About Brian Williams

Author of Brian's Coffee Spot, you can read all about me in the "About Me" section of the blog (www.brian-coffee-spot)

Patent Coffee

The glass double doors at the entrance to Patent Coffee in the Radio Wave Building in New York City. The left one is open, beoynd which are broad stone steps descending to basement, with the counter of Patent Coffee visible at the back.In what will be a common refrain in my write-ups from this visit to New York City, today’s Coffee Spot was recommended by my friend Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato. Traditionally, I’ve stayed in Chinatown when visiting New York or commuted into the Port Authority Building on W 42nd Street. This time, it was a work trip, so I stayed in Midtown, one of Bex’ regular haunts, hence all the recommendations.

Patent Coffee, a neat little basement coffee shop in the Radio Wave Building, was just 1½ blocks from my hotel. There’s not a huge amount to it, just a simple counter at the back, along with a small, L-shaped bar at the front, which provides the only internal seating. There is, however, in the modern, COVID-19 way of things, an outside terrace on the street, alongside the pavement, which provides plenty more seating.

Not that lack of size limits Patent’s ambition, with a standard espresso-based menu joined by a single-origin on batch-brew and two more on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. There’s also a selection of seasonal drinks and, if you’re hungry, cake and pastries. Note that Patent only has disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.

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An Homage to New York City’s Lost Coffee Shops

The Empire State Building in New York City, seen at dusk looking south from the top of the Rockefeller Center As I was wandering around New York City on my most recent trip, I strolled along W 20th Street in Chelsea, one time home to an old favourite, Café Grumpy, which I’d been particularly looking forward to re-visiting. On seeing the gutted interior of the now closed shop, I got to thinking about some of my other favourite NYC coffee shops which had closed over the years.

To my surprise, this turned out to be a rather long list, which led me to make this post, an homage to New York City’s lost coffee shops. Some of these were victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, while others fell foul of landlords who didn’t want to renew the lease. One is even a success story, with Café Integral closing its original location inside a clothing store to open its own coffee shop a couple of blocks away.

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Café Grumpy, Greenpoint

The famous Café Grumpy logo on a background of wood with multiple coffee stains, taken from above the counter in the first Café Grumpy in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.I first came across Café Grumpy in 2015, the Aussie-owned coffee shop/roaster chain firmly establishing itself as a New York City favourite. In particular, its Lower East Side and Fashion District locations become regular stops on my various visits. Since I’m staying in Chelsea this time around, I was looking forward to returning to Café Grumpy on W 20th Street, where I had my first Café Grumpy experience. My only problem is that it recently closed, forced out by a new landlord who wouldn’t renew the lease.

Deprived of my local Café Grumpy fix, I headed across the East River to Greenpoint in Brooklyn, seeking out the original Café Grumpy on Meserole Avenue. Home to Café Grumpy since 2005, the roastery is half a block away down Diamond Street. From the outside, it looks small, tucked in on the corner, but inside it goes a long way back, making it the most spacious of the Café Grumpys (now up to 10 in New York City, with one in New Jersey and another in Miami). There’s the usual offering, with the Heartbreaker blend, a single-origin and decaf on espresso, plus batch-brew, a range of tea and a selection of cakes and pastries.

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The Coffee Spot is Ten!

The Coffee Spot cup, a classic white espresso cup, with a shot of espresso, pulled on my Rancilio Silvia espresso machime.It’s quite an auspicious day for the Coffee Spot: exactly 10 years ago, on Friday, 28th September 2012 (at 14.15 to be precise), I posted my first ever Coffee Spot. To mark the occasion, I’ve come to one of my favourite coffee cities, New York, although it’s also possible that I just happen to have a work-realted meeting here this week (I’ll leave it to you to decide which is true).

Ten years ago, I had no idea what I was unleashing on myself, hoping that the Coffee Spot might become a useful resource for coffee (shop) lovers and an entertaining way for me to spend (some of) my spare time. Instead, it has become an all-consuming passion which has spawned, amongst other things, a book (The Philosophy of Coffee) and gained me coffee friends all around the world.

This last two years have been very testing times for the hospitality industry and, consequently, very strange times for the Coffee Spot, although 2022 has seen things moving back to how they were, despite the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. In particular travel, and, for me, work-related travel, have opened up again, so I’m back to writing about Coffee Spots from around the world.

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Il Grifone at Prufrock

Two espressos side-by-side at Prufrock Coffee, one made with the Red Brick blend and pulled on a modern Black Eagle espresso machine and the other made using the limited edition Il Grifone blend and pulled on a vintage Faema President lever espresso machine.Today’s Coffee Spot is part Saturday Supplement and part Coffee Spot Update. Earlier this year, James Hoffmann went to Milan where he met Enrico Maltoni, who restores vintage espresso machines. One thing led to another, with James buying a 1958 Faema President lever espresso machine, which Enrico restored. Fast forward a few months and the Faema was delivered, in full working order, to London, where James had decided to install it, on a temporary basis, in the legendary Prufrock Coffee, Square Mile’s coffee shop on Leather Lane in Shoreditch.

However, James being James, there was more to it than that. Rather than use a modern blend, like Square Mile’s ubiquitous Red Brick, James and the team at Square Mile developed a limited-edition blend, Il Grifone, specifically designed for the lever espresso machine, with the option of trying it side-by-side with a shot of Red Brick, pulled on the modern Black Eagle espresso machine. All of this was explained in a video that James posted on his YouTube channel two weeks ago. As luck would have it, I was passing through London the following week, so naturally I made my way to Prufrock, my first visit there in many a year.

