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Kaffe 1668

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Name: Kaffe 1668
Location: 275 Greenwich Street, New York, New York

Roasters: Intelligentsia, Ecco Caffe, Plowshares
Rating: 4

Due to their use of Intelligentsia and owning a Clover, Kaffe 1668 was one of the spots I was most excited about visiting during my (increasingly less) recent New York coffee tour. It didn’t disappoint either, with the possible exception of the nondescript, nearly generic looking storefront that I almost passed by, and the about-as-far-away-in-Manhattan-as-you-can-get location.

The interior of Kaffe 1668 is modern and industrial, yet crisp and chic. The design concept seems to be a riff on things related to a street, perhaps a Swedish one given the origins of the owners. At least that’s the impression I came away with starting with the street sign-like shingle hanging over the door. Inside, the overhead lighting, adding an intensely bright light, resembles something you might see outside in the street. Fortunately, the rich chocolate wood of the communal table and slate chalkboards, accentuate the silver and gun metal trim of the lighting while softening its glow. There’s also the art on display, which at the time was a clever twist on the fluffier, chic children’s items my wife spends so much time ogling online.  Oh, and don’t forget to check out the downstairs which offers a more intimate, lounge-like setting. This place is surprising big.

As I mentioned, the coffee is from Intelligentsia. Kaffe 1668′s friendly and knowledgeable staff pulls shots of black cat on their 3-group Synesso Cyncra, but as backup could turn to their other 2-group Cyncra sitting on the back side of their fully three-walled bar, that juts into the room without taking up too much space. Staff also brew individual cups of coffee to order on their Clover, purchased just months before Starbucks took steps to end the technology of the Clover to the greater masses by purchasing the company.

Kaffe 1668 brews 2-3 different Intelligentsia coffees on the Clover, which would really in itself be enough. However, it seems that owners, inspired by the love of Cafe Grumpy have stolen a page from their book, and have chosen to shun the one roaster rule. Currently, you can also select 1-2 coffees from (more or less) local roaster, Plowshares, to be brewed on the Clover as well. Kaffe 1668 also sells Plowshare’s beans. Enough about options, though. What about quality?

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With regards to espresso, I continue to be somewhat perplexed by what Black Cat SHOULD taste like. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this one, served in the modern, somewhat pricey, and intriguingly designed iittalia Ego demitasse, with a handle that is longer than the cup (note that mine is sitting off the saucer rather than off-balance on the saucer). This shot had a surprisingly light body with a thick layer of crema with the resulting mouthfeel resembling merrange. The sharper notes in this shot along with the texture made me wonder if the coffee wasn’t a little bit young. Still, I picked up on some wonderful black cherry, hints of cocoa and molasses for an overall, slightly ethereal shot.

For brewed coffee, I ended up skipping the Plowshares, only to buy a bag to take home (too save you too much suspense, it was quite good as well). Instead I opted for the Rwanda Zirikana that I had been reading about from a number of sources. Fortunately, my tips didn’t lead me astray. The mouthfeel started clean but seemed to exhibit a stealthy syrupy quality that snuck up on me after a few seconds. It was juicy and bright like a good, orange colored melon with some mild current and black tea notes thrown in for good measure.

Overall, Kaffe 1668 has a lot going for it: good design, a nice array of coffee choices and good quality coffee making. I’d certainly recommend putting it at the top of your New York list.

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8 comments to Kaffe 1668

  • Steven Weiss

    Thanks so much for your detailed reviews of the NYC coffee scene. As someone who lives in SF, but travels often to NYC for work, your reviews have been incredibly helpful and spot on, especially your review of Think Coffee, which I found disappointing.

    Steven

  • Reading your post reminded me of my failure to post on my experience at the Sunset Junction Intelligentsia last December (although, I suppose, better late than never so maybe it will still happen as long as I don’t think the memories have faded too much in the interim).

    I think–I can’t be sure–I, indeed, tasted what Black Cat should taste like at that time. What I remember is, probably, the best tasting initial sip of a cappuccino I have ever had (maybe there is still hope for a post, after all).

    It’s interesting to see the differences–illustrated in your grand tour of New York’s café scene–between café culture on the West Coast and that on the East. By that, I mean, I hear about roasters and their cafés from the West while, in the East, it’s cafés that feature coffee sourced from others. The exceptions I know of are Gimmee! and the impending roastery that Duane Sorenson is opening in Brooklyn.

    Thank you for your tenacity and dedication to putting out your posts from your New York trip. It’s inspiring and will serve as a consummate guide to where I spend my time when I finally make my trip to “the City that Never Sleeps.

  • Ugh! Just noticed a lot of typos. The corrections I made must not have been saved. Please forgive me. They should now all be corrected.

  • [...] Kaffe 1668 – An up-and-coming spot that I’ve been to only a few times. Has potential to be one of NYC’s best, despite the less-than-ideal location. They have WiFi, two Clovers, and two beautiful Synesso Cyncra espresso machines. [...]

  • Stmbled upon this post and your reviews of both Kaffe 1668 and another NYC shop, and stopped in at 1668 today. Thanks for the info, it was well worth the visit.

  • Patrick LaForge

    I’m adding a trip to Kaffe 1668 to my list; I usually don’t get that far downtown. Ninth Street’s Alphabet City house espresso is supposedly a version of Black Cat. At Sunset Junction, I also bought what may have been the last of the single origin Black Cat Anjilinaka. Even on my home machine, not alas a Clover, it was wonderful.

  • You’re welcome. Always glad to help. Depending on your level of obsession, you might also look ahead at various schedules for coffee classes, cuppings and other education events at some of these places. Not that there aren’t plenty of these around here as well, but it’s a great way to get a broad sampling of a place you enjoy when you only have a limited number of visits. And I noticed that quite a few NY places are now offering some sort of consumer education events.

  • I think that’s right about the culture. I imagine it has a lot to do with the fact that New York, in particular, is playing catch up. They finally realized they were behind in the need for good coffee, but there weren’t the roasters in place to supply it. Or more accurately, roasters elsewhere noticed the gap in the market. This take is more or less what that NY Times piece on roasters suggested at any rate and certainly matches what I’ve been seeing. It will be interesting to see if some of the newer crop of roasters like Plowshares (that I just posted on) can fill some of this gap. Although I think its going to take someone with some Four Barrel-like ambition to make some waves and really establish a New York based roasting power house – not just an expansion like Stumptown. The problem is that you pretty much have to be a big company to set up and make it in New York. The cost of business is HUGE and hard for a small guy to overcome, especially now that the big three have started to stake their claims.

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