It shouldn’t come as a surprise that getting great coffee in San Francisco isn’t too hard. Heaps of great coffee shops around, heaps of roasting going on. Even with the risk of including the obvious candidates I’m still gonna list all the coffee shops I really liked over there. Here’s my top three.
Blue Bottle Coffee
Duh, right? So obvious! Totally hyped, some things on the menu are overpriced, and it’s not uncommon having to wait in line for 15 minutes or more. But still, great coffee and good food. A big siphon machine is likely to catch your eye, and you’d be missing out if you don’t try one. A very pure way of drinking coffee, setting you back six bucks for a small one (enough for one person). While you’re at it, treat yourself to a poached egg on Acme toast. So good.
Blue Bottle is also where I learned about the existence of the Gibraltar, a short latte similar to a flat white. Highly recommended, goes very well with taste single origin beans. These guys know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well. We regularly ended up visiting the Mint location of Blue Bottle. The fact that they’re also serving food makes them somewhat different from the rest, because coffee shops usually seem to focus on what they’re great at: serving coffee. In my opinion that doesn’t decrease coffee quality at Blue Bottle though. Highly recommended. Of course they’re also selling beans. I bought a pack of their Hayes Valley Espresso, and let me tell you, it’s delicious!
Ritual Coffee Roasters
Everything looks right about Ritual, especially their logo, which reminds me of good old Russian times from you know, when the wall was still dividing the world. First time we went here we stood in line for I don’t know how long, but totally worth it. You’re greeted by a shelf of all their beans. I consider that a good sign.
Just like Blue Bottle they have a single drip bar which these days seems to be a mandatory accessory. Coffee at Ritual is pretty awesome. Gibraltar is on the unofficial menu, so go for it. While you’re at it, get the single origin espresso. It’s pretty awesome as a Gibraltar. Ritual also has wifi, so expect to see a lot of lurkers with their laptops sitting around here. I know it’s some sort of culture, but it’s nice to sit in a shop where people come for the coffee, not for work.
Four Barrel Coffee
When you enter Four Barrel you immediately see what it’s all about: Coffee! Two giant Synesso espresso machines facing each other, a bar for single drip and all kinds of other coffee on the left, and a big roastery in the back. Now you’re talking.
I was a bit bummed that neither flat white or Gibraltar rang a bell here, but when in doubt, ask for a baby latte. They have an excellent bean collection on the shelf, and when you’re lucky you can witness the employees do a cupping at the bar next to the entry. Also, their ice coffee is excellent. Had one here and at Ritual, and Four Barrel won hands down. No wifi here either, thank goodness. I also saw a guy working at Blue Bottle sit here and have coffee, so either the coffee universe was this close to exploding or the coffee here is known to be good. Your pick.
These are my top three. A must on the list of coffee shops to visit. I bought a pack of beans at every one of them, and they’re all great, a classic Hayes Valley Espresso from Blue Bottle, dark and tasty, Sweet Tooth from Ritual, a very fruity espresso that really came out in a Gibraltar and a pack of Colombia coffee beans from Four Barrel that were just amazing. We had a cupping in Berlin after I got back, and they were clearly a winner as coffee.
Unfortunately I missed Sightglass, because they simply were closed at the time. They’re supposed to be on the must-visit list as well. What are you gonna do? Surely you didn’t think though that these were the only coffee shops we visited? Heck no, here are the honorable mentions, not all in San Francisco, but in the Bay Area.
- Epicenter Cafe
I felt immediately at home coming in here, there were four grinders lined up on the counter. Good food too, and with Twitter and the start-up area of SF just around the corner, you can be sure to meet a good handful of programming geeks in here.
We ran into this one by accident in Oakland, and a happy one no less. Coffee and shelves full of magazines, that’s what you get at Farley’s. Great coffee, and great cake. That’s good enough for me.
I was introduced to Cafe Cubano, espresso dripped into sweetened, condensed milk. Holy crap! You should try one, yes, you should.
Another happy accident. It just started raining, we had to feed Mari, and really, there’s never a bad time for another coffee, wouldn’t you agree?