Hudson River Coffee House: Verdict
photos by andrew franciosa
So a while back, I posed my feelings about the run-of-the-mill coffee shops Albany is cursed with. Since then, I’ve been to Mocha Joe’s in Brattleboro, Blue Bottle in Brooklyn, Gimme! in Soho and The Hudson River Coffee House on Quail Street right here in Albany. The above photo details what I got when I ordered a small coffee and a shot of espresso from The Hudson River Coffee House. The photo below is the detail shot of the espresso I received.
The espresso: When I ordered, I was asked whether or not I wanted a single or double shot. I took the single option since I didn’t need a significant quantity. The guy who made it, dumped previously-ground grinds into the basket from the chamber in the grinder, gave it a lackadaisical tamping, put it into the machine, and pressed a button. He then set my paper cup under one of the two spouts, and a metal milk pitcher under the other. My drink was capped, handed off and he went back to the pitcher to either dump it out or make himself a drink. Shit, even at Starbucks they offer you the other shot since they pull in multiples of two.
The shot tasted like it looked. There was no crema and it tasted as if you were licking your hands after dealing with a fresh bag of rubber bands; not the nutty, complex and concentrated taste I’ve grown accustom to. It was also room temperature from being put into a huge, cold cup (not to mention the incredible amount of waste this is, which almost bothers me the most out of this whole ordeal). At both Gimme! and Blue Bottle you get your shots in a pre-heated shot glass with a small cup of seltzer or water to wash it down, unless you specify it as to-go. The shots there look as if they are pouring dark amber paint into these cups, with a rich, and long lasting crema (it usually stays behind in the cup). Look at the second photo in the Gimme! guide to latte art, to get a comparison shot (no pun intended).
The coffee: Perplexing. I was mostly puzzled by it. At temperature it tasted transparent or weak, I guess. I don’t know really how to describe it. It definitely wasn’t offensive or bitter, just kind lacking all flavor. As it got colder, it did what all coffee does and started tasting funky, but to no fault of THRCH. When I return there, I will definitely opt for a coffee rather than a shot. I want to solve this puzzle.
Also, I was very happy to see them using Soy Blenders as their soy milk. It’s in my opinion the best and tastes the most like a non-flavored milk product. Maybe even like regular milk; that said, I haven’t had regular milk in over five years. I added this to the rest of the coffee and happily finished it. It definitely nudged it in the right direction.
The space there is really awesome though. Arcade games, chess boards, a place to buy cards (???), plenty of seating and even a few nights of dancing with the Heady Pro gang, it’s definitely adds to the neighborhood as a good adaptive use of an old space. I just really wish their main product, coffee, stood out more than the fact they made a cool room. I was sincerely and genuinely hoping to be able to stop mail ordering my coffee from Mocha Joe’s and finally be able to support a business in my own city. I guess that since Anton clearly understands the reason why all the coffee in Albany is awful, he decided to not offer a knock-out product since people will buy the coffee regardless.