A couple of weeks ago I took the day off for a haircut and doctor appointment. I used the time to also meet my friend Josh for lunch and coffee. We ended up at the very local Local 123 in Berkeley.

He got a cappuccino and I got a pour over of their Honduras. They recently started roasting their own beans, switching from Sightglass. Their roasting is still very much that light light third wave vein, but good. (Though I’m really not keen on the light roast espresso blends, but that’s just me.) If you want a dependable, fresh cup of coffee or espresso drink where they clean the machines regularly, then Local 123 will fit the bill.  They also have food, which is definitely in the new artisinal/localvore vein, but none of it’s really vegan so I just ignore it. 

The cafe is also twee in that third wave way, but I like it. They open it up to let the lovely San Pablo Avenue air in, and they have a nice secluded garden patio in the back. They always have some featured artist on the walls, which adds a bit of character to the walls. 

Josh and I talked about pretty much everything. Soccer tactics, our friends’ upcoming wedding, politics, history, death, the amazing band Train and other 90s pop sensations. We talked so much that we had to get a second round. Josh opted for an iced tea this time, and I got the Kenyan pour over. Again, the drinks were great. I think I preferred the Honduras, but they were both really enjoyable cups of coffee. 

After we finished dissecting the World Cup, Josh went get ready for a futsal game and I got a library card. It was a good time and I would go back any time. Let me know if you want to get a cup!

Shop: Local 123, Berkeley, CA
Coffee: Pour-over, Honduras. Pour-over, Kenyan.
Companion: Friend, Josh. 

Emergency coffee from a friend while I was DJing.

Recently my sister-in-law texted me about nitrogen draught coffee from Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters in Sacramento. I replied, “Let’s do it next weekend!” 

For the uninitiated, nitrogen draught coffee is a lot like beer in that it is in a keg and tapped with a nitrogen cartridge (though some also use carbon dioxide). I first came across it from Timbertrain in Vancouver. It’s a good way to serve coldbrewed coffee that’s a little beyond the ordinary. I think this might be the next big coffee hipster thing, or it should be. I really find it refreshing.

So for this trip my brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and my partner all went to get the draught coffee. They also got a scone. Chocolate Fish’s coffee was pretty clear tasting, but it also seemed thinner than the nitrogen draught I had from Timbertrain. Instead of resembling a thick, velvety stout, it resembled a brown ale. I think the nitrogen makes it easy to make a beer reference because it tastes very beer like. I am a fan though and look forward to my next trip there to get another glass. 

Our conversations was varied during the visit - talking about the State Fair, MMA scandals, and what my nephew will and will not eat. We also talked about how everybody working at the cafe wore a vest, which is something my brother is a big fan of (vests and well dressed baristas). 

So if you haven’t had a chance to try nitro cold brew coffee, get on it now!

Shop: Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters, Sacramento CA
Coffee: Nitrogen draught cold brew 
Companion: Brother, Alec. Sister-in-Law, Sarah. Partner, Joe.

Another coffee shop I had the chance to visit in Madison was Colectivo Coffee on the Square. Colectivo Roasters are based in Milwaukee but have some locations in Madison, so I guess they’re regional? 

The look and feel of the cafe was very slick. They have nice design and lots of merchandise and coffee. It definitely was going for the third wave vibe, but didn’t seem too pretentious. The staff was very friendly. Maybe it was the Midwest peeking through? I would think a similar shop in the Bay Area would be too contrived and selling the image more than the coffee. Colectivo seemed just on the balance. 

Since it was a hot day, I got another iced coffee. I also picked up a pound of the Brasilian to take home since we were low and it had a Pele like figure on the bag and I was missing the World Cup.The iced coffee was cold brewed and had that smoothness you’d expect. It was refreshing as I sat out on the Square overlooking the State Capitol and caught up on work stuff at the end of the conference. I lost track of time and got a sunburn. 

If I lived in Madison, I would probably go there often. If I ever end up in Wisconsin again, Colectivo would be a place I’d hit up without concern. It’s solid. Not mind blowing, but for what it is a very respectable cup of coffee. 

Shop: Colectivo Coffee, Madison, WI
Coffee: Cold brewed iced coffee
Companion: Me, Myself, and I

I was in Madison, Wisconsin recently for work. The silver lining of conferences is the chance to check out local coffee shops (and of course record stores). The conference was in the Capital Square area, so I was more or less limited to that area. (Though shout out to B-Cycle for making it easy to get around! Bikeshare is great.)

One of my colleagues told me I had to check out this “great coffee shop around the corner.” After drinking conference swill for a couple days, I was ready for something roasted this year and not burnt. The shop was Ancora on King Street. I recognized the name from the airport as I walked through on my way into town. 

So Mary (a colleague) and I skipped out of the last meetings of the conference to get coffee. We both got their Ethiopian roast - mine was black, Mary added 2% milk. It was a solid cup of coffee from a cambro, so not so posh as to be brewed to order. The flavor was smooth, not overly acidic, but it also wasn’t super memorable. Much better than the coffee I was drinking at the conference, but it also didn’t stop me in my tracks and make me say, “Whoa! This is a cup of coffee to cherish til I die!” That’s not a bad thing though, because not every cup of coffee needs to be luxurious like a fine wine. Sometimes you just want a good cup of coffee that hits the spot and gets the job done. 

Mary and I spent the time sitting in the sun, talking about work stuff and enjoying the fresh air. The weather was perfect, really. I think we also outlined a plan to take over the world. 

If I lived in Madison, I would not hesitate to visit an Ancora shop for my fix. The atmosphere was laid back and inviting, though everybody seemed happy to just do their own thing. It had a 90s vibe, which was kind of nice. 

Shop: Ancora Coffee Madison, WI
Coffee: Hot, black.
Companion: Colleague, Mary.

Ethiopian from Timeless, brewed at home in a Chemex.

We’re trying something new… the occasional longer form review of coffee.

To start, let’s talk about iced coffee from Coffee Works in Sacramento, CA. Why iced? I went on a recent Saturday with my brother and nephew, and it being summer in Sacramento, it was pretty warm outside. After our walk there, my brother and I (the wee barn did not partake) both needed a frosty cold one. I just got a small iced coffee, straight black. My brother got a large iced coffee, with 2% milk and simple syrup. (Can you guess whose is whose?) 

Another reason I was excited to get an iced coffee is that in addition to roasting their own beans, Coffee Works also does cold brewed iced coffee. While cold brewed coffee is becoming more common at reputable coffee shops, I still find with some frequency shops that just ice down hot coffee. It has a distinctive bitterness that isn’t quite right. Coffee Works’ iced coffee is very smooth, slightly nutty, and not too acidic. I could easily chug it without gagging or cringing. 

The atmosphere at the shop is also a nice mix of laid back and inviting, but also a place that really takes their coffee seriously. I can see why my brother frequents the place. It’s a great place to meet a friend to catch up, read a book, or get some work done.

On this afternoon my brother and I caught up about all sorts of things. I tried to explain why German football was so dominate, though I most likely bored him. We also discussed the recent trend of failed drug tests in UFC. There was at some point a discussion of Perry Mason cosplay. Once my nephew mangled both of our straws we started back on our walk to get lunch, refreshed from our iced coffees. 

They might not be a super trendy third wave coffee, Coffee Works routinely delivers quality coffee done right. You can’t go wrong by a cup from them. I look forward to going back, and not just because the company is fun to be around. 

Shop: Coffee Works Sacramento, CA
Coffee: Iced Coffee
Companion: Brother, Alec