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Los Angeles coffee - I'm calling you out (many boos, and one hooray)

First of all, let's get this straight: I love Los Angeles, and Los Angeles food. Right? I'm rather violently disagree with, say, the people that come round from New York and complain that nothing comes even close. I specialize in taking New Yorkers and San Franciscans and Chicagoans around Los Angeles and making them weep and cry and bang their chests with bereavement when they have to depart. So when I say that Los Angeles is seriously lagging behind in some food department, I don't mean it as some sort of general eye-rolling-hand-waving-a-priori-dismissal of Los Angeles as a cultural center - I mean it as a deep lover and believer in the Neverending Gobstopper of Wonder that is the Los Angeles food world.

But Los Angeles, your coffee sucks.

I speak out of sorrow, love, and endless hope.

Let me get some things straight. First, I drink a lot of coffee. And I drink a lot of *crappy*, *CRAPPY* coffee. I'm OK with this. I'm a grad student, and an occasional writer. I spend two thirds of my life in some cafe or other, that I like for the space or the quiet or the feel, sucking down terrible coffee. I have no problem with it. Like John Thorne says - we have to, in the end, admit to ourselves that coffee is, first and foremost, a drug, and we are addicts. So most of my life is spent sucking swill. That's cool. I don't expect great coffee from your average coffeehouse. Most coffeehouses are more about space than coffee. That's fine.

But then there are your Coffee Beverage Establishments. And that's a different story.

Second, I'm talking about pure coffee, here, not foamed-milk beverages. Foamed milk is a different art, and it's not the center of my love. I've also found that many places that are expert with milk foaming arts don't match it with glorious beans. They're different aesthetics - a cappuccino is closer to a cocktail, and what I'm interested in is closer to pure, straight liquor. So: I'm talking about drip coffee, uncut espresso, and all the oddball in-betweens - like vacuum pot coffee, Aeropressed coffee, french press, etc. etc. Pure coffee.

Third, I'm a Convert to the Cause of Glorious Coffee. I used to be a tea man, first and foremost. My heart was in Taiwanese high mountain oolongs, Chinese greens and whites, Japanese gyukoros. I would talk friends flying to Beijing into making buying trips for me. I nurtured contacts on the mainland. I drank a lot of coffee, with appreciation, but never with love. I favored Peet's Major Dickison's. And then came The Experience. This was my first sip, in a farmer's market in San Francisco, of Blue Bottle.

And the skies shattered, and the heavens opened, and the light of a New Black God shone down upon me.

Blue Bottle was nothing like anything I'd tasted before - deep, intense, surging with crazy flavors. Loads of crazy flavors. Long, enormous narrative tails - multi-minute long aftertastes, with wild trips through citrus flavors, spice flavors, lemon flavors, funky meaty flavors - everything. It was wonder in a cup. It was coffee that matched oolongs, wines, my favorite bourbons. Madness, insanity, depth, beauty, and wonder in a cup. Glory.

When I came back after that trip to the Bay Area (where I tried to get at least two cups of blue bottle a day), I was in sorrow. I mean, I've always looked for good coffee, but I searched again, hard - nothing came in close. I bought bags of blue bottle for awhile, air mailed. It made me, in the end, start roasting myself. (This is the source of the article I wrote for Chow on home coffee roasting, at http://www.chow.com/stories/10621). What I found out was: it wasn't that hard. Using $5 a pound quality beans from sweetmarias.com, and using a $3 thrift store popcorn popper, and a $25 aeropress, I started turning out, in a month, coffee that was, say, reliably 80% as good as Blue Bottle, and sometimes as good.

It's not that hard.

So why doesn't LA have it?

So: two claims about Los Angeles coffee.

1. The state of coffee, on average, is worse than San Francisco, New York, or Seattle.

Basically, the average LA coffee is swill. The average San Francisco coffee is not swill. I think the break-line for LA is Starbucks. The average coffeehouse in Los Angeles serves drip coffee that is not as good Starbucks, and far below Peet's. This is something to be embarassed about.

2. The high end of coffee in Los Angeles is seriously, seriously lacking.

Definitions: the high end of coffee is, for me, varietal coffee, preferably single-estate, recently roasted, and, typically, ground and dripped to order. These are not hard and fast rules, but every single truly great cup of coffee been that.

I also tend to prefer light roasts, because I think they bring out varietal character. But this varies widely depending on the bean - some prefer dark. But in general, light. Though I still love Peet's uber-dark Major Dickison's blend.

The difference between a single-estate, light-roasted coffee and most very dark, blended coffees is like the difference between a good single malt scotch, and a cocktail made from well scotch. Single-estating it gives you constant change, newness, wonder. And light-roast tends to emphasize acids (I think), which, (to my admittedly limited knowledge of food science, tends to create long, long, complicated aftertastes). A good cup of Blue Bottle can give me a 30 minute, evolving aftertaste, easily. (I think there are similar things that happen with wine and tea - but there are people on this board that know about a zillion times more about this than me.


I also tend to think that espresso isn't the best way to experience single-estate. It's a little too concentrated. You want a little space - like how you throw in a drop or two of water into a bourbon for maximal flavor. The best coffees I've ever had in my life - the heaven-breaking experiences - have all been dripped, french-pressed, aero-pressed, or vacuum potted.

So here's the reviews:

1. Groundworks. Decent, fresh roasted coffee. But they're not super-varietal, and they're not trying for heights.

2. The Conservatory. Excellent with the milk-foaming arts, decent with the coffee. Not aiming at the heights.

3. Intelligencia. Aiming for the heights. Good varieties, roasted dark, and they drip stuff to order. And the coffee's *good*. But I think their soul is in espresso, rather than drip and other stuff. Their espresso is reliably perfectly pulled, their drip is - variable. Sometimes it's weak, sometimes it brings in off-flavors, or kills the coffee. They're not... adapting, I think. Each different bean needs to be learned and treated a little differently - and when you do it, like they do at Blue Bottle, you get reliable wonder. This may sound like it's asking a lot of coffee - but I don't think it is. It's just treating coffee as seriously as wine, or beer.

Anyway: Intelligencia pulls fantastic espresso. (I took an expatriate Frenchman here, who'd been complaining about not getting a decent espresso in the States for the last decade, and he drunk three doubleshots and actually, literally, shed a tear.) Their single-estate drip is good, but somehow... not quite great. It tends to have a short tail.

4. La Mill. La Mill proves to me that a Clover machine and single-estate beans does not necessarily make great coffee. I've had good Clover-machined coffee (in San Fran, at Ritual), but the stuff here seems... weak, and off. Not full-bodied, flavors are recessed, muted... It's nice - it's got some character, you can definitely *tell* that the different varieties are different. But it's sort of... I don't know. The coffee here feels like an afterthought. I don't know, it's weird... they've got the process down. It *looks* like they're taking their coffee seriously. They're going through all the proper motions of making perfect coffee. But I don't sense love in the final brewed cup - somewhere in the line, whether it be in the roasting, or selection, or training of their baristas, they haven't done what you need to do produce.

Some of the coffee here has tasted like it was the dirty dishwater run-off from a cup that had held a good cup of coffee three hours ago.

5. The Fix.

OK, this is why I'm writing right now. I'd temporarily given up on Los Angeles coffee, then I started hearing about The Fix. They take their coffee seriously here, people told me. Varietal, light-roasted, people told me. It's great, people told me.

I went. I walked in the door, and the first thing I saw was those big thermal carafes, full of premade coffee, being kept at a high, high temperature.

You know, I don't want to be a snob. I hate being a snob. I don't want to be one of those people who has rules, and "ways to tell" that a place is good. But - thermal carafes. For varietal coffee... it's like walking into a wine bar and seeing them pour wine into plastic cups, over ice. Or pouring your espresso shot out of a premade jug. With really good, varietal coffee - it's the first few moments that are magic. And then constant evolution of flavor for the first ten minutes. But, especially, something about being held in those big thermal carafes kills great coffee. Somebody once explained to me why - it involves some sort of chemicals. Rhizomes or something. I don't know. But I would rather have, for single estate, the coffee dead cold, left out, then held in a thermal carafe.

I was reading reviews of this place, on Yelp, and somebody complained about Fix as another in a long line of places devoted, wrongheadedly, to light roasting. "Great, another prejudiced ass," I thought. "Be open," I thought. But I can see why he's complaining. Because light roasted coffee is like sushi. It's delicate. It requires care. And if it goes wrong, it goes really, really wrong. Not the least because, if it's light roasted, and acidic, it gets a really, really long aftertaste. If it's bad, you're stuck with it. Most food won't wash it out. Maybe Sichuan, but I didn't have any Sichuan handy.

But, you know, all these rules? I would throw them out if I got a great cup of coffee. I would throw out any beliefs I had about coffee, and thermal carafes. I'm open.

So how was the coffee?

I had: Nicaraguan, told it was fresh-brewed. It was: a first taste of dull sour. Changing, in the mouth, to: a slightly higher note of dull, flat sour. Followed quickly by a descent, after 10 seconds, into flavors of ash. Not interesting ash. Dull, boring ash. Followed by musty. A flat, empty, blank, ash-and-must flavor, that lasted in my mouth for an hour.

So my plea is this: please, Los Angeles coffeemakers. You are behind. You are behind San Francisco, behind Berkeley, behind New York. It isn't hard. I figured out how to make good coffee with a thrift-store popcorn popper, a single web page, and a month of experimentation. And I'm not exactly a great cook, or anything.

Part of it may be the crowd. We have to be willing to pay more for non-complex espresso drinks, we have to be willing to wait the time for it to be fresh-ground and dripped, and we have to be willing to praise it. But it's worth it. A full-power cup of properly roasted, varietal coffee... it's a full-throttle, ever-widening, ever-evolving mouthful of wonder.

Alright: the one hooray.

About a month and something ago, Intelligencia started offering single-estate espresso. It turns out to be awesome. They seem to just get espresso more than they get drip. Their single-espresso nails the big, wide, complicated flavors. It's really optimized for espresso, too - getting it Americano doesn't do as well as espresso. It's probably, oh, 70% as good as Blue Bottle.

It's really, really good.

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  1. I'm sorry - that was long, and probably more negative than it needed to be. I tend not to like to post negative - I mean, there are craploads of bad places out there, and so few good, and, furthermore, if somebody enjoys it, what's the problem? But I feel strongly about this. And I feel that the places are within grasping reach of The Glory... they're just not doing it. And it frustrates me. Because good coffee is one of the *cheapest* beverage glories.

    And you can drive after three cups of it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Thi N.

      What? Not lovin' the coffee at Mickey D's?

    2. I'm exaggerating about La Mill. It's actually pretty good. Maybe, say, 40%-50% of Blue Bottle. But it's got a long way to go. And it still feels a little... wrong to me. Like all the mechanical motions of good coffee were followed, but they're not hitting the mystical IT.

      The Intelligencia single-estate espresso is the one thing that hits the mystical IT in this city, pure-coffee-wise, right now.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Thi N.

        ah, La Mill. for such a brush with greatness to fail is far worse than seeing failure where it was expected. now, if we could get them to use Dunkin Donuts coffee in those fancy whirligig machines, we might be flirting with perfection....

        1. re: jdwdeville

          I have a theory that when you aim high with low-roasting, and you fail, it's not just the subjective-worse of "I expected so much more and I paid more." I think, because the low-roasting brings up acids that make the flavors last longer (or something like that) - it objectively lasts much longer on the tongue.

          Disasters are quadrupled.

      2. I feel your pain. About a year ago, I did an espresso round-up: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/488346

        The corridor from San Francisco to Vancouver is essentially the coffee center of North America, so I hold that it's unfair to compare LA to them. It's like saying Philadelphia has better cheese steaks.

        I'm an espresso drinker who prefers dark roasts (raised on Peet's in NorCal), so we don't have a common starting point, but if you want another perfectly pulled espresso, and the best I've had in town, check out the Choke Motorcycle shop on Normal, east of Virgil,

        2 Replies
        1. re: sku

          I started on dark roasts at Peet's too - I just had a conversion experience.

          I will check out Choke thanks.

          But also: Chicago has a higher average level, I'm told. And NY does - NY, which has had famously crappy coffee forever. Now, the average nicey-nice cafe has a *good* cup. And the heights - like Cafe Grumpy - are *high*.

          The average nicey-nice cafe in LA is still sub Starbucks.

          I think the presence of one or two really heartfelt roasters/cafes will change things - one of the things that raises the *general* coffee level is having sensational coffee to taste, regularly - then you can *see* the difference.

          1. re: sku

            Also, another wonderful coffee is Raven's Brew, from Alaska: http://www.ravensbrew.com/
            I like their Deadman's Reach coffee. Certain to spark up your day.

          2. Don't forget Cafe Luxxe on Montana they make excellent expresso and expresso drinks.

            Spelling yes hmm thats why google maps can never find it thanks adsvino

            2 Replies
            1. re: Ben7643

              Luxxe for us detail-minded folk.....

              1. re: Ben7643

                yes, I'd agree more (i do agree that the food here is in many ways better than places like ny and chicago) had you mentioned Luxxe, a pretty delicious Euro style coffee.

              2. Do me a favour. I know you live in LA and you eat in LA. But if you happen to make it down here to OC, go to Kean. It's in Newport Back Bay, where 17th turns into Westcliff, so it's not really on the way to anywhere. They're opening a second one in Tustin, on Newport and Main, which will be a little friendlier to my gas tank if not to my wallet.

                The coffeeshop does more with espresso than drip coffee, though their drip coffee is very, very good (you can buy it by the French press if you're staying in the shop) -- but I've bought their beans and I make them at home with my cheap $25 burr grinder and my garage sale French press and it's just... heaven. You can buy single-origin (not sure about single-estate) or you can buy their blend, which I think is fantastic. The date of roasting is written on the tape sealing the bag shut, so you know how "old" it is.

                And then tell me what you think. Espresso is my real love -- I grew up in a heavily Italian place, and was drinking espresso regularly by the time I was in high school, and the pinnacle of American-made espresso is Zibetto in New York, that tiny, sterile hole in the wall -- but a good cup of French-press coffee is just fantastic.

                Kean Coffee
                2043 Westcliff Dr Ste 100, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                4 Replies
                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Kean coffee is good i'll second it only been there once but my dry cap was excellent.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      This really sounds good and sure would beat driving to San Diego to get my supply of Pannikin Coffee. I know this section of Newport because my son and I sometimes get a slice at The Pizza Bakery at 1741 Westcliff Dr. Good thin crust pizza. Now I have two reasons to go there. Thanks,


                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Thi....Kean's is right up your alley.

