HOME > Chowhound > General Midwest Archive >


[MSP] Places in Twin Cities for espresso?

Coffee geeks, ahoy!

Where can I find:
- the best crema?
- the most careful brew?
- the richest beans?
- the greatest balance?

I'm looking for balls to the wall artisanal ridiculousness. People who take their espresso as seriously as I take my beer.


PS. sup chris,raka,alice,paz

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I am not a huge coffee person, so your shout out to me might be wasted. There is a place in uptown called Krema which always seemed to me to be top notch.

    1. There are alot of burned beans in this here town... I'm presently pulling the Bean Factory's espresso roast (the roast they use in their own machina). On first taste it's a bit like an ash tray, but it grows on you.

      A business that offers subtle roasts, and delivers consistant high (over the top) quality coffee drinks is a needle in a haystack. I'd favor Gilli in Florence, Blue Bottle in San Francisco, but the travel expense...

      The only way to approximate a truly great espresso drink is to do it yourself. A really good local roaster helps immeasurably. Blue Bottle has a subscription program. There's a local fellow, Jeremy Raths, who runs a business called The Roastery who can't be beat in the local market. Both these roasters do small quantities with extreme care and attention to freshness.

      The Pavoni Europiccolo is an affordable sometimes finnicky machine which approximates the proper variability to tweak a truly great shot. The Solis Maestro is an affordable countertop burr mill.

      Good luck.

      1. You might try Coffee & Tea Ltd in Linden Hills, a small upscale purveyer of high priced beans. I'm not sure they pull espresso on the premises but I 'spect they do.

        Also, while it's a large and growing chain and thus suspect, I've always found that Dunn Bros sells consistently good if not stellar (for that you might have to go to Rome) coffee and beans.

        Karl, I'm curious: what would a home espesso machine such as you describe above set me back?

        5 Replies
        1. re: plautus

          Coffee & Tea Ltd does make espresso on-site. They also roast all their beans on-site, in small batches.

          And if you want to buy a single brewed cup from the rare and expensive beans, you can ask for that too. One afternoon while Bill bagged my purchase, I lifted the lid from the St. Helena's beans to take a sniff. That coffee is treated like a vintage harvest and beans were going for $75+/lb that year. C&TL's allotted shipment was very small, perhaps ten pounds, and yet Bill offered to sell me a single cup from what he had. I was grateful -- and mindful enough of the singularity to refrain from diluting it with milk. Sipping slowly, I carried it along on the rest of my neighborhood errands. The aroma wafted through the stores so distinctly that two different people stopped to ask me about my drink. It was amazing.

          1. re: KTFoley

            hey poivre! :)

            I was also going to suggest Coffee & Tea Ltd in Linden Hills. I think they really know what they are doing, and they even say so -- I believe their menu lists their lattes as "made with the appropriate amount of milk." :)

            Sounds like KTFoley is a regular there! I have only had their "default" grind, but it too was more subtle and complex than other espressos that I have had. The only comparable cup I've had in the US was at Caffe del Doge in Palo Alto (which you also must try the next time you are in the Bay Area).

          2. re: plautus

            I would try the beans at the St Paul/ Grand Ave Dunn Bros - they have excellent turnover and roast everything there. The senior staff can help you out. The coffee is excellent as well. I can't stomach the Caribou nor Starb any longer.

            1. re: plautus

              The Europiccolo goes for about $600 and the Solis for about $140. There are of course tons of options in the counter top espresso world. Lever action versus pump is a pivotal decision. It's kind of a matter of your own mechanical inclination. Lever machines are a bit more hands on - like a ferrari. Pump machines are a bit less tactile - more like lincoln continentals. There's a longer learning curve with a lever machine because of the greater variabiity. Grind, measurement, and compaction all have greater importance. The quality of the shot is noticably different (I'd say better) and once you're on top of your learning curve consistancy is a given.

              There's a mecca for lever machines in San Francisco called Thomas Cara. You can drop some serious dollars on really cool machines here.

              1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                Does anyone know anything about the Rancilio Silvia? I have been looking around for the lowest possible price point at which I can make superb espresso at home and came up with that just through the intarweb.

            2. To me, Dunn Bros beans taste burnt. In fact the whole Grand Ave & Snelling Ave corner reeks of burnt coffee.

              I prefer J&S Bean Factory (2 locations, Randolph btw Snelling and Hamline, and Thomas & Hamline in the midway). French Press Cafe used to have great coffee but I haven't been there in a while.

              3 Replies
              1. re: lindseyanne

                I totally agree about Dunn Bros, I have always felt it tasted burnt!
                Again, any thoughts on Krema in Uptown?

