As a college student with an obsession over caffeinated beverages, I'm always on the lookout for new cafés that are study-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and reasonably priced. Upon my first visit to Big House Beans, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it fulfilled all three of these qualities. Located in Oakland, this café is easily accessible by bus from the UC Berkeley campus, and it just might become your new favorite place to study!

Coffee With Purpose?

Casey Dai

The co-founder of Big House Beans, John Krause, believes in coffee with a purpose. As a former inmate, he opened this café to break the stigma around formerly incarcerated people. He gives back to the community by creating job opportunities for those who might be struggling to regain their footing after serving prison sentences. For John and his team, Big House Beans is about more than just coffee—it's a second chance.

John founded Big House Beans in 2014, when he started selling coffee in local farmers' markets. After growing his brand, he opened up his first official storefront in Brentwood, CA, in 2018. The new Oakland location that I visited just opened in September of 2021. 

Coffee & Not Coffee

Casey Dai

Now, let's talk coffee. Big House Beans offers most of the standard drinks found in cafés: drip coffee, americanos, lattes, cold brews, etc. Normally, I order lattes at cafés, and the one from Big House Beans did not disappoint. Next time I visit, I plan on trying more innovative drinks, such as the lavender cold brew and the affogato. The owners intentionally buy coffee beans from sustainable sources, and they roast and blend their own beans. Aside from drinks made in-house, Big House Beans' coffee beans are also available for purchase, so you can savor quality coffee from the comfort of your own home. 

If you don't like the taste of coffee, there are other drinks here as well, such as matcha, chai, and hot chocolate. I also tried the matcha lemonade, which was a refreshing blend of flavors that complemented each other surprisingly well.

#SpoonTip: Need some help figuring out what all the different drinks are? Check out this coffee guide to learn about some of the most common caffeinated drinks!

The Food

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Other than drinks, the café also has a wide selection of foods. The choices range from snack items to full-on meals, so there's something for you no matter what mood you're in. 

While I was at the café, I tried the waffles and the avocado toast. The waffles are gluten-free, and you can customize the toppings to your liking. We got our waffles with whipped cream, fruit, and syrup; the ingredients were fresh, and the combination tasted like summer—sweet, with just the right amount of tartness from the berries. Now, I'm not exaggerating here when I say that Big House Beans offers one of the best avocado toasts that I've ever had (and trust me, I've had a lot of them.) The perfectly toasted bread complements the smooth avocado mash, which is seasoned well with various types of spices and other toppings. If you ever get the chance to visit, I definitely recommend ordering a serving.

The Interior

Casey Dai

Out of all of the cafés I've been to in the Bay Area, Big House Beans is one of the most suitable for studying. Soft music plays in the background, and the chattering of customers and tinkering of baristas serve as soothing ambient noise. The café is well-lit and clean, with exposed ceilings (think "industrial chic"), a lot of plants, and modern designs. The best part? There are outlets and free Wi-Fi available!

Well, what are you waiting for? Next time you take a trip to Oakland, make sure to visit Big House Beans for a cup of joe!