                        1. re: Amuse Bouches

                          My question exactly. Jones is a coffee roaster located in a warehouse on Raymond (just north of California) in Pasadena, where they have a little area for selling beans and brew to the (usually, not too snooty) public. They also offer a few pastries, but a couple of days ago I picked up some guava and cheese strudel at Porto's and drove all the way down to Jones so that I could have a triple espresso with it -- an outstanding idea! The espresso is rich and powerful with a tan crema, and it goes down like fine bourbon. They also give coffee-roasting and -tasting short-courses and even sponsor trips to coffee-producing regions around the world. For details or to get on their mailing list, see: http://www.thebestcoffee.com/

                          Jones Coffee Roasters
                          537 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

                            1. re: sbritchky

                              I think they also own some coffee plantations. Real artisans, the Jones people. And that warefront smells like heaven.

                              1. re: sbritchky

                                beautiful coffe and espresso, maybe too dark of a roast for Thi. But if you love Peet's or my current favorite Counter Culture, you should make the stop at Jones.

                                1. re: kashelton

                                  Jones is pretty bad coffee. If you like Peet's, Jones will taste like Starbux, and if you want to drink on premises as opposed to buying beans, or taking a cup elsewhere to drink, the ambiance and creature comforts are zero.

                                    1. re: carter

                                      Agree with what you say except for the bad coffee part. They have decent beans.

                              2. What is Jones?
                                I'll have to try the Intelligentsia single-estate espresso, thanks.
                                Thi, I'm sure you're completely right about these places, but I don't think most people in L.A. actually like light roasted varietal coffees.
                                Many "foodie" type people I know can appreciate really good espresso and cappucino, but I know very few who are really that interested in repeatedly drinking and analyzing single estate coffees -- especially first thing in the morning! And I believe Jonathan Gold said as much about himself around the time Lamill opened.
                                I personally feel that that type of coffee appeals to a very small niche, smaller than the people who appreciate good beer, for example.
                                I guess I just don't get the more subtle distinctions in coffee -- I recently bought a pound each of Lamill, Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle and Peet's -- mostly espressos -- and concluded that the Peet's fresh from the shop (not from the supermarket) was the closest to what I need my coffee to taste like in the morning.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Chowpatty

                                  Jones is a Pasadena-based coffee roaster: http://www.thebestcoffee.com/

                                  And yea, there's a time for enjoying coffee and savoring every sip and then there's time for just something to mentally jolt me out of bed while still tasting pretty good. For me, Peet's (either Blend 101 or Fair Trade) or LA Mill (Black Onyx blend or Tanzania Blackburn) does the trick for the latter. I do want to check out Intelligentsia's beans next time I make my way there though.


                                  1. re: Chowpatty

                                    I know this is the state of the culture, and it's probably *why* there isn't the existence of many places.

                                    But I don't know why.

                                    We're full of lovers of different wines, different belgians, different bourbons, different teas, different single malt scotches.

                                    The difference between the usual, blended-style coffee, and a single-estate coffee is exactly the difference between Johnny Walker and a single malt scotch. Why is it that LA is full of people that will appreciate every different scotch, all the nuances and varieties, but be unwilling to go for the coffee?

                                    I'll stand up here and say: the best coffee I've had is as good as the best scotch I've had. The variety of flavors is as wide - there are weird ones, chill ones, gorgeous ones, singing ones.

                                    The best coffee I've ever had, though, cost either $6 a pound for green beans, $15 a pound for roasted (from BB), or $4.50 for a cup. Rather than $20 a glass, or $200 (or more) a bottle.

                                    I don't get why the niche is small. One of my guesses is that the niche is small because there isn't much incredible coffee, and there isn't much incredible coffee because the niche is small. What we need is more conversion experiences.

                                    Maybe that's why Intelligentsia is doing is right. They're offering the perfectly pulled normal shot, and then one single-estate a day. Maybe the niche will broaden.

                                    But, in general, isn't that what CHowhound is about? Finding delights that are currently enjoyed by a teeny tiny niche and then trying to drag each other kicking and screaming into new wonders?

                                    1. re: Thi N.


                                      I think a similar thing I've heard said about Chinese. Like, people who will carefully pursue the best in French and Italian and wine, but just want to have the same crappy takeout sweet and sour. And the same said about Mexican - it's all the same, you just need a decent burrito from Chipotle, etc.

                                      Isn't the point of Chowhound: that there is wonder everywhere, that almost every form of cuisine, beverage, fruit, vegetable, and skin can be made beautiful, shocking, artfully, and probably better than you imagined, and that it was worth chasing all of it?

                                      I'm not saying that there's something wrong with grabbing the comforting stuff you like. I suck down enough cruddy, hot, tasty, one-note coffee in my life. I'm just saying: complete brilliant shining awesome is possible.

                                      1. re: Thi N.

                                        Thi N.

                                        i concur with everything you've said here and truly VALUE the time you've spent posting so that the rest of us can benefit from your experience.

                                        My hat is off to you!!!!
                                        THANK YOU

                                      2. re: Thi N.

                                        "I don't get why the niche is small. One of my guesses is that the niche is small because there isn't much incredible coffee"

                                        There's not the demand and people are willing to settle for whatever is around at the time.
                                        Unless people have experienced what I've experienced in Seattle or San Francisco they really don't have any idea what they're missing...hence Peet's and Starbuck's.

                                      3. re: Chowpatty

                                        And having had a latte at Jones on Tuesday morning this week, you do not need to visit this place - the whole beverage is milk and thin milk only. That latte cannot hold a candle to the one at Peet's in Studio City, which I still feel makes the most consistent versions within that company's LA area locations, especially from certain baristas.
                                        It tasted something like one from 'bux or the 'bean, yet even less coffee-like, if you can believe that.
                                        And there is virtually NO place to sit, so plan to buy and depart, and the parking sucks after 8:30 in the morning.
                                        Just a really disappointing start to the day.

                                      4. Ok, I agree with some of your sentiments. This is much the reason that I have gotten into making my own espresso at home. However, the best of the best in Los Angeles is actually the Perry family at Coffee Klatch. Heather has won countless Barista championships, and Ronald (her father), is a roasting champ. I know that San Dimas is about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, but you seem passionate to find the best, so it may be worth the drive.
                                        In addition, I agree with the visit to Caffe Luxxe. It's a good place to check out, but also focuses on espresso.
                                        Also, there is quite a bit of research that you can do on coffeegeek.com and home-barista.com They are both amazing resources for the coffee fan.

                                        Caffe Luxxe
                                        925 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                        Coffee Klatch
                                        806 W Arrow Hwy, San Dimas, CA 91773

                                        1. Wow, you must drink a lot of coffee. One of the longest posting I've ever seen. Followed by another posting 2 minutes later, followed by another 5 minutes later. Are those typing hands shaking?

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: The Old Man

                                            HI Thi N,

                                            I also have an aeropress and like dark roasts (like major dickinson blend), I usually make americanos from them with my aeropress. I've never tried Blue Bottle, wonder if I could try some of those beans you make at home (I'd be happy to pay)


                                            1. re: Iateitup

                                              You don't need me. You just need to buy some green beans from sweetmarias.com and follow that link I gave above and roast them at home. You can even use a cast iron pan.

                                              Or mail order from blue bottle.

                                              1. re: Iateitup

                                                Like Jones Coffee Roasters, the AeroPress is another outstanding idea that most Los Angeles coffee lovers seem to have missed. I use this simple, inexpensive, California-produced gadget to make all my coffee at home -- both espresso (mit foam) -- and Americano (by adding hot water). The results brim with flavor, not bitterness, because of the fine grind and very short brewing time (about 30 seconds), and lack the familiar grounds of a cup of French press -- particles that continue cooking as you drink, making each sip more bitter than the last. (If you're interested, see http://www.aerobie.com/Products/aerop... for more information.


                                                744 San Antonio Rd # 15, Palo Alto, CA

                                            2. First of all, Thi, I love you man! Seriously, Los Angeles should name a park after you or something; you are up there with J. Gold as a local culinary gem as far as I am concerned.

                                              Second, when my law firm moved offices last summer, we put in our own Pete's Coffee concession. (The folks who man the bar, who are our employees, had to go be trained and everything.) Happy me.

                                              Third, and last, maybe this would be different for me if I lived in SF or Seattle or something, but the best coffee I've had has always, always, been made by me at home. It's just one of those things, like scrambled eggs (which have been overcooked and cooked too quickly at every single restaurant I've ever been to except for one), that I don't expect to be great outside of my home. It's like expecting people to drive courteously; you're just setting yourself up for disappointment. I suspect this is because it requires too much thought, care, attention to detail, and frankly good taste to be done well consistently for a couple of dollars a cup, when, frankly, most people won't notice or care. Hate to be cynical, but there it is.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: David Kahn

                                                And in the middle of the park will be a statue of a taco truck with Thi standing on its roof, arms out stretched, offering a cemita poblana to the Angeleno's gathered there to enjoy the beautiful summer day.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  No, no, no, my preliminary sketches for the park involve Thi and a bowl of noodles....

                                                2. re: David Kahn

                                                  Honestly - as a dark roast, drip coffee drinker who is from San Francisco and has lived in Seattle, I have to say you've nailed it, David. I've never had an especially memorable cup in a coffee house in either of those places (or in Los Angeles).

                                                  The best coffee I've had is my own at home; I fully know this and do not expect to be overwhelmed by goodness when I order coffee out. Every now and then I am pleasantly surprised - usually at Peet's, where they understand dark roasts - but most of the time, I've come to view coffee ordered out as purely medicinal. It's the cup at home that is both medicinal and delicious!

                                                  1. re: David Kahn

                                                    I do believe, though, that a true loving dedicated full-time specialist can do better and above than a homemade person.

                                                    Is it something in particular about *coffee* that makes it better at home - or is it that *coffee culture* in Los Angeles and other parts of the U.S. is just non-great, so people don't expect or demand greatness, so it stays non-great?

                                                    Also: doesn't care, and attention, for a few-dollar thing, the kind of rarity we look for everywhere? Pupusas, tacos, fresh bread. In most cases - it's care and attention that most won't notice. But a dedicated audience can support a few specialists, who go beyond and keep pushin' the boundaries.

                                                    I actually think coffee and bread are similar - stapes, that in many areas are best made at home, and that, in many places, people just won't expect greatness - but if they do and demand and support, then a few places can achieve The Next Level of Awesome.

                                                  2. For myself, I'm not that interested in where to go to buy a great cup. Why pay for a cup when a grinder and press give me consistently better results at home.

                                                    I'm curious where hounds think is the best spot in LA to buy a wide variety of different beans. Particularly Yemeni Moka. Any leads?

                                                    1. Thanks for the thoughts. This along with Intelligentsia and LA Mill opening near my house have made me rethink coffee. As, Chowpatty said, I as an Angelino, prefer espresso. Or at least prefer to experience espresso vs. drink coffee.

                                                      BTW, nicely written.

                                                      1. Blue Bottle on a cold wet Saturday at the Ferry Building is one thing, but you are advocating a trend in coffee drinking which I hope will soon fade. The championing of insipid, under brewed, under roasted and perhaps in the worst crime of all lukewarm coffee in the effort to detect some ethereal note to me borders on insanity. Dark roast all the way.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. I highly recommanded:

                                                          Jones Coffee Roasters @ Pasadena
                                                          Good bean, Wondeful espresso, friendy place.

                                                          Coffee Klatch @ San Dimas/ Rancho Cucamonga
                                                          good espresso, espeically when the ex-barista champ is behind the counter. Probably have the best roasted bean in L.A. Won the best micro-roaster from roastermagazine.com in 2008.

                                                          Intelligencia @ Siver lake
                                                          great espresso, only wish they roast locally rather than from Chicago.

                                                          http://www.thesupremebean.com @ North Hollywood
                                                          One of the earlier local coffee roaster. I usually just order coffee from them. Coffee of choice for many hollywood productions

                                                          I've tried groundwork & La Mill. They're better than the major chains. Fresh Roast @ San Gabriel is just ok, they do roast locally.

                                                          For the truely devoated, you can go to SCAA HQ in Long Beach and roast your bean and made your own coffee as a consumer member.

                                                          1. I love coffee. IMHO it is the most important of the food groups. I have yet to find a cup I enjoy more than Javatini, in old town Seal Beach. Beans are roasted fresh, in small batches, in an air roaster (the commercial equivalent of your air popcorn popper). Their house blend is dependable. You can enjoy a cup while getting your choice of beans roasted to your desired degree of darkness. Javatini is about the coffee more than about the space, although there is free wi-fi for those so inclined.

                                                            Javatinis Expresso Bar
                                                            148 Main St Ste A, Seal Beach, CA 90740

                                                            Javatinis Coffee
                                                            3960 S Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92707

                                                            1. I'm not sure why this is bugging me, but it kind of is. Because in fact New York is a pretty miserable coffee town, Grumpy's notwithstanding. For various reasons, punishing rents first among them, I think, there just isn't the coffee culture, and the several years I lived there I felt almost obligated to mail-order beans. You would too, if the alternative was Porto Rico or Dean & DeLuca. I would have killed for a branch of Groundworks, not even to say Intelligentsia. (Coffee-obsessed Seattle and PDX, of course, are different stories.)

                                                              And La Mill actually specializes in the kind of coffee you seem to prefer - lightly roasted, well-sourced, estate-grown beans prepared in a way that accentuates the vast, winey spectrum of flavors in coffee, some of which express themselves more eloquently through Chemex, some through Clover, and some through the Eva Solo brewing method. Bluebottle is good too, maybe better, but the differences between them are more aesthetic than qualitative. We're talking about the differences between two good winemakers working with different tracts of Volnay, not the difference between La Tache and generic shipper's Burgundy.

                                                              12 Replies
                                                              1. re: condiment

                                                                Two points:

                                                                1. I hear NY has a history of bad coffee. But in my last visit there, a few months ago, I spent wandering for about 3 weeks around manhattan and the boroughs - and consistently, I found places that claimed to make good coffee, that made good coffee. This may be a new developmnet.

                                                                2. La Mill makes the *style* I most like, but it doesn't make it beautifully. It feels... like it's going through the motions.

                                                                Maybe I overemphasized the light vs. dark thing. I give an edge to light, but I love great light-roasted and I love great dark-roasted. I love Intelligencia, and they're dark roasters. It's just, that dark or light, the places that claim coffee greatness in LA just fall short. I don't think it's a style thing - it feels to me like Blue Bottle and La Mill are in the same style... Blue Bottle just feels full of love and attention. But maybe this is just my own proclivities.

                                                                But one thing to note: Blue Bottle has huge lines, and passionate, rabid fans, and proselytizers. People with a weird burn in the eyes, when they talk about it - who buy the beans before they travel and give them as special gifts. Does La Mill have that?

                                                                1. re: condiment

                                                                  Intelligentsia and La Mill are world-class coffee as far as I'm concerned. The Ethiopian Sidamo at La Mill is one of my all-time favorites. Coffee this good is extremely rare in the United States, including in NYC and SF.

