America's 50 Best Coffee Shops (Slideshow)

Recently named one of GQ's "25 Places to Visit in Austin," Houndstooth Coffee takes its name from the Scottish legend heralding the eponymous plaid as a symbol of regional pride. Houndstooth Coffee, with its quirky Austin vibe, takes city pride seriously by offering barista training from nationally recognized industry professionals and serving premium coffee from roasters including Cuvée and Counter Culture.


49. Happy Coffee Co. — Denver

From a coffee kiosk in a bike shop to a brick-and-mortar shop, Happy Coffee Co. gives Denverites one more reason to be happy (as if they needed it, what with those 300 days of sunshine per year)., Happy Coffee has become the it-place for Denver espresso lovers. Serving Fourbarrel, Heart, and Sightglass beans and others, Happy Coffee takes its drips seriously. Take the Toddy system for iced coffee, an hour-glass-shaped brewer that takes 18 hours to drip all the way through — it's unreal. Or the Aeropress or Vario V60 drip machine — yeah, they mean business. Happy Coffee Co. sits in a minimalist, spacious space on Broadway, perfect for conversations with your friends and baristas.   

48. Ipsento — Chicago

Another Wicker Park coffee shop, Ipsento may be one of Chicago's best known small-batch roasters. Ipsento is one of the few Chicago coffee shops to roast its beans on site. Even more impressive, their specialty drinks and food menu: for example, the Ipsento Latte, made with a mix of coconut milk, regular milk, cayenne, and honey, (plus, of course, some of their incredible espresso), to be sipped alongside the Ernest Hemingway lox croissant sandwich. This literary hiding spot is where you need to go for a relaxing Saturday with a good book and latte. You can also check out their coffee education classes: every Wednesday night, the coffee experts at Ipsento will give you an intro to coffee, from various processes to the history to how to make the best cup at home. 

47. Boxcar Coffee — Boulder and Denver

Boulder, Colo., is bursting at the seams with good coffee shops, but none have gotten quite as much attention as Boxcar Coffee Roasters — not to mention having expanded so nicely into nearby Denver. What makes Boxcar so unique? It's old-school. No frills with its roasting, or its coffee: its roaster is a German Rapid coffee roaster built in 1929, and the coffee is, well, cowboy. One of the most traditional ways to brew coffee (seriously, think back in the day when cowboys made their homes on the range), cowboy coffee means heating the grounds with water. However, Boxcar insists that its unique heating system guarantees the perfect cup of coffee, thanks to its ability to reach the perfect temperature — a challenge at mile-high altitude. Still, that kind of nuanced roasting and brewing leave the tongue with a medley of flavors you'd not expect from a coffee: blueberry, citrus, chocolate, and brown sugar from its variety of beans.

46. Joe Bean — Rochester, New York

With its focus on eco-friendly beans and securing fair-trade coffee from reputable farms, Joe Bean is a coffee shop where customers can feel good about drinking their java. If simply sipping isn't enough, Joe Bean offers classes on everything from milk steaming to espresso technique, making the café a unique spot to learn all things coffee. 

45. Café D’Bolla — Salt Lake City

Voted one of Zagat's "50 Must Try Coffee Shops", Café D'Bolla takes a unique approach to coffee, sourcing its beans from only small farms and estates and micro-roasting each batch to assure customers the cleanest sampling of regional flavors. Authenticity is key at Café D'Bolla, and customers are sure to taste the difference in each cup. 

