Given my love of coffee, I consume several cups of espresso and other coffee types every day. San Francisco is a coffee hotspot and several independent, third-generation coffee shops vie for your attention.
My favorite coffee in the city is brewed by Four Barrel Coffee in the San Francisco Mission District. This location opened in 2008 and is on 375 Valencia Street in San Francisco, on the corner to 14th Street. It should be part of any San Francisco visit.
The company also runs two more locations in San Francisco now – The Mill at 736 Divisadero and Portola at 4 Burrows Street.
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The Coffee at San Francisco's best coffee shop
Four Barrel is named after a century-old roaster that is still used by the company. As you enter, you will likely take note of the smell of freshly roasted coffee, and that is no accident as the roasting happens right there in the back of the coffee shop. The roaster runs rather constantly during business hours and you will always see it spit out fresh beans if you head towards the back of the building.
There are two coffee bars – the regular 'fast bar' and a 'slow bar' for the weekends. The slow bar is really slow and allows you to spend a couple of minutes with the barista contemplating the best coffee regions in the world. I especially like the Ethiopian coffee roasts but Colombia also supplies a big part of the stock here.
The fast bar has two baristas and, given the compact menu, is quick in churning out high quality coffee. I especially like the smoothness and mild bitterness of the roasts here. It's a bit too bitter for me without milk (few customers order straight espressos) but comes to life perfectly with a bit of milk.
In terms of taste, this is the best coffee in San Francisco for me.
The Hipster Attitude at Four Barrel Coffee
Given that the Four Barrel Coffee shop is in the middle of the hipster Mission District and the fact that it has been voted San Francisco's best coffee several times, you'd expect some serious attitude – and that's what you get most of the time. The baristas are clearly the coolest people in these places and you won't be able to compete with them. The lingo is decidedly relaxed but also snobby.
If you don't feature any serious body art, this place is likely to not take you seriously beyond a cup of coffee.
The WiFi at Four Barrel Coffee
Four Barrel is proud to NOT offer any WiFi to its customers! The company feels that customers sitting at laptops is a distraction from the art of drinking coffee. This is supported by the loud music that fills the air there.
However, there is free San Francisco public WiFi near the front windows and outside in the parklet. Many San Francisco coffee shops enforce 'laptop police' that walk around and ask you to leave if you're using a laptop at certain tables and times. This does not happen here – you can use your battery power (no charging outlets anywhere) to work for a bit.
The prices at San Francisco's best coffee shop
Given the inflationary price level of many things in this city, the Four Barrel Coffee shop is cheap and most drinks are around $4 or $5.