Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Apr 2, 2009 09:34 AM

Blue Bottle permanent space open -- reports?

Opened this morning in the new permanent Ferry Building location. Anyone go? How does the coffee compare with their kiosk? And what food is on offer?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My gut reaction would be that I'm sure it will be fine--they have a large enough pool of roving baristas to staff it up and have high standards for their espresso equipment.

    That said, ever since they opened on Mint Plaza, my once or twice a month espresso at the Linden or Farmer's Market kiosks has been good but not exceptional. Has anyone else noticed a change? The only place where the espresso is so good it makes me focus 100% of my brain on the cup in my hand is Four Barrel, at least for the moment. Blue Bottle's beans remain more consistent for my home brewing purposes, but occasionally I luck out with an amazing batch from Four Barrel.

    6 Replies
    1. re: SteveG

      I agree that Four Barrel has the best espresso in town. For me, Blue Bottle is number two and Ritual number three. I've tried beans from all three, and none can beat Equator Coffee from San Rafael. I use a La Pavoni espresso machine at home (she's a temperamental bitch, but after a month of tinkering, I figured her out and she now makes the best espresso I've had in a home). Equator's Jaguar espresso blend is excellent.

      1. re: SteveG

        Just wanted to chime in and say that I had also noticed quality drops (in the espresso drinks--I don't do drip) at the Linden and farmer's market kiosks--to the point that I hardly bother any more. Four Barrel has also become my go-to place for espresso-based drinks--high quality and consistent.

        Edited to add: Also--Piccino! How could I forget, I had a great capp from them this morning.

        1. re: SteveG

          I did actually notice a change even at the Hayes Valley location right around the time Mint Plaza opened. Not a bad change, just a change. It also seemed to me they carried less variety on the beans, around the same time they introduced more medium roasts.

          1. re: sugartoof

            where did they open in the ferry building?

            1. re: toncasmo

              Last week, Tuesday I think it was...

          2. re: SteveG

            Disclainer: Except for the African coffee and iced New Orleans coffee, nothing at Blue Bottle has overwhelmed me as outragiously wonderful. I do like stronger brews. I do like more assertive beans like Graffeo. I don't like lukewarm coffee even if it is supposed to bring out certain flavors.

            I have heard the owner is more interested in opening new restaurants than focusing on the coffee. Don't know how true that is. I say that good for BB if they can keep up the quality while while expanding the empire.

          3. The original comment has been removed
            1. I am astounded to hear so many people prefer Four Barrel espresso to Blue Bottle and Ritual. I MUST disagree. Checking out the Ferry location today...will report back soon.

              4 Replies
              1. re: PorktoPurslane

                Last Sunday, the lady doing espresso at Ritual took literally 4-5 minutes per shot. As she ground the beans and clicked them into the portafilter, every time she obsessively clicked the dispenser until it was completely empty of grinds with the grinder off. Then for the next one, as the grinder ran she'd have to click it 6 more times before any grinds were available. If she overfilled the portafilter, she scraped into the trash. She was using a timer to time shots, despite only doing one precious shot at a time on a machine capable of many more.

                Something major has slipped at Ritual, despite their PR continually mentioning their coffee training room in the basement.

                1. re: SteveG

                  I was there on Wednesday had a different experience. However, Blue Bottle on Linden, despite the line!, continues to be favorite...
                  well, actually, the affogato at the Mint location is my true FAVORITE, but that is another post entirely!

                  1. re: SteveG

                    Well that sounds like someone who has had too much training who doesn't care that there's a line of people waiting who aren't going to taste the difference between clicks.

                  2. re: PorktoPurslane

                    I also disagree. I prefer Blue Bottle over all the other choices, not only for the coffee itself but for the attutitude of the place. 4 Barrel is pretty mellow but the hipster too cool for schoolness at ritual makes me what to heave.

                  3. I went today around 8:30 a.m. Looks like prices are higher inside - at least for some drinks. Cafe au Lait was $3.50 and I think it's $3 outside. A drip is $2.50 inside and I think it's $2 outside. They may have raised the outside prices; I didn't check.

                    Staff is slow and in need of training on how to move the line and how to run the cash registers. Painful experience. It took about 10 minutes with 2 people in front of me to get a cappuccino, and the barista didn't put enough milk in the pitcher when frothing it, so it was a very short capp. Rather than waiting for him to froth some more milk, since he was so slow, I just took the short capp.

                    I'll wait a couple more weeks before attempting it on another Saturday.

