After returning to Sweden following four months in the US, it’s very clear that specialty coffee is still on the rise. That is great news in its own right, but with all the crafted coffee and nuanced flavors being consumed, you may need a nightcap or two to help come down from your caffeine high. So I find it no coincidence that the US is also seeing growth in distilleries. Fantastic new bourbons, ryes, and gins are being refined in every region and often with their own twist.
One of these new distillers in San Francisco, Workhorse Rye, understands the overlap of the two beverages and is working with local roaster Four Barrel Coffee to infuse coffee into their product line, beginning with coffee rye bitters. The first batch of bitters takes advantage of the sweetness found in Four Barrel’s Colombia Andino to compliment the fruit flavors found in the whiskey. However, the coffee used will change according to Four Barrel’s offerings. It sounds like it will make a hell of twist on a signature Old Fashion.
We got a little wild and ended up with a bitters that uses rye whiskey and brandy to extract flavors from coffee, grapefruit peel, chiltepin, quassia bark, and clove. We added some Carignan wine from Sutton Cellars for sweetness, body, and color. -Workhorse Rye
Workhorse Rye was founded by Rob Easter & David Gordon in 2011 in the Mission. A few years later, following Rob’s education with Maker Mark’s David Pickerell and working at King’s County Distillery in New York and the team still doesn’t have a distillery of their own, instead calling themselves “gypsy distillers.” Rob and David are taking an approach similar to famous beer brewers like Mikkeller in Denmark or even start-up coffee roasters who lease space at an existing facility, which help keeps overhead their overhead low.
Workhorse Rye currently makes their brew at Thirsty Bear Brewery in downtown SF, and distills in an old Navy jailhouse on Treasure Island. This spring you’ll be able to find their bounty in places like Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant in Napa (who serves Equator Coffee), Rye in the Tenderloin and The Lion’s Share down in San Diego.
Along with using all organic grains (70% rye, 20% barley, 10% wheat) to distill their products, and collaborating with Four Barrel Coffee (where Rob once worked in coffee) on bitters, they also source the French Oak red wine barrels used for aging their Darkhorse Rye from local winery Sutton Cellars (Carl Sutton and Rob Easter above). So when it comes to regional representation, the guys at Workhorse Rye are keeping as much of their product as they can in the neighborhood.
I’ve yet to taste any of the Workhorse Rye or their bitters, but hopefully some generous San Francisco baristas can smuggle some up to Seattle for the USBC.
Keep an eye out for Darkhorse Rye in the San Francisco area and their Kickstarter campaign where you can pre-order your own suite of coffee bitters.
Saint Frank, the newest specialty coffee bar in San Francisco is set to finally open this weekend in Russian Hill. The new space is really incredible and I’ve got the photos to prove it. I stopped by this afternoon for a delicious cup of Honduras and to talk with Kevin Bohlin about the new venture.
Back in July, I wrote about the opening of Saint Frank’s pop-up at the Public Bike showroom in South Park. That location is still there and has since become a longer term project that’s kept customers satisfied while the new flagship space was being completed on northern end of Polk Street.
The new space is awash in natural light from the four large skylights overhead and the wall of windows up front. A long, low bar adorned with white hexagon tiles and a matching white counter top reflect the light and illuminate the light wood planks that cut across the floor diagonally and continue half way up the towering walls. The tension between the wood grain and white space create an atmosphere that’s dynamic enough to give warmth, but airy enough to be a gallery space.
It’s an absolutely stunning space.
One of the greatest features is what the space lacks—the presence of physical barriers between the customer and the barista. Kevin worked with John Ermacoff to install the first prototype of a new under bar espresso machine similar to the MOD Bar used in the new Counter Culture Training Center. The machine is still unnamed and uses the guts of a Synesso Sabre. It features the same volumetric and PID benefits, while being extremely low profile.
There are two groups and two cool touch steam wands that are controlled by foot pedals on the floor for hands free milk magic. The groups themselves have a profile that’s more aesthetically similar to an Über boiler and less like the flowing lines of the MOD Bar. But most importantly, guests are no longer walled off from baristas. The espresso bar now provides the same theater as the pour over bar.
There will soon be two espresso machines (a second low pro is being built) which will add the option of ordering single origin espressos ground on the EK43.
There are a variety of seating options, from small two person tables to larger high tables in the back of the shop. There’s a bar at the window for watching the heavy foot traffic go by outside and a future loft space that can be used for meetings or larger groups. There will also be a training lab hidden away upstairs, wifi for the internet starved and pastries for the hungry.
The coffee itself comes from a partnership between Kevin and his former employer Ritual Coffee, where he sources the coffees from farms he has built relationships with, while Ritual helps do the actual roasting. This partnership leads to coffee roasted at the same level of quality you would expect from Ritual, but with unique coffees sourced by Kevin himself.
The brand was developed by the talented Brooklyn-based designer Dana Tanamachi and the beautiful architecture was done by Amanda Loper (whose husband is currently making A Film About Coffee).
The grand opening takes place this Saturday, October 19th at 7am. So stop by and congratulate Kevin, drink some delicious coffee and admire the beautiful space.
Andrew Barnett is a veteran of specialty coffee who has been around longer than many of the younger roasters you might be familiar with. In 2000, Andrew founded Ecco Caffe which roasted coffee for the San Francisco Bay area for years before it was sold to Intelligentsia in 2009. New Yorkers may also be familiar with Ecco from its use at Joe Coffee, until Joe began roasting for themselves earlier this summer.
