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Jul 5, 2013 01:50 PM

Our continuing search for East Bay Coffee roasters

Since the purchase of a new burr coffee grinder which is better for espresso, I am continuing my search for good medium or "city roast" beans in the East Bay. So far I have tried Blue Bottle 17ft ceiling and Roma blend. I have also tried Catahoula Lola. I would like to try the beans that are labeled "Berkeley" Bowl " beans at Berkeley Bowl West. Does anyone know who they are roasted by? I will also try the Uncommon Grounds roasted beans that are sold at BB West. The price for both is (9.99 lb which is great compared to my other choices above!

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  1. You might consider buying green beans from Sweet Maria's in Oakland and roasting your own. The beans cost around $5 a pound, so the money you save will quickly offset the cost of a $300 Behmor 1600.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Not to try to convince you about the DIY but: You can start for way less -- we bought a popcorn-popper type hot air coffee roaster in Portland a few months ago for $169, also available from Sweet Maria's: It's the third one over. It's compact, easy to use and quick. Not as spiffy as the one Robert suggested but about half the price and takes up a lot less room in a small kitchen. Sweet Maria's is an amazing resource that is on your doorstep, couldn't agree more about that.

      1. re: grayelf

        The $299 drum roaster has a couple of major advantages over the $169 air roaster, details here:

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I guess We have a vent hood better than yours, Robert, or they've improved it since you purchased -- no smoke and very little odour, thankfully, as I don't love the smell of roasting coffee. The amount that it roasts works out very well for our purposes as my SO is the main drinker of approx. 1 espresso a day. He roasts several batches if we are having guests.

          1. re: grayelf

            One batch is less than two days' coffee for us.

        2. re: grayelf

          I ended up selling the Behmor, which really wasn't designed for as dark a roast as I like, and upgrading to a HotTop. Expensive, but the Sweet Maria's New Classic Espresso blend I'm getting is $5.40 a pound, so the machine will pay for itself soon enough since I'm saving around $10 a pound compared with Peet's.

          It's really not much work at all, once I week I roast two batches, not much to it except pushing the button and waiting. Less work than shopping for beans used to be.

        3. re: Robert Lauriston

          Sweet Maria's does sell roasted beans, otherwise purchasing green beans and learning how to roast is considerably more involved, and like suggesting a side hobby.

          Ubuntu Coffee strikes me as a good option.
          Verve and Barefoot beans should be available in the East Bay, and might be good for the OP.

          1. re: sugartoof

            Verve and Barefoot are both South Bay roasters and are only available in the East Bay except by ordering online! Does anyone have an answer to my question about BB coffee? Who roasts BB West coffee. I am not inclined to roast my own as I have gotten about as "complicated" as I want to make good espresso by buying freshly roasted beans, grinding them in a good burr grinder, and having a good espresso machine!

            1. re: zinfanatic

              You shouldn't have to do mail order to buy beans from over the bridge. No reason to limit your own options.

        4. If you want East Bay roasters, you can also try Roast, Bicycle, or Due Torri, all in Oakland. Roast and Bicycle are available a lot of places, including Whole Foods Oakland. (We usually buy Roast at Commonwealth on Telegraph, though--they only offer one blend but proceeds benefit a local youth center--and Bicycle is cheapest if you get it directly from them at the farmer's market. They used to sell out of their Uptown headquarters but are moving to Jack London Square so you can't get beans there for now.) Due Torri is the least expensive of these, and is available at Merritt Station (Grand Lake) and Cafeina (Solano Avenue), among other places. I am not a huge fan of their blends, though.

          That said, we still prefer several Blue Bottle roasts over all of these and stick with those most of the time (but have no espresso experience, so YMMV). You can also get Verve, Barefoot, Sightglass, etc. at most any shop that uses their beans--just ask in advance if it's not a shop that routinely sells beans and they will usually order for you.

          4 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I buy Verve at Bica in Rockridge. It is our favorite and Bica typically has one available.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Monkey Forest Road (Grand Lake) and City Lights (Uptown), or at least they used to...haven't been to either in a while. Duende was supposedly going to sell Verve beans in the bodega side but we still haven't made it there to check them out so I don't know if that's actually happening. Modern in DTO sometimes has bags of Verve beans, though I think they rotate roasters. I feel like I see it fairly regularly, but we don't buy their beans often so not sure where else.