44. Cognoscenti — Los Angeles

"Adding to the great coffee culture of Los Angeles, this Culver City coffeehouse offers a rotating selection of great roasters and some of the nicest digs in which you could hope to enjoy them. Unlike many coffee shops, Cognoscenti exists to give patrons a relaxing, top notch coffee experience, though I am sure they don't turn away the fast-paced." — Bill Walsh of The Pure Coffee Blog

43. Render Coffee — Boston

"It seems Bostonians have grown to love craft coffee almost as much as they love their Red Sox (almost). Render is a great establishment amongst the exploding Boston coffee scene, serving up Counter Culture and some guest roasters with finesse." — Bill Walsh of The Pure Coffee Blog

42. Gimme! Coffee — New York

The upstate New York coffee roaster turned New York-centric chain of independent shops was making "Third Wave" coffee before it was even a thing. Consider what Ben Phelan wrote in GQ back in 2007, when Gimme was just seven years old and was shopping for its Manhattan location: 

"... A new wave of coffee shops — like Brooklyn's Gimme [and peers around the country] — have a radical idea about coffee: that it can be elevated above mere drinkability and can be a culinary product equal to single-malt Scotch." 

Since then, Gimme has transformed into the godfather of craft coffee, paving the way for today's flashier coffee chains like Blue Bottle. Thanks to carefully sourced, "farm to cup" beans, artisanal roasting (they were recently named Roaster of the Year by Roast magazine), and its homegrown roots, Gimme is quite often the standard that coffee shops in smaller towns and up-and-coming chains hope to achieve. 

41. Sqirl — Los Angeles

Come to Sqirl, one of Food and Wine's A-List Los Angeles Restaurants, for the locally sourced coffee (including Portland's Heart and San Francisco's Ritual), but make sure to stay for the jam. Jam maker Jessica Koslow whips up some truly delicious creations, including blueberry tarragon and strawberry rose geranium, from organic, heirloom fruits procured from nearby farms. Sqirl is all about tradition and taste, and this up-and-coming coffee spot is not to be missed! 

40. Bad Wolf Coffee — Chicago

It's no wonder Bad Wolf Coffee was recently named one of CNN's "Five Hottest New Coffee Spots in the U.S.". Chef Jonathan Ory, veteran of  restaurants Schwa and Momofuku in New York City, has brought his pastry prowess to this Chicago coffee hot spot, serving up both sweet and savory pastries alongside traditional coffees. There's no menu, so when you order your soy latte be sure and ask what Ory's whipped 

39. Kaffe 1668 — New York

We can't ignore the Swedes' influence on the coffee scene. After all, Sweden is a country with some of the highest coffee consumption in the world. All three locations of Kaffe 1668 snag a spot on the list with their individually-brewed, direct-trade, single-source coffees; minimal woodwork seating; and soothing environment in which to sip your coffee. Kaffe's list of coffees takes you far and wide, across the globe, for a tasting experience that's unlike any other. 

38. Daylight Mind — Kona, Hawaii

Not just a seriously delicious (and welcoming) coffee shop, Daylight Mind is also a coffee school, offering a two-and-a-half day intensive course that includes workshops on everything from "agronomic factors that influence cup quality," to an introduction to brewing that perfect cup of coffee. Coffee offerings include espresso drinks and a rotating list of both readymade and "bespoke" coffees (the latter brewed in a Sowden SoftBrew or Chemex), Daylight Mind also offers some great food options, all with the most gorgeous, tropical sunset view of any of the shops on our list. 

37. Intelligentsia Coffee — Various Locations

With locations in Los Angeles and New York (not to mention a training lab in Atlanta), as well as seven spots in its home base of Chicago, Intelligentsia may be one of the fastest growing coffee chains in the nation. And we can see why: Intelligentsia makes a consistently quality cup of coffee — plus, they are dedicated to teaching the public exactly how they roast their direct-trade beans and serve their espresso drinks. (And the Intelligentsia barista training program is notoriously difficult — albeit worth it).

36. Abraço Espresso — New York

You'll be hard pressed to find a tinier shop than Abraço Espresso in Manhattan's East Village (with standing room for maybe a dozen people), but we don't hold that against them. Counter Culture Coffee brews, plus a stellar food menu with Spanish and Portuguese influences (like the raved-about olive oil cake or custard-y frittata) has put this micro-shop on the map.

