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nathanm

Best espresso drinks in the US, or the world?

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Ritual, Blue Bottle (go to the Hayes Valley location) and Cafe Organica are not only your best bets but really your only options in SF.

(Ritual is using Stumptown beans until they get their own roasting dialed. I believe their 5K Probat arrived this last week.)


Edited by malachi (log)

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Cafe Organica Link.

Interesting pictures in the events section. I guess I've never seen anyone using a blow torch in a coffee shop, before... Those pousse cafe type coffee shots, whatever they are, look very attractive, as well.

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I'll be visiting Vancouver and Chicago in 2006 and looking forward to trying the Elysian Room and Intelligentsia.  Italy will most likely wait for 2007.

You should make a point of visiting Cafe Artigiano when in Vancouver. Sammy Piccolo won the World Barista Championship in Rome a few years ago. And interestingly, Artigiano used to import Intelligentsia from Chicago, but now roasts its own.

The Elysian Room and Prado Café are my two favourite coffee shops in Vancouver.

Included in my foodblog is a pictorial and writeup of Prado. Their beans of choice are a Fair Trade Organic Espresso Blend courtesy of 49th Parallel Roasters which, as Jamie mentioned, is operated by the fine folks at Caffé Artigiano.

Amy York's roster of talented baristi includes Tina Albrech who took second place to Sammy Piccolo in the 2003 Canadian National Barista Championships and was dubbed the competition's most technical barista. As a side note, Prado Café recently placed second in the the Krups Kup of Excellence Awards which recognizes Canada's best independent cafés.

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  I guess I've never seen anyone using a blow torch in a coffee shop, before... 

You missed it when I was doing that - but I was installing copper plumbing for our machines - not making a brulee top for drinks! That's pretty cool - would love to try one sometime.

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Barcelona: El Meson (near the Catedral). It is featured in a scene in the movie Barcelona. The old guy making the cafe con leche was the same one I met there 11 years ago. I've never gotten over how good it was.

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For NYC, Tarallucci e Vino (First Ave @ 10th St.) is my favorite.

I was in NYC recently and tried this place. I was not impressed. It may be the best in NYC, and it isn't terrible. It is a clear step above Starbucks, but only a small step. It does not seem to be a bastion of fine espresso like some of the others on the list.

Which begs the question of whether there is any decent espresso in NYC. I have never had any that was great....

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I have not tried Tarallucci e Vino. But reports I've received from folks whose opinions I trust indicate that if the owner Ken Nye is manning the Faema or the right barista is working... 9th Street Espresso delivers the goods.

I have tried Gimme Coffee at two of their Ithaca locations and found the espresso to be in the same league as Vivace and Victrola. Different but in the same class. Gimme has a location in Williamsburg Brooklyn (which is NYC but most folks who don't live in NYC mean Manhattan when they say "NYC"). Their consistency from store to store is excellent and I assume the Brooklyn store is as good as those in Ithaca.

I've also been advised by Gimme's former barista trainer Chris Deferio that I should check out Cafe Grumpy on my next NYC visit. They're about 12 blocks away from the Billyburg Gimme - in Greenpoint Brooklyn. They have a Synesso Cyncra and are using Victrola's Streamline blend. That's a a darn good place to start.

I won't claim that the shots at Casa@Cupcake Cafe are on par with the very best but they were much better than I've ever had elsewhere in Manhattan (but I still haven't gotten down to 9th Street Espresso.

I'm also told that Intelligentsia will be opening a store in Manhattan. That will definitely be worth checking out once they've arrived.

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My thoughts on the Seattle scene:

Vivace is far and away the best and most consistent shop in town.

The following places are also great, but in my experience have some consistency issues:

Hines

Zoka

Lighthouse

Victriola

Downtown Seattle for some reason doesn't have as good of coffee as the immediate surrounding area. The following places are good:

Cherry St. Coffee

Pegasus

Cafe Ladro

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Cherry St. Coffee

Pegasus

Cafe Ladro

I've had some very good drinks at a dowtown Lladro (the one near or on Pine right behind a big hotel). Have not tried Pegasus but was very underwhelmed with Cherry Street. That was a couple years ago - maybe they've improved?

