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Mar 6, 2013 10:43 AM

Excellent Cappuccino in the Boston area?

Hi Experts :-)
I am rather new to the area (6 months) and still looking for perfect coffee...

Some time ago we found the place called "the thinking cup" downtown on Tremont street (see picture) - the Barista was an artist.

Please direct me to the best places around here (not necessarily in the city) that will serve coffee at such a high standard.


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  1. Lover of exceptional coffee and bread? We would get along well!

    Dwelltime (Cambridge) and Cafe Fixe (Brookline) are my two favorites for exceptional espresso/coffee and both are friendly and have great atmosphere.

    Others like 1369 (Cambridge), Diesel (Somerville), Thinking Cup (Boston), Simon's (Cambridge), Barismo (Arlington) are all good to great but not exceptional.

    I have yet to visit Terroir by George Howell in Newton but anything from him is going to be high quality. Two other places I haven't made it to yet but might be worth checking out: 3 little figs and Voltage, both in Cambridge.

    A few other random places that look great from the outside but are disappointing: Espresso Royale, Wired Puppy, Refuge Cafe, Bourbon Coffee, Blue State.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Klunco

      You list most of the good spots for espresso but I am puzzled by your assessment of their relative merits.

      For one thing you set off Dwelltime from do realize Dwelltime is a Barismo project, right?

      In any event I have had espresso at all of those places [1369 (Cambridge), Diesel (Somerville), Thinking Cup (Boston), Simon's (Cambridge), Barismo (Arlington)] including Voltage and Howell's and I think they are all mostly in the ballpark and are the ones most espresso (and consequently cappuccino) lovers will mention in the Boston area.

      You could also add Bloc 11 and Cafe Crema if you like as well in that general range.

      Traditionally, Simon's has received a lot of praise and awards for whatever that is worth to you.

      1. re: retrofabulousity

        Hey, good to great is nothing to sneeze at! The OP could go to any of those places and get a great cappuccino. All are miles above super-automatic machine places.

        But, for my tastes (as someone who is so far gone when it comes to coffee that I spend mornings weighing my home-roast in grams before pulling it in a pre-millenium La Pavoni), I wouldn't say that your average espresso at a place like 1369, as much as I enjoy them, is the same thing as the average espresso at a place like Cafe Fixe (which by the way is a triple-ristretto).

        Dwelltime and Cafe Fixe are places where I have had exceptional espresso on a somewhat consistent basis. The other places listed are all good to great and I would certainly stop in for a coffee or espresso, but maybe the weather, barista, or gods made it so I have never had a truly exceptional pull from them.

        Dwelltime is indeed a Barismo project, but a lot of espresso is the barista themselves along with a host of other factors. Barismo is pretty far from me, so I haven't been as many times as I've been to dwelltime and it may have just been in the handful of visits, the magic just hasn't happened. That said, they're a great roaster and make great coffee/espresso. But if espresso could be perfected and easily replicated at multiple locations (ie. what chains try to do), baristas would be superflous and super-automatics would be able to make exceptional espresso. Sadly, this isn't the case even with the same beans and the same machines.

        Just my opinion though! This thread definitely inspires me to visit Howell's this weekend.

        1. re: Klunco

          I was trying to avoid entering too much into the specifics of taste; I find Chowhound useful as a preliminary resource to get a good list together but then I think it's best to try it for yourself when possible.

          So I generally, unless there are huge and obvious discrepancies, try to avoid saying definitive sorts of things like Dwelltime is awesome and Barismo is merely good...especially given the relation between these 2.

          Having said that, I had the impression that Barismo and Simon's have done a lot for the culture of coffee here in the Boston area and remain reference points more so than Dwelltime or Cafe Fixe (places I have been to only a few times but wouldn't have thought to elevate over the others).

          Please post your impressions of Howell's as well if you would...

          1. re: Klunco

            I have to agree with Klunco on the assessment. We do have many good options but I would say Cafe Fixe and Dwelltime are in the top running for best Espresso drinks in town. I am also a huge fan of Render (Counter Culture coffee program) and also have had very solid drinks at Great Barrington in Fort Point (bad ass Synesso on display) and the Great Barrington beans are starting to show up at a few places in town (Cafe Fixe, Area 4).

            Overall though it's really cool that more of these threads on coffee and espresso drinks keep popping up. As more Hounds get hooked on properly prepared coffee and espresso the specialty coffee movement in Boston will keep on growing.

        2. re: Klunco

          thanks for the full overview,
          I will have to try your best spots, and will report back :-)


        3. I love a number of places in the North End for their coffee and ambiance, but the single best cappuccino I have had in Boston is at a place in the West End called Equal Exchange. Not much ambiance, but I swear there is crack cocaine in their espresso beans. They just make a more flavorful cup than anywhere else I have found. It's sort of an odd duck place, but everyone I know who tries it thinks it is amazing.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ScotchandSirloin

            This is my friend's favorite coffee in Boston. I don't normally drink black iced coffee (I usually have it unsweetened but with milk), but I actually really liked it when I had a sip of his.

            1. re: ScotchandSirloin

              Completely agree about some of the North End caf├ęs for coffee and ambiance. There's nothing like having a pastry and coffee at a place like Caffe Vitoria or Caffe Paradiso. I also love that these places are open late and are a welcome alternative to Starbucks etc for a late night coffee.

              Just like the way exceptional food can make us overlook a divey atmosphere, there are times when the atmosphere easily makes me overlook the technical aspects of coffee and I find myself saying, "they really make the best coffee and pastries here."

              1. Best espresso I've had pulled was at Flat Black on Broad St downtown. But since this is an art, it depends on the person doing it.

                In terms of coffee quality generally, my favorites are Thinking Cup, which uses Stumptown Coffee, and Flat Black, which roasts its own.

                1. Three Little Figs in Somerville is my preferred spot.