Coffee Chronicles: Stumptown's Red Hook Tasting Room

"Stumptown has the latitude to make their Red Hook retail presence straight-up nerdy."


[Photos: Liz Clayton]

Distance from the beaten path has never much thwarted New Yorkers or coffee snobs, most of whom relish the opportunity to get the hell off that beaten path anyway. Hike on out to Red Hook, then, where Stumptown Coffee's much-lauded Brooklyn roastery has at long last opened a cafe space open to the public, the Red Hook Tasting Room.

The cafe, currently open from 10am-3pm on Fridays through Sundays only, is a handsome, hushed showpiece for the roaster's many exceptional coffees. Tucked behind a nondescript rollup door near the cruise ship terminal and the intermodal freight cranes is one of the most well-appointed coffee shops in the boroughs: so long as you're not seeking espresso, that is.

Compared loosely to Square Mile Coffee Roasters' now-defunct Penny University experiment in London this past summer, and in the same spirit as Stumptown's Annex shop in Portland, Stumptown's weekend cafe is a theatre of manual-brew coffee, meant purely for experiencing taste. Ceramic drippers go head to head here with Chemex brewers, French press sits alongside Aeropress, and just go ahead: find another brewer brave enough to wrestle against a syphon. You won't.

coffee101310-1.jpgAfter establishing themselves so firmly in New York, Stumptown has the latitude to make their Red Hook retail presence straight-up nerdy, even for a bunch of badasses. I'm fairly sure there's nowhere else to order an Aeropress coffee in the biggest city in the country—much less a place you can compare that same coffee in five or six other brew methods. There are no snacks, and there is no dairy or sugar to adulterate your tasting experience, but there is a nice communal table to sit at, and the baristas are enthusiastic and friendly.

Though the cafe is operating in a limited capacity now, public cuppings are said to be in the near future. You can chart your own tasting course with the ridiculously huge selection, though—more than sixteen coffees are available (presumably the roastery's entire inventory), including espresso blends brewed as drip, and decaf.

coffee101310-2.jpgAnd though the cabin-in-the-woods-cum-industrial space is nice enough to merit regular weekend visits, the shop's main thrust seems to be to teach coffee fans to fish on their own: price tags weren't readily visible, but you won't find a better selection of well-curated home brewing equipment in the area. Need a grinder? Need five different kinds of grinders? Aeropress, V60, Chemex filters? A Technivorm, or a shiny new Mokapot? They're only an IKEA shuttle away.