Last updated: September 15 2022
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.
This guide is explicitly referring to specialty coffee. It’s meant to be drank with out any additives (no milk, sugar, syrups) to highlight the origin characteristics of each bean. Think about fancy wine’s emphasis on growing location, grape, process; that, but coffee. That said, all of these shops will have great signature drinks (such as Mexican mochas, lavendar lattes, etc.) that feature their great coffee. From the Specialty Coffee Association:
What is Specialty Coffee?
Specialty coffee can consistently exist through the dedication of the people who have made it their life’s work to continually make quality their highest priority. This is not the work of only one person in the lifecycle of a coffee bean; specialty can only occur when all of those involved in the coffee value chain work in harmony and maintain a keen focus on standards and excellence from start to finish. This is no easy accomplishment, and yet because of these dedicated professionals, there are numerous specialty coffees available right now, across the globe, and likely right around the corner from you.
Here are the places I’d recommend grabbing a coffee.
Superior Merchandise Co., 4th St, Troy
Superior Merchandise bill themselves as a “design shop + coffee bar”. They have a nice selection of pantry staples, home goods, fresh food, and ready to drink canned beverages. In addition to this, they have the strongest coffee program of any shop in the area. Everything from their cheapest batch brew to their signature drinks is well considered and well executed. Their coffee is now roasted in house as Touchy Coffee. They have also hosted 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 in Albany
The focus at Stacks is coffee. They are a multi-roaster shop which is rare. That means they have different coffees from different roasters vs only selling their own. They have a 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. They do fancy coffee stuff like pour overs on the Wave or Aeropress, iced pour overs, cold brew, lattes, and done well signature drinks.
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.
Alias Coffee, 2nd St, Troy
Hernán who used to work and roast coffee at Stacks opened his own shop. His shop is sharing a space with Shmaltz Brewing at their tasting room.
Jacob Alejandro, River St, Troy
All of the places above have you covered.
Making your own coffee at home
If you are looking to make your own fussy coffee at home I’ve got you covered.
As my focus for this listing is specialty coffee, I can not in good faith recommend Uncommon Grounds, Emack and Bolio’s, Bonobo, Stagecoach Coffee, Iron Gate, Mug Shots, Spill’n the Beans, or Daily Grind for their coffee.