Review: Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Espresso (Chicago, Illinois)

(Guest post from David Cooper, principal horn of the Dallas Symphony!)

There is nothing better than a good friend showing up at your door at 10 pm with freshly roasted Intelligentsia coffee! Saturday night after my concert I had just made it home and was sitting on the couch when my good friend Margaret Fischer came by with a gift from her trip to Los Angeles. She stopped by the Intelligentsia shop in Venice Beach and brought me back a treat! I love coffee but none more than Intelligentsia! I have found very few close to perfect coffees that are balanced and bring a smile to my face every time I take a sip! That coffee that is so good that time stops and it’s just you in moment with the coffee. That is Intelligentsia for me. They only have locations in 3 cities in the United States so you have to stock up on one of your visits to Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York, which makes it that much more precious. They do mail order as well but the shipping is as much as one bag of coffee, which is actually the only thing I don’t like about Intelligentsia. They use UPS for some reason and two bags of coffee shipping actually comes out to 13 dollars and some change. I love coffee probably more than the average person but even for me, 13 dollars is a little steep for the shipping and handling which brings us back to last night! Margaret brought me a bag of Intelligentsia to my door! Hand DELIVERED and FRESH!!!!

This is my first review for Coffee Cantata but I thought that I would happily review my all time favorite espresso, Black Cat Classic, which is the standard house blend espresso for Intelligentsia. Their motto is the pursuit of perfect coffee. They aren’t far off in my book. This espresso is right down the middle awesome. It’s like the Goldilocks of espresso. It isn’t too bright, it isn’t too dark, it has enough flavor, but not overpowering and with a dash of milk in your espresso, your shot turns into pure candy for sipping pleasure! For me most times espresso gets too bitter or too tangy or bright and to find an espresso that isn’t either one of these two is truly remarkable!

Upon opening the bag of Black Cat I got a fragrant caramel and butterscotch aroma! It smells exactly how you want your coffee to smell, close your eyes and get lost in the bouquet! One of the many reasons I drink coffee is that I am in love with the smell.

I decided to make my first cup of Black Cat with an AeroPress which is made by the same company that brought your that Frisbee with the hole in the middle that you bought at the science museum when you were a kid and flew for miles! I like to use the AeroPress simply because you can taste the bean without any other interference. I know I love this bean with my espresso maker but for reviewing purposes I wanted to be able to describe my coffee experience in great depth and flavor.

I prefer the inverted AeroPress for a little more extraction time. I ground my coffee on fine and measured it out with the black screw on filter holder full to the top. I boiled my water and let it cool off for a few seconds then I did an initial bloom of 45 seconds, I filled the AeroPress the rest of the way and let it steep for 1:30 and then did a 30 second plunge. I am still experimenting with steep and bloom times and grind. I might recommend a little more of a coarse grind because the coffee was almost a little too rich.

As I brought my nose to the rim of my cup and took a deep sniff and then had my first sip, I was again in heaven! My first sip my whole mouth was filled full of flavor. I tasted Cherry and a little light fruity flavor at the beginning and then ended with a smooth caramel butterscotch finish that I smelled when opening the bag. As I finished the cup the brightness was only slightly more intense and I was tasting a little less mellow sweet cherry, and a little bit of light orange. Overall, this coffee is not an AeroPress coffee but it still has the hints of what it will become with the Espresso maker. This is the most perfect espresso I have ever found and I will love to continue to put this up against any espresso that I come across. Time and time again I am reminded of why Intelligentsia is such a staple in the gourmet coffee world and what I love about their consistency that every time I get Black Cat it tastes like I remembered. You might find different espressos but you won’t find better.

David Cooper is guest writer for Coffee Cantata. He lived in Port Townsend, WA where he fell in love with coffee. David Cooper is Principal horn of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He is enjoying the elevation of coffee culture to Dallas, TX, his new home.

Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Espresso

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