HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Local Coffee Bean Suppliers (Split from 33 Revolutions thread)

At work, I've been working through a short list of local bean suppliers.

Blue Bottle tasted *HEAVENLY* but seems to have growing pains. Different weeks, they'd short us or "long us". Our admin found them snippy and unbearable. We were ordering the Temescal Blend. The blend had crema for *days* and a great richness.

We switched to Ritual's espresso blend. Arguably, I should have asked them which blend is best for our taste here, but we found the beans to be very dry and lacked a certain depth we had come to expect with Blue Bottle. And, I couldn't get crema out of the stuff to save my life, although I had been playing with the espresso pressure and didn't necessarily have a clean A/B test.

Which brings us to last week's trial of Barefoot in Santa Clara. First, I disapprove of shipping beans in 12oz bags. We though we were getting a good price - $11/bag - but they're the same price, and the sizes are clearly stated on the website. The office assessment is they're on par with Blue Bottle. One person likes Barefoot better, two like Blue Bottle better, but they're running pretty neck-and-neck. Depth is exceptional, crema is acceptable.

If anyone else thinks there's local mail-order/internet beans suppliers in the same league, I'd like to hear about it.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You might give Catahoula in Richmond a try. He is a new roaster and not everything is successful. However, I've heard his Chiapas roast is right up the with Blue Bottle's best. Also, Timber who owns the place is a dream to work with. After my cup of Ritual Sunday, it was ... Ritual. I'm more likely to stop by Catahoula.

    1. Have you tried Ecco?

      Ecco Caffe
      90 Timothy Rd, Santa Rosa, CA

      1. a)Ecco and in a week or two b)Four Barrel in the city......they'll be roasting Hairbender, which you'll know if you've been to Stumptown in Portland.....the espresso blend that all other are measured against...


          1. I've tried them all and IMO, Equator Coffees in San Rafael is the best and most consistent. You can place your order in the morning and pick it up in the afternoon (roasted the same day).


            1. I've been buying from Henry's "House of Coffee" on Noriega for over 30 years (since it was Andy's "House of Coffee" -- Andy was Henry's uncle) and I really like their roasted beans a lot! Henry is a fourth generation coffee roaster and he roasts daily in 20-lb. batches. Just tell him about your tastes and let him know what kind of machine you use for your coffee and your grinding and he'll suggest a blend for you. Here's a link that will give you more info:


              House of Coffee
              1618 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

              1 Reply
              1. re: Nancy Berry

                That's a neat place. Only drag with them is they pre-brew the morning coffee in those self serve thermoses now. I've found they have a good dark roast without burning the beans.They're also the last stand of old business on Noriega from back when there used to be Jewish delis and stuff.

              2. You might try Intellegentsia Coffee out of Chicago, and Southern California

                Like I said in the other thread, it's going to get to the point where all these places will be utilizing the same selection of sourcing, so the difference will be highly technical in the ways the beans are treat in prep before brewing. It's difficult to do volume sales and provide customers with uniformity and purity at the same time.

                Ritual probably aren't roasting with retail/wholesale use in mind, and in-store they're taking care not to expose coffee to air, and that sort of things to produce a cup.

                3 Replies
                1. re: sugartoof

                  Ritual sells retail at Rainbow Foods.

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    Right, and through their own locations. It's not their focus yet.
                    They're tailoring their beans for their own brewing.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      Why would they risk their reputation by retailing something that was not ready for prime time?

                2. Thanks all for the information, the list is fat and happy now. Should keep me busy for months.

                  I wonder who of the responders uses restuarant-grade espresso equipment. I have a CMA (same maker as Victoria, badged as Rio) 1 group, and have both a double basket in a standard portafilter handle, and a triple basket in a "crotchless" handle. Standard Mazzer grinder. I've become handy with the triple basket, even though the spatter is problematic.

                  Catahoula. Nice web site, no real information about ordering, simply a link about being put on an email list. Will check back.

                  Ecco - on the list now. I wish I could tell more about how they operate, like the frequency of the roasts.

                  Four Barrel - no website, but will keep an eye out.

                  Equator - sure, on the list now.

                  A friend at work has been talking up Intelligentsia, although their website looks a little overly slick (for some reason I'm reminded of Beard Papa), I'll put them on the list.

