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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Five Elephant KaDeWe

A lovely cortado, served in a glass on a large, white saucer, at Five Elephant, KaDeWe in Berlin.When I went to Berlin in May this year for work, I really wasn’t expecting much in the way of speciality coffee in the vicinity of my hotel, just south of the Zoological Garden. However, I was much mistaken. On my arrival, I made the chance discovery of The Visit, just down the street from my hotel, and then, on my first full day, I visited the original Five Elephant in Kreuzberg, where the staff told me about the newest Five Elephant, located inside the famous KaDeWe department store, a convenient short stroll from my hotel.

Five Elephant is on the top floor of KaDeWe at the back of the food hall. There’s a big, square island counter, plenty of seating and a large retail area (both beans and an extensive range of coffee equipment), all backed up by some very knowledgeable and friendly staff. There’s a very similar coffee and cake offering to the Kreuzberg coffee shop, with a single-origin and decaf on espresso, all shots pulled on a Modbar installation. For filter, there’s another single-origin on batch brew with any of the beans currently in stock available through either the AeroPress or as a pour-over through the V60.

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The Barn, Sony Center

Detail from the A-board outside The Barn in the Sony Center, Berlin (in chalk, the wods "The Barn Coffee Roasters, Berlin" along with The Barn's logo.Although you can find good coffee all across Berlin, it’s still quite rare in tourist areas, which makes The Barn’s coffee shop in the Sony Center, around the corner from Potsdamer Platz, such a good find. The Barn, which boasts 10 Berlin coffee shops and two more overseas (Mallorca, Dubai), needs no introduction with its international reputation for roasting excellent coffee. The Barn, which began life in the Mitte district of Berlin, has a certain look and feel to the majority of its coffee shops, although the one in the Sony Center bucks this trend, with its modern, clean lines. There’s a handful of tables outside on the quiet street, while there’s plenty more seating in the L-shaped interior.

Despite the atypical appearance, you can be sure of the same warm welcome, along with the usual range of coffee, which is common to all The Barn’s Berlin locations. This includes a concise espresso-based menu (available online via QR Code), two options on pour-over through the V60, plus cold brew, tea, hot chocolate and a range of cakes. The specific beans (all single-origins) vary by location, chosen by the baristas every few days, while the full range is available in retail bags.

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KaffeeKirsche Café & Bakery

A beautiful carafe of a V60 of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Grassroots, a fine, rich, fruity, full bodied naturally-processed coffee, roasted and served by KaffeeKirsche Café & Bakery on a wooden tray with a cup on the side.When I went to Berlin in May, I already had a long list of coffee shops that I wanted to visit. However, KaffeeKirsche (literally, “coffee cherry”) was a chance discovery on my last Sunday, which I spent wandering the streets of Kreuzberg, arguably the birthplace of Berlin’s speciality coffee scene. In a familiar story, KaffeeKirsche is a roastery with small chain of coffee shops (three so far), which started on Adalbertsraße (also home to Bonanza Coffee and The Visit).

I actually walked past the original café, which opened in 2014 and was also the original roastery, which looked interesting enough for me to do some quick online research (the joys of smartphones and free (for now) EU roaming). This led to the discovery of both the roastery café in Tempelhof and the café/bakery on Böckhstraße, which is where I ended up in my quest for lunch.

The café/bakery occupies a spacious corner spot with plenty of seating inside and out. Brunch is served until three o’clock, while the cake selection is available all day. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, a pair of single-origins on pour-over via the V60 and a range of tea and other drinks.

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Kaffeekommune

An espresso in a classic, thick-walled white cup, made with the lightly-roasted, naturally-processed Ethiopia Bombe G1.On my way back from Berlin in May, I broke my journey in Köln, from where I took a day trip by train along the Rhine to Mainz. The main reason for going was to enjoy the views along the Rhine, but while I was in Mainz, it seemed only fair that I try the local coffee scene. Sadly, due to delays and cancellations, I only had time for one stop, choosing Kaffeekommune as my destination (with thanks to European Coffee Trip for the heads-up).

Kaffeekommune is Mainz’s original speciality coffee shop, going strong since 2014 and, for the last two years, roasting its own coffee too (in an old car repair shop). There’s a wide range of coffee available (while I was there, six single-origins, a decaf and two blends), all of which are omni-roasts (roasted for both espresso and filter). Kaffeekommune has a concise espresso-based menu, offering single or double shots, with the choice of bean changing weekly, while you can have any of the coffees via the AeroPress. Meanwhile, if you’re in a hurry, there’s batch brew filter, with Kaffeekommune using a different coffee for each batch! If you’re hungry, there’s also a small selection of cakes.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Köln to Mainz by Train along the Rhine

The front of my ICE T train at Köln station.If you’ve been following my recent Travel Spot posts, you’ll know that on my way back to the UK from Berlin, I broke my journey at Köln, where I spent three days before continuing to Brussels and London St Pancras. I was travelling on a Eurail pass, one which allow me unlimited travel on four separate days. I’d used one to go from Guildford to Berlin, another to travel from Berlin to Köln, while my return to the UK would use the third, leaving me a day spare. Of course, I didn’t have to use it, but it seemed a shame to waste it, so I hit on a plan.

