One (double) shot deal.
August 11, 2009 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Where is to be had the best espresso in San Francisco?

Not mocha latte, not caramel frappe---espresso. A double shot.

I am very passionate about coffee, but don't live in a city where true-blue, all stops pulled out, no stone left unturned in the processes of grinding, leveling, tamping or temperature control exists. There are some nice tries here, but no whole hog.

I get a day in San Francisco next month, and I want to taste the best. I'm talkin' rich, gooey, sweet, red-brown out of control espresso.

Direct me.
posted by Darth Fedor to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Your choices really are Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, and Ritual. The Blue Bottle 'stand' in Hayes Valley is my favorite in the city.
posted by foodgeek at 8:50 PM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Blue Bottle stand/shack/secret haven of all things caffeinated. They're pretty righteous.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:58 PM on August 11, 2009

A friend of mine swears by Blue Bottle, too.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:01 PM on August 11, 2009

Blue Bottle.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:10 PM on August 11, 2009

If you end up visiting the south bay, make sure you visit Barefoot Coffee Roasters and tell them Mukund said hi! In SF, it sounds like Blue Bottle is the way to go.
posted by yaymukund at 9:37 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can realistically hit Blue Bottle, Four Barrel & Ritual all in one day and compare.
posted by judith at 10:24 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

tangental: Blue Bottle, previously on AskMe. Make sure you read the last answer.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:51 PM on August 11, 2009

You want Caffe Bianco. 39 Sutter Street, downtown. Don't tell anyone.
posted by trip and a half at 11:44 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I always preferred Blue Bottle's Piccino blend, which they dont serve at the kiosk but do serve at a small pizzeria on 22nd st.
posted by vacapinta at 1:49 AM on August 12, 2009

I really enjoy Barefoot as well. You can get a selection of 3-4 Barefoot roasts at Epicenter Cafe. I'd second the Blue Bottle, Ritual, Four Barrel suggestions to round out your experience, but it's really preference in the end.

That said, I think a great one-day SF adventure involving Blue Bottle is to get it at Cento while you grab littleskillet's fried chicken next door for lunch. It's fairly close to Caltrain and the ballpark if you find yourself in that area of town. Pizzetta 211

Whatever you do, skip all the Blue Bottle locations except the one on Linden for sure. The Mint Plaza, Ferry Building (inside), and MoMA locations are sub-par and pretentious.
posted by kcm at 7:34 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

.. to finish my thought up there, Pizzetta 211 is my 2nd-favorite place to get Blue Bottle, though I've not had a straight espresso there and it's not really in a part of town I'd expect you to visit in a single day's stopover. But if you or anyone reading this in the future decides to try it, a Chimay to complement your farm egg pizza all followed by a Blue Bottle cappuccino is great on a lazy, sunny afternoon.
posted by kcm at 7:39 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Zounds. I suppose I will have to give (at least) Blue Bottle a shot. I would love to try all three, but I'm only going to be there a day and I don't know if my family wants to deal with hyper-caffeinated, declaiming and pontificating Darth Fedor on an alleged leisure trip.

At any rate, you all came to a fairly uniform consensus, so I feel confidently on the trail of the good stuff.

Though, I didn't realize Barefoot was in the area. I looked at the map on their website and could see that it was, you know, south of SF--but I have no real idea of distances in that part of the country. How much of a trek is it to get to Santa Clara from SF proper?
posted by Darth Fedor at 8:17 AM on August 12, 2009

It's a good hour down 101, though I'd advise 280 for a much more pleasant and scenic drive - and it would be more like an hour and a half. It's in a generic strip mall in the middle of a bunch of all of you can eat Korean BBQs and boba tea outlets.

I'd really only stop back through on a trip back up from Monterey or Santa Cruz, for instance. You can get beans at any of these places (including Barefoot beans at Epicenter), anyway.
posted by kcm at 9:16 AM on August 12, 2009

Response by poster: Noted. I'm going to mark this question resolved, even though it's subjective. Thanks for the help, guys.
posted by Darth Fedor at 10:41 AM on August 12, 2009

Having lived most of my life in SF and Cupertino (where Barefoot is located), Barefoot is my favorite pure espresso experience. From downtown SF, getting to Barefoot would take just under an hour via Hwy 101 and about an hour on Interstate 280.

One brand new and interesting espresso option I would recommend is Sightglass. They're still building out their cafe, but in the meantime they're operating a small stand like the Blue Bottle Linden St location. The main attraction here is the brand new Slayer espresso machine. Sightglass is one of the first cafes in the world to receive one of these ultra-controllable machines. Until their own roasting operating is up and running, Sightglass is serving a custom espresso blend roasted to their spec from Verve Roasters in Santa Cruz.

Since you're interested in the best coffee experience with limited time, I would recommend staying away from the cafes that serve someone else's coffee. My experience with these has been less favorable than going directly to the source. Accordingly, I'm not a big fan of Cento, Vega or the Creamery. I also dislike Epicenter Cafe, because they make pale imitations of Barefoot's signature drinks. Most of the SF coffee geeks I know that love Epicenter have never been to the Barefoot store in the south bay. Don't take this the wrong way, however, if these cafes were located anywhere other than the SF Bay Area, they would probably be the best game in town.

You should check out Coffee for comprehensive reviews on every shop mentioned in this post. Note that the front page only shows ratings for shops in SF, but they have ratings for Barefoot, Verve, Coffee Cat and other outlying locations if you search.

Finally, I nth the love for the Blue Bottle Linden St location.
posted by dbolll at 10:48 AM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have to pile on with the Barefoot recommendations. If you really care about what you're drinking, the trek to santa clara (just go down 280) is well worth it.

(In the city, I also have a fondness of Coffee Bar but I've never tried their straight espresso. Also, this is for drip rather than espresso, but Philz is lovely.)
posted by paultopia at 11:07 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree w/ everyone that Blue Bottle & Barefoot are the two insanely good coffee shops in the Bay area. Remember to go to Blue Bottle itself -- some shops that brew Blue Bottle coffee mess it up.

Oh, and if you go down to Barefoot, check out the "Dark Voodoo" -- it's like a mocha but with coconut milk. Amazing! The whims of the baristas tend to be awesome too.
posted by bsdfish at 3:32 PM on August 12, 2009

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