The macchiato at Caffé Vero

caffe vero macchiato

That's not just any foam on top.

By Daniel B.

Officially, you can no longer say there isn't a good place to go for espresso in the Capital Region. Because in November, Caffé Vero opened its doors on Lark Street, and these people take espresso seriously.

How seriously?

Well, before opening the Albany location they sent a sample of their water to a lab in California to learn how well suited it was for making espresso. As it turns out the water in Albany is pretty good. This meant they only needed to install a filter that removes dissolved solids and chlorine.

That along with at least a dozen other invisible steps is what goes into producing some of the richest most delicious espresso based drinks in the Capital Region. But it is their version of a macchiato that is really the ideal showcase for the best espresso in Albany.

caffe vero menu board

Let's start from scratch, because this is not a typical coffee shop, and theirs is not a typical macchiato. The macchiato at Caffé Vero is made according to the teachings of coffee guru David Schomer.

Who?

He's the founder of Seattle's Espresso Vivace. And in a town that has more than its fair share of coffee snobs, Shomer's espresso is widely regarded to be at the top of the heap. He is also the person who personally taught the owners of Caffé Vero their craft, and everything they do seems to be a tribute to their mentor.

It starts with beans that they roast in small quantities in their custom built Joper roaster up in Lake George twice a week. Currently Vero produces one blend for all espresso drinks, but are working to develop a more subtle and nuanced one especially for those who prefer their espresso without milk.

caffe vero machineFor espresso drinks, eighteen grams of those beans are ground, dosed and tamped to order. Beware of lesser cafes that think nothing of pre-filling a doser with ground coffee. It may be expedient, but it is a recipe for disaster. Generally this quantity of grounds is sufficient for two shots of espresso, but Shomer prefers his espresso even more concentrated, so at Vero the same amount of beans is used to produce what is known as a double ristretto.

A double ristretto is a concentrated, but decidedly less bitter shot of espresso with a rich, thick and persistent layer of golden emulsified oils (crema) on top. With the crema, it weighs in at only about one fluid ounce of espresso nirvana.

At many places if you ask for a double ristretto they will look at you like you are from Mars. But a Caffé Vero it is all that they do.

Traditionally a macchiato is a shot of espresso that is just marked with foam. That is not what you will get here. The Vero macchiato hits more of the sweet spot in between a traditional macchiato and a cappuccino. It is a four-ounce drink served in an eight-ounce cup.

It is easy to tell when you receive your drink that it is something special. Etched on the top of each glass is a bit of latte art made from milk foam and coffee. Sometimes it's the shape of a heart, other times it may be a leaf.

caffe vero macchiato in cup

But if you were to take a closer look at the foam, you might notice something else. All of the bubbles are really, really tiny. It's called microfoam and it takes some skill and care to make. Your eyes may not notice the difference, but its superiority of texture on the tongue is unmistakable. One thing that helps Vero achieve this is that every drink starts with a fresh pitcher of cold milk. And not just any milk either, they are using the best milk around: Battenkill Valley.

When it all comes together, this drink is all about the enjoyment of espresso. The milk and the foam exist in such quantities as to enhance but not detract from this liquid essence of coffee.

Just make sure that should you decide to enjoy one yourself that you do it there, in a proper porcelain cup. A four-ounce drink doesn't take long to finish. And you can sip your macchiato while watching the people of Lark Street go by the two large picture windows up front or take advantage of their free wifi.

While the coffee lovers behind Vero are fastidious, they are not fascists. Unlike other places run by obsessive coffee geeks they will indeed sell you a cappuccino to go. They will even serve them after noon. For those who insist on having their coffee drinks flavored, Vero will also oblige. They understand that coffee is a very personal thing. So don't be afraid to customize your drink to your particular preferences.

But just once you should taste what they can do with a macchiato.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the Fussy Little Blog.

Find It

Caffe Vero
260 Lark Street
Albany, NY 12210

Comments

Flavored coffee? Blasphemy, I tell you.

I can't even explain how lucky I am to have this around the corner from my house.

I'lll also second the point about how nice they are. Every barista they have is competent *and* genuinely nice. There's no elitist attitude at all. I am in love with this place.

Their drip coffee is great too.

I'm extremely intrigued. I'll have to try this place some time soon. I'm an espresso addict (I even have a middle of the line machine at home and even considered financing a high end model. I'm unfamiliar with "zullo," so I'll have to inquire about that when I go. I'm curious how long of a pull they use for the "double ristretto." It has to be less than the 57 seconds (I timed it after seeing them do it twice) I saw them doing at Prof Java one day.

I'm glad Vero brings the macchiato back to true form. Most people who order this at Starbucks wouldn't recognize this drink, as a Starbucks macchiato is simply an upside down latte.

