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Good Decaf?

mrken Jun 1, 2011 10:55 AM

A few months ago the Times ran a story about how some coffee places and roasters are finally paying attention to decaf and not using their worst beans. After all the decaf drinkers are the only ones you can be sure are drinking it for the taste and not the drug. That said I'm still disappointed with lots of decaf I've had around the city. I drink Americanos (usually iced) or straight espresso, not usually drip. I've been particularly disappointed at Orens and at Housing Works (admittedly not a coffee destination). I've been happier with Roasting Plant. I guess I would use Starbucks as a baseline and hope for better places (I think both Orens and Housing Works are worse). Any other decaf coffee aficionados out there want to chime in?

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Roasting Plant
81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Housing Works Used Book Cafe
126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012

Oren's Daily Roast
985 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10021

  1. f
    foodwhisperer Mar 3, 2012 09:28 AM

    IMHO there is no decaf that compares to regular coffee's taste

    1. mrken Mar 2, 2012 10:02 AM

      after a long hiatus I tried the new Oslo outlet on the UES. The decaf macciato (their spelling) was good, bitter and not sour, but without the chocolatey complexity of Joe.

      -----
      Oslo
      422 E 75th St, New York, NY 10021

      1. mrken Jul 5, 2011 10:45 AM

        Today I'm at Ninth St. Espresso in Alphabet City. The decaf macchiato is not cheap, but it's definitely worth it. Good bitter, not sour. A hint of chocolate. Nice long finish. Also a good place to work, with free wifi and plenty of tables as well as bars. Not a lot of choice for food if that becomes necessary, but they do have yogurt and plain bread and butter. I'll try to go back to the W. Vill. this week to try some of the places sugartoof suggests.

        -----
        Ninth Street Espresso
        700 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009

        1. mrken Jun 21, 2011 12:07 PM

          So, based on the postings on the places to work (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/435688) I tried the People's Improv Theater, thinking that if people said the coffee was good, and it's a good place to work, it's worth a try. Well, I couldn't even stay b/c they don't have decaf at all!
          I then did a search for coffee in the area and am now sitting in MyWayCup at 23rd and Park. On the plus side, it's kosher (not just the coffee). On the minus side the decaf macchiato is a bit sour for my taste.

          -----
          Peoples Improv Theater
          123 E 24th St, New York, NY 10010

          MyWayCup
          102 E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

          1 Reply
          1. re: mrken
            s
            sugartoof Jun 21, 2011 01:23 PM

            Gregory's would have been the better spot to hit up. It's well air conditioned, and has a fair amount of office workers and students parked there. I think they may be partners with MyWayCup, but I've found the coffee surprisingly good.

            71 Irving is the even better choice, nearby. It's an upstate roaster with 2 cafe locations in the city. I don't personally like their blends, but their reserve line of coffee is good.

            -----
            71 Irving Place
            71 Irving Pl, New York, NY 10003

            Gregory's Coffee
            327 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010

          2. mrken Jun 17, 2011 08:55 AM

            I tried a decaf macchiato at Stumptown. The cafe itself has no seats, but you can take your coffee into the adjacent lounge of the hotel in which the cafe is located. A very dark but spacious room with large tables and comfy chairs. The decaf was flavorful but not complex, more bitter than sour. Better than Starbucks, but not as good as Roasting Plant or Joe's.

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

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

            1. s
              sugartoof Jun 14, 2011 02:04 PM

              The idea of a decaf Americano is counter intuitive to begin with, so that's part of the challenge. You might want to try some other Decaf drinks using espresso beans.

              You should just check the threads for regular coffee, and keep trying them out. All the quirks and defects you're tasting are probably typical of that particular shops coffee. Since you prefer the taste of an espresso bean, few places carry more than one blend anyway, decaf or not. The problem there is you'll be deprived of what many of these places do best - single sourced beans.

              For you I would suggest Cafe Grumpy, La Colombe and maybe Gorilla.

              A second line of suggestions would be Abraco (pricey, and similar to the Blue Bottle, but roasted by Counter Culture. Their roast may work for you). Third Rail for Intelligentsia, or Gimme Coffee should be your next destinations. Try these and see how it goes.

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

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

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

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

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

              18 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof
                w
                writergeek313 Jun 14, 2011 07:49 PM

                I was going to suggest Gimme, too. I live in Ithaca, where Gimme originated, and I've never had a bad cup of coffee in any of their shops here or using their beans.

