Pittsburgh Coffee Shop Rankings

This was a post a made on nevertellmetheodds.org:

Voluto was better before commonplace bought it. they had 49th parallels which were just better beans, even if they didn’t do the best job with them. I theorize that commonplace is not that good because everyone smokes and can’t taste food anyway. As far as rankings, here it is:


1. Marty’s
Marty’s Market has coava coffee right now. Coava is out of portland, they have direct relationships with farms, they roast some coffee especially for espresso, and they only do single origin. their beans are hit or miss, but when they nail it, it’s amazing. Go when Kira is working, tell her Elliott sent you, ask for an espresso and she will actually care about you.

2. 21st Street
21st street uses inteligentsia. I feel like they used to be the best, but lately I feel like I’m not in love with the way espresso turns out. Big Dog in the south side and a few other places also use their beans, but if only buy beans in the other shops, the staff isn’t nearly as knowledgeable as at 21 but I’ll get to that later.

3. Espresso a Mano
Espresso a Mano uses ritual. These guys are out of LA or SF I can’t remember. The shop out there seemed full of dbs, but their beans are pretty good. These beans are second teir compared to Coava and Intelli, but they are priced accordingly and I think a good value. Actually a really good value if you can’t afford the really good stuff.

4. Tazz
Tazz uses Counter Culture. As you can see they are fourth on my list, but honestly get an espresso from Tazz and you won’t be that sad. They do a damn good job with what they have.

5. Common Place
There might be someone who roasts who is better, but I don’t know. They are everywhere you are, kelly’s, Common Place S.H. Voluto, Geet or whatever it’s called, probably in a bunch of restaurants. These are probably the best local beans you can get. Better than 19 or Zeek or any other. They are the best local, but still they are fifth.

n. La Prima
La Prima (keep in mind this is bean quality), Crazy Mocha, Starbucks, Coffee Tree, etc. I want Coffee Tree to be good. The guys that own that place seem to care about coffee a lot, but for some reason it doesn’t trickle down through the staff and into my cup.

Staff Knowledge and Skill

1. 21st Street
If you want to learn about coffee go here. They are the best, and if you go to another shop (Espresso a Mano, Marty’s) cough cough, they might be trained by someone at 21. Ask a question here and get a legit answer.

2. Marty’s
3. Commonplace
n. here and below I think it’s a wash

Pour over

1. 21
Pour overs don’t just take skill, they take taste buds. I would say more so than espresso. Marty’s I think just doesn’t have the bandwidth for pour overs, that’s cool, it will be a long time before they match up with 21st.

Honestly, if you want a pour over just go to 21.


1. 21 (anytime) and Marty’s (when Kira’s working)
I say this because 21st street is consistent as all hell. But even a blind squirrel can find a nut and in the case of marty’s, if you put great beans together with good equipment and someone who gives a damn you can’t go too far astray. I’ve been going to 21 for years and rarely have I had a bad shot. I’ve been going to Marty’s since they opened and maybe their average shot isn’t as good as 21, there have been a few that got me genuinely excited about espresso again. Maybe it’s just that 21/intelli has such a signature flavor profile, maybe it’s just that it’s new, but damn good espresso.

Seriously. They don’t have a Syneso, they don’t have amazing beans, but just go get one.

n. It’s all a wash below these three spots
I will say that Big Dog is particularly bad. They espresso are more like old school longo or whatever those italians used to call them.

So in summation:

I buy Coava beans, get espressos at 21 and Marty’s and pour overs at 21.

I’m sure I’ve pissed off tons of people and I’m sure I’ve left out places like lillies or cat and dog or that convenience store that has 50 cent caps on butler. If I left out any place, it’s probably because they’re dirt. But just because I think it’s dirt doesn’t mean it is, and I never said there was anything wrong with dirt.

December 24, 2012 |