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May 21, 2009 09:31 PM

Current Coffee Top 10?

A coffee fiend from LA is descending upon my apartment soon, and I need to be armed with the city's best. What am I missing?

Blue Bottle
Graffeo (beans only)
Philz (no espresso)
Ritual Roasters
Four Barrel

I believe his poison is a macchiato, followed closely by a latte with silky foamed milk. Also, are there general feelings about which roasters tend toward what flavors? For example, if he tells me he loves a lighter roast, do I pick one place over another? I don't think it's sane to hit all these places in the two days we have (or is it...?)

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  1. They have Peet's in LA, so you don't need to go there. And that's not a lot of coffee for a coffee lover.

    Graffeo has lighter and darker roasts, or can blend them for you. You could also go somewhere like XOX that serves Graffeo. Philz is also a darker, stronger blend, heavily spiced. We walked by the other night, and the spices were overwhelming.

    I don't like dark roasts and am a fan of Blue Bottle. Plus you have to see the pots and tubes at Mint Plaza.

    I've tried Four Barrel a bunch of times, but it doesn't taste like anything to me. It is a beautiful temple to coffee though, and I don't doubt Jeremy's sincerity. I haven't compared Ritual lately.

    Haus, the new place on 24th Street, serves both Ritual beans and De La Paz. If you're on this side of town, Bernie's on 24th serves La Coppa (Spinelli's newest company).

    Cafe Trieste should be on the list, although it's not my style.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      I don't know if you will be in Berkeley, but I really like the Cafe Fanny cappuccino. (The cafe au lait has too much milk for me, but those I know who like that quantity of milk love it.)

      1. re: Windy

        Thanks! I feel the same way about Trieste as you do about Four Barrel; I like the space but the coffee does nothing for me.

        To me, Four Barrel is very much on the light side, and I consider Blue Bottle and Peet's pretty light. But there's a slight burnt caramel taste to it that I enjoy, and it's so hard to find properly foamed milk that I would go back if they can just maintain that consistency.

        1. re: Windy

          It's been a couple years since I lived in LA, but my recollection is that there was a Graffeo outpost in Beverly Hills, so can probably cross that one off the list if you're looking for Bay-Area-unique roasters that he wouldn't have ready access to down south.

        2. For a light roast head over to Ritual.

          If he's a macchiato guy, he should try a Gibraltar at Blue Bottle (the one at Mint Plaza is especially nice).

          Pirate Cat Radio makes a bacon-maple latte that I personally can't stomach (I'm more of a coffee purist and was overexposed to maple-bacon in my short term maple-bacon lollipop making experience). They use De La Paz beans.

          If you're in the neighborhood of Mojo Cafe on Divis, they use Ritual and De La Paz. They also serve more than just coffee and pastries. Plus, they have a sweet little "urban garden" area in back.

          I'm not a fan of Philz or Peet's.

          1. It's about both the roast of the coffee and the brewing of the coffee.
            Cafe at Cafe du Nord (Market and 15th Streets) serves Ritual Roasters, and its baristas make great drinks, including Gibraltars (a perfect balance of milk and espresso for me). Plus, there is light fare and good art on the walls.

            1. I ditto the recommendation for a Gibraltar from the Mint Plaza Blue Bottle Cafe - with a bar of TCHO dark chocolate, it can't be beat. Ok, maybe it can...have you had the Blue Bottle Affogato with Humphrey Slocombe ice cream?

              Also, Ritual in the Mission does cuppings in the early afternoon - that could be awesome for your coffee-loving friend.

              Oh - and you could also grab a Ritual macchiato at Flora Grubb, which is such a cool place!

              Ritual Coffee Roasters
              1026 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              Blue Bottle Cafe
              66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              Flora Grubb Gardens
              1634 Jerrold Ave, San Francisco, CA

              7 Replies
              1. re: PorktoPurslane

                FYI: I called Ritual Roasters and cuppings are free and open to the public every Friday at 1pm. You just need to show up. Unfortunately that won't work for my visitor, but I hope to try it some time.

                1. re: Pei

                  I think they're interesting, but it's not exactly great tasting. (Guess I'm not enough of a purist).

                  If you really want to compare beans from different regions, straight coffee's probably better than espresso drinks. You can do that at Ritual or Epicenter or anywhere that has a bunch of grinders. Hard to beat Blue Bottle's $20,000 magic pots though.

                  1. re: Windy

                    Cupping's interesting because it's the same way buyers and blenders evaluate the coffee ... so it's sort of like going to a concert and sitting by the sound board, eh?

                    Cole Coffee in Oakland does multiple bean types fresh ground. Cafe del Doge in Palo Alto always has three blends for espresso, which is (I think) pretty unusual.

                    None of which helps the OP, but there you go

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      I always have trouble getting past the 10 kinds of hot chocolate at Cafe del Doge. Although occasionally it's worth having a mocha.

                        1. re: Windy

                          Even though I mentioned them, I'm still peeved they wouldn't make me a triple because "that's not how it's done in italy". Freaks.

                        2. re: bbulkow

                          Speaking of Palo Alto, we really like the coffee at Ikea.

                  2. One comment:

                    I also order a lot of macchiatos. A true macchiato is just a spot of foam, not a "dry cappuccino", which is now what I'm served universally unless I damn near scream at them. Depressing.

                    But I drink macchiatos simply because I like an espresso with crema, and most places can't pull a decent espresso. Blue Bottle's beans (and my espresso machine) make espresso with crema for miles, and I got to believe the BB baristas are good, so, if your friend's like me, they'll take a BB pull without the milk.

                    Or maybe your friend actually likes dry caps. In which case we part company.

                    Otherwise, the question to 'hounds might be which shops pull a good, crema-rich shot. I'd be thinking of Trieste. My hidden gem in this regard is the espresso cart outside of UCSF on Parnassus, but my info's a few years old. My trick is simply watching the speed of the pull, which hopefully you can see before ordering. When a line gets long, it's tempting to loosen up on the tamp, pull 10 second shots, and clear the line. A barrista who holds to a 30 second shot in the face of a long line gets the nod for an espresso order.

                    No comments on the hot beans in the city right now, I've been limited to the peninsula.

                    (Pensinsula-wise, I've been grooving on Conisseur Coffee in RWC's Mexican light roast, which they source from Chiapas - and I love Barefoot in Sunnyvale)

                    Yeah, ditch peet's. Sorry, peet's.