The Refinery is supposed to be a "concept" coffee shop. I'm not really sure what that means, but I was walking by the coffee shop and it intrigued me. They boast that they won one of the best coffee shops in Los Angeles. I know at least 5 really great coffee shops, so I thought that this place must be good.
The ambiance is modern with large amounts of empty space. Seating is generous with tables spaced far apart. The whole place has a very industrial motif.
As I walked in, I looked along the walls and didn't see any coffee bags for purchase. My first coffee sense alert went off, what coffee are they brewing? All the great shops have coffee bags for sale. Welp, I'm already here so I ordered my typical cappuccino and a few minutes later it was ready on the bar.
The latte art was good enough, but the milk wasn't frothy and silky smooth cream. It had a lot of holes it in, which isn't really a problem but made me think the barista was new. As I started drinking, I was surprised at how little flavor the coffee had. It was very subdued, with barely any hints of nuts. The after taste was almost bland without much flavor coating the tongue. I prefer my coffees on the light side, but this espresso was too light, too flavorless, almost like water.
Maybe I just got a really bad shot, maybe the espresso was meant to be served pure without milk, or maybe the barista was just new. This is not one of the top 10 coffee shops in Los Angeles. Intelligentsia and Urth Cafe are strolling distance away and both serve superb coffee. But maybe, if you're in downtown Santa Monica and you don't want to wait at Starbucks, the Refinery is an option. Otherwise, head on over to Intelligentsia.