Kansas City has its very own Slayer espresso machine. Second Best Coffee (328 w. 85th Street), an ‘espresso-centric slow bar,’ is opening Friday in Waldo with a shiny orange espresso machine from the five-year-old company in Seattle, Washington.
“We’re committed to single origin roasters and I wanted to be able to tailor how I was extracting flavor from the bean,” co-owner Nathan Anderson says. “It does take extra time. It’s going to be an exercise in patience, but I hope it’s not frustrating for people.”
The Slayer works via variable pressure – meaning the pressure can be adjusted manually before and while hot water is forced through the tamped coffee grounds in the machine’s filter basket. The change in pressure can allow a barista to bring different notes out of a single origin bean.
“Thomas Keller writes about creating this culture of desire and I want to do the beverage equivalent,” Anderson says of his slow bar concept, which is based on the idea of slow food pioneered at Keller’s French Laundry. “I can get amazing flavor [from the Slayer]. It doesn’t mean I’ll order three espressos, but it does leave me wanting more.”
Anderson, who is opening the shop with his wife Leia, grew up in south Kansas City and remembers going to Chelly’s Café (which is a few doors down in the strip center) as a kid. When he and his wife decided to move from Midtown to the Waldo area several years ago, Anderson began searching out espresso options.
“When I couldn’t find what I wanted. I decided to do it myself,” Anderson says. “It seemed like the right time to do something like this in Waldo and I liked how steady things have been in this shopping center.”
While he sips on a cup of coffee on a Monday morning, he nods to the window where the coffee shop’s slogan, “Midwestern Modesty,” is emblazoned. For him, coffee isn’t a measuring a stick; it’s about making a better cup. With tongue-firmly-in-cheek, he settled on the name Second Best. Despite having an espresso machine with a five-figure price tag, he wants to avoid the hyperbole that can come with that kind of commitment to preparation.
“It seems to be an ongoing fight about the best coffee shop,” Anderson says. “So, this handles that in a light-hearted way. It’s me saying, ‘you can fight about that and I’ll be over here doing my thing.’”
The coffee will be made one cup at a time with the largest size in the house being a 12 oz. to-go cup. Coffee (brewed in Clever drippers), macchiatos, gilbratars, americanos and cappuccinos will join espresso on the menu. The same beans will be used for both espresso and coffee drinks. Anderson envisions serving coffee flights so drinkers can see how different preparations bring out different aspects of the single origin beans.
Second Best will also have Hugo tea, mochas made with Askinosie chocolate, Italian sodas with housemade vanilla or lavender-honey syrup, and Mexican Coca-Cola.
John Anderson, co-owner of the Utilitarian Workshop, designed the shop. The walls are covered in reclaimed barn wood and the bar’s backsplash is white subway tiles. There are four bike hooks on the wall to the left of the barista counter.
“I love riding and it’s like coffee,” Anderson says. “Your bike can be the thing you walk by in your garage and never think about or it can be your entire world.”
The shop will serve Jiffy Mix muffins, pastries from a local bakery (Anderson is still deciding) and breakfast burritos made with sausage from the Local Pig.
“The Jiffy Mix is the first thing I learned to make as a kid. I wanted it to be nostalgic and it just makes me smile,” Anderson says. “The breakfast burritos will be done on the Panini press. I think we’ll start with a lamb one and a vegetarian feta option.”
When the weather gets warmer, Anderson is hoping to add a patio on the grass strip adjacent to his shop and he’s planning on having cold-brew coffee using Kyoto drippers. He also wants to offer brewing classes, letting people bring in their equipment to figure out how to make a better cup of coffee at home.
“I want there to be an approachable excellence,” Anderson says of the shop. “I want people to ask questions, which could then inspire me to ask questions. The knowledge that I’ll never get done learning is what attracts me to coffee. This is a lifelong pursuit of espresso.”
Second Best will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.