First Look: Five Watt Coffee in Kingfield blends coffee and cocktail bitters

The Five Watt crew. Left to right: Berit (barista), Lee Carter (owner), Caleb Garn (owner), Evan (barista)

The Five Watt crew. Left to right: Berit (barista), Lee Carter (owner), Caleb Garn (owner), Evan (barista)

Just over a week ago, the Kingfield neighborhood welcomed Five Watt, the newest addition to Minneapolis's flourishing coffee scene. Five Watt, owned by former Bull Run Coffee Bar employees Caleb Garn and Lee Carter, is a community-oriented coffee house serving specialty drinks concocted by Carter and high-quality coffee from local small-scale roasters. There's also a unicorn named Fred stashed behind the large metal door (aka entrance to the unicorn stable) up front, but your chances of seeing him are low.

When Garn started at Bull Run on Lyndale Avenue, he immediately hit it off with fellow barista and bass player Carter, the coffee shop's first employee. During their shifts, the duo chatted about what it would be like to open a second Bull Run location. What started as a casual conversation evolved into a plan. Carter and Garn decided to open their own coffee shop, pulling from Garn's business and managing experience and Carter's coffee expertise.

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"The more we talked, the more we realized that we should just do business together," Carter says. "Our dynamic together worked really well."

While working at Bull Run, Carter became enamored with the idea of using cocktail bitters in coffee drinks. He started experimenting at Bull Run, starting with a specialty drink using Jamaican bitters that remains on the menu today.

"I realized that simple syrups just don't cut it anymore," he says. "You can get a good flavor profile out of it, but if you want more, you're toying with a ton of sugar and it doesn't taste like what you want it to taste like."

Five Watt looks still looks chic on rainy days

Five Watt looks still looks chic on rainy days

Carter concocted all of the specialty drinks of Five Watt's menu, but is encouraging Five Watt baristas to experiment and come up with their own. Each of the specialty drinks (excluding "The Kingfield," which includes vanilla, coriander, espresso, milk, and black Hawaiian sea salt) incorporates bitters, including "The Hendrick's," the cold press-based beverage Hot Dish opted for.

Carter knows what he's doing. The beverage expertly combines basil and juniper simple syrup with grapefruit bitters, cream, and cold press. Frankly, if we hadn't read the menu, we wouldn't have been able to pinpoint the flavor combination if our lives depended on it. The Hendricks is an earthy beverage with a lively edge that we'll undoubtedly be ordering again.

Five Watt serves coffee roasted by Kickapoo Coffee, a small company based out of Viroqua, Wisconsin that works with fair trade, organic beans. They've also worked with Round Table, a local small-scale roaster, to create two specialty blends -- the Residency, their house blend, and HalfWatt, their decaf blend.

Five Watt first and foremost emphasizes community, Carter says. To facilitate in turning their coffee shop into a community space, they've created "Sunday Service," a two-hour event on Sunday mornings during which they set up an oatmeal bar and invite local musicians to show off their skills on Five Watt's organ. So far, it's been a hit.

"When it comes down to it, this coffee shop isn't just about drinks. Caleb and I really believe in community and connection. It sounds silly because every coffee shop talks about that but we take it super seriously," Carter says. "I like to think that people like our coffee shop because it's a place where they can come be friends with the person behind the counter and have a really great conversation, meet someone in the seating area, and then have a drink."

They also claim to have the best wi-fi in town. We'll let our laptop-wielding coffee-shop denizens judge that for themselves.

Five Watt Coffee 3745 Nicollet Ave S., Minneapolis 612-259-7519

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