35. Coava Coffee — Portland, Ore.

The friendly folks at Coava are all about two things: craft and hospitality. Their coffee buyers travel the world learning about farming practices, soil, and production methods to bring the best tasting coffee they can find home to their community. The shop itself is a welcoming space designed for coffee lovers to come together, united in their appreciation for the perfect bean. Coava is also committed to partnering with other coffee shops around the country, helping small businesses expand and succeed.


34. Jubala — Raleigh, N.C.

"A great facet of the [Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill] Triangle, Jubala doles out neighboring Counter Culture beans with a passion. Ready and waiting for you in their shop's warmly-arrayed atmosphere, you would be hard-pressed to not walk out smiling," says Bill Walsh of The Pure Coffee Blog. To that we'll add: a rotating list of high-quality coffee offerings paired with delicious Southern-style biscuits full of anything from apple butter to pimento cheese to country ham? We never want to leave.

33. The Chipped Cup — New York

Nell Casey of Gothamist recently wrote of The Chipped Cup, "We're never far from chain brand java in times of desperation, but there are always better options if you know where to look." Look no further than this cozy coffee shop, which feels more like a much loved country inn than an enclave just off the hustle and bustle of Broadway. Its charming outdoor seating and old-timey ambiance, along with its delectable coffee and pastry, pulls Manhattanites out of the city and into the country one cup at a time.  

32. Barista Parlour — Nashville

Housed in a refurbished garage, Barista Parlor serves up high-end coffee with biker flair. Don't let the hogs parked outside fool you, inside this minimalist, stainless steel-heavy coffee shop, Andy Mumma is pouring up some serious coffee, including Madcap, Sightglass, and Counter Culture, along with a kitchen that churns out some delicious seasonal, locally sourced fare.  

31. Caffé Medici — Austin

In a town that's buzzing with food and drink, Caffé Medici is leading the way for the specialty coffee section. Caffé Medici serves Cuvee espresso and prides itself on pouring the perfect espresso shot. On top of a solid single-origin coffee menu and its own exclusive espresso blend (La Famiglia from Cuvee), the three locations do their part to keep Austin weird — but the good kind of weird. That doesn't mean you'll find a snooty barista in sight at Caffé Medici, though — it's as friendly a space as it is delicious.

30. Fourbarrel — San Francisco

On the inside, Fourbarrel is part hunting lodge, part art gallery, and all artisanal roaster. Customers order underneath an exposed beam wood ceiling next to an impressive array of mounted boars' heads, then sip beside a lovely arrangement of local art. Behind the scenes, however, Fourbarrel prides itself on the expertise of its master roasters, who rely on hands over machines as they coax complex flavors out of coffee from around the world. 

29. Commonplace Coffee Co. House and Roasters — Pittsburgh

Commonplace Coffee Roasters is about as homegrown as you can get — the couple behind Pittsburgh's burgeoning coffee scene, Julie and TJ Fairchild, began with the original coffeehouse and roastery in 2003 in Indiana, Pa. Since then, the coffee company has grown to include four shops and two roasteries in Indiana, Pa., and Pittsburgh. With such rapid growth, you'd think it'd be easy to let the success (and maybe caffeine) get to their heads, but that isn't the case.

"At every step of growth for The Commonplace it has always centered around people," wrote TJ Fairchild in a blog post. "The growth has always been organic and natural; never premeditated and forced." The Fairchilds and Commonplace are actively trying to change Pittsburgh's perception of coffee from, well, something commonplace to something extraordinary.

28. Stumptown — Various Locations

Throw Stumptown into the great coffee debate, and you'll get a variety of opinions. Some people love it, some hate it. Some say it doesn't deserve to be called a great coffee shop — that it's gone corporate. Yet the coffee experts we spoke with all acknowledged that Stumptown is a damn fine cup of coffee. No doubt that Stumptown was the game-changer in the field of coffee; what Starbucks is to Seattle, Stumptown is to Portland. Portland Food and Drink put it best

"Love 'em or loathe them, Stumptown has given Portland a reputation as a serious coffee city, and has turned the industry upside down by cultivating consumers to demand higher quality, and to push cafés into being willing to provide it. Stumptown realized early on that great beans were nothing if the beverages made from them were poorly executed. They have insisted on intense training, equipment programs and wholesale buying requirements." 

