The Absolute Best Coffee Shops In The US

Coffee is an amazing thing, and yet we can go lengths of time without stopping to truly appreciate what makes it so good. Yes, it gives a buzz of caffeine that helps get the day started (or keeps it going), but that's only a small part. Beans are grown in a select few places across the world, then shipped internationally to be processed by someone else, who then serves them in brewed form to coffee drinkers. Farmers, roasters, baristas, and finally, the java-loving masses all play a role in the magic. The best coffee shops are the ones where this all comes together in a hot (or cold) cup, and warm conversation.

What makes one the absolute best coffee shop over another? From top-tier knowledge of grading beans to cultivating a hyper unique environment and menu to creating social impact, there are a number of reasons why one cafe stands out among the rest. In the end, the best coffee house is the one you can frequent often, where the baristas know your name, order, and whether or not you want to float in anonymously today. 

Still, even among those local haunts, there are some that especially have it going on. The coffee houses in this non-exhaustive list are offering game-changing perspectives on how to sip your daily cup. There will always be more cafes emerging on the scene, but for now, these ones are doing it big.

Bean & Bean - New York City

Bean & Bean Coffee is an independent company started in 2008 by the mother and daughter coffee team of Rachel and Jiyoon Han. The original Bean & Bean on Broadway & Rector is a small store fashioned in a typical New York style of exposed wood and grey concrete. It is one of three locations. Bean & Bean is more than a modern-designed shop; it's a caffeine scene that's one of the most buzzed-about in the country.

A visit to the Little Neck location gives coffee heads a chance to see and smell Bean & Bean's roasting process. Both Rachel and Jiyoon are rated as Q Arabica graders, which means they are like the sommeliers of the coffee industry. Locals say that their skills show in the quality of their roasts and beverage pairings. Case in point: The popular Honey Latte made with Oatly, organic honey powder, and a shot of Bean & Bean's Downtown Blend espresso is a particular jam. So too are the locally sourced food ingredients found across each shop. For the Hans, uplifting the community extends beyond their stock of regional ingredients. As Jiyoon discussed in an interview with BossBarista, Bean & Bean places specific emphasis on giving women in the coffee industry the equitable returns that they deserve.

Pond Coffee - New Orleans

New Orleans' Pond Coffee emerged from a magical combination of spontaneity, circumstance, and necessity. As Kim Ranjbar reported for Where Y'at Magazine, what had started as a planned shop between two local baristas turned into a coffee window collaboration with a local vegetarian/vegan shop called Small Mart. Derailed by the pandemic, the minds of Pond turned the historic Marigny streets of Chartres and Port into their cafe by slinging a consistently amazing menu of espresso and matcha beverages to thirsty and under-caffeinated fans gathered on the curbs.

These days, you can finally enter Small Mart and enjoy your coffee from Pond at creative floating tables that hang off the walls. Or, you can take your coffee back out to the streets and let the outside world be your cafe. That's what makes this one of the best coffee shops around. Whether you're getting some fresh air, or nestling into the homey inside atmosphere, the scenery and sounds will change but the coffee is undeviating in its excellence.

Cosmic Coffee & Beer - Austin

Coffee is always better with a view and few shops in the country provide one as unique as Cosmic Coffee in Austin. The massive outdoor section of this cafe serves as a beer garden in the afternoons, evenings, and late nights. But it has a hidden side as well, one that stays going 24/7. Through a crafty network of on-site composting, raised garden beds, a waterfall garden fed by harvested rainfall, and chicken coops, Cosmic has become a nationally recognized wildlife habitat for urban species and pollinators.

Cosmic Coffee does more than just gather and protect food and habitat resources for city critters. It is also a home for the caffeine-crazed Austinite. The coffee program is out of this world, rotating seasonally inspired specials like the Apple Chai-der and a cocoa Molé Mocha with regular hitters (a frozen Matcha painkiller, or PDX-based Proud Mary espresso beverages). Getting buzzed at Cosmic creates more than a few wild animals.

Helix Cafe - Chicago

Helix Cafe sits just a bean's throw away from Lake Michigan, which assures you calming views *almost* grand enough to make you forget about the coffee. The sight of natural beauty isn't the only great thing Helix has to offer; the cafe has a respectable mission as well. Through the Helix Education program, this nonprofit shop partners with communities to help elementary, junior high, and high school students develop skills they can take into higher education and the real world.

For instance, the Helix Cafe is student-run by career-ready advanced interns. As Helix's Sean Connelly told the Rogers Edge Reporter, the student interns get to check out "the business functions" side of things," where they "create a marketing plan, operation strategy, and work with HR."The proceeds from sales at the shop go right back into helping future students develop essential job skills. In this way, Helix is more than just an art-decked place to get your daily joe. A cuppa coffee contributes to building resiliency within communities all over the country. They offer Chicago-roasted Halfwit coffee, but the full thoughtfulness of Helix can be tasted in every pour.

