Sextant Coffee Roasters

The Sextant Coffee Roasters logo from the sign outside the front of the store on Folsom Street.Sextant Coffee Roasters is a relatively new name in the San Francisco speciality coffee scene, but fits perfectly into the model established by the likes of Four Barrel Coffee and Sightglass Coffee. Like them, it’s a coffee shop/roaster, roasting on the premises on a vintage cast-iron roaster and occupying an old, warehouse-like building with high ceilings, skylights, exposed rafters and bare brick walls. It’s also roughly halfway between the two, sitting on Folsom Street between the Mission (Four Barrel) and SOMA (Sightglass), just a block from the Wrecking Ball roastery.

When it comes to coffee, Sextant specialises in Ethiopian coffees, the owner, Kinani Ahmed, hailing from Ethiopian. However, it also occasionally roasts some Central and South American coffees, aiming to roast light and extract the maximum sweetness from the coffee. The house-blend, Maiden Voyage, is always on espresso, while there are two single-origins on pour-over, using the Kalita Wave filter, and another on bulk-brew, all changing on a weekly-basis. If you fancy tea, then there’s a selection of loose-leaf teas brewed using the Silverton drippers (which I’ve only seen at La Colombe, where they were being used for coffee). If you’re hungry, there’s the usual range of pastries and cookies.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Sextant Coffee, as seen looking north east along Folsom Street in San Francisco.
  • In case you were wondering if you've come to the right place, there's a sign outside...
  • ... as well as one on the wall above the windows.
  • Stepping inside, there's an uncluttered seating area by the windows to the left...
  • ... then comes the counter, also on the left...
  • ... while directly ahead of you, a long corridor runs the whole length of Sextant.
  • There's a takeaway station immediately next to the door on the right-hand wall...
  • ... followed by a long row of two-person tables against the right-hand wall.
  • You can also sit at the counter if you like, as seen here, looking towards the front of Sextant.
  • Sitting here gives you a great view of the coffee-making end of the operation.
  • Carrying on, there is further seating at the back on both sides of the corridor.
  • There's a six-person table & a small, round table on the left, seen here from the back.
  • Further on, still on the left, there's a small bar with four, low-backed chairs.
  • Opposite this, on the right, are three of these high, four-person tables.
  • Finally, right at the back of the corridor, is a narrow door, flanked by a pair of narrow windows.
  • This leads to a secluded courtyard with more seating in the form of small, round tables.
  • A panoramic view of the courtyard with the door into Sextant on the right.
  • Let's go back in, shall we?
  • The view from the back, looking the length of the corridor. But what's that by the door?
  • It's Sextant's green bean store, which is right at the back on the right-hand side...
  • ... while opposite it, on the left, is the roaster, a refurbished vintage Probat UG22.
  • More roastery kit: I think this one removes stones from the green beans before roasting.
  • There's also an office back here on a sort of mezzanine level. Great use of space!
  • There are windows front and back, plus regular skylights along the corrdior. And lots of lights!
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • Another view of the lights/skylights, looking towards the front.
  • Another obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • Meanwhile, this beauty hangs over the counter.
  • Sextant is named after one of these. If you don't know, it's an old naval navigational aid.
  • As well as drinking the coffee, you can also buy beans and take them home.
  • The retail shelves are on the left-hand wall by the counter.
  • The coffee menu is also on the left-hand wall, just a little further back above the counter.
  • Talking of the counter; here it is, espresso machine to the fore, tea/filter coffee to the rear.
  • Espresso is handled by this three-group Victoria Arduino Black Eagle.
  • Although this looks like it's the pour-over station, the Silverton drippers are used to make tea.
  • Instead this is where the pour-over and bulk-brew fiter is made.
  • As well as all this coffee/tea, there's also a small selection of pastries.
  • So, to coffee. I began with the Maiden Voyage espresso blend, served with sparkling water.
  • My espresso on its own, in a classic, black cup.
  • I rounded off my visit with a pour-over of the Sidama Hirmate single-origin, served in a mug.
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The first thing to say about Sextant Coffee Roasters is that it occupies an absolutely gorgeous space. It might have had something to do with the late evening sun pouring in through the west-facing front windows, but as much as I loved Four Barrel in the Mission and Sightglass on 7th Street, I think this tops them both.

On Folsom Street, near the corner with 10th Street, Sextant is on the southern edge of SOMA and the western edge of the Design District, an area of old industrial buildings. This industrial heritage is still present in the multiple car dealerships and body shops surrounding Sextant. The space itself is long and thin, perhaps as long as Four Barrel, but maybe a shade under half as wide. The layout is simple and uncluttered, with an open seating area at the front, more seating in a corridor-like section that runs from front to back (where you’ll find the roaster) and, finally, four round tables in a secluded yard at the back.

Sextant has a glass door on the right, with two floor-to-ceiling windows on the left. Stepping inside, the corridor stretches ahead of you, counter set back on the left, leaving space for an open seating area with three small, round, well-spaced tables between it and the window. The Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine faces the windows, but you order at the till around the corner, which is where you’ll find the cake. You can also sit here at the counter on one of a handful of bar-chairs, watching the coffee being made. The tea and pour-over operation is on a second worktop behind the espresso machine.

The corridor has a line of seven round, two-person tables along the exposed brick of the right-hand wall. About half-way down, there’s a six-person table on the left, followed by the roastery, separated from the seating by wooden railings. If you want to watch the roaster, a refurbished Probat UG22, in action, there’s a narrow four-person bar which provides the perfect vantage-point. There’s more seating down here, this time against the right-hand wall opposite the roaster, where you’ll find three four-person high tables, beyond which are various sacks of green beans. Finally, the corridor ends with the door in the back, opening onto the yard.

There’s lots of natural light, including two narrow windows at the back, and regular skylights along the length of the corridor. The lighting is subdued towards the back, although I suspect that it’s brighter in the morning.  To help things out, there are multiple lights hanging from the ceiling.

When it comes to coffee, Sextant tries to make things as accessible as possible. Rather than relying on regions/origins, which can be confusing to the non-coffee-obsessed, Sextant names its main coffees, such as its Maiden Voyage house espresso, a blend of Ethiopian coffees (Sidamo and Yirgacheffe).

I started with the Maiden Voyage, a very fine espresso. This has a pleasant kick in the first sip, which gave me a much-appreciated jolt. A fruity blend, it was, after that first hit, quite smooth. I followed this with a single-origin Sidama Hirmate pour-over (the alternative was a Harar Ogsa Day’s Horse). A rich, fruity coffee, with lots of body, it too was very smooth. Served in a mug, it was just as good cold as it was hot, and I really enjoyed it.

I was very fortunate during my visit, as I not only manged to meet the owner, Kinani Ahmed, but also the head roaster, Mel, and barista, Anthony, all of whom chatted away to me for ages over my coffee.

1415 FOLSOM  STREET • SAN FRANCISCO • CA 94103 • USA
https://sextantcoffee.com +1 415-355-1415
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Sextant (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Counter, Bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Cakes
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power No
Chain No Visits 30th January 2017

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