                  Henry's house of coffee - Nancy Berry, can you contrast the espresso roasts you've used against some of those I've mentioned? How have you brewed it? Old school is fine and all, but I really enjoy the new school of lighter roasts, I'd like little more info before plunking down dough.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Intelligentsia are slick, but that's where all this coffee stuff is heading.
                    They even announced their own custom designed machines, and they've opened up a training/wholesale office in Brooklyn.... They're just considered to be the hotshots in organic coffee right now, so if you're going to get caught up in all this madness it might be worth comparing them with Ritual/Blue.

                    Here's a review:

                    Henry's House of Coffee is old school even in their lighter roast.

                    Now have you tried Porto Rico Importing? http://www.portorico.com/store/ Same organic beans for much, much cheaper. Whether the beans are fresh, and roasted scientifically to bring out the flavors....all depends.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      I don't know if "old school" is intended to be a slam, but if if means they stick to centuries-old roasting tradition and haven't joined the Cultural Revolution of under-roasted, sour beans, then more power to Henry's.

                      1. re: Xiao Yang

                        Why would it be a slam? Is "under-roasted, sour beans" meant to be a slam though?

                        It's a matter of preference. Henry's is great stuff... they have the lighter roasts, but they have never attracted the Blue Bottle crowd. They are literally old school.

                      2. re: sugartoof

                        "Caught up" - sort of. I had this really nice espresso machine in storage that I bought during the .com bust ($400 for a pro machine & grinder was very cool) which I finally had time & inclination to get running and plumbed. Then I find there's this whole coffee revolution going on --- who am I not to shop around for my beans?

                        Your review of Porto Rico is underwhelming, but I'll keep them in mind

                        "Old school" - as they say on the Simpsons, there's no school like the old school - I'm firmly aware that Peets and others dragged us to a far darker roast, and what's happening now is part reaction to that, I've got no problems with old school anything, just am looking for more information than "I've been drinking them for 30 years" --- a short and sweet comparison is good ---

                        But the biggest deal, I think, is the improvement in supply chain dynamics to get coffee from roasting day to me in about 48 hours at scale (blue bottle was reliable on Weds morning after a monday roasting day).

                        Which is why I'm still considering this a local thing, and don't believe I can get LA or Portland or Brooklyn beans to my grinder in time for reasonable money (blue bottle ships US mail)

                        I'll still say my best cup may have been a friend in Minnesota's roast on a particular cold december evening, but it just doesn't scale.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Just another note about Catahoula. For some reason his beans work better as espresso than a straight cup of coffee. If you are in the Richmond area, up near San Pablo Dam Road, I thihk you would really enjoy stopping by. Timber will talk your ear off about coffee and usually coffee is roasting as you talk. Give them a call though to make sure Timber is there. He usually is, but if you are not in the area, it woulld be better to check.

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            Peets did not "drag us into a darker roast". They were following in the footsteps of others, offering to Berkeleyites what Graffeo had been roasting and Caffe Trieste had been serving on the other side of the Bay for years as an alternative to Maxwell House brewed in a Bunn.

                            The first espresso pulled in the US was made with Graffeo coffee on a machine imported by another North Beach boy, Thomas Cara. Try peddling overtones of "green apple Jolly Ranchers" to a fresh off the boat North Beach barista and you'll be asking someone what "rompi coglioni" means as soon as you hit the pavement.

                              1. re: Xiao Yang

                                "The first espresso pulled in the US was made with Graffeo coffee on a machine imported by another North Beach boy, Thomas Cara."

                                Where'd you get that idea? Reggio's in NY was most likely first.


                                Graffeo website says they've only been around 55 years, and Thomas Cara only went into business in the 40's.

                              2. re: bbulkow

                                Porto Rico are just no thrills but it's a great source for organic beans, and one of the first to import from regions like Ethiopea, Yemen, etc. They'll even sell you the raw beans so you can roast them yourself.
                                Will their stuff taste the same as when bought from the trendy places? Hard to say, but they are the same regional beans sold at 1/3 the price.

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              We brew expresso in a French press. Henry has a number of espresso suggestions. He asks lots of questions if you are new to him. I was once there when a fellow asked for Turkish coffee and Henry asked him what his ethnic background was. It seems that folks from different countries like different blends for "Turkish" coffee. He'll ask you what machine you use, what grinder you use, etc. His coffee is usually a higher roast than Blue Bottle and always a lighter roast than (to my taste) Peet's burnt roast. He takes into account barometric pressure, ambient temperature, type of coffeemaker and type of bean when he roasts and blends. As for type of roast, you have a choice here. For example, there are 4 different roasts of Colombian beans, French, Italian, Viennese and regular Colombian. If you like a more mellow roast, I'd suggest Viennese. Check out his website for more info.