Flowerboy Project - Venice, California

There's so much to love about coffee — particularly the amazing variety of tastes, scents, and subtle expressions that differ from one cup to the next. The purchasing and exchange of fresh-cut flowers have long embodied the same sort of sensational and symbolic aspects. Seeing the comparison, Flowerboy Project has combined the two into one community space. By literal standards, this spot, which is located in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, can be referred to as a cafe. Spiritually it is undefined. It's a creative studio, a heritage boutique, a Black-owned business, a community space to uplift voices.

Taking your morning coffee at Flowerboy Project turns an ordinary activity into a ritual. That element of change and evolution seems to exude from the walls, which are always moving and morphing to suit a vintage-esque collection of carefully curated treasures and gifts. The Lavender Boy latte is as floral as the scents that fill the room, the coffee is primo, but don't skip out on a fresh donut either.

Leslie Coffee Co. - Wichita

A quick way to identify some of the best coffee shops around the country is to look for those which are owned and operated by people who've had experience in high places. Leslie Coffee Company fits that bill. Owner Sarah Leslie began her career as a barista in NYC. When she returned to her hometown of Wichita, Kansas, it was as a certified Lead Instructor for the Speciality Coffee Association and a vice-chair of the Barista's Guild, as profiled by Wichita State University. Leslie's experience with fine coffee primed her shop for nationwide renown.

Leslie Coffee Co. brings big city vibes to a Midwestern town, but it does so without ever making the scene feel pretentious. White honeycomb tiles spread across the floor, interspersed with black patterned panels. A tin turquoise ceiling draws the eyes upward. A brilliant lighting scheme over the counter catches your vision on the way up. Even among this setting, the coffee shines brightest. Local Wichita publication The Sunflower reports that the selection of beans chosen for the shop's coffee is done with intense intention, including a rotating single-origin espresso. Leslie oversees the process, ensuring that fair trade, gourmet coffee is always ready for the sidewalk passerby.

Fourth Wall Coffee - New Orleans

In 2016, a homegrown theater company called Beaubourg began renovating a building on New Orleans's historic Gravier Street. As Beaubourg owner David Williams told MegaMenu, the space was constructed by enslaved peoples and used as a warehouse for cotton and tobacco. In the building's long life, it served many purposes, then went empty for 30 years before revitalization. Fourth Wall Coffee now occupies a physical portion of this landmark structure. It serves as an example of how a simple cafe can be used to constructively move forward from fraught history.

Tall windows let moody natural light stream into the cafe. A cobbled courtyard in the back is a quiet (but living) retreat from city streets. Inside and out, exposed brick walls tower over tasteful maroon carpets, lush greenery, and bookshelves jammed with yellowing pages. The calm and relaxing coffee bar is outfitted with an antique pastry case and pours dialed-in shots from local roasters like Pretty Coffee and HEY Coffee Co.

If the ambiance at Fourth Wall derives from age, its character comes from remembering, acknowledging, and diverging from the egregious conditions that built the place. In fact, this is a crucial part of how the cafe and theater function. A tuition-free education program called the Beaubourg School aims to bridge the gaps of opportunity and representation in The Crescent City's art scene. Courses take place within Fourth Wall and Beaubourg. Specialty coffee tastes better when consumed in an equitable community.

Loyal Coffee - Colorado Springs

Walking into Loyal Coffee feels like a passage into the outdoor environment of Colorado. White walls and ceilings are illuminated by large windows facing the streets. Menu panels are outlined in glistening gold. The lighting scheme is soft, golden, and natural. Timber accents — tables, stools, chairs, and a twig-like accent wall behind the service counter make you feel like you're on the slope of the forested Pike's Peak, which looms far above town. Slate grey benches double down on the rocky feeling. Every face behind the counter is as blissful as one you might encounter on a hiking trail. In fact, if you live here, you probably will.

Loyal Coffee is a community shop that is all about connection. It's barista-owned, with creative details throughout the shop, the menu, and the house coffee roasting program as well. Take the "Dis-Loyalty Card": Instead of a typical punch pass that keeps you coming back to this cafe until it's complete, Loyal's loyalty card sends you out to other local cafes, requiring ten punches from other independent shops to score your free beverage. Even with all that extra java in your system, the comfortable environment and skill of Loyal's baristas will bring you back in again and again.

Sey Coffee - New York City

Walking into Sey Coffee is a confusing experience. A building with this much light and open space feels like it should be found in California rather than New York City. Yet here it is, one of the nation's best coffee shops, standing like a leafy oasis right off the concrete streets of the Big Apple. Sey is nothing short of beautiful. Blonde wood wraps around the coffee bar and is the surface for various booths, tables, and other surfaces throughout the shop. White walls and skylights further brighten the space from which hanging pothos plants cascade downwards.

