Get our free newsletter

Whoever decided coffee was a social lubricant, deserving of a sunny space filled with tables and couches and vibrant conversation, has never really stopped to examine the culture of java drinking. Haven’t they noticed that it’s the first liquid of the day, when most humans are still fighting with their reptilian brains and trying to adopt a friendly, non-criminal persona? Haven’t they noticed that most people plug into their computers, alone with their virtual friends, when hooked up to the caffeine drip? Haven’t they noticed that people who spend hours in a coffee shop are probably over-educated and under-employed and desperately clinging to civilized society? The last thing they want to do is answer that prototypical D.C. question: “So what do you do for a living?”

The Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso Bar is the place for real caffeine addicts. It’s located near Dupont Circle but on a back street by the nail salons and dry cleaners and the other fringe characters in the neighborhood. You have to walk down a few stairs to enter its partially submerged, brick-lined space, where the lighting is low and the decor minimal chic. Its baristas and counter employees are just friendly enough but not so perky that you want to slug one.

Best yet, Filter serves a small number of coffees prepared from beans roasted by Caffe Pronto in Annapolis, the same folks who work with Cathal Armstrong to create his signature blend for Restaurant Eve. Each coffee, whether 12 or 16 ounces, is prepared by hand using a Hario V60 drip cone, which produces a full-bodied, full-flavored cup when prepared right. Don’t miss the Sumatra Lintong that’s currently on Filter’s menu. The natural, unwashed beans make for a non-traditional morning jolt, a cup infused with the flavor of chocolate dipped strawberries. Just be sure to drink it before it cools. Interestingly enough, that Sumatra takes on some unpleasant sour tones as it approaches room temperature.

More reasons to like Filter: free wifi to reinforce our antisocial behaviors and an excellent spread of treats from Hawthorne Fine Breakfast Pastry in Severna Park, including an apple danish that’s short on processed sugars and long on naturally sweet flavors. One more thing, too: Filter has a sense of humor. You can experience it daily with the sidewalk chalkboard, where you can read little digs like this: