Algorithm Coffee Co. celebrates opening on University Avenue

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce co-CEO Kirsten MacDonald, Algorithm owner Aaron Hubbard and Councilmembers Linda Maio and Darryl Moore pose at Algorithm's ribbon cutting ceremony.
Aslesha Kumar/Staff
Berkeley Chamber of Commerce co-CEO Kirsten MacDonald, Algorithm owner Aaron Hubbard and Councilmembers Linda Maio and Darryl Moore pose at Algorithm's ribbon cutting ceremony.

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Berkeley residents gathered at specialty coffee shop Algorithm Coffee Co. Friday for a mixer and art show to celebrate its ribbon cutting and recent opening on University Avenue.

The cafe — located at 1122 University Ave. — had its soft opening two weeks ago in a space that previously housed Cafe Yesterday, a nonprofit coffee shop owned by Aaron Hubbard, Algorithm’s current owner.

Algorithm — with its name stemming from a carefully calculated mathematical process — was opened with the aim to craft custom coffee beverages and streamline the ordering process.

“Coffee has always been a passion of mine since I was younger,” Hubbard said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Hubbard said he had to close down Cafe Yesterday because his rent increased following a change in building ownership. Although he could no longer afford to run a nonprofit coffee shop, he still wanted to continue selling coffee out of Berkeley, so he decided to open Algorithm as a for-profit business.

Hubbard and his team spent three months renovating the space to have a more modern style that he termed “future rustic.” Former customer of Cafe Yesterday Jennifer Won said she appreciated the atmosphere of the new interior.

“(It) feels like a creative space where you have the freedom to think— you don’t feel confined. It’s just really open and friendly,” Won said.

Robert Myers, co-founder of nearby Highwire Coffee Roasters on San Pablo Avenue, said he thinks the community could certainly benefit from the opening of a new cafe, which could potentially provide a new niche for coffee drinkers.

Algorithm is both a cafe space and coffee company that sources and roasts all of its own coffee. According to A-B Moore, a barista at Algorithm, their coffee is single-origin, meaning all beans in a batch are sourced from the same geographic location, unlike some blends often sold at other cafes.

Hubbard opted for a concise menu and omitted the Italian vocabulary for common espresso drinks, such as cappuccino or macchiato. Customers will instead be encouraged to interact with the barista to custom-order their coffee according to how much espresso, steamed milk and any other add-ons they want.

“Everything we do we try to simplify,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard added he would like to support Berkeley businesses by selling local goods at Algorithm. Along with coffee, the cafe currently offers baked goods from Firebrand Artisan Breads, an Oakland-based bakery, as well as locally-sourced tea from Blue Willow Tea.

While its main objective is to fashion a high-quality cup of coffee, Hubbard also expressed an interest in using his cafe to promote local artists. The cafe walls sport custom artwork by Bobbie K Owens, and Hubbard plans to also put on regular comedy shows starting in April, similar to those hosted at Cafe Yesterday.

Maulin Chokshi, president of the University Avenue Association, said Algorithm’s opening “gives (the city) a nice variety of persons and places selling coffee, which makes it a boon for a coffee drinker.”

Berkeley resident Allison Landa, who for years frequented Cafe Yesterday, said she views the opening of Algorithm very positively and thinks it will provide a valuable gathering spot for people in the area.

Overall, Hubbard hopes to bring life and a young entrepreneurial spirit to West Berkeley.

“It’s a community space — that’s what cafes have really become, and I built this space to work,” Hubbard said.

Contact Anna Dell’Amico at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adellamico_dc.

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  • “Hubbard said he had to close down Cafe Yesterday because his rent increased following a change in building ownership. Although he could no longer afford to run a nonprofit coffee shop, he still wanted to continue selling coffee out of Berkeley, so he decided to open Algorithm as a for-profit business.”

    Smells like BS! Running a for-profit coffee shop is more expensive than running a non-profit one as you also have to pay a profit to the owner. Sounds like this guy just wanted to make more money for himself and rebrand the shop. That would be fine on its own, but please don’t lie.

    • John Smith

      A non-profit implies a lower margin than a for-profit and those higher margins are more tolerant of rent increases so … you probably need to rethink your argument.

    • Aaron

      No BS my friend. 300% rent increase on top of raises in minimum wage, it was not sustainable… Thanks for being negative :)

      • You still have to pay the same rent and wage costs as a private cafe owner. Becoming a for-profit business in no way fundamentally reduced your operating costs. It probably even increased some costs as now you have to pay more taxes.

        You just want to be able to own your shop be able to profit off of it / sell it when you retire. That’s fine, but kind of shady given that you’re forced your nonprofit out of business.

        Stop lying.