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Fresh locally roasted coffee beans near the Village or Chelsea?

I make cappuccino at home every morning. Finally making the move from pre-ground Illy to burr grind at home just before brewing.

I'm used to Illy Medium Roast espresso which I've been using for ten years. My wife and I detest burnt tasting coffee, not looking for over-roasted beans, even though the greasy shiny look is appealing. We do kind of like the slightly sweet "Cafe Vergnano" they sell at Eataly (half the price of Illy). But their grind was too coarse, and again I don't want beans roasted in Italy or Seattle, I want beans roasted in NYC.

Where should I be buying my beans? I'd prefer to buy from a NYC based company which is roasting in NYC. I'd prefer not to purchase from an out of town national chain like Whole Foods even if they are supplied by a local roaster. I figure that roasting adds around 100% to the value of green beans, would like to keep most of that 100% in the city. My first home-ground brew tomorrow will be with "Heartbreak Espresso" from Cafe Grumpy. Who and what else should I try?

Porto Rico banned me from the store fifteen years ago after they refused to honor a discount they promoted in the Villager newspaper, so I'm not eager to go back there, although there's little likelihood they'd remember me. Unless you tell me their beans are fantastic. Is McNulty's still a player?

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

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

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

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  1. Stumptown, Blue Bottle, Gimme...a long discussion of who roasts in NYC here:

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

    18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

    Blue Bottle Coffee
    30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112

    6 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      you've said it! we're a stumptown house, if only because it's more convenient than Blue Bottle, which i've only had in SF. stumptown sells a great product. i particularly like the Indonesian and Guatemalan beans.

      1. re: kathryn

        Gimme! roasts in Ithaca, not NYC.

        Current roasters I would recommend from NYC in order of preference:
        1. Cafe Grumpy, 4 branches + some wholesale accounts
        2. Stumptown, 1 branch + hundreds of wholesale accounts
        3. Blue Bottle, 1 branch + another couple opening this year and some wholesale accounts

        Just opened and roasting in Williamsburg, good so far:
        Toby's Estate

        Opening soon:
        Caffe Vita roastery, from Seattle

        There are cafes in NYC offering coffee from good upstate roasters such as the aforementioned Gimme! and Plowshares.

        But all the good small batch roasters US-wide have NYC outlets that sell coffee roasted 3-10 days ago, and this coffee can be as good as anything roasted here. These include Barismo, Counter Culture, Intelligentsia, PT's, Madcap, Ecco Caffe, and many others.

        1. re: Peter Cuce

          Hey Peter, you actually recommended Blue Bottle to me on a different thread, but I can't find it doing a quick search and am too lazy to do a more extensive one. So... talk here?

          Tried Blue Bottle yesterday, the siphon coffee at the bar in the back. It's an amazing process and this was the first time I'd tried it. The barista was wonderful. I'm surprised rocket launchers and laser beams aren't part of the process. It's so.... so.... space age? But paraphernalia aside, I didn't think the coffee was noticeably more wonderful than other high quality non-siphon coffee. Am I just a pedestrian coffee drinking who knows nothing about coffee? (Entirely possible... I have been known to drink leftover cold coffee from the day before, reheated, since I hate wasting stuff.) Or do you think siphon coffee is just one of many ways to get to a good product? Or do you think there are other spots in NYC that make siphon coffee better?

          I'm going to go read your blog, too....

          1. re: michelleats

            Hi Michelle

            Siphon coffee is hard to find in NYC - I actually can't think of another spot doing it. But as you say, it's merely a method of preparation.

            I would never say it's the best method - I don't think there is such a thing. There is no particular method or type of equipment that will produce "the best" cup of coffee every time, since coffee is not a monolithic entity, and you can find proponents for all methods of coffee preparation, including French press, various types of pourovers, and of course, espresso, and some are better than others for different types of beans. What these different methods will do is highlight different qualities of the coffee. A fun thing to do is go to a shop that offers a variety of preparation methods and try the same coffee using a few different methods.

            Specific equipment isn't necessarily important for producing a great cup, except for using the best grinder you can possibly afford, and for espresso, having a machine that will consistently produce the correct temperature water at the correct pressure.

            More important factors are the coffee beans themselves, the roasting process, when the coffee was roasted, using a quality grinder and grinding appropriately for the preparation method, and the technique of the barista. There are a lot of variables there, so when someone can produce a great cup consistently, that's something to be celebrated in and of itself. If you had a cup you enjoyed, that's great.

            Let me know if you want any more help exploring coffee in NYC.