                1. re: AliceS

                  Do you mean Sonny's Crema Cafe on 34th and Lyndale? Sonny's has great ice cream, one of the best in town. But the coffee is nothing special.

                  ps. Also has great outdoor sitting.

                2. re: lindseyanne

                  I just wanted to post another positive for the Bean Factory at Thomas and Hamline. I've just discovered it, and love the coffee there. For my money, it's the best there is within my range, and that includes a couple of Dunn Bros., Grand Avenue shops, and some good independents. The atmosphere is light and pleasant, they play good jazz, and it's right next to a lovely yarn shop, Borealis Yarns.

                  For those of you still looking for their "best" coffee shop, give this place a try and tell us what you think.

                3. Man. I am sad. I thought for sure in such a foodie town there would be hidden nooks for coffee nookie.

                  Too bad....

                  1. Here's a recent thread on the same topic, with additional suggestions.


                    4 Replies
                    1. re: KTFoley

                      dangit.... i searched before posting.... sorry about the repeat... however I will say that the tips here are better than the other thread, except for the mention of several MSP coffeehouses winning the Golden Cup awards.

                      However, upon further research, it appears that the only criteria for winning the award is judged according to the following criteria:
                      Much of the judging takes place in our laboratory. We chemically analyze the samples submitted by each entrant to ascertain the amount of minerals in the water, as well as the ratio of water to coffee. Only samples found to be within the SCAA's prescribed limits qualify for the Golden Cup award.

                      No mention of actually tasting the coffee... hrm.

                      1. re: poivre

                        I thought someone was interested in the brew, balance etc. Subjective taste produces recommendations such as Dunn Bros...

                        Nontheless I will continue to be friendly and suggest coffeegeek.com for espresso machines and beans. Personally I like my stovetop Bialetti.

                        1. re: poivre

                          excellent, is the result of following brew criteria, coffee that tastes like wine.

                          1. re: poivre

                            Caffetto also (recently) quitetly got the Golden Cup award-- & they have excellent coffee and are non-snobby, and always packed with their fanatically loyal uptown following

                        2. I love good coffee and unfortunately minneapolis while a chow heaven in other respects falls a little short when it comes to good espresso.
                          I would try the following though: The Bean Scene in north Minneapolis, Tillies Bean in south Minneapolis and in St. Paul, Amore Coffee.

                          1. Hey Josh!

                            Since my espresso machine broke a few days ago, I've started expanding my coffee search outside our home. No great new leads yet, but I'll keep you posted.

                            The Linden Hills coffee shop is indeed fantastic. Whatever they served me as the house espresso had an almost smoky chocolatey undertone.

                            1. Hands down, Anodyne on Nicollet for espresso.

                              1. There is an inverse relationship to quality and quantity when it comes to good espresso: four ounce shots of espresso (and that ain't a double!) is not espresso, it is just dirty water.
                                If most of the local coffee shops were not serving the bulk of their specialty drinks in the form of mochas, lates, etc. more customers would demand REAL espresso.

                                In Seattle, an espresso is about an ounce with beautiful crema. If the pull isn't right, it's pulled again (unless you are at Starbucks and you were too busy buying a CD to notice).

                                1. Call it a short shot. Call it a ristretto. Whatever you call it you get all the flavor and not as much caffeine. It is cool to watch a barrista get the grind dialed - throwing away shots that are too fast, too slow, and tweaking compaction. Sort of like the difference between a professional versus elementary school musician.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                                    this is the first thing that made me look back on my barrista days fondly. I started at the 2 chains, but ended at a local place. I was usually the only person working and I remember that feeling watching the shots come out: you can just tell when they are too fast: they come shooting out, spraying and you end up with a watery mess. Too slow and you can't see the twist of the liquid, and it is horribly bitter. Just right and you just know it. It is nice to have that pride in your work.

                                  2. What about Nina's on Selby and Western in St. Paul? They seem to have a good following of regulars. I only get lattes there, not straight espresso, but they always seem to be made with care...

                                    1. Hands down---Crema Cafe! I have been to Europe over 30 times and the nobody in Minneapolis makes espresso like Crema. I'm appalled at how many shops I'm forced to throw out a 4oz single shot of espresso! I don't think people have been trained correctly at other places and it doesn't matter because Americans usually add 16 ounces of milk to cover up the abused espresso.

                                      1. Has anyone ever tried Coffee Bene in St. Paul? I heard a recommendation for the place, but have yet to try it.

                                        Their website states "We buy our coffee from the European Roasterie based in LeCenter, MN which is owned and run by one of only seven master roasters in the country." However, they also sell pumpkin lattes. So what's the scoop -- good or no?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Chris Mitra

                                          Coffee Bene is the Davanni's of the coffee biz. They apparently discovered that all the java big boys were prepared to give their eye teeth for the Cleveland Avenue location and rather than knuckle under they brought their own concept up from the drafting table. The staff will not be nominated for excellence in barrista arts, but it's very professional and a nice space (more polished than stylish).

