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UPDATE on BEST Coffee Beans, Pref. around Oakland/Berkeley

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I see a thread about coffee beans, but the posts are many months old. Any ideas? I've been trying to economize by buying the $7/lb beans from a cooperative in Chiapas from Berk Bowl. They're not bad, but nothing special either. Probably aren't that fresh.

Before that I always bought Peet's. Been buying Peet's for a zillion years.

Anything new locally? I don't want to drive all over the place, so no Sf or San Rafael.

Any info greatly appreciated.

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  1. Simply put: Cole Coffee on college near Claremont is amazing.

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    Cole Coffee
    3179 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94705

    1 Reply
    1. re: escargot3

      Agreed about Cole. They're not a fancy "3rd Wave" roaster. They've been turning out great coffee for decades. Delightful neighborhood local coffee spot, excellent selection of coffees for a wide range of palettes (I prefer Yemen Mocca and Flor de Cana, depending on mood). They were doing "drip by the cup" long before it was fashionable.

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      Cole Coffee - retail store
      307 63rd St, Oakland, CA 94618

    2. I actually like Blue Bottle, Berkeley Farmer's Market. It is more than twice what you are paying for the stuff from Chiapas.

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

      4 Replies
      1. re: wally

        We use the Blue Bottle Hayes Street Espresso blend at home, and it makes one tasty doppio. The full range of BB coffees can be ordered on-line at their website. They ship every Monday--free shipping.

        OTH, it is very expensive. If the OP's intent is to economize, BB won't work. However, if he's looking for great coffee and convenience, I'd recommend BB.

        1. re: wally

          I love the espresso at the Blue Bottle cafe, but when I've made drip with it the coffee seems under-roasted.

          My favorite is still Peet's, 50-50 blend of 101 and Sulawesi-Kalossi, though their prices have gone up and it seems a bit extravagant.

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

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I was a regular consumer of Peet's Major Dickason's Blend until I got with BB.

            BTW, you haven't lived until you've had a "Gibraltar" at one of the BB cafe's--a double espresso with a small measure of steamed milk. It's like a "wet" macchiato, or a really small latte--whatever, it's heavenly.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I have the exact same feeling about BB. It's fantastic in espresso drinks at the cafe, but the same flavors don't come out in my French press. I've tried at least a half dozen of their beans and felt the same way. The only one that I've gotten a nice smooth, sweet cup of French press coffee with is the peaberry that they're selling right now. Kinda makes me wonder how amazing that must be in an espresso machine...

          2. I don't know if Bittersweet (on College ave) is still roasting beans, but it was fantastic a year ago when they were. I don't get out there very often to check. FYI, Bittersweet is a chocolate store/cafe and they used to sell/server blue bottle, but they started roasting their own beans a while back (about two years? year and a half?) and it was simply incredible.

            1 Reply
            1. re: atjsfo

              I haven't been to Bittersweet for quite a while, but I'm fairly sure they use a Blue Bottle blend that was developed for them to pair nicely with chocolate. The thing about Blue Bottle is the freshness. You buy it not more than a couple of days after it was roasted, and that makes a huge difference.

              I'm an espresso obsessed person who is no longer able to do caffeine, but I have found that the cappuccinos I make with Blue Bottle's Decaf Noir are totally satisfying. A lot of that has to do with the quality of the beans and the roasting, but I think it also has to do with the freshness, because decaf goes stale even faster than the real stuff. I can even enjoy a straight shot of Decaf Noir, and I never thought I'd say that about any decaf.

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

            2. I've roasted my own for years with coffees from Sweet Marias (www.sweetmarias.com). It is not hard to do, nor is the investment in the equipment that daunting. What you get is to choose your degree of roast and find out what you really like among dozens of high quality coffees. To my taste, Pete's et al are overroasted and while it works well for coffee with milk drinks, the heavy roast wipes out much of varietal character of the coffee. Sweet Marias also sells roasted coffee and coffee for expresso but while what they make varies, the selection at any one time is limited. You can also get green and roasted coffee from Peerless (http://www.peerlesscoffee.com/), also in Oakland. My colleague prefers Peerless and I'm a fan of Sweet Marias. The other, not inconsiderable advantage is that I roast a half cup of green coffee beans at a time, which is about enough for a cup of coffee each morning for a week. Because these quantities are so small, if I want an Ethiopian bean today and Celebes one tomorrow, its no big deal. With roasted coffee, one generally has to contend with at least a quarter pound and at a go and so switching is not so easy.

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              Peerless Coffee Co
              260 Oak St, Oakland, CA

              Sweet Maria's Coffee
              1115 21st Street, Oakland, CA

              5 Replies
              1. re: Ericruo

                And green coffee is cheap (comparatively). If you've got the time, a great choice.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  Cheap maybe, but the impact is significant. There's a reason that you can smell roasters for hundreds of yards. In your house it will be a potential issue, Also the consistency of the product is highly variable depending on your skill level and "knack" for a lack of a better term. This is either fun or frustrating depending on an individual's demeanor.

                  1. re: keg

                    Keg, you are absolutely right. There is more to roasting than just turning the beans brown. I speak from experience. Roasting can be an alternative to one who doesn't have access to decent roasted beans, but luckily we here in the bay area have no shortage of really good roasters.

                    1. re: keg

                      I agree! I know a couple people who roast, for a variety of different reasons, and one really has the knack. His coffee is really amazing. Everyone else's is pretty good, better than you tend to get at much higher prices.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        Home use coffee roasting machines make the process of roasting your own quite simple and have consistently replicable results.Hand roasting in a pan, or converted popcorn popper is also possible and takes more practice. Green coffees from Sweet Marias are in the $6.00 per pound range and can get much higher for a few coffees.

                        I use a Hearthware i Roast 2 and one can set a roast profile (how much time at which roast temperatures) and record it as a program for use. It was about $180. There are other roasters with higher capacities and differing technologies, such as the $300 3/4 pound of coffee Behmor drum roaster.

                        It simply isn't that tricky if you pay attention.

                2. McLaughlin Coffee in Emeryville. www.mclaughlincoffee.com I do not think they are any cheaper. I really doubt that you will find any quality coffee cheap.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chefj

                    The Castro Cheesery has good beans, good prices, and you can have it shipped to your door.
                    http://www.castrocheesery.com/about.htm

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                    Castro Cheesery
                    427 Castro St, San Francisco, CA

                    1. re: myst

                      I believe Castro Cheesery sells Peerless coffee. It's quite good, esp the sweet Italian. And cheap.

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                      Castro Cheesery
                      427 Castro St, San Francisco, CA

                  2. Bica has a wide selection of beans from lots of roasters (De La Paz, ocassional Blue Bottle or Four Barrel)

                    Subrosa has Four Barrel Beans

                    Cafe Zoe has beans, but I am not sure of the source. (on collge in Oakland)

                    Farley's also roasts their own beans

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

                    Farley's East
                    33 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                    Bica Coffeehouse
                    5701 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                    Subrosa
                    419 40th St, Oakland, CA 94609

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jade408

                      I dunno about Farley's drip coffee - I've stopped in there a number of times before work when I'm too rushed to make my own and don't feel like doing the Charbucks thing down the street. It looks like a nice place to hang out awhile, but the coffee always seems pretty undistinguished to me.