This place literally put the Outer Sunset on the map for CoffeeRatings.com. This neighborhood is hardly known for good coffee, and it is often neglected as a rural, unsophisticated neighbor to the high cuisine and glamor of parts east. But what the Sunset District has going for it is a bit of breathing room and more rational rents that have allowed local microroasters, such as the House of Coffee and nearby Alvin’s, to survive and even thrive for years.

Henry Kalebjian and his family run a chain of three coffee houses on the Peninsula (SF, Burlingame, and San Mateo), and he’s been roasting at this location for some 40 years. Walk up during the morning, and chances are you will be greeted by the smell of roasting coffee from their San Franciscan roaster. In fact, you’ll smell it well down the street. (The San Franciscan roaster is a classic drum roaster design, btw.)

House of Coffee on Noriega St. Henry roasting Java beans in their San Franciscan roaster

There’s a beat up table out front and several indoor tables and chairs. They have covered their interior walls with roasted beans, coffee cups, grinders, machines, Nutella, European biscuits, and various other things available for purchase. Henry apparently learned about the potential of retail space long before Starbucks ever did.

While they use a two-group La Spaziale and serve only in paper cups, they serve a properly short shot with a great dark brown crema of decent thickness. Flavorwise, it doesn’t quite live up to its looks; it has a deep, dark smoky flavor with just a touch of an ashy aftertaste — and barely any sweetness. Still, it’s a notable espresso for the many things they do right.

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House of Coffee's 'Wall of Coffee' If you can swim past the retailing, you'll find HoC's barista station

The House of Coffee espresso -- for those who like their morning 'paper' (cup)