Ultimo Coffee provided my first Philadelphia speciality coffee experience when I visited its Graduate Hospital branch on Catherine Street in 2014. Back then, there were just two locations, that one and the original, Newbold, on South 15th Street, but in 2017, Ultimo opened a third, more central, location just west of Rittenhouse Square which I visited on my way to the station during my trip last year.
Easily the smallest of the three locations, its comparative lack of size doesn’t limit its ambitions when it comes to coffee. On my previous visits to the two other Ultimo locations, it was using Counter Culture, but in 2016, Ultimo started roasting its own coffee in the Newbold location (sadly after I visited). I was therefore excited, since this was my first chance to taste Ultimo’s coffee.
There are several seasonal single-origins available at any time (there were five during my visit), all available as pour-over, with three of them on espresso, two iced and one through the Aeropress. If you’re in a hurry and it’s before 11 o’clock, there’s also one on batch-brew. Add to that 12 different teas, plus a selection of cakes and bagels, and Ultimo has you covered.
The first ever speciality coffee shop I visited in Philadelphia was Ultimo Coffee’s Graduate Hospital branch on Catherine Street. It is therefore a little ironic that it’s taken me two years to visit the original, Newbold, on South 15th Street, where Ultimo started back in 2009. As is usual in these cases, the loss is all mine.
Ultimo, rather unusually, shares the space with Brew, a speciality bottle beer company, with Ultimo and the coffee taking the front of the store and Brew taking the back, the two sharing the seating. Ultimo, also unusually, has a strong focus on pour-over coffee, something which is slowly catching on in the US, but which Ultimo has championed from the start, using BeeHouse drippers to serve an interesting selection of single-origin filters to go with two more on espresso.
During my visit in February, Counter Culture was the house-roaster, with occasional guests on espresso and filter. However, since then Ultimo has started roasting its own coffee (with the roastery based at Newbold), which is now available on-line and in both stores. If you’re in a hurry, there’s bulk-brew until 11am, while for those with a sweet tooth, there’s a selection of cake.
I’ve saved the first until last, so to speak. On my trip to Philadelphia back in March, Ultimo Coffee was my first port of call, fresh off the train from Boston, whisked there by my generous host for the weekend, Greg of Coffee Guru App fame. It seems appropriate that of the nine Coffee Spots I visited (11 if you count The Franklin Fountain and Jany’s), it’s the last to be written up.
The Graduate Hospital branch on Catharine Street is the second of Philadelphia’s two Ultimos, the westernmost Coffee Spot that I visited (the original, on S 15th Street, is a long way out of town and would easily have been the furthest south had I made it there; next time, maybe). After leaving the Amtrak Station and crossing the river, turn right and it’s a straight run down 22nd Street to Ultimo, making it a logical place to start my coffee tour.
Ultimo serves Counter Culture coffee (with occasional guest roasters) with an emphasis on filter. Chemex is available until 11 o’clock in the morning, with V60 on the go throughout the day. There’s a choice of three single-origins, with single-origin house and guest espressos, plus decaf. There’s a range of sandwiches and cakes too.
December 2016: Ultimo now roasts all its own coffee which it serves in both its stores.