I'm looking forward to this very much! Great writeup, Daniel B.!

i got an espresso there when it was "new", and it sucked.
the other day, for some god forsaken reason I tried it again.

it was leaps and bounds better than EVERYTHING ELSE in albany. by FAR.

while i'm not nice enough to openly compare it blue bottle or gimme, it's the best around

Oh....oh.....moving into the neighborhood ON. FRIDAY.

Know where I will be getting my Sunday morning wake-up. Thanks, AOA!

I am going to have to check this out. Thank you for posting.
I lived in Seattle for 5 years and Vivace is by far my favorite place there. If this place comes anywhere close, I'm going to be traveling a lot to Lark St. (and I live in Schenectady). Thank you for posting!

Oh joy of joys!

This is a fantastic article, thanks. I can't wait to go...

I'll give this place a 2nd chance. Ordered a very dry capp - I realize, not the easiest drink to make - but it came out like a latte and not even like a capp.

I'm a slight snob, I'll agree - just wanted some foam in that.

We love this place! Love to go there to escape the home office. Great coffees!

I made it through the darkest month of the year (January, when Crisan was closed) at Cafe Vero... and their free wifi spoiled me to no end. Also, I really liked the espresso americano I got there. Yes, I know, I'm a heathen, watering down my espresso and all... :)

This places sounds fabulous. You describe it so beautifully I think I can smell the coffee down here in Poughkeepsie! You make mention of beans roasted in Lake George. Are they sold there retail?

Right around the corner from my office, Caffe Vero is ASTOUNDINGLY good! Starbucks and it's super suite sugar drinks have undermined the entire coffee shop industry. With the local places trying to compete and tasting more and more like the conglomerate, it's a special treat when you taste Vero's throwback to how coffee drinks should taste. Thank you Caffe Vero for bringing back the true taste of coffee.

@North Country Rambler - Yes, they sell their beans in the shop. They told me the usually roast the beans on Tuesdays.

Something not mentioned in the article above - and not to take away from Crisan - their pastries and deserts are from the Chocolate Mill in Glens Falls. More awesomeness!

I can practically smell the coffee! It would go very well with the sfogliatelle that I picked up today at the Dolce & Biscotti Italian Bakery in Clifton Park.

OK, I'm a Glens Falls girl originally, so knowing the beans are from Lake George (and you can buy them there!) and the pastries from the Chocolate Mill REALLY means I need to get my behind to this cafe. :) I live 1/4 a mile from it and haven't made it there yet ...

(I do adore Crisan, though. Speaking of, do we have $1 gelato yet???)

Oh, and welcome to the 'hood ajw93! :)

Love this place. Make sure that your barista is Zac. He is the man.

Just started going to this place. I'm going to have to try this drink! It's a perfect study spot on the weekends .

I heard from a little birdie, who heard from another little birdie, that Gelato might be coming back soon... possibly as soon as Friday, but now that we have a snowy-icy-apocalypse watch, I'm thinking maybe Tuesday... doesn't the weather know, more IMPORTANT things need to happen! :)

Also, I think they have snacks from Scratch bakery too, which is also tasty foodstuffs. But I'm a Crisan loyalist. ;)

I've had many wonderful coffees there in the past few months. Love having it in the neighborhood. The only down side is that with free wi-fi, people do camp out ... like, move in for the afternoon. On my first visit, the bf and I enjoyed our Sunday paper, sipped our drinks, and moved on... but the last 4 or 5 times I've stopped in there was not an empty seat in the place, lots of people working with laptops. It bums me out... I'd love to sit and enjoy my coffee in a porcelain cup again like that first time but "to go" is all that is every possible. That said, I'm HAPPY to see them booming like that... go locally owned business!

I like to support locally-owned businesses, so I stopped in last week to give Caffe Vero a try. These days, I don't think you should say you're selling/serving gourmet coffee if your coffee's not also organic and fair trade. Well, when I asked the barrista if they served organic/fair trade coffee, she answered, "I'm not even sure what fair trade is." Not a good sign. The other person on duty said he wasn't sure that any of their coffees were "exclusively" organic or fair trade. No thanks, then. I'll stick with Scratch Bakery, Ultraviolet Cafe, Tierra Coffee Roasters, or Honest Weight Food Co-Op, who all serve up good cups of organic and fair trade coffees. They're also locally owned!

I've been in there once and thoroughly enjoyed my latte. I also thoroughly enjoy their prices. I was with a group of people, three of whom were from out of town, and everyone was pleased.

I agree with Megan above that I look for Fair Trade if I'm going to be a loyal customer. Add on a dime to the price if need be.

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