A Field Guide to San Francisco’s Coffee Culture
San Franciscans don’t just love their coffee; they obsess over it. Ever since third-wave coffee shops began replacing the city’s many Starbucks, people have devoted themselves to certain caffeine denominations. Here’s what you need to know for where to find your bean tribe in San Francisco.
The most famous of the Bay Area coffee roasters (they’ve recently opened outposts in New York and Tokyo), Blue Bottle was one of the first to say the brewing process is just as important as bean quality. They pour rich, intense drip coffees, with a flavor spectrum that ranges from creamy cocoa to butterscotch and orange peel. In recent years, their New Orleans-style iced coffee with chicory has become highly coveted, too.
Where to try it: Taste it in its hometown, Oakland, at the recently opened WC Morse Building location—a former auto sales building that is now a gleaming white tile cafe—or their newest location on Sansome Street.
Ritual Coffee Roasters
Ritual, which has been around since 2005, prefers to make their drip coffees with the help of a Japanese V60 Brewer cone system. It’s what, according to them, gives their coffee its clean flavor and strong acidity. Ritual’s coffee has lighter and more floral flavor notes than most brews.
Where to try it: While their flagship Valencia Street location is always a scene to be witnessed, try their pop-up stand at Proxy in Hayes Valley, a shipping container micro-neighborhood with plenty of outdoor seating.
Reveille Coffee Co.
What started as a humble coffee truck in the FiDi in 2010 has since turned into two brick-and-mortars, one in North Beach and the most recent one opening in the Castro. Whereas many other third-wave cafes are known for drip coffee, the dapper young brothers who run Reveille have made a name for themselves serving creamy Italian-style lattes.
Where to try it: The North Beach location, for its unique V-shaped architecture with windows on both sides, and its outdoor parklet.
Complex with low tannins and subtle fruity notes, Sightglass has been known to beat out Blue Bottle in local blind coffee-tasting competitions. Which is perhaps why esteemed restaurant Chez Panisse switched from serving Blue Bottle to Sightglass.
Where to try it: At its flagship location in SoMa, where you can peek through a viewing window at the roasting process, then toss back an espresso in the sleek, bi-level industrial space.
If coffee were like wine, Four Barrel would be a pinot noir: light bodied, with enough acidity to pair well with food, or enough complexity to stand on its own. With a vintage German roaster that brews their coffee, it dependably comes out smooth and flavorful.
Where to try it: It’s minimalist cafe in the Mission, which jibes with its unfussy coffee.