August 15th is a famous day here in Italy, it is ‘Ferragosto’, the middle of August, a public holiday which is also the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and whatnot, whatever, people go hit the beach, the cafes, and the streets, and don’t want to be home. I had the fortunate experience of visiting the Due Fontane Bar Caffè recently (Instagram here), and was simply delighted.
When I visited Ditta Artiginale in Florence a few months ago, the barista told me about this place. He said they’re serving their coffee and I should visit it. It is a locale in an amazing 1930s monumental piazza, and within walking distance of the MAXXI National museum of contemporary art, and the Stadio Flaminio. I was expecting a setup similar to what I saw a Nero Vaniglia, that is, a place with a strong focus on traditional Roman coffee, but with the added bonus of a taste of specialty coffee. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. I came in and the first thing I see is a menu with tons of different coffee options, probably every single type of traditional Italian coffee is listed there (really, take a look!). Then, eight ways of having third wave specialty coffee, you name it, it is there. And not only written, but drawn out for you for it to be crystal clear. Then, as you look down from the menu, you see on top of the espresso machine the actual implements to make coffee.
No dust on them, no bullshit there to make believe they’re ‘cool’, (yes because in some places it is straight-up BS).
And then, as you look around in the small downstairs café area, you see on a windowsill a cold drip carafe in action.
Yup, and on the darn tables, you have a sing that says ‘Try our Cold Brew Iced Coffee’.
So, since I’m a purist at heart and go for the espresso, I looked and saw that they were offering the Jump mix espresso from Ditta Artiginale. There were two baristas. One a younger guy that would do espresso drinks, and then another a bit older guy that seems to be one of the guys who run the place, he did the Chemex I ordered.
This is what I got:
Presentation: A familiar cup, the same as that served in Florence. Clean, crisp, and jolly. No water given, but the place was ultra friendly so I’m sure it would have been given. The spoon was to measure. Oh, and can you believe this? The barista flushed the espresso machine before serving my cup! How many times has this happened here in Rome? Maybe 2-3 at most, in over 350 cafes I’ve reviewed so far! Also, look here, when the espresso was served, they also placed a sugar caddy with it. Six different types of sugar were to choose from.
I really do not believe in adding sugar to Third Wave coffee, but here in Rome, you can’t change old habits too fast. And plus, this place offers a crazy variety of teas as well, so maybe by a combo of the right sugar you’ll get something quite unique.
Temperature of Cup: Ahh, not cold, not freaking boiling hot. Warm, just right and melted with what I hoped to be a perfect espresso.
Quantity: A good short shot, normal for Italy, a bit on the short side for the rest of the world. But I prefer espresso short, and to the point. I was happy.
Temperature: Yup, very good, and fused seamlessly with the temperature of the cup. I was a happy camper.
Volume/Consistency: Light, airy, not as heavy as I’d had in Florence, and not as oily either. It was on the whole thin, delicate and light in consistency.
Crema: The crema was slightly over extracted, the bubbles shouldn’t have been there, we’re talking about 2-3 seconds over extraction max. So given the size of the shot, there should have been more grounds in the porta filter. I don’t think the shot was weighed, but I might be mistaken. But the crema was the same bright light brown, uniform and very finely textured as I’ve had from them before. It was quite elastic but not very oily.
Odor: It wasn’t overly aromatic, quite muted, and smelled only slightly of floral hints.
Taste: It was lightly bitter, bright, punchy, and it had the characteristic acidity that brings out a floral, fruity taste. I couldn’t make out any particularly independent strong fruit spectrums, but it was nice, and definitely a change from normal espresso.The only thing I'm not sure of, and it goes for the below beans, is how old they were, or more clearly how long they've been sitting in the opened bag. I could have asked this, but I chose not to. This could be a reason why the muted tone of the fruit flavors in the espresso. Next time I go I will ask.
Overall: It was very good. I wouldn’t say better brewed than Florence, but up there with it. It definitely made me want to have another one, and well, honestly, to return to this place again. Simple and honest as that.
The setup: They were brewing their espresso with an E61 based machine, but I couldn’t see what brand it was. The same goes for the grinder. It looked liked an old Casadio or a more older Astoria. However, they were using that for Gran Caffè Santos which they served as the normal ‘Roman’ espresso. Next time I’ll try one of these too, as it’s one of my favorite run-of-the-mill Roman coffees that on an E61 should come out quite syrupy and thick. But for the specialty coffee, they were using on-demand small Eureka grinders that are a mavel. The Jump Ditta Artiginale coffee I had is a mix of Brazil (Bourbon), Colombia (Caturra) and Ethiopia (Heirloom) Arabica beans.
Now to the Chemex. I decided to go for this, simply because it’s one of the best ways to see how dedicated folk are to brewing a good cup. And because it tends to be what opens up the coffee best for flavors and scents. So let’s go for what coffee I had. I could have picked from almost any of Ditta Artiginale’s coffee offerings, I chose the Finca del Naranjo El Salvador (Yellow Bourbon), I chose this because it’s a rather straightforward easy to read coffee in it’s taste profile and if done right, can be quite pleasant.
Now to the preparation: The small Eureka grinder was opened, cleaned with a brush and all residue of the Jump blend taken out. Then the beans were weighed, then ground. Then the Chemex was run through the drill, the water was boiled in the traditional ‘hipster’ teapot, the Chemex weighed, filter pre-washed, everything warmed by hot water, and then finally, the coffee added and brewed. Everything was timed, and, if you look at my Instagram account, you’ll see the barista in action. It was by the book and got great results.
I was served the Chemex with an insulated cup, and was allowed to do my bidding on the coffee. Simply great.
On the sensory scale, the coffee wasn’t too aromatic. It was a bit dark in profile and was less fruity than in the espresso I had. But once I tasted it, the drink was silky, smooth, and had a pronounced blueberry-like sweet taste profile. Once it got cooler I could start to taste hints of vanilla and again, a bit more pronounced berry like flavor. Overall it was quite muted and particularly bright. But this is not how this coffee is in the first place.
Overall, this place seems to be the most outwardly and in your face ‘specialty coffee’ locale I’ve visited so far in Rome. It’s very gun-ho about the brewing methods, it’s got the cold drip in action, and lots of bags from Ditta Artiginale to choose from and buy to take home. It seems very comfortable in it's skin and about what it does. When the barista was brewing the Chemex, it got locals talking about it with him and the barista was quite adamant (in a very polite way) that this indeed is a different and good way to drink coffee.
The locale is very much ‘chill’ based, it’s got a cool vaulted ceiling upstairs, free Wi-Fi, and a very nice outside wraparound terrace on the plaza. It also has a very large kitchen with very nice options. It’s definitely a place to come and spend some hours working. No stress about plugging into the socket for your computer either. It’s a place I’ll definitely come back to, and a very nice locale to know about here in Rome!
Due Fontane Bar Caffè
Grandi Eventi Servizi SRL
Piazza Perin del Vaga 13
Tel. 06 324 0786