                1. re: artemis78

                  Duende was carrying Verve about a month ago, so that's probably still a good bet.

            2. Whole Foods in Oakland has a selection of local and semi-local roasters. I assume other branches will do the same. Recently had Ritual, Four Barrel, Roast Co., Verve, Northbound, Philz and others. Check roasting dates.

              1. You may want to try the other BB espresso blends. I don't like the 17th foot ceiling but really have liked their Retrofit and Hayes valley blend. Also their Sidamo (and Sidamo from others as well) makes killer single origin espresso.

                13 Replies
                1. re: Ridge

                  Second Hayes Valley's the house blend here at Villa Rapini.

                  1. re: Rapini

                    Thanks to twocents,ridge and rapini for your helpful replies. I do not generally shop at WF, but glad to know they carry a variety of roasted whole beans. I will also try more of the BB blends.Is BB available closer than JLS in Oakland? Although I did not state this in my post, I would prefer not to travel too far from my North Berkeley home to get coffee- 2-3 miles would be good. WF in Berkeley is ok to try.

                    1. re: zinfanatic

                      I am currently trying Scarlet City organic Ethiopian Amaro natural. I really like it on my superautomatic esspresso machine. I previously tried their espresso blend and found it boring. Purchased at Berkeley Bowl.

                      1. re: Ridge

                        When I looked at BB west about two weeks ago the Scarlet City was only in ground form. Someone else had recommended them, but I want BEANS.

                        1. re: zinfanatic

                          The SC coffee I got was beans. They were probably out of beans when you went. Walking around SF before a pop-up dinner around the mission I stumbled on Ubuntu roasters. Got their esspresso blend but have not tried it yet. Will try it in the next few days and report back.

                          1. re: Ridge

                            It's good stuff. Reminds me a bit of Verve, or Bicycle Coffee, and brews well at home.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              Tried the Ubuntu espresso blend this morning in my super automatic espresso maker (I know serious espresso people don't like the super automatics but I am not at all a morning person and they are so easy and make a decent enough shot). I Loved the Ununtu espresso blend! The best espresso blend I have had in a while. I may like it better than the BB espresso blends. The proprietor told me its made with Sumatra and I forgot what else. You can really taste the Sumatra, the espresso is assertive and forward, very full bodied with a rich creamy mouthfeel. I am planning on getting more.

                      2. re: zinfanatic

                        Blue Bottle is at the Berkeley Tuesday and Saturday farmers markets.

                        1. re: zinfanatic

                          BB is no longer at the Tuesday Berkeley farmer's market, unfortunately. They're at the Oakland Temescal market on Sundays, though (and Berkeley on Saturdays as Robert noted). If you have exact change and are just getting beans, you don't have to wait in line. Tacubaya on 4th Street sells their beans but usually just Chiapas and one or two others--not sure if they have any of the espresso blends. Guerilla Cafe in the Gourmet Ghetto serves BB though and might sell beans too (or be willing to get them for you).

                          1. re: zinfanatic

                            If you buy more than a pound at a time, you might consider ordering online from the BB website. I used to do that, and it was easy, efficient, and you got your order promptly after their next roast. The problem for me was the shipping charge. You need to order more than a pound at a time to make it worthwhile.

                            Otherwise, the farmer's markets are your best bet.

                            1. re: Rapini

                              Unless you can work through the bulk of beans you're mail ordering while they're still prime, it's really a good idea to get it from a local store. Depends how much coffee you go through.
                              Mail ordering a local roaster seems like a waste when there are lots of great coffee companies around the country happy to ship.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                I agree. It is only me with espresso, so I only buy 1/2# at a time.

                                1. re: zinfanatic

                                  i gave up on local roasters high prices and have been super happy with this 34 year old family
                                  ran company outside of sacramento.


                      3. I was recently reminded that the Beanery in Alameda roasts its own beans. As I don't drink coffee, I can't tell you any more than that!