Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

Writer. Communications assistant. Coffee drinker.

Category: Kat’s Coffee Blog

Kat’s Coffee Blog: An ode to perfect diner iced coffee

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, an initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use.

If you have ever lived near the corner of Washington St. and Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, MA, you have heard the legend of Brighton Cafe iced coffee. Perfect fuel for a crowded Green Line ride to either BC or BU, it also is rumored to have hangover-curing qualities. (This is only rumor – I swear I have never tested it.)

Brighton Cafe iced coffee, at least back when I ordered it on the regular (2007-2009), came in two flavors: original and french vanilla. It was served in a large styrofoam cup, which I cringed at but dealt with by being super environmentally friendly the rest of the day.

It was your regular diner coffee, just iced, meaning it wasn’t exactly the most nuanced of flavors, but delivered the taste and caffeine jolt necessary. It never tasted like they had just taken leftover pots of hot coffee and cooled it – it was never bitter tasting, like what could happen when you do such a thing. What made it addictive was the just perfect amount of cream and sugar added. Because this was a diner, the cream was very fresh and the sugar was coarse instead of fine. This made the coffee just the perfect amount of sweet and bitter.

The two things I miss most about living in Brighton are Brighton Cafe coffee and it’s neighbor, Chang’s House, the friendliest Chinese food place in creation. While I have never found a replacement for Chang’s House (a place so kind that they would make me a special, non-menu soup when I suffered from laryngitis, which used to be every other month), I have finally found an equal to the Brighton Cafe iced coffee magic.

Firehouse Coffee Shop iced coffee

Firehouse Coffee Shop iced coffee

Salem, MA’s Nick’s Firehouse Coffee Shop is tucked away behind the old District Court building. My father-in-law first introduced the spot to me a decade ago, but I didn’t know of its iced coffee until 2015. The Firehouse has an amazing corned beef hash and very affordable lunch sandwiches, and it is a regular stop for lawyers, judges and court staff who work in the area.

One Saturday last year, I had to go into Boston early, and my regular Dunkin’ Donuts by the Salem train station was closed. I figured I’d grab some hot coffee from the Firehouse. I walked in, looked at their menu, and realized they had iced coffee. I tasted it and was immediately transported back to that corner of Washington St. and Commonwealth Ave. Finally, I had found a North Shore diner who cared just as much about their iced coffee as the Brighton Cafe.

I didn’t get a chance to try it again until this week. (Giving up caffeine for 10 months will do that for you.) It still is that perfect mixture of coffee flavor, cream and coarse sugar that will cure whatever ails you, be it a hangover or your four month old waking up five times during the night.

Review: Both Brighton Cafe and Firehouse get four cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️☕️

Kat’s Coffee Blog: Blue State’s Espresso Fizz

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, a new initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use. 

If you have worked as someone’s assistant for over a decade, you get to know each other’s likes and dislikes. Coffee. TV shows. iPhone apps. Odds are that ten years in, your suggestions to each other are going to be some of the most well-founded you will get in your life.

When I returned to my full-time job recently after my maternity leave, one of the very first things the Dean said to me was, “Kat, you have to go try the espresso fizz at Blue State.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s shots of espresso in seltzer water,” the Dean explained while we sat next to our office’s two coffee makers. (We don’t play around. We used to have a swanky espresso maker too, but it disappeared during my maternity leave and I am scared to ask what happened to it.)

He saw me somewhat scrunch my nose at the description. “Trust me. I’ve been drinking them all summer. It’s good.”

So I made my way to Boston University’s West Campus before a meeting and stopped by Blue State Coffee. Blue State is a small New England chain of coffee shops that makes strong coffee and supports many community organizations. They pride themselves on the craft of creating their drinks. Your espresso drink is going to take a few seconds more than most shops, but it is worth the wait. (Just know that when you plan on going before a meeting.)

I ordered a small espresso fizz with a shot of their house made vanilla syrup, and drank it straight up (no milk or cream.)  The barista poured a shot of vanilla syrup and seltzer into a cup filled with ice, and floated what looked to be about one and a half shots of espresso on top.

Not going to lie – I was a tad scared to take my first sip. But I then remembered who sent me this way.

All of the Dean’s buzz was correct. It was light and refreshing, especially as every sip pulled the drink’s layers of seltzer, vanilla and espresso. The homemade vanilla shot really elevates the drink to “all time great” status. There is a sophisticated sweetness to it that makes it a drink to savor.

I was sad that I only ordered a small. I’ve already looked at my schedule to see when I have another meeting up near Blue State so I can enjoy another.

The Dean was right, per usual. Why wouldn’t it be? You never want your assistant to be under-caffeinated.

Review: Five cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

Kat’s Coffee Blog: The Switzerland of Cold Brew

Kat'sCoffee BlogWelcome to Kat’s Coffee Blog, a new initiative to put my triumphant return to caffeinated coffee drinking to good use. Plus, it should force me to write more. 

Cold brew is one of the easiest coffee styles to brew at home, yet none of us seemingly want to do so. Maybe it is our collective impatience. Maybe it is because we don’t have enough room in our fridges (in my defense, my infant son’s formula is currently taking up a lot of space.)

It’s okay that you haven’t started cold brewing at home, because many shops have cold brew to their menus. Dunkin’ Donuts became the latest to do so this week. Like any good Dunkin’ Devotee, I had to try it on day two of its “official” release. (Some shops had it last week.)

Dunkin' Donuts released a SnapChat geofilter to commemorate the release of its cold brew offering. (Photo: Kat Cornetta.)

Dunkin’s cold brew is the Switzerland of the genre – neutral and nice. You’ll visit there for the bank accounts and beautiful winter, and it isn’t going to offend anyone in the process. That is my sleep-deprived way of saying it doesn’t have the strong notes of most coffeehouse or home cold brews, but still has just enough kick for you to tell the difference. It is smooth, but dials down cold brew’s usual strength of coffee flavor two notches.

It is a cold brew for the regular Dunkin’ customer, who typically likes their iced coffee with a flavor shot and “extra-extra*,” but desires to be adventurous on a late summer day.

When I want a stronger iced coffee and am out running errands in my suburban neighborhood, Dunkin’s cold brew will become my must-order.

Review: Three cups out of five. ☕️☕️☕️

* “Extra-extra” is New England slang for extra cream and extra sugar. Coffee ordered this way is closer to an ivory color than the typical brown of coffee. If you order your coffee “extra-extra,” you are asking for cream with some coffee added. I do not judge others for their coffee orders, and believe there is a time and a place in everyone’s life where they may need to order coffee “extra-extra.” Do not feel shame for doing so. We need all types to make the world go round.