Filter Coffeehouse & Espresso Bar, Dupont Circle

A vintage, brass coffee pot from Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar, Dupont CircleMy first stop in Washington DC was the original branch of the Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar, currently a chain of two coffee shops (the second is in Foggy Bottom) although there should be a third within the next couple of months. The original is tucked away in a basement on 20th Street, just north of Dupont Circle, in a predominantly residential part of DC. In a fit of completely bad timing, I arrived precisely one day before Filter celebrated its fifth birthday. Go me…

To look at, with its steps down to a basement in a terrace of brick-built buildings, it instantly reminded me of Boston’s Wired Puppy. Filter has a small courtyard at the bottom of the steps while the door gives access to a long, thin basement space which, rather disconcertingly, runs off at about 30 degrees to the door! All the coffee is from nearby Ceremony Coffee Roasters, while there is also tea and, if you’re hungry, a small selection of cake.

This being the FILTER Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar, there’s an emphasis on filter coffee, with five single-origin beans available through the V60. If that doesn’t appeal, there’s the usual espresso range available as well.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Filter Coffeehouse near Dupont Circle, down a small flight of stairs. Check out the bench...
  • ... and the two tables in the sunny little courtyard in front of the door.
  • The view from just inside the door.
  • A panoramic shot of all the interior seating...
  • ... although at a push you could sit on either of the window sills flanking the door.
  • The view from the back.
  • The counter, as seen from the back...
  • ... and as seen from the front.
  • The amazing light fittings and the wonderful reflections they cast on the ceiling.
  • More of the same.
  • There's a retail shelf opposite the counter...
  • ... with lots of coffee kit and bags of coffee for sale, from Filter's roaster, Ceremony Coffee.
  • There's also cake if you're feeling hungry.
  • Filter has an impressive array of filter coffees to choose from...
  • ... and an equally impressive array of tea.
  • There's also the espresso machine...
  • ... and its three grinders, house, guest (usually single-origin) and decaf.
  • I started off with a flat white in a classic tulip cup...
  • ...but then went back to the filter station.
  • I do like the mugs :-)
Filter Coffeehouse near Dupont Circle, down a small flight of stairs. Check out the bench...1 ... and the two tables in the sunny little courtyard in front of the door.2 The view from just inside the door.3 A panoramic shot of all the interior seating...4 ... although at a push you could sit on either of the window sills flanking the door.5 The view from the back.6 The counter, as seen from the back...7 ... and as seen from the front.8 The amazing light fittings and the wonderful reflections they cast on the ceiling.9 More of the same.10 There's a retail shelf opposite the counter...11 ... with lots of coffee kit and bags of coffee for sale, from Filter's roaster, Ceremony Coffee.12 There's also cake if you're feeling hungry.13 Filter has an impressive array of filter coffees to choose from...14 ... and an equally impressive array of tea.15 There's also the espresso machine...16 ... and its three grinders, house, guest (usually single-origin) and decaf.17 I started off with a flat white in a classic tulip cup...18 ...but then went back to the filter station.19 I do like the mugs :-)20
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If you want to sit outside, the Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar’s sunken courtyard provides an excellent spot, being sheltered from the already quiet street. There’s a bench on the left-hand side, which catches the early morning sun, and two tables on the right which are even sunnier. Had they not been taken, I’d have been very tempted to sit outside.

This part of DC is very keen on its turrets and the building housing Filter is no different. It’s a neat feature though and, as symmetry dictates, you enter through the door in the turret’s centre, with a narrow window on either side. This, however, is where symmetry gives up, since Filter occupies a long, thin, low-ceiled basement which, bizarrely, runs off at about 30 degrees to the door. Quite why this is, I have no idea!

Once I’d gotten over this shock, the interior was quite pleasant. The only natural light comes from the two windows and the window in the door, but the basement is well lit by some neat light-fittings which cast interesting reflections off the ceiling. The colour-scheme is slightly subdued with browns and the occasional bright orange. This matched the atmosphere while I was there, which I would call contemplative, with most people devoting themselves to their laptops as rock music played in the background.

The entire left-hand side of Filter is taken up with the counter, while on the right, the brick-lined wall has all of the seating (unless you count the two window sills, one either side of the door, which can be pressed into service as additional seats). First comes a narrow bar with three stools, then, after a set of wooden shelves holding the retail offering, there’s the rest of the seating, a wooden bench running along the wall with five two-person tables, each with its own bright-orange chair.

The focus here is on the coffee, which is all provided by the local Ceremony Coffee Roasters. On espresso, there’s the house-blend, originally a bespoke blend for Filter, but, having proved very popular, is now supplied to other coffee shops by Ceremony. This is usually supplemented by a single-origin on the second grinder, but while I was there, this had been replaced by a special winter blend. Finally, there’s decaf on the third grinder.

However, the real focus is on pour-over. Filter has five single-origins, all complete with tasting notes. These can be had through the V60, with the filter rack right in the centre of the counter, so you can stand and watch your coffee being made (you may as well since it’s counter service, so you have to wait anyway). If you’re really in a hurry, there’s also the obligatory bulk-brew to be had, although I was pleased to see lots of people, even those ordering takeaway, opting for the hand-poured.

I started with a flat white, largely because it was first thing in the morning, I wanted something milky and I don’t usually see flat whites on American menus. Served in a classic tulip cup, the coffee came through the milk well, with a strong, bold taste. I followed this up with a (12oz) cup of the Ethiopia Wazzala (it was that or a 16oz cup!). This was well-made and a pleasant cup without hitting any great heights.

1726 20th STREET NW • WASHINGTON • DC 20009 • USA
www.filtercoffeehouse.com +1 202-234-5837
Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Ceremony (Espresso + Filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Bar
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 19:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free
Sunday 08:00 – 19:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 13th March 2015

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