!

                  -----
                  Roasting Plant
                  81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                  1. re: Brittmarie

                    Roasting Plant was going to be my recommendation too. You should also visit McNulty's Tea & Coffee on Christopher Street. I bet they'll have something you like.

                    (Stumptown is still my personal favorite though. :) )

                    -----
                    Roasting Plant
                    81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                    McNulty's Tea & Coffee
                    109 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014

                3. Check out the Coffee Foundry on west 4th, they roast their beans in their back yard. You can also check out Bluebottle. Stumptown has a constantly changing lineup of beans, I would talk to one of their staff and ask for recommendations based on your likes and dislikes and sometimes they will brew you up a cup to sample. When you make coffee at home how are you preparing it?

                  -----
                  Stumptown
                  18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ricky

                    I make it two ways--drip during the week (boo, I know, but time-saver), and I just got a Chemex for Xmas that I use on the wknds. : ) It's glorious.
                    I've tried several of the Stumptown roasts, and just consistently find their taste too far on the bright side. I might try it again, but am a little S-town gunshy at the moment. ; )
                    Someone else also recommended Bluebottle & Coffee Foundry, both of which I will try after Roasting Plant & Porto Rico. I will work my way through this city and find something I love, I know it.
                    I'll post back when I do--thank you for all your recommendations!

                    -----
                    Roasting Plant
                    81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                    Stumptown
                    18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

                    1. I'm getting the sense you might actually want a darker roast, and since you mentioned you want it low in acid, and with sweeter flavors that aren't fruity, I'm wondering if you like more nutty, bourbon-y, and chocolate-y?

                      Have you tried any Sumatran, or Brazilian coffees, specifically?

                      Your brewing method (probably the grind you are using) sounds like part of the culprit, with the Stumptown, at least.

                      Still, I would try:

                      Blue Bottle - Probably the best suggestion. They specialize in medium-dark, and the kind of flavors I'm guessing your prefer. That said, would also think Stumptown would have worked for you.

                      La Colombe specializes in Italian blends. Maybe someone can suggest a blend that's less bitter?

                      Gimme Coffee - Rwanda Remera or the Piccolo Mondo blend. Their Java estate too, but it's not in season.

                      Roasting Plant - try the Papa New Guinea here. You can sample small amounts of the beans, which is nice. I find most of their coffees on the acidic side though.

                      What about Intellegentsia Coffee? Since you liked coffee in Chicago, they are considered one of the top roasters in the country, and they have a roasting operation in Soho. It's easy to find for sale.

                      I don't know Gorilla coffee well, but their iced brew was as dark as sludge.

                      -----
                      Roasting Plant
                      81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                      La Colombe
                      270 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                      Stumptown
                      18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: sugartoof

                        *so* helpful, sugartoof, thanks! where have you found intelligentsia beans for sale in nyc? from their website, it seemed that their ny office focuses on educational events, and it wasn't clear if they have a retail side. and this may belong on another board, but how are you brewing your coffee?

                        1. re: rose water

                          I believe the Van Leeuwen trucks are serving Intelligentsia Black Cat. And 9th St Espresso has their own blend of Intelligentsia, Alphabet City. I would also try Third Rail and Ground Support.

                          -----
                          Ground Support
                          399 W Broadway, New York, NY 10012

                          1. re: rose water

                            Ost, Third Rail, Kaffe 1668, Commodities Natural Market, Gourmet Garage (don't think the markets have roast dates though), Dean and Deluca, Ground Support (sometimes)....

                            That's in order of where I've seen the retail bags the most reliably. The selection will be meager, usually offering a blend, and a couple single sources, usually the South American ones (their more acidic coffees).

                            I am pretty sure the cupping showroom was also doing retail sales, so contacting them might be worthwhile.

                            Oh, and I just use a french press, and I'm far from an expert in brewing, I just know I've been in your shoes, with really weak coffee, and it turned out to be the grind, and freshness.

                            -----
                            Kaffe 1668
                            275 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007

                            Ost Cafe
                            441 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

                            Commodities Natural Market
                            165 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                            Ground Support
                            399 W Broadway, New York, NY 10012

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              Be careful at Dean & Deluca, and check the dates, as some have been on the shelf for ages sometimes.

                              -----
                              Dean & DeLuca
                              1 Rockefeller Plz, New York, NY 10020

                          2. re: sugartoof

                            Hey sugartoof!