                                                                  1. re: aventinus

                                                                    I had the Panama Esmerelda last weekend, and at the expense of sounding like a band-wagon hanger-on, it was about as perfect a cup of coffee as I've had in a long time.

                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                      Hi, bulavinaka!
                                                                      Did you have the Panama Esmeralda at LaMill?
                                                                      That is the only coffee I order there -- Clover style, please! -- and it is always great!
                                                                      It is so rich and complete that it completely satisfies by itself...no food.

                                                                      1. re: liu

                                                                        Hi liu,

                                                                        My coffee drinking is usually not too far above pedestrian, but having that coffee as you specified was as near a perfect cup as I've ever had.

                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                          I am so glad that you, too, like it as much as I do!

                                                                          As tea is my preference, I rarely drink coffee. I had my first cup of Panama Esmeralda from a Clover machine at Groundwork downtown. When that shop closed, I knew I would never be able to match it.

                                                                          LaMill's cup comes very close...

                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                            Again, this past weekend I enjoyed a cup of Clover /Panama Esmeralda at LaMill.

                                                                            The buyer/manager came by and gave us a sample cup of Ethiopian Lima coffee, and my companion had a cup of Brazilian something. Now was my chance to compare TWO other different coffees with my Panama Esmeralda...side-by-side...to see if the Panama Esmeralda REALLY was as good as I believed it to be.

                                                                            The Ethiopian Lima was watery on my palate; it had a nice flavor, but no body. The Brazilian cup was burned tasting; I was reminded of Starbucks. Then I took a sip of my Panama Esmeralda and I was Goldilocks...it was just right! It was full, rich and smooth. It was SO MUCH BETTER than the other coffees I was trying.

                                                                            This Clover Machine Panama Esmeralda is -- as you point out, bulavinaka, a perfect cup of coffee. I left completely satisfied, now convinced that this coffee is really special.

                                                                          2. re: liu

                                                                            In June my Lovely Tasting Assistant™ and I visited the Panamanian highlands where the award-winning Gesha (not misspelled) Esmerelda coffee is grown.

                                                                            Even in Boquete, there is widespread misinformation about Gesha Esmerelda. There are lots of local (and very good) coffee shops selling "Geisha" or when in fact the actual La Esmerelda Gesha that won the awards (and was sold for like $300/lb or something at auction, whereas the #2 came in at about half that) is in very limited supply. There's this whole cottage industry of faux-Geshas that have made it out into the wider export market. So the likelihood that LA Mill is actually selling the actual award-winning $300/lb La Esmerelda Gesha is unlikely. However, that is not to say that what they serve isn't a damned fine cup of coffee.

                                                                            For what it's worth, the Esmerelda Gesha is supposedly has a extremely specific and distinct flavor of flowery citrus, which makes it nearly impossible to judge fairly in a blind tasting since it's flavor is so distinct from all other varietals. We didn't try it, because we didn't want to pay $30 for a cup of coffee.


                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                              Hello, Mr. Taster!
                                                                              I read your report of the Panamanian Esmeralda Gesha with much interest. I believe I have had a few cups of this amazing coffee when Groundworks downtown (RIP) was at its best a couple of years ago. They acted like it was liquid gold in a cup -- and it was!
                                                                              It has ruined every cup of coffee that I have had since. There is nothing that comes close! And yes, it was very different from any other coffee that I had ever had; it was complex, rich and smooth...exactly as you describe it with "flowery citrus" tones. Oh, I wish I could find it again!

                                                                              1. re: liu

                                                                                On a whim I emailed LA Mill and they directed me to their website where they are selling a real La Esmerelda Gesha for nearly $100/lb (although they still spell it "Geisha", but as I said before this was common even in Panama. This becomes more evident when you find out that the real origins of the name have absolutely nothing at all to do with expensive Japanese elegance that "geisha" implies... I wish I knew more about the origins and meaning.)

                                                                                Obviously it's not the excact same crop that went for $300/lb at auction, but this is certainly indicative that LA Mill is pretty damned serious about their coffee...


                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                P.S. Sweet Maria's spells it right, with some interesting stories too. The J. Peterman of coffee.

                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                  Very much like wine tasting notes. I <3 sweet maria's

                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                    Mr Taster, your post is so interesting!
                                                                                    I had a few cups at LA Mill when they were serving it...maybe a year or more ago. It was after I had discovered it at the downtown Groundworks shop. While the LA Mill version was very good, the Panamanian Esmeralda at LA Mill did not match what I had at Groundworks. Then, suddenly, LA Mill stopped serving it and I have not found it anywhere since.

                                                                      2. Wow! How can this be? I agree fully. Blue Bottle!!! Yes. Excellent coffee. I get it every time I'm in the Bay area. Also, Peet's Major Dickinson's is also very good, and they do brew it just right.

                                                                        But I must disagree about Starbucks. Their higher end coffees are quite nice, and some even have the fullness I like in the better coffees. Not great, but adequate.

                                                                        Still, nothing beats Blue Bottle. If they would open something in LA, I would be a much happier man (okay, just a little bit happier, but happier, still).

                                                                        1. Sorry to digress, but I'm curious to know if you would divulge some or all of the essential places you take out-of-towners? I like your attitude towards (and taste for) coffee. Ergo, you probably have good taste.

                                                                          1. Agree re: Cafe Luxxe in Santa Monica. In addition, Mitch at Espreso Profetta in Westwood pulls a sublime espresso.


                                                                            1. Oh Blue Bottle. My first taste was at Pizzaiola in Temescal. They said they didn't serve drip coffee and brought me what I assume was an Americano. The richest, most flavorful cup of coffee on the planet is what it really was. Thinking it was a fluke I followed up with the same drink at Tartine the next morning....nope, not a fluke, perfection. Outside of SF though I've been 1000% unable to find a drink like this. I think it's an Americano but to be honest I'm having doubts because I can't reproduce it outside of the Bay Area. Intelligentsia's version was actually flavorless and scalding hot.

                                                                              To follow up on the bean thing from Intelligentsia though, I purchased a pound of the Bolivian beans for $17, which is seemed a little silly, and while it took 3 days or so, the beans developed very, very nicely in my French. The grounds are a medium brown/red, crema color and the head of the pot is the same color. Good place to check out for beans if you can get over the sticker shock.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: zjarrett

                                                                                I think you've put your finger on something I've felt for a while -- Blue Bottle taste is heavily dependent on the method of brewing. If the person making your coffee knows what he or she is doing, it can be the most flavorful cup of coffee in the world, particularly when brewed with the precision of a machine like the Clover. But throw the smallest thing out of whack, including the wrong settings on the Clover, and the flavor can be thin and bitter. I've given up brewing drip coffee with Blue Bottle for this reason -- I just can't get a consistent cup of coffee.

                                                                                PS: Great thread Thi!

                                                                                1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                  I agree - probably one of the biggest disappointments I had while in The City last summer was the coffee at Tartine. Ordered an Americano with all of those fantastic pastries. My coffee was bitter. I'm assuming maybe someone new was at the helm, and it was midday, midweek - the perfect time to put a newbie into training.

                                                                                2. re: zjarrett

                                                                                  I make frequent trips to the Bay Area and enjoy, no make that LOVE Blue Bottle Coffee at the Ferry Bldg. Farmer's Mkt., the Linden St. Kiosk and the newer Mint Bldg. shop. While a good number of other businesses do serve their coffee, Tartine Bakery is not one of them. I usually go to Tartine for my first breakfast every trip and an occasional lunch and frequent dessert stops after dining elsewhere. The coffee that they serve is from Mr. Espresso in Oakland, 'Oak Roasted Coffee' and it is 'old school Italian' not the new wave stuff.

                                                                                  1. re: zjarrett

                                                                                    Sticker shock: again, this is a cultural thing. Folks are totally willing to pay 10 times as much for a great bottle of wine as for a decent one - but twice the cost of a normal cup of coffee, or supermarket beans, and people are freakin' out. Why?

                                                                                    Compared to: wine, most liquor, and tea, great coffee's the biggest bargain for your lusty overwhelming flavor.

                                                                                  2. I feel your pain, and agree that it can be difficult to find good coffee in Los Angeles. But Peets....surely you jest. I was a hard core loyal Peets drinker for over 25 years (my favorites being French, Vienna, Italian Roasts, plus the African and Indonesian varieties) until I discovered the likes of Caffe Luxxe, Intelligentsia, and Groundworks. Not to mention several little Italian eateries that make a mean drip. Peets quality has, in my most humble opinion, suffered as they have expanded. The barristas at many of their sattelite shops are clueless, the shops themselves dirty and poorly managed. Mind you, I was WAY hard core with the Peets. Seriously.

                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Sweetalicious

                                                                                      I lived in Seattle from 1980-'83 around the time places like Starbucks and the beer venues were just showing up, and had a couple European trips under my belt. I have cut back on my caffeine dramatically, since I can provide a little too much adrenalin or anxiety unless properly exercised, and I must say, I never have the kind of coffee experience I'm looking for at any average place, and most places that are sometimes good are still inconsistent. So if you are gonna go a little above the crap you are served as mentioned above, I highly recommend bothering with the really good venues. (But not all the time! :-) )

                                                                                      Cuz if you really want a good cuppa nothing will meet it. I can honestly say, that now that it is more a "vacation" drink, not something in my routine all the time, it makes it easier to make a point of buying a small amount of really great beans, grinding and dripping it at home, and yes, I too like it dark. And I still use my espression and cappucino machines now and again too!

                                                                                      1. re: MaryT

                                                                                        "I lived in Seattle from 1980-'83 around the time places like Starbucks and the beer venues were just showing up"

                                                                                        Starbucks began in 1971. I was born and raised in Seattle along with every known imaginable upstart of some of the most creative coffee making in the world.
                                                                                        Starbuck's empire is based on several concepts but the one that made them the most famous was buying the finest arabica coffee beans and putting them through the
                                                                                        darkest roasting.
                                                                                        Seattle is not only know for great roasting, coffee making and merchandising but the water in Seattle seriously adds to the equation.
                                                                                        I have searched and found good beans in LA and they're seriously no different than the way I'm accustomed to making at home. When I first moved to LA years ago I couldn't/wouldn't let go of my beloved Seattle beans and had them shipped overnight every night. Now I buy my beans 1/4# at a time and use them within a few days. It's decaf now....my heart's getting tired of the quadruple shot espressos I've consumed every morning for the last 40 years :).

                                                                                          1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                                                            I buy my beans at The Conservatory in Culver City. I've tried all the other beans in this city and they're all fine. The owner of The Conservatory was taught by a man in Seattle who I've known at least 30 years when he first began with one of the first kiosks in Seattle, on Capital Hill. His bean roasting is legendary and I like the way Conservatory dates their beans.
                                                                                            Beans are very subjective in taste and color. I like a very dark roast and there are a few I switch off with.

                                                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                                                              I like a very dark roast too - I lived in Seattle as a teen in the 1970s and was basically weaned on the original Starbucks :) Thanks, I've got to check this place out soon.

                                                                                              1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                                                                I've experimented with all the beans in the city....every place listed and this place comes closest to my standards of what defines great coffee.
                                                                                                Beans begin to oxidize almost immediately after they've been roasted. Pulling a great shot of espresso with beautiful crema requires the beans to be the freshest possible....the time is right after roasting. Any bean roasted 12-24 hours before grinding is the freshest. Day by day after this window of opportunity the best crema, and the best pulled great shot, begins to
                                                                                                Conservatory is upfront and knowledgable. They will let you know when the beans were roasted and they are consistently credible. I've tried all the other places listed above where I know I was deceived....the beans were stale (although packaged beautifully and impressively) and they missed
                                                                                                the mark. I ended up throwing them away.
                                                                                                The original Starbucks in the market was wonderful....they learned their technique from Peet's in Berkeley. Those days are long gone.

                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                  latindancer, when you pick up your beans at Jones Coffee you can see the roasters at work 20 or 30 feet away on the other side of the large room. Are you saying that you found those beans stale?

                                                                                          2. re: latindancer

                                                                                            Geez , what I meant was that was the time period where Starbucks started becoming that trendy fix that we were all ordering it mail order and the beer places really started taking off, I am not talking about the origins of Starbucks for sake, that original place and Pikes Place Market are nothing like they were 30 years ago. I made a lot of business trips after I moved, to Seattle and the environs, and that had turned into a big deal, and during the 80s and 90s I entertained a lot of business people and I do not think the beer and the coffee really got big until that era. And Starbucks was not something most people in the US had heard of.

                                                                                            I don't think most anyone knows of Starbucks before that era. Why I need do defend this I am not even sure of. And myself I have some chocolate and a half a cuppa when I have a really good day, but I don't do caffeine heavy either, and I drank too much of it when I was young and regret it frankly.

                                                                                            When did Starbucks start showing up everywhere?
                                                                                            I did not research this but I was pretty well travelled in the 80s and it was a Seattle thing for quite a long time am I wrong????

                                                                                            1. re: MaryT

                                                                                              I started noticing a Starbucks on every Los Angeles street corner probably in the mid to late 1990s. I really don't recall coffee being a big thing in Los Angeles before that - it was always something I made at home and had no expectation of being able to find when I went out.

                                                                                              I lived in Seattle in the late 1970s, and IIRC there was just that one Starbucks in the Market for a very long time. Seattle had Starbucks, Berkeley had Peet's, and Los Angeles had a few random indie coffeehouses (the Go-Between, where I briefly worked; the Onyx, where the coffee was a joke).

                                                                                        1. re: Sweetalicious

                                                                                          I'm not sayin' Peet's is fantastic. I'm saying that, Peet's, in its present incarnation, is mediocre (though a few of the branches in Berkeley are still killin' it old school), and most small, so-called coffee specialists in L.A. are below Peet's. This is not a praise of Peet's, this is an indictment of the L.A. scene.

                                                                                          I agree: Caffe Luxxe, Intelligentsia, and Groundworks are all well above Peet's. It's just that the *average* place in L.A. claiming to be a coffee specialist is making coffee, on average, that is below the big chain. And this *should not be*.

                                                                                          1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                            I've found that for a conveniently located latte, Peet's (specifically the one in Studio City) does a pretty decent job of making one. It's by no means an artisan cup by a trained, perfectionist barista but it's certainly better and more acceptable than anything out of Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and even most independent places that presume they know how to make a good espresso drink simply because they bought an expensive machine.

                                                                                            1. re: mrshankly

                                                                                              And that specific Peet's does a much more consistent job than virtually any others I have been in because there is not much staff turnover. Really nice group of employees with customers to match!

                                                                                        2. Thi -

                                                                                          Great topic, sort of combining a lot of food/culture aspects. Part of the problem it seems is that places that move a lot of (drip) coffee just have to have it on hand, so it tends to sit there until it runs out. Very few places - maybe good Vietnamese joints and a couple specialists will make a drip coffee to order, which means you're left with espresso or derivatives (like an Americano, which is sort of another animal).

