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The BEST coffee and/or espresso inside the beltway?

So, let's just say I used to live somewhere with really, really good coffee. I returned there recently for about a week and was reminded how much of a difference the Clover makes on regular coffee - and how much a great roaster and barista can affect a cup of espresso.

I live pretty close to Murky Coffee, which is good. The espressos are solid, if a bit inconsistent. Are there any comparable or better Metro-accessible coffee spots around DC? Does anyone around here use a Clover to make coffee?

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  1. Don't be angry, Sam. Caffe Pronto in Annapolis has a Clover. Local specialty roasters with a highly rated espresso on a LM FB80. The Clover is at the store in Festival at Riva shopping center; there is also a cafe in the roasting plant just off West Street. www.caffepronto.com

    There is also a Clover in Alexandria at Grape & Bean. That's it for Clover in the DC market.

    1 Reply
    1. re: VinnyI

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm heading down to Grape & Bean tomorrow.

    2. It's not inside the beltway, but… Caffé Pronto at Festival at Riva in Annapolis has a clover. http://www.caffepronto.com/about/stor... I've been enjoying their Ethiopa Sidamo a la Clover lately.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Treva

        Murky Coffee in Clarendon...just don't ask for an espresso over ice!

      2. Asking for the BEST coffee is like asking for the best pizza, or chili, or BBQ brisket (or going on to a sports forum and asking about the best running shoes). The thing that seems to best define "best" is consistency from visit to visit. If a place has learned to make coffee consistently no matter when you come in and who serves you, you can tell whether you like it or not. If you get a cup you don't care for on your first visit and don't like it, you probably won't come back - if the shop is inconsistent, you won't know if you made the correct decision or not.

        Murky is about as consistent as places go in the area. The owner is really dedicated to his concept of coffee and tries hard to teach his employees his philosophy and techniques - but they're all individuals. A lot of people in that general neighborhood who like to hang out where there's decent coffee prefer Java Shack over Murky. It's on a side street a half a block from Wilson Boulevard between Clarendon and Court House. I can't remember the street, but you can see it from Wilson Blvd when going from Clarendon to Court House. Address at http://www.javashack.com

        Do you have a Clover? You made me look! Pretty cool. I see there's a distributor over in Annapolis, but I'm afraid to ask how much one costs. I see that Clover is now a Starbucks company. Is this the automatic espresso maker that Starbucks stores use now?

        2 Replies
        1. re: MikeR

          I will echo the Java Shack recommendation. Excellent iced americano!

          1. re: MikeR

            The Clover is used for making regular coffee as flavorful as it really should be. The problem with Starbucks owning the company is you can't extract flavor from beans that have had all of their sugars and oils burned out of them. Anyhow, If I had a Clover, I'd never buy coffee from a coffee shop again. In fact, I'd be in danger of never leaving the house.

            Thanks for the Java Shack recommendation! I'll check it out.


          2. The Big Bear Cafe DC is great and it's locate on 1st and R off of Florida Ave, right between the hwy 50 and 395 in NW DC (AKA Bloomingdale) near the XM Satellite Radio office. The coffee is French Press and the espresso is great. They use the same beans as Murky, the beans that pretty much every decent cup in the area is brewed from. Said beans come from Counter Culture Coffee.


            1. In Old Town Alexandria, not far from King St Metro, there's Grape & Bean (good selecton of beans + a Clover) and Misha's (comparable to Murky, though it's pro-smoking which for me means it's a carry-out-only place).

              5 Replies
              1. re: sweth

                My hubby and I had a blow-out kind of day! We went to Ray's Hell Burgers in Arlington and also Grape & Bean and Lavender Moon Cupcakes, both in Old Town Alexandria, much closer to the water than the King St. Metro, although they do have that trolley.

                Grape & Bean has lovely coffee, both espressos, etc., made with a Clover and available in bean form. Also various chocolates, a small but excellent wine selection, and bread. Basically my 4 food groups!

                1. re: Transplanted Texan

                  Peregrine Espresso opened recently on Capitol Hill in the former location of Murky Coffee.

                  1. re: Beto_pan

                    Anyone been to Peregrine yet who can report back on what it's like?

                    1. re: sweth

                      I thought the espresso was very good (and they did a perfect machiatto). My friend had an individual drip coffee which was also good. It's already pretty popular.