                            Rose water is right, this is really helpful, thanks! I actually stopped by Roasting Plant just before I got to read this, and my experience there taught me a few things. I think I've narrowed my pickiness down to wanting: 1) a lower acidity coffee, and 2) a fresh roast.

                            I was pretty taken with my exp at Roasting Plant, though still plan to try other options. What I loved about Roasting Plant was that, like Porto Rico, you don't have to buy a full pound at a time. Also, I was able to taste test a least a few of the coffees I was considering, which was enormously helpful.

                            I ended up with a half pound each of their Guatemalan and Rwandan roasts. I got a free small coffee w/ purchase, so I tried the Grand Central, which was a bit more full-bodied than my ideal, but also very, very smooth and creamy in the finish which I loved (think Guinness). If you ever want Roasting Plant again, you might like the Grand Central as there seemed to be almost no acidity. Even the Rwandan roast, which has a slightly higher acidity than what I want, is very smooth on the finish which was my problem with Stumptown. And you're most likely right, sugartoof, it could be my brewing method, but I seem to like the Roasting Plant better even when using my cheap-o auto drip machine.

                            I LOVED Intellegentsia when I lived in Chi-town and didn't know anyone sold it here--very cool! If/when possible I'd like to try and stick with a local roast, but for a special occasion I just might have to get some... sooooo good. Thanks for the tip!

                            And yes, in my experience Gorilla, like Oslo, was a bit too muddy/burnt.

                            But I'm off to a great start with Roasting Plant, and will update you when I try Blue Bottle & others--thanks again! : )

                            -----
                            Roasting Plant
                            81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                            Stumptown
                            18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

                            1. re: Brittmarie

                              Roasting Plant is good stuff. Let us know how this all works out for you.

                              I much prefer Roasting Plant to Porto Rico Roasting but I really share your appreciation for being able to buy the small bags, and tide myself over between my preferred coffees.

                              I find Roasting Plant is even better a few days old, when it's settled a bit more. People who home roast will tell you that there's a sweet spot, and leave their beans to settle a while. I think that's especially true of Roasting Plant's daily roasts. The creme which their beans get is pretty magical, and unmatched. When brewed in store, it's easy to mistakingly think they added cream at first. I've found the beans aren't always so reliable though. Don't know if it's a seasonal issue or a fast food approach to roasting, or what.

                              -----
                              Roasting Plant
                              81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                I went to Roasting Plant this weekend - great stuff! The cream/crema you see has little to do with the beans I think (except that they are very freshly roasted and ground per cup - as they should be!) - and much more to do with the brewing method - which is espresso-esque, thus the crema. Also had to try the much praised chocolate chip cookie - it lives up to that praise :)

                                Like Brittmarie, I am unimpressed with Stumptown. I found it watery and acidic - bought Yirgacheffe and Columbian El Jordan at Ace Hotel location in paper bags - 3 days roasted. Both were not special (nor was the cup of French press offered free with purchase - pumped from a carafe :( #@$%%)

                                I ordered Intelligentsia's Anjilanaka (from their site) - was very good - their iPhone app is also great.

                                I tried Porto Rico and my worst fears were met - uninterested/unknowledgeable employees - could not tell me when the coffee was roasted (within 2 weeks/shoulder shrug) sort of a dirty place too - I bought the Costa Rican from St. Mark's location - and while it bloomed slightly during my pour over - it was just barely OK. Any serious place needs to list roasting date!

                                By far the best coffee beans I've ever experienced have come from Counter Culture. Their Jagong Sumatra (April coffee of the month) is amazing! Bought it for the second time along with trying their Papua New Guinea Baroida - which is amazingly full bodied quality coffee.

                                Hopefully Counter Culture will have more local retail offerings - but with seemingly unparalleled quality - I don't mind ordering from them in NC.

                                Can anyone recommend something comparable to the Counter Culture varieties mentioned, but available more easily locally at the same or cheaper prices (as when bought directly)? Seems to average around $10.00 for 12oz/3/4lb.

                                1. re: specialmonkey

                                  Counter Culture offers a diverse selection of beans in NY now, but I'm taking a wild guess by saying the quality doesn't compare. I've never been terribly impressed.

