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learn to make a f#*%ing coffee

liangpi Mar 2, 2012 09:45 AM

Where can you get decent coffee in Boston? This morning I went to Cafenation and needed to have the macchiato remade due to their unfamiliarity with the drink. This is a constant annoyance in these psuedosophisticated cafes. I have had similar experiences at Treats across the street. Although the latter has decent pastries. Similarly, Athan's in Brookline has a magical selection of pastries and a great area to sit, but coffee that tastes like crap.

Not all is lost. The following places have been decent for the following individual drinks. please add more places to my list!
1) Cafe Fixe for Espresso and Machiatto
2) ERC in Back Bay for " and "
3) Refuge Cafe in Brighton for Iced coffee (steer clear of espresso drinks)

The only coffee that comes close to Abraco, Grumpy etc or other actually excellent NYC coffees are those at Fixe.

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  1. g
    gourmaniac RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 09:49 AM

    george howell cafe in newton is getting some positive buzz and the eponymous father used to brew a mean cup a couple of decades ago.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gourmaniac
      liangpi RE: gourmaniac Mar 2, 2012 09:56 AM

      Looks like its worth the trip! Thanks for the recommendation.

    2. m
      meeps2002 RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 10:01 AM

      Berkeley Perk is always nice and I have had nothing but positive experiences at the new spot near the movie theater Thinking Cup

      1. MC Slim JB RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 10:42 AM

        Jaho Coffee & Tea in the South End might meet your coffee-geek standards.


        1 Reply
        1. re: MC Slim JB
          liangpi RE: MC Slim JB Mar 2, 2012 10:49 AM

          I tried Jaho and appreciated it. I should've put on the list. The iced Vietnamese coffee thingie was also quite good. Flour down the block is also decent for brewed coffee but iffy on espresso. But the buns are unbelievable.

        2. Bob Dobalina RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 10:46 AM

          Hard to counteract the combined effect of Dunkin' Donuts and Starbuck's.

          I have been really enjoying the Gimme! coffee (both brewed and espresso-based) from Three Little Figs on Highland Avenue in Somerville. They make a right proper cappuccino.

          1. h
            hckybg RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 11:41 AM

            Maybe you've been going to the wrong places? It's increasingly easy to get a good cup of coffee around here these days. I too love 3 Little Figs. Render in the South End was great when I visited and they keep winning the latte art competitions that have popped up around here. Barismo is an amazing place at the vanguard of the current coffee resurgence and they will soon open their new cafe, dwelltime. The new RJ Gourmet uses Barismo coffee and is a great neighborhood cafe that is pulling tasty espresso. Even Clover makes excellent coffee, brewed pourover style.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hckybg
              liangpi RE: hckybg Mar 2, 2012 11:49 AM

              Render sounds good. Will def visit this week!

              1. re: liangpi
                bear RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 04:46 PM

                Just had a really good cappuccino at Render last weekend. They clearly take care with each drink.
                I second or third the Cafe Fixe and Thinking Cup recommendations.

                If you like Howell coffee, True Grounds in Somerville does a nice job, too. I'm guessing they would make a proper macchiato.

                Be aware that the 1369 doesn't have whole milk. They will combine 1/2 and 1/2 with their 2% if you request, though.

            2. n
              nickls RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 11:51 AM

              To be fair, I'm sure there's way more mediocre and bad coffee places in NY than in Boston (90% of everything is crap).

              I mostly agree with the following list for good espresso (and other types of coffee), namely Simon's, Barismo, Voltage, Diesel, and Hi-Rise.


              6 Replies
              1. re: nickls
                hckybg RE: nickls Mar 2, 2012 11:54 AM

                Yes, Voltage and Simon's are both wonderful places, in very different ways. Good ideas.

                1. re: hckybg
                  lipoff RE: hckybg Mar 2, 2012 05:44 PM

                  +1 to both Voltage and Simon's!

                2. re: nickls
                  liangpi RE: nickls Mar 2, 2012 11:57 AM

                  Just like NYC is the capital of craptastic pizza but also contains motorino and co. and veloce and Difaras!
                  Boston IS the capital of craptastic coffee due to the inexplicable love affair with dunkin donuts that the people here seem to have. Its also the capital of craptastic sushi, but unlike with the coffee, there are few excellent options.

