If you need some help in figuring out how to review a specialty coffee cafe, here are some guidelines that we find useful.  There are two areas to a review – the text and the rating.

Review Text.  Try to describe the cafe to someone that has never been there, pointing out any interesting or unusual observations and experiences that are not covered in the existing cafe information on this site or the rating portion of your review.  This text can be as short and simple as a sentence or as detailed as several paragraphs.

Review rating.  The goal here is to try to be consistent relevant to your reviews of other specialty coffee cafes.  There are four categories to score as follows:

Coffee: Quality and Taste
Coffee: Preparation and Presentation
Service: Knowledgeable and Friendly
Cafe: Comfort and Cleanliness

Certainly the taste of the coffee should be foremost in the overall rating of a cafe and we do assign a higher weighting to the coffee quality and taste category.  But we also like to reward those cafes that care about the preparation and presentation of the drink by using fresh-ground, specialty coffee and preparing it according to best-practice guidelines in a clean, comfortable cafe with great service.  We have put together a list of things to look for while visiting the cafe.  Cafes that do more of these things listed will earn a higher rating.

Coffee: Quality and Taste

Clear indication that specialty coffee is being served, clear indication of what company roasted the coffee, clear indication that coffee was roasted fresh, the staff talks about the coffee, the beans for sale are packaged in a way to avoid exposure to air and the environment, the bags of coffee for sale have a ‘Date Roasted’ printed on the bag that is within one or two weeks old, multiple coffees from different origins are offered by the cup, the drink tasted great.

Coffee: Preparation and Presentation

There are separate grinders for coffee, espresso, and decaf, grind immediately before brewing, coffee is fresh brewed, there is noticeable care in the handling of the brewing equipment, water, milk, and drinkware in the preparation of the drink, the espresso cups are preheated, the coffee was served in porcelain/ceramic drinkware if you stayed, water was either served or is available with espresso, the cappuccinos and lattes are presented with latte art, the coffee condiment area is well stocked.

Service: Knowledgeable and Friendly

The staff is prompt and friendly, you are asked when placing your order if you are staying so coffee can be served in porcelain/ceramic drinkware, the staff either initiates or gladly joins in discussion about coffee, the staff is knowledgeable about coffee

Cafe: Comfort and Cleanliness

There is enough seating to stay and enjoy drink, the seating is comfortable, the lighting is adequate for reading, they have WiFi, good music at the right volume, the ambient noise from conversation is not too loud or annoying, the cafe is comfortable, it’s clean outside the entrance, the windows are clean, the counter area is clean in front and behind the counter, the seating area is clean, the coffee condiment area is clean, the bathrooms are clean

Note about the Comfort rating category: There are some amazing cafes, carts and drive-throughs that have little or no seating, no WiFi, and no music in the background.  Certainly these things have nothing to do with great specialty coffee.  However, the weighting for this rating category is sufficiently low that a cafe that lacks these things can still score very well in the rating.  Also, if these things are not important to you, by all means score accordingly.