Every coffee shop is different, and no one knows that better than you—the coffee shop owners who build a unique story and brand with every cup. Welcome to our fifth edition of Breaking New Grounds.
We’re in the midst of one of the most innovative eras for specialty coffee as well as for technology, and brewing machine company Alpha Dominche is making huge steps in both fields. Alpha Dominche specializes in high-tech coffeemakers—each includes a touch-screen interface on which you can adjust temperature, pressing, and agitation simply by choosing a specific, customized brewing recipe. There are options for different brewing styles such as French press, and the machines can even make up to four cups at a time. Few similar machines exist for baristas’ reference, which is why Alpha Dominche (whose name aptly means “one of a kind”) opened the Extraction Lab as a cafe and showroom for their product line.
Alpha Dominche Extraction Lab features a rotation of 70 roasters and tea producers from around the world. Manager Meredith and her husband feature five coffees on the menu at a time, rotating every 3-7 days, and different brews can be recommended based on customers’ preferences. “For instance, do they want milk? I’ll recommend something darker or more chocolatey,” says Meredith. “No milk? I’ll recommend something more fruity or floral.” Unlike other specialty coffee shops, they don’t offer espresso in order to keep the focus on the coffeemakers. “We stayed true to our main vision,” says Meredith. “We want to give people a chance to experience the most random and interesting coffees we can get our hands on.” However, they do offer a rotating library of over 70 different teas. Meredith views tea as equally complex as coffee when it comes to techniques like water temperature and brewing time. “They’re kind of like a yin and yang,” she says. “Tea has a calm, zen, Eastern, peaceful quality to it, while coffee is super high energy, scientific….It’s a nice complement instead of one overtaking the other.”
Though the owners initially received a lot of press coverage for their pricey coffee, they keep prices fair to cover the costs of high quality throughout a vertical value chain. (You could shell out anywhere from $3 to $18 for a cup.) “If you pay $2, how much does the farm get?” they ask. “And what are our preconceived ideas about coffee as a commodity? How do we change them?” Though coffee has traditionally been seen simply as a grocery item in American culture, the rapidly expanding specialty coffee scene is starting to change its reputation to that of a luxury or lifestyle product, the way we might view a glass of good wine.
However, Meredith really does not want customers to see the Extraction Lab as intimidating or inaccessibly high-level. “When it comes down to it, it’s all about the people,” Meredith says. “And I mean that three ways: the grower, the barista, and the guest.” She wants to make sure her coffee is giving back to its roots with every cup, and also that every customer receives an individually suited experience—whether that means coming for an hour to discuss different blends and advanced techniques, or just stopping by for a simple mocha. “We don’t care how you take your coffee. We don’t judge… At the end of a day, as manager of this coffee shop, I want you to enjoy your coffee,” says Meredith. “If it tastes better to you with milk, you should drink it that way!”
Though you may not spring for the pricier end of their coffee spectrum every day, it’s certainly worthwhile to indulge in a cup now and then. “It’s the same with wine,” Meredith says. You may not splurge on a $100 bottle every day, but it’s nice to enjoy the ritual of drinking it once in a while. Extraction Lab offers a wide menu ranging from the affordably-priced to the decadent so that they can meet any customer’s demands, as well as to showcase the full variety of coffee available to the contemporary customer. In an exciting time for specialty coffee in New York City and beyond, Alpha Dominche Extraction Lab stands at the forefront. “Our core aim has really stayed the same,” Meredith says. “And it’s exciting to see it live.”
Want to share your coffee shop’s story? Reach out to the CUPS team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of Extraction Lab.