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Good SF coffee?

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I'm new to the area, and I am a coffee fiend. I know San Francisco has a reputation for coffee, so where should I go?

P.S. I already know about Peet's, and please don't bother telling me about Starbucks. I think I might have encountered a few of those before.

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  1. My favorites:

    Ritual Roasters in the Mission (on Valencia, near 17th). Possibly the best steamed milk you will ever have, and they'll pour you latte art.
    Delessio (on Market at Gough). Their lattes are a little more thick and hearty, but still good.
    Cafe Madeleine: they use great chocolate here, so the mochas are more of a hot chocolate/latte hybrid. Thick and creamy.

    People love Philz, but you'll have to look up where exactly it is.
    Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: a nice Peet's substitute, but nothing to write home about.

    4 Replies
    1. re: nooodles

      That Ritual place is new. I like the espress there, too. Cafe Organica and Coffee To The People also do that latte art thing. Have you tried those places?

      Personally, I'm not a fan of Philz, but I agree it is a San Francisco exprience someone might want to try and make your own decision. I would steer clear of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf if you don't want a "Starbucks" experience.

      1. re: Wubber

        I just had my first cup of coffee (I chose Turkish) at Philz on Saturday, and it was the best cup of coffee I've ever had in my life. It opened my mind to what coffee could be. I knew there were coffee fanatics, but I never "got it" until this weekend.

        1. re: KathyR

          The only problem with trying Philz is that it is seriously addictive. I usually get a Philharmonic with cream and sugar, and love savoring each sip. It's nice to have cinammon, cardamon, and mint in your coffee.

          I recommend letting the staff sweeten your coffee for you unless you are a control freak or have health issues that bar cream. You'll be glad you tried it.

          There are 2 SF locations- 24th at Folsom and 3901 18th near Castro. Bonus: the Philz crew are a friendly bunch.

        2. re: Wubber

          Ritual is on Valencia near 22nd Street - using Stumptown Beans from Portland. OMG, it's good!

      2. I think you'll find the best espresso and coffee in Sf at Coffee To The People. Its over on Masonic by Haight Street (a block away from Haight and Ashbury). All their coffee is fair trade and organic, and really good. They will do a french press, too, which really brings out the flavor. If you really want a jolt, get a french press of the French Roast.

        I also like Farleys over in Potrero Hill, and there is this place called Cafe Organica just north of the Golden Gate Park panhandle that rotates their espresso providers so you can try different ones.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Wubber


          1. re: Paul

            hello, please be so kind as to give details (location, what they prepare/serve). myself, a former coffee/tea professional who is disenchanted with most commercial venues and now roasts at home. I did find a nice cafe/roaster in Alexandria, so I haven't lost hope. thank you.

        2. OooOO oOOooo, you need to stop by the Blue Bottle Coffee's (micro-roaster) Kiosk in Hayes Valley. 315 Linden at Gough. Organic coffee, never older than 5 days. Deelightful.


          6 Replies
          1. re: Dr. Biggles

            Wow, this really is a city for coffee. I put up my post less than a half hour ago and already I got three replies. Thanks!

            From the group response, I guess I will be checking out Blue Bottle, Coffee To The People, and Ritual. I especially like that Blue Bottle and Coffee To The People do the organic thing. All different parts of the city, though, right?

            1. re: Earl

              Besides, Ritual, and Blue Bottle, you must give Cafe Organica a go. Besides these 3, there really is no other places to go in the city for serious coffee.

              As for Philz, if you like cheap robusta beans mixed in with stale arabica beans, to make the drink more profitable give them a try.

              1. re: Steve

                I think those three are excellent, but I wouldn't rule out Coffee To The People, either. Personally I think they beat all three of the others. They roast all organic and fair trade blends up in San Rafael. Heavenly.

                1. re: Paul K.

                  Where is Coffee To The People? I never heard of it.

                  1. re: Kaitlan

                    Nevermind. I just saw the other post "Coffee To The People." Somehow I missed that one before. Sometimes I wish you could un-post on this site.

