In San Francisco It’s Ritual Coffee Roasters Versus Blue Bottle Coffee


Having just purchased our first bag of “Sweet Tooth Espresso” from Ritual Roasters after more than six years of dedicated grinding, tamping, and pouring exclusively of Blue Bottle Coffee, we’re a bit torn as to what to do. We’ve had Ritual on many different occasions, but allowing their beans to enter into the home, and thus the home espresso machine, is akin to having an affair right in front of your one true love.

Well, we’re giving it a go and Blue Bottle is going to have to be patient, but it got us thinking about which is “better” (or perhaps more popular is the real question), and why.

Our argument is for Blue Bottle, for what they have done to transform the landscape of coffee in San Francisco and the way a good espresso drink is poured and consumed. They’ve also transformed otherwise dumpy locales into hotbeds of activity (Linden Alley in Hayes Valley, and Mint Plaza in SOMA), and one could argue had a direct impact on property values (commercial and residential) in those areas. Blue Bottle knew how to draw a crowd at the Ferry Building and somehow keep people interested when the line stretched around the building. They’ve built a following, and continue to crank out excellent coffee in the same manner as when they began. Service at their Linden location is always with a smile (Mint Plaza staffers could use a little help in that regard), and although loaded with hipsters, you don’t get the feeling you’re just not hip enough to visit Blue Bottle Coffee.

We’re still warming up to Ritual, and don’t know enough about their flavors and their store to draw a completely honest opinion (first impressions have all been good), but as stated, they’re in our grinder and in our home now, so we ask…if YOU had to choose, would it be Ritual Roasters or Blue Bottle Coffee? At the very least, you have to admit it is just one of the many reasons we live here.

Oh…as for the logo competition, you gotta love Ritual’s.

[Editor’s Note: Or is there someplace we’re missing that we need to try? If you say Starbucks, you should be shot, and/or deported to a life in Strip Mall Suburbia Hell, because we got news for you, that ain’t coffee, and how Starbucks made it past San Francisco’s Anti Chain Store Law is beyond us.]

[Update: We’ll definitely be trying De La Paz, and SightGlass soon enough!]

17 thoughts on “In San Francisco It’s Ritual Coffee Roasters Versus Blue Bottle Coffee

  1. Affairs are affairs (let all the females cringe but we’re talking coffee ladies…they are meant to be enjoyed thoroughly (while they last that is) and the one true love (Blue Bottle ;)) would never fear a different flavor being taking in…

  2. He, yo. Nice coffee post. I too am a home espresso afficionado (I pull on a ranchilio Silvia & rocky grinder.). Personally I did not love the shots using blue bottle. But I religiously use ritual’s and really like their flavor balances. The shots always come put thick and carmely, and are always substantive enough for a bit of milk (the way I usually drink).

    Sweet tooth is usually single origin and is fun to experiment with. But I usually prefer their espresso blend (espresso Sunday now) because it’s more balanced. They switch up their blend every few months too, and all have been great.

    4 barrel (Valencia/14) is also a great cafe, and has is my favorite spot for French pressed coffee. For awhile they were pimpin’ stumptowns hairbender for espresso, which I thought royally sucked! Am not a fan of their own blend either (something like 6 coffees in there…too many IMO).

    Another suggestion is de la Paz coffee. They are a renegade roaster, difficult for the public to access (somewhere on trat st near 22st in the mish). But their coffee is avail at the stable cafe (folsom/17). Their ethiopian drip is killer. But alas, I am not loco over their espresso.

    So it’s ritual all the way for me when it comes to ‘spro, bro. But do tell me about your experiences with blue bottle espresso…i’m open to trying ’em again. Cheers.

    1. @anon,
      Actually, no. Busier than ever, and enjoying not talking real estate.

      I have a Gaggia Classic, and love, love, love it! My grinder was a hand me down from an old Italian guy, so I don’t know the model. I suppose I could look it up online. Might be a Pavoni. Re: Ritual, I was going to buy the Sundae beans, but they were out. I’ll go back though. I generally do cappis in the morning and might treat myself to an espresso in the afternoon like I just did and WOW! that shot of Ritual tasted good. Really good. Very unique.

      Regarding BB, I’m a big fan of the Hayes Valley Espresso, but recently found a new love in the Facenda Jacaranda. That is until I met Misty Valley. So damn good she is! Give her a try, and you won’t be disappointed. Look for John the Barista in a “Real Estate Sucks” tshirt too!

      Know any good places in SF to buy a new tamper? Mine is a tad too small for my portafilter. Looking for that perfect fit, you know yo!?

  3. It’s not hip, but Capricon has been roasting and selling fine quality coffees in the City since the early ’60s without much fanfare. Freed, Teller and Freed (on Polk for more than 80 years between the big earthquakes) was the place many sophisticated natives went for top quality coffee throughout the 20th century.

  4. My rec for the tamper is to go online. They are usually sized in mm via the diameter, so you should be able to find a good fit. FYI- I got mine free as a bonus when buying the machine. It’s a nice, heavy aluminum job, but also a few mm too small. I just tamp 3-4 times hitting the edges, and it comes out uniform…but I also have fantasies of getting the perfectly fitting tamper! Let me know if it’s worth it.

    As for de la Paz google their web site. You can call the dude there and meet him at the roasting shop to pick up coffee.

  5. Folgers! it’s good till the last drop don’t ya know ;) actually the wife is a big fan of illy and didn’t see what all the hype was with Blue Bottle. I’ll stick with tea personally.

  6. Have you tried Equator Coffee? If not, it’s a local hidden gem, roasted in San Rafael, available at a bunch of SF cafes & restaurants, including Atlas Cafe, Urban Bread, La Boulange and Jardineire. Sounds like you’re quite the coffee connoisseur, and Equator should definitely be on your radar.

  7. I also ‘pull’ my shots from the Rancillo Sylvia and ain’t she a sweet thing too. I also highly recommend the expresso from equator coffees (boulange sells this) and prefer it over the Sweet Tooth Ritual Expresso. I haven’t tried Blue Bottle but it is on my list!!

  8. Trouble Coffee (Judah at 45th) – tiny and eccentric and I dream about their coffee every day.

  9. curious, does blue bottle qualify as a chain store now that it has hayes valley, mint plaza and ferry building locations?

    the hypocrisy in SF attitudes is pretty mindboggling.

  10. sorry for the followup comment, but i just it pretty ironic that starbucks can be thanked/blamed for the coffee craze that created a big enough market that blue bottle and ritual can both happily survive. and also allows independent coffee shops to thrive by positioning themselves as the “anti-starbucks” option. just a thought.

Leave a Reply