I’m not a coffee nerd, but I know what I like. I’ve roasted my own coffee for about a dozen years and have narrowed my favorite beans down those from Ethiopia, Yemen and Sumatra (respectively- Harar, Mokha Ismaili and, when available, any available well aged Sumatran). During the winter months when I’m less inclined to trek back and forth to the garage to roast beans (in my Poppery II Hot Air Popcorn Popper…the only method I’ve ever used), I venture forth to try the various local offerings in Kansas City. I like to see how my beans hold up against the professionals, and I do love espresso and espresso drinks…enough to know that I can’t have a machine in my house. I get obsessive enough just owning French Presses, Moka Pots and a Chemex. For the past few years, whenever I’d visit a local coffeehouse my drink was usually a four shot/quad latte. In the last couple of months I’ve switched to the quad macchiato. The basic definition of a macchiato, another coffee term hijacked and bastardized by Starbucks, is espresso “stained” with a little milk. Depending on where you go in KC, you’ll get a little bit of milk (sometimes half and half) added or a small cap of foam. The macchiato has nothing to do with massive doses of Torani syrups thrown into puke-burp quality coffee.
Again, not a coffee nerd. To people who are mildly interested in coffee, it probably sounds that way. But to an actual coffee nerd, it would be like calling someone who has only watched the Star Trek movies a Trekkie. I drink my coffee incredibly fucking strong however I want it….usually the Moka Pot or French Press, and I’ll add a little sugar and half and half. I don’t own a timer, I don’t bloom the grounds first, weigh them by the gram, or hold it too sacred to pollute with dairy. I appreciate and respect that level of dedication, and happily drink what those folks serve me, but at the end of the day I’ve just built ritual around my preferred caffeine delivery system. I drink the shit sttrrrooonnggg, so espresso for me is just a way to guarantee I can actually taste coffee flavor.
I don’t remember what initially inspired me to go on a quest to find Kansas City’s Best Quad Macchiato (for this quest I drank them as served, I never add anything to store bought coffee drinks, and if it was a place that used half and half I always made a 2nd visit to have it with whole milk in order to even out the data), but I need to throw in some disclaimers here to nerd-proof it. I learned my lesson after writing a post about the wonders of dilaudid after surgery, because it brought out the fucking narco nerds who would throw unsolicited corrections at me and fight with each other over the fucking definition, history and usage of dilaudid. So in case one of my tags gets on a coffee nerd’s radar……. I chose the quad macchiato because I like to drink it. I chose the locations based on who serves locally roasted beans only, so this didn’t take me 2 years. I don’t do too many flavor profile musings beyond basic flavor, mouthfeel and finish. I didn’t drive each place insane with a bunch of questions about their espresso blends and milk ratios (so when I provide that info it will piss you off with its inconsistency). I am aware of the inconsistencies inherent to a blanket “BEST of KC” label because the quality of a shot can vary based on the barista, the blend on any given day, the machine, variations in the roast levels, and even the goddamn crop year of that particular bean. Short story- this is 100% subjective and more than anything an advertisement for the wealth of awesome coffee we have in KC. I promote local businesses. It’s kind of my thing. The preface simply serves to let coffee fans know I’m not just some random Starbucks junkie who still hasn’t stopped masturbating to the fact they now produce a “blonde” roast….
LatteLand Briarcliff- 4115 North Mulberry Drive
The reasons I’m starting with a large local chain that serves coffee roasted in St. Louis are: #1- it’s where I made the switch to the macchiato, #2- the Saturday morning crew is nice as hell, and #3- I’m not leaving out the place that served as my Saturday pre-meeting coffee supplier/sponsor-sponsee status check spot for a couple of years.
If you like a predominantly Central American blend(sometimes single origin) with a minimum of milk/foam, this is your macchiato. I don’t dislike it, the all-brightness-all-the-time flavor profile is just something on the opposite end of what I’m used to. Huge shiny finish in this cup. What I like about this drink is the lack of balance in flavor; I’m not a huge fan of harmony in the cup unless it’s pretty exceptional. I like a big punch in one direction, the direction here just isn’t the one I love most. The medium quad latte and the medium, iced and undiluted toddy both remain my workhorses at this location.
