Regional Espresso Maps
- Great Lakes
- Central Plains
- Mountain Zone
- Washington State
- Washington, DC Area
- Kansas City
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
City Espresso Maps
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this site about?
This is a collection of places that serve really good espresso. Not just coffee, but really good espresso. We started keeping a little list of places we liked. That morphed into a google map which we eventually shared with friends. When it got unwieldy, I broke it up by regions and then cities. We figured it was time to place this online where other people could access it.
What's up with the Blue Walker and the Gold Cup?
Every place listed on these maps is a good bet for serving good espresso. That's our starting point.
I use a gold cup to denote places we have personally visited, or that people we trust have personally visited, to confirm the place is up to snuff. That's a gold cup establishment.
A blue walker symbol means if you're just passing through an area with a few options, THAT PLACE IS THE PLACE TO STOP. In other words, GO THERE NOW!
What's really good espresso?
That's a hard question, but we believe it begins with good beans that have been well grown, properly roasted, then ground correctly while fresh and put through a good machine. Without these parts of the equation, you can't have good espresso.
How do you know these places make good espresso?
Well, we'll cop to not having visited every place on this map. BUT, we've been able to discern a few things about those I haven't visited: they're using beans from good roasters. Many of these roasters will only sell to shops that have properly trained baristas. So you're more likely to have people who know what they're doing. For the places I do visit, I have a pretty simple test.
Do you have a simple test for a good espresso place?
I'm glad you asked. Basically, can they pull a tasty macchiato. Does it have a nice crema. Does the coffee taste good with little embellishment. There are many drinks a barista can make. But a macchiato is perhaps the purest demonstration of both a barista's skill and the quality of the roasted espresso beans. You CANNOT hide a bad roast in a macchiato. If it's bitter and off, it will show in a macchiato. Now this doesn't mean these places can't make other drinks. They can and do. But if they can pull a good macchiato than chances are VERY good that any other drink is gonna be pretty dynamite and worth your money. That's about it.
Why isn't my favorite espresso joint on these maps?
We may not know about them. Or if we do we don't really care for the coffee and roasts that they're using. There are a lot of places that over-roast their beans which makes a bitter cup. A few use canned beans that aren't very fresh. We're not trying to be snobs here, but if they're charging you $4 for a small cup of espresso, we'd prefer they use fresh beans that haven't had the last bit of flavor charred out of them.
Why the City and Regional Maps?
So, this project started as one map. For the ENTIRE country. Then it got divided into two (East and West) and then kept getting subdivided as we found out about more worthy places. We've tried to keep up with it and after awhile there were cities that had such good thriving espresso cultures they deserved their own maps. So our rule is if a city has at least 10 or 12 good espresso places they get their own map. Less than that, they're included in the state or regional maps. Them's the breaks.
What's a good roaster?
A good roaster pays attention to where they get their beans. They treat coffee like wine. Not snobbishly but with great attention to detail. The better ones actually build up a direct relationship to the people who planted, tended, picked, and packaged the beans before they are roasted. Aside from being cool, this means it's a long-lasting relationship and one that leads to greater sustainability for the grower and for all of us. If you want to read more about this, learn about " Third Wave Coffee" movement.
Do you get paid for any of this?
Nope. Not one cent. We love good espresso and hate bad espresso. Nothing burns us more than shelling out a few bucks for a lousy cup of coffee. It isn't fair. We'd rather save you from the ordeal and the expense. Also, we like remembering good places we've enjoyed on our travels.
Why does any of this matter?
Well aside from having a greater assurance of getting a better cup of espresso, these places use (or are) roasters that pay more attention to where they source their beans. More often then not this means the growers and pickers are getting a fairer wage than most places. So that's good. A lot of these roasters also care about questions of ecology and the well-being of the way things are grown. These are all very good things.
Have any other questions? Let us know what you think!