Â Espresso Yourself
By Sally Deering
Those who drip, press or perk coffee they purchase in a plastic container or who grab a cup from the corner take-out may want to wake up and smell the java at 9 Bar CafÃ© on Erie Street in Jersey City. Thatâ€™s where owner Stefania Cocozza brews coffee like a scientist and the results are one fine cup of elixir from the Gods.
Then youâ€™re obviously not a coffee connoisseur. But if you canâ€™t live without your daily dose of freshly roasted coffee then 9 Bar CafÃ© may be worth the trip. Located a block off Newark Ave in Jersey Cityâ€™s downtown district, 9 Bar CafÃ©, which opened in January, offers an oasis for coffee-lovers: big storefront windows for daydreaming and people-watching, large wooden tables for communal sipping, and two-tops where one or more java-lovers can sit with a laptop to write the Â Great American Novel.
Thereâ€™s even a counter near the brewing station for those who prefer drinking their espressos standing up, which according to Cocozza is how Italians like it in Italy.
â€œIâ€™ve been in the coffee business over 20 years,â€ Cocozza says, taking a quick break between customers. â€œIâ€™m originally from Rome, and I moved to Seattle and went to Torrefazione Italia owned by Umberto Bizzari which served his brand of fresh roasted coffee. I used to go there for my espresso, everyone was Italian, and I felt at home there. After a few months, they offered me a job.â€
She moved on to Southern California where she opened a branch of the business and then opened her own place with a partner. After three years Cocozza sold her share, moved east and after working at Illy CafÃ© in Manhattan, decided to be her own boss.
â€œI like owning my own place,â€ Cocozza says. â€œI can make my own decisions.â€
Cocozza named her bistro 9 Bar CafÃ© in reference to the science of making an espresso, she says. To properly extract a perfect 25-second shot of espresso, a 9-bar of pressure is the right level of pressure for the water to extract the â€˜goldâ€™ part of the coffee.
â€œIt should be a burst of flavor, a little bomb in your mouth â€“ in a good way,â€ Cocozza says.
Cocozza serves her customers a special 9 Bar CafÃ© blend she uses for coffees and espressos; and the â€œbubble methodâ€ for steaming milk, which creates a thick, creamy foam.Â The 9 Bar CafÃ© menu is simple and all about the coffee. Thereâ€™s Macchiato and Cortado (Italian & Spanish versions of espresso with varied amounts of foamed milk); and Cold Brew (coffee brewed in cold water for 18 hours). You can get Americano, Cappuccino and CafÃ© Latte; Hot Chocolate and Hot Tea. (Prices include $2 for hot tea; $2.45/$3 for coffee; and $2.55 for an espresso â€“ extra shot for $.75. Macchiato $2.75; Cortado $3; and CafÃ© Latte $3.45/$4 & $4.75, depending on size.
Along with coffees and espressos, the menu features sandwiches and pastries made on site and by local artisans. 9 Bar CafÃ© serves sandwiches like the Caprese with fresh mozzarella, tuna and basil, Ham & Provolone, Salami & Provolone, and Tuna Salad. (Sandwiches $7-$7.50.)
Pastries include Cannoli imported from Italy, Tiramisu, Sfogliatelle and Biscotti. Sweet and savory scones, the Italian pastry Occhio bue, and Orange Pound Cake are also on the menu.
About every three months, Cocozza teaches coffee classes at her shop and she has very strong opinions about what makes a great cup of coffee. First of all, smell the coffee you purchase. If itâ€™s stale, it will have a rancid smell. Therefore, she says itâ€™s better to purchase coffee from a smaller roasting company because the coffee will be fresher than big brand names, and of a better quality, too. Expect to pay $12-$15 for a pound of good coffee, and grind your own beans for freshness.
â€œGrind as you go,â€ Cocozza says. â€œThe oils in the coffee start to dry out quickly.â€
You can purchase really good coffee, but you also have to know how to brew it.
â€œGet the person who is selling you the coffee to educate you,â€ Cocozza says. â€œIâ€™m trying to educate the consumer on how to get a good cup of coffee at home. Like water, for instance. It has to be 197 degrees to brew espresso; 200 degrees to brew coffee, or you wonâ€™t get the right extraction.â€
A destination for people to connect, thatâ€™s how Cocozza sees 9 Bar Cafe. She puts in a lot of time at her bistro â€“ more than 80 hours a week â€“ and itâ€™s a labor of love for Cocozza and husband Giancarlo Mongera who supports her efforts 100 percent, she says.
Cocozzaâ€™s also a huge fan of the products she serves her customers.
â€œI love coffee,â€ Cocozza says. â€œI could drink it all day.â€
If you go
Â 9 BAR CAFÃ‰
18 Erie Street, JC
Mon-Fri, 7 amâ€“7 pm; Sat, Sun: 8 am-7 pm