                                                                                          And you can forget about "nice" restaurants having good coffee - how many times have you had an exquisite meal dampened a bit by terrible coffee at the end, for example.

                                                                                          As for why it's not catching on, just wait. Remember, we're really new at this in L.A. It took a long time for good wine to catch on too, and like previous posts have referenced, a lot of people (nearly all maybe?) don't drink coffee to enjoy it, they drink it to get through the morning at work. Hopefully this will change as people get a clue as to what's out there.

                                                                                          What works for me? Single-estate light roast (we think alike here) bought at a place like Whole Foods or whoever's selling recently-roasted beans, ground at the store and consumed w/in a few days. Hard to pick a favorite since they're all so different and distinctive.

                                                                                          As for Jones operation in Pasadena, yes, the family (friends of mine) has a coffee estate in southwestern Guatemala. Unfortunately, they're apparently not stocking coffee from it right now, but they are seriously passionate/knowledgeable about coffees in general, and always have a "there are no dumb questions" attitude.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: cant talk...eating

                                                                                            The only question I ask at Jones, as I walk in: "Single or double?" Invariably, my answer at the counter is: "Triple espresso [to go, so that I can drink it in the car while eating a fabulous, tiny pastry from my new favorite shop]."

                                                                                            Then I learned that their in-house pastries are from the same great place (Ap-Petite).

                                                                                          2. Thi,

                                                                                            Another thanks for the great post.

                                                                                            I've been looking at the Blue Bottle website, and pardon my coffee ignorance, but they've got almost 30 varieties of beans for sale. Does your reverence for Blue Bottle span all these varieties, or is there a particular one or two that top the list? I'd like to try mail ordering some, but not sure which is their signature bean?

                                                                                            Appreciate any more info. And/or if anyone else has any favorites from BB.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: wutzizname

                                                                                              Giant Steps for sure. One of their darker roasts, as I recall. Plus, it shares its name with one of my favorite Coltrane albums.

                                                                                            2. This thread has finally gotten under my skin as well.

                                                                                              Since Thi N. has gone a little metaphysical here and there, I feel as I might as well - I think coffee, for me - and I imagine for others who love it - is like Beethoven (the sonatas, let's say) - in your heart-of-hearts you instinctively imagine, and yearn, for what perfection might feel and sound like, but in reality these features rarely come into full relief and full clarity of expression. I might like Schnabel for his animal vitality, Brendel for his penetrating intellect, Kempf, Solomon, et al for other reasons, but no one iteration is able to encompass everything - there is no complete reading.

                                                                                              Similarly - although I too prefer a lighter to medium (a true 'city' roast is hopelessly rare these days) roast, and single-origin coffees, I also sympathize with the occasional yen for something a degree darker. I like the 'terroir' and bean flavor that comes through in lighter roasts, but I also like the brooding richness and body that comes with a darker roast, so long as it doesn't dominate the flavor of the coffee's origin - in other words, I prefer a balance.

                                                                                              Intelligentsia or Peet's occasionally satisfies the yen on the darker side, but I usually frequent Kean in Costa Mesa for the lighter style.

                                                                                              I know there are a couple other comments about Kean on this thread - and I know it's not in LA - but I would like to elaborate a little, if you will. First of all, with all due respect to DU (who is the first chowster I ever put on my reading list and whose opinion I very much respect) has said, I believe their heart and soul is in drip, not espresso. This is accounted for first and foremost by Martin's philosophy as regards to roast. He will tell you that he roasts each coffee on a case-by-case basis, giving it as much or as little as he feels appropriate. Some bags are labeled "light roast," others "medium," "full." In practice, however, everything short of the Carl's Blend is pretty light when you compare it to everything else.

                                                                                              Because of this, and their emphasis on single-origin and estate coffees, I think Kean offers a style more suited to drip than espresso, which usually demands a darker roast. The espresso, although they do do it well, does seem to lack some of the sap and sweetness you might find elsewhere - say, maybe, Caffe Umbria from Seattle, or Intelligentsia - but it makes up for it in lively acidity and aromatic complexity.

                                                                                              They may 'do more' with espresso, but I imagine that has more to do with the impracticality of brewing more than one variety of drip coffee at a time, or brewing it to order.

                                                                                              Kean, incidentally, is named for the son of Martin and Karen Diedrich. After the expansion and subsequent dilution of the Diedrich coffee empire (small empire, but still an empire of sorts - they are still in the wholesale/restaurant business), Martin wanted to return to his roots and do something more like they did in the old days when they were on 17th St. in Costa Mesa - an artisinal micro-roaster serving their local community.

                                                                                              I do really think they are really something special, and I feel fortunate to have them in my back yard.

                                                                                              1. Just noticing that there's been no mention of Kings Road here, and curious where that falls in the carnage? I believe they only do one bean there, and it's an extremely dark roast -- burnt I imagine many would say. But it's damn popular with the locals. Are any of the purists here fans? Or if not, why?

                                                                                                1. I was just thinking this morning, after I realized that I had run out of Monkey and Sons Krakatoa blend and the La Mill Rwandan beans had gotten a bit stale, that the only Intelligentsia I had around was the single-estate Peruvian decaf and there was only enough of the Salvadoran coffee from Mama's Hot Tamales for a half pot, and I was forced to settle - settle! - for a pot brewed from the Peet's Major Dickason beans that I used to spend great amounts of money mail-ordering every couple of weeks, that perhaps Los Angeles is not such a miserable coffee town after all.

                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: condiment

                                                                                                    You don't have to mail-order Peet's -- they're EVERYWHERE.

                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                      On behalf of condiment, I believe the key words were "used to" pointing out that now even Peet's is here so there's no need to mail order anything -- we have plenty of good beans in town.

                                                                                                      1. re: wutzizname

                                                                                                        Indeed. These days, you can even buy Peet's beans at Von's.

                                                                                                        1. re: condiment

                                                                                                          ... And Von's pastries at Peet's!

                                                                                                          I just made that up, but why can't more coffee shops provide appropriate top-quality eats, as, e.g., Jones Coffee does (pastries from Ap-petite)? Why not, depending on the part of town, donuts from the Donut Man or Randy's? Why not guava-cream-cheese strudel or fruit turnovers from Porto's? Thick-cut cinnamon toast from Junior's? Etc. I sense a good business opportunity for someone with a converted taco truck. Park outside some of the best coffee shops discussed in this thread, and sell great donuts, fritters, and other pastries to the scheming masses.

                                                                                                          1. re: sbritchky

                                                                                                            “I just made that up,” LOL.

                                                                                                            Ah, about having some appropriate top-quality eats with your good coffee...

                                                                                                            The Peach café has American breakfast, some bakery items, light and fluffy pancakes with a hint of orange, a great sandwich list and a handmade burger all served with your choice of coffee from the coffee menu. Try the House blend.

                                                                                                            The Peach / food and coffee menus

                                                                                                            El Jacal has Mexican breakfast and asada or shrimp tacos with some very good Mexican coffee with a hint of cinnamon in it. Oye, vato,I just bearly came from there. Check this out, for my breakfast this morning I had a bowl full of great fresh made chips and salsas, Huevos Rancheros with a perfect ranchero sauce, and excellent house made corn tortillas along with two cups of that great coffee for only $7.03 before tip. You can't beat that ese, not even with a stick.

                                                                                                            El Jacal – Mexican coffee.

                                                                                                            1. re: JeetJet

                                                                                                              El Jacal is another place I go by all the time without ever stopping. Sounds like a winner, because you rarely find "great coffee" with Mexican breakfast, even though the two were made for each other.

                                                                                                              1. re: sbritchky

                                                                                                                I made the stop today because I wanted the chips and salsa. The red salsa is really good. Those corn tortillas are thick with just the right chew. I ask them to blacken them a little -- just a little.That coffee with cinnamon was the reason I made a number of stops over the wenter. On a cold morning it hits the spot.

                                                                                                            2. re: sbritchky

                                                                                                              About the desire for cakes and pastries. I lke the coffee at Auntie Em's so that when I am there I sit nearf the pump-pot. While sitting there I have noticed it is refilled often


                                                                                                              1. re: JeetJet

                                                                                                                I like the hazelnut frapps or ice blends from coffee bean!!! Real talk!

                                                                                                      2. re: condiment

                                                                                                        Have you tried Peet's french roast? As dark as Major D but a bit more complex imo.

                                                                                                      3. Ah, this is so great to have a discussion on:
                                                                                                        I have to say that there is a philosophical, technical, and literal difference when having a discussion on drip coffee, espresso, and espresso based drinks.
                                                                                                        So, for the purpose of the OP's post, let's talk about drip coffee.
                                                                                                        1. Groundwork (no S): I disagree that Groundwork has fresh coffee and great roasted coffee. I think they USED to but that company has endured a lot of internal turmoil and have really slipped in the last few years. Part of that, in my opinion, is too much expansion too quickly. Trying to duplicate their success in multiple locations and now the quality suffers. Plus, their baristas aren't as skilled as other locations and I don't feel the love.
                                                                                                        2. Conservatory-spot on assessment.
                                                                                                        3. Intelligentsia (with an S): The pinnacle of espresso love and passion in LA. They have the best baristas with the trophy case and the youtube videos to prove it. They excel at espresso. With that said, they do buy some of the best beans around for drip, but I don't know if they execute it as such. Drip coffees almost seem like an after thought sometimes. As for single extraction, I think a lot of people will do that, you just have to ask.
                                                                                                        4. LAMILL: The coffee here is definitely NOT an after thought and I'm not sure how many times you've been, but they do more with drip offerings than anyone else in LA. Intelligentsia kicks their butt in pure espresso (Black Cat Blend) but LAMILL excels in single estate, varietally sourced beans. Example: You can order an Organic Guatemala El Soccoro Cup of Excellence coffee ($49.00 /lb.) and then have it prepared in a french press, siphon, chemex, eva solo, or Clover cup. Each will give you a different mouth feel, sediment, solids content, etc.
                                                                                                        Ask them to extract anyone of those beans as an espresso too and you may just find them willing to do that.
                                                                                                        Part of the problem/challenge here is that FOOD is more of a focus than a coffee-haven like Intelli, or Kean, or Groundwork where food is an after thought and where a Michelin starred chef doesn't have anything to do with the places, let alone designing and instituting the menu like at Lamill...with that said, sometimes the focus is too much on the food and that takes away from the coffee experience.
                                                                                                        5. The Fix: drip coffee should ALWAYS be brewed to order, by the cup, or the press, whenever possible. Holding coffee in a carafe, thermal or not, is a sin. Coffee degrades the minute the brewing cycle is complete. If the carafe is on a heat-source, then forget it, you're COOKING the coffee..yuck.

                                                                                                        Just a few notes on your posts:
                                                                                                        Blue Bottle is awesome! Their 'melitta' bar is awesome and a work of art to boot.
                                                                                                        NYC does have Intelligentsia now and a few other indie, SCAA based coffee companies, you just have to scour, and ask the locals.

                                                                                                        You mention single-estate light roasted coffees...and I can tell they make you smile....Roasting coffee too dark will always eliminate the nuances and layers of a coffee. The exothermic reaction that takes place in the bean itself literally changes the composition of the bean and once you hit the '2nd crack', in my opinion, the coffee is starting to lose its nuance, and is best served for blending, or as a component in blending and espresso. I think you truly mean medium roasted coffees are your favorites...Light roasted coffees can sometimes be underdeveloped, especially if the roaster isn't an expert at time-management and temperature control of the roasting cycle. Somewhere between that first and second crack is where the magic happens. Some of the best coffees I've ever had are best experienced right at the beginning of what we'd call a medium roast, fully developed, full of complexity, nuance, and layers....all of which continue to evolve as the coffee cools...especially if you're enjoying it in a chemex....mmm.

                                                                                                        LOVE this thread, so thanks for starting it.

                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: peanut112

                                                                                                          If by "single extraction" at Intelli you mean a single espresso, they will NOT do it.

                                                                                                          1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                            Actually, if you ask for an espresso they give a single ristretto.

                                                                                                            1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                              no by single extraction, it was referring back to part of the OP's post about single estate coffees being extracted.

                                                                                                              Single espressos rightly shouldn't be pulled....in my opinion

                                                                                                            2. re: peanut112

                                                                                                              Calling the coffee at La Mill an "afterthought" is so ludicrous as to smack of trolling. I'm surprised so many people went along with the original post. The food there is pretty good, but it's clear that the coffee is the focal point and the strength.

                                                                                                              I agree with your post. Groundwork = meh. Conservatory = decent, not aiming for the heights (but I like their unique nutty roast). Intelligentsia and La Mill serve seriously good coffee. I know that Intelligentsia does take the brewed coffee more seriously than you suggest, though arguably La Mill has them beat in that category.

                                                                                                            3. To Blue Bottle fans: please note the smidgen of possibility of Blue Bottle in the future, if we ask for it, as discussed here:


                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                Great thread! A couple questions. If I order Blue Bottle, what is the best way to brew it at home? Next, Urth Cafe wasn't mentioned yet. What are the thoughts on Urth?

                                                                                                                1. re: boostingbars

                                                                                                                  Urth, like so many LA places, makes really good mixed drinks - I mean, with steamed milk and stuff. Their steaming arts seem to be high. The coffee underneath is... decent. The supreme Urth Drink is probably, like, the Soy Chai Latte. It's actually really good! I'm not knockin' it! It's just the spiritual opposite of pure, unadulterated coffee.

                                                                                                                  Blue Bottle and other light-roast stuff responds will to various drip methods - french press, chemex, etc. My two favorites are kind of weird: a vacuum bottle (you can get a cheap Yama one from Intelligentsia) and an Aeropress (you can only get it online, as far as I know - anybody know different?). Aeropress is my most commonly used one.

                                                                                                                  I tend to dig the non-espresso methods for maximum varietal opening. The vacuum bottle seems to favor high citrus/wine flavors (like Kenyans and Ehtiopians) - and its smooths out stuff - and the Aeropress tends to emphasize big/symphonic/warm flavors, and is less smooth, and brings up complexity.

                                                                                                                  Intelligentsia, though, roasts its single-estates for the espresso machine. Despite the fact that I tend to prefer non-espresso methods for single estates, I always dig their varietal espresso over their varietal drips. I just think their soul is in espresso.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                    I bought an AeroPress a few weeks ago at Sur La Table. Below is a link to the manufacturer's website, and another to their list of retailers.