                1. re: sugartoof
                  mrken Jun 17, 2011 09:03 AM

                  These are some great suggestions, especially since they're not on the Times list. Of course I know that an iced americano isn't letting the coffee shine at it's best, so I don't post reviews unless I've also tried something more simple like a simple espresso or macchiato.

                  I'm writing this from inside Grumpy at 20th st. and have tried the iced americano, finding it to be a bit sour and kind of disappointing. But as I said I wouldn't post anything without getting a 'real' drink, I'm also about to try the decaf macchiato: Definitely a sour cup, although bitter at the same time. A little dark chocolate, but not the intensity of it you get at Joe. As I said I wasn't happy with sour coffee, I'm a bit disappointed, although it's still better than Starbucks. I'd put it on par with Stumptown, perhaps a notch below. Since they're doing single batch, I should mention that the decaf today is Columbian.

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

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

                  1. re: mrken
                    s
                    sugartoof Jun 17, 2011 11:17 AM

                    It's like bakers chocolate bitter?

                    The sour funk you're tasting is common at these type of places, depending on their bean, but if you're also getting bitter - that's possibly a feature of darker roasting for the espresso itself.

                    I'd also really encourage you to go for Capps, over a Machiatto. You'll find you get a more crafter drink that baristas respect, and pride themselves on, decaf or not.

                    Hearing this, I would suggest jumping ahead to Gimme Coffee next.

                    1. re: sugartoof
                      mrken Jun 17, 2011 01:46 PM

                      Wow. These are all really great suggestions. I will turn to capps, but was worried about making sure the coffee shines through the milk. I think the baker's chocolate bitter is really what I'm after and I want to minimize the sour funk. Not everywhere is roasting the espresso differently I believe. And I'll make Gimmie Coffee my next stop on Monday.

                      1. re: mrken
                        s
                        sugartoof Jun 17, 2011 04:53 PM

                        Gimme and La Colombe are fairly close to each other.

                        (seating at Gimme consists of a single bench outside)

                        If you need a place to sit, Mcnally Jackson bookstore has a cafe area with Stumptown. beans. Just don't expect world class baristas. I've brought a cup of Gimme Coffee in, while shopping the lower level, where there are some chairs, and a large table.

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

                        La Colombe
                        270 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                        McNally Jackson Books
                        52 Prince St, New York, NY 10012

                        1. re: sugartoof
                          mrken Jun 20, 2011 10:10 AM

                          I'm writing now from La Colombe, where I came straight from a decaf macchiato at Gimme! After walking by the Upper West Side Joe's yesterday and having a cappuccino, I decided to stick to macchiatos for reviewing purposes. The capp at Joe's was way too milky, I basically couldn't taste the coffee at all. As for Gimme!, I thought the macchiato was not very complex. It was bitter rather than sour and did have some of the chocolate flavor, but not as much as Joe or Roasting Plant. So then I came to La Colombe, where I ordered a double decaf macchiato. Much better! definitely had the depth and chocolate flavor experienced at Joe, perhaps some woodiness too. But they didn't seem very careful about the pour at all. The barista dribbled the milk on the saucer and just kind of spread some foam over the top of the coffee, without trying to make any art or anything (although she seemed to make art for other patrons). Perhaps I got the brush off b/c I ordered decaf, but it didn't really matter since it was pretty good.

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

                          Roasting Plant
                          75 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014

                          Joe the Art of Coffee
                          514 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024

                          La Colombe
                          270 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                          1. re: mrken
                            s
                            sugartoof Jun 20, 2011 11:07 AM

                            Latte art is just decorative. It doesn't effect taste or quality.

                            1. re: sugartoof
                              mrken Jun 20, 2011 03:40 PM

                              Yes, I know that, but I thought it was indicative of the care they put into the drink (esp. the spilling on the saucer).

                              We did go to McNally Jackson Books when La Colombe got too noisy. A good place to work but the coffee was underwhelming.

                    2. re: mrken
                      mrken Jun 17, 2011 11:43 AM

                      2 hrs later, with the place practically empty, some worker came up & told me about their no laptop policy. I said no one told me, even though I had been there quite a while. She said there was a sign on the door. I looked for it, and sure enough, at shin level in tiny type, on an open door, so there was just about no way to see it on the way in, there was a sign. The whole thing was ridiculous. I guess that's why they call it Cafe Grumpy. Either they're grumpy, or you're grumpy when they kick you out. Still, not the best decaf, so time to move on anyway.

