We’ve been big fans of Collective Espresso since they opened their first location in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood almost three years ago. Since then we’ve seen them open what could be the perfect neighborhood coffee shop on the Northside of town. Their newest café in the heart of Downtown Cincinnati is their most refined and ambitious project yet.
Collective Espresso CAC is located in the lobby of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center. Although most art museums feature a café and gift shop, the automated espresso is seldom worth the inflated price. Collective CAC, however, is attracting not only captive museum-goers, but business women and men from the surrounding financial district. It’s not just Collective’s city-leading craft coffee program that is bringing them in. The café also features a full lunch menu and a carefully curated selection of wine and classic cocktails. The culinary expansion should come as no surprise: co-owner Dave Hart worked as a line cook in Seattle’s high-end dining scene before moving home and making the switch to coffee.
Like the other two Collectives, Louisville’s Quills Coffee (my own place of employment) provides the house espresso while single-origin offerings are supplied by a rotating cast of roasters. Perhaps motivated by the bustle of downtown, Collective CAC is the only location to offer batch brew, made with Fetco autodrippers. The rest of the coffee is brewed with an extravagant four-group Modbar system. I had a pour-over of Metric Coffee’s Ethiopia Kochere. With lovely floral aromatics and a crisp citrus acidity, this tea-like brew didn’t disappoint.
Perhaps more than anything, Collective Espresso CAC represents the enormous potential of specialty coffee. When we first visited Collective, they were hidden on a side street in a slowly gentrifying neighborhood. Now they’re center stage at an acclaimed museum in the middle of Downtown. One thing is for sure, visitors to the CAC will find more art than what’s on the walls.