                                                                                                                  2. re: boostingbars

                                                                                                                    I buy most of my beans from Blue Bottle, usually online but sometimes at the 'Mint Bldg' shop. While I love their products, I'm not a fan of the descriptions on their website. The descriptions are a bit ecclectic and it is often difficult to determine the roast level. It's true that they are known as a 'new wave' roaster and lean to lighter roasts but they do roast to different levels. That said, they do indicate the preferred brew methods for each bean. They also have tutorials on each brew method, I usually use their single cup drip method (90% of the time) and love my result. I also use French press, AeroPress and pull ok shots with a Coffee Gaggia but I'm saving for a Mazzer Mini Grinder and may also upgrade my Gaggia. And I'd like to try home roasting................damm I love good coffee!

                                                                                                                2. Thi, I am sure you're very aware of this, but for those who aren't, there's some serious Joe finally coming to Venice:



                                                                                                                  Whether it actually opens this month, I'm not sure, but the construction crew has been pounding nails into the night.

                                                                                                                  1. I like coffee and sometimes I need a cup right now. My taste changes from time-to-time and therefore I usually have several kinds of fresh beans stashed at home. For example, I have some beans from Kenya, some Jamaica Blue Mountain and always some Pannikin. If I can’t find a good cup of coffee when driving I will go into withdrawal. During one coffee fit about a month ago I stopped at 7-Eleven and noticed that Hot Beverage Bar set-up. I have ignored that section of 7-Eleven for many years because of a bad tasting cup I once had way back when they first started selling coffee. But that self-serve coffee bar impressed me because I noticed many coffee grinders filled with different kinds of fresh beans. I smelled each of the differently labeled pots and then decided to pull a cup from the dispenser. I poured just a little of the dark Brazilian for a sip (good, but too strong for me), then the “Regular” (I think this is the same stuff that I did not like years ago) and finally the “100 percent Colombian” – OMG, Just right! Bottom line, I have begun my day at least four times each week since then with a medium size cup of “100 percent Colombian” coffee at 7 – Eleven for about $1,50 and still have most of my home stash intact. My question is, $ 4 $, can you beat that quality, freshness and flavor?

                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: JeetJet

                                                                                                                      The answer to that question is YES, a $4.00 coffee can beat that 7/11 $1.50 coffee in quality, freshness and flavor (although the last one is more subjective).

                                                                                                                      Quality: From farm to cup, the coffee purchased by 7/11 is of an inferior quality than that of specialty coffee companies such as La Mill and Intelligentsia and a multitude of others. If you have questions, go to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, or SCAA's website. You won't find 7/11 as a member. Their coffee doesn't qualify. And why would it? When you're purchasing 100's, if not 1000's of different products, you don't specialize in ONE kind of thing. I certainly wouldn't start comparing the meat products I buy at the 99 cent store to the ones I'd get directly from a butcher, or Whole Foods, or directly at a restaurant.

                                                                                                                      Freshness: Freshness can be discussed in two ways, the freshness of the bean, and the freshness of the brew, and indeed a third way, the freshness of the grind. All specialty coffee companies roast to order, roast minimum amounts of inventory and at the end user level are instructed to grind to order only. Coffee SHOULD be rotated and brewed every 20 minutes, or at least every hour. I guarantee that does not happen on a regular basis at 7/11.

                                                                                                                      Flavor: This one is subjective. To each their own.

                                                                                                                      1. re: peanut112

                                                                                                                        I agree that flavor is subjective and “To each their own.” I like most “100% Colombian” coffee at most places but Starbucks, for example, has no coffee I like at any price – it’s the flavor.

                                                                                                                        I do not agree that 7-Eleven’s 100% Colombian or Brazilian Bold are, by any standard, inferior quality coffees. Try them! Your concern of 7-Eleven offering a number of products, and “not specializing in ONE kind of thing,” is a red hearing. Sales volume / turnover are more related to buying power of a fresh quality product at the best price and 7-Eleven sells one million cups of coffee each day. For example, the same is true with buying the freshest, purest and most wholesome milk. Los Angeles 7-Eleven stores offer Alta-Dena Milk (local high quality milk) usually at a better price than even large supermarkets or drive-through dairies. The freshness cannot be beat with daily deliveries. Checkout the expiration dates on the milk at 7-Eleven and compare. The beer prices are sometimes hard to beat also. Think of 7-Eleven as a high volume beverage store which offers many fresh locally produced drinks. The same freshness is true with the coffee beans which are ground seconds before they are continually brewed at the store. They will brew a fresh pot if it is not fresh. IMO, $4.00 coffee cannot beat that $1.50 coffee (2 or 3 times more?) in quality, freshness and flavor at 7-Eleven. I am sure there are people who would pay $10 for a gallon of milk someplace but count me out of that also.

                                                                                                                        1. re: JeetJet

                                                                                                                          Jeet, I simply cannot agree with you.
                                                                                                                          a)the coffees that 7/11 purchases, by nature, ARE inferior coffees, simply based upon the green coffee they purchase and the estates they purchase from. Yes, Charles Shaw is wine and to some a perfectly fine wine, but Opus it is not.
                                                                                                                          b)My point of 7/11 purchasing a number of products is not a red herring (or hearing, if you like), because my intention is not to "distract attention from the main issue" which is the widely accepted definition of red herring. Rather, the fact that they purchase an incredibly perishable product such as coffee, along with scotch tape, pringles, etc. or even quasi-perishable products like beer is exactly the issue in question. Milk isn't even in the same category because milk has a definitive shelf-life that is stamped on the jug itself, unlike coffee which will usually have a roast date.
                                                                                                                          c)Furthermore, the storage of coffee is an issue, the brewing of coffee is an issue, the quality of the grind, the quality of the water in use, and the mere fact that MOST 7/11's are brewing on a typical carafe burner which continues to keep the coffee on a heat-source, makes it an inferior product.

                                                                                                                          Simply refer to the guidelines of the SCAA to find out what makes a specialty, well....special.

                                                                                                                          Because a company has purchasing power, does not make it an authority on a product. Not one 7/11 employee (and I'm generalizing now) is a specialized barista...I challenge anyone to prove me wrong on that. And you may say, well, they aren't making espresso drinks, so they don't need to be baristas....well, until an employee of 7/11 can tell me the TDS of the water and the grains of hardness in the water, then they don't know enough about their coffee.

                                                                                                                          1. re: peanut112

                                                                                                                            Big’o Red fish! But since you mentioned it, I asked. Fresh roast delivered everyday in the amount expected to be consumed. Fresh ground when every fresh pot is brewed with filtered water – continuously 24/7. Bottom line, this is good and I don’t need anyone, including some coffeehouse counter person (most often a green floppy eared kid), some coffee dot com guidelines, or even a silicone diode for that matter, to verify that for me.

                                                                                                                            That brings me to another point. I trust most Chowhounds and spend lots of time trying things I read about here. Now, if we start down a road of requiring some other dot.com “guidelines” to be met, and not just the posters opinion, then we don’t need to post here at all because, in that mind-set, what really matters is what the guidelines say. Therefore, I would respect your reply more if someplace in them you mentioned that you tried the 100 percent Colombian but in YOUR opinion…

                                                                                                                            I think you missed the gist of my reply to the OP. I believe what makes a good cook, or good bartender, worth their salt is what they can serve for a lower price rather than a higher price. My reasoning is that anyone can charge a high price and serve something better than average but it takes some true talent, or maybe just high buying power, to serve a better than average product for a lower price. It is with that in mind that I feel that this 20 oz. cup of 100 percent Colombian for $1.59 sets the bar. Oh, I forgot to mention that in addition to the great flavor, this cup makes me feel warm and good inside about five minutes after I finish it. I look forward to stopping at the Lower Azusa and El Monte Ave. location everyday now because that location has so much pride in keeping every pot fresh and the coffee bar so clean .

                                                                                                                    2. I'm no coffee expert, and this is not quite in L.A., but this weekend I did notice that Koffi in Palm Springs offers brewed-to-order single varietal coffees. I believe there were 4-5 choices under the label Red Estate, or something to that effect. Sorry for the absence of details--again, I'm no coffee aficianado!-- but I thought this might interest some people reading this thread.

                                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: dinvenice

                                                                                                                          I recently asked some friends who work at the Silverlake store, and they said the new date is supposed to be May 15 (but they hesitated, so I'm not sure if it'll be delayed again or ???)

                                                                                                                          1. re: patz

                                                                                                                            All I could get from a few contractors at the site was some time this month. The rough work is done - it's all the painstaking finish work that is being done now.

                                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                              now they're saying the end of this month, so who knows!

                                                                                                                              1. re: patz

                                                                                                                                Asked another contractor today - two weeks is the goal. I think they've even installed a rooftop deck on this place. The entrance has some interesting amphitheatre-style benches made of cedar. This place will have no reference point that I am familiar with...

                                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                  Opening party tomorrow (Friday) 8pm til late. Free coffee, wine from Silverlate Wine, food, etc.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                    Kyle says,"Hopefully the end of this week or the beginning of this week..." Place looks like a fantasy set-up for baristas-gone-mad...

                                                                                                                        2. Blue Bottle Coffee Company = coffee sex.

                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: lotta_cox

                                                                                                                            Good way to put it. Yes, it is (coffee sex).

                                                                                                                            1. re: lotta_cox

                                                                                                                              Every time I drink Blue Bottle coffee I want to french kiss myself.

                                                                                                                            2. I was at Blue Bottle West Oakland coffee "pick up" point last week, the the guy said that they are working on a deal to distribute their beans in LA. I'm addicted to Bella Donovan now and can't wait (but agreed the coffee is very finicky and need to be prepare in very precise manner at home to get it right).

                                                                                                                              Any one got further news ... when can we expect to see blue bottle beans in LA?

                                                                                                                              1. In my opinion La Mill and Intelligentsia are LA's best. But there are some local nieghborhood coffe houses that have a barista that knows their shit. So they know cupping and roasting are key to a good pull of esspresso and they buy their beans from Coffee Klatch, Jones , or Intelligentsia.

                                                                                                                                A couple years ago I invested $3000 in my own esspreso setup and it quickly pain for itself. I am good in the morning for a couple double shots but my wife was hitting up Peets or Starbucks 3 times a day !
                                                                                                                                I have an Expobar Brewtusll plumbed-in with an RO and everclear carbon filter on 20 amp timer so its already on and ready when I get up. Mazer P grinder. Usually I brew organic beans from Ecco Caffe out of Santa Rosa, master cupper and roaster Andrew Barnett is phenomenal, and he has some extraordinary experimental, single origin and limited relaese. Also we use beans from the local Coffee Klatch (Perry Family)or Inteligentsia or Jones (in that order).

                                                                                                                                Bottom line: I can pull the best shot in LA ;-)

                                                                                                                                1. I'm in Vancouver right now and the average cuppa joe is so far superior to a cup at home it's sad. There are a couple places with coffee so good it made me wistful -- as I bought beans to take home.

                                                                                                                                  LA's not a coffee city the way Van, Seattle and Portland are. It'll just be like NY pizza -- celebrate that which comes closest in LA, and get fixes of "di emeseh" when travelling.

                                                                                                                                  1. this was such an exciting post for me to read as my first foray back into chowhound after being gone for over 4 months! having been temporarily located in utah county, utah, where finding even a starbucks required google map searches and a bus ride, coffee has pervaded my mind constantly. that being said, as a former resident of seattle and lover of coffee, luxxe is pretty damn good. if i lived closer to santa monica, i'd probably hit it a couple of times a day. (i know you're addressing drip and espresso, but if you get a cappuccino there, they do the most beautiful example of microfoam - not the fluffy aerated stuff that caps everything at starbucks.) the coffee is smooth, coats the tongue with its richness, and has a fully saturated flavor. very lovely.
                                                                                                                                    i also like king's road, which i do hit daily. but i think their roast is extremely dark and better serves the purpose of either iced coffee or mixed with milk for espresso drinks. it's a dark and smooth without being bitter, but has lost some of the complexity of its flavor to be enjoyed plain. it's just a little too earthy and smoky by this point to be enjoyed with being tempered down to bring out its coffee-ness.

                                                                                                                                    1. I just had a really nice espresso at The Talking Stick Coffee Lounge in Venice.

                                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                        DU, how do you find out about these places?!?! Geez - you're living in the OC now but you end up on the back corner of a little strip mall off Lincoln sipping espresso? :)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                          Serendipity, honestly -- I stopped at the Chase next door on the way to Santa Monica, did my banking, had to use the loo and the El Pollo Loco next door lock theirs with tokens. Given the choice of spending a little money at EPL or at an independent coffee house, there was no contest -- and my reward was a really good cup of coffee and a friendly chat with a barista in a very industrial-chic little coffee "lounge" that one would have to know about to find. :)

                                                                                                                                          If Chase had lavatories for their customers, I'd never have set foot.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                            They've been putting this one together for a little while now - truly a sweat-equity project. Been dropping by the same Chase regularly and have been watching them get things together slowly but surely. I'll have to drop in there a give them a lookover. I've been hesitant because I wasn't sure if they were connected with the church that had been in that space for a couple of years. Nothing against religion - just wasn't sure if a dose of fire & brimstone was going to accompany my latte.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                              I didn't see any evidence of incipient proselytism, which would have put me off too. Just a poetry-slam corner.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                            Link, because I think it's worth further investigation (if not by me, then by others in the area):

                                                                                                                                            Talking Stick
                                                                                                                                            1411 Lincoln Blvd, A Venice, CA

                                                                                                                                        2. I have to agree with you on Intelligencia. But the main thing that makes their coffee sub-par is the stank hipster attitude that comes free with every purchase. I'll pay $3 bucks for 8 ounces of coffee, no problem if the outing is a pleasurable one. This joint seems to look for ways to be unhelpful and unfriendly. I won't pay for rude regardless of how hip the people in line are. Plus, a Ryan Seacrest sighting put Intelligencia on my "Never Again" list for good.

                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: peachmahoney

                                                                                                                                            maybe there is a benefit to my being oblivious to celebrities.
                                                                                                                                            i wouldn't recognize ryan seacrest if he bit me on the toe. . . .

                                                                                                                                            does this mean that i should make the trip to try intelligensia/

                                                                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                              westsidegal --
                                                                                                                                              Make the trip to LaMill. Sit at the counter and order a cup of Clover Panama Esmeralda.

                                                                                                                                          2. Woah... I'm super-glad this thread is still going.

                                                                                                                                            Some things have happened since I last posted:

                                                                                                                                            1. I went to Kean Coffee, a new branch. It was... OK. Pretty good coffee. When I asked for a french-pressed cup, they didn't know what they had available that day, and when I asked for a Tanzanian that they had listed on the menu, they had to run around seeing if they had any. There was rummaging and confusion and some shouting. I had the feeling that not many people asked for this sort of thing. They eventually produced a cup of pretty good coffee. Properly made, but... slight burnt taste, and the flavor suddenly tails off after 30 seconds and disappears. Slightly weak and flat and bodiless. It's definitely in the direction of good coffee. But not good enough for me, to, say, actually finish my cup.

