“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink,” Gertrude Stein said. “It’s something happening.” You don’t just chug a coffee back like a glass of water or Gatorade. You drink it as part of a routine; it creates space to think, to hatch a plan for a successful day while the caffeine slips into your bloodstream, providing the fuel to get it all done. It’s not too much to say that for most of us, mornings revolve around a cup of coffee.
And America’s coffee culture has changed in the last 15-odd years. With the third wave of coffee, consumers moved on from fast coffee from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Caribou Coffee. They want a coffee with a story. They want to know where the beans were sourced from, how they’re farmed, where they’re roasted and how they’re brewed. The modern coffee consumer doesn’t mind paying a few dollars more and waiting a few extra minutes for a cup of coffee made with quality beans and attention to detail — and there’s no shortage of coffee shops up to the task.
Admittedly, there are too many specialty coffeehouses, cafes and roasteries in the US that are worthy of praise for us to make a definitive “best of” list. But these are the coffee spots that we at GP have visited and where we have consumed our fair share of coffee. If you’re in the neighborhood, we suggest you stop in and do the same.
Criteria for Inclusion: Choosing the “best” of anything that requires a subjective assessment of quality will always lead to debate. The coffee shops on this list are ones that we either have frequented personally (at some point) or are inspired to, thanks to their roasting methods, sourcing philosophies, ambience and, most of all, the artisanal coffee that comes with a story.
GP’s 25 Favorite Coffee Shops Across America
Addiction Coffee House – New Orleans, LA
Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop and Coffee Bar – Minneapolis, MN
Anthology Coffee – Detroit, MI
Black Tap Coffee – Charleston, SC
Blue Copper Coffee Room – Salt Lake City, UT
Boxcar Coffee Roasters – Boulder, CO
Cartel Coffee Lab – Tempe, AZ
Catalina Coffee Shop – Houston, TX
The Coffee Fox – Savannah, GA
Crema – Nashville, TN
Cultivar Coffee – Dallas, TX
Dirt Cowboy Cafe – Hanover, NH
Espresso Vivace – Seattle, WA
Heart Roasters Eastside Cafe – Portland, OR
Kickapoo Coffee Roasters – Milwaukee, WI
Madcap Coffee – Grand Rapids, MI
Ozo Coffee Company – Boulder, CO
Panther Coffee – Miami, FL
Peregrine Espresso – Washington, D.C.
Sightglass Coffee – San Francisco, CA
Speckled Ax – Portland, ME
Third Rail Coffee – Manhattan, NY
Uncommon Grounds Coffee and Tea – Burlington, VT
Verve Coffee Roasters – Santa Cruz, CA
1369 Coffee House – Cambridge, MA
Reader’s Choice Coffee Shops:
We asked for your input on what shops you love that didn’t land on our picks. So far, we’ve had some solid picks from readers, and we’ve compiled the list below. If you have a suggestion for great shop, send us a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sump Coffee – St. Louis, MO | Glenn Z.
Bird Rock, James Coffee Co., Dark Horse, Modern Times – San Diego, CA | Josh H.
Rising Star – Cleveland, OH | Andrew E.
High Five Coffee, Asheville, NC | Michael T.
Lux Central – Phoenix, AZ | Jesse B.
Menotti’s Coffee Stop – Venice, CA | Alex U.
Intelligentsia – Multiple Locations | David V.
Slate, Elm – Seattle, WA | Samuel K.
Corvus, Stowaway, Crema, Amethyst, Novo – Denver, CO | Tom K.
Steam Espresso, Blackeye – Denver, CO | Kris P.
Perq Coffee Bar – Sarasota, FL | Chilly C.
Neat Coffee – Westport, CT | Rob P.
ReAnimator, Ultimo, Rival Bros., Menagerie – Philadelphia, PA | Steve F.
Bull Run – Minneapolis, MN | Steve F.
Anelace Coffee – Minneapolis, MN | Michael B.
Bradbury’s – Madison, WI | Steve F.
La Colombe – Multiple Locations | Steve F.
