The state of coffee in New York City

Same rules as the other cities: I get a pour over/drip and an espresso, and ratings are based solely on the coffee. Bitterness, astringency, and overly sour notes are bad, complex notes are better. I prefer light roasts that have clarity and a good balance between sweetness and acidity. Exotic notes rank higher, generally speaking.

What gets a 5/5: A 5 means there are no issues with either the espresso or the pour over, that both were brewed to the beans’ limits, and that the flavor was interesting and unique.

  • La Cabra (East Village): 5/5. La Cabra has the best coffee in New York. The espresso is incredibly smooth while delivering on the tasting notes, and the pour over was equally fantastic. This place also had great service, I’d add (but that does not factor into my rating). There’s a theme here: cafés that have a PUQpress (a $1k automatic tamper) seem to brew great espresso (which is not to imply it’s because of the PUQpress).
  • St Kilda Coffee (Hell’s Kitchen): 5/5. St Kilda has extraordinary coffee, both drip and espresso. And for the prices, it’s incredible value. For $12 + tip, I got an espresso, a drip, and a flat white–and all of them were fantastic. The Brazil drip from Traffic Coffee in Montréal with notes of strawberry and watermelon was particularly good and I highly recommend it!
  • Coffee Project (East Village): 5/5. Absolutely extraordinary cups and roasts. If you’re looking for a treat that’s not the usual chocolatey notes, this place boasts coffee with notes of kiwi, passionfruit, and much, much more.
  • Culture Espresso (Garment District): 5/5. Culture has very zingy coffee, it’s a pleasant surprise. The espresso is particularly enjoyable, and the drip had notes of lemon. By preference, I don’t like lemon notes in my coffee, but that doesn’t make the coffee bad.
  • Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters (Hunters Point, Queens): 4.5/5. Sweetleaf has a very approachable, delicious espresso and a nice drip that’s great to sip while working. Sweetleaf is excellent to spend alone time or work at (although I wouldn’t take audio calls here) with its views and WiFi. While you’re here, try the strawberry iced tea too.
  • Suited (Financial District): 4.5/5. The coffee at Suited is all about balance. While there is some acidity, it’s mild; there is some sweetness, but it’s not overpowering. There is, of course, a distinct lack of bitterness. This makes Suited’s cups extraordinary to drink while working. Suited also uses the DE1 to make their pour overs, something I only recently learned Scott Rao was working on. The espresso felt a bit watery, even though I’m told it was pulled at a roughly 1:2 ratio.
  • East One Coffee Roasters (Chelsea): 4.5/5. East One would’ve been a 5, if it weren’t for the bar set by the above cafés. The espresso is quite unique in its flavor profile, and the drip was well-extracted. It’s not your typical cherry notes, but it’s also not super exotic like the ones at Coffee Project. The frustrating thing here though is that the notes listed on their bags are not very helpful–one bag listed “starfruit, genmaicha, conversant”, and I was not closer to understanding what to expect.
  • Kaffe 1668 (Tribeca): 4.5/5. I love this recommendation! The espresso was very fruity and super enjoyable. I’ve been told the iced mocha is great, and I believe it based on that flavor profile. I got the Chely pour over, which was very unique. I got lots of green grape and fresh pear, with a little earthiness in the back. Overall, a very unique taste profile. This place also does lots of breakfast foods, so it’s a fantastic way to start your day.
  • Third Rail Coffee (Greeenwich Village): 4.5/5. Third Rail has a very balanced espresso and a good pour over–if a little hollow. It’s a great place to grab a coffee before walking in Washington Square Park.
  • Abraço (East Village): 4.5/5. This is not the place you go to sit down and work–it’s far too noisy for that. However, their espresso itself is delicious and fruity. Interestingly, they offer both a piccolo latte and a cortado (cafés will typically pick one). If I had to nit, the finish on the espresso isn’t the smoothest, but the flavor itself is great.
  • Ninth Street Espresso (East Village): 4.5/5. There’s a good way to do boring, chocolate notes in coffee, and Ninth Street has it figured out. If you’re into chocolate and cocoa notes, there’s no better place. On the specific day I went, both the espresso and the drip used the same Brazilian coffee (and shocker, they tasted very similar), and both were very well-brewed cups. Relative to other cafés, this is quieter, and a good place to work.
  • Little Collins (Midtown East): 4.5/5. Little Collins had a great single-origin espresso, and it was served with a biscotti that paired very well. The pour over was also served with the biscotti, oddly, but I’m not complaining. With tons of florals, the pour over was exactly as advertised, if ever so slightly weak for my taste.
  • Think Coffee (SoHo): 4/5. Think has good espreso and pour over (which was slightly overextracted), but the real highlight here is the sandwiches. Grab one of those and a milk beverage, and you’ll have a good time. It is tricky to find a seat here, though, so don’t go in expecting to work.
  • Maman (Upper West Side): 4/5. Maman had a super approachable, fruity espresso. However, the drip was cold, which is rather unacceptable.
  • Black Fox (Chelsea): 4/5. Black Fox has extraordinary espresso with strong red apple notes. Unfortunately, their pour over is not as good, and was a bit overextracted. Definitely visit for the espresso, though.
  • Devocion (Flatiron): 4/5. Devocion limits themselves to Colombian coffee, which can go either way depending on your preference. Both the pour over and the espresso are good, but they’re definitely a little more expensive than they’re worth.
  • Plowshares Coffee Roasters (Upper West Side): 4/5. Plowshares has solid coffee and a surprisingly good drip. The espresso was a medium roast, which is darker than I prefer; that said, it was well-extracted. The barista was super knowledgeable too, which is always a plus.
  • Irving Farm (Upper West Side): 3.5/5. This is the quintessential NYC café: a fruity espresso that’s a touch harsh, and a roasty drip whose main notes are toast.
  • Ground Support (SoHo): 3.5/5. Ground Support’s coffee is on the darker side for both drip and espresso, and as such the drip is roasty with no real origin characteristics, and the espresso has generic chocolate notes.
  • Everyman Espresso (East Village): 3.5/5. Everyman lacks in variety: both the espresso and the drip used “The Original” by Black & White Roasters. As such, you get a generally well-extracted, if boring, cup of coffee–but sometimes boring is good.
  • Laughing Man Coffee Co. (Tribeca): 3/5. Laughing Man is a sprawling space with a lot of seating. The drip is pretty good–a crowd pleasing, medium roast that has mild acidity and notes of toast. The espresso has more fruit to it, but also more bitterness (which seems to come from the roast level as opposed to brewing technique).
  • Joe Coffee (Upper West Side): 2.5/5. Meh. The espresso had notes of dark chocolate and some roastiness, and the drip was also a darker roast with no real discernable profile.
  • Espresso 77 (Jackson Heights, Queens): 2.5/5. Espresso 77 has coffee that’s just good enough that you won’t complain. It’s…fine, but that’s as much as you can say about the place.
  • Bluestone Lane (Tribeca): 2/5. Bluestone Lane just did not seem to get it right for black coffee drinks. Both the espresso and pour over had rather significant levels of bitterness. The espresso’s fruity notes quickly get masked by this bitterness, making it a pretty bad experience.
  • Coffee Project (West Village): 1/5. On the other end of the spectrum from the East Village location was this rare find, with the worst coffee I’ve ever had (and I’m not exaggerating). With delightful notes of ashtray, ashtray and (surprise) even more ashtray, this location served me the worst iced pour over I’ve ever had, all for the bargain of $10.50 + tax. I don’t know if this was a one-off blunder, if this location is always this bad, or if I had a lucky experience at the other location, but I’m not finding out by going here again.

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