SF Coffee Scene*

4 12 2009

*Well, due to limitations in my travels last week (Thanksgiving), this is only partially representative of the city, not of greater SF or the Bay Area, which I hope to fully document someday.

SF is HOT! For coffee, that is. Roasters there are certainly bringin’ it with their coffees and their visions for the Third Wave (or Fourth Wave, for that matter).

Justin pulling shots on Four Barrel's double Mistral

Take Four Barrel, for example. Ask the people there about what coffee most excites them right now and, to my surprise (and initial horror), they said DECAF! Now, I’m philosophically opposed to decaf and the only good decaf I’ve had was a decaf espresso from Verve a couple years ago. To my pleasant surprise, Four Barrel’s decaf espresso was amazing! Of the beans used in their decaf is the Ethiopia Mordecofe, a coffee hand picked by them for decaffeination (as opposed to coffees picked by decaffeination companies). Mordecofe is offered three ways at Four Barrel – decaffeinated, washed, and natural (highly recommended!).

Four Barrel has recently reopened their back alley bar, this time with a built in bar instead of a cart. The idea is to offer a more limited but more personable approach to customers that come through the alley. It will be operated by their head trainers and/or baristas in training from their wholesale accounts. It’s a terrific concept and I’ve had amazing shots in the back bar.

Down the street on Valencia is Ritual. The cafe is busy busy BUSY (which is a good thing)! Soon they’ll move the roaster and green bean storage to revert the area back to dining room style seating for a more intimate setting. On the coffee side, they’ve recently started offering Panama Esmeralda in special handmade packaging (very cool cardboard and spray paint!), just in time for the Holidays.

Blue Bottle's cafe (with their Mechanical Paddle Linea) and roastery in Oakland. Note the warm Californian sun. How we so need it in Seattle.

Hop on the BART to Oakland and there is Blue Bottle‘s new roastery and a small cafe. The place is spectacularly clean (by that I mean clean and clean/sharp looking). In addition to the standard roasting/packaging area for coffees, office, and tech/training room, there is a cool presentation room, a full kitcken/bakery (they make killer chocolate chip cookies and $9 waffles), and a see through cupping room. If it wasn’t for the coffee equipment, the place might be mistaken for an art gallery.

Mechanical Paddle Linea at work at Blue Bottle's BUSY cafe at SF Fisherman's Terminal.

Back to SF side of the Bay at the Ferry Building (a touristy place for foodies) is one of Blue Bottle’s cafes, a very busy one at that. Featuring a Mechanical Paddle Linea as their main production machine, each espresso shot is expertly soft pre-infused for a nicely rounded, rich taste. With the Mechanical Paddle, the barista has more control (with variable pressure) over the soft pre-infusion process and thus requires a very well trained barista to continuously pull shots while there are a dozen people waiting in line.

Perhaps one of the most exciting up and coming roaster is Sightglass, just south of

Jerad and Ally of Sightglass. Pulling shots on their Slayer. Construction is afoot behind the wall of canvas.

Market in downtown. While their new roastery and cafe is still under construction, they are selling drinks on their cart to the passerby. Currently offering Verve coffee until their own roaster goes live (hopefully sometime later this month), they make fantastically prepared drinks every single time. With a huge space, a beautifully designed bar, and an u-shaped balcony seating area overlooking everything, this will be one of the most awe-inspiring coffee destinations for some time. If you go, be sure to try their mocha, which uses a specially sourced chocolate. It’s literally a chocolate cherry bomb.

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