                              Oh, another thing that I like about this store. All coffees are geographically described -- he doesn't go for nouveau hippie marketing techniques. And he'll let you know what's in the Henry's or Rosalie's blends -- no secrets here.

                              1. re: Nancy Berry

                                How do you brew espresso in a french press?

                                1. re: chipman

                                  What I meant to say was that we brew high roast beans in a french press. We can't afford a good espresso machine, so we don't make real espresso or other coffee drinks at home -- we leave that to restaurants and coffee houses. However, we do brew high roast beans in a french press and we brew our other beans in a drip type coffee machine.

                                  1. re: Nancy Berry

                                    Have you considered the Aeropress? Reported on elsewhere in CH, but as bang/buck goes for brewing equipment, it's without parallel. I love mine (home equipment - the big mama espresso lives in the office), have a friend who didn't care for it, but at $30-ish, it's a worthy risk. The coffee tastes different from any other brewing method I've tried. Intense like an espresso, not quite as robust as a french press, more "bean taste" than either.

                                    Also -- takes a few brewings to get right. I had a method I liked after about 5 tries, now I get repeatable excellent coffee every time.

                                2. re: Nancy Berry

                                  Aside from the personable questions which sound quirky, what you're describing sounds pretty much just like stand operation for any mom and pop coffee roaster. His staff is mostly young students who know their clientele but do no know coffee. The shop doesn't really lend itself to browsing either.

                                  I do think Henry's was a great suggestion, worth buying from even though his mail order looks on the pricey side, and certainly worth paying a visit for any coffee lover.... but I just wouldn't want Blue Bottle fans to get the wrong idea thinking Henry's is an alternative in the same vein.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    I'm sure Blue Bottle fans are secure enough in their faith not to be swayed by false prophets.

                                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                                      Some of those Blue Bottle fans are die hards, but mostly I'm just talking about the disappointment they'll have when their coffee is pour from a thermos and not a Rube Goldberg contraption.

                              2. This was a winner in a tastedoff in Consumer Reports and has a neat web page.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: wolfe

                                  Caribou sells vacuum/nitro pack, along with Jerimiah's Pick, right? I've tried both, a few years ago. All the vacuum/nitro stuff tastes inferior to me - which implies the problem is in the distro chain, not the supplier/roaster.

                                  My best A/B is that I can tell a huge difference between fresh Peets and grocery store Peets. Notationally the same blend.

                                  My friend at Blue Bottle says they think the beans peak between 3 and 5 days after roasting. I think I agree - it was always the late-week pulls that were the best. That time period always had clearer, richer taste.

                                  (Re Peets: this is back when I liked peets. I still consider their fresh beans acceptable in a pinch. When I lived in berkeley a few miles from Original Peets it felt more like a Local Thing.)

                                  (I also strongly suspect Consumer Reports wasn't testing with my style of rig, through which we about 2.5 lbs/week, which is small restaurant territory - and outside their target home user)

                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    "Caribou sells vacuum/nitro pack, along with Jerimiah's Pick, right? I've tried both, a few years ago. All the vacuum/nitro stuff tastes inferior to me - which implies the problem is in the distro chain, not the supplier/roaster."

                                    Yup, you're right about the packaging. Jeremiah's Pick says this on their site: "A specially designed valve allows the unwanted carbon-dioxide that is naturally released by the coffee to escape..."

                                    Also, I think it's a huge mistake to use Consumer Reports as the last word on every single item we buy in our lives. I just see people relying on it way too much.

                                2. Ritual is fine, but I have to laugh at their "tasting notes." (No, I don't really taste green apple Jolly Ranchers in ANY coffee beans--sorry.)

                                  I bought some Jeremiah's Pick this weekend--I'm going to admit I got it at Grocery Outlet--and I really like it. They're located in SF on Evans Ave.

                                  Jeremiah's Pick Coffee Co
                                  1495 Evans Ave, San Francisco, CA

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Atomica

                                    ..or Gummy Bears. Seriously. They had one they described as tasting like Gummy Bears.

                                    This one is pretty funny too:
                                    "Unreal sweet lime popsicle and blue raspberry candy flavors with dark chocolate undertones and kiwi nuances."

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      I don't think I want a dessert with all those tastes in it, let alone a coffee.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        I really thought they were joking..

                                  2. Here is a wonderful in house coffee roaster in the Northbay:

                                    Petaluma Coffee and Tea
                                    212 2nd St.
                                    Petaluma CA

                                    Lots of fair trade and shade grown beans from all over.