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Satellite Coffee

Name: Satellite Coffee
Location: 2300 Central Ave SE (at Harvard), Albuquerque, NM (and 4 other Albuquerque locations)

Roaster: Satellite Coffee
Rating: 2+

Stepping into one of Albuquerque’s five Satellite Coffee locations made me think of an historical re-enactment of what it must have been like for a 70′s Seattle-ite to step into one of the handful of original Starbucks, a chain on the verge of explosive expansion. Satellite is still locally owned and locally roasted but expanding quickly, especially when you consider that Satellite is a spin-off of Flying Star, a restaurant and cafe in the Albuquerque area with 8 locations and a full service menu. The creators of Flying Star liked their coffee so much they started a business where their coffee, and not just their food, could be the star. (I should add that this Satellite shouldn’t be confused with Satellite of Seattle serving Stumptown coffee)

This particular location – right across from the University of New Mexico on historic Route 66 and the only Satellite branch I’ve been to – is clean and trendy without offering an earth-shattering aesthetic. It’s filled with lots of red and brown chairs, both leather and cloth. The centerpiece of the space is an enormous round couch, surrounding a tall padded pillar with each seat on the couch “orbited” by a small table. Overall, it was a pleasant environment to work in and offered free wifi.

Satellite’s menu consists of the usual array of contemporary cafe coffee drinks as well as various frou-frou, albeit creative and appealing-looking, smoothies and tea-based concoctions. They also have a decent food menu. I personally was fond of the rise and shine breakfast sandwich – a spicy, green chile and sausage version of an Egg McMuffin. The drip coffee is brewed in a Fetco, and a chalkboard sign hanging over the brewed coffee suggests that Satellite rotates their coffees on a semi-regular basis. On the three visits I made, however (two of which were on the same day), I found them serving their Moka Java blend.

While fine enough and certainly a clean, drinkable cup, I can’t say I was particularly impressed by this blend of coffee. Satellite says that it is a medium roast, but seemed darker, or at least tasted largely of that roast. The decaf I ordered faired a little better but suffered from a similar roast-centric flavor which got better with a bit of cream and sugar. I did buy some of Satellite’s Tanzania Peaberry (a dark roast) to try at home, which would have given me a better sense of what else they have to offer, but somehow managed to lose it along the way. Oy!

The espresso proved slightly better. On the plus side, it was sweet and mild and tasted of roasted nuts. On the minus side, the crema was a bit thin, it was served in paper despite my specifically requesting that it was “for here,” and it was a tad watery. The equipment used was an automatic that I wasn’t immediately familiar with and my notes, like the Peaberry coffee, disappeared before I could make it home to check. If anyone has some further information on their machine, please feel free to chime in. (see comments below for machine details).

My overall impression is that the folks at Flying Star and Satellite are business savvy and have an impressive way with food. They have plans to keep expanding and probably can make something of a go of it given that they know coffee well enough to serve something above the norm. The coffee is fresh roasted and there is something inherently appealing about the fact that they roast their coffee themselves. Still, the roast-heavy flavor and apparent de-emphasis on coffee making skills amongst their staff smacks of many of the less appealing aspects of most major coffee chains. Until these things are remedied, there better places to pursue good brew in Albuquerque.

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3 comments to Satellite Coffee

  • Dave

    Satellite recently replaced their automatic espresso machines with high quality burr grinders and traditional machines made by Nuova Simonelli. While I may not be quite the coffee buff you seem to be, I would say that the espresso is quite a bit better, especially the crema. I am a regular patron of Satellite, I enjoy all they have to offer, especially the food menu, and the wonderful selection of loose tea. But it was great to read your take on things. One recommendation I would have would be to check out the Montgomery location if you ever have the chance- it seems to be a slight cut above the rest. Also- if you want your drink in a mug, ask for it in a mug… I ran that by one of the baristas to see if they even have mugs, because I had never bothered to inquire about that before. Happy caffeination!

  • Thanks, Dave, for the equipment update (and responding to my request for information). I’m hoping to get back to Albuquerque sometime in the next few months so I’ll have to be sure to check things out and update this post accordingly.

    You’re right about asking for ceramic. If I am really insistent on getting the best coffee, I’m not a afraid to ask. I think customers often don’t want to make waves or are simply unaware of their options. I’m glad you’ve been able to get your ceramic mug.

    I guess my beef is that a lot of cafes these days serve you paper by default – an unfortunate taste (and environmental) trend. My ideal would be a default to ceramic unless you specify paper – especially for espresso. That may not be realistic, but cafes could at least ask: Is that for here or to go? Would you like paper or ceramic? On my visit – and I’m hoping it was just an off day for folks – I specified “for here” and still got paper for an espresso. That’s really not giving credit to the coffee or the customer. Next time I’ll be more insistent to be sure I can evaluate the espresso to its fullest potential.

  • A further update. I just got back from Albuquerque, and a visit to Satellite. This branch does indeed use a 3-group Nuova Simonelli, semi-auto. They also do have ceramic mugs. They do not, however, have ceramic demitasses. Espresso is pulled into paper by default, but my barista did pull my espresso into a mug without flinching. I could be wrong, but I may have sensed some frustration on his part as well at the lack of ceramic for espresso. Regardless, the espresso was, at best, marginally better. Not bad, but not particularly good either.

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