Finally, a place to get a $3 cup of coffee on Fourth Avenue! We all know that the long-rundown speedway between Atlantic Avenue and 16th Street has been changing rapidly, but I thought it would take a few more years — and a few more 12-story condo towers — before I would be paying Manhattan prices to drink a cup of joe next to an auto-body shop and a vacant lot.
Of course, this isn’t just any old cup of coffee. This is coffee freshly brewed, one cup at a time, in a machine that costs $11,000.
Yes, the coffee maker at the Root Hill Café — across from the auto-body shop on Fourth Avenue — costs more than the auto being repaired at the auto-body shop on Fourth Avenue.
“Did you taste the blueberries?” Maria Bowen, co-owner asked me after I had downed my first cup of Ethiopia Natural Yirgacheffe Biloya.
Blueberries? No. When I want blueberries, I go to the Park Slope Food Co-op, work a double shift (because I’m always suspended, wouldn’t you know?) and buy a package of Peruvian shade-grown organic blueberries — which are so good, they taste like strawberries!
But I digress (which is the point of buying a $3 cup of coffee, I suppose). The excitement of the grande price for the small coffee is that Root Hill is one of few places in Brooklyn that has the $11,000 Clover machine — and the last place in the borough to get one before Starbucks bought the company and will no longer sell the machines to anyone but Starbucks.
That’s one of the reasons why the Clover gets prime space at Root Hill. Not only is it front and center on the countertop, but Bowen and her partners Michelle and Andrew Giancola have installed a mirror above the machine so you can watch it go through its multi-phase brewing process without having to crane your neck.
Here’s what happens: You place your order (and your spouse chides you for spending $3 on a cup of coffee); the barista grinds the precise amount of beans (30 grams for a Yirgacheffe Biloya); then she pours the ground coffee onto a round disc at the center of the Clover; next, it silently descends into the machine while a tap releases water at the perfect temperature (206 degrees for the sensitive Yirgacheffe Biloya); while the coffee is brewing (38 seconds is, I’m told, ideal for Yirgacheffe Biloya), the barista gives it a few gentle whisks; and, finally, your coffee is served (and your spouse is now your ex-spouse).
The result? No blueberries for me, but a great cup of coffee — richer, thicker and creamier (even black) than normal coffee.
It’s about as far from $1 diner coffee as, well, Fourth Avenue is from Prospect Park West.
Make that “was.”
Root Hill Café (262 Fourth Ave., at Carroll Street) is open until 7 pm on weeknights.