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Saint Frank Coffee Shop (Russian Hill, San Francisco)

St. Frank Coffee keeps showing up on best of lists, and I'm curious about chowhounds' opinions. While I love the brioche doughnuts made by Mr. Holmes (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/973084) and the clean lines make for a good meeting spot, on my two visits the coffee has left me flat.

First time, I tried a cappuccino. Very bitter, lacking roundness, and in need of sugar.

The next, I hedged my bets and ordered the $6.50 sampler: espresso, macchiato, filter, iced. That espresso might be the bitterest and thinnest coffee I've put in my mouth. The macchiato managed to be palatable but not very characterful or interesting. The filter was bland. And the iced even more so and washed out.

Is there a particular roast or brew that this spot does best, what am I missing?

Saint Frank
2340 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 775-1619
http://saintfrankcoffee.com/

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  1. That sampler sounds pretty comprehensive; I can't imagine you missed something.

    Admittedly, I have stopped trying, but I don't remember an SF espresso that I consider amazing. Linea Caffe may be the best of what I've had recently, and Sightglass SOMA was decent. Four Barrel, meh; Ritual, forget it.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

      Tasting the espresso and the macchiato side by side, one would have no idea that they were from the same barista.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        That speaks of inconsistency, which is not good. But that is really a function of the individual barista. Go back when someone else is at the machine and it might be different.

        1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

          Thanks, I'm not a coffee geek, only drinking any about once a month, so I don't have that much experience to draw on.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            You have considerable experience with wine, though. And I suspect you would be the first to call foul on someone saying "This is a wine you can only appreciate if you have considerable experience with wine." I have been working on home espresso and home roasts for many years, and my sense of it is that, while there are nuances and complexities one learns to appreciate, and espresso is an acquired taste, it doesn't take that long to acquire it. If it sucks for you, I bet it will suck for me also.

            I liked the atmosphere at Sightglass SOMA, and the food was good when I visited also. Would that work for the kind of business meetings you're talking about?

            1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

              "I have been working on home espresso and home roasts for many years, and my sense of it is that, while there are nuances and complexities one learns to appreciate, and espresso is an acquired taste, it doesn't take that long to acquire it."

              Totally agree. We've had a solid espresso setup (machine and grinder) for a few years, and started roasting maybe two years ago. This activity has increased our appreciation for good coffee, not created it.

    2. Saint Frank has a upscale ambience for a cafe.
      randomly got a "honduras Las Nieves" (3)brew of the day?
      -always black, very smooth, not much character or robustness.
      (prefer french roast)... this was months ago.

      1 Reply
      1. re: shanghaikid

        The interior's hard and sort of sterile. But it was a good place to have a business discussion. Since I'm pretty sure I'll return at some point for that purpose, it's worth asking what I might like better.

      2. I do not like their coffee, tried it twice and both times I agree with you Melanie - very bitter.

        1 Reply
        1. re: goldangl95

          I wondered if it might be a brewing problem.

        2. I love them. over and over again. But I do not like Sightglass or blue bottle. I find those places to be too sour and I prefer a darker roast and with some bitterness.

          What I get there....the Almond Mac Capp. They make this amazing Almond Macadamia milk that I can not get enough of. I also like the coffee tonic if im in the mood for something iced.

          I love the space. clean, bright and not cluttered. They have an awesome coffee lab upstairs as well.

          They are largely South American but they just went on a coffee sourcing rip to Africa, so I am very excited for when that gets roasted. They roast at Ritual.

          Have you tried wrecking ball?

          2 Replies
          1. re: smatbrat

            Thanks, I haven't tried Wrecking Ball. As of yesterday's tweet, the new Union St location isn't open yet. Soon.
            https://twitter.com/Wrecking_Ball/sta...

            1. re: smatbrat

              Interesting we must have opposite tastebuds =) It was their almond milk drink that I really didn't like. The almond milk seemed to add to the bitterness instead of alleviating it.

            2. Saint Frank tries a little too hard, and comes off sterile or like it's formula retail, but I'd probably like the place better if it wasn't trying so hard to be high end. Service is overly personable, and they don't really know their own beans. They ask what you like, and when you name some basic profiles, they're stumped.

              I stick to the cheapest option available. It's best for those of us that like sugar and milk. I think they're going for richness over subtle depth of flavors and I find myself going to Contraband instead. Apparently they have the fastest wifi on the planet, when connected to a Macbook, or they give free coffee to Apple users, so good luck finding a seat.

              Someone mentioned Wrecking Ball, which I find similar, only better. It's closer to Sightglass in roast and profiles, but for someone that likes Saint Frank and wishes the acidity and roast were dialed down, it's a good option.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof

                One thing Saint Frank has over Contraband is excellent baked goods, Marla and Le Marais when we were there at the end of 2013, and importantly for me, they were stocking savoury options as well as sweet. We've never had anything more than meh to eat at Contraband but I know the coffee-geekish SO prefers it for coffee, based on half a dozen visits vs just the one to Saint Frank.

                Excited for the return of a Wrecking Ball bricks and mortar -- when they were at Firehouse 8 they were producing outstanding coffee beverages under what seems to have been trying circumstances, and they had tasty baked goods from Marla.

                1. re: grayelf

                  If you're in the neighborhood, The Brew is a block away from St. Frank and features Contraband coffee and pastries from Mission Beach Cafe.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9181...