Best Coffee From the Capital to the City

Rob Piersall, copy editor at The New Paltz Oracle, gives his review of his favorite coffee shops.

I’d like to consider myself a coffee connoisseur. 

I realize that sounds kind of snooty, but I mean it. I love coffee and even more, I love finding new and interesting places to get a quality cup of joe to satiate my caffeine desire. 

I was a barista for parts of three years at Coffee Labs Roasters in Tarrytown down in Westchester where we had to do monthly cuppings of the new beans we had roasted. 

You do a dry smell test, a wet smell test and then you taste the coffee, where you analyze the flavor note profile as well as the mouth feel. Sort of like wine. 

By doing this, you realize how incredible black coffee is. Ethiopian coffee tends to profile as more fruity and bright, while Sumatra coffee is more earthy. That’s why I can no longer stomach burying the natural flavors coffee provides with milk and sugar.

Recently, I even took a trip to Maryland just to try the winner of America’s best espresso. 

A lot of people settle for Starbucks or Dunkin’, but I’m here to tell you that when you delve deep into New York’s coffee scene, you will taste coffee like you never have before.

Without further ado, here are my favorite coffeeshops from New York City all the way up to the Capital region. 

Coffee Labs Roasters, Tarrytown

Yes, I realize I just said I worked there, but from an objective standpoint, Coffee Labs has some of the best coffee I have ever had. 

Their espresso is like no other. It is golden brown while being rich and creamy with delicious milk chocolate and caramel notes. 

Here’s a little tidbit: A lot of places pull their shots lungo, which tends to come out more liquidy and longer. Coffee Labs pulls their shots ristretto, giving it a much more concentrated and short profile. 

Apart from their espresso, Labs has an entire menu filled with coffee from all over the globe. In my time working there, we have had coffee from Yemen, Burundi, Ethiopia, Hawaii, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. I could go on further, but I have a word limit. 

You will just have to go there yourself and see what they’re brewing! All the coffee is roasted on site and you are greeted with the roaster as soon as you walk in. The pleasant aroma that fills the air is one of my favorite scents in the world.

Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary!, New Paltz

I am always surprised when people who live in town here haven’t heard of the Commissary, but perhaps that is for the better. It stands as a beautiful, hidden gem right on Church Street. 

When I found out the Commissary opened and they were using Stumptown Coffee, I was thrilled. I was so happy to know I could walk and get a great cup of coffee every morning.

Last year, I must have spent $35 a week just on their nitro cold brew, but I digress. 

Apart from Stumptown, they also sell Honor Society coffee from Seattle, which I bought for my mom last winter and was a hit during the holiday’s. 

They also use exclusively non-dairy milk and sell all vegan eats, so if you don’t eat meat, go crazy! 

Cafeteria and Mudd Puddle can get very hectic, but the friendly baristas at the Commissary make it a great place to get a cup of joe, some lunch or just to study. 

Stacks Espresso Bar, Albany

Over the summer, I interned in Albany and naturally had to scope out a good place to get coffee before I went into the office. 

I started off getting coffee at Stagecoach right up the street, but fell in love with Stacks.

My go-to when I go to coffee shops is a cortado, which is essentially equal parts espresso and steamed milk. I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious their espresso was and frequented the one downtown the entire summer. 

Whether you are an espresso fan or prefer a cleaner and more well-balanced cup of coffee, you can get a pour over, which I highly recommend. 

Chat up the baristas about where geographically their coffee that day is from. They have several single origins to choose from and the employees are always very friendly and willing to talk. 

Ninth Street Espresso, Manhattan

Over the summer, my friends and I decided to go on a coffee crawl in Manhattan where we visited six or seven shops we wanted to try out. 

I had been to Ninth Street before, but it was when I didn’t know as much about coffee and couldn’t fully appreciate it. 

Between the three of us, we split a double espresso as well as a cortado. The latter was one of the best coffee beverages I have ever had. Extremely smooth, well-balanced and delicious. 

Believe me when I tell you that their baristas are so meticulous with their craft, it’s almost scary. They have everything down to a tee and it really shows in the quality of their espresso. 

You have a choice of getting two types of espresso there: standard espresso and espresso with milk. That’s it. 

It’s very minimalist, but I like it better that way. In the heart of Manhattan, it is bumping all day with people getting their coffee, drinking it and running to work. 

It’s no nonsense and enjoyable all in the same breath. There are several locations throughout the city, so if you see one, be sure to stop in and get it. You won’t be let down. 

Caffe Ammi, Pelham

This is actually a new found love of mine. Caffe Ammi has been open since early this past summer and I didn’t find out about it until a few weeks ago.

One of my closest friends is as much — if not more — of a coffee enthusiast than I am and he does his research. He found out about this place, went there then told me as soon as I got back home to Westchester that we would go.

Like Coffee Labs, they roast all of their beans on site and have two beautiful espresso machines: a La Cimbali and a Faema, the latter of which looks like an old school hot rod, decked out with screens that monitor the shot of espresso being pulled. 

Apart from their espresso blend, they can pull you a single origin shot, which I tend to like even more. 

The contemporary yet cozy shop is a great destination for getting a quality cup of coffee, to study, go on a date or just hang out. It’s also inconspicuously on a residential street which I think is just so wonderful. 

What excites me about Caffe Ammi is that they have been open for less than a year so the sky is the limit.

Honorable mentions:

I could talk about coffee all day, but it would be the length of a novel. Here are some other places you should check out if you love coffee or want to try something new!

Art Cafe, Nyack: They use Counter Culture espresso and also have great Mediterranean food!

Boxer Donuts, Nyack: Right up the street from Art Cafe and have some hella good donuts. They also use Stumptown! P.S. Try the Kyoto style cold brew!

Antoinette’s Patisserie, Hastings-on-Hudson: Fantastic, smooth espresso and a good spot for brunch!

Peekskill Coffee House, Peekskill: Not my favorite coffee, but still decent. They also specialize in crepes and have ample seating in a relaxed environment.

Oslo, Manhattan/Brooklyn: One of the OG coffee shops and roasteries in New York City. Delicious java!