In New York, $18 will buy you five 40s of Olde English, three Shake Shack burgers, 18 Poland Spring water bottles, or a single cup of filter coffee from Industry City's Alpha Dominche Extraction Lab -- a gourmet cafe that opened inside Sunset Park’s multipurpose industrial complex last month. The coffee currently stands as the most expensive cup in the country, with Blue Bottle's $16 blend following as a close second. But who, exactly, is willing to pay that much for filter coffee, when most New Yorkers already bemoan the need to pay nearly five bucks for a La Colombe latte? And more importantly, what justifies the $18 price tag?
On a recent Monday morning, I headed out to the Extraction Lab, which offers coffee tastings and a rotating selection of five separate roasts in a space that is best described as zen garden-meets-science lab. The walls are lined with plant-studded wooden shelves, coffee beans are stored in racks of plastic test tubes behind the register, and the bar is topped with rows of towering glass Steampunk brewers, each of which is paired with an iPad control panel. And while milk and sugar are available on a table tucked in a back corner, it seems that diluting your coffee here is about as respectable as mixing wine with seltzer at a tasting.