Coffee Review: Intelligentsia – Black Cat Espresso

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Intelligentsia - Black Cat Espresso













  • Excellent coffee as a traditional brew
  • Nice sweetness under the right conditions


  • Brightness can reach sour levels
  • Pricey blend

I picked up my first bag of coffee from this well known roaster last week per the recommendation of one of the clerks at my grocery store. He said that I HAD to try the Black Cat if I love espresso.

So I decided to give it a go, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have high expectations going into my first tasting.

Instead of rushing into the review this time around, I decided to really take my time with this coffee. After all, I knew some things would change as I tried different brewing methods and more importantly, as I moved further and further away from the roast date.

Taking notes

I also decided to stop relying on my memory, and instead start jotting down some notes in my 33 Cups of Coffee notebook.

This tiny little notebook helped me keep track of the different brew parameters I was using, as well as the different tasting notes I was picking up on.

Well, that was ironic

This was a tough blend to review, because while I thought it was a stellar coffee for auto drip and Aeropress, I was pretty disappointed with how it came out in espresso form.

My first shot was actually my best shot, and I only gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars. This shot was pulled in about 25 seconds, 3 days after the roast date. I didn’t take note of the temperature (stupid), but having my best shot come only 3 days after roast was really unexpected.


As bright as the sun

Originally, I pulled a few shots that had some sweetness. I definitely tasted the honeydew note Intelligentsia labeled their bag with in the first few shots I pulled, but that didn’t hold up.

My shots got progressively more citrusy (bordering on sour) as I tested different temperatures.

Now, I know I don’t have a fancy PID espresso machine for accurately controlling temperature, but I think the reservoir of the Mypressi can hold temperature pretty well once it has been pre-heated sufficiently.

I plan to use my thermometer in the process from here on out…at least this way I can control for temperature with a little bit of extra effort.

Regardless of temperature, I think this blend was just a little bit too bright for my liking. It covered up most of the other potential flavors that could allegedly be found in this espresso, like dark chocolate and toasted almond.

As a cold brew

I also brewed the Black Cat as a cold brew with my Bruer.

It didn’t really impress me too much as a cold brew. It developed a horseradish note in this format which wasn’t too appealing.

As a hot coffee however, it was brilliant.

Worth a try with other brew methods

I would highly recommend the Black Cat for drip (hot brew) coffee. It was probably the most delicious in its Aeropress form, but the Brazen Plus also made a great pot of Black Cat coffee.

Get the free Black Cat Brew Guide

I took notes on what I felt were the best brew parameters for this coffee. This will give you a baseline to start experimenting with the coffee yourself. By having some starting parameters you will hopefully not waste too much coffee before getting good results.

Get the Black Cat Brew Guide

This espresso blend is also available on Amazon. Get it by clicking the link below:


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  • I’m impressed that you were able to find ANY coffee in the grocery store 3 days post-roast, much less something like Intelligentsia! Enjoyed reading your review… I haven’t done one myself on Black Cat but I intend to in the future.

    • Yeah, my local grocery store is pretty fantastic in terms of coffee selection. Since most of the selections they have are local, I think it’s easier for them to get stuff fresh off the roast. But yeah, considering Intelligentsia isn’t local…I have to agree the timing was pretty impressive.

      Let me know what you think when you pick it up, especially when it comes to water temp. I definitely struggled trying to dial this one in!

      • Every bag of Intelligentsia I get from Whole Foods or even from Intelligentsia itself has been stale. Had been buying from them for over 10 yrs and now…..Major disappointment, and I can’t seem to find good fresh beans. Temple Coffee sends me the freshest considering I’m Chgo & they’re in CA. But Temple isn’t great. I’ve been spoiled by yrs Intelligentsia. And do not like espresso as my all day cup of joe. Do you get fresh beans? If so, which roaster?

        • What are the roast dates of the coffee you buy? I get single origins mostly through my MistoBox subscription, but also buy from local roasters making sure the date is as close to today as possible.

    • Just received two 1lb bags of Black Cat directly from Intelligentsia with a roasting date of 2 years ago last month. I’ve emailed them asking for fresher bags, especially considering a friend who owns the local (seasonal) coffee shop recommended them to me and that’s all they use for their pour over brew (which has been the best I’ve tasted).

      My friend also old me that they were recently purchased by Peet’s and he’s waiting to see if there will be a change in quality and consistency.

  • Acidity










    I did try a few different Intelligentsia offerings at Fresh Market (now sadly closed) and on my machine, a $350 Breville the Black Cat came out exceptionally good. I could easily put it up against Illy and other top shelf brands.
    There’s a thing that I discovered with my machine – store or factory ground coffee doesn’t work too well, so I use a Capresso burr grinder (about $125 at Bed, Bath & Beyond) and I always buy beans, which I grind at home. I set it for a setting 2 on the superfine scale with 2 finer settings still left on the dial, which is just a touch grainier than factory ground.
    The other Intelligentsia roast came out sour (Red color on label) but the Black Cat was amazing. It wasn’t even as fresh as the author’s, maybe half a month since roast date.
    At the price, I still find it a bit pricey as I can easily put Kimbo and Vergnano around that same quality but with different test notes.
    Btw, someone from Chicago complained about lack of coffee there, that’s a big surprise as I found some of the best places there, Cafe Rom is one I still remember.

  • Acidity










    One of the Best bean Ever. I’ve been using Intelligentsia for more than a year now and i dont think ill change it, it is actually the best in market in my vision.

  • YOu pulled your shot in 25 seconds. But how much coffee did you use and how much did you get. I think that Intelligentsia recommend 2.5:1, so, about 45g out for 18g in.

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