If terms such as third wave, cortado and single origin get your caffeine senses tingling, read on. San Francisco is your mecca. The coffee menus here are diverse, indulgent and downright indecent when it comes to the sheer number of ways the baristas in this city sling their expertly whipped milk foam.
It’s not going too far to say the San Francisco coffee tasting experience verges on sensory overload. Bourbon, peanut butter, condensed milk – no ingredient seems off limits. You’ll hear Blue Bottle murmured on coffee hungry lips across the city, but this once mighty cafe has gone nationwide and lost its kick. The independents are the best places to sample San Francisco’s good stuff.
San Francisco's top coffee roasters
Great tasting coffee may be the ultimate goal, but how do you find an edge in a city packed with single origin beans that compel you to amp up your caffeine intake? Ethics – and plenty of them. That’s the side order that comes with every Equator expertly brewed cup of coffee. Doing good deeds left right and centre, this coffee roaster’s belief is that simply by drinking your favourite beverage, you can make the world a better place.
Thankfully, arranging fair loans for coffee farmers and supporting women’s rights hasn’t distracted them from creating stellar drinks. There’s a lot to be intimidated by when coffee tasting in San Francisco, but not at Equator. Yes, you can sip on the much coveted single origin coffees, but there are blends and lattes for everyone here.
Locations: 2nd Street (SoMa) & Fort Mason (Marina Blvd)
Cost: Espresso $3.25 / Latte $4.00
Orbzii tip: If exploring San Francisco’s steep streets gets too much, take a trip over to Sausalito, where you’ll find another Equator branch and a slightly more chilled vibe.
Four Barrel Coffee
In heavily caffeinated circles, Four Barrel Coffee is considered THE best in the business. Not just in San Francisco, but the whole of the USA. A bold claim indeed. Roasting beans in San Francisco, this coffee roaster also has a couple of cafes that froth, brew and blend for San Franciscans looking to boost their energy levels. So what’s going to get you through their doors? Well, let’s talk coffee tasting in San Francisco.
It’s about the furthest thing from a pumpkin spiced latte you’ll find. Called cupping, different single origin blends are presented to you – usually on a tasting flight. Like wine tasting, but decidedly less boozy. Here’s where you’ll learn to pick out signature notes and be able to tell your Guatamalan Retana’s from your Ethiopian Bedhatu’s. If that’s a smidge too highbrow – or time-consuming for your LA to San Francisco trip itinerary – just nip in to any Four Barrel location for your java hit.
Locations: Valencia St, Divisadero St & Burrows St
Cost: Espresso $3.25 / Latte $5
Orbzii tip: If you’re travelling elsewhere in the USA, ask your barista where they get their coffee. If they say Four Barrel, don’t hesitate to order. You’ll be surprised how far their beans travel.
San Francisco's best coffee shops
There are two things you need to know about Snowbird Coffee. One, they may just serve the best coffee in San Francisco. Two, every thirsty, brew-hunting, coffee connoisseur in the city has this spot on their top ten list. So it’s with a bag full of mixed emotions that we recommend it. Yes, you’ll likely have to queue – and good luck getting a seat – but ultimately, the coffee’s worth it. Well, actually it’s the menu that always woos us. All the classics are there – Americano, mocha, latte. But really, San Francisco is the place to try something a little new. Never had a Cortado? Now’s the time.
The cafe bombon is worth a go, but it’s the Spaniard that keeps regulars coming back for more. Rumour has it, condensed milk is the secret. And the decor? It’s serving industrial seating mixed with soft lights and smooth wood surroundings. Though, as we said, that’s of little concern, as you’ll most likely be getting your order to go.
Location: 9th Ave (Inner Sunset)
Cost: Espresso (single shot) $2 / Latte $4.50
There’s a time and a place for San Francisco’s third wave, artisanal and sensory coffee culture brews. And then there’s Farley’s. They’re offering something altogether more homely, and we can’t give any higher recommendation other than to say, we’re here for it. From decor to delicious drinks, this well-loved San Francisco bean slinger has been quietly roasting in-house for 30 years.
Drop in for a plant-strewn cafe that’s exceptionally well-stocked with reading material. Hundreds of magazines cover just about every interest and will lure you away from your phone. Do acquaint yourself with the snacks and pastries on offer. If the hand-made empanada haven’t sold out, tuck in.
Location: 18th St
Cost: Espresso $2.75 / Latte $4.50
Orbzii tip: Vegans, Farleys pastries menu isn’t entirely off limits. They ship in organic vegan donuts from Californian artisanal baker Pepples Donut Farm just for you.
This coffee shop has earned a nod from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP platform. There’s a lot to take in there, but whether you see that as a valid shout or not, get to Coffee Bar. Why? We’ll lead with the seasonal winner, their Peanut Butter Caramel Bourbon Latte. Served in January, it’s quite the seasonal lift we all need. Resolutions can wait for February. We’ve no doubt that health-kingpin Gwyneth is looking to less calorie laden brews on Coffee Bar’s menu for her caffeine hit.
Year round their menu’s awash with espressos, cold brews and milk alternatives to keep your lithe figure in check. There’s also a mocha and hot chocolate laden with artisan chocolate for those times when will power abandons you. All of Coffee Bar’s drinks are bourne from Mr. Espresso Coffee Roasters beans. Famous in the Bay Area, the baristas here take the institution’s coffee to new heights.
Locations: Montgomery St & Kearny St
Cost: Espresso $3.50 / $4.75
Orbzii tip: If you’re looking for the full, hand-crafted coffee experience, time your visit between 8am – 2pm.