The most sustainable cup of coffee you can buy in New York City is powered by bicycle, served out of a rickshaw that transforms into a coffee bar. Mobile, sustainable, awesome coffee: That's the idea behind Kickstand Coffee.
The setup is minimal. Two carts, two bikes. Two kinds of coffee - hot, brewed via Chemex, and cold, which is cold-brewed, naturally. $US2.50 a cup, either way. The carts join together, assembling to form a full coffee bar in minutes, one that's completely mobile, so Kickstand can serve their primo coffee anywhere.
I dropped by Kickstand's dingy, fluorescent-lit garage, above a machine shop in Williamsburg, to check out their setup. The centrepiece is a custom cut and welded Chemex rack that slides into the centre of the bar. The decapitated heads of four Chemex beakers line the top of the steel-and-wood frame, like gallows, but for deliciousness instead of death. Coffee flows directly into paper cups - these iconic cups, actually - instead of the bottom of a Chemex. Here's how it works:
They've been grinding with Hario's iconic Skerton hand-cranked coffee mill, but are switching to the Zaasenhaus manual grinder you see here, which will get its own custom rack as well - one of the reasons being that the uncapped Skerton grinder has a tendency to fire projectile coffee grounds in all directions.
Cold-brew happens in a monster tub, essentially a giant Toddy system. They're experimenting with different filters, weighing the options of a cleaner iced coffee - de rigeur in New York - or something with a little bit grit for a deeper mouthfeel.
Oh yes, about the coffee. The point of Kickstand, founded by a trio of veteran coffee dudes - Aaron, Neal and Peter - besides serving eco-friendly coffee - hence the bicycles for transport and completely manual brew methods - is to bring good coffee to the community. So they serve a rotating selection of coffee roasted locally - currently from Gimme!, Stumptown and Cafe Grumpy - offering whatever coffees they like at the moment.
The project is only a few weeks old, and the plan is to constantly evolve. For instance, right now, they're boiling water for the coffee using a fairly standard camping stove that utilises propane, but they're looking at ways to do that more ecologically and are designing a bicycle-powered grinding setup.
Given the precipitous rise of bicycle and coffee culture in NY and SF over the past few years, I'm kind of surprised that Kickstand's the first to do what they're doing in Brooklyn, bringing together the tenants of bicycles, localism and good coffee, but I doubt they'll be the last. The possibilities seem pretty endless, after all. If you're in New York, you can catch them at the Market in McCarren tomorrow (and every Saturday) from 11-6. [Kickstand, Twitter]