Glanville & Babinski – Los Angeles, CA | William H.
Noble Coffee – Ashland, OR | Linda W.
Small World – Princeton, NJ | Joseph Y.
Rojo’s Roastery – Lambertville, NJ | Wangden K.
Philz Coffee – San Francisco, CA | Dario B.
Addiction Coffee House
New Orleans, Louisiana
In Brief: The coffeehouse is located in the city’s historic French Quarter in a building split split with a hair salon. Addiction, which is beautifully (and rustically) furnished with salvaged wood and copper-welded barstools, offers a host of drip and pour-over coffees, as well as espressos, cortados and cold brews. If you’re feeling adventurous, try Miss Tracy’s Addiction — an espresso with “steamed coconut milk, steamed milk, warm honey and a dash of cayenne.”
The Beans: The coffeehouse gets its beans from French Truck Coffee, a New Orleans-based food truck. These beans are sourced from Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Peru.
Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop and Coffee Bar
In Brief: Know by locals as ACF, this is a bike shop and coffee bar all in one. In addition to selling and repairing custom bikes, ACF is becoming well known for its coffee. They offer everything from single-origin coffees to espressos, macchiatos and cold brews.
The Beans: Angry Catfish sources beans from Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago, whose beans come from all around the world.
In Brief: Anthology Coffee is helping cultivate a new coffee culture in Detroit. The coffeehouse, which is located in the Ponyride building (and admittedly tricky to find), offers coffee tastings and home-brewing classes to customers. They sell small-batch drip coffees and espressos. Go here for a personal and delicious coffee education.
The Beans: They are sourced from Guatemala, Nicaragua and Kenya.
Black Tap Coffee
Charleston, South Carolina
In Brief: The Black Tap coffee shop first opened in 2012 in the historic neighborhood of Harleston Village. Inside, the small two-story coffeehouse is minimally furnished with custom-built wooden tables, a coffee bar and black-and-white photos. They serve a range of single-origin coffees and an espresso blend.
The Beans: Black Tap Coffee sources beans from Cafe Imports, who gets them from all over the world. Black Tap does, however, roast everything at their roastery, located 10 miles away from their coffee shop, using a 15-kilo Loring Falcon Smart Roaster.
Blue Copper Coffee Room
Salt Lake City, Utah
In Brief: Blue Copper Coffee roasts and supplies coffee beans for a number of Salt Lake City’s coffee joints. So why not go to the source? In 2014, according to the Salt Lake City News, Blue Copper merged with the eight-year-old coffee shop No Brow Coffee Werks, and together they launched the Coffee Room. Here, they offer tasting classes and serve what they call “top-shelf” espressos and coffees. All of the beans are roasted nearby.
The Beans: The company says their coffee beans are sustainably farmed and ethically imported. The beans are sourced from Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Kenya.
Boxcar Coffee Roasters
In Brief: There are two Boxcar Coffee Roasters locations. The flagship location in downtown Boulder opened in 2010, and their second location in Denver opened three years later. Both locations brew their coffee using the “Boilermakr” method, which enables coffee to brew at lower temperatures and at higher elevations. (For more information, read this article on Sprudge.)
The Beans: The beans come from various farmers in Central America, South America and Africa. They are roasted in small batches, near their Denver cafe, at The Source, using a 1929 Ideal Rapid coffee roaster.
Cartel Coffee Lab
In Brief: Visit Cartel’s flagship coffee shop in Tempe. Even though the company has grown, launching five other shops around Arizona, it’s here in Tempe that they roast all their coffee beans. Stop in, grab a cup of whatever you like — we suggest an Atauwauka — and watch how they do it.
The Beans: Their beans come both from “top-notch importers” and straight from the farmers. They are sourced from Central and South America, Africa, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Catalina Coffee Shop
In Brief: This coffee shop has paved the way for third wave coffee in Houston. After opening in 2007, owner Max Gonzalez had difficulty finding a reliable coffee bean roaster — so he opened his own. Over eight years later, Catalina Coffee’s sister company Amaya Roasting Co. continues to roast their coffee. If you’re traveling through Houston, this is a must-stop for coffee. Just expect a little bit of a line.
