Steamship Coffee brewing inside Universe Games

Stephen Gifford manages Steamship Coffee & Tea.

Universe Games has one more reason to stop in. Along with stacks of trial games and gigabit Wi-Fi access, the in-house coffee shop Steamship is selling growlers of cold brew coffee and cups of Kyoto drip brew.

“Every time someone new comes in, I actually give them a sample,” said Stephen Gifford, store manager and longtime friend of owner Michael Angelo Russo. “It’s my favorite cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life.”

IMG_3823The Kyoto drip brews inside an hourglass-style tower, and the process involves gravity pulling water through roasted beans for a smooth flavor. Café Bombón is another popular selection, featuring sweetened condensed milk and espresso. The shop sells black, oolong and white teas from Tea Source, and uses beans by UP Coffee Roasters in Northeast and Bootstrap Coffee Roasters in St. Paul.

Gifford said Russo, a web designer since age 16, created a 3D model of the coffee bar design and hired a contractor to build it. The “Steam Fantasy/Victorian era” design features cutouts that show video of ocean scenes, churning gears and clouds.

Customers congregate most evenings to play Magic: The Gathering, and Friday is a free gaming night. Free trial games on the shelf include Ticket to Ride, Concept (a game that uses pictograms as clues) and Nefarious: The Mad Scientist Game.

IMG_3830Gifford said Russo was never too concerned about the game store at 711 W. Lake St. becoming a moneymaker. As long as it broke even, he’d be happy to run it. The same was true for the coffee shop. As long as people could visit and have a good time, the investment would be worthwhile, he said.