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

                      1. re: mrken
                        s
                        sugartoof Jun 17, 2011 01:16 PM

                        Not uncommon for the new breed coffee roasters.

                        If you're looking for comfortable spots to sit with a laptop for half a day, that's a whole other request. All the places we're discussing are fairly cramped, and/or discourage wifi stragglers.

                        Think, Ost, RBC, Kafe 1668, the Tribeca location of La Colombe, a couple places in the W. Village ... are slightly better for long term parking.

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

                        Kaffe 1668
                        275 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007

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

                        RBC NYC
                        71 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

                        1. re: sugartoof
                          mrken Jun 17, 2011 01:44 PM

                          I'll definitely give them a try. But I'm primarily interested in finding the best decaf and secondarily interested in finding a place to work for the day. So I'm giving notes on both as I go. If you care to list the particular places in the W. Village, I'll be sure to check them out.

                          1. re: sugartoof
                            mrken Jun 27, 2011 11:20 AM

                            Today I'm at Kaffe 1668. The decaf macchiato is pretty good. No sour funk, mainly the good bitter taste. But not much of the dark chocolate overtone that I associate with a deeper taste. The foam is nice and thick, so that it's difficult to suck the coffee through the edge of the milk, which makes the drink easier to savor. It's a pretty nice place to work, if a little loud and a little dark. The have one large communal table and several smaller tables. There's free wifi that's password protected (so it's not overloaded).

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

                            1. re: sugartoof
                              mrken Jun 30, 2011 08:58 AM

                              RBC has no decaf espresso! :-(
                              So I went up Church to La Colombe Torrefaction, even though I had already been to their Soho location. The macchiato is even better here than there if that's possible. It doesn't have as much chocolate taste as Joe again, but it's very balanced. I'll try Ost or Think if I get tired of sitting in one place too long. Please post the W. Village places if you have any ideas.

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

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

                              RBC NYC
                              71 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

                              1. re: mrken
                                s
                                sugartoof Jun 30, 2011 12:43 PM

                                Third Rail Coffee is on the cramped side, but good coffee.
                                Ground Support is in Soho, features the same Intellegentsia beans and has more room.

                                Jack's. My wild guess is you'll find their roast bitter, and I'm not sure there's wifi.
                                Roasting Plant has a W. Village location you probably know about.
                                Joe's has a location on Waverly.
                                Grey Dog on Carmine isn't high end coffee but it's functional.

                                I can't think of the others roasters name in the WV, but there is Grounded, and Doma

                                -----
                                Joe the Art of Coffee
                                141 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

                                Jack's Stir Brew Coffee
                                138 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014

                                Doma Cafe
                                17 Perry St, New York, NY 10014

                                Grounded
                                28 Jane St, New York, NY 10014

                                Grey Dog Coffee
                                33 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014

                                Roasting Plant
                                75 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014

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

                                Ground Support
                                399 W Broadway, New York, NY 10012

                                1. re: sugartoof
                                  mrken Jul 6, 2011 01:22 PM

                                  Today it was Doma. A very nice place to hang out and work, although it does get a bit busy in the afternoon. Laptops allowed until 5:30 weekdays, not at all on the weekends. Free wifi. After 3pm bagels, muffins and croissants are only $1.
                                  The decaf macchiato was good. Mostly bitter and chocolate, but just slightly sour as well (a small demerit). I don't know what beans they are using, but they are clearly not roasting them there.

                                  -----
                                  Doma Cafe
                                  17 Perry St, New York, NY 10014

                                  1. re: sugartoof
                                    mrken Jul 25, 2011 01:11 PM

                                    Second time to Grounded today. The first I didn't get a macchiato, so I couldn't review. Definitely a great place to work, and they have some very interesting coffee creations.
                                    The macchiato: weird. Instead of using the spoon to keep the foamiest part of the milk back while pouring the froth over the espresso, the barista ONLY spooned the foamiest part on top of the espresso. So it's very separate. The coffee itself is good in that it is not sour but has a kind burnt tasting bitterness that pulls at the sides of your tongue. I wouldn't give it top notch for the macchiato, but it's worth coming to for the atmosphere. Free wifi. They do have a 90 min table policy, but it seems not to be enforced and the baristas in general are very friendly, not something you can say about every place.

                                    -----
                                    Grounded
                                    28 Jane St, New York, NY 10014

                                2. re: sugartoof
                                  mrken Jul 27, 2011 01:26 PM

                                  Finally got around to Think 12th st. today. A triple macchiato has a lot of flavor, but it's a bit burnt without being so chocolaty. A bit noisy but a good place to work, many tables, etc.

