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Oct 25, 2006 12:19 AM

Best coffee in Austin

I moved away from Austin seven or eight years ago but return at least once a year. Traditionally, the best place to drink a cup of coffee was Little City, and the best place to buy beans was Anderson's. Has this changed? What is the consensus among Austin coffee nerds?
I'll be in Austin for a week and spending a lot of time writing. I need a nice cafe with outstanding coffee, free wireless Internet, and decent snacks. Where should i go?
Also, is any cafe really obsessing over its espresso--ie, spending a lot of energy pulling rich, delicious shots, and not just stuff to add a little color to warm milk, a la Starbucks?
Thanks in advance.

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  1. THE Tom Philpott? Ok, well, Anderson's still has the best beans...since they seem to have the freshest beans...and they learned the craft from Alfred Peet.
    As far as coffee joints? Well, until a year ago, there was a Peet's on the Drag and it was the only place that seemed to know how to pull a proper shot from their machines...they actually adjusted the grind according to humidity, temp, etc... Don't think there is a place like that any longer. The last shot I had at the UT-area Little City tasted, well, it wasn't like coffee. Will not return. There are some newish places that have opened on E. 6th, east of 35, that might be ok, but have not tried them... I have a good machine and make my own at home...

    There is nothing like Portland's Stumptown or Chicago's Intelligentsia or Berkeley's Royal (I think it has changed names...they actually brew each cup to order and allow the consumer a choice of variety and brewing style).

    good luck. if you find a place, please report back.

    For those not aware of the heightened awareness of how good coffee really can be, here is an interesting article from Portland that sums it up nicely...

    1. Where you'd want to go would depend a bit on where you're starting from and what modes of transportation are available. Within my own range of convenience, I often go to Trianon at Bee Caves and Walsh Tarlton (the closest bus stop to most of West Lake Hills, in addition to being in a shopping center with a parking lot and a Post Office).

      They sell a wide range of bulk beans, brew four of them daily for coffee, and make all the espresso-based drinks you've come to expect. I find the flavors to be about right, and I think it's a nice touch that their iced coffee is prepared specially, so that it's delicious both before and after the ice has melted.

      For your snack needs, there are baked goods from the Upper Crust Bakery and a decent selection of imported and domestic candies. They also have breakfast tacos, which are popular, but I have not tried them.

      They have free wi-fi, with a number of available outlets for those who stay past their battery life. The influx of high school kids around 4 in the afternoon might break your concentration, but you probably need a break by then anyway.

      If you're downtown without wheels and don't want to take the bus ride out, you can find some more in-depth reviews of a number of downtown locations here:

      1 Reply
      1. re: Knoblauch

        I've referred to the coffeehouse ratings on the website above (the one in Knoblauch’s link) a few times. The review categories are extensive: quality of coffee, tea, and food offerings, but also general ambience, potential for studying/working, quality of "people-watching," and even "political implications" of the coffee and tea.

        That info should help you assess what it would be like to write and work at each place. There's no need to leave Austin to find a place that offers free wi-fi. It's just a matter of finding the right fit.


      2. Hey everybody, I've found the dream austin Coffeehouse: a new place called Cafe Medici on West Lynn at 11th.

        The owner worked for a while as a barista at the highly regarded JP's Java in the north campus area (haven't been yet). Medici is using very high-quality beans from a place called Cuvee Roaster out of Spring, Texas. The barista told me Cuvee will soon be moving operations to Austin.

        The espresso at Medici is proper: smooth, sweet, rich, with a long finish. Capuccinos are also very good: proper balance between milk and espresso, etc. Moreover, it's in an old house with big windows and a fast wi-fi connection. This place is the real deal.

        Sambamaster, which Tom Philpott are you thinking of? I'm the late professor's son, did student journalism at UT in the late '80s/early '90s, reviewed restaurants for the Chronicle for a time...

        6 Replies
        1. re: Tom Philpott

          Tom, I'd forgotten your dad had passed, i recall that now...of course he was legendary and obviously still is...sorry for my slip.

          Thanks for the Medici tip, might have to check it out since decent coffee (meaning espresso) in this town is still rare, no matter what folks think...JP's is ok, but still not quite there... i've done some writing there myself...lots of outlets along the wall, but can't recall if they have wireless or not... but it's convenient to campus. okay munchies too, as I recall.

          1. re: Tom Philpott

            Hanging out at Medici soaking in the fine light from the western windows is a peaceful way to spend an afternoon.The coffee is very good,the baristas knowledgeable and skilled in their craft.The coffee freaks will find this gem soon and make it their cathedral.

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              I tried Medici yesterday with mixed results. I had a double espresso which was passable, not great. The young woman who pulled the shot was tentative in her technique and her tamping of the coffee in the filter holder was anything but solid. Still a better shot than most though...
              My buddy ordered an Italian soda. They were out of carbonated water and had to "make more", meaning a C02 cartridge in a soda dispenser...not really a great way to do this on a commercial scale these, the result, according to my friend, was a flat "no carbonation" and tasteless soda. He should have returned it for something else, I suppose...
              Will try Medici again, seems like it has potential...a nice enough spot. But they might need a more rigorous training period for their "baristas".

              1. re: sambamaster

                i really like medici's coffee. the italian soda thing is kind of odd though. i like the fact they french press all their coffees and i get great capuccinos everytime.

                1. re: sambamaster

                  do give it another chance. I am familiar the young barista of whom you speak. She'll get it together. The guys who come in earlier do a really good job.
                  Btw, I tried JP's. I liked the vibe, but the espresso was just fair. I really liked the vibe and space at Clementine; the drip coffee was downright weak, the espresso more than passable , especially goosed with some half-and-half. Thanks for all the responses, everyone.

                  1. re: Tom Philpott

                    I thought I'd post a link to a link to a discussion on the Texas board about espresso roasting, technique, and equipment at our local JP's Java and Caffe Medici:


            2. Costco's in-house roasted House Blend is the BEST coffee in Austin. Laugh it up, it is true. Try it. (Although it was slightly better before the tsunami.)

              1. That came across wrong. Truth is I haven't tried the coffee shops you refer to. However, that Costco coffee is almost as good as Peet's to me, and when you add in cost, it wins by a landslide. I stand by my try it :).