Is it worth it?
All hype aside, the coffee was good. The barista walked me through each step of the brewing process, carefully grinding a test tube of the famous Ninety Plus Gesha Estates Panamanian beans, before lowering the grinds into the body of a Steampunk, and plugging the weight and origin of the blend into one of the iPads. Within the glass crucible of the machine, steam-heated water slowly infused into the fresh grinds, and after several seconds, jets of the water shot directly into the coffee -- a process the lab calls "full immersion."
Having spent my fair share of time serving coffee, this was unlike anything I had previously witnessed. Even in the era of cold brew and pour overs, it was by far the most complex filter coffee-brewing system I had ever seen. The bar offers no espresso, no ice, no milk steamers -- just coffee, in its purest form.
The blend tasted like citrus, dark chocolate, and jasmine. Unlike most black coffees, it didn't leave even a hint of a bitter aftertaste. There were no grinds resting at the bottom of the glass. I found myself cycling through the glossary of terms I'd collected from the backs of wine bottles to describe the taste -- oaky, full-bodied, tart. Perez was not wrong, it was certainly a luxury product.
But while the Extraction Lab offers an experience, along with some truly excellent coffee, it's hard to imagine it will ever cater to a culture of regulars. Coffee shop etiquette, for the most part, demands familiarity -- a barista who knows your order, who acknowledges when you get your hair cut. This coffee may be a luxury product, but it's unlikely that customers will make a routine out of near-$20 drip coffee. For most of us, coffee is a prosaic, every-day affair -- it need not be New York's finest. In spite of its excellence, it remains to be seen if a coffee vendor can thrive serving high-end craft brews at this price once the hype dies down.
On the other hand, if New Yorkers are willing to buy a 24-karat gold pizza, then perhaps luxury coffee is not so far a reach.