Blue Bottle, Part Two
Yesterday, I wrote about my first experience at West 15th Street's new Blue Bottle Coffee. I apologize for having been so interested in the pour-overs that I missed the espresso machine. The other observations and criticisms still stand, including my belief that the coffee was on the thin side, the premises without creature comforts, the usual constellation of milk and soy products not present, and the place, on the whole, pretentious. While looking for somewhere to sit down, I discovered a stranger and more interesting coffee establishment above and behind the one I'd just patronized, approached by a narrow stair. You have to know it's there, because there's no sign. (And no, I didn't read the press release.)
The upstairs establishment does provide seating, along a short bar where coffee is brewed by one of two methods by a barista who has become half counselor and half chemist. The first method involves putting grounds in a small muslin bag, and using the drip method, making something that tastes like espresso, only more copious.
The other utilizes a glass lab-ware apparatus invented by the Japanese that shoots water from a globe up into a beaker, after which the barista stirs the coffee grounds in, and then turns off the strange glowing burner underneath. Once the air in the bottom chamber cools, the coffee is drawn rapidly downward through a filter. Then the beaker is removed and the coffee poured from the flask.
These coffees are both roughly twice as expensive as the downstairs brews. On the other hand, you first get a "palate cleanser" consisting of a weak tea made with -- if I understood the explanation correctly -- the skins of coffee berries. It tastes faintly like one of those fruit-flavored teas. You also get a tiny marshmallow that, the barista will inform you, has been infused with bourbon. For the committed drinker of strong normal coffee, this prelude to caffeination may cause you some alarm. The restaurateur will recognize it as a "value added" feature, justifying a higher price.