The Beans: Amaya Roasting Co. sources beans from Colombia, Guatemala and Peru.
The Coffee Fox
In Brief: Located in downtown Savannah, The Coffee Fox brews delicious pour-over craft coffees. If you’re looking to try something new, this coffee shop can whip up a host of inventive signature drinks, like their affogato (two scoops of ice cream with espresso) and their “Eye Opener,” which combines Left Hand Brewing‘s Nitro Stout with espresso.
The Beans: The Coffee Fox’s coffee beans are sourced from El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, Kenya and Ethiopia.
In Brief: The patio of this husband-and-wife-owned coffee shop is perfect (on a nice day) for sitting down and taking in Nashville’s historic Rutledge Hill neighborhood. Their highly skilled baristas make a variety of excellent traditional coffees and espressos. If you want learn how to brew better coffee at home, or learn how to better appreciate “good coffee,” Crema has tasting and brewing classes available to guests.
The Beans: They source their beans from several farmers in Latin America and Africa. The shop, which has been around since 2008, roasts all their own coffee beans.
Cultivar Coffee Bar
In Brief: Founded in 2009, this Texas coffee bar serves single-origin coffees and shares a space with a taco restaurant. They roast their own coffee, on the lighter side, every Tuesday. Both owners, Jonathan and Nathan, are trained baristas who have no problem making an americano or espresso.
The Beans: Cultivar’s coffee beans are sourced from Guatemala and Colombia.
Dirt Cowboy Cafe
Hanover, New Hampshire
In Brief: The Dirt Cowboy Cafe has been a fixture in Hanover since 1993. Today they claim to serve around 600 customers each day. Even if you’re not looking for coffee, stop by this boutique shop and pick up a croissant or a lemon-and-raspberry granita.
The Beans: They use Arabica beans sourced from all over the world.
In Brief: This Seattle-based coffee shop specializes in espresso. The owner David Schomer has written a book on the subject (Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques). The shop brews two signature espressos: the Espresso Vita, which has strong notes of caramel, and the Espresso Dolce, which has chocolate and floral notes. Stop in and try both.
The Beans: Espresso Vivace uses Arabica beans, roasted in a Northern Italian style, which allows them to caramelize and produce a sweeter-tasting espresso.
Heart Roasters Eastside Cafe
In Brief: Portland is home to two Heart coffee shops; both are located on either side of the Willamette River. Their Eastside location is small and quaint, offering top-quality cappuccinos, espressos and lattes. Bring the newspaper, order a coffee and relax in Portland’s overcast weather.
The Beans: Their beans are sourced from Kenya, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Colombia.
Kickapoo Coffee Roasters Coffee Shop
In Brief: For years, Kickapoo Coffee Roasters sold their high-quality and Fair Trade coffee beans to the many restaurants and stores in the greater Milwaukee area, and this past December, they opened their first cafe. Their coffee selection is decidedly immense. Stop in to try one of their numerous single-origin coffees, like an Organic Peru Huabal with citrus and maple flavors, or a blend (we suggest The Rooster Organic Blend).
The Beans: Kickapoo’s coffee beans are sourced from Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Congo and Ecuador.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
In Brief: Madcap Coffee’s cafe and roastery are both located in Grand Rapids. (They also just opened a second cafe attached to their roastery.) The two co-founders, Trevor Corlett (who is also serving as the current past chair for the Barista Guild of America) and Ryan Knapp (who is also a lead instructor of the Specialty Coffee Association of America), are committed to buying and roasting “sustainable” coffee beans.
The Beans: Their coffee beans are sourced from Kenya, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Rwanda and Ethiopia. All are roasted at their Fulton Street Roastery.
Ozo Coffee Company
In Brief: Ozo Coffee Company has firm roots in Boulder, with three cafes and a roastery and tasting lab (which is SCAA certified). Their flagship cafe on Arapahoe Avenue has friendly service, a large coffee selection and, despite its growing popularity, never seems to be too crowded.
