“We’re leaders in the coffee industry, so we’re pushing boundaries,” Nick Cho told Sprudge, during a visit to the brand new, soon-to-open flagship café for Wrecking Ball Coffee in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco. Cho owns Wrecking Ball with his partner Trish Rothgeb, a noted coffee roaster credited with coining the term “Third Wave Coffee” back in 2002. We’ve documented Wrecking Ball’s growth from pop-up cafe to walk-up window; the new space in Cow Hollow is the brand’s first full shop.
The little café is in a cave-like ground floor storefront under a three story stone manse. Previously a cupcake shop, the storefront also allowed for a relatively easy transition to a surprisingly airy feeling space. Wrecking Ball is scheduled to open Friday, September 5th.
Our visit to the new café was delayed repeatedly because of a specific piece of artisanal metal work. This heavy duty custom inset drain cover for the brew bar recalls the billet grille of a semi-truck. It was handcrafted nearby in Santa Cruz from stainless steel, and fits three fancy Acaia scales, complete with custom firmware that Wrecking Ball and Acaia developed together for the café. The major difference in the scales is the display: instead of simply counting up from 0 to 60, they display minutes and seconds in the timer section. Cho also mentioned that they may work with Acaia to further develop an app for training purposes in the café.
Cho called the brew bar at Wrecking Ball “an homage to the Brewer’s Cup”, an internationally sanctioned World Coffee Events brewing competition that Cho helped architect in 2011. With three brew stations with scales and Kalita Wave drippers, and the three “judges’” seats at the bar, it’s clear this cafe feature was modeled on a competition setting. This isn’t the only filter coffee service the café will offer; a Wilbur Curtis Company G4 brewer sits subtly hidden behind a pre-existing stone wall near the Square register.
Espresso service is handled by a La Marzocco Strada EP and the Marzocco/Mazzer Vulcano grinder. The beans in the hopper are the latest Wrecking Ball 2UP Espresso blend. Made up of Colombia Nariño, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and Guatemala Antigua, a shot is basically guaranteed to provide two extra lives.
Some other highlights include:
- Fancy pineapple wallpaper courtesy a collaboration between Hygge and West and Rifle Paper Company.
- Neat linen aprons from Studiopatro.
- A pastry case housing goods from Marla Bakery.
- Retail display featuring Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate out of Arcata.
- Teas from Highwire, longstanding friends of Wrecking Ball.
- A friendly “All Gender Restroom.”
- The subwoofer under the counter was pulled from Cho’s ’93 Toyota Celica.
While touring the tiny café, Cho told me, “As a woman-owned business our aesthetic tilts a little more feminine.” It’s easy to see that this shop doesn’t have the aggressive industrial masculinity of many specialty coffee destinations. While there’s certainly room for both, it’s refreshing to see a different design approach–the light whiteness of the room helps offset a lack of windows and cave-like proportions.
It’s great to see this small San Francisco coffee brand step into a permanent space. Cho and Rothgeb take the owner-operator ethos to heart, and it will be exciting to see the boundaries they try to push in their new venture.
Leif Haven is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Oakland. Read more Leif Haven on Sprudge.