In this post, I’d like to announce the discovery of a new species of cafe, whose growth appears to be on the rise, and includes such examples as Dynamo Donuts, Chocolate Fish, and Awaken. These cafes can easily be spotted by their use of coffee from third-wave roasters and their well-trained and knowledgeable staff with skills on par with the best third-wave cafes. The most recent addition to my collection, which gives these delightful creatures a status beyond mere anomaly, is Epicenter Cafe. This cafe also marks, to my knowledge, the first cafe appearance of Barefoot Coffee in San Francisco with the exception of the otherwise all-star restaurant Quince.
The only real drawback I could find with Epicenter was its location, which is, ironically, a bit off the beaten path. It’s located a few doors down from the Harrison Street Whole Foods so it’s not completely out of the way, but it can be a bit of schlep from downtown and the City’s central hub of public transportation.
When I got there, a bit of construction greeted me on the sidewalk where it’s being widening it out, for bicycle parking and outdoor seating, I believe. The construction, however, should be done soon and doesn’t detract from the clean and crisp decor inside which is no doubt due, in part, to the fact that the shop has only been open for about four months. The design is modern, if uninspired, with beach colored, bar-height tables and chairs, concrete floors, lots of natural light from the front wall of windows and a couple of dark leather couches. The one bright spot is the dark wood facade to the coffee bar whose unevenly arranged panels draw attention to the four Mazzer grinders and 4-group La Marzocco Linea that sit on top.
As I mentioned, Epicenter serves Barefoot coffee, having upwards of 10-11 different coffees to chose from. For espresso you have your choice of espresso blend (currently “The Boss” blend), two different single-origin beans and a decaf (I believe, but am unsure, that it was the Sumatra Gayoland). For brewed coffee, Epicenter serves a regularly rotating selection of coffees, brewed via French Press, and stored in a thermal carafe. Staff will also custom French Press a cup of any of the coffees they currently have available.
I started my order with a Rwanda Kinunu single origin espresso based on the recommendation of the owner. He was having a bit of trouble which he spotted with use of a naked portafilter so he re-pulled my shot, although he let me taste the first one to compare. The first one wasn’t bad, but the second one was better. It had a slightly thin, reddish-brown crema, and a lighter, tea-like, body with a velvety smooth texture. It was slightly dry, with a lime and green apple brightness and sweet, green pepper-like sweetness with just a hint of something earthy. Epicenter was also offering a Guatemala Nahula as a single origin espresso, but I opted for this particular coffee brewed.
The French Press version of the Nahula was creamy, slightly chocolaty, and fruity. I got notes of baked apricot, vanilla and a hint of something spicy like cinnamon with the total effect resembling cobbler. It was a well-prepared cup of coffee and really quite good, but these flavors were a bit more subtle than I’m making them out to be.
In addition to the coffee menu, the cafe serves a selection of fine-enough looking sandwiches and salads, and some unique-to-San Francisco beers (I didn’t write down the micro-brewery) in case you get carried away with all those single-origin espressos. The baristas are knowlegeable and highly-skilled – each one trained by Barefoot, although I do have to add my experience is thus far limited to just one visit. Epicenter also seems to serve as something of a San Francisco Barefoot outpost. The current schedule includes cuppings of Barefoot’s coffees and possible future tasting classess, depending upon how successful those classes are down at the Barefoot mothership. Overall, everything about Epicenter is pretty much top notch. Given the bigger daily selection, French Pressed coffee, nicer interior and speedier service, it’s quite possible that they do Barefoot coffee better than even Barefoot.