Elixr

A chemex of Elixr's own single-origin coffee is being lovingly prepared.Elixr is something of a legend in the fledging Philadelphia coffee scene. It’s been around for just three years and, as is often the way with such places, it’s already seeded other local coffee shops. Menagerie Coffee, for example, was set-up by ex-Elixr manager, April. It’s also a fairly small world since I ran into Willa (the barista who I met at Menagerie the previous evening) who works weekends at Elixr. Indeed, it was something of a disappointment not to find Willa working in all the coffee shops I visited while I was in Philadelphia!

Elixr offers the usual range of espresso-based drinks, the obligatory bulk-brew filter and hand-poured filter via Chemex. When it opened, Elixr used PT’s coffee, but now the coffee is roasted in-house by Elixr’s owner. While I was there, there were five single-origins on pour-over, with a house-blend and guest single-origin on espresso.

Elixr is another physically beautiful space in a city that’s full of such places. It’s a long, thin coffee shop of the type that I seemed to run into quite frequently on my trip. It was very busy while I was there, and, despite its size, seating was at a premium.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The massed ranks of tables outside Elixr are a dead-giveaway...
  • ... and here, in more detail, in the spring sunshine.
  • Stepping inside, the view of the door from the first seating area.
  • Look at the beautiful wood-tiled floor.
  • A panorama shot of the lower seating area, counter and second seating area beyond.
  • The bar in the window...
  • ... and the coffee table with its benches, where I ended up.
  • Nice mural!
  • Elixr through the Looking-glass, Part I
  • The kitchen is beyond the counter, behind this wooden partition.
  • The main seating area.
  • A panorama from the opposite the counter.
  • The counter, in detail.
  • Cake!
  • There are some nice features, such as this framed section of bare-brick wall.
  • Another nice touch are these bottled plants...
  • They're all provided by Erica Miller, an 'interior plantscaper'.
  • Elixr through the Looking-glass, Part II
  • Do you think Elixr has enough Chemex?
  • Oh no! There's more of them! And bags of coffee.
  • Bags and bags of coffee...
  • ... and yet more bags of coffee!
  • Nice cups... But what's that I see in the background?
  • Oh look, it's me!
  • I had a long char with Josh, the manager, here hard at work at the espresso machine.
  • Another shot is ready to go...
  • Here it comes...
  • ... looks gorgeous, doesn't it?
  • About halfway there...
  • Look at that crema!
  • And now for the latte art...
  • This is something that I've never mastered...
  • So, I take my hat off to anyone who can do it, day in, day out.
  • Can you see what it is yet?
  • The final flourish reveals it to be a tulip!
  • Here's one that was prepared earlier.
  • However, I'm not after espresso. I want to see what's on the Chemex today.
  • My barista explains about the one that got away: 'it was that big, I tell you!'
  • Now I'm getting the 'are you going to stand there, taking photos?' look.
  • Back to work with you! Look at that concentration.
  • First the filter paper is rinsed.
  • Time for the coffee, which has been pre-weighed in cylinders (right of picture).
  • Then it's ground when its needed...
  • The coffee is placed in the filter, the scales zeroed and the stop-watch reset.
  • And off we go! The stop-watch is started simultaneously with the pouring.
  • The coffee is left to bloom...
  • Here two Chemex are being prepared at the same time. The second pour begins.
  • As that is left to bloom, it's back to the first for the main pour.
  • Lovely pouring technique.
  • Both are left to brew.
  • Once the water's filtered through, the filters are discarded & the coffee's ready.
  • It's decanted into the waiting mugs.
  • Et voila, my coffee and sandwich!
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I was in love with Elixr the moment I stepped inside. Long and thin, it has a strange, but nicely done, layout. It runs along Seymour Street and you enter at the far left-hand end, in a small, wood-tiled reception area. This immediately opens out into the first of two seating areas. There’s a bench, window bar and small coffee table with a bench on your right and a large coffee table to your left with a comfortable bench (with power sockets underneath) running around three of the four sides.

Three broad steps lead up between the coffee tables to the main part of the store. You’ll find the counter here on your left, with the kitchen beyond, while on the right there’s a generously-spaced seating area with a couple of communal tables and lots of smaller tables. A pair of armchairs flank one window, while the other window has a table.

It’s the sort of place where you could easily lose yourself for the afternoon. The upper area has wooden floorboards in contrast to the wooden tiles of the lower area, while both parts share a whitewashed ceiling with exposed pipework. The walls are an eclectic mix of wooden panelling, exposed brick and wallpaper, which sounds weird, but which works really well.

Generous windows punctuate the right-hand wall and let plenty of light in, but since Seymour Street is narrow and high-sided, the light is still fairly subdued, which suits the décor. The natural light is enhanced by big mirrors on the left-hand wall behind the counter and big coffee table.

If sitting inside isn’t your thing, there are a series of small, two-person tables running the length of the store on the pavement outside. On the sunny day I was there, these were a viable option and the street itself was quiet enough. As a bonus, Elixr’s Wifi works fine outside.

I’d just come from La Colombe on Dilworth Plaza and was in need of some lunch. Fortunately, Elxir does a small, but interesting, sandwich menu, along with a lovely-looking set of pastries which I didn’t get to try. I had a very fine toasted hummus sandwich, although the hummus was cold, which made for an interesting contrast with the warm, crisp bread.

Since I’d been drinking espresso at La Colombe, I decided to go for the pour-over, particular since Elixr use a Chemex, which is a fairly uncommon choice. There were two Las Brumas beans from El Salvador, but with different processing methods. Since I was anticipating drinking lots of coffee that day, I passed on those, otherwise I’d have been tempted to have a cup of each to compare the impact that the processing methods have on the beans.

That left a choice of Guatemalan, Mexican or Kenyan beans. In the end, I went with the Guatemalan, an El Injerto, which was a good choice. It was very smooth, but not too fruity or acidic. It also sweetened delightfully as it cooled, which made for an excellent cup of coffee.

I had a long chat with the manager, Josh, who told me that sales are split roughly 50-50 between espresso and filter, but of the filter, 80% is bulk-brew. However, he reckons that the sales of hand-poured filter are steadily increasing, which is a good sign.

207 SOUTH SYDENHAM STREET • PHILADELPHIA • PA 19102 • USA
www.elixrcoffee.com +1 239 404 1730
Monday 07:00 – 20:00 Seating Benches, tables, armchairs, bar
Tuesday 07:00 – 20:00 Food Sandwiches, cakes
Wednesday 07:00 – 20:00 Service Counter
Thursday 07:00 – 20:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Friday 07:00 – 20:00 Wifi Free
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Power Yes
Sunday 08:00 – 19:00 Mobile N/A
Chain No Visits 8th March 2014

Liked this? Then take a look at the Coffee Spot Guide to Philadelphia for more great coffee Spots.


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