Best Coffee in SF

Following my previous article regarding the best coffee around Parnassus, I thought it would be even better to follow it up with the best coffee in all of San Francisco. Like the quotation below says, what could be better than a good read and a hot, pure cup of coffee? Spread around different San Francisco areas, these coffee shops are some of the best and worth the trips. To make things easier, I have included addresses for the locations closest to UCSF. 

What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee? --Anthony Trollope

1. Ritual Coffee Roaster (432b Octavia St.)

Ritual Coffee showcases its excellent coffee quality with four shops in the Mission, Bayview, Napa and Hayes Valley. Ritual, who roasts their own coffee beans, maintains established partnerships with small farms in Central America, South America and Africa that the sourcing team visits at least once a season. Ritual baristas also take coffee seriously and are trained to use the same ratio of water and beans in each cup of drip coffee made with the cone-shaped Japanese V60 brewer. Each Ritual recipe, flavor and espresso is continuously tested to produce the best taste. In case this is not enough, Ritual also offers a coffee club that ships a bag of roaster’s pick, seasonal espresso or sweet tooth espresso to a personal subscriber or a gift recipient on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.

2. Sightglass Coffee (3014 20th St.)

With four current locations around San Francisco and two more opening in the near future, a trip to Sightglass is more than worth it for its amazing vanilla iced cold brew and mocha. Though I usually dislike sugary coffee drinks, neither of the two were overtly sweet. The vanilla cold brew provided a balanced milky and creamy taste, while the mocha had a darker chocolate taste that surprisingly did not overshadow the coffee. Sightglass’s cold brew is one of the best I have ever tasted, and the hipster ambiance in addition to the bright natural light make for a relaxing environment. In addition, Sightglass also cares about its coffee origin, sourcing ecologically green coffee from Latin America, Africa and the Pacific.

3. Saint Frank Coffee (2340 Polk St.)

Ranked by the popular food blog The Daily Meal as one of the top three coffee shops in America and by the digital media company Thrillist as one of the top 21 coffee shops in America, Saint Frank is not one to miss. After owner Kevin Bohlin, a former middle school art teacher, went through amazing experiences in India, Guatemala and Kenya, he returned to learn from San Francisco’s own Ritual Roasters. Bohlin also shows an intimate desire to connect with those who grow the coffee beans used in his cafe: On a return trip to his coffee sources in Honduras, he brought back coffee and equipment for the small-scale farmers so that they might try to product of their labors. Besides the amount of work put into the coffee, the cafe also shows the time and energy put into the building itself. With a minimalist Scandinavian design, the streamlined interior is perfect for enjoying a specialty almond macadamia latte, Valrhona ganache mocha or kaffe tonic, a shot of espresso poured over tonic and ice. The unique drinks and modern cafe design will have you coming back for more.

4. Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters (2271 Union St.)

No, this roaster is not related in any way, shape or form to Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball”. Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, located in the Marina district, is a cozy and cute hole in the wall coffee shop that really holds its own. Owners Trish Rothgeb and Nicholas Cho both have extensive coffee experience and expertise. Rothgeb has over 25 years of teaching, roasting and green coffee buying experience. She also served as a charter member of the World Barista Championship Board of Directors and was a founding member of the Barista Guild of America. Cho was also chairman of the U.S. Barista Championship. The duo offers espresso drinks, brewed coffee and pour-over coffee on the custom-built brew bar.

Like Ritual, Wrecking Ball also offers monthly coffee subscriptions for coffee lovers and serves specialty drinks in store. I ordered a Karl the Fog, a smoky latte with espresso, tea, honey, cardamom and cinnamon, which was their twist on the pumpkin spice latte. After one sip, I was amazed at how well I could distinctly taste each ingredient. The complex flavor mix was astounding and layered well, leaving a trace of smokiness in the palette. Between its owners with such impressive coffee backgrounds, the amazing coffee drinks and its signature pineapple wallpaper, Wrecking Ball is worth multiple visits.

5. Four Barrel Coffee (375 Valencia St.)

As Four Barrel states on its website, “Don’t get us wrong; one-night stands are great. When it comes to coffee, however, we prefer long-term relationships.” They maintain strong relations with third-generation farmers and mill-workers in Latin America, Indonesia and East Africa to provide sustainable coffee to customers. For a taste, head over to the Mission district; this coffee shop is one of my favorites because of its unique layout. Walking over, you see an outdoor seating area, and the inside has a very organic feel with the wood furnishings, animal decorations and art lining the right wall. A slow bar for pour-overs resides on the left, and further in the store, behind the counter, lies the roasting equipment. Tables line the right side of the shop for those who want to work. Whenever I go, I always head over to the slow bar: I can never get enough of their pour-overs, especially because of the baristas, who do such a good job of suggesting appetizing coffee bean flavors that I simply cannot choose between them. With a full coffee drink menu, be sure to explore the options and experience what Four Barrel has to offer.

6. Blue Bottle Coffee (1355 Market St.)

With stores in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Tokyo and New York, the name “Blue Bottle” is well known. Nine stores in the Bay Area make it a household name and for good reason. Blue Bottle only serves organic coffee from sustainable sources less than 48 hours out of the roaster to customers. The famous New Orleans iced coffee is the drink to get at Blue Bottle; a twist on the classic iced latte, it is an iced coffee that is cold brewed for 12 hours with roasted chicory and sweetened with organic cane sugar. The strong concoction is then cut with organic whole milk, ending with a sweet and creamy drink. For those who prefer hot or less sweetened drinks, drip coffee and other espresso drinks are also available. If drinking the coffee is not enough and you want to learn more about it, Blue Bottle also offers free public discussions and cuppings as well as pour-over and espresso-making classes.

7. The Mill (736 Divisadero St.)

If you need breakfast or a pick me up, head to The Mill, a collaboration between Four Barrel Coffee and Josey Baker Bread. Josey has been around for five years and consists of a team of ten who bakes 350 loaves of bread per day, along with tasty pastries. The toast menu changes seasonally and has weekly specials. With mouthwatering options such as Dark Mountain Rye with cream cheese, salt and fresh ground pepper and whole sesame poppy with butter and pumpkin butter, bread never tasted so good. Gourmet toast combined with top-notch coffee makes for a delicious breakfast, and I always find myself meandering back to The Mill for toast and coffee. The concept of toast and coffee seems so simple but when executed well, it makes for a delectable combination that I just cannot make myself. For a twist on a typical breakfast combination, head over to The Mill for a delicious surprise.

8. Artis Coffee (537 Octavia St.)

Artis is the best coffee shop for self-proclaimed coffee nerds (or coffee snobs). With its own specialty coffee brewer, the Blossom Coffee Brewer, and a live roasting bar and coffee paraphernalia to no end at the original Berkeley store, Artis takes coffee very seriously. Hand-crafted coffee can be brewed with your choice of the V60, Clever or Kalita, all various pour-over methods, and it roasts its own coffee beans from Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa to make the special drinks, Blossom-brewed, hand-crafted and cold-brew iced coffee that coffee lovers enjoy. In addition to delicious coffee, Artis also partners with coffee-related projects that focus on education, environment and entrepreneurship. For updates and events, such as coffee tastings, brew demos and live music, sign up for their email list online. Artis is not one to skip, with its coffee nerdism and great Hayes Valley location.