Following an enlightening trip to an organic coffee farm in the Dominican Republic, Jack Mazzola returned to New York with the mission to make, quite simply, the perfect cup of joe. He bought different roasts from a Puerto Rican importer and tried brewing them in his apartment in several French presses to properly compare flavor profiles. Turning his countertop into a kitchen-cum-laboratory, Mazzola took a cue from his Italian grandma, who mixed together all the ingredients of her tomato pasta sauce with a steady arm, and started stirring his coffee. The result: a consistently smooth, strong brew.
Modifying old diner urns, Mazzola developed a stir brew prototype (the patent now hangs in the café) and was ready to set up shop in 2003. Not much has changed since. Only one blend is offered at the bar and drinks come in large or small. (Trust us, you won’t want anything else.) Much like the eponymous brew, the space itself – a former porn and cigarette shop above which Mazzola still lives – has been built up organically.
At first, he hung a few black-and-white pictures of long-time locals he had befriended and photographed during regular encounters in the West Village neighborhood. Now dozens of framed shots compete for wall space at Jack’s, including a portrait of Mazzola’s great aunt Rosie, whose closely guarded recipe is the secret behind the fresh baked $1 chocolate chip cookies that sell out daily. The welcoming community vibe you feel upon entering is rooted in the Italian-American social clubs Mazzola grew up around as a kid living in New Jersey. During our visit, he chats with a few familiar faces before ducking out to look over plans for the renovated space on Front St. True to form, there’s always something brewing at Jack’s.
How to Make Your Own Cold Brew
1/3 cup ground coffee (Go with a grind made for a French press – i.e.: coarse – since anything finer may make the brew bitter and be harder to strain.)
1. In a jar, stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups cold water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or for 12 hours.
2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water or to taste. If desired, add milk.
Makes two drinks.
For hot coffee, dilute concentrate one-to-one with water and heat in the microwave.
Jack’s method of choice for his morning cup? A French press. (At the time of writing, his was broken and a Mr. Coffeemaker was doing the trick just fine.) The blend makes the difference, and the beauty of his is its versatility: Jack uses 1 tablespoon per cup for “rocket fuel” (no wonder the guy has so much energy), but he says 1/2 tablespoon still keeps the brew full-bodied.