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Filter, An Important Independent Coffeehouse in North Dupont and Foggy Bottom


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I'm on a bit of a mission to get more threads started for DC's growing quality coffee shop scene. I know there's a coffee shop thread but great coffee, like great wine bars and, of course, great restaurants, deserve more focused treatment IMO.

Filter is the best coffee house in upper NW. I'm defining "upper NW" as red line from Farragut North up to the Maryland border and including Foggy Bottom/West End/Georgetown. With Illy Cafe, maybe/not really Juan Valdez south of World Bank (and now Filter) the only exceptions, this part of DC is shockingly under-served with great coffee. We're over-run with Starbucks, Marvelous Markets and even worse.

Filter is in north Dupont on 20th just below Florida Ave and the Washington Hilton. It's great and every bit the worthy comparison to Chinatown Coffee, Qualia, Illy, Sidamo, Peregrine, etc.

Filter is not a Counter Culture house. They source their beans from Caffe Pronto in Annapolis, itself one of the very best coffee shops (and wholesalers) in the region. Filter has two coffee menus with one devoted to reserves. Had a great Panamanian from that menu recently. Further, it's a low key place with friendly and knowledgeable staff. They even have a cool Marzocco espresso maker that was custom ordered, painted orange and sports the Filter name. These folks know and love coffee.

About the only downside is that the space is very small and it can be really difficult to get a table at nearly any time of day. And now I'll exacerbate that problem with this post but I feel obligated to share smile.gif

Filter doesn't roast onsite but that still jives with my onsite roasting theory; namely, a place that roasts on site can usually be assumed to serve excellent coffee but a lack of onsite roasting does not mean a place isn't top tier. Filter is an example of that. I strongly recommend it to coffee lovers and would love to hear what other coffee-loving Rockwellians think.. IMHO, Filter is cool, exceptionally good and very much the real deal in a bit of a real deal desert.

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As much as I love Caffe Pronto beans, I felt that the shop did injustice to its cold concentrate the one time I had iced coffee there. For one thing, I was unhappy that my 16oz was $3 after taxes versus $2 and change that I can get at a variety of places, and the other was that it was not as flavorful as past Pronto products I have tried at other shops that use Caffe Pronto beans. I think I was mostly miffed about the price charged that my tastebuds ceased to taste after that. Honestly, I am trying to recall, since it was awhile ago, but the value for price isn't worth the drive for me, was what I recall.

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Well, their new place looks almost done. Paper on the windows, but interior looks pretty finished. Probably waiting for the last permit walk-through approvals before opening? It is right next to Chalin's on I and 19th St, NW. I walked by and did a double-take, since I wasn't expecting a nice coffeeshop nearby!


Thank You DOH, we passed Health inspection! @DCRA See you tomorrow morning for our BBL
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Looks like noone has posted since the opening of their 2nd location downtown (20th and I St NW-Need a title change!) last year.

As has been reported elsewhere, Filter #2 does not offer wifi. Beyond that, it has a no-laptop policy though, oddly, smart phones, ipads and kindles are all welcome on cell networks. I'm all for owners deciding whatever they like with wifi. And I'm definitely all for owners figuring out policies that limit squatting and ensure they can sustain enough profit to survive and thrive. All said, this policy is a bit odd in my view but not a big deal for me since I'm mostly about The Coffee.

The I Street venue is very different from Dupont. Whereas Dupont is a bit quirky and has some character with its below ground location and slightly-weathered decor, I St is much more modern, open, bright, business like and, dare I say, European. Both spots are hip but I St is maybe a metal-and-glass, more minimalist, German/Northern Euro kind of hip to Dupont's wood-and-brick, southern Euro, devil-may-care kind of hip. Whichever of the two, these guys are clearly top tier for DC in my view when it comes to the joe.

I only made it to I St for a first visit very recently. The coffee program there is as serious and effective as Dupont considering the product, equipment and average skill levels behind the counter. These guys take coffee seriously. They are in the relative rare set of shops that focus equally well on espresso and brewed coffee.

Ceremony (formerly Caffe Pronto) is the exclusive provider to Filter at both locations. A good or bad thing depending on your perspective though tough to argue that Ceremony is anything other than an excellent roaster and purveyor of fine coffee. Both Filters are currently using Ceremony's "Mass Appeal/Sweet Cheeks" espresso, the same as The Coffee Bar and, imho, the best of three that Ceremony does.

At I St, I had a Brazilian pourover which had all the fullness and richness one might expect. These guys also do the best version of a flat white in the area. Finally, one newer and novel note (available at both Filters) is Ceremony's new experimental "barrel" series, using oak wine barrels. If you sniff the beans blindfolded, you might not even recognize it as coffee. Will leave to someone else to comment on flavor for those if there's interest.

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These guys also do the best version of a flat white in the area.

As opposed to the only version of a flat white in the area? If anyone else is serving flat whites or long blacks, this Australian coffee drinker wants to know!

Funny you should ask.

There is one other spot I know that does a flat white as part of their normal menu aside from Filter. It has a thread here on dr.com.

Beyond that, and this is a point that can entirely be debated and challenged, the very notion of a "flat white" is somewhat akin to an inkblot and I say that having enjoyed them in Sydney. Most people will agree that a Flat White is an espresso drink with less foam than a Capp and less milk than a latte. Some describe it as a slightly larger version of a "cortado," which is itself a bit of a moving target in terms of vessel and espresso/milk proportion depending on which country's version and who's making whatever case for what It is.

All that to say that there are also places in and around DC that will do a Flat White for you but, depending on the barista on duty, you might need to tell them what it is. One spot where I've gotten one, not on menu, that I felt was competent, was Peregrine.

Hope that helps.

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