                    Anyway, for anyone else who missed it, it is on Masonic Ave near Haight Street. Must be new.

                2. re: Steve

                  Meow. You really took out the claws for Philz, didn't you? I've had mixed experience there, but the coffee isn't THAT bad. I think making coffee by the cup is a little fadish and hard to maintain consistent coffee, but you can't get any fresher brew than that.

            2. Cafe Organica makes the finest coffee I've ever had. Blue Bottle is also a favorite. Ritual too. But sart with Organica.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Alfred

                Agreed. Try a ristretto using their naked portafilter. For capps, ask them to pour a triple rosetta pattern. A true espresso fiend will understand what I'm referring to :).

              2. Oh, and another thing, since your new in the area. If you ever, and I'm sure you will, drive down the peninsula, Barefoot Roasters in Cupertino on Stevens Creek Blvd is an absolute must. Their roasted beans, especially the espresso roasts are out of this world.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Steve

                  Yes I agree! Excellent coffee! Not like the crap you get at Starbucks or other chains.

                2. I guess all these younguns don't realize that North Beach has never surrendered its position as the capital of caffe culture in the US, a position that it established more than 50 years ago. Check out Caffe Trieste, Mario's, Malvinas, even upstarts like Roma,Puccini and El Greco. Buy some beans from Graffeo.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Gary Soup
                    Melanie Wong

                    Uh, Malvina is gone.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      RIP Malvina, and its cialde...

                    2. re: Gary Soup

                      We younguns do recognize the coffee culture of North Beach. There certainly are some nice places to soak up the old cafe atmosphere, hear Italian spoken, grab a decent (though rarely spectacular) Cannoli. But compare a cap. from Greco with one from Blue Bottle (or Ritual or Organica ...) and you will readily see that the North Beach stuff is mostly mediocre swill. There is a new and small world of folks who are paying a lot of attention to coffee these days. Try them out.

                      1. re: Alfred

                        I'm no coffee snob (yet), but here's how I describe it to people who are still drinking Starbuck's and Foldgers:

                        -with that swill, you have to add sugar.

                        -with a halfway decent place, like Greco or Trieste, you can drink the coffee without sugar. But you're still there mostly to hob nob and soak up the history.

                        -at the places Alfred has mentioned, the thought of destroying the coffee with sugar makes me cringe. IMO, they shouldn't even make sugar available. And everyone's intently concentrating on the coffee, not the photos of Francis Ford Coppola on the walls.

                        1. re: nooodles

                          As Bob Dylan's 'Times they are a'changin' is playing in the back ground.

                    3. If you're ever in the East Bay, check out Peaberry's -- just across from the Rockridge BART station. (Rockridge is a "district" of Oakland that is seamlessly close to Berkeley.) They roast and sell beans too.

                      1. Blue Bottle, hands down. Either from the Hayes Valley kiosk or the cart at Ferry Plaza and Berkeley farmers' markets.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: dml

                          Of course... Bittersweet Cafe carries Blue Bottle beans too. You've been to Bittersweet, right? But that's a whole other thread...

                          1. re: xtrmntr

                            Blue Bottle delivers seriously under-roasted beans that produce wimped-out coffee, IMHO. Ask them for a dark roast, and they'll laugh in your face.

                        2. Cafe Organica, while excellent, has been closed for awhile. There was notice of a health code violation and renovation. Any thoughts about when they will re-open? Their french press coffee is delicious, but not always quite as hot as you might like. Ritual is totally "Cafe Laptop". It is a scene like Tartine that is almost too much to bear. But, like Tartine, the lines, the yuppies, etc., are worth it. The lattes and coffee at Ritual are so good...the smell of the coffee wafts next door to Lost Weekend video store and makes you crave coffee even when you haven't been thinking you need any.

