HOME > Chowhound > Austin >

Best coffee in Austin

t
Tom Philpott Oct 25, 2006 12:19 AM

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.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. s
    sambamaster RE: Tom Philpott Oct 25, 2006 02:05 AM

    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...

    http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3249/8...

    1. Knoblauch RE: Tom Philpott Oct 25, 2006 11:14 PM

      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: http://home.austin.rr.com/dangilman/f...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Knoblauch
        MPH RE: Knoblauch Oct 26, 2006 08:28 PM

        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.

        MPH

      2. t
        Tom Philpott RE: Tom Philpott Oct 27, 2006 03:50 PM

        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
          s
          sambamaster RE: Tom Philpott Oct 27, 2006 07:30 PM

          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
            s
            scrumptiouschef RE: Tom Philpott Oct 29, 2006 08:47 PM

            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
              s
              sambamaster RE: scrumptiouschef Oct 29, 2006 10:24 PM

              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 days...so, 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
                c
                coffeefreak RE: sambamaster Oct 30, 2006 07:20 PM

                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
                  t
                  Tom Philpott RE: sambamaster Nov 10, 2006 01:59 AM

                  Samba,
                  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
                    MPH RE: Tom Philpott Apr 20, 2008 06:25 PM

                    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:

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49419...

            2. Becca Porter RE: Tom Philpott Oct 28, 2006 07:14 PM

              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.)
              -Becca

              1. Becca Porter RE: Tom Philpott Oct 28, 2006 07:18 PM

                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 :).
                -Becca

                1. t
                  tjt RE: Tom Philpott Oct 31, 2006 03:47 PM

                  I believe Costco coffee says that it is made by Starbucks for Costco or something like that, on the bag.

                  1. Becca Porter RE: Tom Philpott Nov 1, 2006 01:45 AM

                    Maybe at some of the Costco's. The Costco I get mine at in Austin is not. It is roasted in the store and then hot-packed. I always forget the name of the company that supplies the beans, but I believe it has mountain in it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Becca Porter
                      m
                      Mike B RE: Becca Porter Dec 1, 2006 04:53 PM

                      Costco sells both starbucks coffee and coffee they roast in house, so both of you are correct. I assume Becca is talking about the coffee they roast at the store.

                    2. f
                      fraumujahidin RE: Tom Philpott Nov 30, 2006 01:41 PM

                      The Costco coffee I had at Quacks on 38th st. was really the worst I've had here in Austin. It was really really awful.

                      Anyway, on a positive note, I'd like to list the best cafes I've been to in Austin.

                      As far as atmosphere goes, Austin cafes are somewhat lacking, but The Green Muse on Oltorf has been great for several years. Also, Epoch on North Loop has a spacious yet cozy feel to it--huge bar, plenty of indoor/outdoor tables, and a deco-esqueness that I like.

                      The best espresso I've had was either at Ruta Maya's or Little City on Guadalupe (RIP). Both roast their coffee in house. Also, I'm surprised no one's mentioned Texas Coffee Traders on E. 4th for getting fresh beans. They have a knowledgeable and helpful staff and dozens of different fresh beans and blends.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: fraumujahidin
                        Kent Wang RE: fraumujahidin Nov 30, 2006 05:51 PM

                        I like Green Muse a lot, too. They play consistently great music. Not your typical Radiohead on loop.

                        My favorite, though, is Cafe Mundi in terms of total vibe. The epitome of East Austin, pre-gentrification. Go down the street to Progress Cafe and you will see East Austin, post-gentrification. Gross. Even the name is some sort of sick advocacy of gentrification.

                        1. re: Kent Wang
                          Knoblauch RE: Kent Wang Nov 30, 2006 09:34 PM

                          I already mentioned my enjoyment of Trianon for espresso, coffee, and iced coffee. Based on the other recommendations I've seen here, I'm hoping to try Ruta Maya's and Café Medici (if there is ever a place to park when I am nearby).

                          I almost started thinking how to phrase my preferences in give-away reading material, tattoos on baristas, and cleanliness of bathrooms. Then I re-read the original question and remembered that it was about the quality of coffee.

                          1. re: Knoblauch
                            MPH RE: Knoblauch Dec 22, 2006 03:21 AM

                            I had a cappuccino at Medici recently and liked it enough to go back for another one. I believe it was the owner who made it. While not outstanding, this cappuccino was the best one I’ve had yet—in Austin. It's hard to find a consistently good espresso or espresso-based drink even in NYC. I do miss Gorilla Coffee, though.

                      2. Nab RE: Tom Philpott Dec 1, 2006 02:07 PM

                        Now for some reason, I haven't developed a highly discerning palate for coffee, so take what I say with a few grains, but I've tried Summermoon coffee a couple of times as it's on my way to work, and I enjoy it quite a bit. Granted, it's a convenient stop (not slammed like every S-bucks) and it's a helluvalot better than office-coffee, and that's certainly part of the appeal for me. They claim to hand roast the beans over a wood fire, whatever that means to y'all. This morning I also had a pretty tasty bacon egg & cheese emapanada to boot. I'd say it's at least worth a try for you coffee-lovers.

