Back to Black, Weteringstraat

Details from the sign for Back to Black, written in a cursive script in the window of the coffee shop on Weteringstraat.Back to Black is a chain of precisely two Amsterdam coffee shops which, since 2015, has been roasting its own coffee from a small roastery/bakery which, sadly, is not open to the public. This branch is on Weteringstraat, south of the centre, near the Rijksmuseum and Heineken Experience, making it a good stop if you are out for a bit of sightseeing, and has a lovely, canalside location. The other branch, in contrast, is on Van Hallstraat, about a 30-minute walk west of the main station.

Back to Black is primarily a coffee shop, serving a range of cakes and savoury snacks, all baked in-house. The coffee, similarly, is all roasted in-house, with Back to Black only roasting single-origins. There’s a choice of two espressos, one that has a more conventional taste profile and the other which is a bit different. There’s also a choice of filter coffee, where you can have anything that’s on the shelves in retail bags through V60, Aeropress or Cafetiere, or, if you want to share Chemex or Syphon. The espresso changes on a regular basis, Back to Black moving to something new once the current one runs out, while the filter options are seasonal.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The view looking north across Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam and down Weteringstraat.
  • And here's the view from the bridge, looking west along Lijnbaansgracht.
  • However, this is what we've come for. On the other side of the canal, it's Back To Black.
  • This is the view back across the canal. I  think Back To Black looks prettier!
  • There's a door to the flat above, followed by two further windows, part of Back To Black.
  • The actual entrance is on the corner of Lijnbaansgracht (left) and Weteringstraat (right).
  • Stepping inside, and here's a view of the crowded interior, counter in the far corner.
  • There's a single, communal table in the right-hand part of Back To Black. The remaining...
  • ... seating is around the edges, starting with this short bar to the right of the door.
  • Another view of the communal table in a rare, unoccupied moment...
  • ... beyond which, against the back wall, are a pair of armchairs and a small sofa.
  • One of the armchairs and the sofa in more detail.
  • The counter is at the back in the left-hand part of Back To Black, opposite the windows.
  • It's a two-part affair, with the espresso machine on the left, facing the windows...
  • ... and three chairs, backs to the rest of the room, on the right.
  • The final seating runs along the broad windowsills of the two windows looking out...
  • ... over Lijnbaansgracht. Grab one of these if you can, especially on a sunny day.
  • The view from the window.
  • The stairs to the left of the door lead to a basement, but sadly it's only for storage.
  • Although there are windows on both sides, there are also plenty of light fittings.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • There are also a series of coffee-themed paintings on the walls, all of which were for sale.
  • This was my favourite. The artist is Simone Endert and you can buy prints online.
  • Nice flowers. And an interesting sign. Drink your coffee inside!
  • There's a set of retail shelves on the back wall above the armchairs. There's the usual...
  • ... mix of coffee kit (middle shelf) and coffee beans (bottom shelf) for sale.
  • Back To Black only roasts single-origins. There are a number of espresso roasts...
  • ... and a similar number of filter roasts.
  • There are more shelves to the left of the door...
  • ...while these, on the left-hand wall by the counter, are for display purposes only.
  • Talking of which, you order at the counter...
  • ... which is where you'll find the cakes and savoury snacks (all baked in house).
  • Interestingly, the menu is all the way on the other side of Back To Black, right by the door.
  • The heart of the operation is the lovely two-group Kees van der Westen Spirit. But wait!
  • Who's that at the controls? It's me! I've always wanted to get my hands on one of these!
  • You can relax though. I didn't actually get to make any coffee.
  • My espresso (the first of two) came served on a wooden tray, glass of water on the side.
  • Such beautiful presentation.
  • My second espresso (the order is called 'Chef's Table') decided to sit in the shade.
  • I'll leave you with my espresso admiring the view out of the window.
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Back to Black is at the southern end of the Lijnbaansgracht, one of the outermost of Amsterdam’s concentric rings of canals. It has a wonderful canalside location where Weteringstraat crosses the canal. Long and thin, the narrow side faces Weteringstraat, while the long side runs along Lijnbaansgracht. Access is up two to broad steps to a door on the corner which, showing no favouritism, is at 45° to both streets.

Back to Black has a slightly cluttered air, but in a good way, reminding me of a large sitting room. There’s a short window-bar with three seats in the first of two tall windows to the right of the door, while the window to the left holds a sign for the shop. Past this, a staircase leads down to the basement, but sadly it’s only used for storage.

A large part of the seating is provided by an eight-person communal table in the centre of the right-hand half of Back to Black. Beyond this, against the back wall, is a small two-person sofa and a pair of armchairs, separated by a coffee table. The remaining seating is in the left-hand part, which is where you’ll also find the counter in the far corner at the back, opposite two large, square windows overlooking the canal (sadly the buildings on the opposite side are fairly modern, but even so, it’s a glorious place to sit and drink your coffee). There are eight chairs here at the broad windowsills, with power-points underneath.

The counter is a modest, two-part affair, with the cakes and till facing Weteringstraat, where a broad, raised counter/bar provides seating for three high chairs. The espresso machine, a two-group Kees van der Westen Spirit, is on the other part of the counter, facing the canal, so sitting at the counter, you have a great view of the barista at work.

I had an interesting time at Back to Black, starting with the barista, who wouldn’t tell me what the two options were on espresso. Instead he said he’d make me a great espresso, and, if I didn’t like it, he’d make me another, which sounded fair enough.

Fortunately for him, he was right and the espresso, served on a wooden tray with a glass of water on the side, was lovely. Nicely rounded, it had a hint of acidity on the second sip. However, I had a dilemma since he’d only said he’d make me another if I didn’t like it and I wanted to try the other espresso….

However, I needn’t have worried. I’d actually ordered what’s called the Chef’s Table espresso, which is a shot of each espresso, with the second arriving, unexpectedly, a few minutes’ after I’d finished the first. I could tell this was much brighter just from the smell, but even that didn’t prepare me for the sharpness of the taste, a real citrus acidity which had me pulling a funny face, but in a good way. I’ve not tasted anything quite like it: I really enjoyed it, but wouldn’t want to drink it every day. I suspect that three or four years ago, I’d have hated it. It had an almost powdery aftertaste which had me checking the cup for fine coffee grounds, but there were none.

For those that are interested, the first espresso was a washed Colombian, while the second was a washed Kenyan. Back to Black was my final stop in Amsterdam and I left thoroughly satisfied with my two coffees. I also managed to bag a very tasty vegetable quiche, which I ate on the Eurostar back to London.

48 WETERINGSTRAAT • 1017 SP AMSTERDAM • NETHERLANDS
https://backtoblackcoffee.nl +31 (0) 203 044 988
Monday 08:00 – 18:00 Roaster Back To Black (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Comfy Chairs, Window-bars
Wednesday 08:00 – 18:00 Food Cakes, Savouries
Thursday 08:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 18:00 Cards Yes (€0.20 charge)
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 26th June 2018

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