When the founders of Jot Ultra coffee sent me a package of the espresso concentrate to review, the box was like a burst of technicolor on a gray, windy day. The delivery came with a beautiful handwritten note saying the founders “hope this bottle of Ultra coffee brings as much joy to your morning coffee ritual as it has to ours.” The handwritten note was a nice touch, but the product — a small bottle of dark, thick liquid that looks like it holds magic potential — really spoke for itself.
I should clarify I’m not a big espresso drinker. I did work at a Starbucks in college, so I know how to pull an 18- to 22-second espresso shot, and I enjoy most drinks made with espresso, certainly, but given the choice, I’ll probably pick a drip coffee. I don’t own an espresso machine at home, but with this product, I wouldn’t need to — except to get the experience of seeing and smelling a freshly pulled espresso and the pretty crema on top in the first few seconds of that shot’s existence. If you’re someone who enjoys espresso in lots of different iterations of drinks, loves good design and has limited space in your kitchen and limited time in your mornings, this is made for you.
From the unboxing to the cup, this box of Jot could be named something one letter different: J-O-Y. It’s clear that the founders, Palo Hawken and Andrew Gordon, have a joy for coffee, for product design and for life.
Jot Ultra coffee was created, it seems, by perfectionists out of Boulder, Colorado. The coffee is brewed “to exacting standards using a progressive enrichment process” that extracts maximum flavor out of every bean. By maximizing yield of every fair trade bean it uses, without ever over-extracting, and “being mindful of our impact at every step,” the company minimizes its use of resources, the Jot site says. And Jot’s Instagram has been vocal on social justice this summer, donating profits to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Black Lives Matter back in June. As part of an iced coffee recipe contest that just wrapped, Jot has donated to the Loveland Foundation to help Black women and girls, every time a user enters a recipe.
Opening a box of Jot Ultra, the customer receives a small set of instructions in the form of three beautifully designed, thick-stock postcards explaining how to use Jot (which stands for Just One Tablespoon) Ultra: add just one tablespoon of the liquid, which is 20 times more concentrated than traditional coffee, to water, milk, ice or whatever liquid you choose, to make an espresso-based drink of your choice. For example: Add Jot to 8 ounces of just-off-boiling water for an Americano, 8 ounces of hot milk for a latte, a glass of ice and a little water for an iced Americano, and so on.
The packaging is designed in a pleasing light cafe-latte-black-white color palette, and a font I found calming; it may sound superfluous to mention the fonts on a box of packaged coffee, but the product’s design really did enhance the user experience for me. There’s also a recipe card updated seasonally; the summer 2020 “menu” includes recipes for an iced Americano, cold brew lemonade (yes, this is as genius as it sounds, combining Jot, water, lemon juice, maple syrup and ice), iced oat latte, and a Dark and Stormy (a cocktail involving Jot plus small amounts of rum and tequila and 8 ounces of ginger beer).
The bottle of coffee concentrate is a thick amber glass, something you might find in a hipster apothecary in Brooklyn, and I mean that as a compliment. It feels good in your hand, and the white printed Jot logo is sort of a visual reminder that it’s time to wake up. Lastly, the package comes with a handsome stainless steel tablespoon that just feels like a more adult tool than the plastic tablespoons that come with even high-end coffee makers today.
Enough about the unboxing, though. What about the coffee?
I tasted and tested Jot Ultra coffee lots of different ways: on its own, at room temperature, and microwaved for 20 seconds to mimic an actual hot shot. Mixed into a hot Americano, black and with milk, and an iced one. Mixed with sweetened condensed milk and ice. With almond and oat milk. With tonic water. (And maybe later tonight, with the aforementioned rum, tequila and ginger — I’m thinking of adding some fresh lime to that.) Straight from the bottle, the Ultra coffee smells delectable: I got a little nuttiness, chocolate, some roastiness, maybe some acidity or fruitiness? Not being a super regular espresso drinker, it’s hard to describe the taste in a hot drink, but I felt it was less Starbucks, more Stumptown. Less dark French roast, more light and tangy.
For a hot cup, I personally would prefer a cup of dark roast drip over this Americano, but that’s subjective, obviously. Is it as delicious as a freshly made espresso drink from a cafe you love? Perhaps not, but in the last several months, we haven’t been in a position to just run out and get a fresh latte any time we want it — and this is a more than suitable, convenient option if you’re making an espresso beverage at home from a bottled product. In my opinion, the iced drinks I made were superior to the hot ones, possibly because the flavor mellowed a little over ice.
At $24 a bottle, Jot Ultra isn’t cheap — but each bottle has 6½ ounces, yielding 14 cups of coffee drinks, about $1.60 worth of concentrate per drink. You get free shipping if you buy two bottles, plus 5% off if you buy three.
I wouldn’t see this as a coffee lover’s only consumption method; more like an addendum to a daily drip coffee setup, perhaps for special drinks or an iced beverage on hot afternoons, kind of like a higher priced spirit you keep on the shelf just to drink neat or with guests. Jot Ultra is an elevated experience, one I’d like to see keep rising.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.