Bradbury’s Coffee

The glass side of Bradbury's on Madison's North Hamilton Street on a sunny day in July.When arriving in a new city, one of the first things I do, on finding a good coffee shop, is ask where else is good. When I tried this in Madison in July, one place got consistent recommendations, particularly from 5th Element Coffee. That was Bradbury’s Coffee, which, for the last five years, has been serving coffee from a variety of roasters from its home, a block from Madison’s Capitol Building in the heart of the city.

It’s an interesting space, at the tip of an interesting building. Triangular, with the counter at the back and the seating in the centre as well as around the edges, Bradbury’s has windows all around, with the exception of the back wall. These reach all the way to the unfeasibly high ceiling, the coffee shop effectively occupying a double-height space.

Although there’s a bespoke house-blend from Kickapoo Coffee, Bradbury’s employs a rotating array of guest roasters through espresso, pour-over (Kalita Wave) and bulk-brew. There’s also a cafetiere option. All the coffee, along with other offerings from the featured roasters, is for sale. Finally, there’s a range of sweet and savoury crepes, freshly made to order on a pair of griddles behind the counter.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Bradbury's Coffee, at the pointy end of an interesting-shaped building in Madison.
  • This is the view from North Webster Street. You can see how much of Bradbury's is glass!
  • Meanwhile, this is the view from the other side, on North Hamilton Street. It's really steep!
  • This combines the two streets, which meet at an angle of about 45 degrees.
  • The view back up North Webster Street.
  • There's just enough room at the pointy end for a solitary outside table!
  • The A-board doesn't mess around.
  • The door, meanwhile, is at the back on the Hamilton side.
  • The view from just inside the door. The counter, to the right, is at the back of Bradbury's.
  • An L-shaped table occupies most of the floor space in the centre of the room.
  • Bradbury's is effectively a triangle, with a very high ceiling!
  • The remaining seating is in the shape of a window-bench around both sides.
  • Another view of the table in the middle of the room.
  • A panoramic view looking back towards the counter...
  • ... and another, showing, once again, just how tall Bradbury's is!
  • The seats around the window-bars have chairs, but the central table has stools.
  • With windows on both sides and the soaring ceiling, it's a very bright space.
  • That said, there are some lights, including these three which hang over the counter.
  • I always worry when the lights are so fierce that they have to be kept in cages though!
  • The space above the counter on the back wall has an interesting mural...
  • ... which is worth a second look.
  • The view of the counter when you enter.
  • There's a retail shelf right at the front, with beans from the current featured roasters...
  • ... as well as Keep Cups and coffee-related kit on the bottom shelf.
  • The menu is painted on a board on the window to the left of the counter...
  • ... while to the left of the door is a list of Bradbury's suppliers.
  • Details of the tea and coffee currently on offer is chalked up to the right of the counter.
  • To business. You enter by the till, which is at the right-hand (near) end of the counter.
  • You'll find the current choices of coffee on display here as well...
  • ... which is neat since you can read the information right off the packet.
  • A lot of the action goes on at the back of the counter...
  • ... where there are bags of coffee, waiting to be used.
  • The filter coffee is prepared off to the right...
  • ... while off to the left...
  • ... is the neatest little kitchen area I've seen, which produces the sweet & savoury crepes.
  • The espresso recipies for the house and guest espresso are chalked up on the wall...
  • ... and served from the Synesso at the far end of the counter.
  • However, Bradbury's bucks the American trend and brings your coffee to your table.
  • This was actually my second coffee, the guest espresso, as an espresso...
  • ... which I had previously enjoyed as a flat white at the start of my visit.
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Bradbury’s Coffee occupies the tip of a building at the intersection of North Hamilton and North Webster Streets, which slope steeply down from the Capitol Building. The building ends with a pair of tall pillars, separated by a narrow window, leaving room for a solitary outside table at the surprisingly quiet intersection.

The door is at the back on the left-hand side on North Hamilton. This leads you directly to the counter which runs almost the full width of the back of the Bradbury’s. There’s just enough room for the till, which is followed by the espresso machine, a two-group Synesso. Space is at a premium, so everything is beautifully fitted in. There’s a bulk-brewer and boiler for the pour-overs directly behind the till and a small kitchen area behind and to the left of the espresso machine where the sweet and savoury crepes are prepared.

The layout is a little confusing until you know where everything is. However, the basics are that the menu is on a board along the window directly ahead of you on the other side of the counter, while, to your right, chalked up on the wall by the counter’s edge, is the current choice of beans. Once you’ve ordered, take a seat and your coffee will be brought to you, which is how it should be.

Talking of seats, there’s a low, L-shaped table with low stools in the centre of the room, which, if everyone squeezes in, will seat 12. Alternatively, find yourself a place at one of the window-bars which line the rest of Bradbury’s. There’s room for four people down each side, while you can fit two more at the point of the triangle. Finally, there’s a three-person square table against the far window between the end of the window-bar and the fridge which is at the end of the counter.

The high ceiling and multiple windows make it a very bright and spacious spot, although it can be very busy and, when it is, it can also be very, very noisy, with a plenty of people coming in for crepes. Talking of which, for somewhere so small, Bradbury’s offers a lot. It’s not just the crepes, though, since there’s a retail offering, plus pour-over and a choice of beans on espresso, all of which I’d expect in a much larger space than this.

I decided to skip the bespoke house-blend from Kickapoo Coffee and went straight to the guest espresso (known as the featured espresso). This, a Colombian single-origin, was from Camber Coffee in Washington State, while the pour-over, a Kenyan, was also from Camber. Finally, a third single-origin, a Costa Rican, from Wisconsin-based Ruby Coffee Roasters, was available on bulk-brew (this tends to change daily).

I started off with the featured espresso as a flat white, with some fascinating flavours coming through the milk. This intrigued me enough that I ordered it as an espresso. Served with a glass of sparkling water, I found it far too bright for me on the first sip, although it mellowed on the second sip, allowing the intriguing flavour that I had experienced in the flat white to come to the fore. On the third sip, it was even mellower and much more rounded. Good things, I suppose, come to those who wait!

September 2017: I popped back the day after I published this to try out the savoury crepes for lunch, enjoying a rather lovely basil pesto, mozzarella and scrambled egg buckwheat crepe. The crepe was thin and crispy, while the filling was very generous. I followed this up with a single-origin Kiangol Kenyan pour-over from Ruby.

127 N HAMILTON STREET • MADISON • WI 53703 • USA
www.bradburyscoffee.com +1 (608) 204-0474
Monday 06:30 – 18:30 Roaster Kickapoo + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 06:30 – 18:30 Seating Tables, Window-bar, Table (outside)
Wednesday 06:30 – 18:30 Food Crepes (sweet/savoury), Cake
Thursday 06:30 – 18:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 06:30 – 18:30 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 06:30 – 18:30 Wifi Free
Sunday 06:30 – 18:30 Power Limited
Chain No Visits 7th July, 5th September 2017

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