Slowly but surely, Stumptown is bringing its quality roasts from coast to coast. But as Stumptown has acknowledged, coffee isn't just about the beans — it's also about process. While the Stumptown shops themselves still sell a great cup, we can't vouch for the quality of Stumptown's coffee as brewed by baristas who haven't experienced their training now that Stumptown is being sold and made just about everywhere.

27. Octane Coffee — Atlanta

Octane is a major player in the Atlanta coffee scene (and a highly recognized one at that). The three locations in Atlanta (there's one more in Birmingham, Ala.) offer V60 Pourover and French press extractions with their own roasts, as well as treats from nearby shops, like local favorites HF Bread and Sublime Doughnuts.

26. Verve Coffee Roasters — Santa Cruz, Calif.

Verve is loved by Santa Cruz residents and visiting coffee geeks alike: it's one of the top coffee shops-turned-roasters in California, and it will be opening a new location in Los Angeles this summer. While part of Verve's success is its supply of roasts to local shops and restaurants (two of which were recognized by the2013 Good Food Awards), it still maintains a homegrown, laid-back appeal for caffeinated Californians in its three locations. Said co-founder Ryan O'Donovan to Good Times Weekly, it's part of the master plan to "provide the best service and be unwavering about that, and have it be a nice atmosphere — the highest quality yet still feel totally accessible." You'll get detailed tasting notes on the variety of coffees Verve sources and roasts, from bean to cup. These guys know what they're doing.

25. Joe Coffee — New York and Philadelphia

Everyone knows Joe for their exceptional lattes, cappuccinos, and espresso — they serve undoubtedly some of the best you'll find in New York City. Joe scores high marks in quality coffee, atmosphere, and unparalleled customer service. Now 10 years old, the owners reflected on what's made them a success.

 "When we opened, we didn't know anything. My guess is that if I went back and tasted coffee from back then, I'd probably be pretty horrified," co-owner Jonathan Rubinstein told the New York Daily News.

Now, Joe is constantly recognized. Named one of Zagat's 10 Hottest Coffee Shops in Philadelphia in 2014, Joe also won a 2013 Good Food Award for its Ethiopian Camp brew), as well as its accessibility for the average Joe (get it?) consumer. "If you're a fan of Dunkin' Donuts coffee and don't think you fit in with the high-end consumer, we're going to do everything we can to bridge that gap and make you realize that coffee fanatics are coffee fanatics no matter what you drink or how you drink," Rubinstein said to Eater.

24. Barista — Portland, Ore.

Serving three locations throughout Portland, Barista's owner, Billy Wilson, is barista royalty in the Pacific Northwest, having won three Northwest Barista Championship titles. His coffee shops focus on showcasing obscure and out of town roasters, giving the little guys a chance and breaking from the norm. In addition to delicious coffee, Barista also serves pastries from Food and Wine's Best New Chef Nominee Joshua McFadden's Roman Candle Baking Co. 

23. G&B — Los Angeles

G & B owners Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski know their coffee. They've worked for some of the world's premiere coffee companies, holding titles from Green Coffee Buyer to VP of Strategy. Now they've opened their Grand Central Market coffee shop with the express purpose of sharing their love of coffee with the people of Los Angeles. Be sure to save room for some scrumptious snacks as well, including fluffy, fresh baked croissants and decadent chocolate razzy doughnuts. 

22. Volta Coffee — Gainesville, Fla.

Volta offers a fantastic selection of seasonal coffees from haute roasters such as Chicago-based Intelligentsia, but their whimsical selection of drinking chocolates might just be where it's at. Sample sweet and savory concoctions, such as the Volta Xocolate Maya, which features a blend of 65 percent and 75 percent chocolates and is flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, chipotle and ancho chilies. While you're enjoying your drink, you might also be treated to a sampling of Gainesville's thriving art scene, as Volta features regular readings from students in UF's creative writing program and music from local bands. 

