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.

7 Replies to “Review: Intelligentsia Coffee Black Cat Analog Espresso (Chicago, Illinois)”

  1. Hello, Margaret! Hope you are well!
    I love Intelligentsia, too, and was delighted to learn a while ago that it’s served at the Angelika Theater on Mockingbird (espresso and drip). Thinking about ordering it online. So you recommend the Classic over the Analog?

    1. Hi Rosalyn! It depends how you’re brewing it – I like the Analog better as straight espresso and the Classic better in my AeroPress. If you’re going to use your Minipresso, I think I’d recommend the Analog for you. Enjoy!

  2. Rosalyn Story says: Reply

    Hi Margaret!
    I completely forgot to check back on your reply to my post and last week ordered the Classic! You are right – it’s too bright for my taste as an espresso, but as a AeroPress drink it was very nice. I’m going to order the Analog now, based on your review as I also prefer chocolatey notes. By the way, I only use the Minipresso for travel – using the Flair lever espresso maker exclusively at home. (Check it out on their website or amazon.) Makes great ‘real’ espresso with non-pressurized portafilter and I can also travel with it.) Hope you are well!

  3. I have had a bag of classic straight from Int., and I’d have to say that Classic is even really good as a pour-over cup, in fact I preferred it that way between the three methods. By what I am reading I am going to thoroughly enjoy the Analog that I just ordered yesterday.


    1. You’re very welcome, Nik! I’d love to hear what you think when you’ve tried the Analog – I didn’t try it as a pour-over or in a French press, but I bet it’d be tasty…

  4. I really don’t know which one you reviewed but I tried Black Cat Classic Espresso and right from the start, it seemed too light roast, not oily at all. I am used to Illy Espresso but right now I am using Peet’s Espresso Forte, both dark and oily.
    The machine I use is a big Grimac with an E61 group, PID control. I ground 15 gr, 28 sec pull, single shot. I think temp was 210. It came out sour with a very light “crema”. I increased temp, ground finer, same result. It sucks! I don’t know if their location in Silver Lake is open, but I’ll try to go and try it there. But either way, I don’t think I would call it “Full body”. I am curious what espresso machine you used and how you measured the temperature? Mine is the real thing, HX copper boiler, Ulka EX5 pump, with PID.

    1. Hi Rick, you commented on my review of Black Cat Analog, which is completely different from the Black Cat Classic. I agree that the Classic is too light to be enjoyed as straight espresso. I’ve written about it in a separate review here:

      My espresso setup isn’t as high-end as yours; an E61 grouphead isn’t in my budget but I’ve been reasonably happy with my Quick Mill Silvano paired with my Baratza Vario. The Silvano is a thermoblock machine that includes a PID.

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