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Coffee that's strong enough to defend itself!

My coffee of choice is Starbucks Caffe Verona, with TJ's Bay Blend a close second. Starbucks has recently decided to stop offering dark coffee in the afternoons, and the so-called "medium" roast they now sell is dreadful. My routine was to go in regularly to buy a pound of beans, which comes with the added bonus of a free brewed cup. Now that that free cup is something awful (unless I get there before 12) I'm ready to try something new, preferably with less of a corporate presence.

I've tried Intelligentsia, and I just don't get it. Their philosophy prevents them from offering a dark roast, and I find their roasts to be no better than, say, 7-11. Groundworks was a bit better, but still weak IMO.

I'm trying to find an indie coffee place where I can both buy dark roast beans, *and* get a brewed cup of dark roast. Any suggestions?

Bonus points for proximity to either Wilshire/Fairfax or Colorado/Cloverfield in Santa Monica.


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  1. I'm surprised you haven't found a coffee at Groundwork to your liking. My usual dark roast of choice is Black Gold, but they usually have at least a dozen varieties/blends ready to go in hot pots, and of those, at least a few are dark roast. Also, a blend called, "Big Easy," with chickory is supposed to be out - big on flavor if your familiar with those kinds of coffee blends. I'm loyal to the original Venice location. Okay so they don't have the Clover or baristas with an encyclopedic knowledge of each brew's terroir, and it's looking a little worn around the edges (and then some), but it's in my neck of the woods and the selection is always amazing...

    3 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      Thanks, I'll check out the Venice one soon. I went to one downtown, where IIRC they did have the Clover, and tried the Black Gold, and it was - meh. I think I'm just not a fan of the Clover process.

      The Black Gold made by me at home in my Melitta cone may be just the ticket.

      1. re: Vaya Con Carne

        Give their bins a lookover - it's self-serve so you can literally get your nose into the beans... also as I've mentioned before, they usually have about a dozen different coffees in hot pots that on the table that are ready to go. I hope you find at least a couple of brews that can stand their ground...

      2. re: bulavinaka

        Bitches Brew is quite a strong blend at Groundwork. They've got another one that's pretty dark also.

      3. i've been happy with peets.
        all of their roasts tend to be darker than most sold by other purveyors.
        they always offer a free cup of coffee with a ground bean purchase.
        their brewed coffee always tastes much better than starbucks.

        i know this doesn't fit your desire to move away from a corporate entity, but imho, the quality at peets is good enough for me.

        4 Replies
        1. re: westsidegal

          I concur with Peets for dark roast.

          1. re: westsidegal

            Agreed - I love Peets coffee, corporate or not. But unless I'm missing something, their locations aren't very convenient to where I spend most of my time - so I rarely am near one. I know there's one on Main in SM, but it's been my experience that their brewed coffee is usually Columbian, which is unfortunate!

            1. re: Vaya Con Carne

              That's just bad luck -- the coffee changes daily. The closest Peet's locations to Colorado/Cloverfield are actually the one on Montana and the one on San Vicente.

              1. re: a_and_w

                another vote for peet's. i love the one on san vicente, the baristas are always friendly and helpful.

          2. Manhattan Mudd from Urth Caffe.

            1. I also agree with Peets for a dark roast. If they don't have what you want brewing, they will whip up a french press of the coffee of your choice. They charge you for a custom brew, but it is worth it to have what you want. I am a dark roast lover...weak coffee is a bummer!

              2 Replies
              1. re: carriedushey

                Thanks for the tip! I had no idea that they would do that - definitely going to try that next time I'm there.

                1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                  Peets is High Octane and love my drive to work with it in hand. www.peets.com

              2. You may have tried these, but I love the New Mexico Pinon and the Volcano coffees from TJ's.

                2 Replies
                1. re: teach

                  The Volcano is good, you're right. Haven't tried the Pinon, but will.

                  Trouble with TJs is their burr grinders are always in awful shape and don't grind very fine, which makes it tough for those of us who don't have our own.

                  1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                    TJ's Dark Sumatra (one of their Ultra Dark Roast Blends) does it for me, especially if you make it just a little strong--I do 3 scoops/cup as opposed to the "normal" 2.

                    all of my strong coffee lovin' friends that I make a cup for are impressed, and ask what kind of coffee I use, presumably off to buy a can for themselves. it's relatively cheap, too.

                2. Definitely Peets. My husband LOVES his coffee and buys the beans there and then grinds them at home for each pot just as the water comes to a boil. I am not that discerning. There is one on Beverly Drive in BH south of Wilshire and there is the newer one on Sunset just west of Holloway across from the old Tower Video.

                  For an indie place, I love Kings Road Cafe. They have roast their own beans. All the coffee there is brewed by the cup like espresso. It is dark and strong and tasty. They are on Beverly Blvd. at Kings Road a couple of blocks east of La Cienega. Personally, I like their food as well.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Elefbe

                    If you want strong, I second King's Road. I can't even finish a cup.

                  2. You should also try Funnel Mill at 930 Broadway in Santa Monica. They have a great variety of all sorts of beans, all coffees are brewed to order using a siphon rather than the conventional drip method, this is supposed to really bring out the flavors of the bean. They also have their beans for sale, and have a lot of hard to find varieties.

                    Funnel Mill
                    930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ldodb

                      I have tried Funnel Mill, and I thought it was pretty awful - some of the most bitter coffee I've ever had. I only tried their organic roast, though, so I'd consider going back to try a different variety.

                    2. While I don't share your tastes in coffee (I think Intelligentsia and LAMill are the best coffee in LA), I would say Peet's is a good bet. They have a very full dark roast that maintains some remnants of complexity. Peet's is my favorite dark roast--I prefer Peet's dark roasts to anything Starbucks has except maybe the Christmas Blend.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: aventinus

                        i'm sipping a cup of Peet's as we speak. I love a dark strong roast. Buy whole beans and grind for 15 -18 seconds. Two tbls per cup using the Melita method. Perfect every time.

                        1. re: aventinus

                          Agreed - Christmas Blend is pretty good, and Peet's is better. Haven't tried La Mill yet but plan to when I'm out that way.

                          Do you have a favorite roast at Intelligentsia? I can't recall which one I tried - I let the barista choose for me after explaining that I was a dark roast fan. While it wasn't awful when I tasted it black, the minute I added half and half it lost all flavor and tasted, as my companion that day put it, like "coffee-flavored tea" - in other words, mild brown water.

                          Perhaps that's what separates the Intelligentsia fans from non-fans - whether or not they prefer it black.