21. Budin — New York

"While creating tons of buzz over their $10 latte, Budin is hardly overpriced. Serving up strictly Scandinavian coffees from European roasters like Koppi and Tim Wendelboe, Budin offers great fare and nordic merchandise that will remind you of hiking the fjords." — Bill Walsh of The Pure Coffee Blog

To that we'll add: in addition to the now-infamous $10 latte, Budin offers many other extremely good coffees in the $4 range; high-quality, imported, and rare ingredients tend to be rather pricey whether the end result is a bespoke cocktail, a cup of coffee, or a meal; and as The Village Voice noted, while Budin got a lot of (largely negative) press for its $10 drink, it's not even the most expensive cup of coffee in New York. So there!


20. Spyhouse Coffee — Minneapolis

Many may not expect Minneapolis to be a hotspot for third wave coffee. On the contrary, the City of Lakes is no espresso wasteland — and Spyhouse epitomizes the coffee culture here. Spyhouse now has three locations, including a breathtakingly beautiful roasting facility/coffee shop (featuring a restored, vintage Probat UG 22 roaster) which opened in September of 2013. If you're not lucky enough to be able to check out the space itself, you can sign up for a subscription for their great coffee.

19. Pavement — Boston

It's no wonder comfy yet cool Pavement was named one of the "Top 10 Coolest Cafes in America" by Travel and Leisure. Each of its four locations strives to be a haven for coffee lovers of all kinds. As Pavement's Director of Operations, Andrew LoPilato puts it:

"Pavement combines the gritty vibe of its surrounding artistic community with a warm and inviting ambiance. Our cafés offer exceptional Counter Culture coffee and Rishi tea selections as well as a hearty breakfast bagel and lunch menu." 

18. Colectivo Coffee — Milwaukee

With locations throughout Milwaukee, Colectivo is a coffeehouse with a conscience. They've formed partnerships with many arts, environmental, and social nonprofits, such as The Florentine Opera and the Urban Ecology Center, to enrich the community they serve. They're no slouch in the coffee department either; for 20 years, they've roasted, blended, packaged, and shipped fair trade coffee from their Humboldt Boulevard location. In fact, if you're in the neighborhood on a weekday, stop by, grab a seat, and watch the masters at work. 

17. Ritual Coffee Roasters — San Francisco

There is no shortage of good coffee in San Francisco — but Ritual Coffee Roasters is a truly excellent example. At the shop on Valencia Street in San Francisco, and its accompanying locations (a coffee bar in the Bayview neighborhood, a shipping container at Proxy in Hayes Valley, and in the Oxbow Market in Napa), it's just coffee, pure and simple. It's no wonder the Valencia flagship attracts a wide range of residents, from yuppies to coffee geeks, which may explain the laid-back atmosphere. In a city that's buzzing with caffeine, Ritual will continue to hold its spot as the best. 

16. Café Grumpy — New York

Café Grumpy may be now best known as Ray and Hannah's coffee shop on Girls to those outside of New York City, but New Yorkers know it is an excellent local shop with five locations — and a sixth on the way — that brew their own roasted coffee. Co-founder Caroline Bell told Food GPS in an interview that they started roasting their beans in 2009 in order to take coffee into their own hands and now, the Greenpoint company produces seven different roasts from Indonesia, Ethiopia, Honduras, and elsewhere. Café Grumpy is especially beloved for its dedication to maintaining a true coffeehouse vibe. Gone are the laptop drones — only one of the shops has Wi-Fi. Instead, what you get is a relaxed atmosphere with real conversations hanging in the air. Said Bell to The New York Times, "I appreciate the idea of when you go someplace and it feels like a home away from home, but I don't think it should be a home office away from home." (Now, if only coffee shops could ban smartphones.) 

