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Jul 28, 2006 02:59 PM

Best coffee roaster in Pittsburgh?

Can anyone recommend a great coffee roaster in Pittsburgh? Looking for exceptional drip coffee as well as espresso beans. Thanks!

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  1. Coffee Tree Roasters is very good. They roast a very wide selection of beans and don't roast the crap out of them the way Starbucks does. I've always preferred their drip coffee to their espresso. They have several locations including Squirrel Hill (the original) and Walnut St.

    La Prima is the other big roaster in town that I know of. When I lived in Pittsburgh a lot of restaurants used their espresso blend. I've never quite known what to think of them since I always went to their downtown Liberty Ave location and the skill of the baristas was not high. I never bought any of their beans to try at home though.

    1. La Prima Espresso in the Strip District is very good and the baristas there during the weekdays are great, not as good on the weekend IMHO. Presto George in also in the Strip is another good roaster and they have a HUGE selection whereas La Prima is extremely limited in selection. I always buy my coffee beans from Presto George and I get my morning coffee from La Prima . . .

      1. I'm surprised there aren't more posts on this topic, I always though coffee to be a pretty intense subject of debate. But, I do think we covered the major players in Pittsburgh.

        1. I think Fortunato on Penn in the Strip does a good job and I agree that Presto George is also very good. On Smallman St (just around the corner from Pamela's) is an excellent little coffee bar. Extremely small with tables only outside. Very European. The expresso's are some of the best in town!

          1. The Smallman St. storefront TommyH mentioned is Caffe Intermezzo - owners are Luke and Alexis, good folks, they've learned a ton about making great coffee since opening. They serve Intelligentsia from Chicago - generally considered one of the top 3 roasters in the US.

            La Prima does espresso well. All they do are cappas and straight spros, and classic macchiatos. No frou frou drinks, so they don't need to worry too much about different foam textures. Still, the quality difference is notable between baristi.

            As a note of disclosure, I'm a co-owner of a coffeehouse in Mt. Lebanon. We were the first to serve Intelligentsia here, and also the only shop with barista who have competed nationally. So I have opinions... the only other place not already mentioned where I think there are skilled baristas is The Vault up in Brighton Heights. They use a roaster out of Maryland called Orinoco, but they have this Cadillac of a Nuevo Simonelli machine... a huge red monster.

            For those of you buying beans in the Strip, regardless where you go, insist on knowing the roast date (although for flavored coffee, it doesn't matter). If it's older than 7-10 days, pass (hopefully it'll be 2-3 days). And try to avoid buying from bins - coffee gets stale very quickly when left to oxidize.