Giant Robot Artist Friends Series – Ray Sato




A huge percentage of us drink coffee. It’s part of a ritual at work where it’s dripping free all day or a first meeting at a safe haven Starbucks. It’s part of our breaks, wake up routine or social life.

Years ago diners served coffee almost free. Forward some decades and the conglomerates arrived and featured fattening mixtures using over roasted beans in gigantic cups for a few dollars. Then more recently, the fast food drive throughs threw in their hats with their own methods of sub $1 cups. Where there’s a low end, a high end usually emerges and it’s timed perfectly with the boutique food movement and it’s coffee.

Ray Sato is the owner of Balconi Coffee Company in West LA. He once operated a shop on Santa Monica Blvd near the border of West LA and Santa Monica. People often will say, “Oh he’s open again? with genuine excitement.” He’s known in the area as a shop that offers siphon or “syphon” coffee which was once prevalent in America decades ago and lives on strongly in Japan and Taiwan. It’s now making it’s way back to the US, and Sato is one of the forefathers of it’s reinvention. He spends at least one part of the day explaining what and how the scientific kit works, and you get to smell the grinds first.

A cup of his coffee might not be Big Gulp sized, it could be a svelte 6 ounces of distinct and crafted flavor, but features an equal amount of caffeine, and ranges from $3.50-4.50. A cup of “Joe”, it’s not. It’s taste is specialized and each cup is brewed one at a time. It’s guaranteed that the same beans dripped at home will not taste the same.

His menu explains the subtle flavors of his international line up of coffees that change practically each week. Some are described to taste like apricot and some blueberry much like the descriptions of lines of wine. He has a few desserts and can also make the fancy coffee concoctions using dairy or non dairy products. The Almond EssenceLatte is one of his creations and is a local favorite.

Balconi is comfortable and clean and you’ll begin to recognize his regular customers including myself. Sato features a no nonsense cafe without wireless and powercord plug-ins. Bring your charged batteries. If not, he does have a vintage manual typewriter if you need to express yourself.


You’ll find Sato more often than not behind the counter and he loves talking about coffee. Balconi Coffee Company.