In 2017, at the age of 17, Nick Furnia had taken over the baking island of his parent’s kitchen as an espresso and cold brew extraction station to make ready-to-drink coffee drinks to sell in glass bottles around Ballston Spa High. If his roasting start was at Wired Coffee in Malta, by age 18 he had graduated, apprenticed with Delmar coffee roaster Brewtus Coffee, trained with The Loft at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters in New York City, with which he partnered on direct trade, and joined the Specialty Coffee Association, a scientific, community-based organization focused on promoting coffee excellence.

With help from his father, Brian, Furnia outfitted Nomad Coffee & Crepes on Ballston Spa’s Milton Avenue, designed the logo of a running coffee cup using graphics skills learned in school, built a client base beyond the confines of the schoolyard and determined coffee production, not college, would be his career path in life.

Upstate is as saturated with coffee roasters and coffee shops as the craft breweries that tightly evolved the landscape with regional, then local and hyper-local beers. But not all who roast also craft crepes and upscale cocktails.

Over the years, friends mentioned Nomad to me, but my interest was piqued post-pandemic by the Instagram posts featuring Nomad (After Dark). One such pop-up, focused on Japanese cocktail culture, went where I didn’t expect a Ballston Spa coffee shop to go with a cocktail night and a menu showcasing the Mizuwari Japanese Whiskey Highball, a gin-and-umeshu “umetini” and the frothy pineapple-gin Million-Dollar cocktail popularized by Japanese barkeep Shogo Hamada. Who, I had to know, was this guy?

Furnia is now the mature 22-year-old owner of Knockabout Coffee Roasters, with a monthly subscription service for which he buys single-source first and second harvests from equally young independent coffee producers in South America, conducting Zoom business in dusty high school Spanish and roasting the imported green beans in a commercial roasters from the manufacturers Mill City and Ozturk on the Furnia family farm.

He’s also on the cusp of his next move: expanding Nomad into larger digs just down the road where specialty coffee, cocktails and a chef-led kitchen can be combined under one roof in space larger than the 200 square feet they’ve called home for four years.

The diminutive Nomad Coffee & Crepes is as snug and cozy as some tiny West Coast wine bar. In a true labor of love, Nick and Brian spent a year salvaging materials for the interior, finding wood from a Ballston Spa barn, corrugated metal sheets for the bar and a vintage typewriter, cowbells and the mechanism of an old-fashioned doorbell for charm . They rigged a 1971 jukebox to play songs for free, anchored the counter with a twin pour-over system made of wood and plumbers pipe, and filled a lending library with tomes from Leon Tolstoy to Herman Hesse. They look right at home, given that the crepes are all named for literary protagonists. There’s Mustapha Mond of Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Gregor Samsa, whom Franz Kafka transforms into an insect in “The Metamorphosis.”

Still, crepe names aren’t matched to contents, and you can mix-and-match as you please. We borrowed the matcha green tea crepe from a Raoul Duke (Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) and filled it with strawberries, bananas and Nutella from Marion (Molly) Bloom in Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

The crepes themselves are thick, arriving in fat laundry folds over oozing cargo. Savory whole wheat lends itself to the task, and the Mustapha Mond, packed with chicken, guacamole, tomato, jack cheese and chile-ranch dressing, stands a good 2 inches tall. While some will go gaga for a chocolate-peppermint crepe or the deeply alluring orange marmalade crepe with flaming Cointreau topping, for me it’s the brooding stranger – Le Meursault, from Albert Camus’ “L’Etranger” – that quietly steals the show. A filling of roast beef and horseradish, Asiago, Parmesan and cheddar, crisp lettuce, tomato and onion, feels like a deli sandwich gone rogue.

But let’s talk drinks. We’re in a coffee shop despite a dozen mixed drinks on the menu and OYO Bourbon, Comerlet Coffee Cognac, Vermouth, booze-free Seedlip and Monday Gin on shelves behind the bar. A chalkboard lists the current coffee imports, a choice of two: a dry (natural) roasted Monte Verde from El Salvador with tasting notes of strawberry sweetness and cocoa, grown at an elevation of 1,600 to 1,850 meters above sea level; and a Honduran Manos de Mujer, honey roasted (pulped natural), grown at 1,524 MASL, with notes of tangerine and honey. Espresso drinks, single-origin sipping chocolate and matcha tea are all available, but our server – Furnia’s twin brother – recommends a pour-over to really see what they’re about.

In 1615, Venetian clergy condemned the coffee entering Europe via silk trade routes as “the bitter invention of Satan.” It took off, caffeinating minds and placing a coffee shop in every city. Coffee has since circumnavigated the globe, freeze-dried, podified and codified by Starbucks with the high pressure art of espresso giving way to the manual slow craft of pour-overs with extraction and water temp on every barista’s mind.

Confession: I usually splash milk in my morning coffee or enjoy a flat white, but a pour-over is about grind size, brew time and temperature. A careful pouring of 190- to 205-degree water from a Fellow Stagg gooseneck kettle extracts the maximum taste, aroma and flavor. Our server brings the cup and the rest of the glass vase, the coffee as nuanced and honey brown as steeped tea. In unadulterated form, it’s easy to detect fruit notes and caramel sweetness. Coffee beans are, after all, the seed of a fruit with as many variations as wine grapes, and flavor is a reflection of terroir and fermentation, like wine. I add nothing to my cup; it needs nothing more.

For a “mission-driven” coffee roaster like Furnia, who talks of similarities in the coffee and chocolate industries and the ugliness of slavery in mass production, it comes down to “the exploration and pursuit of flavor” and commitment to the producer: “ In the end, it’s the farmer’s name on the bag. There’s beauty in honesty. I ask myself: Did I change this in any way? I don’t want to overroast so the beans become black and oily and change the flavor. “

To talk with Furnia is a seamless flow of production and goals peppered with friendly references to roasters at other coffee companies with whom he confers on processes or beans, suggesting community in ways I hadn’t considered. Since you can’t see inside equipment while roasting, Furnia found the thinnest thermocouple probes, drilled holes in his roasting machines and connected them via USB hub to his computer to collect data on every batch and every second of roasting time. This is coffee-roasting science, and his roasts are consistent by design.

Perhaps more surprising is Furnia’s interest in farm-to-table cuisine. His inspiration started in his grandmother’s Pawling, Ulster County, kitchen, making themed international dinners, and includes at Nighthawks in Troy as the epitome of an exciting, farm-focused menu “that’s limited, fairly priced, honest and constantly changing based on what they have. ”

Nomad Coffee & Crepes

Where: 80 Milton Ave., Ballston Spa
Hours: 7 am to 3 pm Wednesday to Monday, closed Tuesday. Biweekly cocktail nights promoted on Instagram.
Prices: Crepes, $ 8 is $ 11.50; cafe drinks, $ 2 to $ 5; alcoholic drinks, $ 8 to $ 14
Info: 518-309-4168 and

It brings us back to Nomad After Dark, for which Furnia planned a cocktail night themed for St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish Negroni, a cocktail invented at Ramona in New York City, and a dark-berry tequila-black currant cocktail named after Dignam in “Ulysses.” It’s a thoughtful menu with more detail than most.

Since Nick and Brian Furnia also sell used commercial kitchen equipment, a side hustle that can involve pulling ranges out of shuttered New York City kitchens, the new family-owned Nomad – crepes and coffee dropped from the name – is well underway for a projected opening this fall.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.