San Diego coffee roasting and retail company Better Buzz Coffee came into the new year on a high, opening its most ambitious and creative shop to date: a 7,500 bi-level roastery cafe in Hillcrest.
The bright, open shop — Better Buzz’s third to open within the past year and eighth overall — includes a centerpiece bar, an upstairs training bar and public lounge spaces, among other amenities. Yet the engine that keeps the new Better Buzz cafe humming is a 22-kilo-capacity Probat roaster, built in 1951.
“We wanted to get a pre-1958 Probat roaster because of the special characteristics — the cast-iron body, the patented airflow system,” Better Buzz’s Erin Hudek told Daily Coffee news, adding that the machine took about a year to refurbish. “We’re super stoked to have one of the few of those that are in the States right now.”
The historic machine is an appropriate fixture in what’s also a historic building, built in 1919 as a surgery annex for St. Joseph’s Hospital. The building had been vacant for some time prior to the company’s first steps toward real estate negotiations five years ago.
“Everybody in the community is super excited that it’s finally got something in there,” Hudek said. “Especially something as awesome as Better Buzz. It was just an empty, kind of trashed historical building. We were able to fully restore it. It looks awesome now.”
The bright, open space with modern furnishings and eclectic lighting is anchored by a U-shaped bar on the ground floor where there’s plenty of seating as well as a conference room available for rent. Dual espresso and coffee stations behind the bar turn out a menu of traditional drinks alongside more elaborate concoctions such as lemon-infused cold brew, turmeric lattes and other flavored drinks.
For what the company calls the “Purist” side of the bar — where the focus is on single-origin coffees prepared as straight espresso, smaller traditional drinks and manual pourovers — there are Curtis Seraphim stations, a La Marzocco Strada MP espresso machine, three Mazzer Kony grinders and a Mahlkonig EKK43 for brew grinding. The opposite “handcrafted specialty” side features a La Marzocco GB3AV machine, while another La Marzocco GB5 and Mazzer Kony station caters to training, education and recipe development.
Meanwhile back in Vista, California, the company’s main roastery continues to crank out 100-pound batches on its Diedrich CV45 for a total output of roughly 2,500 pounds per week, which will likely hold steady for now.
“What we want to do now is really focus on upping the quality overall of all of our stores, because we’ve opened up three new stores in the past year,” Better Buzz Coffee Store Coordinator David Ennis said, noting the Pacific Beach West location that opened last February, the Fashion Valley Mall location that upgraded from kiosk to full store on Black Friday this past fall, and the new Hillcrest location.
The Better Buzz Hillcrest roastery cafe is now open at 801 University Ave in San Diego.