                                          On the Crema note, I agree their product ranks highly. I have still yet to find consistent milk handling. I posted a few weeks ago about a relatively new coffee joint in South St. Paul called Black Sheep. They have "milk awareness" on a higher level than most shops in the region. I could be preaching to the choir, but proper milk handling is a rarity. Gilli in Florence was the place where I became truly awakened to the importance of dense, silky foam. The result of this awareness is the commitment to doing it with a good quality home machine. The steam power, quality of the grinding equipment, etc. of most coffee shops seldom gets used to its potential. It's kind of like a turbo carerra on an american "freeway". People just don't understand the potential!

                                          Black Sheep

                                          1. re: Karl Gerstenberger


                                            I've never been to Coffee Bene, but you have to kind of wonder about a place that would proudly state on their website... "Our chocolate for our specialty drinks comes from the famous Italian maker Ghirardelli..."

                                            Ghirardelli, of course, is an American chocolate company and has been since it was founded back in the 1850's...

                                            Karl--- I've driven past Black Sheep a few times. I take it I should check it out??

                                            Uncle Ira

                                            1. re: Uncle Ira

                                              I found Coffee Bene's espresso to be inferior to J & S. At the Beanery it depends a bit on who pulls it, unfortunately.

                                        2. I love Crema cafe as well, but I also tried a new place in St. Paul recently. I read about Kopplin's Coffee in one of the local magazines, and really liked it. Great latte and they serve chai from TeaSource which I also like. It's on Hamline by Cretin-Derham Hall and the Nook. The guy who owns it is pretty young and seems to have a great passion for coffee. I wish them well, check it out!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: dahlsk

                                            I went on Saturday and got a cup of the Ethipian coffee-of-the-day from their Clover 1-brew setup.

                                            Walking down the clock I found myself thinking, "when's the last time I had a variety with this deep a flavor mix of red-wine-and-dark-chocolate without the least hint of bitterness?"

                                          2. Unfortunately, while most of the places listed can make a fine drink, none of them are really anywhere of the caliber you're going to find in San Fran, Seattle or more recently, in New York.

                                            Making your own really is one option. As for the Rancilio Silvia, I've had one for a little over a year and it's a nice machine with a quick heatup time. Remember that the most important piece of equipment is the grinder. Whole Latte Love can set you up with a package deal. I believe around $600 for a good grinder and the Sylvia. Check out http://www.coffeegeek.com for reviews and more info than can be easily digested.

                                            So back to the coffee. I also read about Kopplin's and am curious. Anyone else in town who knows how to pull a shot and calibrate a machine?

                                            1. I got over to Kooplin's today and had a great cap. They really know how to pull a shot. Nice to finally see that in the Cities. Highly recommended.

                                              1. Anoka Dunn Bros. Great espresso, always consistant.

                                                1. Made the trek over to Kopplin's today with the Wordman. The espresso there is as close to Roman espresso as I've had in the US. The short pulls - ristretti - allow the beans to carmelize a bit and produce a smokey, round flavor not found in commercial cups. The crema was assertive, not too thick, with a good mixture of cocoa and brown tones. Again, this represents a more artisan look, rather than the "crema laminate" found at some other coffee places.

                                                  We had two cups, the first a "paradise classico" - a lighter roast and the second was a yet-to-be named darker roast, with a slightly bolder flavor. The beans are obtained from Paradise Roasters in Anoka. Ryan, the barrista, a whip-thin, ear-plug sporting, friendly hipster seems to be competing in some sort of national barrista competition. He pulled his espresso confidently, producing espresso that was as far from mass-produced, Starbucks style as could be imagined.

                                                  Each of the coffees had a shocking smooth, rounded flavor. No bitterness in these cups. The taste of the beans was very present with an almost liqueur-like intensity. Their espresso is also a good value at $1.50/cup. Artisanal coffee like this deserves to be savored and should be enjoyed in short pulls - if you want a double, order two cups, one at a time.

                                                  If you are seeking an Italian style espresso, in a pleasant, comfortable, warm and low-key atmosphere, Kopplin's is your place. See a separate post about a coffee event to be held there tomorrow, Saturday, Jan 13.

                                                  Team Kitty and the Wordman

                                                  1. I finally made it to Kopplin's today. Now I'm not an espresso connoisseur or anything but I really enjoyed my cappuccino. Thank you for the rec.

                                                    1. Cliquot Club Cafe - Golden Cup winners. http://www.clicquotclubcafe.com/ Tasty espresso glorious drip-brew and only a slight attitude . . .