In an area that straddles residential and industrial, down a quiet little side street, and behind a chain link fence with a friendly little "open" sign lies Bar Nine, a friendly haven for coffee enthusiasts and novices alike.
The space is huge; a former food truck kitchen sprawling 3400 square feet. It's open and bright, punctuated with thoughtful, minimal details like a cupping bar, a row of metal bleachers, a community table, and bar stools that could double as works of art. There's 70's funk music playing, and stacks of old vinyl alongside the record player.
When you start to notice the nitty gritty details, you realize that this place is legit. In the back corner sits a massive (and gorgeous) Probatone 12 series roaster. Temperature-controlled spigots rigged to release hot water slowly for the perfect pour over are built into the bar, along with a Modbar espresso system (the first in LA) that boasts more bells and whistles than Uhura's station on the Enterprise.
Indeed it appears that here coffee is a something between a religion and a science; approached with a passion and inquisitiveness that is rare and frankly fascinating. Every detail is considered, down to the pressure used when pulling a shot of espresso: using their Modbar setup, baristas are able to adjust the amount of pressure applied during the extraction to achieve the best possible flavor for each unique coffee variety (this is called "pressure profiling," and is a rather unique practice). The baristas I encountered, Johnathan Franco and Brian Melendrez, obviously take their craft very seriously; in the time between making customers' drinks, they tested brews and discussed tasting notes. John even participates in latte art competitions.
All of this seriousness around the craft of coffee might lead you to expect Bar Nine to be snobbish, but delightfully, it's anything but. The people here want to share their craft with you, and help you understand what makes coffee worthy of their fervor. John and Brian were happy to talk with me about the equipment, the roasting process, and anything else my novice coffee-curious mind could come up with. Visiting here was less like an obligatory stop for caffeine on your way to work, and more like a really informative trip to a wine tasting room or a fine restaurant.
The cappuccino was (not surprisingly) excellent. John's latte art was on point, and the ratio of espresso to milk was perfect. The espresso's flavor was buttery and smooth, with a hint of citrusy brightness; overall it was mild and not too bitter. The texture was like velvet, comforting, rich, and smooth, without being heavy. Deeeeeeeeeelicious.
There are even more thoughtful details at Bar Nine that you will love - house made hazelnut milk, to go drinks served in reusable glass jars, and a recurring brunch pop-up from popular Amara Kitchen, to name a few - but the real reason you should come visit is to experience the coffee connoisseurs at work. They will teach you things you didn't know about your favorite brew, open your eyes to new flavors and methods, and do it all with a smile.
3515 Helms Ave, Culver City, CA