                  1. re: nickls
                    Moopheus RE: nickls Mar 4, 2012 10:32 AM

                    And most of the places serving good coffee in New York are of pretty recent vintage; it was really a different scene ten years ago. Now NYC is pretty well blanketed in S-bucks. And some of you may be old enough to remember that we used to have the Coffee Connection, until George Howell sold out to Charbucks.

                    1. re: Moopheus
                      chickendhansak RE: Moopheus Mar 4, 2012 10:55 AM

                      Indeed, despite drinking coffee since the age of five (seems it only stunted my intellectual growth), I had not had good coffee until I drank it at Cafe Fixe in Brookline, Simon's in Cambridge or indeed Intelligentsia in Chicago and Monmouth Coffee more recently in London. This was a lifelong journey but I'm so pleased to have found a decent cup finally!

                    2. re: nickls
                      viperlush RE: nickls Mar 6, 2012 09:46 AM

                      For you Voltage fans there is a current Google Offers deal for them.

                      $10 for a five-drink punch card (up to $20 value)


                    3. k
                      Klunco RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 12:26 PM

                      Cafe Fixe is still my favorite in the area although I've been going less since I started home roasting. Well that and on a recent visit they couldn't make me a cup of coffee. No joke, clearly the barista was overwhelmed with a stack of orders (it probably doesn't help that every espresso they make is a triple-ristretto by default), but I asked for a two press pots and he said he couldn't do that. I told him to take his time and that I was happy to wait the 10 minutes or whatever, but he was so overwhelmed he just, "sorry." That aside I still love Cafe Fixe (and it's doppelganger Amherst Coffee, is anyone else weirded out by the fact that these are carbon copies of each other down to the font on the menu and yet have no correlation?)

                      They sell bags of fresh Blue Bottle coffee at Thinking Cup on the park, so it's worth checking out. The talent isn't quite as high as Fixe but given its location it's very good. Simon's and Diesel have always been good. I'll definitely check out 3 figs and Jaho.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Klunco
                        libertywharf RE: Klunco Mar 2, 2012 12:48 PM

                        Boston common coffee has a few locations. I like the one on Salem street, north end.
                        The coffee bar at the seaport hotel does a good job.

                        1. re: libertywharf
                          drewames03 RE: libertywharf Mar 2, 2012 02:51 PM

                          All my go to spots have been mentioned, I would just add Area Four in Kendall and Barrington in Fort Point.

                          Klunco - The owner of Cafe Fixe used to work at Amherst and Northampton Coffee. I love Cafe Fixe!

                          1. re: drewames03
                            ix9 RE: drewames03 Mar 2, 2012 03:29 PM

                            Flat Black at Lower Mills / Ashmont, mainly buy the beans beacuse it involves a bike ride across the Neponset. or Terroir beans from that "Not a Whole Foods" place in Milton. or Trung Nguyen / Vinacafe brewed in Fields Corner. the Quincy coffee scene is strange - not only the o'riginal Dunkins , but some chain on nearly ever corner called "Coffee Time" which is passable in black non-syrup'd form and http://www.marylous.com/ ..not as weird as some coffee places in San Jose..

                            have had decent coffee in Roslindale, Fornax maybe?

                            1. re: drewames03
                              libertywharf RE: drewames03 Mar 3, 2012 03:59 AM

                              Area four and barrington are great suggestions. Barrington was much needed in the area.

                        2. p
                          pollystyrene RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 02:50 PM

                          I'm not a huge fan of their brewed coffee, but the espresso and lattes at Diesel are terrific.

                          Has anyone been to Pavement on Boylston?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: pollystyrene
                            hckybg RE: pollystyrene Mar 2, 2012 07:26 PM

                            Very good place, skilled baristas. They are owned by Espresso Royale. They mostly serve Counter Culture coffee now, which is definitely not a bad thing.

                            1. re: hckybg
                              pollystyrene RE: hckybg Mar 2, 2012 08:09 PM

                              Thanks, hckybg. Their late hours and free WIFI have been tempting me. Now that I know the coffee's good, I'll take the plunge. Aside from Diesel, they're the only good coffeehouse I know of that's open late.

