Oslo Coffee Stays the Course

If there were more hours in the day and I were gifted with an inexhaustible work ethic I would dedicate that time and energy to Oslo Roasters. Seriously. During a visit to their roasting works and their two cafes in Brooklyn I was wooed by beautiful crema rich espresso, bicycles, a leather clad Italian–I meant exactly what I said–and an attitude strictly against pandering to a trendy coffee world. In a city of relentless and at times overwhelming ambition it was refreshing to meet JD Merget. A business owner whose plans–just as they seemed to be at the roasters inception–are to run a small business with integrity that allows time for family, the people who work for them and the community Oslo has grown up in.

Not only is Oslo’s coffee legit enough to maintain a presence among much larger and ambitious roasters newly situated in New York City including Stumptown, Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia, simply put–I liked them. Their roasting works is in an unassuming garage space near the waterfront in Brooklyn. Adorned with few things that would indicate a roaster, you might mistake the space for the clubhouse of a motorcycle gang or a bicycle shop. Even now I’m not entirely sure the garage doesn’t serve as those things just as much as it holds their green beans and roaster.

Having been privy to the roasting works of some of the afore mentioned coffee companies I was surprised to find Oslo’s motorcycles, bicycles and green coffee beans co-mingle in one small garage against the hum of a single, moderately sized roaster and one small batch, counter top roaster called the Probatino. With quite literally a gentle arm around my shoulders, Oslo’s head roaster John Bettencourt guided me through their approach towards selecting coffee beans for a small variety of single origin coffees and signature blends.

The single roaster at Oslo

Just as we consider the seasonality of our produce to get the best and freshest, coffee beans are equally subject to climate and geography. With the onset of spring, Oslo’s single origin coffees reflect an increased availability of central and south American beans. John says that beyond balancing the small mixture of beans they use for their espresso blend, they tend to seek out coffees that have atypical flavor profiles to what we normally associate with the coffee region. For example, I sampled a French press of their Columbian micro-lot that was medium bodied, filled with citrus, mild astringency and a subdued finish. In my dedicated pursuit of the black liquid gold, Columbian coffees commonly lean towards chocolaty notes and a bittersweet finish that lingers on the palate.

As is the practice of most self-respecting roasters, Oslo creates their signature blends from a small variety of beans. Each batch of beans is roasted individually and then blended. John feels that roasting beans in individual batches and then mixing provides a multidimensional flavor and better reflects the quality of the beans. For less conscientious roasters it is common practice to create the coffee blend and roast the batch. This enables roasters to disguise coffee beans of a lesser quality.

Just as much as John keeps bean selection and roasting on point at Oslo, Eddie Cedeno acts as Oslo’s leading barista, gear head and fashion plate (just joking Eddie). With many years in coffee, working with various roasters and coffee houses, Eddie knows the ins and outs of the different espresso machines in each of Oslo’s Brooklyn locations. This is no small feat considering that they range from a much older San Marco 3-head, pull-handle espresso machine to a very impressive La Marzocco that was one of the first of its kind in the city. Unlike the San Marco whose whimsical machinery would challenge even baristas with the most intuitive espresso skills and informed palates, the Marzocco offers a digital read on each of the three dedicated boilers, water pressure, temperature and levers that allow the barista to control the most subtle parts of the process when pulling shots. The proof was in my demitasse cup and each drink, first the always telling espresso shot and then my go to machiatto–an espresso shot marked with a small rosetta of foam–was delicious. There was a rich layer of crema in a double ristretto shot that began with bitterness like baker’s chocolate, a slightly sweeter, milder middle and an astringent finish. Terms like “double ristretto” identify the amount of time and grounds allotted to extract an exact amount of liquid and flavor from the espresso. Had I been served a triple rather than a double simply means a shot of a slightly higher volume though still ristretto (or restricted) by the time given for extraction.

None of the locations for Oslo Coffee including the roasting works, the flagship store on Roebling or the small cafe on Bedford stray far from the humble and well intentioned business ideals of JD Mergett founder, father and friend at Oslo. It was with a hint of reluctance he recently began a third location for the company that is presently in the works. Lucky for us it will serve as a welcome haven for the interested, discerning or the interested in discerning coffee fiends of New York City.

Store hours:

Mon-Fri, 7am to 6pm

Sat-Sun, 8am to 6pm

Kris De la Torre

Happily cultivating a nomadic life style, Kris has enjoyed unpacking and repacking her back pack in locations as diverse as Alaska, the UK, U.A.E., SE Asia, Peru and Chile. Presently living in New York City and working as a cheesemonger in a West Village treasure, her most recent obsessions are American Farmhouse cheeses and micro brews. She is a runner, art enthusiast and is regularly found haunting Brooklyn's coffee houses and used book stores.

  1. There is nothing like a coffee company with class and priorities. Ms. De La Torre, your writing makes me smile.

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