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Aug 7, 2008 09:34 PM

"3rd Wave" coffees in LA

Dearest LAhounds:

I've just decided to drive down to LA tomorrow -- so, I don't have time for extensive homework on finding coffee houses to visit. I'm not looking for just any coffee but more along the lines of single origin, carefully roasted, and prepared. Ambiance, etc. are meaningless to me. I'm only interested in the coffee.

I have Intelligentsia on my list. What other places should I visit?

Thank you so much!

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  1. Here is a link to a few places.

    One in particular is Choke, on Normal 50 feet east of Virgil, just get an espresso. Choke is about a mile from Intelligensia.

    1. Well I prefer Blue Bottle up north, the Kyoto vac. and the cold brew contraptions are so cool, but LA Mill on Silverlake Blvd. does have a good product with the Clover, Eva Solo and espresso all of which I've enjoyed plus others that I haven't tried. I like the chow that I had there but it is a bit pricey, Intelligencia on Sunset Blvd. from Chicago I believe is also good, I've only tried their Clover coffee so far. My favorite Espresso in the L.A. area is at Caffe Luxxe on Montana Ave. Eric or Erik is a master barista! Coffee Klatch in San Dimas usually makes wonderful Cappuccinos!

      1 Reply
      1. re: sel

        Kyoto Vac? Tell me more. I have had syphon coffee in Kyoto at a little shop near the Westin Miyako. I didn't know this was a regional thing.

      2. Luxxe and La Mill are the best, and I've tried them all.

        Luxxe is all espresso, no drip. La Mill does the clover and other drip preps. Was not as impressed with Intelligensia.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Adsvino

          I found rave reviews of Luxxe here and on other sites. I finally paid a visit and was totally underwhelmed. Frothy milk, watery flavor... Might as well go to Urth where you can at least sit outside and get some decent snacks. The quality of their coffee beans may or may not be great but the barristas aren't properly trained; I was handed a cappuccino within a couple of minutes after ordering. It's impossible to make one this quickly.

          This place seems like the Olive Garden of espresso drinks: it's good if you don't know any better.

          1. re: estnyboer

            I'm confused. Why is it impossible to make a cappuccino in a few minutes? I did it myself yesterday, and every bar in Italy serves cappuccino within a few minutes of it being ordered, even if they start from cold milk.

            (Edit: whoops, three years ago... but still confused)

        2. Intelligentsia trains excellent baristas, who understand the foaming arts, but their beans are, though good, not spectacular.

          Groundworks is notable for being the best affordable nice coffee I know - good stuff for $7-$9 a pound. The Venice location has some people who know the arts, and some who don't; it's probably the best branch.

          La Mill is probably the best for single-origin purity.

          Unfortunately, for single-origin purity, LA is sufficiently far behind the wonders of SF's Blue Bottle, that, after a taste of Blue Bottle, and unable to find anything like that down here, I had to learn to roast my own coffee.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Thi N.

            As it turned out:

            I had an excellent cup of Itzamna, Guatemala at Intelligentsia. It was the only coffee I had in L.A. that wasn't over roasted. Lovely notes of chocolate, red fruit, nutty, buttery.

            I tried Groundworks in the form of a double macchiato. Argh! Burnt beans and double sized espresso serving. Narsty.

            I also tried a couple of others that aren't worth mentioning.

            After all that was said about LA Mill, I so wanted to try it but just couldn't fit it in to the rest of my schedule. I'm saving it for my next visit when I might have more free-time. It would be so awesome if someone could comment about LA Mill's roasting style/quality.

            And thanks for sharing everyone!

            1. re: scarmoza

              You have to specify with groundworks - they often use this "Black Gold" or "Jet Fuel" stuff for their espresso drinks, which is super-mega-duper-roasted - (you can imagine Red-Bull-Snorting methed out roasters in the back, giving each other high fives and saying, "Hardcore, dude!") - but some of their varietals are probably roasted closer to your desires.

              As for how I'm roasting - I wrote an article about it for I'm not sure if permitted to post a link, per moderator policies, but I'm sure you can find it in about 5 seconds. It involves a $3 hot air popcorn popper, a burr grinder, and, which is pretty much the greatest coffee resource of all time. Perhaps we ought to start a thread about it in general topics...

            2. re: Thi N.

              PS- Thi N.: I'd love to hear more about what and how you're roasting!

            3. Another place to check out is Cafe Corsa on S Figueroa & 23rd Ave (look for the building with the Salad Farm and Wing Stop...the cafe is tucked in back of the courtyard.

              It's a one man show there, Great espresso and Clover coffees. He sources beans from three different roasters, striving to get the best of whats available.