This week, Andrew opened the door of his newest foray in the world of coffee—Linea Caffe. The new espresso bar is an intimate, open air café on the corner of 18th and San Carlos in the Mission District. The focus on espresso based drinks and its standing room only intimacy, creates a European feel that’s contrasts with the spacious San Francisco spots that can feel more like co-working spaces than coffee bars. For those who don’t have work to do, Linea provides a warm neighborly environment that’s better for standing around talking with friends than meeting deadlines.
Apart from Andrew and his coffee, the space is also shared with Anthony Myint, of Mission Chinese fame, who’s making fluffy Brussel-style waffles and salads meant to satisfy. Andrew is determined to ensure the focus on coffee and fare be well balanced, instead of leaving the food as an afterthought. So Linea Caffe partnered with Anthony to launch food concepts that will be just as much of a draw as the coffee.
The espresso at Linea is meant to be sweet, balanced and approachable, leaving the more experimental flavor bombs to some of San Francisco’s other specialty coffee bars. After sampling the espresso with and without milk, it was right on target. It was a straightforward, enjoyable coffee that should please both coffee purists as well as the rest of the neighborhood. Next I’ll be sure to try the waffles.
The coffee options in San Francisco’s Financial District continue to grow with the recent opening of Coffee Cultures on Bush Street. This new café is the first to exclusively serve Counter Culture in the city (though it could be found previously at the multi-roaster shop Stanza). Apart from coffee, they’re also serving Straus frozen yogurt (I assume that’s why “culture” is plural). I’m looking forward to a FroYo Affogato when I visit.
Counter Cultures was started by Jason Michael Paul, who co-founded CoffeeBar another San Francisco company preparing to open their second shop in the Financial District this summer. When Jason isn’t opening coffee bars, he is a producer of concerts who make incredible things like this exist—Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.
If the design of Coffee Cultures branding looks familiar, it was done by the same Chen Design Associates who were behind the iconic Verve Coffee packaging. It uses an extravagant mixture of earth tones, intricate patterns, and layered details to create a leather bound feeling of warmth, and to some, a greater sense of value when paying more than usual for their coffee. Though if you’re working in the Financial District, come on.
225 Bush Street
San Francisco, Ca 94104
Monday – Friday, 6am–6pm
This year’s barista competitions are now in full swing and baristas around the world have begun competing for a shot at the world title in Vienna this summer. It’s a big deal in the specialty coffee industry, but I doubt you’ll see many billboards from Ticketmaster advertising the event. However, if the World Barista Championship ever finds itself heading to San Francisco, they should call up designer Valerie Schwartz and ask what it would cost to change the date on these posters and start posting them around town.
The beautiful line drawings of San Francisco’s hillside landscapes combined with great typography have created a truly incredible set of collateral for the event—even in its hypothetical state. The series of posters, tickets and event program are successfully tied together with a system of watercolor (coffee) textures and a monochromatic palette.
The design uses several coffee clichés in new and elegant ways to make it populist as well as innovative. If real, it could have the potential of reaching a broader audience and encourage regular coffee consumers to learn more about how the profession is being pushed to new heights and improving their coffee experiences.
San Francisco’s Best Coffee, a new app for West Coast coffee lovers, gives Bay area residents and visitors a great resource for finding good coffee in the city. Blue Crow Media made their introduction into the coffee world with their first app, London’s Best Coffee, and are now bringing their digital expertise to the US.
San Francisco is my favorite city in the States, and the SF coffee scene continues to grow and improve every time I return. I previously made a Google Map of recommended stops, but I topped out at about 20 locations. The SF Best app has over 60 locations, including roasteries as well as cafés all marked on an integrated Google map. The icons are nicely designed and touching one will bring up a thumbnail photo along with the location’s name.
Each stop can be rated, giving it an opportunity to be listed among the Top 25, as well as offering users a bit of community feedback. I’m not sure if there are any safeguards to prevent dishonest voting—I’m always skeptical about how these things are tallied—but the current list isn’t far from my own personal favorites.
Once you select a cafe, there’s a nice profile of them, including address, phone number, website, and hours of operation. It also includes technical information such as beans, grinder and espresso machine used. I would also like to see whether a place offers pour over, frcnch press, etc.—as well as when they were established, and wifi capability. I also think shops in Oakland should have been included. I understand that its technically a different city, but it’s like creating a New York City app and leaving out Brooklyn.
The profile continues with a photo of the location, a brief description, and the option to get directions via the iPhone map (which seems to be having problems right now).
For $0.99 cents, it’s less than you would spend buying a friend a cup of coffee or tipping your barista for referring you to a long list of nice cafés. While I haven’t visited all them, if you stick to the Top 25, I doubt you’ll ever be disappointed.
Entertaining video about the “coffee wars” of San Francisco, beginning with Ritual and Blue Bottle coffee. Filmed in the style of Ken Burn’s Civil War, but easier to make it all the way through. Enjoy!
Beautifully clean editorial design for an article about the new wave of coffee in San Francisco Magazine.
A new generation of café owners and roasters has burst from the dark shadow of Peet’s and “Charbucks,” luring its patrons toward a more complex and varied caffeinated frontier. Its members value lighter roasts, the better to unmask a coffee’s nuanced nature. They place emphasis on provenance and preparation, tracing beans to cherished “micro-lots” and prized Producers while geeking out over machines priced higher than your car. They hold public “cuppings.” They debate “flavor profiles,” gushing over citrus notes and chocolaty aromas. Like chefs fi ne-tuning menus, they approach their product as cuisine. –San Francisco Magazine