Saturday, September 23, 2006

Blue Bottle Coffee Co.

Location: Ferry Building, San Francisco.

Reviewed: September 23, 2006

Espresso: My double shot was served in a "Gibraltar glass" (this is a rocks glass), since they were out of proper cups (my choice as opposed to paper). The barista was apologetic about this; she also ground to order and tamped properly. The total shot volume was probably in the 2oz range, although I'm not used to estimating in this kind of drinking vessel. The clearness of the glass allowed me to see the side of the shot, and I swear that it was entirely crema. The top of the crema was medium-dark brown and flaked with even darker specks. Fairly bright and medium-bodied, the shot was sweet and spicy with lots of butterscotch.

Atmosphere: This location is a cart that operates during the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. There isn't so much as a single table, so kudos to Blue Bottle for "daring" to offer ceramic (and glass) cups.

Verdict: Good. Very, very good.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

South Beach Cafe

Location: 800 The Embarcadero, San Francisco

Reviewed: September 20, 2006

Espresso: My single shot was served just barely on the long side of 1oz. It had a thin crema in an even pale brown color. The shot was not ground to order, although it was tamped and poured directly into the cup. It had a bittersweet aroma and a nutty, smoky flavour with hints of honey in the aftertaste. Fairly bright and medium-bodied.

Atmosphere: South Beach Cafe is relatively posh for a cafe. Seating inside and outside, a full menu (including wines) and table service are among the amenities. They also have free wifi, although it is shut off during lunch hours (defined as 11:30 - 2:00). Nonetheless, one doesn't feel awkward walking up to the counter, ordering an espresso, and hanging for a bit. They also have a big-screen TV that was showing a soccer game (Rome against Inter Milan, if I interpreted the team abreviations correctly).

Verdict: Coffee is ok; place is pretty cool (and good pizza).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Zizzo's Coffee

Location: 3555 Clares Rd., Capitola

Reviewed: September 17, 2006

Espresso: My requested single was served in a ceramic cup (I had to specifically specify) of nearly 4oz. in volume and nearly reached the top. The crema was pure white and was already dissipating by the time it got to me; it was brewed directly into the cup out of some kind of super-auto machine. It was smoky and bitter and had little to distinguish it from drip coffee.

Atmosphere: Zizzo's is a small shop located in a random strip mall in Capitola. Dark wood tones predominate throughout and they were playing jazz on this particular day. Ample outdoor seating.

Verdict: At least it's caffeine.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Plantation Cafe

Location: 109 California Ave., Palo Alto

Reviewed: September 12, 2006

Espresso: According to signage in various locations around the shop, Plantation uses coffee from San Francisco's Caffe Trieste. My requested single (but suspected double) was served at ~2oz. in volume in a tall and narrow leopard-printed cup with matching saucer. The crema was pale brown tending toward yellow; it was also extremely thin. The barista did not grind to order. In the cup, I detected some berry-like sweetness, although it was mostly overwhelmed by a kind of spicy flavour that was hard to describe. Umami kept coming to mind. Bitter aftertaste.

Atmosphere: Simply put, this place is in the midst of an identity crisis. It wants to be a coffeeshop; it wants to be a deli. Deli is probably winning. The espresso machine here is ancient, and I noticed some leakage around the portafilter while my shot was brewing. The machine is located around the corner (the counter is in an L-shape) from the register and the food prep area. Apparently, they don't give it much thought. There is some counter seating, as well as tables and chairs (some of the tables have uncomfortable benches integrated into the wall behind them). The walls are painted yellow.

Verdict: My pastrami on a French roll was much better than my espresso.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Paper butterfly magic - cool video from MagicSafire.

Ok, this has little to do with coffee, but in the interest of getting this video as much publicity as it justifiably deserves, I've decided to post it here. Please give it a view or three; if "we" win (based on number of views), then she gets to be featured in the DVD release of The Illusionist (the exact details of which I do not know).

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Location: 1628 K St., Sacramento

Reviewed: September 1, 2006

Espresso: My single shot was served in the appropriate ~1oz. volume. The barista did everything correctly: ground, tamped, etc. The only issue was that his cooling flush of the grouphead may have been insufficient or maybe the machine is set at too high a temperature. My shot was extremely hot and the crema appeared to have suffered as a result. It was mostly an even brown but had darker spots around the edges. It was also very thin, although the wide-brimmed cup may have contributed to this. The cup was otherwise very cool: white, about 2.5oz. capacity, and square in shape (with matching saucer). The temperature of the shot also definitely affected the taste, but it had nutty and fruity hints throughout the cup.

Atmosphere: Infusion is a large shop with multiple rooms and at least one patio. Bright and airy, it seems like a nice place to hang out. Light wood tones predominate. Supposedly, they have infamous seating in the form of "hanging bubble chairs". I did not see these, although I didn't look around much because I was in a bit of a hurry.

Verdict: The espresso wasn't as bad as I probably made it sound, and all they really need is a bit cooler temperature.