              9 Replies
              1. re: rhino876

                Am I the only one that doesn't understand what this post is about? What is "3rd wave" ? A special way of brewing or a special type of process? Someone please explain this to me.

                1. re: SIMIHOUND

                  My guess is the the 3rd wave is the rebirth of coffee as an artisanal craft, like back in the 60's with Pete's Coffee. Roasting is considered a crucial aspect of the flavor as does origin of beans. Coffee has been elevated to the standard of wine, with much of the language describing the flavors similar to something you'd see in wine spectator. You even have Kenneth Davids ( as the self proclaimed "robert parker" of coffee with his 100 point system. But more than anything it's the new or "rediscovered" brewing methods such as clover, chemex, eva solo, siphon, and french press that's giving coffee drinkers new ways to experience coffee. Also, espresso drinks aren't about hazelnut/vanilla/caramel flavors but about the crafting of the drink much like a cocktail (hence the US/World Barista Championships).

                  My vote for "3rd wave" is Funnel Mill, Intelligentsia, and La Mill. Coffee Klatch is one I have to try, but it's a bit far for me. I've had Blue Bottle up in SF and it's very good. I've yet to try places like Stumptown and Ninth St Espresso, but they're not in LA. I wonder how much the regular public will embrace this but considering the discontent with Starbucks it's possible. But the popularity of mcdonald's iced coffee tells me they're not.

                  btw, I found this link to, which, along with coffeereview, is one of the best resources for coffee on the internet:


                  1. re: SIMIHOUND

                    I can't stand the term "3rd Wave" but when I posted this I must have been feeling a sparsity of common terms used to describe the movement towards better coffee. Journalists have used "3rd Wave" and I took from them due to lack of a better label.

                    What I mean though by "3rd Wave" is coffee that is very carefully selected often by means of qualification into the "Cup of Excellence" program or buy individual procurement through the coffee producers. Everything about the coffee is important to the trade: it's terroir, how/when it's picked, how it's packaged and delivered, etc.
                    One thing that I can't stress enough though is how it's roasted once it get's here. This to me really makes the cut on who is really a part of the "3rd Wave". I know of roasters here in the bay area that go the distance of buying quality beans but then burn them in the roasting process so that all that is tasted is charred coffee beans that taste like all other charred coffee beans. When good beans are medium roasted (one big hint that they have been over roasted is that they won't be shiny), there are often so many things that can also be tasted in the coffee. Coffee isn't just coffee. It can have a whole array of flavors (without ever being flavored unnaturally).

                    How the coffee is stored, ground, prepared, and served is also of high importance in this new movement. I know the wholesale people at Ritual won't let their beans sit on any store shelf for more then a week. That sort of quality control is constantly being checked. As far as the grind goes, they grind according to when the beans will be used, and how it will be prepared. Water temperature is always 200 degrees F (+or- 5 degrees). And then there's the preparation....
                    It's really heavy coffee geekery and the majority of the US likely won't be as interested but it's really not about catering to everyone. People who don't really care can have their brewed whatever-coffee at McDonalds or Starbucks. This is isn't for the masses, they've already got theirs.

                    1. re: scarmoza

                      I was waiting when someone was going to chime in on Ritual Coffee Roasters. For those of you who do travel up north and think Blue Bottle is where its at, take a cab to the Mission and you will find chemex and a synesso cyncra in precision action. Their espresso blends are so complex and always stand out from the other NorCal 3rd wavers (Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, Barefoot, etc.). Their espresso pull technique involves 30 steps and when it is done to precision (95% of the time), the cup can be sublime.

                      I'm from SoCal, but live in Oakland now where Remedy is my regular spot -- they serve Ritual beans. Was just scanning the boards for good places in the LA/OC area. Everyone should continue to grow this thread for coffee drinking references!

                        1. re: Big C

                          Speaking of Ritual, this guy at Ritual is already onto the "fourth wave", and it evidently involves a raw egg:


                          Does anyone know if there's a place in LA that serves Ritual's espresso blends? I think there was one a couple years ago in downtown that's now gone (name escapes me). None are listed on Ritual's website, but then the great Barista coffeehouse in Portland definitely serves Ritual espressos and they aren't listed either, so hope springs eternal...

                          1. re: Bradbury

                            You might check with "Spring for Coffee" downtown on Ritual espresso blends.

                          2. re: Big C

                            "Their espresso pull technique involves 30 steps"

                            Decent espresso is prepared the same way, every where you go. Grind, dose, distribute, tamp, lock into grouphead, push switch. That's it! Where do you come up with this mystery '30 steps'?