Coffee in Albany [Updated 2020]

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.


Preface

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.


Cafes

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 well considered and well executed. Their coffee is now roasted in house as Touchy Coffee, with rotating select guest roasters as well. 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, Troy, Newton MA

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.

As my focus for this listing is specialty coffee, 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.


Beans

There’s plenty of spots to grab a bag of high quality, freshly roasted coffee beans and not have to pay for shipping.

Stacks Espresso Bar, Lark St & Broadway Albany and Troy

They have a few shelves of coffee (and brewing supplies) from a revolving selection of guest roasters, as well as their house-roasted coffee.

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.

little pecks, Broadway, Troy

Retail bags from Portland Maine’s Tandem.


Making your own coffee at home

If you are looking to make your own fussy coffee at home I’ve got you covered.

Last updated: May 4, 2020

Shop Visit: Tierra Coffee Roasters

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This is old, and I no longer stand by the following words as a lot has changed since I wrote this.

This past week I stopped by Tierra Coffee Roasters on Madison to see what they’ve been up to. They’ve changed a lot of things in the space that was once known as the Muddy Cup, to the point that the single thing I was able to recognize was the long wood table. If you’re not already familiar, the space is now a cafe owned by Tierra Farms, which is based out of Valatie. They specialize in nut roasting, dried fruits, and trail mixes, and have more recently become involved in Fair Trade coffees. The shops got all sorts of food, including soups, sandwiches, salads, paninis and of course tons of vegan options.

It’s no secret that I’m an enormous coffee snob and when family was over and I was out of coffee, I bought a bag of Blonde Roast from Tierra. My expectations were admittedly low, but once I brewed a pot of coffee, I was quite shocked with the result. After talking to the guys at Tierra, they clued me in on the coffee roasting schedule so I’d be able to grab a bag of coffee that was roasted earlier that same day, which I’ve been doing for a few weeks now. My only nitpicky complaint about their coffee is that the bags don’t have a roasted on date on ’em, which isn’t that common, but would be nice to have.

Not only are they stocking small-batch self-roasted beans in addition to their big cafe menu, they’ve also started to do single-cup Chemex method brewing for those who ask. Rumor also has it that they’re getting in a few Aeropresses to have another brewing method for a single cup of coffee. This is definitely a first for any shop in Albany, and a big leap forward for coffee culture here. During my visit, I shared a Chemex of the blonde roast and they did everything spot on; got the water up to the right temp, rinsed the filter, did the 30-second pre-infuse, all of it. Ron, the manager at Tierra, told me about future plans for coffee tastings, including all their roasts and brew methods.

They’re close to getting their cabaret license so they can begin to do open mic nights again, and in addition to coffee, patrons can opt for a beer as well. Whether it’s at open mic night or just to be able to enjoy a beer in a non-bar atmosphere, it’s pretty cool that they’ve got a cooler full of craft brews.

Next time you’re in the area, stop in for a soup, a sandwich and a coffee, and stop back later that night and grab a beer and a baked good. This place is so much better than it was in its previous iterations; you won’t be disappointed. Hit the jump or click the photo above to launch the gallery.