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?
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.