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Jun 11, 2007 11:12 AM

Best coffee beans in Los Angeles

I've recently been taking up coffee a bit after a long abstinence. It has to be really good to warrant the resulting jitters. Where is the best place to buy beans near Mt. Washington?

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  1. For artisanal, medium-roast, wildly fragrant beans, Groundworks on Main at Second downtown. For hairy-chested dark-roast beans, probably anywhere else.

    1. Maybe Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena.

      3 Replies
        1. re: Amuse Bouches

          A bit of trivia... Did you know that when Trader Joe's first started offering coffee that Jones provided the roasts for them? Apparently they and Joe Coulombe (Trader Joe) were good family friends...

          1. re: cgfan

            Yes, Jones! They grow their own beans at their plantation in Guatemala. I resisted acquiring a taste for coffee for more than 50 years, but Jones' beans won me over.

            Since I am not mobile these days, it is also nice that you can order from their web site and get your beans in a day or two via UPS.

      1. Groundworks. There's one in downtown on Main at 2nd. They are also the only place in L.A. with a Clover coffee maker, that $2k coffee maker that brews up some of the best coffee I've tasted. There was a pretty long thread about this about a month or so ago. Also, the beans at Groundworks are very high quality. So if you have to limit your coffee intake, that is definitely the place to get some really good coffee. Be sure to try a cup that's brewed in the Clover. My favorite is still the Lake Tawar, Sumatra.

        14 Replies
        1. re: slacker

          Groundworks confuses me. I had some of their Dark Columbian at a downtown eatery that I really liked. I went to Groundworks' site and couldn't find any. I went to Main & 2d (had a nice cup of the Clover product) and tried to buy some. No dice. Some coffee is only for sale to commercial clients!?

          1. re: slacker

            Yes on Groundworks; they are definitely in the artisan roaster category. I would avoid, though, the small hole-in-the-wall they operate on Main in Santa Monica. No matter how good the beans, they can always be ruined by improper handling and extraction, which is the experience I had with a visit to this location. But their Main St. as well as their Artist's District location are good choices. (BTW the Clover's are $12k machines...)

            Also if you are looking for beans to use for espresso, Caffe Luxxe in Santa Monica is a source for beans (rebranded) from Seattle's Espresso Vivace, perhaps the most important early mover and shaker in the technical aspects of the new "espresso revolution". They have rebranded what is essentially their Espresso Vivace Dolce blend as their house blend.

            In San Dimas is Coffee Klatch; they bring in some of the most amazing lots of specialty coffee; just recently they won the bid (shared with a few other roasters) on a record setting bid of green (unroasted) coffee beans, I believe going for $130/pound. They do an incredible job at roasting, and they are also home to our only two time U.S. Barista Champion, Heather Perry.

            Also coming up, not sure if they're open to the public yet, is Chicago's Intelligenstia Coffee's new West Coast beachhead in the SilverLake area. (I believe they were also in on the record-winning bid for the Esmeralda greens...) They are perhaps one of the most socially active pursuers of quality coffee, developing relationships and markets directly with growers to improve their lot, not necessarily out of sheer altruism in its own right, but out of an uncompromising focus that this is what it takes to deliver a better cup. I believe they are planning on a 100% clover setup for all of their brewed coffees in the L.A. store.

            The Intelligenstia development is big for L.A.. I suspect that this will spark a new wave of delivering artisan coffee and fostering customer appreciation.

            1. re: cgfan

              Intelligentsia is not yet open (maybe another month or so?) but it will certainly be a good source when it does. Intelligentsia beans are available at a few places around town already (Pazzo Gelato, I think).
              However, it will be head to head with LaMill, which is also opening in Silver Lake later this summer. Their beans are excellent and available online until the store opens.

              1. re: Chowpatty

                I bought Intelligentsia beans at Whole Foods in Santa Monica. $12.95 for 12 oz.

                1. re: Chowpatty

                  I think Boule sells Intelligentsia.