                    1. In reference to what has been said, I will say:

                      OF COURSE the prices are higher than outside - they have higher overhead in the building.

                      The Baristas will gain speed over time.

                      The space is BEAUTIFUL, and as always, so is the Blue Bottle coffee and espresso.

                      24 Replies
                      1. re: PorktoPurslane

                        That doesn't follow to me. As a consumer I find it confusing that there are two different prices for the exact same cup of coffee at the same "place". If Peet's had a cart out front I would expect the drink prices to be the same at both locations.

                        And even if the place is brand spanking new no barista who knows how to pull a drink will take as long as mine did (or miscalculate the amount of milk in a cappuccino).

                        1. re: farmersdaughter

                          I have to agree with this. Why put a cart outside a retail location and then undercut the prices? Personally, I don't want to see Blue Bottle priced differently depending on the location or stand happen to be at, let alone one 20 feet away. Makes no sense, just like it doesn't make sense to open a retail location with a barista that wasn't up to speed. Sounds like management issues but it'll get sorted out.

                          1. re: farmersdaughter

                            I'm glad the vendors don't have this opinion. There is clearly more overhead involved (as well as a cut of the action which is standard in most retail rental agreements) in running a business inside the Ferry Building. Far West Fungi mushrooms are cheaper outside on market day than they are at the inside store on the same day. Thank you to the vendors who price things fairly.

                            1. re: Paul H

                              Are the mushrooms being sold by the same business owner at two different prices?

                              Pricing should be consistent. That's just proper business.

                              If they chose to sell their wares both indoors and outdoors then they're going for volume sales, and need to adjust their profit margin accordingly. It costs more to run a retail business then it does a stand, but they're supposed to be making up for that with the ability to serve more customers, sell more variations of their product, carry additional snacks, etc.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                Are we kidding. We are talking about 50 cents! Sure, in a PERFECT world, we would like many things to happen that dont, perhaps consistent pricing is your issue, but in reality, this is the beauty and one of few ways that small businesses still thrive. How much will this truly impact your life? I think the most amount of time that anyone here spends at the ferrry building is once a week for the farmers market, which translates to about 26 dollars a YEAR. Are you really gonna raise a ruckus that 26 dollars a year to keep an good willed, great product holding independent business around? Rather than complaining about 50 cents, why dont we think again about the joy of having a delicious cup of coffee and keeping a few fellow foodies/coffees' employed as opposed to being forced to get our coffee at the bucks'. Or, for that matter, the golden arches themselves, McDonalds.

                                1. re: Adamsimpson

                                  Erratic pricing is not "one of the ways small businesses survive".

                                  It's hardly a choice between that and Starbucks or Mcdonalds, it's a choice of indoors and outdoors the very same Ferry Building market.
                                  A cup of the exact same Blue Bottle coffee shouldn't vary in quality or price.

                                  This is indicative though of the slow food, Ferry Building thing, where old fashioned mom and pop business ethics get lost in the shuffle of the whole "by buying these $4 grapes, I'm doing some thing great for myself and the world" logic.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    If you knew how much they are paying for the space at the FB you would change your tune. A business has to do at least $2000 per square foot there to make it worth it which is HUGE. Rents at the FB have skyrocketed recently, because of the greedy asshole leasing company, driving out the smaller businesses - Mistral for example. I would prefer that BB come in and charge a little more there than another Peets or some larger chain store. At this point pretty much only chain stores can afford to be in the FB. So in that case I think BB can be forgiven doing what it can!! Love you BB!!

                                    1. re: SFGourmande

                                      Well personally, as a customer, and not a booster club member, I'd rather not think about Blue Bottles rent.

                                      It's not just the leasing company, it's the city who hit the landlords hard with a tax increase, which got passed on to the tenants. Frankly who cares though? Blue Bottle decided to sign a lease anyway.

                                  2. re: Adamsimpson

                                    I am not complaining about higher prices. I buy 90% of my produce at the Ferry Plaza Saturday and Tuesday markets, and most of my meat at Golden Gate, and fish at Ferry Plaza. I spend a lot of money where I could be buying cheaper at the produce stores and meat markets on Mission Street, but I won't do it because I don't know its provenance. This is not an issue about money. It's an issue about consumer confusion. I don't mind if the carts outside should subsidize the new space inside; I want to pay the same price for the same drink if I buy it in the same location from the same vendor. Period.

                                    Now I must admit that I asked my husband about this (he used to be a flower vendor at a farmer's market). He disagrees and says that if the costs are operating the shop inside are higher, drinks inside should be higher priced. So, reasonable minds can differ.