15. Sunergos — Louisville

"No longer just known for baseball bats, Louisville has been really blossoming these past years, with wondrous roasters like Sunergos really shining the bright beacon of their tremendous coffee. The epitome of a home-grown operation, Sunergos has blossomed from a single bar to three locations and an expanding wholesale program." — Bill Walsh of The Pure Coffee Blog

14. Heart — Portland, Ore.

Heart Roasters owns two beautifully minimalist locations in both East and West Portland where they serve up their Thrive Farmer's Good Food Award-winning house roasted coffee. But they're also willing to ship their beans around the country; they even sell the same equipment they use to brew their coffee on their website. Their shops are as sophisticated as their flavors, with Scandinavian chic décor and an in-house DJ on Friday afternoons.   

13. Little Collins — New York

Voted one of Zagat's "Best Sleeps and Eats," Little Collins (named after a bustling street in Melbourne) strives to make customers feel "transported and completely at home." In addition to Counter Culture Coffee, Little Collins serves up homey dishes like cured ham and smoked brisket. Owner Leon Unglik explains, "We are serious about coffee and food but don't take ourselves too seriously. We want everyone who walks in to Little Collins to feel like a regular." Trust us, a bellyful of comfort food and warm coffee from Little Collins is just the stuff to turn first timers into regulars. 

12. Anodyne Coffee Roasters — Milwaukee

"Some years ago during my first trip to Milwaukee, I was delighted to find the welcoming embrace of Anodyne. The great coffee matched with the warm demeanor of the staff makes for a great combination. Plus both of their locations offer a great space to unwind and enjoy some great beans." — Bill Walsh of The Pure Coffee Blog

11. Artifact Coffee — Baltimore

Artifact's farm-to-table vibe, delicious food offerings (from the owners of Baltimore favorite Woodbury Kitchen), and roasts from Counter Culture have taken the city by storm: it's hard to find a better cup of coffee in Baltimore. That includes the espresso bar with some surprising additions to the list — a maple macchiato for instance — as well as pour-over coffee, and Japanese cold brew iced coffee (where the coffee is brewed directly over ice). Artifact is also dedicated to creating a sense of community, and has a calendar packed full of happenings, from knitters' meet-ups to readings to pop-up shops representing art students from MICA. 

10. Condesa Coffee — Atlanta

There's a lot to love at Condesa Coffee: a Counter Culture Coffee lineup of coffee brews, Intelligentsia teas, a killer cocktail and food menu, and a homey vibe that welcomes its neighbors. Condesa is well-regarded for the quality of its coffee (served both pour-over or Chemex), and has impeccable customer service. Perhaps it's the attention to detail that goes into every coffee (and coffee cocktails, yum) that pushes Condesa to the forefront of the growing Atlanta coffee scene.

9. PT’s at College Hill — Topeka, Kan.

Kansas' most well-known roaster-turned-coffee-shop is a standard for coffee in the area, thanks to the dedication of the owners, Fred Polzin and Jeff Taylor. After opening PT's Caffe Espresso in 1993, the two quickly learned what it meant to serve great coffee, not mediocre coffee, which is why the duo soon began roasting their own coffee.

"We could have sold our small business many times and retired or launched another career that would have probably made us more money," Taylor has written about PT's. "But that's not what we're about. We are here to make great coffee and help our friends do the same."

 Their dedication has paid off with some much-praised roasts (including an award for 2009 Roaster of the Year from Roast Magazine), as well as PT's at College Hill. The coffee bar serves Flying Monkey espresso as the standard for its stand-alone espressos, lattes, and other drinks, as well as its drip coffees in Chemex, French press, Trifecta, and pour-over. All that, plus a food menu that will make you drool (hello, Flying Monkey chef salad), and a rotating craft beer tap and cocktail menu. PT's at College Hill puts Topeka, Kan., on the coffee map.