            The website is a work in progress. Check back now and again.

            1. re: Peter Cuce

              Thanks so much for your kind offer, Peter. I kind of want to go around comparing notes against your reports, first, since you really seem to know what you're talking about! I am a little worried I don't have a good nose for coffee, actually. I'm pretty good at picking out notes in wine, but those fig notes I was supposed to be tasting in the Blue Bottle coffee I tried... Complete blank.

              1. re: Peter Cuce

                Thanks for your coffee input. It is amazing how coffee drinking has become so popular. I guess with that, people keep coming up with either new or reborn brewing methods. This article is interesting about siphon coffee brewing http://coffeegeek.com/guides/siphonco...
                Blue Bottle has a $20000 halogen burner,,wow. Anyway, I guess there are a few important factor in a good cup of coffee. Good quality beans, quality roasting, the grinder, and I do think the coffee maker(not the person the equipment) plays a role. I have a Jura Capresso , grinder built in. It makes an amazing cup of coffee. Of course I set the adjustments, as far as strength and grind to my taste. But I have had the same coffee made with different machines and it doesn't come close. I am lucky enough to have friends with a roasting plant and can taste different blends and different roasts quite often. But to my taste, there is no better coffee than the Colombian Supremo. Of course with the price of coffee on the rise, coffee roasters are constantly looking for substitute lower priced coffee to mix in but yet keep the taste right. Indonesian coffee has recently gained popularity here. Laughing Man uses Indonesian coffee a lot.
                I tried Jack's in Amagansett and near South St Seaport, they make a good latte. Coffee tasters taste only black coffee, so I guess latte changes the taste, but Jack's flavor comes through even in a latte. Laughing Man doesn't make a bad cup either. I have to try Blue Bottle, I have tried siphon coffee only once many years ago, it was cool watching it being made , and i remember it to be a good cup of coffee, but have no idea what beans were used.

        2. I enjoy roasting my own. All you need is a 1200 watt hot air popcorn popper and some very easy to follow instructions from a place like http://www.sweetmarias.com. I like my own roasts better than any commercial roast, neighborhood or not.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

            Just had rather an unpleasant customer service experience at sweetmarias.com - thought I would mention it since I recommended them earlier.

          2. Porto Rico has a booth @ the Essex St market. I didn't see your picture posted there.

            Porto Rico Importing Co.
            120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

            1. La Colombe is very similar to Eataly's dark shiny beans, and roasted 2 hours away in Philly.
              Eatlay does sell beans you can grind at home, or request they grind fresh to your preference, by the way.

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

              2 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof

                if they grind it for you then its not gonig to be fresh when you use it

                1. re: twobrain

                  Right, but some people insist on ground beans, and it's a step up from most anything in a can.

              2. For many coffee makers , especially the ones with built in grinders, the oily beans aren't good for the machine. I use illy medium roast whole bean when I run out of my special beans. I have a Jura Capresso machine. The machine makes incredible coffee. I can adjust it exactly to my liking. The special coffee I get, is from a friend,I am lucky enough to have a friend with a coffee roasting plant. They roast coffee for many companies and stores. I prefer Colombian Supremo medium roasted. The beans look beautiful. I grind it very fine. I have had OK coffee from porto rico, but some of the exotic stuff they have there is old. Same with Zabar, Zabar has really good Ethiopian coffee, but some of their blends are not good. Best is to get a small roaster, and roast your own. You can buy green beans online, or directly from larger coffee roasters will sell you a bag of coffee, but it wont be a blend.

                2245 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

                1. Some of the Whole Foods roast their beans in the store (and they mark the date when the beans were roasted).

                  Buying your coffee at Whole Foods may not be as hip as Grumpy, Stumptown or Blue Bottle, but I think it's by far the best bang for your buck -- they have a wide variety, reasonably price, and all freshly roasted.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: von_levi

                    Whole Foods does have some good beans now, but in my experience the in house roasting is very uneven. They're not always using dedicated roasters with experience, it's often just whoever is on shift, and trained to turn the machine on.

                    The other issue is, a lot of those beans marked as roasted the day before aren't prime to actually drink yet. Other than that, they are carrying some interesting single origin beans now. I don't find they work to get me caffeinated but they taste good.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      Well, you run that risk anywhere (a dedicated coffee shop may give the staff more instruction on how to use the roaster, but that doesn't mean they'll still do a good job).

                      Anyway, the fun of coffee is contrasting and comparing. The OP should buy a quarter pound of beans from a bunch of different places and do some taste testing.