                                                                                                                                            2. Groundworks has gotten even worse.

                                                                                                                                            3. I've been back to La Mill, twice, and got Ira, my fellow fiend in Chinese teas, bourbons, and single-origin-everything (he's the person that introduced me single-estate chocolates) to go. I had the same feeling as before: everything looks right, everybody's going through the proper motions to make great coffee, but the coffee seems a little lifeless. Ira's comment: he was pretty surprised by how boring his coffee was, and it seemed to him that nobodyworking there really cared about the coffee. I went back and chatted up some of the baristas and kind of had the same feeling: they could recite off a few facts, but they didn't *care*. I had a sense that their knowledge sort of ended after a paragraph of material they were supposed to memorize. The baristas at Blue Bottle, and at Intelligentsia (and some of the folks that used to work at Groundworks, long ago, when it was great) really cared - you get the sense that you could talk to them for *hours* about coffee.

                                                                                                                                            (In fact, the last time I was at Blue Bottle, the new SF branch with the siphon stuff, I actually did talk to the lady in charge of the siphon for an hour. She went on break, came around, sat with us, and started talking about Yemenis We Have Known)

                                                                                                                                            Look: here's what I mean. Things I've seen at Blue Bottle and at our Intelligentsia: I've seen, at BB, the siphon person sniffing each set of wet grounds. I've seen her pouring little bits of each prep and tasting. I've seen her adjust to what she tasted before, saying that each new day's roast was a little different. I've seen her discard and start over.

                                                                                                                                            At Intelligentsia, I've seen baristas look suspiciously at the crema of a pulled shot, taste it, make a face, discard it, apologize to the customer, and start re-adjusting their machinery and playing around with the grinder, pull another shot, pass it around, comment to each other that something was still wrong, and do it again.

                                                                                                                                            Right? They *care*.

                                                                                                                                            I haven't seen this at La Mill, although, to be honest, I haven't hung around there as much, since I don't love the coffee. Let me be clear: I'm not saying La Mill is *bad* coffee. It's pretty good coffee. It's just not coffee made with love and intensity and care, to pull out each possible nuance from the bean. It's not coffee that I can stare into and savor for the entire time. It doesn't make me glow.

                                                                                                                                            4. The above thoughts about *caring* lead me to another thought, which is about the fact that Intelligentsia baristas are often pretty unfriendly, and La Mill baristas are pretty nice. This is pretty true, as far as I can tell.

                                                                                                                                            In fact, looking back through my memory-files, most of the places I've had really great coffee have involved... well, not the nicest of service. Occasionally I get somebody a little mind-meldy and we can talk, but there's a lot of gruffness, a lot of social oddity, and not much in the way of nice *service*.

                                                                                                                                            I have a theory: unlike the restaurant world, where the chefs are in the kitchen and the waiters are out front, in the coffee world, *your server is your coffee-maker*. So you have a choice, in hiring: you can hire for spectacular makers of coffee, or you can hire for sociable, friendly, service-oriented folks. And the two don't necessarily go together. In fact, they may sort of anti-correlate - really great cooking is often associated, in my mind, with obsessiveness, near-autisticness, and anti-social intensity. I've known a lot of asshole chefs - or, more often, really great chefs that are a little too weird to really be let out of the house much.

                                                                                                                                            And, I think there's also something in what attracts people to be obsessed with coffee. The sort of high-octane, buzzed-up, wired, slightly aggressive edge of coffee attracts similar people. It's not coincidence that most of the great cooks of Southern-soul food are actually really nice people, and the serious pastry chefs I know are a little... weird. Soul food cooking demands generosity of spirit, and high-level pastry baking requires... precision and obsessiveness.

                                                                                                                                            So I have a feeling... just a gut feeling... that Intelligentsia picked the best makers of coffee it could find - people who were, on their own, serious coffee obsessesives, and La Mill selected personable, friendly folk and then trained them for what they needed to know to make coffee. But this is just a guess.

                                                                                                                                            And obsessives - well, they're a lot like me, and maybe like you. We know way more than we should about certain topics, we may be pretty good at executing it, but sometimes we get a little weird when people actually, you know, talk to us.

                                                                                                                                            This is speculation, but it's sufficiently interesting that it almost makes me want to start a blog.

                                                                                                                                            5. For you folks that make coffee at home, my two favorite (and quite affordable) coffee making apparatuses are now available in LA. As somebody mentioned above, Aero Presses are now available at Sur La Table, and Intelligentsia carries Yama Vacuum Pots - which are slightly lower tech versions of those famous siphon machines that everybody talks about. (Most of the famous vacuum pots are beautiful hand blown glass affairs, and, like, hundreds of dollars. Yama is the mass-production Japanese version - works just as well, and costs $50.) I like aero presses for more intense, full-bodied, complex tastes (like Yemenis and Mokas) and vacuum pots for more pure, clean flavors - also for ones that want a high-wine/citrus emphasis (Kenyans, some Ethiopians, Central American stuff, generally speaking).

                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                              Great post, and great report, Thi!
                                                                                                                                              You have really put your heart and soul into this one...and it shows!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: liu

                                                                                                                                                Thi is a "caf-fiend" without a doubt. ;-D>

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                OP says: "This is speculation, but it's sufficiently interesting that it almost makes me want to start a blog."

                                                                                                                                                As you should. You certainly write well enough!

                                                                                                                                              3. You need to check out this place near downtown, called Cafe Corsa. Might give back some of your belief in good coffee in LA.

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: jaynine

                                                                                                                                                  I consider Cafe Corsa to be the Mecca of coffeehouses for coffee lovers, better than La Mill, better than Intelligentsia.

                                                                                                                                                  The owner, Rick, brews every cup of coffee individually (he has a Clover machine and actually knows how to use it). He will let you smell all the varietals he has, enthusiastically discussing the merits of each one.

                                                                                                                                                  The espresso is good but nothing to write home about--but you don't go to Cafe Corsa for the espresso, you go for the coffee.

                                                                                                                                                  2238 S Figueroa St
                                                                                                                                                  Los Angeles, CA 90007

                                                                                                                                                  (213) 746-2604

                                                                                                                                                2. Just gonna stick out my neck and put this out there...

                                                                                                                                                  ...IKEA has really good (drip) coffee. Really, really good. It's one of those anomalies of Burbank, like the best iced tea being at Corner Bakery.

                                                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                    Two places I need to get myself to...
                                                                                                                                                    Corner Bakery that just opened on La Cienega across from Beverly Center and IKEA...now I guess for their coffee. Thanks for the reminder.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                      I hate IKEA!!! Especially the zombie zoo so very crowded store in Burbank. GF loves the place, if she reads your post.....
                                                                                                                                                      Coffee can't be that good, can it???

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sel

                                                                                                                                                        The coffee is good enough that I go there sometimes specifically for it. You can get to the restaurant without having to walk through the Hell that is their store..,

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                          I agree...I've gone there during the week at lunchtime (the very best time to go ) to Man Shop for something ( go directly to desired item, buy, leave) and had lunch in the cafeteria, and their coffee is pretty darn good. Maybe not Blue Bottle good, but very good.
                                                                                                                                                          Do they sell it there in whole bean? ( the time I thought about buying some to take home all I could find was already ground)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: christoofat

                                                                                                                                                            I'm not sure. If they did it would be in the Sweden Shop downstairs near the exit.

                                                                                                                                                            And I absolutely hear you on the Man Shopping -- "okay. we need a table from the same set as the bed. Look at map; plot quickest way; get food and coffee; pay; leave."

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                              Tried that shrimp and egg sammy on rye for 3$ - it's the bomb! Goes great w/the coffee - I'd go to IKEA just for those two items.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Kitchen Queen

                                                                                                                                                                mmmmm..that does sound good!
                                                                                                                                                                Got a chance to get over to Javatini's last week at Main & Sunflower. Very cool concept! I phone ordered 2 pounds, and they were ready for me when I got there. Their website only lists 1/2 of the coffees they offer (d'oh!) The beans were great, although $12.95 for 12oz bags is a bit high, I think.
                                                                                                                                                                Also picked up an Aeropress from Amazon (free shipping), and so far I really like it. Well designed, easy to use, and it produces a darn good cup of coffee.
                                                                                                                                                                Next on my coffee list is to try out Dean's Beans, who sells at the Irvine Farmers Market on Saturdays.


                                                                                                                                                                1. re: christoofat

                                                                                                                                                                  hmm...did a little more research on Dean's Beans, turns out they actually are based in Massachusetts, so that adds a week of transit time after beans are shipped. So much for "fresh" roasts...

                                                                                                                                                    2. Hi all! Wow, everyone is so knowledgable! Anyway, Joni's Coffee Roaster Cafe in Marina Del Rey has really great coffee (I think!) and they brew it for you on the spot, one cup at a time so its always fresh! Stay away from the carafe for refills though!

                                                                                                                                                      1. I went to the "Venice Beach Rides for the Community" car-motorcycle-bicycle show today and stopped in at Groundworks on Rose and 6th. A very good cup of coffee but not earth-shattering. Still, I'd travel to have their coffee.

                                                                                                                                                        1. Today I went to Intelligentsia at Sunset and Hyperion.

                                                                                                                                                          A great -- GREAT -- shot of espresso. But I had to try not to laugh out loud at the "palate cleanser" of sparkling water served before the shot. I mean, I'm not sure what's worse -- the unironic pretension of the thing or the fact that it worked.

                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                            Totally works - I go back and forth between sips of sparkling water and sips of espresso - I think it opens up the flavor, sort of like adding a drop of water to bourbon. It particularly opens up the single-estate espresso shots.

                                                                                                                                                            Things are pretentious if they *pretend*. This is just a useful thing I didn't know about.

                                                                                                                                                            I've been accused of being pretentious for insisting people go to San Gabriel instead of P.F. Chang's...

                                                                                                                                                            ALSO: I've been to the Intelligentsia on Venice a few times now, and it confirms a certain theory of mine. The service is much friendlier and less weirdo-asshole than the service at Sunset Intelligetnsia. Venice Intelligentsia people actually make me feel like a human being. And: ff the 3 shots I've had at Venice, all have been inferior - one had sediment, another was... somehow muted, the last was somehow flatter in feel. Confirms my suspicion that with super-hardcore coffee places, you have a choice: hire people for customer service ability, or hire people for coffee obsessiveness. The kind of severe intensity and geekiness required to pull off perfect espresso and perfect espresso is not often that compatible with, you know, human warmth.

                                                                                                                                                            I'll take weird asociality and perfect espresso any day.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                              I've never had any problems with the service at Silverlake Intelligentsia - they've always been extremely friendly and helpful to me and everyone around me

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: patz

                                                                                                                                                                Same here!

                                                                                                                                                                Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
                                                                                                                                                                3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029

                                                                                                                                                                Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
                                                                                                                                                                1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: patz

                                                                                                                                                                  I don't think I had any problems with the service. They seemed nice enough. But I don't think I'd be able to serve a "palate cleanser" to someone with a straight face.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                                  "...sort of like adding a drop of water to bourbon. "

                                                                                                                                                                  I've never understood anyone who adds water to bourbon...even a drop.
                                                                                                                                                                  A good bourbon needs nothing else to 'open up the flavor'.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                                    I will agree that when I went to the Sunset Intelligentsia the workers there put me off - super pretentious Silverlake hipsters (no offense if this applies to you)

                                                                                                                                                                    So I now go to Peets in Studio City for beans and use my Aeropress at home.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                                                                                                                                      Generally speaking, I'll take mildly offputting but accomplished workers to friendly and incompetent ones. Obviously, friendly and accomplished is ideal.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ns1

                                                                                                                                                                        I'm with you, ns1.
                                                                                                                                                                        The Aeropress makes a great cup of coffee!

                                                                                                                                                                  2. The only thing I'd want to add is that I'd love if some opened a Philz in L.A. No knock on Blue Bottle but I always preferred the hand drip at Philz.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. So who's missin' their Blue Bottle fix? Equator Books on Abbot Kinney in Venice just recently unveiled their coffee counter and it seems like they've got some serious coffee mojo here. Didn't have time to stop in for a cuppa but they've posted a sign out front stating that they are "proudly serving Blue Bottle coffee." Looks like the coffee wars on Abbot Kinney are about to go ballistic...

                                                                                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                        I live in the San Fernando Valley, and Blue Bottle is nowhere to be found out here in wastelands. However, I'm going to San Francisco next week, and have been lead to believe that they are expanding their brick and mortar stores in that area. Can't wait.

                                                                                                                                                                        And yes, I'll buy a pound or two to take home.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Golem

                                                                                                                                                                          I buy a pound of Blue Bottle about every other week from their online store.


                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                          "Looks like the coffee wars on Abbot Kineey are about to go ballistic..."

                                                                                                                                                                          To go along with their, what seems, a dozen or so 'medical' weed shops.
                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the update on Blue Bottle.
                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                            Sadly, the Equator Books website says they're closing.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                                                                                                              They closed a few weeks back. I put my info on an email list for info if the coffee biz opens up elsewhere but have heard nothing.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sel

                                                                                                                                                                                I ran into Philip and Michael of Equator today. They're pretty confident that they will have a new shop opening on Main Street in Santa Monica - probably in a few months.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                  Will they serve Blue Bottle?
                                                                                                                                                                                  Do you know if coffee will be their main focus?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: liu

                                                                                                                                                                                    We spoke in passing - really didn't go into detail. I'll go out on a limb and assume that the coffee counter will be back, but I would also assume that it will again be Equator Books.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Equator Books/Cafe
                                                                                                                                                                                    1103 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venezia, CA 90291

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                      We were at Equator Books in Venice during their final hours -- of course, with Blue Bottle cup in hand -- watching them disassemble their store. They were packing everything pretty carefully, so I would not be surprised, as you are also guessing, to see the very fixtures in another location.

                                                                                                                                                                                      They were, however, selling some of their books at great discounts; that might make me wonder if there will be another bookstore. Hmmmm...we wait.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Equator Books/Cafe
                                                                                                                                                                                      1103 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venezia, CA 90291

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                    Well that is encouraging! Thanks bulavinaka!

                                                                                                                                                                          2. This thread brings a tear to my eye. As a very recent transplant from New York (don't judge), I was desperate for these suggestions. I have found a few on my own, but I will be trying every single recommendation in the next few weeks. Thanks everyone!

                                                                                                                                                                            Would someone mind sharing with me which of these wonderful coffee spots is open LATEST? I am losing my mind driving around this city looking for a place to sit down and write past 9pm.

                                                                                                                                                                            Also, Thi N - your perspective is mind blowing. do you have a blog, or can you please start one? I really need a glimpse into your chest-beating LA food list.