The owner at Ancient Grounds pulls good shots sometimes and last time I was there he had both Lighthouse and Vivace beans. But it seemed a bit less consistent than Lladro.

My big disappointment on last visit (Labor Day weekend 2006) was a machiatto at the Top Pot down under the monorail. Very bitter and poorly extracted - not good at all. But the doughnuts rocked :smile:

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The Ladro I go to is on 1st and Union. They seem to do a good job, but the milk just isn't right.

There are a bunch of cherry st. locations downtown and due to this they are kinda all over the board. In some cases you get just ok stuff, but some of the baristas know how to properly microfoam. Their straight shots are usually quite serviceable. I usually end up at either the one on 4th and Marion or 1st and Cherry.

Yeah, Top Pot's coffee is fairly meh... Zeitgeist used to be pretty decent, but I have not been for a while. You are right though, doughnuts are great.

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maybe not the best in the world, but anybody have what they consider good espresso drinks in los angeles?

cappuccinos and macchiatos in particular...

ive read that a decent cup cant be found in la. well, okay, but we still have to drink something around here!

can ya help a sister in need?

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The most memorable espresso I've had was at Caffe Gambrinus in Naples. It's a famous old caffe that looks like the kind of place that could ride on its reputation and get by from the tourist trade. I sat down and ordered an esprsso, and the waiter brought me a beautiful ristretto that had a nutty quality with a bit of smokiness. It was a tiny thing, maybe a half ounce, but haunts me to this day.

Re Sant'Eustachio in Rome, which several people have mentioned, I was seduced the first time I went there. But when I returned several years later I said to myself, "Hold on here. This crema is weird. It's more like egg whites than crema. There's no way this is a natural crema." That's when I noticed the shields they have set up so you can't see what the baristas are doing. The "crema" was delicious, I'll admit, but they're doing something weird behind those screens. And when I made my way to the tiny bit of coffee at the bottom of the faux crema, it really wasn't all that great. I bought some beans to take home and couldn't get anything drinkable out of them. (Has anybody else bought beans there and tried them out at home?)

Re the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, Chris has it right: Ritial, Blue Bottle's Linden Street kiosk (with la Marzocco), and Organica (I haven't made it there personaly, but by all accounts they do a good job). The Trieste, where I once passed a lot of time, still has a wonderful Bohemian atmosphere, but the baristas are absolutely clueless and have been ever since Iolanda went back to Italy about 15 years ago.

Another espresso that haunts me--well, actually it was a macchiato--is one I had at Victrola during the SCAA conference in Seattle last year. Incedibly smooth and sweet, and the blueberry notes from the harrar were dazzling.

And I'll throw one more into the mix: a latte Joe Mancuso made me at the Caffe D'arte roasting facility in Seattle three years ago using their Parioli blend--the smoothest, richest, most delicious latte I've ever tasted. Unfortunately, when I ordered the same drink at their cafe in downtown Seattle it was almost undrinkable, but I'm told things have improved at the cafe. D'arte doesn't get talked about much in the online world of espresso fanatics, but it's the closest thing I've found to the espresso served up in Naples, which is my favorite espresso city anywhere. (This, of course, means it's darker than the northern Italian roasts that get most of the attention these days.)

--Richard

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Since this includes coffee drinks. There is a place in Brooklyn, at the cormer of Roebling and Metropolitan, Williamsburg. It's called Oslo, (Gormet said arguably the best espresso in the five burroughs) and sometimes they make a drink called the defilbulator. I normaly think that putting anything in good espresso is like spiting into challace of wine at church. Or peeing in that thing that holds the holy water. I must confess I was never an altar boy.