                      1. re: von_levi

                        I like that idea, but the best roasters in the city pre-bag their beans in 12oz. sizes.

                        By the way, most all local roasters use dedicated trained specialists to roast all their beans. Usually in special facilities. It's not something they let a random Barista attempt.

                    2. re: von_levi

                      I don't see what hipness has to do with it. I think most people on Chowhound are looking for high quality, whether if be coffee or food. I haven't tried the coffee at Whole Foods, but if it's cheap, they're likely not using as well-sourced beans as the others you mention, Cafe Grumpy being my favorite.

                      And as sugartoof mentions, these shops or organizations that specialize in roasting are not just "giving their staff instructions on how to use to use the roaster," but instead have specially trained people who spend all day roasting coffee and roast to different profiles based on the provenance of the particular beans or blends they are working with. I recommend taking a visit to the Cafe Grumpy branch in Greenpoint, where they roast the coffee in rear of the shop.

                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                        Whole Food beans are not Cafe Grumpy level at all, but they're a notch better than other bulk in a barrel coffees with some single source choices too.

                        1. re: Peter Cuce

                          You guys are overstating your case a bit -- you're making it sound like the roasters are aerospace engineers. It's likely someone in their 20s to early 30s who is lucky to be making $30k -- it aint rocket science.

                          1. re: von_levi

                            I never said it was rocket science, I just said that these organizations employ dedicated coffee roasters who use different roast profiles for different coffees - I don't see how their age or how much they make is relevant. They also have green coffee buyers who engage in direct trade with coffee farms in the most respected coffee growing regions. The proof is in the pudding.

                            1. re: Peter Cuce

                              I'm just saying that you're overstating how much expertise is required to roast coffee.

                              1. re: von_levi

                                Huh? You could easily say the same about roasting a steak. It's technically not hard, but to discount the craftmanship and pretend all beans are equal while suggested a chain stores open barrel of beans, speaks more towards your own preference.

                                We're talking about roasters handling pricey lots of beans, finding flavor profiles, testing different styles of roast appropriate to the green bean they invested considerably in, and essentially creating the product that the shop will market.

                                It's a managerial position that defines a roasters identity.

                                1. re: von_levi

                                  That's just insulting to anyone involved in the industry. It takes quite a lot of knack and skill to roast beans well. (And all of the roasters I know make more than $30k and are quite passionate about what they do. It's not kin to being a fry cook at McDonald's.)

                                2. re: Peter Cuce

                                  You are surely not overstating the expertise involved in coffee roasting. It is not necessarily the individual roasting the coffee that is most important,, It is the person that teaches the roaster, and the person who perfects the blend, who picks the beans out. The person that is tasting the coffee, some of whom are "certified coffee graders'" who have to be able to distinguish all the notes and tastes of coffee. They are a rare breed, and they are compensated very well for their service and knowledge. The masters of roasting and tasting ,know how to use different beans to improve a blend or to make a blend less costly and still taste good. They are also aware that coffee gives off CO2, about 40% of it in the first 24 hours,,, The taste of the roast improves quite often in 2 or 3 days. If packages , with a valve for release of gas, it will keep fresh for a long time, If left open to the air, it will be stale within 10 days. Places that buy already roasted coffee and keep them open in big bags or barrels for weeks at a time are selling stale coffee. That's why I don't trust a lot of the coffee left out in Zabars and Porto Rico. Peter's Blend at Porto Rico is the most popular and seems to always be fresh though. When roasting a blend, the size of the beans varies, if roasted together some may burn while others under roast, a roaster has to be aware of these things,,, Peter Cuce did not overstate the expertise involved by any means.

                          2. A long time ago, there used to be a Schapira's Coffee storefront in the West Village. I'm guessing it's been gone for years, but can anyone tell me if that's so? It was a great place. They roasted the coffee right there and they'd work with you to find exactly the roast you liked and the bean or bean combination you liked. If you became a regular, they'd file away a little index card with your preferred blends and roasts and get an order ready for you weekly or monthly. Does anyone remember that place?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: ninrn

                              A little Googling tells me they moved upstate:

                              1. re: kathryn

                                Yes, I saw that, and I think they had an HQ upstate all along, I just hoped against reason that that beautiful old shop was still in the Village, and hadn't turned into a Starbucks or a molecular pork bar or something.

                                1. re: ninrn

                                  A New York Magazine column from 1992 gives the former Schapira address as 117 West 10th, which is now Cafe Asean, a Pan Asian restaurant.

                              2. re: ninrn

                                They sound ahead of their time whoever they are.