Food & Drink

Where to Drink San Francisco's Best Coffee (for Under $3)

Published On 02/19/2016 Published On 02/19/2016
Interior of Sightglass coffee shop in SoMa, San Francisco, California
Courtesy of Sightglass

Coffee -- good coffee -- has become ubiquitous in this city. And while it’s pretty damn nice that you can pick up a good cup of coffee on just about every corner in San Francisco, the prices on some of these specialty brews have gotten absurd.

Fortunately, fresh, standard drip coffee has been holding steady in the coffee scene. Thank God, because the sane among us are drawing the line at tricked-out $6 coffees, opting instead for quick cups of batch brews. The best part? Almost every shop offers them, and many high-quality drips can be found for under $3 a cup.

Here are 11 places you can go to grab a very good cup of coffee for a fraction of the cost of a single-origin flatwhite, or whatever high-end hot bean water you’ve been throwing money at lately.

Sightglass

SoMa

Price: $2.50
One of SF’s most respected coffee roasters, the java here is strong, fresh, and quick. Popular in coffee circles, the folks who sling this mud have garnered a lot of buzz.

Seann Rooney/Thrillist

Pinhole

Bernal Heights

Price: $2.50
A little over a year after opening, and Blue Bottle veteran JoEllen Depakakibo is killing it in this 600sqft corner coffee shop. From the local art on the walls to the warm, reclaimed wood built-ins, this space just feels... damn good. The stories behind their coffee roasting and business model are pretty inspiring, to boot -- this is the kind of place we should try to support.

Coffee Cultures

FiDi

Price: $2.75
This Bush St shop serves on weekdays only, but it’s worth a stop when you’re in the neighborhood -- especially since they serve nationally renowned Counter Culture Coffee.

Seann Rooney/Thrillist

Snowbird

Inner Sunset

Price: $2.50
These guys offer locally roasted brews, as well as a rotation of coffees from across the country.  Like many others in the snazzy-coffee sphere, Snowbird is collaborating with local craft breweries -- this time, with the brewmasters over at Social Kitchen and Brewery. Stop by for a cup of joe in a cool, second-generation coffee shop space.

Four Barrel

Portola

Price: $3.00  
Four Barrel’s industrial setting under the Bayshore Freeway is a bit of a departure from some of the architectural gems on this list, but you’re actually likely to see coffee roasters here, not just business people on laptops -- these guys are just as much about sustainability and education as they are selling fancy brews.

Seann Rooney/Thrillist

Ritual

Hayes Valley

Price: $2.50
Ritual not only serves great coffee, they do a stellar job finding really cool places for their shops. Both the walk-up in the immensely popular Hayes St shopping and restaurant district and the small counter in the Flora Grubb gardens are lovely -- and you can find enjoy some time to shop and sip. But be warned: the Flora Grubb location doesn’t serve drip.

Mazarine

FiDi

Price: $2.75
There’s quite a bit more than just coffee and tea on the menu at this polished shop off Market St. But their $7 toast aside, the cup of coffee is reasonably priced -- and as good as any in town.

Seann Rooney/Thrillist

Jane

Pacific Heights

Price: $3.00
The healthy, fresh food at this bakery/café deserves a serious nod, plus Jane serves Stumptown brew. Linger here. Enjoy the vibe, the coffee -- and the great pastries.

Andytown

Outer Sunset

Price: $2.50
There’s a strong, simple formula at work here: good owners and employees serving a good product. Hardly a surprise that Andytown’s customers have fallen in love with this tiny shop (300 square feet -- combined -- for both roasting beans and serving clients), located just a few blocks from the beach. Perfect for a morning cup and a toe-dip in the Pacific.

Seann Rooney/Thrillist

Simple Pleasures

Outer Richmond

Price: $1.80
Founded in 1978, Simple Pleasures was making coffee before coffee was cool. A great local haunt with a loyal fan base, the coffee team here has cemented its reputation as one of friendliest shops in the city -- and Ahmed Riad has become a local roasting legend.

Sextant

SoMa

Price: $3.00
Founded by Kinani Ahmed in 2014, Sextant features coffees from his native Ethiopia, roasted on site in this sharp-looking SoMa shop.

