Trouble & the juicy “Hammer”

The Outer Sunset is a desert. For the coffee aficionado in San Francisco there are precious few outposts as you approach the Pacific Ocean down the Judah corridor. I can count the number of fine Outer Sunset coffee purveyors I would gladly visit on one hand and still have enough grip to hold a coffee cup.

A couple weeks ago I made a visit to one of those outposts – Trouble. It had been awhile. My initial visits were so long ago that they were still using Ecco. These days, for espresso, it’s custom spec’d beans from De La Paz. One of these, “The Hammer” was on bar when I visited.

The official name is Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club – they are known as much for the fact you can get fresh coconut juice (and I mean fresh, as in poke-hole-in-coconut-and-insert-straw fresh) as for their coffee. Their other trademark is their thick-cut slices of cinnamon toast. Acme bread when I last checked. Brings me back to saturday mornings as a kid, lying on the floor watching Loony Toons, filling up on cinnamon toast and waiting for the sugar coma crash to kick in. Good times.

Trouble is a tiny place. Intimate. The decor is eclectically rough-hewn, found-item-chic and idiosyncratic. Exploring its details is evocative of one of those moments where you are left alone for a few minutes in a new apartment, the apartment of someone you’ve just met, where every detail seems fresh, exotic and mysterious and every single mundane item feels as if it reveals an important and possibly secret truth about the person. There’s lots of found wood and old photos of anonymous people. I can’t decide weather it’s all style but it’s effective.

The Hammer – Trouble’s custom seasonal espresso

The coffee used to make the shot they served me on my last visit to Trouble was entitled “The Hammer”.

“Quite a name”, I thought.

I found it a little harsh up front but “The Hammer” very quickly developed into juicy blackberry and fragrant vanilla. I enjoyed it more, thought that it became more flavorful, as it cooled. “Juicy” was indeed the descriptor I think best sums it up. A juicy hammer. Very nice.

As I understand it, “The Hammer” is a single origin Costa Rica (Cafe Alajuela) sourced and roasted by De La Paz, that the coffee they get from De La Paz is unique to them and that Trouble, in general likes to serve seasonal SOs on their machine as often as is possible. It’s all the more reason to make the trip out west, the fact that, more often than not, what you’re getting day in and day out is a seasonal single-origin shot. It’s something that’s special to rare at many cafés. At Trouble it’s nearly every day.

Having said that, I understand the espresso has changed since I visited to De La Paz’s much lauded “Cherry Chapstick” while they wait for another SO that is to their liking.

I don’t know that I like the fact that source of Trouble’s coffee is masked by cute names. I don’t usually like that. I’m more for transparency. The person behind the counter displayed no hesitation in offering up the name of the roaster when asked, though.

Trouble’s drip coffee – “Elbow Grease” – comes from another roaster. I didn’t ask who it was and I didn’t have any of it. Looking at Trouble’s website, I see it’s a French Roast. Hmmm. Not that interested.

Don’t forget about Trouble

Trouble is smack in the middle of endless acreages of homes and not much else, as you make your way down Judah, through the Outer Sunset, on your way to the Pacific Ocean. It’s all under a dull steel-grey sky most of the time but it’s well worth the feeling of isolation that might overcome you as you look out the window of the N train at that endless sea of faded pastel-colored single family homes and wonder if you are still, in fact, in San Francisco. It’s quirky and unique and, at least in the case of the espresso it gets from De La Paz (as I said, I know nothing about their drip except the roast level), it treats a quality product with respect.

It’s an oasis in this particular desert.