company - education - coffee

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Atomic Cafe 14 School Street, Marblehead, MA

I have been to Atomic's old location a couple of times in the past and had sampled some of their roasts in the past. This morning, Ben and I decided to take a short trip around and drop in unannounced at both of their locations since it had been a while. Hong joined us and we set out after a quick drop into High Rise for a snack.

We arrived at the original location in Beverly on Cabot St. and decided to have lunch there. The focus of that location really is the sandwich menu and food service. We had some espresso and it was not really what we were looking for. We are picky about our shots though and that's well known. It was a milk blend so that's understandable as we are straight shot drinkers. The sandwiches were satisfying though and we quickly headed back out through Salem and into Marblehead to visit the new location.

The new location is tucked off next to a theatre and once inside, it immediately has a very comfortable atmosphere. The equipment is about as top of the line as you see in any north east cafe. Swift grinder, mazzer major, and an FB80?

I noticed the mazzer along side the swift and hoped we would get a shot of something besides a milk blend. Luckily, it was a roast of Daterra Reserve they served for straight shots. The barista took his time and pulled two or three shots to get it dialed in. He appeared to use an 18g dose, and was a bit enthusiastic in his rapping and tapping the portafilter. It didn't really hurt but the noise was shocking at first. We smiled but we were just happy to see someone level and tamp in a proper manner which is such a rarity in our area.

He served up a pair of singles to us and promptly apologized for the volume possibly being 'too short.' It was not too short. In fact, it seemed just right. It had all the tell tale signs of a great shot to us so we immediately dove in. It was great. Fantastic actually. In fact, it was the best shot I had been served of an all Brazil espresso in what seems like a very long time. You must understand how rare it is for me to go into a cafe the first time and be served something on the line with or better than most of the well known New York coffee shops, especially in what seems like a sandwich shop.

We promptly ordered a pair of doubles where I got a maybe 1.25-1.5oz shot that was thick and creamy bordering on intense peanut butter notes with only a hint of roast cocoa at the bottom of the cup. I would guess the machine temp was around 198F because the temp even with a warmed cup was not so hot to the tongue. It must be noted, it was not thin, it was thick having a desirable viscosity and complexity that was quite enjoyable.


The cup was very balanced and had such a smoothness to it, a smoothness I have missed in espresso recently. It was not ashy nor lemon as Brazils tend to get when the roast gets away.

I was content. I could drink that everyday and I honestly haven't said that about espresso lately. I passed it along to Simon who said Monday he will grab some to see if he can repeat what I was tasting. I think it's a good idea to sample it.

I don't know if many espresso drinkers will find their way out to Marblehead but it's worth the journey for those who profess an affection for the tiny beverage. Consider it a pilgrimage of sorts for a good shot. I don't guarantee your experience will be the same as ours but I do think it's worth a shot that whoever is on the machine may take the same care and that the roast may be just as good. I believe they pour latte art on milk drinks but make sure you confirm cup size when ordering to get what fits your tastes. The cup sizes are a bit larger as they are not an espresso bar so much as they are a traditional american coffee shop which luckily appears to also serve good espresso. I think a double machiatto in the demitasse requesting the Daterra or a single/double shot would be the way to go, maybe both!