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Seann Rooney is a food and beer enthusiast from the Sacramento Delta. You can follow him on Twitter @RooneySeann.

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1. Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery 270 7th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

For all the times you've thought that your coffee just isn't "single origin and made to be tasted through three different methods" enough, you should check out Sightglass's upstairs coffee bar, where you can geek out on the craziest caffeine they have to offer.

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2. Pinhole Coffee 231 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110 (Bernal Heights)

This Bernal Heights corner coffee shop serves Verve coffee, Linea espresso, and a rotating third option from a list of guest roasters. The space is cozy and artsy with rainbow-colored walls, murals, and rotating artwork on display from local artists.

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3. Coffee Cultures 225 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94104

The only thing that we dislike about Coffee Cultures is that they are only open during the week. We love stopping by in the mornings and grabbing a cup of Counter Culture Coffee for as low as $2.75. This FiDi coffee shop is one of the most popular in San Francisco, and you need to stop by and check them out for yourself.

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4. Snowbird Coffee 1352A 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122 (Inner Sunset)

Snowbird Coffee is a multi-roaster in Inner Sunset with a menu chock full of artisan drinks from cortados and mochas to affogatos and matcha lattes. The Cafe Bombon, a shot of espresso brewed with condensed milk, and the Brevano, a shot of espresso and wildflower honey, will make you rethink all the other ways to take espresso. The tiny, low-ceilinged shop has free WiFi and some highly coveted tables.

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5. Four Barrel Coffee 375 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (The Mission)

Four Barrel is not only the best coffee in San Francisco, but it’s earned praise as some of the best in the country with sustainable practices and tasty beans. It’s all about the coffee at this Mission shop (with locations in Portola and The Mill on Divisadero), so don’t expect a laptop-friendly, camp-out-all-day vibe. Since 2007, Four Barrel founder Jeremy Tooker has carried the flag for light roasts, single origins, and a soundtrack dominated by vinyl instead of carefully curated Spotify playlists.

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6. Ritual Coffee Roasters 1026 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (Hayes Valley)

This now permanent pop-up coffee shop, run out of a shipping container/urban garden center, Ritual Coffee is a great spot for a cup of joe. It's worth checking out the Hayes Valley outpost to take in the scenery alone. This mostly outdoor cafe is flanked by lush palm trees and succulents. And since Ritual shares their space with Smitten ice cream, you'll end up with a sweet deal no matter what

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7. Mazarine Coffee 720 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Union Square)

Mazarine Coffee in FiDi serves a little bit of everything. The menu features speciality espresso from all over the world, Nitro coffee blends, beer, wine, and French-inspired food. Thanks to blazing fast WiFi and plenty of seating (indoor and outdoor), it's a godsend for all those freelancers types.

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8. Jane on Fillmore 2123 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Pacific Heights)

This bright cafe in Pacific Heights is great place to drop in for coffee and an out-of-this-world house-made pastry, like fig bread, espresso cinnamon rolls, and almond fennel biscotti. Its lunch menu features an array of salads, like Cobb and Nicoise to various takes on kale, plus a few paninis made with fresh-baked bread.

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9. Andytown Coffee Roasters 3655 Lawton St, San Francisco, CA 94122 (Outer Sunset)

Andytown serves a minimalist menu of lattes, espresso, and cold brews made from beans that are roasted on-site in the 600sqft space. Aside from damn good coffee, the Outer Sunset coffee shop serves sweet and savory baked goods, also made in-house. The Irish soda bread is a must, whether it's revamped as a currant-infused scone or topped with bacon and cheese.

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10. Simple Pleasures Cafe 3434 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

If you are a coffee drinker in Outer Richmond, you probably already know about Simple Pleasures. If you don't know about Simple Pleasures, all you need to know is that their coffee tastes heavenly, they are known as one of the friendliest coffee shops in the city, and you can walk out of there having only paid $1.80 for a cup of coffee.

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11. Sextant Coffee Roasters 1415 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

Hipster approved coffee oasis Sextant not only brews up aromatic beverages cultivated in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Colombia, but they also make sure it’s done in an Instagram-ready way. A stark contrast from the bustling industrial neighborhood where it’s located, Sextant is chic, sleek, and a bright spot to enjoy a cup or pastry.

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