The Beans: They sell a variety of single origins and blends that are sourced from around the world.
In Brief: Panther Coffee started as just a bike cart selling cold-brew coffees. Now they’ve been written about by The New York Times and won a Good Food Award for their Kenya Kirura coffee. Yes, their small-batch coffee is excellent, so go for that. But if you stop in, grab a cold brew (it’s Miami afterall). And make sure to also check out the local artwork that surrounds the place.
The Beans: Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Nicaragua. Click here to see their current offerings.
In Brief: When exploring America’s capital make sure to hit one of Peregrine Espresso’s three locations. Since the first of these D.C.-based coffeehouses opened in 2008, the company has quickly garnered acclaim, being named one of America’s Best Coffee Bars by Food & Wine and one of the 10 Best Boutique Coffee Shops by Bon Appétit. They are best known for their batch-brewed single origins and by-the-cup pour-over coffees.
The Beans: Their beans, which are supplied by Counter Culture Coffee, come from Ethiopia, Colombia, Rwanda and Papua New Guinea.
San Francisco, California
In Brief: Sightglass Coffee has four locations (soon to be six) — all in the Bay Area. Throughout the year, Sightglass sources small batches of coffee beans from all around the world; it’s what they call “a seasonal fruit.” All the beans are roasted at their roaster, which is also in San Francisco. If you want to taste a unique espresso, order their Owl’s Howl. The blend boasts notes of honey, ripe berries, chocolate and lemon.
The Beans: Their beans are sourced from Latin America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua), Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda) and the Pacific Islands (Indonesia, Papua New Guinea).
In Brief: Since opening in 2012, this inconspicuous little coffee spot has become one of Portland‘s hidden gems. They specialize in wood-roasted organic coffee, brewed one cup at a time.
The Beans: Their beans are sourced from Guatemala, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Colombia.
Third Rail Coffee
Manhattan, New York
In Brief: The only two Third Rail Coffee locations are in Manhattan — one in Greenwich Village, and another in the East Village. Along with the usual caffeinated drinks, both spots offer a wide range of espresso options. Their beans come from all around the world and, for added variety, they also host various guest coffees from other roasters every month or so.
The Beans: Third Rail’s beans are sourced from Counter Culture Coffee, whose beans come from all over: South America (Colombia), Central America (El Salvador), Africa (Rwanda, Ethiopia) and Papua New Guinea.
Uncommon Grounds Coffee and Tea
In Brief: This family-run coffee joint has been in the same spot, in the center of downtown Burlington, for over 20 years. All their coffee is roasted in their Probat L12 roaster and served fresh. Make sure to stop in when heading up to Smugglers’ Notch, or before starting the long drive back home.
The Beans: They source their coffee beans from around the globe, including Costa Rica, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Verve Coffee Roasters
Santa Cruz, California
In Brief: Verve has six locations spread between Santa Cruz, West Hollywood and Los Angeles. They’re also reportedly about to open a San Francisco location as well. The company is committed to serving high-quality coffee, sourced from around the globe, that also adheres to their “Farmlevel Initiative,” which supports their coffee farmers through direct-trade practices.
The Beans: Most of their beans come from Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia) and Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama).
1369 Coffee House
In Brief: Some of Boston’s best coffee shops are, ironically, not in Boston. Just outside the city limits are Bloc 11 (Somerville), Diesel Cafe (Somerville) and Cafe Fix (Brookline), all of which serve Grade-A specialty coffees. However the best of the bunch (arguably) is the 1369 Coffee House, which lies across the Charles River in Cambridge. They’ve been in the same location (1369 Cambridge Street) since 1993, and serve a range of roasts, “from a full city light mahogany roast to a dark Italian roast.” Also, if your kids are with you, they make delicious homemade hot chocolate and hot cider.
The Beans: They source their beans from Africa (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya), Central and South America (Mexico, Brazil), and Sumatra in Indonesia. The beans are roasted locally.