                                  As a side note, Intellgentsia beans roasted in New York aren't wowing me these days either. Far too acidic, and lacking of depth they're known for.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    I've only seen Counter Culture at cafes like Abraco and Everyman - where have you seen it? When you guess the "quality doesn't compare" do you mean getting it locally vs. direct?

                                    Have you ever ordered directly from Counter Culture's website? If not, try it - the Jagong especially, or Baroida (or both :).

                                    Where are Intelligentsia's locally roasted beans available here?

                                    I ordered from their site and the package came from IL - the beans were 2-3 days old - I was slightly impressed with the Bolivian Anjilanaka but not the Burundi Ngogomo.

                                    1. re: specialmonkey

                                      Counter culture and Intelligentsia on available at:
                                      Commodities Natural Market on 1st ave.
                                      Dean and Delucca

                                      Inteligentsia beans locally roasted are also available at Van Leeuwen trucks, Gourmet Garage, Ost, Third Rail, etc.Commodities has it in bags and in dispensers of beans by weight.

                                      I'm sure the list is extensive, but these are some places I've seen it.

                                      I've never had Counter Culture's real product from their flagship location but it gets high marks, so I don't doubt it's fantastic. I've yet to have a good cup locally. Abraco's version isn't bad actually, but reminds me of Blue Bottle (ex-Blue Bottle started the shop) in that it's slightly overroasted and muted. Thanks for the bean suggestion...hope to get a chance to try the 2 you suggested.

                                      I've had Intellegentsia on the West Coast and i was superior, The Chicago location where you ordered from is obviously their flagship, and going to be as good as they roast.

                                      -----
                                      Abraco
                                      86 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

                                      Gourmet Garage
                                      117 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014

                                      Dean & DeLuca
                                      560 Broadway, New York, NY 10012

                                      Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
                                      , New York, NY 10012

                                      Ost Cafe
                                      441 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

                                      Commodities Natural Market
                                      165 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                                      Third Rail Coffee
                                      240 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        they also have intelligensia bags at murray's cheese.

                                        -----
                                        Murray's Cheese
                                        254 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          Intelligentsia doesn't roast locally, only in Chicago and LA.

                                          Bluebird Coffee Shop used to be my go-to for a great shot of Counter Culture, but it hasn't been the same since they changed hands. Sometimes you can get a pretty good shot of Apollo at Bowery Coffee, depending on who's making it. If it's the guy on the righthand side of this picture, you're in luck: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aranciap...

                                          Marlow & Sons in Williamsburg has relaunched their coffee program and is pulling good shots of everything from Counter Culture to George Howell to Four Barrel.

                                          RBC on Worth St, which offers retail bags from many different roasters, is a good spot to compare different beans. The people are knowledgeable and will help you choose something based on your taste.

                                          Culture Espresso, on 38th near 6th Ave, offers Intelligentsia and PT's out of Kansas.

                                          If you're looking for a slightly darker roast, you might want to try the new Australian coffee roaster in Williamsburg, Toby's, on N 6th. Another possibility is George Howell, out of Massachusetts. Southside Coffee in Park Slope does a great job with his beans.

                                          My overall favorite NYC roaster however is Cafe Grumpy. As all the roasters do, they change their beans seasonally, so there's a good chance you can find something you really like.

                                          -----
                                          Cafe Grumpy
                                          224 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011

                                          Culture Espresso Bar
                                          72 W 38th St, New York, NY 10018

                                          Bluebird Coffee Shop
                                          72 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003

                                          RBC NYC
                                          71 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

                                          Bowery Coffee
                                          89 E Houston St, New York, NY 10012

                                          1. re: Peter Cuce

                                            "Intelligentsia doesn't roast locally, only in Chicago and LA."

                                            I was always under the impression the New York "training lab" was initially set up to roast locally.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              I never heard that. As far as I know it's only a training lab, but it's easy enough to find out.

                                              1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                I used to buy online from Intellegentsia and would receive my coffee within 3 days of it being roasted. When the coffee shop across the street from my building started carrying Stumptown with twice weekly deliveries, that stopped.

                                                Now, within blocks of my apartment, I can get Stumptown, Blue Bottle, Grumpy, Gimme, La Colombe, Counter Culture, and on and on. It's pretty great.

                            2. Gentle Brew (http://gentlebrewcoffee.com/) roasts on Long Island, but delivers for free to certain areas of Manhattan. They also have an amazing cold brewed (not iced) coffee.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Gowanus Eater

                                I couldn't find any mention of free shipping to particular areas and a flat rate was added to the cart even before entering a zip code. Can you share a bit more info on that?

