NOLA -- two worthy places for espresso (April 2016)

Historically, New Orleans was THE coffee city of America – at one point, something like 95 percent of all coffee entered the US through the Port of New Orleans. But it’s always been difficult to find good espresso here. But on this visit to New Orleans, I was quite pleased to find not one, but two places worth visiting for their espresso.

Relevator Coffee Co. is in the Warehouse Dist. on Tchoupitoulas. They use a 2-group Slayer, painted white, along with a white Mazzer Robur, a Mahlkönig EK43, five Barazta Forté BG and five Chemex for fresh-brewed pourovers, and two Alphadominiche Steampunk brewers (which were being “a bit wonky” and not in use when I visited). Their espresso is very bright and citrusy, almost too much so, but very tasty and worth the visit. (Relevator is based in Alabama and has five locations: Birmingham, Atlanta, Nashville, Chattanooga, and NOLA; they roast their own beans, presumable at their Alabama location.)

Spitfire Coffee is the tiniest of holes-in-the-wall, hidden away on St. Peter in the French Quarter – even looking specifically for it, I almost missed it. There are four stools in front of a narrow, wall-mounted counter and that’s it for seating. While I was there, the baristas had the Dead Kennedys blasting on the sound system. They have a new espresso machine that looks a bit like something from Nuova Simonelli, but I didn’t recognize it nor did I see any brand identification; they have a Mahlkönig Peak grinder for espresso, but I only saw the one grinder. they don’t do pourover, TTBOMK. Deeper espresso notes, not as bright as above, with more chocolate and nuts. (Spitfire is a “one of,” does not roast their own beans and uses beans from various other sources.)

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold