Inside the Chelsea Market, Ninth Street Espresso, which has been serving great coffee since 2001 in their original location, roasts around 2000 pounds of coffee a week, one smallish batch at a time.
For the first 12 years, Ninth Street sourced their coffee from other great roasters, before they took the leap in 2013 with a 15 Kilo Lorig S15 Flacon after learning the craft like many great roasters the city at the Pulley Collective in Red Hook–a sort of time-share-club of roasting equipment and knowledge. Nina, who showed me around, was there from the beginning.
Roasting inside Chelsea Market has some distinct advantages. A rare space zoned for both commercial and manufacturing, Chelsea Market maintained its zoning status, a holdover from when the building was the National Biscuit Company in 1898, then later Nabisco in the 1930s. The building used to host several Food Network shows such as Iron Chef and Google was a tenant on some upper floors until in 2018 Google bought the building outright for 2.4 billion in one of the most expensive real estate transactions in New York’s history of surprising real estate transactions.
In the market’s retail corridor, Ninth Street serves coffee and espresso, all from their Alphabet City roast sourced from a Brazilian farmer which they’ve developed a long-term relationship with. On a typical day, a mass of tourists snake their way along Chelsea Market’s retail corridor, populated with architectural details saved from the restoration of the building.
Yet behind the scenes, past a few doors, a spice vendor, a Bánh Mì shop–which smells so strongly of vinegary pickled carrots it can interrupt a coffee cupping– and around the corner from a delicious fish taco place, Nina and two others roast in a high-ceiling-ed four walled box with a wall of windows. The green beans are stored in New Jersey, trucked in, dropped off and the team gets to work. Rather than rely on roasting software, the team works by experience and knowledge passed on the old school apprenticeship model. (Though they track the data on each roast using software.)
There isn’t an employee manual here, just a long wall of street art–at bit of the East Village brought in, bags of green beans and the lingering smell of musty roasting smoke. Nina, who worked at Ninth Street almost from the beginning, knew the distinct flavor profile that Ninth Street’s customers had enjoyed consistently since their opening and set herself to work in replicating it.
Ninth Street Espresso’s Alphabet City delivers a good cup of coffee that most anyone would like: balanced with a bit of fruit forward flavors. Roasting in a small slice of NYC history, Ninth Street continues to make a name for itself.