Stumptown West 8th Street

The writing on the window of the Brew Bar part of Stumptown, W 8th St,, New York City. "STUMPTOWN" over "COFFEE ROASTERS" in capitals, with "Brew Bar" in cursive script in between.Stumptown is, in US coffee circles (and beyond), something of a legend, both as a roaster and as the owner of some iconic coffee shops. On this year’s US trip, I thought it was high time I paid a visit. With branches in its home town of Portland (Oregon, not Maine), Seattle and Los Angeles on the West Coast, but just New York City on the east, the logical choice was NYC.

I made a beeline for Stumptown’s second NYC location on West 8th Street, just north of Washington Square in Greenwich Village. Open since May 2013, it possesses quite possibly the most handsome interior of any coffee shop I’ve ever seen (although Intelligentsia in the lobby of the High Line Hotel gives it a run for its money). It consists of two connected spaces: a lavishly fitted-out espresso bar on the corner of West 8th and MacDougal Streets and a smaller, more intimate brew bar, with its own door onto MacDougal Street.

The coffee, as one might expect, is all from Stumptown, with a quite bewildering array of eleven single-origin beans available, along with three blends and two decaf options (one blend and one single-origin). As far as I could tell, all can be had through any of six filter methods, as espresso or cold brew.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Stumptown at 178 MacDougal Street... But I thought it was on West 8th Street?
  • Then I got to the corner of W 8 St & MacDougal and realised my mistake...
  • Stepping back, you can see just how big it is... The door to the brew bar is at the far right!
  • Stepping inside, the view from the door. Excuse what my photo-stitcher did to the lights!
  • The shelves of coffee and coffee-making kit at the back.
  • The little bar at the end of the counter where I installed myself.
  • I loved the parquet floor and the tiling around the edges.
  • The view along the counter from my little seat...
  • The second of the two La Marzocco Stradas... I loved how all the handles lined up!
  • I was also impressed with the shininess of the counter-top.
  • The light was particularly lovely that afternoon.
  • Me, getting arty with the light. I'll let you decide how well I did!
  • The other Strada.
  • I liked the customisation.
  • I was very taken with the way that the area behind the counter had been fitted out.
  • It looked beautiful, but also very practical.
  • Cake! Sadly none for me :-(
  • Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the handsomest coffee shop of them all?
  • I loved the bare brick walls...
  • ... I was, however, less enamoured with the ceiling.
  • The lights, on the other hand, I did like :-)
  • Coupled with the big windows, it was a very well-lit interior.
  • I liked these light-fittings too...
  • Directly behind my seat at the bar, this unpromising corridor led to...
  • ... the brew bar! The door to the corridor is at the end on the left, the street behind me.
  • You can see the corridor more clearly in this picture.
  • There was no seating in the brew bar, just this stand-up bar along the wall (& window)...
  • ... while on the other side of the door, there's this little takeaway station.
  • Although it's a brew bar, there is this dinky, one-group La Marzocco as well.
  • Wherever I went, I kept finding pyramids of Stumptown mugs!
  • I never did find out what was in these bottles...
  • ... although the contents of these bags on the counter were more obvious!
  • So, what have we got? Well, a choice of all those coffee beans...
  • ... through any of those methods, cleverly lined up below!
  • You can also buy them, and more!
  • Meanwhile, in the espresso bar, there's the usual menu...
  • However, I wanted to try the filter coffee. This one, in fact.
  • Here's all the kit, laid out ready to go. That pour-over filter is a Bee House by the way!
  • First, rinse the filter paper.
  • Next, grind the coffee...
  • ... add it to the pre-rinsed paper...
  • ... and pour.
  • This, of course, is the first pour, after which we leave it to bloom...
  • ... but not without giving it a vigorous stir first!
  • Now we can leave it to bloom...
  • Next, the second and final pour.
  • The blurring is because the barista was keeping up a constant circular motion as he poured.
  • All we have to do now is wait...
  • ... and then serve! Shame I couldn't appreciate it...
Photo Carousel by v4.6

I’d actually visited Stumptown’s original NYC location in the lobby of the Ace Hotel on West 29th Street on my previous trip in 2013, where I’d met Greg Cohen (aka CoffeGuru App) for the first time. However, that was a fleeting visit: I’d just arrived, Greg was just leaving and I had no time for a proper write-up.

Although a return to the Ace was tempting, Greenwich Village was more convenient, plus I’d heard great things about the new store. However, my first impressions, approaching along MacDougal Street, were underwhelming. Stumptown appeared to be just a modest coffee shop similar in size/layout to the likes of Soho’s Everyman Espresso and not the lavish beast I’d been expecting. It was only when I reached the corner of West 8th Street that I realised my mistake. I’d been looking through the door of the brew bar!

The main entrance, on the corner, was much more impressive. Stepping inside, things improved further. Almost the entire left-hand side of the espresso bar, from the windows down, is given over to a magnificent counter, complete with marble worktop and bespoke wooden fittings behind. It houses a pair of lovely three-group La Marzocco Stradas, a display case for the cakes and a couple of spots where you can perch and watch the baristas at work. Right at the far end is another little bar, where I spent most of my stay.

The space by the doors is given over to those waiting for takeaway coffee, while the right-hand side has a row of more-or-less communal tables (it was so busy during my visit that everyone had to share). At the far end is a six-person table with high chairs and, beyond that, two bookshelves with beans and coffee-making equipment (all for sale). The walls are plain brick, the floor a glorious herring-bone parquet, edged by tiles, and the only thing which I felt let it down slightly was the ceiling, magnificently high at the front, but rather low at the back.

In contrast, the brew bar, accessed by a rather anonymous corridor beyond the counter, or through its own door on MacDougal Street, is a much less grand, more homely affair (it also only opens from 09:00 – 17:00). Approached from the street, there’s a small takeaway station to your right, then comes the wooden-topped counter, taking up the rest of the right-hand side. To your left is a stand-up bar and, at the far end, off to the left, is the corridor to the espresso bar. If I sound dismissive of the brew bar, I don’t mean to be. I really liked it, with its bare-brick walls and much nicer ceiling. It also has a dinky one-group La Marzocco for espresso-lovers who don’t want to be inconvenienced by a 20-second walk.

So, what about the coffee? Well, I’m sad to say I’ve nothing to report. I ordered a Bolivia Buenavista through the Bee House pour-over filter (a first for me) but I was rather ill that day, having eaten something from Philadelphia’s station forecourt which disagreed with me. I managed two sips before being overcome by nausea, forcing me to retire to the bar at the end of the counter where I cursed my luck until I felt well enough to venture back to my hotel.

30 WEST 8th STREET • NEW YORK • NY 10011 • USA +1 347-414-7802
Monday 07:00 – 20:00 Seating Tables, Bar in Brew Bar
Tuesday 07:00 – 20:00 Food Cake
Wednesday 07:00 – 20:00 Service Counter
Thursday 07:00 – 20:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Friday 07:00 – 20:00 Wifi Free
Saturday 07:00 – 20:00 Power No
Sunday 07:00 – 20:00 Mobile N/A
Chain Yes Visits 13th March 2014

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of New York City’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to New York City.

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