Four Barrel Coffee

Overall Rating: 8.450

Address: 375 Valencia St.
Cross Street(s): 15th St.
City, State ZIP: San Francisco, CA 94103
Neighborhood: Mission
Phone: 415.252.0800
Hours: M-Su 7am-8pm
Type of Establishment: Espresso Bar
Cafe Rating: 8.50
Barista: 9
Savvy: 9
Ambiance: 8
Presentation: 8
Consistency: Inconsistent
Espresso Machine: Espressonistic Works B.V.
Coffee Rating: 8.40
Aroma: 8
Body: 8
Brightness: 9
Crema: 9
Flavor: 8
Taster's Correction: 0.0
Size: M
Primary Taste: Pungent
Coffee Beans: Four Barrel Coffee
Cup Manufacturer: Nuova Point
Price: $2.25
Last Update: 06/21/2012
First Reviewed: 05/20/2008
Notes: Coffee Sales; Coffee Accessory Sales

Jeremy Tooker, co-founder of Ritual Roasters, pursued his own vision of a quality coffee business in Four Barrel Coffee: no Wi-Fi, no start-ups that can't pony up rent, just no-frills retail plus a roasting and distribution operation. When things first opened here in the Spring of 2008, in a back alleyway as the main café was under construction, the coffee was great when they pulled shots of Stumptown's Hairbender beans. But their switch to their own roasting was a step down at first. Over the years, their Friendo Blendo blend went from second-rate Hairbender brightness bomb knock-off to something that has come into it's own with more balance. It's a vast wooden space with roasting operations in the back (which finally cleared permits and started in Jan '09), sidewalk window counter seating and various small tables throughout, retail beans for purchase under the mounted boars heads Jeremy bought off eBay, and a café layout that centers around a pair of three-group Mistrals and a part-time pour-over bar. Serving their own roasts (primarily Friendo Blendo), the baristas perform a lot of deliberate prep work - they take their (rightfully) sweet time to do it right here. They pull shots with a darker, mottled, occasionally bubbly looking crema. The body was thin for the pedigree but since improved. Flavorwise, the shot can balanced but has regressed to the occasional brightness bomb: there's a bold pungency of spices and some herbal elements, caramel, and Hairbender-Lite-like traces of honey, nuts, and a hint of orange peel. But lately they've gone back to overpowering acidic sourness at times. Served in classic brown Nuova Point or ACF cups. Milk-frothing can break down at times, however: the microfoam is adequate, but it can lack a rich texture or consistency. A rare case where local roasting operations made things worse for a few years until they got much better - to one of the (sometimes) finer shots in SF. Cash only, folks: take your plastic elsewhere.