Being a great coffee shop isn’t just about the quality of your espresso or the ratio of baristas generally interested in your day compared to condescending coffee snobs. It’s about those special touches that weave a humble purveyor of warm beverages into the fabric of a community’s everyday life. Like free Wi-Fi.
Since nearly every community has at least one caffeine hotspot that serves as a “third place” for people who “can’t get work done at home,” compiling a list of the 21 best was not an easy task. So to separate the gold from grounds we polled our nationwide staff of city editors as well as some of the biggest names in the coffee world.
SANTA BARBARA, CA
Equal parts coffee roaster, bakery, and a community center, the French Press is such a large part of Santa Barbara that they actually hold a farmer’s market in the parking lot. And even though they’ve got one of the top baristas in the world behind the bar, they still pride themselves on customer service over coffee knowledge.
The guy from Ristretto literally wrote the book on home brewing (How to Make Coffee Before You’ve Had Coffee: Ristretto Roasters’ Spectacularly Simple Guide to Brewing at Home), but while he prescribes a wide range of at-home options, the star of his three shops are their Steampunk brewing systems. The most Portland-sounding machine ever, the Steampunk is a variation of syphon brewing that results in a faster and more consistent product than most any other single-cup system. Ristretto also roasts in-house, allowing them to tune-in their flavors to specifically complement the experimental brewing method. (View the full lists here)
Are you also one for those people who need that perfect shot of espresso in the morning to get your pulse kicking and get your day started? Alas, I am one of them. I’ve been battling with the idea of cutting down on coffee and trying to take on life without having to depend on this substance. There should be a rehab for us. Until then, let me tell you about the best espresso maker that I got, to make my morning coffee shots even smoother and more power-packed.
It was a gift from my wife, not to mark any occasion, but a very thoughtful one (she knows how edgy I get when I haven’t got my fill of coffee). I’m talking about the SAECO HD8753/87 Philips Intellia. Before I delve further into details about this one, let me tell you a little about the espresso machine I was using earlier – De’Longhi EC155. Don’t get me wrong. It was great too and served me well for all the time it had been around but as is true of all items in the lower price range, there’s a certain amount of work to do to keep them running. They need cleaning and maintenance which means effort on your part, so you can consistently get good coffee. Obviously, it was a bit noisy too.
The Saeco is definitely much pricier than De’Longhi but it comes with the perks, which makes it worth it and the best home espresso machine that I laid my hands on. Its fully automatic features make me feel like I have my own personal barista at home making me coffee exactly the way I prefer it – the right amount of coffee strength and temperature that I desire. The best part is, this machine cleans its own mess, leaving me to relish my cup of coffee. Luxury galore.
This delicious, moist coffee cake recipe is a classic that will never get old. Triple tested in the Woman’s Weekly kitchen, this tasty cake is packed full of a rich, coffee flavour along with a coffee infused buttercream. Serving up to 12 people, this cake takes 45 mins to make which is pretty speedy for a big cake like this. The filling and topping are both made using coffee essence which you can buy in most supermarkets in the cake baking aisle. On a low oven temperature this cake cooks to slowly and perfectly inside out. Dust with icing sugar and serve.
- 250g butter or margarine
- 200g caster sugar
- 60g golden syrup
- 4 large eggs
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- 3 tbs coffee essence (Camp coffee)
For the filling and decoration:
- 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 400g icing sugar
- 2-3 tbs coffee essence
- 2 tsp cocoa powder, for dusting
- 2 x 20cm (8in) sandwich tins, buttered and base-lined
- Set the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Put the butter, sugar, syrup and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and add the coffee essence. Whisk together for 1-2 mins until the mixture is smooth, light and fluffy.
- Divide the mixture between the two tins and spread evenly. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 mins, until well-risen and firm to the touch. Turn the cakes out on to a wire rack to cool.
- To make the filling: Beat the butter, icing sugar, coffee and 2 tbs water together until smooth, light and fluffy. Place one of the cakes on a flat serving plate and spread with half the buttercream. Place the second cake on top and spread with the rest of the buttercream, swirling the top. Dust with cocoa powder. Slice to serve. Store in an airtight container. It will keep a couple of days.