If you’ve been following my Midwest road trip, the Coffee Spot has now reached the Twin Cities (Minneapolis & St Paul) in Minnesota, the westernmost extent of my travels. Here I’m indebted to my friend Jen for a whistle-stop tour of the local coffee scene, which included Five Watt, a local coffee shop/roastery chain, with (soon to be) three branches: the original in Kingfield, this, the second branch in East Hennepin, and a third opening next week in St Paul. The East Hennepin branch is in the Miller Textile building, former home of the Miller Bag Company, which dates to about 1880. Five Watt occupies a self-contained space on the ground floor, which it shares with several other businesses.
When it comes to coffee, Five Watt does all the roasting in a facility near the Kingfield branch. The Mic Check blend is on espresso, where it’s joined by a decaf on the lovely three-group Modbar espresso system. Another blend, The Residency, is on bulk-brew, while there’s also pour-over, which is currently the Headliner blend, available through Chemex or French Press. There’s also cold-brew, available in cans and on draught (nitro or plain), plus cocktails, wine and multiple craft beers on tap.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Five Watt was founded in 2014, while the East Hennepin branch opened in October last year, located to the northeast of the city centre, not far from St Paul. There’s a large parking lot to the right of the building, bordered by open railway tracks. These carry a steady diet of freight trains, plus one Amtrak service a day, the Empire Builder, which I took on my way to Portland in 2015.
Five Watt occupies the right-hand front corner of the Miller Textile building, with entrances from the street and the parking lot. Since most people use this second entrance, I’m going to call it the front when it comes to describing the layout. Five Watt has an industrial look, with exposed air-conditioning pipes, concrete floor and metal counter. The plastered/exposed brick walls are regularly pierced by tall, wide windows, two in the front, facing the parking lot, with the door inset into the right-hand one, accessed by a ramp and flight of stairs lead up from the parking lot. Two more windows pierce the left-hand side, along with the street entrance, a narrow, arched door, which is towards the front.
The counter occupies the right-hand side, taking up maybe 40% of the width, leaving plenty of space for a large, open kitchen at the back where the sandwiches are prepared. The till faces the door, along with the cakes. Behind the till is a small secondary counter, holding bulk-brewers, pour-over area and EK-43 grinder. The rest of the coffee magic takes place along the counter’s left-hand side, starting with the cold-brew taps. At the far end, the Modbar takes pride of place, starting with a pair of steam wands, where you collect your coffee, followed by three gleaming group heads and a pair of grinders. Finally, the beer taps are on a separate section at the back.
A retail section is located between counter and door, with shelves to the right holding coffee-making equipment, while low, standalone shelves with retail bags of beans occupy the space to the left in front of the counter.
The far back-left corner is occupied by a small stage/studio. One of Five Watt’s founders, Caleb, has a background in music, previously running a recording studio, from which the company takes its name. Celeb has strong connections with the local music scene and runs an internet radio station, Radio Five Watt, using the stage as open studio.
The seating is arranged around the edges and on the left-hand side, starting to the left of the door with a long bench which runs under the second window, lined with six two-person tables. A 10-person window bar with high stools occupies the first of the two windows on the left, while in the centre, running front-to-back, is a back-to-back set of high-backed benches. There are four two-person tables facing the counter on the right, while five face the window-bar on the left. Beyond this is an octagonal table and then, against the middle of the back wall, there’s a four-person bar with high stools. The final seating is a small, L-shaped counter area, complete with under-counter hooks for hanging bags and coats, right next to the beer taps.
On my first visit, I had a lovely rich, well-balanced espresso, served in a gorgeous black cup. On my return the following day, I tried a Gibraltar, discovering that the Mic Check goes just as well in milk, producing a full-flavoured, biscuit-like taste. Finally, I tried the Headliner blend on pour-over, which was offered through the Chemex. Served in a mug, this was a very drinkable, delicate coffee.
|861 EAST HENNEPIN AVENUE • MINNEAPOLIS • MN 55414 • USA|
|Monday||06:00 – 22:00||Roaster||Five Wat (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||06:00 – 22:00||Seating||Tables, Window-Bar, Counter|
|Wednesday||06:00 – 22:00||Food||Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||06:00 – 22:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||06:00 – 22:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||06:00 – 22:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||06:00 – 22:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Local||Visits||9th, 10th September 2018|
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