San Francisco Coffee

As a Seattle-trained barista I have grown a certain level of coffee snobbery. My friends argue I’m overly critical and I argue it is just water and coffee; how can someone screw it up so bad, so often? San Francisco coffee is not generally the best, but follow my guide and you’ll always get a good cup.

The SF coffee scene is growing and the options are diversifying; it is wonderful to watch. More than ever, it is important to know where to go and what to drink in San Francisco. To help educate the espresso neophyte, the following list provides a series of tips.

Where San Francisco coffee is the best

Sight Glass Coffee - San Francisco Coffee Roaster
Coffee shops are quickly popping up in SF. I haven’t been to them all and I’m sure there are many more great cafes than listed below. But the following list guarantees a great cup of joe. The best of the best are promoted here, and any critism I write is really just a level of snobbery that isn’t necessary for most people.

Haus

A small coffee shop located in the deep Mission. One of the few cafes with outdoor seating and delivers consistent good coffee. Check out this awesome cafe on 24th Street.

Coffee Bar

Coffee Bar replaced what the The Summit was back in the good old days of Valencia Street. It is like a shared office space slash espresso bar with food. Coffee Bar is in the Mission near Mission Cliffs. The food is good, the atmosphere is beautiful and creative, and the coffee is almost always the best. Macbooks and other devices are welcome.

Blue Bottle

Blue Bottle is a San Francisco coffee native. Even with a number of cafes now open in SF and NYC, they have maintained quality. The newer Blue Bottle cafes can have some problems with their shots, but Hayes Valley, MOMA, and the Ferry Building are always very good. Blue Bottle’s flavor is balanced and slightly sweet.

Sight Glass

For coffee strength, Sight Glass is in between Four Barrel and Blue Bottle. The coffee is well-rounded and always delicious. The best part of Sight Glass is their 7th street cafe in SOMA. The space is beautiful and they allow bikes inside. This is my favorite cafe in the city next to Coffee Bar. They are also a San Francisco coffee native.

Four Barrel

This cafe is located on Valencia Street in the Mission. It is everything hipster. The staff is very interesting and mostly very nice. Definitely a great place to people watch. The coffee is generally too strong, but I like that. No WIFI here and I advise not bringing a laptop unless you sit in the back. Four Barrel only has one cafe even with lines around the block, and is another San Francisco coffee native.

Ritual

Not my favorite cafe, but has good single origin pour over. They have a large cafe on Valencia Street and a really hip stand in Hayes Valley.

What to drink in San Francisco coffee cafes

Espresso Shot
Many drinks aren’t listed here because they aren’t important. Focus on the primary drinks.

The Espresso

Espresso is the drink that puts hair on your chest. Order with caution. But, a straight espresso can have many positive effects, sucha as sudden euophria and innovative ideas.

When ordering make sure the barista pulls a ristretto shot. That means the shot is pulled short, or in other words it uses less water. Ristretto is the opposite of what they do in Europe where they pull the shot until it fills up a cup of coffee. Luckily, the West Coast of USA knows that is unacceptable.

Americano

The americano is like a normal cup of coffee, but extra delicious due to it being espresso. Essentially the americano is a diluted cup of espresso by adding water. Try an 8oz double americano, and enjoy a strong cup of coffee.

If your americano is bubbly at the top, kindly ask for it to be redone with hot water poured first into the cup, then the espresso is prepared and poured into the hot water. Espresso never goes in first, especially with spraying boiling water.

Single Origin Pour Over

This is all the rage in San Francisco. They even have it in Terminal 2 in SFO. Pour Over is like a traditional cup of drip coffee, but it only pours enough water for one cup. The result is strong, but clean.

Toddy (cold brewed)

Cold brew is up and coming with coffee makers now selling them by the bottle. Toddy is a specific technique, but is commonly used to describe cold brew coffee. The methodology is to make a french press with cold water and let it sit for 12 hours. The result is a very strong, but low acidity, cup of cold coffee. Serve with ice and cream.

Latte

A latte is delicately steamed milk mixed into espresso. A correctly steamed milk is obvious when the barista can make latte art, such as a heart or a rosetta leaf. The ratio is mostly milk and a bit of foam.

Don’t use any flavors. If it requires flavor to enjoy a latte, then maybe lattes aren’t your drink.

Macchiato

Macchiato are tiny lattes. In a demitasse cup, the barista swivels steamed milk into espresso. The result is a two gulp smooth mix of frothy milk and espresso. Delicious!

Cappuccino

Cappuccino can come dry or wet. Wet caps are more like lattes with half milk and half foam. Dry Cappuccino are all foam and espresso at the bottom. One fun idea is having the espresso poured over the foam in an “upside down dry Cappuccino.”

If you want to drink San Francisco coffee and talk web technologies or Planet’s social professional recognition app Recognize in one of SF’s great cafes, shoot me an email at alex@planet.io.