Something unexpected is brewing in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Its tiny village center is home to two coffee shops—each of which could be called the most connoisseur-friendly coffee service in the Berkshires. One of them has even figured out how to charge $5.95 for a glass of iced coffee, without it seeming entirely crazy.
The coffee beans that are poured out and ground up at Six Depot were roasted just a few feet away, in a big apparatus visible to customers. A hallway leading toward the bathroom is lined with a dozen burlap sacks, each stuffed with one hundred forty pounds of green, un-roasted coffee beans.
Co-owner Lisa Landy shows off the espresso machine. She grabs ahold of its hand crank, which has to be yanked down for every shot. “You can pull it down and see how hard it is. It really takes a bit of effort, to release it and it releases the pressure. It’s a very manual way of making espresso. It’s very Italian, I used to live in Italy. We kind of fell in love with it. It’s very old school,” she says.
Her husband Flavio Lichtenthal chooses the beans and roasts them. A two-minute stroll away, at Shaker Dam Coffeehouse, coffee maven John Stanmeyer doesn’t roast the beans, but he selects them while traveling the globe for his other job, as a contract photographer for National Geographic.
Next to a fully digitized espresso maker, there’s a fragile-looking contraption, with a large glass bulb suspended above a network of glass tubes and brass spigots. It’s a Kyoto-style cold brewer, ordered from Japan. This technique is not recommended for someone in a rush, barista Skyler Ruderman explains. “You know, you get about three liters after 12 hours of work. That’s like, a very, very small amount of coffee. And it uses an incredibly large amount of beans to make that,” he says.
And that’s how we end up with that six-dollar cup of coffee.
Ruderman weighs out exactly 140 grams of beans, picking them out one by one until he gets to that magic number. After grinding them, he uses a horsehair paintbrush to push down the stray grounds stuck to the sides of the container. As he carefully adjusts the air pressure on the cold-brewer, it looks like he’s conducting a chemistry experiment.
And in a way, these two coffeehouses, which both opened in July 2013, are conducting an experiment. Local residents can find a more basic cup of coffee at the Public Market next door to Shaker Dam. But many appear to be choosing these two gourmet options.
Ruderman says he’s not sure how West Stockbridge quietly became the coffee capital of the Berkshires. “I was, like, walking to my car after work and it hit me that this is a town of thirteen hundred people. And you’ve got two just, really dedicated, really different coffee shops in this little place. And it’s like, how is this working? And yet it does.”
It works, though not just off the business of the town’s residents. West Stockbridge benefits from its proximity to Tanglewood and other tourist attractions, as Berkshire Chamber of Commerce president Jonathan Butler points out. “While West Stockbridge population-wise is small,” he says, “there’s quite a bit of activity there and geographically they’re located in a pretty convenient spot.”
In particular, It’s an easy stop for travelers exiting the Mass Pike. As for that Kyoto-style cold brew? Even to a skeptical reporter, it was wallet-lightening but… delicious.
Updated on October 1 at 8:00 am to better describe the item that is poured out and ground up at the beginning of the story.