It’s official: Trouble Coffee is no longer a tenant at 4033 Judah Avenue, as fellow Sunset business Damnfine took over the lease as of July 2. But even if Giulietta Carrelli’s groundbreaking temple to toast may be in new hands, longtime fans of her ultra-dark coffee can take some comfort in knowing they can still buy her San Leandro-roasted beans. Just like the old days, Carrelli will bike a bag of beans to your house — though, like the best surf breaks, that service is for Sunset neighborhood locals only.
Carrelli never wanted Trouble to be just a coffee shop; she knew it was a coffee business, or so she told Standart Magazine for its 27th issue in June 2022. Her commitment to her craft is evident now more than ever given Trouble’s online shop’s newest items. Carrelli’s Elbow Grease blend, named for the auto shop workers who were some of her first customers, is available for delivery all over the country by mail and by bike delivery for those in the Outer Sunset. The blend is available by the bag ($20) or as a weekly subscription, and one can purchase Carrelli’s medium roast blend, The Hammer, for just a dollar more, also by mail and bike delivery.
It’s not clear how long the availability will last, or what the future ultimately looks like for Trouble. Carrelli signed a 10-year-lease not long before handing the keys to Damnfine, and the redesign of her parklet (which she says was the first true parklet in San Francisco) was finished not long before the transition, too. When Carrelli opened about 15 years ago, the toast scene was nascent and specialty coffee had yet to develop a personality beyond the clinical minimalism so often associated with coffee snobbery. Her personality, vibrancy, and legacy is undeniable. Rai Littlejohn of Mission District pop-up Deathless Coffee is an enormous fan and a friend of Carrelli’s. He describes Trouble as the kind of place that’s instantly familiar while still endlessly curious, a house party hosted by your best friend but full of people you’ve never met. “Beach vibes, nods to punk rock everywhere, the flow of it all. It felt like an extension of somebody’s brain,” Littlejohn says.
The Judah location was his favorite coffee shop in the city, he says. That’s much the sentiment for born-and-raised San Franciscan Cléo Charpantier, too. She hung out at the shop in high school, when she and her friends would “practically make a pilgrimage” to get toast and coffee. She remembers trying to order, since the shop didn’t have a menu, and feeling like an insider once she figured it out. “Trouble is a cornerstone of the Sunset,” Charpantier says. “When I looked to move out there, the only criteria was that I was within walking distance of the shop.”
Carrelli, and her faithful dog Pig, racked up an enormous amount of “cred,” as Carrelli calls it, in her neighborhood and in the cafe scene. An article in Pacific Standard put her peanut butter cinnamon toast on everyone’s radar, and NPR’s “This American Life” caught wind of the good word, dedicating a third of their No Place Like Home episode to her story and cafe. (Though, for what it’s worth, Carrelli told Standart Magazine the hyperfocus on her mental health, a part of her life she is not ashamed of, made for an inappropriate and borderline inaccurate representation of her business.) The third wave of toast, named so by coffee outlet Sprudge, owes a lot to Carrelli, as does anyone who stopped in for a high-octane cup of Elbow Grease. Pay homage while you still can with your literal dollars.