Happy 2012 everyone! I do realise that my previous post was on coffee, so I really shouldn’t be posting yet another so soon. But I am so excited about this one I couldn’t wait to share it with you. I am a lover of good coffee and a sucker for beautiful spaces and this one takes the cake on both counts. Have a look.
Sightglass Coffee Roasters is run by brothers Jerad and Justin Morrison, both of third wave coffee lineage going back to Blue Bottle Coffee and Four Barrel Coffee. The Morrisons named their shop after the term for their vintage Probat roaster’s viewing window that allows the roasting process to be monitored, symbolic of the company’s ethos of operating with full transparency and accountability of their coffee making process. This philosophy I discovered to resonate throughout the design of the shop.
Sightglass sits in a 7000 square foot warehouse around the corner from 7th and Folsom in SoMa, an eclectic neighbourhood of San Francisco home to warehouses, nightclubs, art spaces, furniture showrooms, technology companies, loft apartments, condominiums and hotels.
The shop was built out by the brothers themselves with help from Seth Boor of Boor Bridges Architecture. And what an awesome job they did! The facade of the shop is an imposing solid wood front door and floor to ceiling windows that offer a peek into the coffee mecca. Once inside, the sheer expanse and beauty of the space is breathtaking. The glass frontage and skylight some 10 metres above draw in natural light illuminating the roastery in the front and the bar deeper within the shop with a warm hue. The wood beams and raw concrete of the original building have been retained and exposed, creating a rustic industrial look and feel that define the unadulterated yet contemporary character of the shop.
Roasting is done in an open but ringfenced area in the front of the shop. True to Sightglass’s philosophy of transparency, there is ample standing counter space enclosing the roasting area for patrons to enjoy the roasting in process. The centrepiece is a 1961 Probat roaster from Germany that Sightglass relies on for the consistent, clean and delicate profile of their beans.
But the nerve centre of the shop is really the houseshoe bar that is a hive of activity and interaction between patrons, baristas and sales crew. The shape and design of the bar allows for maximum contact with the crew and full view of the coffee-making.
For its espresso, Sightglass uses a Strada and a Slayer, both cutting edge machines capable of artful pressure and temperature control for optimal espresso extraction. Sightglass’s espresso beans Owl’s Howl is a blend of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Ethiopia. Our macchiato and cappuccino were smooth, syrupy and chocolatey, tasted of tropical fruit with afternotes of well-balanced acidity. Top-notch!
For a taste of the clean and bright flavors of Sightglass’s roast, head to the brew bar beside the Strada where you can savour brewed cups of single origins such as Nicaragua Finca La Esperanza and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe.
Sweet and savoury baked treats from Firebrand Artisan Breads and the Tell Tale Preserve Company are showcased at the front of the horseshoe bar. And I assure you they tasted as lovely as they looked.
On the two occasions we visited, the shop saw a constant stream of customers. The vibe was convival and casual. We found many vantage points for some delightful people watching. It wasn’t difficult at all to spend 3 hours and 200 photos there in one afternoon.
Behind the bar in the back of the shop is a tranquil area with a low wooden bench and bicycles that almost seem like art installations themselves, adding to the gallery feel of this space. Midway up the staircase gives a cool split-level view of the shop.
The mezzanine spans a U-shape with communal tables and bar-height benches overlooking the atrium. This level is perfect for some me-time, private conversations and a bird’s eye view of the action on the floor.
Sightglass was a real treat for our senses. The experience was stimulating on its own even before the coffee.Sightglass Coffee Roasters 270 Seventh Street
San Francisco, CA, 94103
415–861–1313 www.sightglasscoffee.com Written by Jack.D Photographed by Leni.B and Jack.D