This is the first time the cult Bay Area coffee roaster and café has branched out beyond its native turf. Since its opening in March, New Yorkers have given it our signature warm-slash-blasé welcome. Now that the shop has settled into its skin, it’s starting to host classes and public cuppings.
Owner James Freeman was inspired to open an East Coast location after a New York visit in August 2008. He and his wife, Caitlin, ventured to Williamsburg and were smitten with the neighborhood. Fantasy edged closer to reality through a confluence of lucky events, including the availability of a former glassblowing studio. “It moved up the hierarchy from pipe dream to bad idea to there you are, opening a roaster,” Freeman explains.
The result is a calmly focused coffee bar serving consistently outstanding drinks within sight of the roasters.
There’s a flash of showmanship in the lineup of five Japanese slow-drip machines, illuminated against a blue wall. The glass globes produce exceptional iced coffee at a stately pace of 88 drops per minute.
Drip coffee is made a cup at a time, with steaming water poured from graceful Japanese kettles. (It’s meditate-and-wait, not grab-and-go.) Freeman’s 1970s San Marco Leva machine finally made it off the workbench and into action, dedicated to single-origin espresso. A cherry-red La Marzocco machine steps in for the standard espresso drink roster, which includes the signature SG-120, a drink halfway between a latte and a machiatto.
Other key ingredients come from local sources. Milk arrives from Battenkill Valley Creamery, a family-run New York state dairy. Neighboring Mast Brothers Chocolate, which first lured the Freemans to Williamsburg, provides the cacao quotient.
Brooklyn’s Patisserie Colson supplies a small selection of snacks, the best of which are the cheddar biscuits and the thick coins of spicy speculoos.
The airy, clean-lined space recalls the company’s first location in San Francisco, a kiosk in a former garage. It doesn’t encourage lingering, though, as there are just a few stools, one stand-up communal table, and no bathroom.
The staff recently initiated a public cupping, demonstrating how to smell coffee grounds, compare sips, and discern the characteristics of their blends. They hope to offer cuppings and other classes every month; for now, keep an eye on their Twitter feed for announcements.
The much anticipated “nel drip” coffee, made with Japanese flannel filters, hasn’t yet materialized. In the fall, however, we can look forward to house-made pastries from a new kitchen behind the bar. Caitlin, who recently won raves for her art-inspired desserts for SFMOMA, surely has something mouthwatering in store. 160 Berry St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, (718) 387-4160.
Guest blogger Jennifer Paull is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and coffee lover.