The first time I came to Köln was over 30 years ago, also travelling on a Eurail pass (back then known as an Interrail pass). I was on my way to Friedrichshafen, on the shore of the Bodensee, and I caught a train from Köln to Stuttgart, the line following the Rhine for the first part of the journey. The views captivated me, and I always hoped to return. Now, I had my chance, deciding to spend the spare day of my pass travelling from Köln to Mainz and back.

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Blooming Coffee Bar

An espresso, made with the Todos Santos, a washed coffee from Guatemala, roasted by Blooming Coffee Roastery and served in Blooming Coffee Bar, presented in a gorgeous, handleless ceramic Aoomi cup, handmade in Poland.When I visited Köln on my way back from Berlin in May, I had two coffee shops to visit, The Coffee Gang and Ernst Kaffeeröster. However, I quickly added a third, Blooming Coffee Bar, which came highly recommended by the locals. Blooming Coffee Roastery & Coffee Bar (in true German fashion, it’s both roaster and coffee shop) only opened its coffee bar last summer, on Leonhard-Tietz-Straße in the city centre, although the roasting part has been going for a little longer.

As a coffee shop, it’s very modern, with a clean interior design and décor. It’s the first coffee shop I’ve visited that uses the Decent Espresso machine, which was designed with the home market in mind. There’s a choice of two single-origins, served from a very concise menu, while for filter, there’s batch brew and four single-origins, each matched to either V60 or Kalita Wave. There’s also a selection of tea and a small collection of cakes/pastries.

The design aesthetic extends to the cups and servers (both by Kinto) for the filter coffee, while for espresso, there are some gorgeous ceramic Aoomi cups, handmade in Poland. Naturally, they’re all available to buy, along with the coffee beans and tea.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Berlin to Köln by ICE

The front driving cab of the first set of two ICE 4 trains forming the 15:46 service to Düsseldorf/Köln, arriving at Berlin Hauptbahnhof.Welcome to the first instalment of my new Travel Spot series, covering my return by train from Berlin to the UK. While this saw me retrace my steps from the journey out (as far as London St Pancras), rather than doing everything in one day, I broke my journey at Köln, where I spent a few days before carrying on to the UK.

On my way out, because I needed to get all the way to Berlin in a single day, everything was very tightly planned, with reservations on all the various legs of the journey (Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels, ICE 3 from Brussels to Köln and ICE 1 from Köln to Berlin). On the way back, I could afford to be more flexible, particularly as the journey from Berlin to Köln is just over four hours, with hourly departures from Berlin.

In theory I could have done this by buying individual tickets for each leg, but since I was travelling on a Eurail pass, I could use any ICE train. This meant I was able to leave my decision as to which train to catch right up until the last minute, which is exactly what I did.

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Coffee Circle Café – Mitte

A flat white, served in a classic white cup but on an off-centre, non-circular saucer, at Coffee Circle Café – Mitte in Berlin.I didn’t know much about Coffee Circle before travelling to Berlin at the start of May. However, enough people recommended Coffee Circle to me once I arrived that I added it to my list. Coffee Circle began as a roastery specialising in direct trade in 2010, only opening its first café three years ago (in Wedding, Berlin, in the same building complex as the roastery). Since then, there have been two more, one on Bergmannstraße near Tempelhof and the other, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, on Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße in the heart of Mitte.

From the street, there isn’t much to Coffee Circle, but inside, the café goes a long way back, all the way to the rear of the building, where windows look into a modern courtyard. There’s space for 12 people at tables outside on the pavement, while there’s plenty more seating in the spacious interior. A very limited (and entirely vegetarian) snack menu is joined by a selection of cake, but the real draw is the coffee, all roasted in-house, with the Cerrado, a naturally-processed Brazilian coffee, on espresso, joined by a regularly-changing second single-origin option, along with another single-origin on batch brew and two more on pour-over.

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Ben Rahim, Berlin

The Ben Rahim logo, a stylised two-dimensional drawing of a tree with the words "BEN RAHIM" underneath.Ben Rahim, one of Berlin’s lesser-known speciality coffee names (outside of Berlin that is), came highly recommended by various people, both online and in other Berlin speciality coffee shops that I visited. It also features in the Double Skinny Macchiato guide to Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. Ben Rahim is unusual in that its owner is from Tunisia and, having recently opened a shop in Tunis, it’s technically an international coffee shop chain (of two).

Ben Rahim opened in 2015, occupying a small shop on an alleyway leading into the famous Hackesche Höfe in Mitte in the heart of Berlin. Towards the end of 2019, Ben Rahim expanded into the adjacent space, now its current home, when the previous tenants, a clothes shop, moved out. All the coffee is roasted in Berlin on behalf of Ben Rahim, with a blend, a single-origin and decaf on espresso, backed up by a blend and two more single-origins on filter via the Clever Dripper. True to its Tunisian origins, these two single-origins are also offered via the ibrik, along with a range of signature drinks and a small selection tea, all backed up by a small range of cakes, pastries and filled croissants.

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