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Oct 5, 2006 05:38 AM

Best coffee in San Francisco?

Where do I find the best coffee in San Francisco? I heard Blue Bottle Coffee in Hayes Valley is pretty good. Anyone tried them?

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  1. It really comes down to your preferences (or if you have any). Blue Bottle Coffee may be the flavor of the month, but it's not your cup of tea if you like a robust, full roast. I would argue that Graffeo is the best, but that's based on tastes that were locked in stone 40 years ago.

    1. For me, Blue Bottle's Hayes Valley blend is one of the worst coffees I've ever had. It tastes like Dunkin Donuts coffee gone wrong. They do an excellent iced New Orleans coffee though.

      It depends on what you like in coffee. Blue Bottle tends to be on the mild side (except that acidic HV blend). Out of all their coffee, I like the Africano the best. Don't know where it is sold in SF, but it is sold at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley.

      I like strong coffee, so Graffeo's dark roast is my favorite, followed by Cafe Roma's coffee.

      1. Locally roasted "old school" - Graffeo
        Locally Micro Roasted with espresso drinks - Blue Bottle
        Imported Illy espresso drinks - Cafe Greco

        When it comes to espresso drinks the best beans in the world combined with amateurish milk handling yields a sub standard drink. It's not about milk art as much as it is the proper consistency of foam. No large bubbles, a dense moist consistency, and the proper temperature (not overcooked). Blue Bottle at the markets and at the kiosk has a talented barista corp.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

          Who said you have to put milk in espresso?

          Even if you do, your notion of excellence doesn't seem to address the issue of taste at all. Who cares if you've got perfect foam if the coffee tastes like otter water?

          1. re: Gary Soup

            "Otter water" is not the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about Blue Bottle's espresso :-) I've had very fine, intense straight shots from them at the Linden street kiosk, in addition to great milk-based drinks. (I don't drink drip, so can't speak to that.) My experience at the ferry plaza stands has been more mixed -- while it's usually great, I've had a couple of lattes from them when they were slammed that were practically undrinkable.

            I'd also second (and perhaps give a slight edge to) Ritual, although I think that if you're having milk drinks, they should be very short, as their espresso blend doesn't seem to be able to stand up to much milk.

            1. re: Emily Hope

              Wow! I was just about to post that I've never had anything from Blue Bottle but their iced latte and it's been magnif both times.

              As a Peet's since the 60's loyalist, I usually dislike most other coffees (some, nay many, would say that my tastebuds have been ruined by the overroastingly burned taste, but BB was a pleasant surprise to me.

            2. re: Gary Soup

              Who said the original post was about espresso?

              Most mortals drink their espresso with milk. Straight shots for me are an after dinner thing, otherwise it's the cappuccino, latte, machiatto rituals. IMO poorly handled milk in an espresso drink defeats the best tasting beans in the world.

              In terms of taste I think BB has the corner on freshness and subtlety - although alot of people here are miffed at them for something beyond their flavor profile. Graffeo is a great example of a San Francisco bedrock product - always darker than BB, never bitter. Illy is the original but never tastes as fresh as BB or as distinctive as Graffeo.

              Coffee in it's watery form is something I generally avoid, unless I'm in a rush and the barrista is weeded.

              1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                Maybe you of the Starbucks generation want coffee flavored milk, but I don't think it's always been there or is the same way everywhere. Seems to me I've heard something about a taboo about putting milk in coffee after 10:00 AM or something like that in Europe.

                There's also a difference between being "beyond a flavor profile" and just flying below the flavor radar.

                1. re: Gary Soup

                  Milk in espresso is, in many large, espresso-drinking corners of the world,
                  regarded as infantile if taken at any time other than breakfast. So I think the
                  notion of "most mortals" in the above is quite wrong. But if we are bringing
                  milk-handling into the equation, then it's the Trieste, hands down.

                  Even without milk, the Trieste should be high on anyone's list.

                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                    Trieste is high on the list with the caveat that its the original North Beach Trieste - the new Cafe Trieste on Market & Gough BUTCHERS the coffee. Of course, what you do with Trieste coffee in your own home is your own business....

                  2. re: Gary Soup

                    Very few Americans enjoy a shot of espresso as Italians do. Instead Americans tend to prefer espresso in a cappuccino, latte, or mocha.

                    1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                      That may be based on your impressions of the places you hang out, but I don't think you can make such a sweeping statement. Most of my serious coffee drinking over the past 45 years has been in North Beach, and I have a quite different impression.

                      1. re: Gary Soup

                        Oliveto Cafe, Berkeley Trieste, Cafe Greco, Espresso Roma (monterey, shattuck, college), 817, Blue Bottle (berkeley, linden, ferry plaza) all sell a lot of milk. The North Beach percentages are undoubtably different, as it's an Italian neighborhood (or was).