Parkville Coffeehouse- 103 Main Street Parkville, Mo
Coffee: Parkville Coffee
It literally cannot get any more local for me, so I’m a bit biased here. They roast all of their own coffee, and always have a good selection of whole beans. I’ve been using a lot of their Sumatran at home lately; it has the telltale “liveliness” I associate with fresh beans when they’re steeping. They pour a generous quad macchiato…a decent amount of milk but the espresso remains on the forefront. Not as much of a balance in flavor as it is a fight for the middle ground….the earthiness associated with African/Indonesian beans from start to finish with that Central American sharpness riding shotgun. It’s a good cup of coffee, the mouthfeel isn’t gigantic but the finish lingers a while. Happy to have this as a Saturday morning contender, and they’re hoping to have the roasting area in the back built out enough to have cupping classes or tastings at some point. Look forward to me never shutting up about that once it happens.
One More Cup- 7408 Wornall
This was kind of an accidental addition. The one coffee roasted outside of KC I wanted to throw into the mix (due to the popularity amongst actual coffee nerds) was PT’s in Topeka. One More Cup was one of the only places in town that advertised PT’s as one of its brands, so when I was in the area I stopped by. They serve PT’s as a drip coffee, but Roasterie for espresso. I wasn’t planning on including Roasterie, just because their production is on a scale that goes well beyond the intent of what this was about. One More Cup does a unique macchiato, with a pretty firm cap of foam keeping the milk and coffee well separated. The organic fair trade beans in this espresso are listed on the Roasterie’s site as Ethiopian, Sumatran and Guatemalan. I’d like to taste what a smaller roaster could to do leverage the individual characteristics of these beans. Not bad coffee, not at all, tons of flavor but kind of one-dimensional….like the intent was to make it taste like espresso is supposed to taste instead of playing with the balance and letting it evolve on its own. They do pull a nice shot at One More Cup, they are incredibly friendly and enthusiastic about all things coffee, and if I still lived in Waldo I’d be in there often. Nice coffeehouse, and they put their heart and soul into doing it locally and organically whenever possible. If I were going to go off the reservation, they’ve got some drinks featuring Shatto flavored milks that are probably worth investigating…Root Beer Chai, for example.
Black Dog Coffeehouse- 12815 W 87th St Pkwy, Lenexa, KS
Coffee: PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. (Topeka)
I went to Black Dog because it’s the one place I found that would definitely be serving PT’s coffee. From the few coffee blogs I’ve read, it’s a well respected brand and since it’s based in Topeka I was willing to give it “local” status for comparison purposes. The staff at Black Dog is efficient and they pour a generous macchiato with a pretty perfect balance of foam/milk and espresso. I’m not sure which of PT’s espresso blends they were using on that day, or if the selection varies, but this was a well balanced cup that I actually liked. Not a monster sized flavor profile or finish, a little subtle compared to something I’m wild about, but the first thing I thought was “this tastes like the espresso that Roasterie SHOULD be doing”. Some brightness as well as darker flavors, medium finish…a coffee I’d revisit in order to have a straight shot and build a better baseline. The coffeehouse is in an area of town I rarely have a reason to visit, but it’s pretty friendly and relaxed. I’m an old man compared to the majority of the clientele, but if you do not like hipsters you would not like the “casting call for the 2013 remake of Reality Bites” vibe. The baristas are really nice, they like to talk shop, so the neck-beardiness has a minimal impact if you’re serious about your coffee.
Homer’s Coffee House- 7126 W 80th St Overland Park, KS
Coffee: E.F. Hobbs
I feel bad for a barista who has to sheepishly ask if you want a real macchiato or a Starbucks style drink. Because if I haven’t mentioned it, what they serve at Starbucks isn’t coffee. Not even the plain coffee is coffee…it’s the result of filtering the remains of what used to be run of the mill shitty coffee that has been carbonized in order to give it an infinite shelf life and an immediately recognizable puke-burp flavor. BUT the wildly enthusiastic baristas at Homer’s go from sheepish to ecstatic once they realize they get to make an actual espresso drink. Long story short, I can’t give the place many points for a flavorful espresso, but it’s a great operation…large space, big menu, top notch staff. If it were my local shop, I’d go back because it’s not like they’re serving dirt water….the flavor just starts off limp, faintly beeps the radar a couple of times, and then dies off. Plus, what’s there is more on the “brightness” scale that’s not my favorite. As it is with any type of review, I’d need more than one trip to really render a verdict in order to be fair. When I’m at the OP farmer’s market this spring I’ll stop back in, but for now I’ve got no shortage of great coffee in town.