                                  -----
                                  Think Coffee
                                  123 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                              2. re: mrken
                                mrken Jun 17, 2011 01:36 PM

                                "shine at ITS best" (so embarrassing and too late to correct the original).

                            2. mrken Jun 14, 2011 10:09 AM

                              After seeing the NY Times article on decaf again, I decided to bike out to Williamsburgh to try the decaf at Blue Bottle Coffee, which the times rates as one of the best (granted they were talking about drip). I first ordered a macchiato. The coffee itself is good in that it is bitter rather than sour, but without the chocolatey extra that Joe's has. Unfortunately, it wasn't very hot at all. I'm not sure they had steamed the milk enough (it was not a freddo; they certainly had steamed the milk).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mrken
                                mrken Jun 14, 2011 01:32 PM

                                An iced decaf americano was not very complex. .... Still here three hours later working on uncomfortable stools, but trying a cold-brew iced decaf (not espresso - one of the things the Times was mentioning). Very bitter in a kind of pleasing way, and you can get some roasting notes on the way down. Extremely long finish.

                              2. mrken Jun 14, 2011 08:17 AM

                                Here's the link to the Times' Decaf article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/din...

                                1. mrken Jun 13, 2011 09:39 AM

                                  Going through the NYTimes list, I tried Caffe Mocias. I found the decaf macchiato subpar. Not too acidy or bitter, but also not much flavor at all. It also looked like they spooned it straight out of a container, meaning the beans were already ground. I guess they don't attend to their decaf customers.

                                  -----
                                  Caffe Mocias
                                  711 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025

                                  1. mrken Jun 3, 2011 09:45 AM

                                    I just found the following very comprehensive list of good coffee in the Times last year:
                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/din...
                                    Any suggestions for particularly good decaf on their list (of course they don't mention it)?

                                    1. u
                                      unionsquareyes Jun 1, 2011 01:24 PM

                                      The Columbian Decaf at Puerto Rico Coffee is really good. I both froth it with milk for caffe latte OR brew it iced in the fridge for hot summer days :)

                                      -----
                                      Porto Rico Importing Co.
                                      201 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012

                                       
                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: unionsquareyes
                                        mrken Jun 2, 2011 11:54 AM

                                        I will try it when I go by, although I'm actually looking more for places I can sit for a while and work.

                                      2. a
                                        americanafan Jun 1, 2011 12:12 PM

                                        Give Joe: The Art of Coffee a try.

                                        -----
                                        Joe the Art of Coffee
                                        141 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: americanafan
                                          mrken Jun 2, 2011 11:52 AM

                                          Today I tried an iced decaf americano from Joe at 85/Columbus. It's definitely better than Orens, but I'm not sure it's up to Roasting Plant. I found it a little sour (I think coffee should be more bitter than sour) and lacked a certain complexity. It's a small place and the seats aren't very comfortable, also the tables are tiny (my laptop took up the entire width of the table, leaving no room for my coffee). The staff are nice and friendly but not chatty. There isn't really a pleasing strong coffee aroma to the place like at Roasting Plant (it's a bit more subtle) but you can mooch free wifi from Jackson Hole across the street.

                                          Actually, just now a guy knocked my (mostly finished) drink off the tiny table as he brushed by, shattering it on the floor. Did I mention the tiny tables?

                                          I just decided to try a macchiato to cut the sourness a bit. It was still there, but there was also a pleasing very strong dark chocolate overtone and the bitterness crept back in the aftertaste.

                                          -----
                                          Joe the Art of Coffee
                                          514 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024

                                          1. re: americanafan
                                            l
                                            littlejoker Jun 2, 2011 10:07 PM

                                            My experience with Joe TAOC and their decaf is that it tastes great but has a whole lotta caffiene. Beware.

                                            1. re: littlejoker
                                              mrken Jun 3, 2011 09:42 AM

                                              I think someone might have slipped you a mickey. I am VERY sensitive to caffeine (weak tea makes me jittery and anxious), and I always double check when they hand me my drink. Since I had no trouble after two drinks at Joe (which will sometimes hit me), I think it's pretty standard on the dose.

                                              1. re: mrken
                                                l
                                                littlejoker Jun 13, 2011 06:14 PM

                                                No, no Mickey just caffiene in the decaf at the 23rd St Joe both times I got it there. Never again.

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