                  1. re: Chowpatty

                    you can pick up your coffee at the plant in alhambra at LA MILL. you'll need to give them 24 hrs. notice, then allow the coffee to cure for another 24hr. after roasting. the two will be head to head, but craig min of LA MILL and doug zell of INTELLIGENSIA are friends.

                    LA MILL is also the new distributor for the clover in the southland.

                    right now, we rotate between LA MILL, BLUE BOTTLE, CAFFE LUXXE, PEETS (arabian mocha sunani only), and INTELLIGENSIA. we're pulling espresso and doing vacuum process coffee.

                    1. re: Chowpatty

                      I saw Intelligentsia beans at Clementine the other day...

                  2. re: slacker

                    Kaldi in Atwater has cold-pressed coffee. Is that the same process a Clover uses?

                    1. re: cjla

                      No, I don't think so. You have to go to Groundworks and have the manager or somebody give you the $64 explanation. After you hear it, you have to buy a cup for only $2.

                      1. re: mc michael

                        Verry Ronk-o-Matic sounding, but alluring at the same time.

                      2. re: cjla

                        Cold coffee extraction is probably referring to a Toddy Coffee.

                        The Clover is essentially a precise temperature and brew-time controlled means of what is essentially just traditional brewing. It's tempting to compare it with French Press but it uses a much finer filter, and a vacuum is used to draw the water through the grounds. Another important difference is clean-up where the Clover requires just a quick pass with a squeegee on a flat surface to sweep the grounds "off the edge" and into the bin, with the resulting grounds being considerably drier than with the French Press. And of course temperature control is non-existant with the French Press, let alone precise temperature control.

                        1. re: peanut112

                          thanks for the great description, peanut. we went and tried the clover more than once at GW on main/2nd with all the hype...and loved it. we're really espresso people, but could be converted to the clover. what i really like about it is that you can sample different beans ground to order which you think you should be able to do with the FP, but many shops don't offer your choice of beans. it's whatever's in the grinder!

                          just got back from the bay area, so we're grinding BLUE BOTTLE'S hayes valley today...terrific!

                          1. re: peanut112

                            LA MILL is now a distributor for the clover in socal. i hear one is also being installed at PROVIDENCE. there will also likely be one at INTELLIGENSIA. i'm not such a fanatic about it that i have to have the clover; we're very happy with an expertly pulled espresso, but i think it lives up to the hype.

                    2. Graffeo's are pretty good; I prefer the half/half.

                      1. blue bottle coffee company, online, via san francisco. best coffee i have ever had. ever.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: lotta_cox

                          Unbelievable. The best (and most powerful) cup of coffee I've ever had. I thought no one down here in LA knew about Blue Bottle. Careful folks, it's very addictive.

                          1. re: Golem

                            Great operation, and great coffee.

                            However just a small nit upon my visit to Blue Bottle, and I find this all too common a "problem" at other shops that either roasts on-site or has a readily available source of freshly roasted beans, is that when they get too far behind on their inventory some of the roasts are pushed out too early. The cup I had was clearly not yet settled and too gassy, and some of the astrigency that I associate with a roast that has not been properly aged post-roast was still present in the cup.

                            I got to say, though, that given the dreck that's served up everywhere else, ironically this is only a "problem" only for the better cafe's out there! (I also had a similar experience down here in S.D. during a recent visit to a roaster/cafe where I detected the same telltale signature in my cup. On our way out my friend asked the roaster about the roast date, and sure enough it was roasted that same day...)

                            1. re: Golem

                              agreed best coffee! I love going to the SF Famer's Market and getting a cup from them. Last time we went we bought 6 bags.

                            2. re: lotta_cox

                              I heartily agree. Blue Bottle is the best! I always stop at farmers market when I'm up there.

                              1. re: lotta_cox

                                I agree, 100%!!! I love the kiosk at the Ferry Bldg., the Linden St. garage and settle most of the time for online order/home delivery. But I have yet to try LA MILL or Intelligensia or the Clover at Groundworks (or the Clover product anywhere else) so for me the search for the best cup continues.