Hey espresso people,
I thought I'd let the community know of a couple of worthwhile spots to visit for legitimate espresso in Cambridge, also known as the MORE pretentious half of Boston. My understanding is that old Boston wasn't your town if you wanted top-level coffee; the pre-eminence of the West Coast notwithstanding, the espresso aficionado had pitifully few options here, and the overall bar was, as I understand it, fairly low. Luckily, that situation appears to be changing.
Broadsheet Coffee and Barismo are brand-new sources of high-quality espresso. Barismo is on Cambridge Street, not far from the Cambridge Public Library. They offer a wide variety of freshly-roasted coffees from several different sources, but the house espresso has come from Clockwork for a while. The shots are poured slow and tend to be on the darker, nuttier side. I don't favor milk drinks when I have the option of a great shot, so I don't know how their macchiati et cetera are.
Broadsheet Coffee is a new cafe and roasters on Kirkland Ave, just up the street from Hahvahd, that's only been open for five months or so but has picked up an incredible amount of business. Their home-roasted coffee is expensive (surprise surprise), but you can buy it the day it's roasted, if you're on time. They brew their espresso - get this - at 6 bar in the brew head, which results in shots with a thin but persistent, dark crema and complex flavors that lean on the tart side. The owners are super cool and love to talk about coffee; they distribute and tamp with expensive tools from St. Anthony Industries, though, which means much of their advice is not particularly helpful to those of us working on Gaggia Classics.
For more knowledgeable, friendly baristas, head up Massachusetts Avenue a few thousand feet to Simon's Coffee. They like South American coffees, and they pour the kind of shot I like the best - round, rich, and thick as paint. The head barista is a great guy to talk to.
The above are my top three choices after years of searching and sipping in this town. Arguments could be made for Bloc 11 in Union Square and Two Figs in the back of Somerville, but the first is too overpriced (especially for 15-day-old Intelligentsia Black Cat) and the second too remote. Mystic River Coffee Roasters in Medford sells cheaper beans, but they're oily and can make a bitter cup. Incidentally, if want totally worthwhile A-/A espresso beans but don't want to pay ridiculous Boston prices, I highly recommend a quick drive down to Providence for Whisper Espresso by New Harvest, or Blind Pig by Dave's Coffee.