Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Amsterdam Espresso Run

visited: 16/06/08
I am back in Europe to continue my coffee journeys, so expect few more espresso runs. My first journey has brought me to Amsterdam, a beautiful city full of rich history and amazing architecture. There are tons of “Coffee Shops” here, but do not be mislead as they sell weed rather than coffee. Good coffee is hard to come by, but never the less, after doing my homework I have found few gems around the city.

My favourite espresso was at a very small and intimate espresso bar called Coffee Connection (Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 33) not far from the central station in a great location. It’s a one-man governed shop, so the social interaction feel with the barista is great. David, the man behind the machine is always keen to talk coffee and takes pride in what he does. The coffee is roasted locally in Amsterdam by a lady, that use to own the coffee shop prior to David. It’s a full city roast of Arabica coffee. David has a La Marzocco Linea that he takes good care of and cleans regularly. He grinds his coffee on demand every time. Espresso was very rich with no complexity due to its roast profile but never the less had a great amount of crema and a lingering chocolaty aftertaste. The good thing about this espresso bar is the consistency as only David handles the coffee machine and on both occasions my coffee was exactly the same.
The place itself is not very big, but they have a cosy little upstairs sitting area with a great view over a busy street. A pet cat also resides in the building keeping the mice out. You might bump into her upstairs, as the wooden bench seem to be her favourite resting place.

The Coffee Salon is an amazing espresso bar with an absolute eye candy of a machine facing out onto a street. The main focus of the whole place is that Kees van der Westen design mistral. As you can see on the picture it is a piston machine giving it a very manual modern look.

I was thoroughly disappointed with the coffee. They use falombini coffee beans from Italy, which are simply not fresh. A dose of nasty robusta was very distinct, giving the coffee a rough edge that I wasn’t very fond of.

They occupy a very large space and have a great feel inside with very alternative art around the place. They also attract a much younger crowd. This espresso bar has a very good potential to make outstanding coffee, but at the moment they are lacking in many departments. I recommend going there just to see that amazing coffee machine, it will blow your socks off! I really wanted to get my hands on it.

Brandmeester (Van Baerkestraat 13) is a very interesting espresso bar with rostery as well as a big showroom full of espresso machines and interesting coffee gadgets. A very nice open space with different coffees on offer for purchase. In the far courner of the shop you have a very clean probat roaster. I didn’t get to meet the roastmaster but from the look of the roaster they take good care of the roasting side of things.
The coffee itself wasn’t all that great, very overextracted and pale. The barista had no knowledge of how to pull a decent espresso shot. The cup was very bitter and burnt, I don’t think that their faema machine is tuned well.

There is a chain of coffee shops called the coffee company, it is not worth your time and I recommend avoiding them if possible. I think they are best described as Dutch answer to starbucks. They do carry beautiful Kees van der Westen machines so feel free to have a look at them through the window.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Amsterdam and definitely hope that the coffee scene will improve over next few years. I was amazed at how many Kees van der Westen machines there are in small coffee shops around the city. I had an opportunity to meet up with one of the great coffee historians and collectors Robert Vriesendorp. He has an amazing collection of vac pots and various coffee brewers. I recommend checking out his website. He roasts his own coffee and to be perfectly honest the best espresso in Amsterdam that I had was at his house, it truly was spectacular. Next time you are in Amsterdam drop him an email and he will update you on the current scene. Robert has great knowledge about coffee and is a very inspiring individual.


Helga Kr. Einarsdóttir said...

I´ve lived in Amsterdam for a year, and every word of this blog is so true! But there was one location missing; De Espresso Fabriek in the Westerpark, where the old Gasfabriek has been renovated and changed into galleries and cafés. Lovely coffee, amazing location and a true passion for coffee (from the Golden coffee box). Also there is the brand new Tea Bar on the Haarlemmerdijk, although the owner specializes in tea, the coffee was one of the best in town.

huub said...

I live in Amsterdam, and whilst I looooooove the city, I do prefer my own (home roasted) coffee... The espresso fabriek is the best place for sure, their cappucino and latte art is usually really good, but a well made espresso is basically not to be found..

Justin said...

Amsterdam is a wonderful city. I just have a question. I know the places where I can buy a good espresso, but where I could buy Generic Viagra. Thanks for your analyzing different parts of Europe coffee.

willg said...

Thanks for the information, I'm no coffee connoisseur but I've been looking into different Espresso Machines as I'm getting fed up with all of the "consumer" coffees (Starbucks, DD, etc.).

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