                                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: nycmissesme

                                                                                                                                                                              If you are in the WLA area and need a late night place to drink coffee and write then you could try: http://www.cacaocoffeehouse.com/ They are open until 3 AM every night except for Sunday and they offer free (no sign up - no charge - no nothing) Wi-Fi.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: nycmissesme

                                                                                                                                                                                  Glad to help further if possible. What area are you living in?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                                    Currently staying Altadena, and will probably move soon to area open the latest. I actually just started another post looking for late night cafes so I don't burden this wonderful thread! I have been exploring for places to write every night but have not had a lot of luck....I think just because of the size of LA it's difficult to "find" things the way I am going about it. I am willing to drive absolutely anywhere within reason, as It's really helping me to get to know the city. Thanks for helping!

                                                                                                                                                                            2. UPDATED THOUGHTS:

                                                                                                                                                                              I would like to report that Intelligencia Venice has stepped up its game - when it started, the baristas had lots of problems and there were lots of grounds in the coffee. Better. Not as reliable as Intelligencia Silverlake. The baristas in Venice are nice, better dressed, more interactive, and not quite as good. Intelligencia Silverlake: still full of weird, semi-autistic, coffee-nuts, occasionally unfriendly, always on point.

                                                                                                                                                                              Intelligencia Silverlake: their control of single-estate espressos is getting pretty phemonenal. I had a world-shaking Ethiopian Yirgachiffe the other day. I'd say they've stepped up from 70% of SF's Blue Bottle to maybe 75 or 80%. Still the only Great Coffee in this town, still the only coffee that moves me.

                                                                                                                                                                              Further visits to Fix and La Mill have confirmed for me: not great.

                                                                                                                                                                              I tried Kean Coffee - decent, but no magic. When I asked for a french-pressed cup, the workers seemed quite confused and had to dig up somebody who knew how to do it.

                                                                                                                                                                              Groundworks Venice has slipped heavily.

                                                                                                                                                                              26 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                                                Intelligentsia: About as good as coffee gets -- for both drip and espresso. Silver Lake location >> Venice. Intelligentsia Silver Lake seems to have good food now that they switched to Cake Monkey.

                                                                                                                                                                                La Mill: Slightly below Intelligentsia for coffee. Overrated food. Like, I think it's great that you have the pastry chef from Providence helping out, but the croissants are still garbage.

                                                                                                                                                                                Groundworks: 3-4 steps below Intelligentsia. I think it's all crap.

                                                                                                                                                                                Blue Bottle: On par with Intelligentsia and La Mill. I don't understand why you think Blue Bottle's coffee is so much better than Intelligentsia's. However, I have to say that the snack food at the edge of the SF Financial District is outstanding and beats everything at La Mill and Intelligentsia.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                                                                                                                                  La Mill: dull and phased out. Muddy - not in that it tastes like mud, but in that the flavors are all indistinct and murky, like hearing good music being played downstairs through a wall. With insulation. On drugs.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Intelligentsia Silverlake: good balance, beautiful flavor. Excellent.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Blue Bottle: the shining perfect *pop* of brilliance. To see this most fully: go African, go light roast, go single-estate varietal. No blends, no espresso roasts. Their soul is in their ultravarietals. Also: the Moma branch with the weird Japanese halogen thing. They walk a trickier, harder line than Intelligentsia. Intelligentsia always hits a solid base hit. Blue Bottle goes for the home run - sometimes they strike out badly, and sometimes they hit it out of the park. Blue Bottle's *really* good stuff is wilder, stranger, with more intense pure singing flavors.

                                                                                                                                                                                  A female barista at Intelligencia Venice *once* made me a shot of an Ethiopian that came really, really close to that. Tall one.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Blue Bottle is Miles Davis.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I have been enjoying this thread for two reasons. I also love really good coffee. And, what Thi has written are many examples of some very clear, highly focused writing of totally superb quality. Thi, even if you wrote about fast food it would be thoroughly fascinating. Your writing is truly exceptional.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Blue Bottle coffee is now being served in LA, by a cafe called Forage in Silverlake, which is only a block away from Intelligentsia. The coffee is made the same way as in the Bay Area...freshly ground and hand dripped. They were serving the Three African blend and also selling PNG Tribal Aromas when I came in two Sundays ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Rodeline

                                                                                                                                                                                        Why is everything happening in Silverlake? Intelly, La Mill, now this. My most recent jaunt to Intelly Silverlake was about a month ago. I ordered a cappuccino to go this time and was a bit startled to pay $3.50 to see it served in a 6 oz. cup - I'm not complaining about the size, as it's about the traditional volume, but I wasn't overwhelmed by it. I'm proud to say I can hold my own at my espresso bar at home.

                                                                                                                                                                                        To add value to this thread, for those in the South Bay, I'll throw in a rec for the best coffee in the area: Neighborhood Grinds. They use Intelly beans for drinks but more recently have been selling small batches of their own roasts. Probably the only cafe selling siphon-brewed coffee in the area after Aoyama Cafe in Gardena closed up shop.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rodeline

                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for this information, Rodeline, about Forage serving Blue Bottle coffee.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Remembering your post, we enjoyed it this weekend!

                                                                                                                                                                                          While a cup of Blue Bottle is a real treat, my problem is with their brewing set-up. It takes awhile for the coffee to drip, and by the time I sip it, the coffee is luke-to-cold. Of course, paper cups do not help to hold the heat, nor does a little milk. Also, since the servers are busy serving food, also, they do not always catch the filled cup immediately after it is done. Still, the taste is great, but the temperature is a problem for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: liu

                                                                                                                                                                                            You are so right, liu. I make drip the same way every morning at home and have to nuke my coffee, particularly if I add milk. I usually order Blue Bottle as cafe au lait for precisely that reason, though I know some prefer it without milk.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for posting, a and w. It's nice to have company on this one.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Blue Bottle coffee is so good...but better hot! Serving it cool-ish is careless!

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Thi N.

                                                                                                                                                                                          "Blue Bottle is Miles Davis".

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, it is.
                                                                                                                                                                                          I have seriously never understood the draw to Intelligentsia. I've given it several tries, experienced many of their baristas and loyally bought several of their roasts and still can't get over the underlying sour taste when I pull a shot at home...and it's not machine, trust me. I've, consistently, thrown away the remains of the espresso I've ordered there, that I just couldn't push myself to finish. I'm still looking for that perfect bean I never had any problem finding at Blue Bottle or a few of my favorite places in Seattle. Yet, there are still the lines of people waiting for their beloved 'Intelligentsia' fixes. I don't get it.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                            I bought some Black Cat about a month ago and thought it made for a great double ristretto and capp...which blend did you try? Assuming your machine produces the proper brew temps, the sour taste could be due to the bean's origin or degree of roast. Have you tried La Mill or Supreme Bean in NoHo? They might have a bean to your liking.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ristretto

                                                                                                                                                                                              "Assuming your machine produces the proper brew temps, the sour taste could be due to the bean's origin or degree of roast".

                                                                                                                                                                                              You're right it could be a number of things. My machine's maintained and cleaned regularly and impeccably.
                                                                                                                                                                                              It has a commercial rotary pump that I've run to a water line. It also has a PID temp control and I always ask about the bean (I've tried all their beans at Intelligentsia) and ask the roaster what temperature they recommend for each particular bean. I also adjust the temperature and experiment to my own taste. I just think I don't like the taste of their beans...
                                                                                                                                                                                              there's something underlying that doesn't suit my palate. I always pull great shots and the crema's magnificent but not the taste.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                              (Covering my head so as not to feel the stones hurled at me) -- I'm with you, latindancer. I don't get Intelligentsia.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I, too, have tried three different cups of coffee at different times there and could not drink it. Each cup had a bitterness that was not appealing to my palate.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I used to love LAMill for their Panamanian Esmeralda, but they don't seem to have it anymore. I have not liked other coffees there. Blue Bottle coffee at the bookstore is Venice is gone; that was really good. Now, Blue Bottle at Forage in Silverlake is good, but not served hot enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: liu

                                                                                                                                                                                                The cups I tried at the Silverlake Intelligentsia were also too bitter for me, though the one I had at the Venice location was much more agreeable for some reason.

                                                                                                                                                                                                However, I just can't get comfy at the Venice place; everything from the varnished-plywood furniture to the weird order-process-flow is just a bit too Postmodern for its own good, IMHO. (Equator wasn't terribly comfy either, but at least there you could browse some lovely old art books while finishing your cup of Blue Bottle.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                I wish there were a place with great coffee that didn't take itself so deadly seriously as a High Temple of Caffeine, where you could actually relax and enjoy a book or conversation or Scrabble for an hour. A place like Bean Town or Catalina, with properly-brewed Blue Bottle ... now that would be perfect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bradbury

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hi, Bradbury.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Regarding your "comfort" issues with Intelligentsia and the others...have you tried Funnel Mill in Santa Monica? I can't speak to their coffee, but they are very serious about serving their customers. Their teas are quite good, and they do have a lot of different places to sit and a lot of different kinds of seats. They also offer a wide variety of different coffees and brews:


                                                                                                                                                                                                  Funnel Mill
                                                                                                                                                                                                  930 Broadway in Santa Monica

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: liu

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Agreed. Wonderful place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    They seem to take their coffee very seriously. The couple of times I've been, I've found the coffee good but I haven't been wowed. That may be for two reasons. First, I've only ordered Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain because they are hard to find in LA. These coffees are generally subtle and refined. Thus, it is not surprising that they didn't wow me. Second, they were among the most expensive items on the menu (around $15 for a cup) and it may be that the beans were not all that fresh as a consequence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes, sillygoosedown, they do seem pretty serious about making a good cup of --

                                                                                                                                                                                                      What you mention is a real problem. I noticed that they also have some high-priced teas. When I last ordered tea there, I thought about the freshness of these teas that might not be moving as well as some of the others. Still, I suspect that the employees and owner care enough to replace any cup that you order that is not to your complete satisfaction. They take such care to make each order...

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: liu

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I appreciate your opinion on this, I thought it was just me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm very sorry Blue Bottle isn't being served any longer at the Venice bookstore. I just remarked to another poster that I was glad it was there.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Too many things good things come and go in this city, sadly.

                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                                                                                                                                              I take back what I said about good food. The pastries at Intelligentsia Silverlake are still crap, at least in the morning (they have different stuff later in the day). I had one of their chocolate croissants (or pain au chocolat, if you will). Pain au chocolat should have the texture of a croissant. A croissant, moreover, should have a flaky, crisp exterior and an airy interior. When you eat it, you should have flakes all over you. I didn't get any flakes from Intelligentsia's "chocolate croissant." It was dense, doughy, and dumb.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                                                                                                                                                They've the best croissant, in fact. Flaky. I'm speaking of the one in Venice though. Croissants from Comme Ca, I believe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: epop

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, that one is totally different and far superior. But to be totally accurate, Le Pain du Jour on Pico and Lincoln is better!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                                                                                                                                                    And, of course, Amandine on Wilshire will make your "pain" disappear if you are craving a superior version of this delectable delicacy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Amandine Patissiere
                                                                                                                                                                                                    12225 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: epop

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Not from Comme Ca for awhile now, but from Anisette.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                                                                                                                                                    "The pastries at Intelligentsia Silverlake are still crap"... don't forget the coffee... crap too. Well, not crap. Just poorly prepared. The baristas SEEM trained but my drinks are ALWAYS too thin with more milk than coffee and the attention to service has gradually left the place (referring to the Silverlake branch... never visited any other). Maybe I'm missing something here since everyone raves about the place so I'll give it yet another try... but is there something the Intelligentsia proponents would recommend ordering to exemplify the quality that is so frequently referenced? I want to enjoy... really.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mrshankly

                                                                                                                                                                                                      People's subjective tastes are different. Lattes and cappuccinos are technically supposed to have more milk than coffee but lots of people (including me) think they taste too milky. As far as black coffee and espresso go, if you're accustomed to more deeply roasted, mocha-tasting coffee beans, you probably won't like more lightly roasted, fruitier coffee with lots of acidity. Personally, I like Intelligentsia because of the substantial complexity in most of their offerings, but three years ago I drank Peet's every day and I would have hated Intelligentsia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      But as to your statement that coffee at Intelligentsia is poorly prepared, I'd have to disagree with that on an objective level.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                                                                                                                                                        "fruitier coffee with lots of acidity"

                                                                                                                                                                                                        That's exactly why I'm not fond of Intelligentsia. I like a dark, chocolate roasted bean that extracts a deep reddish-brown crema. For those who like a bean with a fruitier acidic bean then, perhaps, Intelligentsia is 'the best' as some loyal followers will state.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've had baristas at Intelligentsia, although apparently highly trained, that pulled very mediocre shots. The espresso lost its body within a couple of minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sillygoosedown

                                                                                                                                                                                                          To me, the milk to coffee ratio in Intelligentisa's cappuccino is just fine. It's roughly the same proportions you'd find at your garden variety third wave cafe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          With espresso-based drinks I like to have the espresso's flavor able to cut through the milk. This usually means a more deeply roasted bean, perhaps a Vienna roast level, that can produce that nice, reddish brown crema we coffeegeeks enjoy seeing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          The more lightly roasted coffees contain more of the origin flavors, is often more acidic, and does not generally do well in espresso preparations. This is where coffees made using drip, siphon, pourover and similar methods excel. In fact, the Hario V60 dripper I recently purchased is currently getting quite a bit of press these days and is even being used in a cafe environment (Ritual in SF). It's a great way of unveiling the nuances of a lightly roasted bean.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          As far as the service and baristas at the Silverlake branch, I found them to be courteous during discussions of the coffee beans they carry. When in line for the drinks, you order, wait for them to build your drink and pay...nothing to rave about, but they were professional. As to the quality of the drinks, remember there are four key factors that influence an espresso's quality: machine, grinder, bean quality and freshness, and the barista's skill (which provides for the greatest variability). The last cappuccino I had there was a bit overextracted - the barista's fault.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. I'm in complete agreement with Thi's update.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you're looking for the best we've got, it's at Intelligentsia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  For OC, I have only been twice to Kean's, ordered a macchiato and an espresso, and the shots look good with thick crema and flecking in the cup, but they were overly bitter. If you're in Irvine, my top pick for espresso right now would be Seattle's Best at 14450 Culver Dr (Culver/Walnut.) I have only been twice, and yes it is owned by the green mermaid, but they have both been good experiences: very nonobjectionable straight shots of espresso.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Have you tried Kaffa! in Orange? Right in the plaza across the side street from Hollingshead's, the one with the Taco Bell and the unbelievably bad Japanese place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Interesting, I've not heard of Kaffa. How do they compare to Kean in your opinion, Dave/Ubergeek?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Peripatetic

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Kéan is Martin Diedrich's baby. It's a place deeply rooted in his particular brand of coffee obsession, the closest OC comes to an Intelligentsia or a Blue Bottle. Usually that's a good thing, and I like his coffee a lot, but it's one particular style of roast (lighter than usual) and it works better in some drinks than others—his espresso is better, for example, than his regular coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Kaffa! is much, much, much less obsessive. There's not the sense of entering a Temple of Caffeine, there's less emphasis on the varietal, etc. They just make a surprisingly good cup of coffee, both drip and espresso. It's a normal coffee shop, like used to be everywhere before Starbucks and the Coffee Bean took over everything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I find myself needing to analyse the cup of coffee I get at Kéan, as though the fate of the world hangs on my knowing the flavour profile of Guatemala Antigua vs. Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. I don't have that sense at Kaffa!, but every time I go I take a deep drink of coffee (regyooluh, as we say back East—sugar and milk or half-and-half) and just think, "I really like this coffee."