The difibulator is a small amount of honey on the bottom of a single rocks glass then a shot of espresso. then a little bit of heavy cream shaken briefly with ice and a bit of vanilla bean.

That you get hot/cold, bitter/sweet, velvety, and exotic, all in the same mouthful is amazing. A pousse cafe for the wired.

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Re Sant'Eustachio in Rome, which several people have mentioned, I was seduced the first time I went there. But when I returned several years later I said to myself, "Hold on here. This crema is weird. It's more like egg whites than crema. There's no way this is a natural crema." That's when I noticed the shields they have set up so you can't see what the baristas are doing. The "crema" was delicious, I'll  admit, but they're doing something weird behind  those screens. And when I made my way to the tiny bit of coffee at the bottom of the faux crema, it really wasn't all that great. I bought some beans to take home and couldn't get anything drinkable out of them. (Has anybody else bought beans there and tried them out at home?)

The aluminum screens are famous. There are many theories about what they "really" do - including the theory that they don't do anything unusual but want to create an air of mystery.

Natural or not, it is pretty damn good.

The question about buynig their beans and trying it is interesting.

Recently I tried two locations of Murky Coffee in Washington DC and Alexandria, VA. One of the locations had the Synesso machine, the other didn't.

The shots were OK, and better than anything else I've had on the east coast, but nothing like Seattle, or Sant Eustache

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Vivace is far and away the best and most consistent shop in town.

Having heard so much about Vivace (and living in Cleveland where I can't just hop in the car and go try them) I decided the best I could do right now was order some beans and try them in the La Pavoni. I wanted them to be primo fresh so I asked for the $17 shipping (for 1 pound of coffee) for second day air. Well they roasted it on Wed but shipped it Thursday (and UPS will hold it over the weekend) so I'll get it Monday afternoon and get a nice pull off my week old stale coffee (shipped express) this coming Tuesday... Lovely. I sent them a note saying I was pretty disappointed at this. It was ignored (I guess people in Cleveland don't even rate a reply). Overall I'm already disappointed. I'll see Tuesday whether the coffee has any life left in it........ I have serious doubts.

Ken

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I think Vivace folk are fairly down-to-earth on average, and David even responded to some of my questions by email a few years back.

Vivace clearly notes on their web site that they ship orders received by midnight Seattle time the following business day. If you ordered on Wednesday it might just be fate...

While I'm a little surprised you haven't received any reply to a presumably politely worded complaint, I would make one suggestion from the perspective of an internet retailer.

I'm usually conscientious enough to call and ask questions when I see something unusual. But if I'm at all busy (which is most of the time) I tend not to ask questions when the order doesn't seem terribly complicated. If the customer chooses something that doesn't make any sense, I usually try to call or reach them by email.

However, if someone adds notes to their order, or sends an email first, I pay a lot of attention to their special requests. If it's important to you that you receive something on a specific date or under certain conditions, or if you want it to ship on a certain date, I'd suggest trying to reach them first. You can't get that kind of response from a megalithic company like Amazon, but smaller companies are usually accommodating.

Usually the best day to place an internet order you want the same week is Sunday, assuming a 2-day shipping option and an in-stock product.

Having heard so much about Vivace (and living in Cleveland where I can't just hop in the car and go try them) I decided the best I could do right now was order some beans and try them in the La Pavoni. I wanted them to be primo fresh so I asked for the $17 shipping (for 1 pound of coffee) for second day air. Well they roasted it on Wed but shipped it Thursday (and UPS will hold it over the weekend) so I'll get it Monday afternoon and get a nice pull off my week old stale coffee (shipped express) this coming Tuesday... Lovely. I sent them a note saying I was pretty disappointed at this. It was ignored (I guess people in Cleveland don't even rate a reply). Overall I'm already disappointed. I'll see Tuesday whether the coffee has any life left in it........ I have serious doubts.