                          1. I love the mochas at Delores Park Cafe. The coffee is roasted in Santa rosa and is a delight on a coolish Sat morning

                            1. If you're lookiong for whole bean, check out the "Castro Cheesery."

                              Great coffee that is not expensive.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: answerman

                                I bought coffee beans at the Castro Cheesery last week. They were AWFUL. Which isn't surprising since the beans are kept in transparent bins that have full exposure to the hot afternoon sun that shines in through the picture windows. If you've ever been in that store in the mid afternoon, you would will know that it gets pretty hot and stuffy. The beans that I bought were quite obviously dried and spent by the sunlight. The taste was so bad I threw them out. ...anyhow, so many people talk highly of the place, it was a big disappointment. If you want to buy decent coffee beans in the neighborhood, you are much better off walking a few blocks up Market to Peets. They give you a free cup of coffee with the beans.

                              2. Blue Bottle is a must try as the other posters have said. I also would like to recommend the coffee at Cafe Lo Cubano. They have coffee and expresso drinks that are Cuban-ish. Another one I'd recommend and I just tried this yesterday is Martha's on First St.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: sylphi

                                  Ritual's new location is open, but I haven't been there yet. It will probably end up as my go to spot as it's slightly closer to me and I assume parking will be easier.

                                  Ritual Coffee Raosters
                                  (Inside the new Flora Grubb Gardens)
                                  1634 Jerrold Avenue
                                  San Francisco CA 94124

                                  1. re: Calvinist

                                    Aroma Roastery in Santa Rosa is AWESOME. In my opinion, it serves the best cup of coffee in the Bay Area. And I'm not a real big fan of "The Fresno of the North Bay" (Santa Rosa), but Aroma's makes a trip to that dull locale less painful.

                                  2. re: sylphi

                                    Blue Bottle is great. They make a great brewed cup of coffee. Phils is awesome as well. Peets seems to be the best of the chains.

                                    A pet peeve of mine is when people claim that a place serves good coffee when they really mean that it serves good lattes. Somebody on this board mentioned that arizmendi bakery serves good coffee. Ahem, they serve good lattes and the like, but they fall flat when it comes to straight brewed coffee. Their brewed coffee is made in infrequent batches and sits in those god awful thermos-type dispensers. Can you say "burnt" ? Many other of the so called "good coffee" places are similar. It's great that Blue Bottle, Phils and Peets are there for those of us who prefer straight coffee.

                                  3. For whole beans, I think Peet's beats everybody, provided you get the right blend from a store with high turnover. For breakfast, with a drip coffeemaker, I use a 50-50 mix of 101 and Sulawesi-Kalosi. For after dinner, I prefer straight Sulawesi-Kalosi, or if it's available aged Sulawesi.

                                    I appreciate Blue Bottle, but it's just too light for my taste.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Yes, and they also give a free cup of coffee which each purchase. It virtually knocks 1.60 off of the price.

                                      1. re: GermanShepherdPuppy

                                        If you would have paid for it otherwise. Otherwise, just a nice perk.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          You might be able to get the price of a small coffee deducted from the cost of the pound. Used to be a button on the registers that automatically deducted the price of a small cup of coffee, though I can only recall doing that when someone wanted a more expensive drink (e.g., large coffee, latte, etc.).

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            They will give you that discount if you want a more expensive drink.

                                            If you don't want the coffee, they'll usually give you a "rain check" card.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              That must be new -- I don't ever recall giving customers a "rain check" card.

                                              1. re: a_and_w

                                                Not very new, I've been accumulating them for years.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Now that you mention it, it's been nearly ten years since I worked at Peet's -- disturbing how time flies. Still, I've been a semi-regular customer since then and have never received such a "rain check." Weird!

                                    2. Nobody has mentioned my favorite place yet...Simple Pleasures Cafe way out in on 36th and Balboa in the Outer Richmond. They roast their own coffee, and the way that they brew it is unique but delish. Their prices are totally reasonable, and the atmosphere there is not at all pretentious.

                                      2 Replies
                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          They brew using those cool glass caraffe-type cone filters (I used to have one of these I took camping). The resultant coffee is strong and rich without the bitterness often associated with electric drip from seldom-cleaned coffee makers. I should also mention that their bagels are divine...and you can get a bagel with hummus for about two bucks.