                      1. re: sweth

                        Yeah, they're awesome! The baristas are award winning, literally. Couple of guys went to a national competition and picked up medals and runner-up status. Thumbs up one of my favorites. Also Filter in Dupont. On 20th between R and S. Orange sign on the lower level. Great little place and they make their own Chai. Great ppl too. Super cool and friendly.

                2. I personally really like the coffee, especially the lattes and mochas at Tryst. I don't get there as often as I use to when I lived in the neighborhood (and spent waaaay to much time at Trust), but I have always thought they had solid coffee.

                  Same goes for OpenCity which is owned by the same people.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Elyssa

                    I think both of those places have terrible coffee. It's almost worst than Starbucks I have actually sent it back. Plus, hey also put it in those BIG cups, and by the time you get half way through your coffee is cold. They don't give free refills, so I'd rather they serve it in a smaller mug and give you one free refill if they are set on giving that much liquid to their customers.

                  2. In Old Town, Mischa's. Downtown, Swing's near the White House. They roast locally and have been around forever.

                    M E Swing Co
                    1702 G St NW, Washington, DC 20006

                    102 S Patrick St, Alexandria, VA

                    1. Okay, I'll bite.
                      What's a Clover?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pastrydiva

                        The Clover is the world's most expensive single-cup coffee brewer (not espresso). Description here: http://tinyurl.com/6d8e9f

                        This shows the retail price at $50,000 but I saw $11,000 elsewhere - such a deal! I guess that if you have to ask how much it costs, you don't need one that badly. It's the sort of thing that a commercial coffee shop would have (Starbucks is a major investor and is apparently testing the machines in some of their shops), or one might go in the conference room of a $5000/hour consulting firm.

                      2. Misha's is pretty good if you hit it right. They don't overroast, one of my most important considerations. From reading the thread, I cannot wait to go to Murky. I buy by the pound, and from looking at their website it appears they might be the most serious player in the immediate area. Good beans, and proper full city roast.

                        Swing seems inconsistant. I used to get very good Keyna there, but for the last 6 months it has been awful.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: KevinS

                          I love Swings Coffee. I wish they had more locations!

                          1. re: beauxgoris

                            The Whole Foods in Old Town carries Swings Coffee beans. Don't know if other WFs carry them, though, but you can definitely order theirs online.


                          2. re: KevinS

                            Yeah, the DC location of Swing's is near my office. The coffee is pretty good when the beans have been roasted recently, but they tend to keep them a little too long. The espresso there really depends on who's pulling the shots - the dude with a ponytail is pretty good at it.

                            1. re: Angry_Sam

                              Rodman's carries Swings beans too. I just wish they had more retail/drink locations.

                              I also like "Modern Times Coffeehouse" underneath politics & prose.

                          3. Grape+Bean in Old Town has a clover and serves an excellent cup to boot. I like that it's a coffee/wine/gourmet shop without diluting the experience or being pretentious.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: biscuit

                              Graep&Bean is awesome! We had such fun there last Sat. The coffee beans they sell make very good coffee, even if we just have a French press and not a Clover! ;-) How can you go wrong with a store that sells carefully chosen wine, chocolate, coffee, and bread?

                            2. Also the Modern Times coffeehouse in the basement of the Politics and Prose bookstore, if you're in upper Northwest... I think their "classic cappuccino" is just as good as Murky's.

                              1. In DC, the BEST lattes are at Peregrine. They use that fresh milk from glass bottles. SO yummy. I have to say that I am not a fan of their drip coffee though. Also, the atmosphere is a little cold. Better for takeout or sitting outside than inside. Very nice owners though and great neighborhood place.

                                For atmosphere, I love SOVA on H Street NE. It is a wonderful place to study, and you can get a glass of wine after 5pm, upstairs in the wine bar. Again, lovely owner.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mjf32

                                  Peregrine's Espresso and Cappuccinos are top notch. Most of their pour over coffees are single origin coffees roasted by the reputable and accomplished Counter Culture Coffee in Durham, NC. It's clean, bright, friendly and has a nice outdoor seating area. If only this balmy weather would hold.

                                2. Jacob's coffee at 8th and Maryland, NE is a cozy spot is not to miss. The hazelnut and the iced coffee are among the best and the sandwiches and food are good. Most of all though is that this place is family run, with kids, parents, aunts, uncles...everybody chipping it. and they are unfailingly nice and hardworking. Wi-Fi and huge patio. About 8 blocks to Union Station, but right on all the Cap Hill bus lines on Maryland, D St, C St and 8th St.

                                  I live right around the corner and visit everyday.

                                  Free wi-fi and a great patio in spring, summer and fall.