Stacks Builds a New World of Coffee in Albany
Deciding on a morning brew no longer means opting for decaf or regular. The nomenclature on coffee menus can be dizzying, and the options seem daunting: you can order a flat white or insist on exclusively drinking single estate coffee. Fizzy coffee is a thing now.
What if you order … the wrong thing? Chats about the “third wave of coffee” can quickly delve into Saturday Night Live skit territory but not on Lark Street in Albany. Stacks Espresso Bar offers a stern riposte to the notion that coffee culture is silly.
Stacks takes its coffee, its proprietary recipes and its staff very seriously—and once people try their coffee, they do, too.
“It’s hard to go back to the other stuff once you’ve tried real coffee,” Ron Grieco, co-owner and manager of Stacks, says, admitting that he, too, once gave some of the wonkier aspects of coffee-crafting the side-eye.
Stacks’ cold-brewed fizzy stuff—which cascades from a tap stout-style, delivering a decadently creamy mouthfeel, small Champagne-like bubbles and frothy head—has been greeted with giddy acclaim. This nitro method, which has taken off in hipster coffee enclaves around the country, imparts a richness normally achieved via the ungrudging allotment of cream and sugar. However, Grieco is the first person who has managed to replicate it here.
“It seemed like Albany was so far behind,” Grieco says, explaining his inspiration. “When Tyler [Wrightson] approached me about helping him open Stacks, that was one of the main goals we talked about: bringing true specialty coffee, made by trained professionals, to Albany.”
Mission accomplished—but that doesn’t mean Stacks will be publishing a step-by-step guide to DIY nitro anytime soon. Grieco is happy to provide kegs of pre-made nitro to other coffee shops in the area, but he won’t spill the delicious beans on the recipe. Begging doesn’t help.
“It was the single most difficult project I have undertaken, so no, I cannot give you the recipe,” Grieco says, laughing. “First we make our cold-brew, which takes 24 hours, then we load it into a keg, dilute it with water and add different ratios of different gases and let it absorb for anywhere from 20 minutes to seven days. It took months of perfecting with feedback from staff, friends and customers.”
Warning: Nitro coffee packs a punch. Cold-brew coffee contains roughly two-and-a-half times the caffeine that regular coffee does, and some people claim the nitrogen used in nitro preparation speeds up the absorption of caffeine in the body.
It’s easy to geek out about caffeine absorption levels at Stacks. In fact, that’s kind of the point, Grieco says.
“Coffee is where wine was in the 1970s,” Grieco says, in between filling orders for caffeine-craving bean aficionados, some of whom linger for the Kalita Weaver Brewer pour-over made from one of the single-origin roasts from their guest roaster du jour. But whether they grab and go, or retire to one of the beautifully distressed wooden tables in the front room, few here would sneer at the notion of taking their coffee selection as seriously as they would their wine.