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Coffee Clash
David Banner, the alter ego of TV’s the Hulk, once said, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Perhaps the “big green monster” is a metaphor for someone who’s simply – and tragically – under-caffeinated. But that doesn’t have to happen. Not in a city with a solid handful of coffee roasters. Here’s a look at how these bean-based businesses stack up.

Photo: Adam Ryan Morris

The North Shore business started with lattes in a charming little space next to the Milwaukee River in Thiensville. Progress since the 1996 launch includes a roastery, baking kitchen (the source of custom-made cakes, too) and three more locations (the most recent is at Bayshore Town Center). The company’s roasts lean toward palate-friendly, single-origin coffees from South America. There are advantages to being a Fiddleheads consumer – students get a 20 percent discount, and at noon, the day’s baked goods are discounted 50 percent. Best treat from the Fiddleheads kitchen? The jam-stuffed scone. 

Colectivo Coffee
Has a year been enough time to make the Co-lek-TEEV-o name roll off the tongue? When Alterra inked a deal with Mars Corp. four years ago, the big bean of local roasting companies was able to focus on expanding. The name change prompted playful name skewering (“Colecterra”) and concerns about how it would affect the company’s image. Branding aside, the products – coffee and café menu – seem more or less the same. Baking is headquartered at the 15,000-square-foot Bay View digs. That joint’s setup gives cafe-goers a view of bakers manipulating their spatulas and mixers. The company highlights the use of Wisco products (Nueske’s bacon, Sassy Cow Creamery, Usinger’s sausage), but its food is a mixed bag. The bacon-egg biscuit and breakfast burritos rank on the higher end of the scale. Some of the baked goods sacrifice flavor and texture for size. But if you have a yen for bold, lively coffee, Colectivo’s your joint. 

Stone Creek Roasters
The roaster upped its game two years ago with the renovation of the Stone Creek Factory space (which hosts public classes in the “quality tasting lab” at the Fifth Street headquarters), the baking program (croissants to biscuits and jam), and the conscious coupling with 88.9 Radio Milwaukee to craft a café-studio hybrid in Walker’s Point where ’spro sippers get their coffee made to order – in a Chemex, Aeropress or V60 (the coffee nerd/chemist’s picks for superior flavor). The drawback to these brewing methods is that your cup isn’t handed to you in the time it takes to slip your debit card back into your pocket. But what’s five, maybe 10 minutes? Cards stacked on the brew bar explain body, acidity and taste. A year since the rollout of the Stone Creek Kitchen, the bakery has made strides, honing its muffins and pastries, notably the raspberry cream cheese Danish and butter croissant.

Cedarburg Coffee Roastery 
You can’t avoid seeing the roasting process. It’s a prominent visual of the two cafes, including the tiny Milwaukee Public Market location. The baristas rival Starbucks in friendliness, and the selection of mainstream beans – French roast, Hawaiian Kona, the company’s light- and dark-roast Cedarburg Blend – is consistent. Servings of the company’s baked goods (quick breads and bars) are generous, but nothing tempts as much as much as the (seasonal) sipping chocolate in the winter months. Liquid chocolate served in tiny cups = genius.

Valentine Coffee Roasters
Washington Heights is where it’s at. “It” meaning Valentine’s roasting headquarters and tasting room. Since originating in a storeroom at Bartolotta Restaurant Group’s offices, the upstart’s label is increasingly found in local stores and restos. For instance, Valentine’s Bali Blue Moon is the featured brew at Blue’s Egg. Blue’s cookies are, in turn, available for purchase, along with a pour-over of one of 10-14 roasts, at the tasting room (5918 W. Vliet St.). With pastries from V. Richards and Tosa’s La Tarte, and pleasant seating near the windows, this tasting room pretty much qualifies as a coffeehouse.

Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.
The company raised its profile with last year’s opening of the Bruce Street roastery/cafe in an old Walker’s Point warehouse. Wine and beer are served up at the reclaimed 40-foot bar; live music goes down on weekends. Baked goods and sandwiches are sourced out (from City Market and Rocket Baby, among others). The monthly public coffee tastings (or cuppings) can help you denote flavors and level of body and acidity. Anodyne’s strength is offering micro-lots of unusual coffees available for a limited time. 

This article appears in the 2014 City Guide in the June 2014 issue of Milwaukee Magazine. 
Read the rest of the City Guide online here, or subscribe to Milwaukee Magazine.

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