                        3115 S.1st St, Suite 1B
                        Austin, TX 78704
                        (512) 804-1665
                        Mon-Fri: 7 AM - 10 PM
                        Sat: 9 AM - 6 PM
                        http://www.woodfiredcoffee.com/index....
                        (some pretty corny names for their beans)

                        1. m
                          Mike B RE: Tom Philpott Dec 1, 2006 04:51 PM

                          Why, oh why, did Peet's coffee leave Austin? I hope they don't give up on Austin for good just because their location guys chose a poor location.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Mike B
                            s
                            sambamaster RE: Mike B Dec 1, 2006 09:47 PM

                            Yes, it's a shame they closed. They told me they were not selling enough coffee beans to make the shop work...and, yes, the Drag is not the place to try to base a business on that. However, they did have the best espresso I've had in Austin (other than my own), and not sure anyone else around comes close these days, but there seem to be some new places I need to check out...Medici is ok, but just. Anyway, I doubt Peet's will spring up elsewhere in this market...too bad...

                            1. re: sambamaster
                              air RE: sambamaster Dec 4, 2006 05:46 PM

                              Yeah, that also makes me sad to have to go all the way out to California to get some Peet's. I want to see them open other locations, possibly in Dallas or Houston eventually, but I'm doubting it'll really happen.

                              1. re: air
                                d
                                dee lannon RE: air Dec 5, 2006 04:22 AM

                                Yah, having Peet's here was a short lived idyll. Before they came, my mom sent me beans from CA. Now that I'm all officially grown up, here's what I do:

                                http://www.peets.com/recurring/recurr...

                                1. re: dee lannon
                                  s
                                  sambamaster RE: dee lannon Dec 5, 2006 04:41 AM

                                  For what it's worth, Jaime Anderson of Anderson's learned the craft of coffee roasting from Alfred Peet, why back in the "dark" ages...thus the origin of their Alfred's Blend...about the same time he was there, a couple other guys were learning also...they later went to Seattle to open their own shop in which, in the beginning, they sold coffee roasted by Peet. Later, they started roasting their own for their store called Starbucks. A bit of history most people don't know...then, one of those guys opted out of the big corporate mess in Seattle, returned to Berkeley and bought Peet's...so it's all one big circle somehow...

                          2. bookgrrl72 RE: Tom Philpott Dec 1, 2006 07:56 PM

                            How is the coffee at Cipollina? It looks like they have yummy snacks and the coffee smelled very good, too -- the only time I've been there was to retrieve my lost digital camera from a kind Good Samaritan.

                            I'm a grad student and am always looking for a comfy coffee shop where I can get work done; the coffee at Clementine is passable, but the staff is so snotty, it's offputting.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bookgrrl72
                              f
                              fraumujahidin RE: bookgrrl72 Dec 2, 2006 01:55 PM

                              I actually like the staff at Clementine a lot, but that's about it for them. You're right about the coffee kind of sucking. Epoch on North Loop has become a replacement for Clementine for me. Much bigger space, much more personality in the atmosphere, and better coffee.

                            2. z
                              zeeklafreek RE: Tom Philpott Dec 5, 2006 08:27 AM

                              i've not had anything that comes close to Anderson's. yes, just walk in and take a pull from the elephant in the store while you're picking up a pound of Alfred's blend. since this thread did say coffee, and not coffe drinks.
                              tom, i had the pleasure of taking a class from your father in the mid-80s and used to write some for the chron as well. didn't you start the Polemic way back when too?

                              1. t
                                Tom Philpott RE: Tom Philpott Dec 5, 2006 01:14 PM

                                I did in fact start polemicist way back then. Agreed that Anderson's is the best place to buy beans in Austin.

                                1. r
                                  ranchoreal RE: Tom Philpott Jul 24, 2010 11:34 AM

                                  I know a place that knows the most about coffees in Austin, Texas Coffee Traders. They roast on the east side of town on 4th street. This is a big warehouse that they roast coffee and teach coffee. The guy is one of the original gourmet roasters in the country and has a roaster in Montana, Costa Rica, Austin and even put a roaster in Moscow russia. Doesn't seem like a place to sit and write unless you do it outside. This is a working coffee roasting place open to the public. They retail and wholesale. A few places to write are Bennu on the East side, Epoch and Flight Path are just North of the UT Campus, go south of the river to Irie Bean on Lamar.. Want to smoke a Houka and have coffee while you work try the Arab Cowboy just west of the UT campus... These are all great places to hang and they serve great coffee and some food stuff.. Be sure to go by Coffee Traders; it is way cool... Ranchoreal

                                  -----
                                  Texas Coffee Traders
                                  1400 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78702

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ranchoreal
                                    t
                                    texangurl RE: ranchoreal Jul 25, 2010 03:50 PM

                                    texpresso on anderson lane (in the same lot as village drafthouse) has good coffee...

                                  Show Hidden Posts