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D on’t let the name fool you: Fussy Coffee offers much more than a typical coffeehouse.

But let’s start with the headliner. 

Barista Gabi Cheney takes me through the steps of making one pour-over. First, she runs hot water through the paper filter to wash out the “papery taste” and preheat the carafe. Freshly ground beans are poured into the filter—every cup of Fussy coffee is individually ground just before brewing—and precisely heated water is drizzled over them with a sweeping arm motion. “You get kind of jacked on one side,” she jokes. We watch bubbles pop at the surface—a sign, she says, that the beans are “super fresh.” Then she agitates the carafe and lets the water percolate through.

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The details of this process—how finely to grind the beans, how much to heat the water, how long to steep it, even how fast the barista pours—may change by the day depending on humidity, temperature and how each small batch of beans was roasted, explains Fussy Coffee co-owner David Negreiro. An automated machine would obviously make things easier. “You could probably just set it and forget it, but it won’t come out as good,” he says.

Cheney pours the coffee into a paper cup, ready to serve, though she recommends waiting a minute or more “because as it cools, it really starts to bloom a bit more, and you get more of the flavor notes out of it.” I try my own cup of Kossa Geshe Avocado Coffee ($5.50) a few minutes later. Served black, it has an organic, earthy nose and a mellow flavor without the hint of sourness or bitterness in your ordinary brew. I’m not enough of a coffee connoisseur to taste the “orange blossom, blackberry, strawberry” notes the menu suggests. But I do know it’s probably the smoothest cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted.

Then there’s the velvety Cappuccino ($3.75), served with a pretty skim of microfoam—a bright and fruity cup with a rich finish worth lingering over. For more adventurous coffee drinkers who’ve tried it all, Fussy Coffee also offers 10 unique drinks under the heading “Chemistry,” a nod to its Science Park location. I tried a Luxardo Cherry Coffee Soda ($5.50), an inventive blend of espresso, Luxardo cherry syrup, condensed milk and club soda—a fizzy confection with a hint of cherry behind the coffee.

Other unique coffee selections include a Watermelon Lime Cold Brew ($5.50), a coffee drink “kegged on nitrogen, so it has a bit of that Guinness effect to it,” Negreiro says, with watermelon juice and lime-infused whipped cream which “just makes for a fun drink that’s surprisingly refreshing.”

Fussy Coffee also plans to offer weekly “cuppings,” like beer flights for coffee, because drinking the coffees side by side, Negreiro says, makes their differences easy to notice. Like an oenophile describing wine, he uses adjectives one might not expect: “wild,” “delicate,” “nuanced,” “loud, big, in your face.” “Sometimes it’s hard to remember the last thing you tasted before… especially if you were on your way to work,” Negreiro says. When tasted together, “you can tell right away that, like, the Colombian is super smooth and earthy [with] a lot of chocolate-forward notes… It’s the best way to get to know the coffee.”

That’s the coffee part of the new restaurant’s name. The fussy part extends beyond coffee to the rest of the menu. Opened June 23 in an airy, industrial-style space warmed with wood tables and stools, Fussy Coffee isn’t the first food endeavor for co-owners Negreiro and Joe Ballaro, who are also brothers-in-law. Negreiro owned a bakery in Milford for several years; Ballaro and his wife, Negreiro’s sister, opened Bar 140 in Shelton seven years ago and continue to run it today. Fussy Coffee is “the total blend of the two,” Ballaro says. “We have a whole restaurant menu, a wonderful coffee program, and on top of that we have a great craft beer/cocktail program.” The idea, he says, is to give the same precise attention to all three: “That last 10 percent is where the magic is.”

Fussy Coffee’s menu includes breakfast sandwiches ($5-9, priced to compete with the food trucks down the street), breakfast plates ($5-9), baked goods ($3-3.75), sandwiches ($9-14), salads ($9-12), bowls ($14), Belgian Frites with a variety of sauces to choose from ($6-9) and a full weekend brunch menu. Some of the offerings are time-tested staples from Ballaro’s bar, like the frites and the Bar 140 Burger ($12).

Others are Korean recipes from Negreiro’s family. I tried the Korean Banh Mi sandwich ($12), a fried chicken patty with carrot jicama slaw, cucumber, cilantro, hot and sweet bibim sauce and turmeric lime aioli on a baguette. It arrived smelling irresistible, and sure enough it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with a textural balance of tender meat, crunchy veggies and soft bread, sealed with a kick of spice and served with a fork and knife because you don’t want to miss any morsels that spill out.

On the bar side of this versatile menu, diners will find a small wine list, several local microbrews on tap and six cocktails, including the Fussy Coffee Mudslide ($11). Made with espresso, Tito’s vodka, Kahlua, Irish cream and absinthe, it’s probably not a morning drink.

Good thing Fussy stays open ’til 9 p.m. most days.

Fussy Coffee
290 Winchester Ave, New Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 8am-9pm, Sun 8am-6pm
(475) 234-6992
www.drinkfussycoffee.com

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image 2 depicts Joe Ballaro and David Negreiro. Image 4 depicts Gabi Cheney.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg’s associate editor. She’s also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter at KathyLeonardCzepiel.com. Her favorite New Haven scene is a packed summer concert on the Green with dinner from the food trucks, and she loves that there’s always something new to discover here.

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