8. Panther Coffee — Miami

"Panther has two great shops that have been thoughtfully designed for their respective neighborhoods. There is a charm to each that is not only uniquely Miami, but with the personality of their respective communities, while being home to one of the best baristas in country, Camila Ramos." — Park Brannen, North East Barista Champion

7. Milstead & Co. — Seattle

Owner Andrew Milstead has been praised for taking the most difficult approach to the coffee shop model — the multi-roaster model — and excelling at it. That means Milstead balances a slew of different roasters, from roasters as big as Stumptown to as small as Heart Roasters in Portland, Ore., to put forth the best coffee possible — and that's not always as easy as it looks. Writes Jordan Michelman in Seattle Met,

"Coffee professionals regard the multiroaster model as the most difficult to pull off. It's akin to a chef who works with different purveyors from week to week, a bartender who never sticks to the same base bourbon, or a band that plays a different set every night. The target is always moving, the parameters steadily shifting."

But it's Milstead's dedication to the coffees he serves that make it rank so highly on our list for its quality. With more than 30 different coffees on the menu to sample at a time, you'll never get a better education about coffee than at Milstead & Co. Stop by for a single-origin espresso, an Aeropress, or Clever drip coffee, and consider yourself schooled in the art of coffee.

6. Joule Coffee — Raleigh, N.C.

"Five years ago you couldn't find spots that prepared both solid food and coffee. Just as we start getting to see this model work better, Joule really leap-frogged every concept I've seen: this comes from a restaurant group that understands hospitality just as much as they do quality food and beverage. This is perhaps my favorite place to eat and drink coffee in the country." — Park Brannen, North East Barista Champion

5. Peregrine Espresso — Washington, D.C.

Peregrine not only makes great coffee, they have created an excellent atmosphere and provide stellar customer service. Said Dawn Shank, one of their award-winning baristas:

"What makes Peregrine special? I would definitely say it's the energy between baristas and customers. I know that for a lot of baristas, talking about specialty coffee to customers is something that we really want to focus on and share without overly geeking out on customers, making it a welcoming environment where customers want to learn more about coffee and they don't feel intimidated or just turned off by something new or different." 

4. Ultimo Coffee — Philadelphia

What makes Ultimo tick — and brings in Philadelphians in flocks? Simplicity. Considered a standard bearer of coffee nationally, Ultimo makes a beautiful cup, has killer customer service, and a relaxed, charming atmosphere. 

"It's about a good cup of coffee and a good atmosphere in which to enjoy it," co-owner Aaron Ultimo put it simply in an interview. "In the end, I love the people in and around the industry, and I love the coffee that I get to drink every day."

3. Saint Frank’s — San Francisco

"A gorgeously open coffeehouse in San Francisco's Russian Hill, Saint Frank's boasts a state-of-the-art under-the-counter espresso machine and delicious coffee roasted by Ritual Coffee Roasters. Absolutely worth a stop to soak in the aesthetics while sipping a fine coffee." — Bill Walsh of The Pure Coffee Blog

2. Go Get Em Tiger — Los Angeles

"Charles Babinski and Kyle Glanville created a customer service experience that makes getting coffee seem as casual and fun as grabbing a drink at your local bar. I'll never go to Los Angeles again and not visit Go Get Em Tiger. This is absolutely one of my favorite coffee shops, from some of my favorite people in coffee." — Park Brannen, North East Barista Champion

1. Everyman Espresso — New York

"If you're tired of nerdy coffee shops that deliver great drinks but make you feel like a moron, then get yourself to the super-friendly Everyman Espresso," wrote the Village Voice in its review — and we couldn't have said it better. We can appreciate a coffee shop that doesn't just cater to the new wave of coffee nerds, but hopes to share its love of coffee for, well, the everyman. Sam Lewontin, the lead barista trainer for Everyman Espresso said it succinctly in a blog post, when defending brew methods:

"Customers, generally, don't come into our stores looking for a lesson [in brewing methods]... What customers want, for the most part, is to be served tasty coffee in a way that makes them feel good about themselves."

That could be why there's no real menu in the shops, just a printed blurb about the coffee and locally sourced milk. With locations in both Soho and the East Village, Everyman Espresso serves its Counter Culture coffee with local milk from the Battenkill Valley Creamery in Salem, and a little bit of heart on the side.