Coffee in Albany
I’ve written about coffee for a while, but there has been a substantial change in the coffee options in the past few years, so it’s worth looking at as a whole. Especially since some of what I’ve written in the past is not true anymore.
I drink my coffee black and have been doing so since 2008, so keep that in mind when reading my recommendations. If you normally add cream or sugar to your coffee, you’re most likely used to drinking coffee that is roasted with the intention of hiding bad favors, rather than being roasted to highlight the nuanced flavors of each specific coffee (similar to single-estate wines that highlight the characteristics of each grape/region). Those who add sugar and/or milk tend to prefer dark roasts, as a light-to-medium roasted coffee won’t have the “strong coffee flavor” which is able to cut through the milk. This “strong coffee flavor” is generally just the flavor of an over roasted coffee bean (usually just carbon), which is not representative of that specific coffee. Lighter to medium roasted single origin coffee’s goal is to bring out and highlight certain desirable characteristics of each specific lot of coffee, and is typically listed on the bags as crazy taste descriptors such as root beer, jasmine tea, prosecco, or guava. Try one sometime.
Here are the places I’d recommend getting coffee that have a spot to sit and read a book or chat with a friend.
Superior Merchandise Co., 4th St, Troy
Superior Merchandise bill themselves as a “design shop + coffee bar”. They recently added a bottle bar where you can buy rare Nordic beers to take home, and they also have two beers on tap, a bunch of bottles, cider, and canned wine (it’s surprisingly good). In addition to this, they have the strongest coffee program of any shop in the area. Everything from their cheapest batch brew to their $5 signature drinks is considered and well executed. Their coffee comes from select roasters that change every few months. They also host coffee classes about brewing at home with different coffee apparatuses such as the Kalita Wave or Aeropress. They even bring in extremely rare, pricey coffee from somewhere in Scandinavia once a month for the aptly titled Scandinavian Saturdays.
Stacks Espresso Bar, Lark St and Broadway
The focus at Stacks is coffee. They are a multi-roaster shop which is still quite rare in this area. That means they have many different coffees from many different companies. They have a small selection in their bakery case of goods from local bakers. Their espresso is among the best in the area, and they usually have more than one option ready to go for espresso. It’s typically their house blend espresso as well as single origin or espresso blend from a featured roaster. I’d recommend avoiding the house coffee (you can get guest-roaster batch brew at the Broadway location), and opt for an Americano with either the house espresso or guest espresso, or a pour over if the shop isn’t too busy. As mentioned, they do pour overs on the Wave or Aeropress, iced pour overs, cold brew, macchiatos, etc., and even pumpkin spice lattes if that’s what you’re into.
3Fish, Madison Ave
3Fish is attached to the Downtube bicycle shop on Madison Ave, between Lark and Willett. After a fire, and a renovation, 3Fish is now a great centrally-located cafe. They have coffee from Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. They also have soup, pastries, and toast if you’re hungry. There’s also a nice patio out back, as well as raised seating behind the bar, between the coffee shop and bike shop.
little pecks, Broadway, Troy
little pecks is a cafe attached to the Lucas Confectionery wine bar in Troy. They have coffee from Portland, Maine’s Tandem Coffee Roasters that you can get as a batch brew, pour over, or espresso. You can also buy bags of whole bean coffee from them. Pretty much everything here is good, and the space in the garden is a great place to spend time with friends or a book.
I can not in good faith recommend Tierra, Uncommon Grounds, Hudson River Coffee House, Delaware Trolley House, Emack and Bolio’s, Bonobo, Stagecoach Coffee, Iron Gate, Mug Shots, or Daily Grind solely for their coffee.
If you’re a nerd like me and you make your fussy coffee at home, there’s plenty of spots to grab a bag of high quality, freshly roasted coffee beans and not have to pay for shipping.
Pint Sized, Lark St (for now)
Pint Sized née Brew is a craft beverage shop on Lark St that mainly sells craft beer. They also sell Tandem Coffee, Stumptown, Intelligentsia and more by the bag. They also have coffee brewing supplies such as Chemex, Aeropress and french presses. In the summer they have cold brew and iced yerba mate by the cup, and generally hot coffee by the cup all the time.
This is going to change soon when they become a real bar, instead of a carry away beer spot.
Stacks Espresso Bar, Lark St and Broadway
They have a few shelves of coffee (and brewing supplies) from a revolving selection of roasters, as well as their house-roasted coffee, which I would avoid.
Superior Merchandise Co, 4th St, Troy
Always stocked with fresh bags from whatever roasters they currently have on bar. You can try a cup of each before buying your bag via pourover if that’s what you’re into.