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Nomad Coffee Co.

The distinctive HuskeeCup with its ribbed sides, but only 3oz in capacity, holding my espresso at Nomad Coffee Co.For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of retrenchment or consolidation. Not so in Shrewsbury, where its small but vibrant speciality coffee scene has flourished with the opening of both The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters and today’s Coffee Spot, Nomad Coffee Co. Both were on my list before I made my daytrip a week ago today, but in fairness to Nomad, everyone I asked said that I must pay Raúl (the co-owner and head barista) a visit.

Located at the start of Wyle Cop on the western end of the English Bridge, Nomad is small at around twice the size of The Colonel’s Son (which isn’t saying much!). The counter is at the back, leaving space for a bench/table down the right-hand wall and a five-person window-bar along the front. Nomad is a multi-roaster, serving single-origins on espresso, with two different roasters featuring each fortnight. Although the coffee’s the star turn, I was also entertained by conversations between Raúl and a succession of regulars who’d come as much for a chat as coffee.

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Réveille Coffee Co.

A cappuccino, made with the seasonal Paradise Espresso at Réveille Coffee Co. and served in my HuskeeCup.Réveille is a Bay Area café/roaster with five locations across San Francisco and another in Berkeley. I’m indebted to my friends Angela and Karen, who independently pointed me in the direction of Réveille. The subject of today’s Coffee Spot is Réveille Coffee Co. (the other locations go by the name Réveille Café) on Columbus Avenue in North Beach, an area with a rich (Italian) coffee culture, but one where speciality coffee is a bit thin on the ground, making Réveille a welcome addition.

Réveille occupies a wedge-shaped building on the corner where Kearny Street intersects Columbus Avenue at 45°, which is as much of a draw as the coffee. A bright, high-ceilinged space, the seating lines the windows down either side of the island counter, along with tables outside on the sloping Columbus Avenue/Kearny Street.

All the coffee is roasted on a Probat that sits in the middle of Réveille Café in Mission Bay. The standard espresso-based menu uses the seasonal Paradise Espresso and decaf, with a seasonal single-origin batch-brew filter. However, it’s disposable cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own. A kitchen at the back provides brunch, with a selection of cakes and pastries throughout the day.

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The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters

Details from the wooden A-board outside The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters in Shrewsbury, showing stylised line drawings of a rank of soldiers on parade.The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roasters opened just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, temporarily closed in September last year, then re-opened following a makeover in May 2022, since when it’s been going from strength to strength. On Meadow Place, a very short walk from Shrewsbury Station, there’s not a lot to The Colonel’s Son, just a small shop with a window-bar at the front, the counter in the middle and the roaster at the back. Oh, and a bench outside, in case the four seats inside are taken.

The Colonel’s Son is run by Patch, who is indeed the son of a Colonel, his father having served with the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. It’s very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of place, with a standard espresso-based menu (served in proper cups, I’m pleased to say) and a choice of a medium or dark roast blend. There’s a wider selection of coffee for sale in retail bags, including some lighter roasted single-origins, roasted fresh each Monday, along with a small range of cakes.

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Linea Coffee Roasting + Caffe

A lovely cortado in my HuskeeCup, which I enjoyed sitting in the sun outside Linea Coffee Roasting + Caffe in San Francisco.Linea has two locations, Linea Caffe, in San Francisco’s Mission District, and today’s Coffee Spot, its wonderful café/roastery on Mariposa Street in Potrero Hill. This opened in January 2020, just after my last visit to Linea Caffe and just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. Occupying Intelligentsia’s old San Francisco roastery, it’s a lovely spot, with the roastery at the back on the left and a spacious coffee bar/retail area at the front on the right.

For now, there’s no indoor seating (due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic), but there is a stepped terrace outside on Mariposa Street as it descends to pass under I-280 on its way to San Francisco Bay. Of course, with San Francisco’s climate, outdoor seating is all you really need, although this arrangement does mean that Linea is only has disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own (which attracts a 25% discount).

The real draw is the coffee, with a blend on espresso and a rotating single-origin on batch brew filter. There’s a much wider selection of beans to buy in retail bags, including multiple single-origins and a range of organic coffee. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes and pastries.

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19grams Alex – Roastery & Lab

Details from a sticker on the espresso machine at 19grams Alex in Berlin. A flat white, seen from above, with the words "Can you handle the Süss?" written around the rim of the saucer.The first place I wrote about when I visited Berlin in May was 19grams Schlesi in Kreuzberg. As I’m approaching the end of my collection of Berlin Coffee Spots from the trip, it’s fitting that 19grams features again. This time it’s the turn of 19grams Alex, the roastery & lab in Mitte, located on Karl-Liebknecht-straße in the shadow of the famous Berliner Fernsehturn on Alexanderplatz.

This is where the magic happens, the roastery, visible through glass doors to the left, producing all of 19grams coffee. Along with a conference/training room, this occupies one half of the space, while the rest of 19grams Alex is given over to a spacious coffee shop, with plenty of outdoor seating on the broad, paved expanse in front of the shop.

Although the setting is very different from 19grams Schlesi, the offering is the same, with the Wild at Heart blend on espresso (for milk-based drinks) along with a single-origin (default for espresso and Americano) and decaf, plus a single-origin on batch brew filter. The single-origins change on a regular basis, as does the food menu, which is the same across all four 19grams locations, offering innovative brunch options and sharing plates cooked to order.

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