                                    1. re: farmersdaughter

                                      In 8 months when it's raining and 40 degrees, I'll probably be awfully happy to have the option to pay $0.50 extra to not stand in the cold while I wait for my coffee. The two Blue Bottle locations in the greater Ferry Plaza area are different in terms of ambience and services offered. Isn't food at Slanted Door's takeout window cheaper, whether by initial price or avoiding Healthy SF and full tip charges? This is econ 101--the price of goods reflects raw materials, labor, and overhead.

                                      1. re: SteveG

                                        They serve you at Slanted Door. That's like comparing $3 pears to $4 grapes.

                                        Price of goods rarely reflects materials, labor, or overhead, in this day and age, it reflect profit margin. Yesterday I skipped stopping at a Blue Bottle because I only had a certain amount of change on me, and remembering this thread, wasn't certain their normal pricing would be their current pricing now. I went to Peets instead, where it's the same price without factoring in the difference in rent they pay from location to location. Likewise, if I know Miette cupcakes are a dollar more at the FB, I'll buy something else, and wait for my cupcake another day when I'm in the area of their other shop with better pricing. I can understand why being spend thrift and and budget conscious at a Ferry Building farmers market might seem counter productive though hahaha.

                                  3. re: sugartoof

                                    So I'm guessing none of you have ever been to one of those countries where you pay a steeply different price for your espresso depending on whether you take it standing, sitting, or sitting outside? Sure, this is not one of those countries, so it might seem confusing at first, but this is far from a unique phenomenon.

                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      You are paying for table service by a waiter in that circumstance. Of course it should be more expensive. That's the same analogy as why the same thing at Out the Door is cheaper than Slanted Door.

                                      1. re: farmersdaughter

                                        Hmm, maybe you went to some different other country? No, in many cases it's all the same one guy making the coffee and dropping it on the bar, on an inside table, or at an outside table. And your theory doesn't take into consideration the differential between inside and outside tables, which may be worked by the same waiter.

                                        Differential pricing is a perfectly civilized way for a cafe to deal with differing environments. That we're doing it backwards here -- outside cheaper than inside -- just shows that we have a long way to go.

                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                          I'm with you on the differential pricing, and the analogy to stand-up expresso bar service compared with sit-down cafe service. Makes perfect sense to me.

                                          But the slow service... that would never be tolerated. Nor the overall pretentiousness of the premium coffee mania that BB exemplifies. Gimme a break. I just want an expresso and I want it good, hot, fast, and convenient. If the person behind the bar has to be called a barrista and takes an eternity to pump out lukewarm shots... fuggetaboutit.

                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                            I think they should charge according to weather, and astrological charts instead. When their utilities bills fluctuate they should charge us a dime or two extra for that too.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              Sigh. They could solve your problem by jacking up the cart price. I've totally lost what your point was and can't see how it relates at all to finding delicious coffee?

                                              Anyway: for bluebottle coffee made professionally without opening-day jitters try Guerrillla Cafe on Shattuck in Berkeley.

                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                Price doesn't dictate "deliciousness". My issue is with erratic pricing, not "deliciousness", and I've been clear on that. To repeat myself - I'd like to see them keep pricing consistent, even that means taking less profit, making up the profit elsewhere. If you can't sell your product without increasing prices, then you picked a location that didn't fit your business plan. Raising prices slightly all around at other locations to offset that mistake is actually a good option but I realize this kind of logic is lost on some here because we're talking about Blue Bottle and that inspires instant gushing.Oh and hiring qualified baristas would also help. Why pay more for an inferior product?

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  I'll take a bargain where I can get it. The idea of raising their cart prices to satisfy a foolish consistency sure seems silly from my point of view.

                                                  Maybe as a way of compromising, people who are concerned that two different places are charging two different prices could drop the extra into the tip jar? That way, they get to relax, the coffee guy gets an extra half buck, and I get my cheap caffeine fix?

                                    2. re: Paul H

                                      Why should I give a damn? Be consistant.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        If you'd rather pay $2.50 outside for a drip coffee instead of $2, then you shouldn't give a damn.

                                  4. re: PorktoPurslane

                                    Don't practice or get up to speed on my dime. Make sure you have experienced baristas. Why am I expected to pay as a customer for training?

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      "because they can"

                                      You guys talking about fairness and what a product "should" cost are a laugh. Keeps me reading. I'm glad you have so much time on your hands.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        Thank you!

                                        This thread reminds me of many ridiculous tipping threads.