                        Multiple perspectives. In the flyover states where I now reside its a milk zone. In my own experience it's a crap shoot when it comes to quality espresso, and milk drinks all greatly dependant on the barista. As a result I've made my odds better by buying some decent countertop equipment and questing for the best tasting beans. I've found that freshness matters a ton. I have embraced lighter roasts as well as darker. There's some great information out there about home roasting, but so far I've left it ot the experts. Peets, Uncommon Grounds, Mr. Espresso, Graffeo, Illy have all passed through my machine. In SF I give it to Graffeo for tradition and Blue Bottle for keeping it fresh and moving the taste buds in a different direction. My drug intake today is too high and under the direction of Coffee and Tea Ltd. of Minneapolis. This guys been roasting beans since the seventies. I'd give graffeo and BB the edge by a mile.

                        Go A's!

                        1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                          Not trying to pick a fight here, it's just that I don't think I'm alone in always taking my coffee black regardless of its form or pedigree (even in New York where they look at you funny if you don't want "regular" coffee). I've been known to wimp out with a macchiato (in a glass) on occasion, however, mostly when hung over.

              2. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                I agree, oversteamed milk is a major problem at most places that serve espresso based drinks. Blue Bottle at their various locations along with Ritual in the Mission indeed have talented baristas that always steam the milk perfectly.

                1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                  I agree. The cups I've gotten at both the Berkeley Saturday Farmers' Market and the market on Sunday in Temescal have been stellar.

                2. I like dark French roast from Capricorn, roasted locally in SF (353 10th street) Sometimes, to get some variety, I often ask for what just came out of the roaster. Friendly people, very reasonable prices.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chowchowchow

                    I second Capricorn Coffee. They have been around forever and the people who work there couldn't be nicer

                  2. I like Ritual Coffee Roasters best but I've never tried Graffeo. I'll have to give it a try soon.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: scarmoza

                      Ritual is now roasting their own beans!

                      1. re: sfeater

                        I don't think that's true. They did try it for a bit, without great success, and I'm pretty sure they've gone back to using beans roasted by Stumptown in Portland.

                        1. re: Malik

                          We purchased warm-from the roaster beans at Ritual within the last week. I think thay have just started roasting there regularly.

                          1. re: Malik

                            From: Eileen Hassi <>
                            Date: Oct 6, 2006 12:42 PM
                            Subject: Re: stump-tizzle

                            heck yes.
                            - Hide quoted text -

                            So y'all roastin' your own beans yet?

                            1. re: sfeater

                              From the Oct. 3 Tablehopper: "Okay, you coffee phreeks: ~RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS~ in the Mission has switched over from Stumptown coffee to their own roast. (As if the café didn't smell amazing enough already.) Ritual's plan was to roast their own beans from the beginning, but they just weren't totally ready when they opened, so they had the beans shipped from Stumptown in the interim. Jeremy, one of the owners, is apprenticing with the Stumptown roaster, learning how to roast and source beans to perfection."

                              1. re: Atomica

                                So how are the beans? Is this another case of customers paying for a business to learn their own craft. Sorry, but I've been really turned off this year by restaurants practicing or trying to get up to speed. That is fine that he is apprenticing, but one hopes someone with actual experience is roasting those beans.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  Shouldn't craftspeople always be learning and honing/fine tuning? Maybe the stars aligned in the right time and place to open Ritual, and to wait would mean not opening at all. I don't know. I don't think they should be slammed for changing the source of beans, since they have pretty much been universally loved since they opened.

                                  1. re: Atomica

                                    No, that's not the point. If they are honing fine, good. However, if the batches turn out not so good, or they aren't there yet, don't make me pay for it. I don't know if Ritual is successful in their efforts or not, but, again, too many 'craftsmen' have been charging me big bucks while getting their businesses up to speed. I'm not so into subsidizing the learning curve at this point.

                                    While I haven't had bad luck, reading about those rancid sausages at that Fra whatever sausage company is wrong. Then there is ICI and ... well, there have just been way too many places for me this year. I have craftsmen burn out.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Do you have a thread about this somewhere? I'd love to see what you're talking about. How about those people who decide to open a business but have zero business sense? I think the customer suffers a lot more in that case, and it's so prevalent. But that's another thread.

                                      Ritual is very successful. They've been serving a good product to an admiring public. I see nothing wrong here. I think their "worst" beans would be better than anything from Charbucks, for example. Also, who said that Ritual's beans were no good?

                                      1. re: Atomica

                                        Not me. It was a question, not a statement. I wouldn't start a thread about this because it is discussing bad food rather than finding good food. Interesting, but not all that helpful. You are right though about new places that never operated a restaurant before. That happened to me way too much this year also. But that's what Chowhound's for, eh? Someone always bites the bullet and reports back saving the rest of us from tasteless bullets.