Really Good Coffee at Northern Light Espresso in Scranton, Pennsylvania…

Who would have thought – really good coffee in Scranton?  Go figure….Northern Light Espresso is awesome.My wife – Alexandra – my closest and most diligent coffee apprentice – found Northern Light and took me there last weekend. She gets the prize this week.A blue ribbon…Here’s a view from the loft – looking down on Mandy Doria – a barista at Northern Light Espresso.Northern Light Espresso upstairsIf the ‘coffee snobs’ I know were going to talk about places to get really good coffee, more than likely they wouldn’t talk about  Scranton, Pennsylvania.But they would be wrong – and I know this because that was my impression too – and I stand corrected.By the way, when I use the term coffee snobs, I am using poetic license – kind of tongue in cheek. If you’re not familiar with real coffee snobs this is my definition:

A “real” coffee snob has a palate that is more developed than the average coffee drinker. In spite of  a more complete understanding and more experience, they do not belittle people who have less coffee knowledge. They just move on quietly to a better cup elsewhere, without saying anything about it. An intolerant or unkind coffee snob is not a true coffee snob. People like that are just wanna-be coffee snobs.

alexandra_upstairs300x338.jpgHere’s a picture of Alexandra – upstairs at Northern Light.First, the ambiance…The place has an eclectic sense to it – kind of reminiscent of a campus coffee house in Berkeley in the 60’s. But it also has a modern flare with a  well designed use of space, light and color. Nice coffee house. If you want to tuck away quietly upstairs with your laptop or watch unnoticed from above you can.The staff…is young but well schooled in the art of espresso. They are attentive first and foremost to quality not speed – and they are meticulous in the preparation with an unusual mechanical set up.Here’s a picture of Alexandra and Mandy.Mandy_and_Alexandra2.jpgPositioned in front of the Mazzer grinder – on the counter – is a circular machined piece of white plastic.There is some type of a locating pin recessed in the counter to keep this plastic from moving. Michael and MandyHere’s a picture of me and Mandy.It’s function is to hold the portafilter while the barista tamps the freshly ground espresso prior to extraction. I like the concept because it stabalizes the portafilter to get a really consistent and even tamp without requiring a lot of strength or force. My guess is that it also provides for consistency in the extraction. Cool idea I haven’t seen before.Whomever thought that one up really knew what they were doing.The counter is designed for flow and easy positioning for the staff. The espresso machine is a Mirage 2 Group Semi-automatic. To quote www.visionsespresso.com:

The absence of group-solenoids, pump and most electronic controls makes this a very reliable and easy to service espresso machine.

I was a Visions customer for several years and they have been in the espresso machine game for a long time. This is further evidence to me that the owner who set up the Northern Light coffee bar really knew what they were doing. The key here is not high volume – more like medium volume with a high quality focus.

The coffee…

Yummo.Northern Light gets their coffee from Gimme Coffee in Ithaca, NY and they use the Levitation Blend. I don’t know Gimme Coffee, but they are awesome roasters. Here is a description of their blend from their packaging and Alexandra (who says – “her favorite”):

  • deep cherry aroma
  • fully developed ripest cherry taste
  • buttery smooth body
  • sweet tobacco aftertaste

To me, the flavor is rich, sweet and complex – with a delightful and lingering aftertaste.The Extraction…The standard extraction is a a “triple ristretto”. The grind is calibrated to pull a 36 second shot.This a full bodied medium dark roast, similar to a “full city roast” in Seattle.Personally, I am not a latte drinker – I prefer doppios. However, I have to say that the dark extraction and the rich, deep blend is absolutely perfectly fomulated and extracted for lattes. I think that is one of the finest lattes I have ever tasted.And I have had a few over forty years.I loved the straight espresso too. Very thick and full of body. Excellent actually.If I were working the bar – at Northern Light – I would modify the grind for straight espresso so that it poured about 25 seconds – a bit lighter, to tweak the tastebuds a bit more for my own taste preference.But in all fairness, this espresso shop is a quality operation and they produce a quality product.If you ever get to Scranton, you have to stop and have a latte. And if you do, tell them we sent you.See you next time.

I AM Michael Barrett

2 Responses to “Really Good Coffee at Northern Light Espresso in Scranton, Pennsylvania…”

  • Tynisa says:

    I love the pic’s. I’m not a big “coffee snob” or anything but I do enjoy a good cup o’ joe. I found out more about coffee in that one article than I ever knew before. I give it two thumbs up (For the coffee and the article)!

  • michael barrett says:

    Thanks Tynisa,

    Really appreciate the feedback. As I write this, we are in Palo Alto, Calif at Peets Coffee and Tea (at one of the original locations). My wife is enjoying a Large Latte Breve and I am enjoying my second – exquisite – doppio (double espresso).

    Yummo.

    Thanks again

    Michael

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