Alvin Azadkhanian is something of an SF institution amidst the ever industrialized approach of coffee roasting and serving. This unassuming storefront/café has a few plastic sidewalk tables & chairs out front under awnings and a few simple diner tables inside. They sell everything from Bodum Santos vac pots, La Pavoni Europiccola machines, many organic roasts for around $10/lb, and even the ridiculous Kopi Luwak at $75/4-oz.

Approaching Alvin's Inside Alvin's, with Alvin in the back

But Alvin’s is far from pretentious. Cut from the same cloth as Henry Kalebjian of the Outer Sunset’s House of Coffee, Alvin’s is a friendly neighborhood place. And the master roaster will serve your espresso himself. (There are pictures of him roasting out of a PROBAT roaster on the back wall.)

Using a two-group Futurmat, Alvin pulls a larger shot with a marginally thin and pale crema. Roasting, rather than espresso preparation, is visibly Alvin’s passion. His espresso has a milder, smooth flavor. But instead of tasting weak, it’s delicately flavorful of fresh mild pepper and some cedar. He serves it in an ornate-looking, Chinese-made demitasse (ironically branded as “Italian Styles”).

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Alvin's espresso