                              2. So, just an update - I've since tried several brews from Roasting Plant, most of which I've been happy with. They have the smoothest local roast of the NY roasters I've tried so far. Like sugartoof and specialmonkey, I've just found a lot of the local roasts here to be high in acidity, for whatever reason.

                                However, sad to say... Roasting Plant is too expensive for me these days. I'm on a new, tighter budget, so that has now moved to the "luxury" category. ; ) I'm back on the prowl for something slightly less $$ and ideally local, though it's looking like I might have to compromise on that to find what I want.

                                Thanks to everyone for the suggestions, thoughts, and it sounds like I'll have to try Counter Culture when I visit NC!

                                **Last question - has anyone tried DIY roasting? Someone mentioned it here... sounds kind exciting...

                                -----
                                Roasting Plant
                                81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Brittmarie

                                  I guess I should mention that Gentle Brew has single source coffee for $10/lb, which is way less than I've found for similar offerings.

                                  1. re: Brittmarie

                                    Roasting Plant has priced me out too.

                                    I would suggest trying the much improved single origin, reserve beans from Irving Farm, who have started doing cuppings, and rebranding themselves for the coffee snobs, while erroring on more chocolate notes... but 12oz. bags mean it's not much cheaper than anyone else. Whole Foods does frequently have them on sale for $9.99.

                                    Colombe still sells 1lb. bags at about $12.

                                    -----
                                    Roasting Plant
                                    81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                                    Irving Farm
                                    56 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      Thanks sugartoof! I have tried Iriving Farm from Whole Foods, two different roasts, but both seemed disappointingly weak to me... though it might be my brewing method. The trick here is that I have to find a coffee that will stand up to my morning auto-drip machine (bad, I know, but so much faster!), but is still quality.

                                      1. re: Brittmarie

                                        Have you tried Colombe? All blends, but the dark roasts will stand up to your drip machine.

                                        I ten to avoid blends from Irving Farm, by the way.

                                        -----
                                        Irving Farm
                                        56 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                    2. re: Brittmarie

                                      I have 3 varieties of green beans on the way from sweetmarias.com. I'm going to try DIY roasting in an air popcorn popper (which I have yet to purchase - will probably get at kmart).

                                      I'll be really excited if I can produce beans comparable with Counter Culture - which I probably will not be able to do - though it should still be fun, very good - and cheaper!

                                      I use a Hario Skerton hand burr grinder, and either Chemex or Hario V60 02 pour over methods.

                                      It has really made me turn my nose up to coffee pumped from a carafe - I recently bought a 2.25 cup from Bluebird and saw them pumping it,and asked if they brewed individual cups - the barista pointed to a menu on the wall with higher prices for individual cups. The pumped coffee was virtually indistinguishable from Veselka or similar no frill cups for much cheaper.

                                      I am wondering if Sweet Maria's beans are on par with what the fancy roasters use?

                                      I bought a bag of Honduran from Cafe Grumpy for $17.00 - it was really good but not much caffeine. And expensive - I think for 12 oz.

                                      The Baroida from Counter Culture has a real kick, and very nice full body - so I recommend it if you're into that :)

                                      -----
                                      Veselka
                                      144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                                      Cafe Grumpy
                                      224 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011

                                      1. re: specialmonkey

                                        "I am wondering if Sweet Maria's beans are on par with what the fancy roasters use?"

                                        Yes, and no. You're not going to be able to match direct trade microlots, but those are fussy coffees to roast anyway. The difference is how specific the flavor profiles get. So for example, an Indonesian coffee is typically processed a certain way, and has an earthy taste, but will you get the same flavor as the direct trade Indonesian from Stumptown which they describe as "forest" and I found tastes like spoiled banana leaf, and disgusting, muddy bark floating in pondscum? In other words, quality is a double edged sword.

                                        You'll be able to tailor your roast to your own tastes, just remember to let it sit before prime use.

                                    3. D'amico on Court Street in Brooklyn roasts on premises.

                                      Great selection. I miss the guy who worked there for years but the coffee is still great.

                                      1. I have been buying my coffee from Unique coffee on Staten Island. You can Google their website and speak to the owner you will give you good recommendations