Parlor Coffee – Tasting Room

A single-origin Guatemalan coffee extracting through a bottomless portafilter on the Kees van den Westen espresso machine at Parlor Coffee in Brooklyn.I first discovered Parlor Coffee in 2016 via a combination of serendipity, a tip-off and keeping my eyes open. Back then, as well as being a roaster, Parlor Coffee ran a small coffee bar in the back room of the Persons of Interest barbershop in Brooklyn, which I spotted as I walked past one day. It was a lovely place, pulling some awesome espresso on a single-group Kees van der Westen, so I was rather upset to learn that it had closed last year.

However, I recalled the barista, Vanessa, telling me that the roastery, also in Brooklyn, was open at the weekends, so when I found myself in New York on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I made a beeline for Vanderbilt Avenue. You’ll find the roastery here (which will have its own Meet the Roaster feature in due course) along with the subject of today’s Saturday Short, the Tasting Room.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Ave, sandwiched between an auto repair workshop on one side...
  • ... and the colourful, eye-catching Samui on the other, you could be forgiven for missing...
  • ... the modest, black-fronted facade of Parlor Coffee in the middle.
  • You'll find the roastery here on a daily basis, while on Sunday, there's the Tasting Room.
  • A handy sign on the door let's you know what's what.
  • Inside, Parlor follows a familar NYC pattern: long and thin, it streteches out ahead of you.
  • The view back towards the door, where you'll find the first part of the minimal seating.
  • As well as the bench on the right-hand wall, there's this neat table on the left.
  • It's the ideal spot to sit and relax over your coffee with the Sunday papers.
  • You can tell how much I was taken with it by the number of photographs I took...
  • Beyond the table/bench, Parlor Coffee stretches out corridor-like ahead of you.
  • About a third of the way in, it opens out to the right...
  • ... leaving enough room for this awesome counter and its five bar stools...
  • ... beyond which, right at the back, is the roastery itself.
  • The roaster is in action most days, but the roastery is only open to the public on Sundays.
  • Obligatory sacks of green beans.
  • There are some retail shelves to the right of the counter,  with the usual mix of gear/beans.
  • I particularly liked this wooden pour-over filter & matching cups. Sadly, I fear, not for sale.
  • The counter has a central menu on the back wall, flanked by two espresso machines.
  • The menu is a simple affair, with options on the left, choice of beans on the right.
  • The two-group La Marzocco on the left is used for training Parlor's wholesale customers...
  • ... while your coffee is made using the single-group Kees van der Westen on the right.
  • Meanwhile, these were the filter options available on the Sunday I was there.
  • I began with the micro-lot from Honduras, a lovely, rich coffee, before moving to espresso.
  • I last saw this beauty in Parlor's old home, the back of the Persons of Interest barbershop.
  • Naturally, I had to see it in action again. Step one, flush the group head.
  • Dillon, the barista, and Parlor's founder, attaches the portafilter and positions the cup.
  • A quick flick of a switch...
  • ... and we're underway.
  • The three streams quickly coalesce into two...
  • ... and then into one.
  • Almost done.
  • Dillon also let me come around behind the counter for some close-up shots.
  • Here it comes...
  • The streams quickly coalesce from three to two...
  • ... and then from two to one.
  • Almost done.
  • And here it is, a shot of the Guatemalan single-origin espresso in a classic black cup.
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You’d be forgiven for missing Parlor Coffee. At the northern end of Vanderbilt Avenue, it’s sandwiched between an auto repair workshop and a brightly-coloured, eye-catching building. It doesn’t help that it’s small and painted black, almost as if you’re supposed to miss it, which, I guess, is usually the case, the roasting taking place behind closed doors.

However, every Sunday (for now) between the hours of 10:00 – 14:00, the doors are thrown open (well, left on the latch, it’s February in Brooklyn after all; even with the roaster going full-tilt, it would get chilly). You’re welcome to watch the roasting if you like, but the main draw is the Tasting Room, where Dillon, the owner, gets some coffee on, and invites you to join him.

Parlor Coffee occupies a long, thin space, with exposed brick along the left-hand wall. It’s beautiful and is ideal as a coffee shop, which makes it a shame that it’s open so infrequently. On the other hand, because it’s not trying to be a full-time coffee shop, it’s remarkably open and uncluttered. Just inside the door is a large square table on the left, with four fold-down wooden seats, while on the right, there’s a narrow bench. And that’s about it.

You can, if you like, treat Parlor as a regular coffee shop, ordering at the counter and drinking your coffee here while you read the Sunday papers. However, much like the Tasting Room at 111 Roasting Works in Flagstaff, this would be a waste of a glorious opportunity. Instead, head further back, where you’ll find the space widens slightly on the right, making room for a glorious marble-topped counter with five high stools. Beyond this is the roastery proper, where you can stand at the threshold and watch the 22kg Probat roaster in action.

Alternatively, hop on a stool and ask Dillon what he’s got in store for you. Parlor Coffee roasts two blends and a number of single-origins (six while I was there). Each Sunday, a couple of these are selected and run through the Fetco bulk-brewer, while two more are picked out to be run through the lovely one-group Kees van der Westen that used to grace the back room of the Persons of Interest barbershop.

During my visit, the filter selection consisted of an Ethiopian Kochere and a Honduras Los Primos micro-lot, which I tried. A lovely coffee, with plenty of body and rich, fruity notes, it more than held its own as it cooled. However, I was hankering to see the Kees van der Westen in action again, so I followed that up with a Guatemalan Pulcal single-origin, one of the two espresso choices (the other was a Colombian). This was another fruity coffee, a little too bright for my tastes, but not unpleasantly so.

Other than that, I spent an hour or so sitting at the counter, chatting coffee with Dillon and another barista who was visiting from Austin, Texas. A perfect way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

December 2018: Parlor Coffee – Tasting Room was a runner-up for the 2018 Best Roaster/Retailer Award.

11 VANDERBILT AVENUE • BROOKLYN • NY 11205 • USA +1 917 966 6070
Monday CLOSED Roaster Parlor Coffee (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday CLOSED Seating Table, Counter
Wednesday CLOSED Food N/A
Thursday CLOSED Service Counter
Friday CLOSED Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday CLOSED Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 14:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 25th February 2018

Liked this Coffee Spot? Then check out the rest of Brooklyn’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to New York City.

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