This espresso bar is a landmark DIY (i.e., Do It Yourself) oddity of San Francisco, making it something of a cultural institution in the short time it’s been in business (since Summer 2007). The closest (inadequate) comparison we can think of is Portland’s surreal Rimsky-Korsakoffee House — a fun house of a coffee place complete with slowly spinning motorized tables, an “underwater” bathroom, and abrasive wait staff armed with squirt guns that we first stumbled into a decade ago.

But whatever Trouble Coffee is, it makes the likes of Ritual Roasters seem button-down corporate by comparison. (Coffee posers/haters of Blue Bottle‘s new upscale digs rejoice.)

Trouble Coffee's front window Trouble Coffee's window menu/manifesto

Run by the tattooed, oddly accessorized young eccentric, Giulietta (formerly of Athens, GA’s Jittery Joe’s and with connections to SF’s Farley’s Coffeehouse), they serve only coffee, coconut, and toast — each of which are standouts. (She attributes the start of the place to a coconut and a tattoo. Technically, this place is called the “Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club”.)

Otherwise, the tiny space near the beach end of the N Judah line has a “Fellini’s garage sale” theme: rare indie LPs, date signs from 1982, signs requesting customers to not wear masks, etc. In front there are three minichairs camped out on the sidewalk. Inside there’s a wooden counter of planks and a few mismatched stools in a cramped space. And it’s a real hangout for the locals: teens and slackers in particular.

Approaching Trouble Coffee along Judah St. Batman's nemesis' lair, or inside Trouble Coffee?

Founded by people with an abundance of skills and energy but little money, their equipment is all hot rod/DIY: the machine, grinder, etc., are all items they assembled from parts. But they use Ecco beans and try to optimize their rotation for serving between 4 and 8 days after roasting.

On our visit, we caught them dipping into their future supply — which meant an espresso made from a three-day-old roast of their single origin Brazilian. The coffee was still gassing out a little and tasted a bit gassy (before enough CO2 has been released), which was still a little surprising after three days. Even so, it had a rich, textured dark-to-medium brown crema and a rather full flavor for a single bean varietal. With a flavor of pungent (cloves, thyme) goodness.

Giulietta behind her home brewed espresso machine (that's not her hair, it's an aviator hat) Giulietta demonstrates her tamping skills

Giulietta may have been apologetic about the beans being too fresh (we love that concept, btw), but the quality was still there. She also recommended the macchiato for the newer raost: americanos and macchiati are quite popular with the locals. As much an experience, with Giulietta’s great storytelling, as it is great espresso.

Read the review of Trouble Coffee.

The Trouble Coffee espresso The Trouble Coffee macchiato