Parisi Café- Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Rd.
Going to Union Station is kind of an event, and the Parisi’s location inside the main entrance is worthy of “destination” coffee drinking. Not huge, but a bright, clean space with great barista’s, local pastries, and a wealth of for-real coffee making paraphernalia for sale. They do real coffee here…something I wouldn’t necessarily expect in a place where there’s no shame in bringing your screaming children on a Saturday morning. Parisi coffee will be something I investigate a little more as far as home usage, because their espresso was just different enough to set it apart. The construction of their macchiato is totally minimalist…probably the closest to a “proper” example I had during my research. Espresso truly just “stained” with a little milk foam on top…enough to add smoothness to the mouthfeel without hindering the strong coffee flavors in any way. This one started off with the telltale shiny-brightness on the front end, but the finish was longer than I expected with some real spice flavors on the backend. I’m not good at pointing out specific flavors on the broad spectrum, but something along the lines of anise, nutmeg, that sort of thing. A good little kick. If I were in the neighborhood during off-hours for heavy traffic, this is a place I’d continually revisit….the coffee is very good and the building adds a lot. Not sure at what point they stopped doing any type of parking validation at Union Station, but only the first 30 minutes is free if you park in the garage….so keep that in mind.
Revocup- 11030 Quivira Rd Overland Park, KS
Again, there is not a whole hell of a lot that is going to drag me to 110th and goddamn Quivira, but reading that the owners of Revocup are natives of Ethiopia and that they roast a predominantly African selection of beans in-house forced me to investigate. Located in a strip mall in Hell City, Hell, with a very homey next-door neighbor kind of vibe, Revocup serves a fantastic macchiato. Based on my personal favorite flavor profile, I’d put them in the top three spots on this adventure. This earthy, spicy, heavy, monster finish cup is one I’d go back to again and again if it were even remotely convenient. Like Benetti’s, they use half and half in their standard macchiato, which is fine by me, but for comparison purposes I’d say it doesn’t lose much at all when substituting regular milk. Big mouthfeel and flavor, the initial brightness dies off fast and gives into the bitter richness. Strong, tongue-coating finish with a jolt of flavor at the very end that would almost make you think you were drinking a spicy flavored coffee. They have a loyal and knowledgeable staff that will always give you an honest opinion about what they personally prefer and why….if you live where this could be your regular stop for coffee, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m biased because they basically brew exactly what I already love to drink, but what an incredible surprise out in the ‘burbs.
Benetti’s Coffee Experience- 6109 Blue Ridge Blvd, Raytown, MO
I didn’t start this thing to claim I found the “BEST” in Kansas City, because coffee is just so subjective. I think the OCD nerdiness eclipses beer and wine combined when you get into nuts and bolts of what constitutes coffee aficionado conversations and strong opinions. With that said, MY personal favorite quad macchiato in all of KC can be found at Benetti’s. Now, they DO use half and half in their standard drink, but I tried it more than once with regular milk just to make sure the ultra-lush feel from the added milk fat wasn’t skewing my opinion. This particular macchiato is absolutely perfect in flavor and milk ratio. Their espresso blend has most of the predominant elements I found in other examples, but the balance is exactly what I am looking for. Bright sunshine from what I associate with Central American beans, immediately passes under some storm clouds of more earthy/spicy/slightly bitter flavors that come from the other side of the world. It’s a full rotation of the earth in every sip. It’s a thinker. Very long finish, about as complex a cup as you’re going to get when adding milk. I use half and half a lot at home, because I’m convinced that there are flavors/chemicals/oils in my super strong brews that are more soluble and disperse better with a little fat. The Benetti’s macchiato helps to bolster that opinion (this is where an ultra-nerd fight could kick off, just FYI). In addition to a fantastic drink, the place is easy to find, located in a part of town where it’s a godsend, parking is ample, the staff knows what they are doing and are extremely friendly (and they remember you and what you drink), and their selection of house roasted beans is always rotating quickly. Locals from every background can be found there at all hours. If you’re in the area, this is a place to try.
