"Coffee Shop or Office?" Test: Espresso a Mano

Originally published May 31st, 2017.

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People often ask me, "What is your favorite coffee shop in Pittsburgh to do work?"

Well, HONESTLY, 50% of the time it's me asking that to myself. Freelance/remote working is a constant balance between work, and life... it is almost like being a student. I'm always looking for the perfect place to "hunker down" and get shit done

I do a lot of work in bed, at my desk, and on my patio... but I know that I get my best work done in a coffee shop, when I have other people to keep me accountable. There are a lot of coffee shops in Pittsburgh... I've been to most... and some are far better for doing work than others. 

So I have devised the Pittsburgh Coffee Shop Workability Test. 

If I'm going to be real, I am not going to share my favorite coffee shop outright... that is too easy. But I will do reviews, shop by shop, of how good places are for doing work. 

Why am I qualified to give these reviews? Because I am a 10-99er. 

Without further ado...

ESPRESSO A MANO in LAWRENCEVILLE

I have no basis for saying this at all, but I think this was the original coffee shop in  ("the new") Lawrenceville? It is the first one I remember seeing, and it is now a Pittsburgh favorite.  I think most of their business is through traffic (a la, "Coffee to go, please") but there are numerous tables for doing work. 

A post shared by Matt Gebis (@espressoamano) on

Here is the thing about Espresso a Mano - it is always packed. Did you see above where I called it a Pittsburgh favorite? Us Pittsburghers are loyal with our love, Espresso a Mano is always getting a chunk of it. 

Its good for them! I am happy for them! I would assume that coffee shop needs to do a lot of business to make a profit (I have no basis for saying that other than this dumb Quora I just read). But this post isn't about Espresso a Mano's profit margin.  It is about their workability factor:

Comfort: 4/10 - wooden benches, metal chairs, cramped spaces
Prevalence of outlets: 4/10 - there is one wall, but 2/3's of tables are not against it
Busy: 9/10 - if you get a table 👏. Also, if you get a table by the door, expect a lot of through traffic. 
Price: Fairly average ($3-4 lattes, ect.)
Cool to have a conversation out loud? The answer is always YES. These are coffee shops, and people working should know to bring headphone. There is also a private nook in the back that is good for coffee with friends. 
Coffee knowledge of staff: 8/10 - Helped me figured out a coffee issue I was having at home
Friendliness of staff: 9/10 - Helped me figured out a coffee issue I was having in the store
Overall workability: 7/10 - Espresso a Mano is literally like an office, or library. The mood is very work centric, so don't expect to show up and feel comfortable on Facebook.  For that reason, I think it is a good place to do work (if you can get a table).  

A post shared by Matt Gebis (@espressoamano) on

Espresso a Mano is located in lower Lawrenceville (like, Morcilla end).

This post was pretty much futile, because no matter what I say, there will always be a heard of people doing work in there.  If I didn't make it clear, I really like Espresso a Mano... I just don't like other people. 

Story photo courtesy: Espresso a Mano.

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