                              1. re: pollystyrene
                                hckybg RE: pollystyrene Mar 2, 2012 08:24 PM

                                It's a bit of a Berklee hangout, but they seem like nice kids. I've only been in the daytime and it can be crowded, though I'm not sure if the same goes for the evening.

                          2. TrishUntrapped RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 03:27 PM

                            Only had one cappuccino recently, on my way out of Boston, at City Feed on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, and thought it was excellent.

                            1. k
                              kcward RE: liangpi Mar 2, 2012 05:18 PM

                              I would recommend sticking to decaf.

                              1. BostonZest RE: liangpi Mar 3, 2012 04:42 AM

                                The Wired Puppy on Newbury Street near Fairfield is serious about coffee. This is an offshoot of the shop by the same name in the East End of Provincetown. The have an extensive training program and they take the time to do things right. It is a tiny place, with only a few seat inside, so lots of people buy the coffee to go. There are patio tables in season.

                                Sip Cafe in Post office square will also deliver a great cup of your favorite brew and they have great food plus the park in season.

                                I'll also +1 Thinking Cup for coffee and food with the Boston Common for back up seating in season. And, when Spring arrives so will the new tables and chairs around the Brewer Fountain on the Common.



                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BostonZest
                                  marcreichman RE: BostonZest Mar 3, 2012 08:08 AM

                                  Love wired pup. +1!

                                2. Beachowolfe RE: liangpi Mar 3, 2012 07:54 AM

                                  Any suggestion for the FiDi? (without walking up to Thinking Cup)

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Beachowolfe
                                    BostonZest RE: Beachowolfe Mar 3, 2012 02:50 PM

                                    Sip Cafe in Post Office Square is in FiDi

                                    1. re: BostonZest
                                      Beachowolfe RE: BostonZest Mar 4, 2012 11:36 AM

                                      missed that in your wired puppy post. Thanks!

                                  2. Bob Dobalina RE: liangpi Mar 19, 2012 07:14 AM

                                    Wanted to append my earlier recommendation for the coffee at 3 Little Figs in Somerville with a bit more information.

                                    They use a Strada espresso machine - noticed there are various pressure gauges, etc. which seem to allow for very precise control. I am no expert, but the coffees are really rich in flavor, but not muddy or dark.

                                    Would love to see some coffee gurus give their opinions.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                      hckybg RE: Bob Dobalina Mar 19, 2012 11:51 AM

                                      I'm not sure I'm a guru, but you pretty much got the gist of the machine. It has a variable pressure gauge which allows the barista to alter the pressure as the shot is pulled. Some say that for single origin beans especially, such control allows very careful manipulation to bring out the flavors without weird extremes. I have actually never seen a variable pressure machine manipulated extensively while a shot is being pulled, here or in New York, but the Strada is definitely the toy to have now and I am seeing them more and more. Render also has one, and Dwelltime will have one too (it should be opening very soon now, I have heard). The Slayer is a similar machine, but no one has one in Boston. Besides the fact that the Strada makes excellent shots, it is also a really beautiful design object, isn't it?

                                      1. re: hckybg
                                        Bob Dobalina RE: hckybg Mar 19, 2012 11:58 AM

                                        Definitely, and it fits in nicely with the esthetic at 3LF. They have obviously put a lot of thought into the decor, sourcing of ingredients - but happiest that the coffee and the baking more than back it up.

                                    2. b
                                      bear RE: liangpi Mar 19, 2012 08:20 AM

                                      I noticed Blue State Coffee on Comm. Ave. in Allston yesterday. I don't remember seeing any mention of it on the board. Seems to be a small chain with stores in CT and Providence.


                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: bear
                                        Moopheus RE: bear Mar 19, 2012 10:11 AM

                                        I went to one in Providence last week, as I had to be at Brown for business. Not the best ever, but definitely much better than average (this was for regular coffee). I didn't know they had locations around here.

                                        1. re: Moopheus
                                          bear RE: Moopheus Mar 19, 2012 11:09 AM

                                          Thanks. I already had a coffee so I didn't try it, but will next time I'm in the area. Sure beats Starbucks across the street.

                                          1. re: bear
                                            Moopheus RE: bear Mar 19, 2012 04:55 PM

                                            It does. The baked goods they had looked decent, too, but I didn't actually try any, as someone had already got donuts for us.

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