Ken

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A few updates: 9th Street espresso, which I mentieond upthread as using a faema machine, now has a Synesso. And after finally visiting there (twice in the same weekend) I can state with confidence that you can finally get really good espresso in Manhattan.

Although they're nto open on weekends I did manage to sneak in a double ristretto at Blue Spoon on Chambers Street the Monday mornign that I was leaving. Thy're using Intelligentsia's Black Cat blend. Love that stuff - very complex and the flavors lingered onthe back of my tongue for a good twenty minutes after consuming the shot.

And I owe a visit to Grumpy in Greenpoint Brooklyn. Theyr'e using Victrola's Streamline blend (from Seattle) and some coffee business folks I'm in contact with rave about the espresso that's being produced there.

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I agree with first post. Sant Eustachio in Rome has my vote.

One thing I'm noticing in Europe is that the taste of coffee is declining as the presentation improves. Baristas, I think, are burning the coffee in attempts to get the perfect crema...

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In recent months I have visited a bunch of famous coffee places recommended in this thread, including two branches of Murky Coffee in Washington DC and Alexandria, and Intelligensia in Chigago.

Murky Coffee in DC has decent espresso drinks. They have a location near capitol hill and one in Alexandria VA. The Alexandria branch has a Synesso. DC does not.

Intelligensia is also pretty good, but I was not blown away.

So far Sant Eustacio in Rome, and then Vivace and Victrola in Seattle are still my favorites.

I need to try the places in Manhattan and Brooklyn that phaelon56 mentions.

I haven't gotten to San Francisco or Portland recently, so there is still hope there.

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I need to try the places in Manhattan and Brooklyn that phaelon56 mentions.

I haven't gotten to San Francisco or Portland recently, so there is still hope there.

Portland has quite a few good espresso places. Stunmptown is the well known choice but you should also seek out Albina Press (among others).

On my most recent SF trip I tried what apppear to be the most well regarded places:

- Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk on Linden Street in the Hayes Valley neighborhood

- Ritual Coffee (on Division maybe?)

- Cafe Organica (a bit further out into Hayes Valley than Blue Bottle)

I thought all three were pretty good and would rank them in that same order with Blue Botttle the best or most consistent. None are yet in quite the same league as Vivace or Victrola but are still respectably good.

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[...]

- Ritual Coffee (on Division maybe?)

[...]

In the Mission on Valencia Street between 21st and 22nd streets.

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It's also worth noting that if you use the typical mapping programs (e.g. Google Maps) to find Cafe Organica it will direct you to a corner that is one very short block (a couple hundred yards or less) away and has a different coffee shop. The folks there kindly directed me to Organica.

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For NYC, Tarallucci e Vino (First Ave @ 10th St.) is my favorite.

I was in NYC recently and tried this place. I was not impressed. It may be the best in NYC, and it isn't terrible. It is a clear step above Starbucks, but only a small step. It does not seem to be a bastion of fine espresso like some of the others on the list.

Which begs the question of whether there is any decent espresso in NYC. I have never had any that was great....

I went to "Joe the art of coffee" nr Washington Square, three mornings in a row and had a espresso macchiato; the first two were adequate, the final one was really on the spot. This is proper espresso.

Noticeable that almost everyone was ordering jumbo skim milk latte etc.

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Noticeable that almost everyone was ordering jumbo skim milk latte etc.

You'll notice that trend even in places like Seattle with its abundance of very good espresso. The percentage of people in the US who order straight espresso or traditional machiatto's is very low, even in supposedly "sophisicated" urban markets. But even a drink with a large volume of milk tastes much betetr if great espresso is used.

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It's also worth noting that if you use the typical mapping programs (e.g.  Google Maps) to find Cafe Organica it will direct you to a corner that is one very short block (a couple hundred yards or less)  away and has a different coffee shop.  The folks there kindly directed me to Organica.

Sadly, I believe Cafe Organica has closed (though I believe the owner has some plans for a new place).

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