Review: Intelligentsia Coffee Black Cat Analog Espresso (Chicago, Illinois)

The first time I tried Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Analog Espresso was in a coffee shop. I was in Northern California for work back in 2015 and had a beautifully pulled shot at Vero’s Coffee Bar in San Jose. I enjoyed it so much, I use the photo of it that I took as an example of what a good espresso ought to look like:

Since then, I’ve seen Intelligentsia on the espresso menu at a handful of coffee shops, but it’s always been their Black Cat Classic, so I made a point of ordering some coffee from Intelligentsia online so that I could try the Analog again, this time at home.

Whole bean: Beautifully roasted, not oily or too dark. These beans smelled strongly of chocolate.

Espresso: I got a very tasty result on my first try, which happened to be a ristretto shot that smelled like caramel and tasted sweet and syrupy. When I made the grind a little coarser to bring the proportions more in normale territory, the shot had a delicious bittersweet cocoa flavor to it. I pulled a few more shots after this, changing the temperature, and all of the shots were good, but I still think that the first two shots were the best of the lot.

Favorite parameters for this blend:
– Ristretto: 18 grams in, 16 grams out, 207 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 seconds from first pour.
– Normale: 18 grams in, 34.6 grams out, 207 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 seconds from first pour.

With milk: I added 4 oz of milk to a doubleshot of the Analog, and it was great… very chocolaty and creamy.

AeroPress: Super smooth and laden with chocolate flavor.

Summary: The Analog Blend is less complex than the Classic – the Classic has more fruity notes that mellow with the use of an AeroPress; the Analog is simpler with its focus on chocolaty flavor. It feels old-fashioned, in a great way. Comfort food in a cup! For straight espresso consumption, I’d definitely go for the Analog all the way. For AeroPress consumption, I slightly prefer the complexity of the Classic, but the Analog also makes a satisfying (if a bit more one-dimensional) brewed coffee.

From the roaster: Full-bodied, dark chocolate, balanced

Intelligentsia Coffee Black Cat Analog Espresso

Review conducted 7 days post-roast.

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