                                                                                                                                                                                                        As an aside, the food is better (and much cheaper) at Kaffa!, which I realise is not the point of this discussion, but I can't stand the cinnamon-heavy Pacific Whey stuff for the price at Kéan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        They both have a place in my heart: Kéan is my stop on the San Diego Creek/Back Bay bike loop; Kaffa! is near my office.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hi Das,

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Great post. :) Have you found any good sources for Coffee in Little Saigon? Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Exile, have you tried Vien Dong? I went there on Das Ubergeek's recommendation for places with good ca phe sua da, and it's very good. The coffee is brewed at the table rather than premade. NB Vien Dong is a restaurant rather than a cafe, though, so it's not normally a place you go just for a coffee. The food is excellent, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Peripatetic

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Hi Peripatetic,

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Oh definitely. :) It's Das who let me know about Vien Dong as well. :) I had no idea they had good coffee. I'll have to try it, along w/ their Egg Rolls. Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: exilekiss

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I suspected you'd been there. I have to admit I've not had their ca phe sua nong. It could be totally different hot. I'd be surprised if they're using anything better than Cafe Du Monde or Trung Nguyen, but it makes a very decent ca phe sua da nonetheless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks for the thorough reply! It sounds like Kaffa! is a bit like Groundwork before their standards fell.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh, and in Boston we said "regyalah" rather than "reguooluh". :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the tip. I'm not in that area as much, but I will make Kaffa a mission.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm not sure it should be a mission, but certainly give it a shot if you're down here. It's just a good cup of coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks for the tip, DU!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Went to Kaffa! yesterday, ordered an espresso and their drip (Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.) The drip had the earthiness I associate with Yirgacheffe--I suppose it's the wet-processing. It didn't have the brightness and fruitiness I was looking for, though. Looking up at the plastic canisters, the coffee beans all did look a bit overroasted, IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The espresso was very good, though!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            424 S Main St, Orange, CA 92868

                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ah... and on my third visit to Kean's... god in a cup. Just a smooth espresso with no sourness or bitterness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          4. There IS a lot of crap coffee about. And I don't have the will to drive to Silverlake everytime I want decent. Can we have some sort of places with good coffee around LA map or something? Or, are there only 3 such places?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mc michael

                                                                                                                                                                                                              If your standard is Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle and LAMILL, then yes, those are probably the only three places. If you're willing to drink slightly less insanely perfectionist coffee, the field opens more—so where would we draw the line for creating such a map?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Maybe like a mission concept--one good place every 4-5 miles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mc michael

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I like the nutty taste of the coffee at the Conservatory in Culver City.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: mc michael

                                                                                                                                                                                                                www.espressomap.com. However, this map is far from complete.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Other places mentioned on the coffeegeek forums:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                * Caffe Luxxe (Santa Monica and now Brentwood
                                                                                                                                                                                                                )* Espresso Profeta (Westwood)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                * Coffee Klatch (San Dimas)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                * Jones Coffee (Pasadena)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                * Tierra Mia (Southgate)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                * Swork (Eagle Rock)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                * Lot 44 (Downtown), drip coffee bar
                                                                                                                                                                                                                * Neighborhood Grinds (No. Redondo)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sadly, out of this list, I've only been to the first and last cafes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ristretto

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't think Jones Coffee is particularly good. At its best it's more like Groundwork than Intelligentsia. Dreadful seating area, too: dark and cluttered, with the warm end (!) of an internal air conditioner blowing onto the patrons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm really looking forward to the Pasadena branch of Intelligentsia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ristretto

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    NIce start. Jones as noted lacks atmosphere. It's better to buy the beans there and go home. Or go to Europane and drink their coffee which is a mix of Jones Casablanca blend and some green coffee the name of which escapes me. Jones rarely seems to have Casablanca blend on hand. They try to switch me to something else or slowly mix a batch for me which seems to take forever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ristretto

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Caffe Luxxe purchases their beans from Vivace in Seattle. I noticed the beans (they looked familiar) and noticed they mark them up quite a bit, and sell them in their own packaging, to reflect the upscale Montana location. They looked the same but didn't taste the same.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Caffe Luxxe is okay but certainly not what the beans are suppose to reflect....perhaps they're letting them sit around too long or they're not extracting them at the appropriate temp.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Years ago Luxxe talked about roasting their own, but evidently they never got around to it. I haven't tried their coffee in a couple of years, so the fact that they're pulling mediocre shots these days (on a Synesso no less) attests the importance of the four M's in espresso brewing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Speaking of Vivace, one of Profeta's baristas was trained at Vivace and I believe they use and sell their beans. It's the one I'd like to try next.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ristretto

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          During the early '80's I purchased, daily, at least 2 cappuccinos from David Schomer (Vivace) when all he had was a cart with a huge espresso machine on Seattle's own Capitol Hill. He'd be out there rain or shine, sleet or snow, pulling the best espresso I've ever tasted to this day and, of course, that famous art he's known for had never been seen before.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I can recognize his beans anywhere. They're distinct and memorable and it was he, at a coffee conference, who taught me how to pull shots like he does.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I moved to this city 10 years ago from Seattle, looking for the 'perfect' bean, and someone told me to go to The Conservatory. There was 'the bean'....
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yep. They'd learned how to roast from David Schomer, however they don't do as good a job as I think they could. Their bean doesn't taste the same.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Luxxe uses and sells Vivace beans but for some reason they don't taste the same as when Vivace's baristas pull the shots from the exact same bean.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I bought Luxxe's beans and was disappointed, even though they're Vivace beans.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've often wondered if it's the tap water in Seattle that makes the difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Walked by Profeta on Glendon just south of Acapulco in Westwood Village the other morning, having already had my latte at Peet's - good as usual - and stopped in and asked, and Vivace in Seattle was the sourcing of beans.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Will definitely have to try it next time, and there is very nice patio in back. If you work at 1100 Glendon, as an example, or in the Wilshire office buildings, this place needs to be tried out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: ristretto

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I haven't had any "mediocre" shots at the Montana location of Caffe Luxxe. But I haven't had a chance to try the Brentwood branch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't believe that ALL of the beans at Caffe Luxxe are sourced from Vivace. All I will say is that a different roaster was mentiopned to me several months ago. Of course things do change and I don't know what is used currently.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            All the short pulls that I've had at both locations were better than anything that I've had at other L.A. shops with the exception of the now closed Equator Books/Cafe RIP.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: mc michael

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Have you tried "King's Road" on Beverly? I've never been to the valley location but I've been purchasing their beans for awhile and I have to say I'm enjoying the espresso I extract.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          They roast in small batches, daily, and they only use Arabica. It's strong and bold with little to no acidity.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If you love Intelligentsia you might not like it (they're entirely different types of beans/roasts) it but it's always worth a try.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. Intelligentsia Venice has taken out their clover machines. I was there this afternoon, walking abbot kinney, and after sampling the disappointing standard coffee at 3 Square (stepped in for some Rockenwagner) decided I hadn't been to Intelligentsia in about 3 months and might as well get some satisfying coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I was rather surprised when the barista started up my cup in a standard Hario V60 Coffee Dripper. I asked if they were no longer using the Clovers. He said no, they had maintenence issues, and besides people were complaining the beans they bought at Intelligentsia tasted nothing like the Clover coffee. The hario provided a perfectly decent cup, but they're still charging clover prices (3.50-5.00 per cup of coffee). Actually I think the Hario usually makes a bouncier cup with more tang, but it mutes out the dark and thicker secondary and third flavors. So you have a brighter cup, but a more ordinary cup as well. On the other hand, Intelligentsia can now sell people beans and Hario drippers so that people can make coffee that tastes just like Intelligentsia at home. :-/

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          this also makes Intelligentsia EVEN SLOWER. For the first time in memory there was a lengthy line simply because it now takes about 5-7 minutes to serve a person. So everyone stands in line for twenty minutes now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I will point out that Conservatory in Culver City started doing the same thing Intelligentsia now does (pour over drip) over for all their single origin beans about two months ago (go to the back where the sign says, "coffee only line here.") it's about 2 or 2.50 per cup, takes a while, but they'll bring it to your seat. The baristas aren't all familiar with the method yet, as its a somewhat uncommon order for them still, but they're happy to make it for you, and I've had two cups there, one that was about as good as the cup I had today at Intelligentsia, the other was a better than what I had today at Intelligentsia. Considering I only buy beans from Conservatory, I think I'm going to invest in a $19 Hario V60 pour over dripper myself because it provides a better cup than an Aeropress or French Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But yes, what made Intelligentsia special in terms of a cup of coffee is now gone. The inflated price remains, and my business is probably also now gone. I've never given much of a damn over espresso drinks, so I'm rather saddened.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Square Cafe
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jadekarrde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sorry to hear about the Clovers. Starbuck's "acquisition" of Clover was a tragedy for coffee lovers everywhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Intelligentsia baristas still pull a mean shot of espresso, and I still think they are without equal in LA for espresso-based drinks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Peripatetic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I went back last week, hoping the experience was an anomaly, and maybe the pour over could get closer to the clover. Just as absurdly busy as it was the week before, and the pour over was worse this time. I noticed the hot water dispenser they were getting the water for the pour over had a temperature readout that said 211. I didn't think about that until I tried to taste the coffee, it was undrinkable it was so hot, like getting typical 'boiling or hotter' coffee starbucks serves. And the pour was not nearly as good and didn't compare at all to the recent pour overs I've had at Conservatory which have been consistently excellent. I would actually say the coffee was too weak, it had no brightness or depth to the flavor and seemed a little watery, and the beans didn't have a fresh aspect to them (tasted older, and a bit musty, like coffee Bean and tea leaf beans taste). But mainly it was too hot, I get better drip coffee from Coffee Bean (actually I've never had a 'bad' coffee bean cup, the way star bucks is almost always bad, but I've also never had a very good cup from coffee bean, the way peets is always at least very good).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Bottom line, Intelligentsia Venice is inconsistent at pour over coffee, it is nothing at all like the excellence the Clover extracted from their beans and I think it exposes the weaknesses of their beans and their reliance on off-site roasting. The in-house roasted beans at Conservatory stand up much better to the pour over method and because they also use the Clever dripper rather than the Hario dripper they provide a richer, better and more consistent cup with the pour over method. Intelligentisa's lost my business entirely at this point (and I still find it outrageous they charge Clover prices for pour over cups of coffee!).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Considering how spectacular the Clover could make those unspectacular intelligentsia beans taste it makes me crave the chance to taste Conservatory's spectacular beans in a clover. It would probably be mind blowing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jadekarrde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For proper extraction of coffee the industry standard is from 207 to 210...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: baristaguy88

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've been told many times that it is 197-204.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: baristaguy88

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Not in any coffeeshop I ever worked in. Coffee was extracted at 93ºC, with two degrees' swing allowed in either direction; that'd be 91-95ºC, which gives 195.8-203ºF. 211ºF (99.4ºC) is too hot and will result in poor-tasting coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: jadekarrde

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You think the Conservatory sources better beans than Intelligentsia? I don't know about that. It seems to me that the Conservatory roasts its beans to the point that they have very little complexity. I'm not sure that the quality of a bean can show itself in Conservatory coffee. Intelligentsia invariably uses a lighter roast that allows more winey complexity. I think the beans are good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sushigirlie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Really? you think Intelly roasts lighter than CC&T. They consistently roast to a City to full-city. Intlligencia is usually right there too. Intelly does a GREAT job sourcing beans, but CC&T roasts in house. And I don't have to sit on bleachers nor have I ever gotten a sour shot from them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: Peripatetic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    While I agree they make a good espresso drink, I still feel that a properly made latte at Peet's is better, or at least at the Studio City location it is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: carter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      i've had the opportunity to drink many a cup at several peets locations.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      the only location that is consistently sub par is the one on westwood blvd south of sm blvd.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      the beans they sell there are fine, but their brewed drinks are, to my palate, inferior to those sold at every other peets location i've tried.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      i know this defies reason, but unless they changed out the machines there or changed their brewing method there, that's my story and i'm sticking with it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: carter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A latte is not a good drink to judge an espresso.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: poser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think fewer people would order large lattes if they had to phrase the order as "two shots of espresso and a pint of steamed milk, please."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: poser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "A latte is not a good drink to judge an espresso"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hallelujah and amen to that. I am a total coffee snob as regards diluting my coffee/espresso with anything resembling dairy product, real or phony.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: poser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              but you can surely spot a poor or bad espresso in a latte.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Starbux is all about the milk, with no espresso even noted.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Coffee Bean is even worse.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Intelligentsia is good, not sufficiently of character, to my taste. I have tried lattes in both Silver Lake (3-4 times), and Venice once, and they have never reached the standard of the Peet's version in Studio City.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Of course, the barista can control the results, and evreryone knows me in Studio City, so that may have something to do with it, but it is one fine product, and the crowds attest to it at some level.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I think Intelligentsia SIlver Lake is the best.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Drip Bar is a new coffee cart in town doing exclusively pour-over style coffee using only Blue Bottle beans. They also carry teas. Their drip is delicious! It's just like the cart outside the Ferry building in SF. They usually have 3-4 types of beans on hand, and for my cup they used a hario though now they also carry the the bonmacs. Currently my favorite coffee stop in LA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          From their website, their locations are:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Tue/07 9am-3pm USC Farmers Market Hoover & Jefferson
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wed/08 12pm-6pm Farmers Market at Barnsdall Art Park
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sun/12 9am-2pm Los Feliz Farmers Market in the Post Office Parking Lot @ Franklin & Vermont

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Drip Bar
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: maiweezy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              As much as I love Blue Bottle Coffee, when I'm not enjoying it in the Bay Area I make my own at home, Drip Bar fall short. Their schedule is too limited. They are only open 3 days a week for 5 or 6 hours a day. How about 6 or 7 days a week for 8 to 10 hours a day!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Note that if anyone can find it, Blue Bottle's FAZENDA CAMBARA C.O.E. which I was sad to polish off a few days ago was about the best coffee that I have ever tasted!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Drip Bar
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90005