Broadway Café- 4106 Broadway
Coffee: Broadway Roasting Company
If you think I’d leave out the Grand Poo-Bah of locally roasted, Starbucks slaying coffeehouses, you’re a totally different kind of fucking insane. Actually, what REALLY set this whole Macchiato Quest in motion was when a friend commented to me on Facebook after I was crowing about the supremacy of Benetti’s version…..”I think John Cates might disagree with you”. Well shit, point taken. How could I go compare Broadway if I wasn’t also going to do include every other coffeehouse that roasts their own? So there you have it. Long story short, Broadway serves a fantastic macchiato that I would drink all the time if I weren’t an old man who hates dealing with Westport (but I am getting to one of their tastings soon…another trend they pioneer that should be followed by all local roasters). Good ratio of milk to espresso, and I find the overall flavor profile to be the King of Balance in this particular quest. Constant, steady flavor, great finish, no huge peaks and valleys…the flavors run parallel, and my drinks were always gone before I was done thinking about them…a good sign. Thinking back to the flavors, the closest drink to Broadway’s was the PT’s coffee I drank at Black Dog…hopefully that’s a compliment considering the nerd love that PT’s gets. Broadway is a for-real coffeehouse, I don’t think I need to expound on the knowledgeable staff, huge menu, and selection of fresh roasted coffees….out of all the places I’ve visited, this is the place where I’d first point anyone interested in finally getting away from the macro-batch roasting operations. They are well equipped to provide a delicious, unpretentious education for any and all levels of coffee lovers.
Oddly Correct- 3940 Main Street
Coffee: Oddly Correct
You gotta save the most divisive “new” kid on the block for last. Oddly Correct is what I think of as the Justus Drugstore of coffeehouses…you’re going to get something very fantastic with very little wiggle room allowed for modifications. Also, similar to talking with Jonathan Justus about food, you better buckle in tight because there is no hard limit on how deep the coffee conversation can go….you might get fatigued if you’re not constantly reloading the caffeine. I totally sympathize with the eye rolling and nearly complete dismissal of the place by some, based on the fact that you drink the coffee in a manner that they find is the best representation of that particular bean or drink. I can’t really include them in the Quad Macchiato Quest, because there’s no quad macchiato. And definitely no quad macchiato “to go”. There’s a 3oz macchiato served in a demitasse with a side of sparkling water to cleanse the palate. And it is a stunningly beautiful and delicious drink. There’s no espresso baseline for me to build upon, because the blends and selections are constantly changing. Me, I love this place. I’ll happily head over there from Parkville on a Saturday morning to “start a tab” as I work my way through a couple of different types of espresso and pourovers, and then head off to enjoy my day. Again, I can see where some can write the place off as pretentious or too preciously hip, but as someone who loves coffee I find it to be an incredible place for someone like me to learn about the craft. I’ve roasted for years, I know what I like, I stick to what I like…so if someone can pour a single origin Central American espresso (that I actually enjoy) down my gullet and then engage me in conversation about that particular bean and the flavors I’m picking up from it…they are doing something great. Not for everyone, but definitely for me. Get past the initial “I can’t just have that to go?” shellshock, strike up a conversation, ask what you think are probably stupid questions, and you’ll quickly find that these folks love what they do and they want you to love it too.
Sooo….these are my completely unscientific findings with no hypothesis to guide me other than I love me a fucking quad macchiato. I’m always open to adding more places to the list as I discover more locally roasted beans, but as it stands I have to give Benetti’s the biggest shout out just because they make my personal favorite version. Revocup was a shocker….another cup I’d go back for. Overall I didn’t find any “bad” coffee, just a full spectrum of examples with a few that hit me right in my comfort zone. If this in any way helps to promote local coffee over the Starbucks and Caribous of the world, then bonus. If you love coffee, there is a lot to love in KC. Just like our farmers and chefs, you’ve got a core group of dedicated people who are doing their best to hit a high water mark in their trade. Now that I’ve chipped away at the top of the iceberg, it’s definitely a community I want to get to know much better just as I have those farmers and chefs. Most importantly, I need to get to know them better so that I can make fun of them and write something that doesn’t make me sound like your run of the mill boring blog douche. Because damn, the data here is solid but the delivery is shit-tay. Wouldn’t you agree?
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3 responses to “Quad Macchiato Quest 2013…”
Dude, only a coffee nerd would think coffee nerdism is a thing.
You’ve just got to own it, friend. Be the nerd you know you are!