The entrance to Sey can be found by either a normal glass gateway or a retractable garage door, which lets even more fresh air in during nice days. This contemporary cafe is about more than style, it is full of substance as well. Sey is a micro-roaster, with beans that are sourced seasonally and with the utmost care. The coffee buyers at Sey focus on creating honest relationships with their partner farmers, ensuring that each association is balanced and ethical. Sey's coffee roasters focus constantly on honing their procedure until the best accents of each bean variety are manifested clearly in the taste and aroma. At the cafe, it all comes together in a transcendent experience.

Colada Shop - Washington, D.C.

Colada brands itself as a "social spot serving coffee, food, cocktails, and conversations," so as an all-day cafe, it's the unique approach to java that qualifies it for this list. Besides, in Cuba, coffee is most often served along with those other things– especially the social conversation. This is where Colada Shop shines. Across four D.C. locations, pink, turquoise, and yellow paints strike the type of luminous hues that encourage friendly conversation. Strong Cuban coffee facilitates excited chatter.

On a hot day, the Havana Cold Brew is a potent refresher. When the weather drops, a wide array of drinks featuring sweet Cuban crema are brewed to keep you warm. The Cortadita is one that you can grip tightly. To share with all those connections you're making, consider a Colada. It's Cuban sweet crema served along with four shots of espresso. It's a combination sure to heat you like a sunny day on a Caribbean beach. The only thing better designed than the artistic stylings of Colada Shop is the cafe's collaboration with local Compass Coffee, which produces the custom and exclusive Havana Roast used in each java beverage.

Blue Sparrow Coffee - Denver

The global coffee industry has been rife with exploitation and inequities ever since beans began being traded across oceans. In recent decades, the push to turn a commodity market into a fair and balanced exchange has echoed in every segment of the chain, from raw coffee farmers to the baristas who pour your beverage. Blue Sparrow Coffee Co. is one of the best coffee shops around for exploring how an equitable model can work.

Take for example the cafe's policy on single-serve cups. As of 2022, a 10-cent charge is added to every to-go cup order. The proceeds go towards a Sustainability Fund targeted at large-scale environmental initiatives. This kind of measure might inspire skepticism, but when it comes to Blue Sparrow, transparency is part of the process. The cafe prominently features regular Equity reporting on things like staff diversity, pay scale, benefits, and community impact. An upcoming sustainability report will outline similar details for the Single-Use Initiative.

Blue Sparrow doesn't only do good, the cafe looks good too. Patterned gray tile floors lie underneath chic aqua blue booths and smart, dark tables. White subway tile captures the bright mountain sunlight, but this is Colorado, so exposed red brick is worked into the design as well. A fresh cast of small-scale roasters is constantly rotated through the wood-handled espresso machine. As with all things at Blue Sparrow, the coffee is thoughtfully vetted in an egalitarian process.

Never Coffee Lab - Portland, Oregon

In a coffee city as renowned as Portland, it can be a tall challenge to stand out. You might expect that in order to gain attention a shop would need a cavernous space that could attract a crowd, a colossal amount of good PR, or a brightly painted mural, buzzing sign, etc. All things considered, Never Coffee Lab has gained prominence for excelling at the only thing a cafe really needs: great-tasting java. Still, there is a kaleidoscopic mural on the wall just in case.

Never Coffee is a company on a mission to explore new, unmatched, uncreated tastes. The small shop that the business occupies in Portland's Mt. Tabor neighborhood is a test lab for new combinations, boasting that even their wild creations have only scratched the surface of what's possible. "We have found .00001% of possible flavors," reads Never's website. However, a letter board with vibrant colored drink names tells a different story.

Take the Hug for example. This brew is listed in a vivid red marquee and has fiery notes of spicy cacao, smoked chilies, and cinnamon. The black lettered "Midnight Oil" adds contrast to the technicolor shapes on the wall, but the flavors of fennel, black licorice, and star anise marry perfectly with a creamy latte. If this really is only a small sliver of what's out there, then we'll never say no to hitting the Coffee Lab.

Caffe Trieste - San Francisco

When you think of coffee, particularly espresso, it's impossible not to think of Italy. While the city of Turin may get most of the love for birthing the now-international Lavazza brand, there is another location that has played a crucial part in the Mediterranean nation's coffee chronology. The far Northeastern city of Trieste is as true an espresso capital as there has ever been, even if most of that history has been forgotten. As it happens, one of the best coffee shops in the US has a similar narrative to this old town.

The Caffe Trieste in San Francisco is a long-standing establishment with a history. It is a story of high quality in many forms. There's always been good coffee flowing, and in the '50s and '60s, there was a certain caliber of clientele that specifically made this the place to be. According to SFGate, some of America's most important literary and cultural figures have been known to frequent this coffee house, including beatniks like Jack Kerouac. These days, it's not as hip as other Bay Area cafes, but it remains a reliable meeting house with unique stories to tell.

King State - Tampa

Set in an old service station with coffee that might be the strong kind that gasses you up, King State in Tampa, Florida, is a place of good vibes and relaxation only. Oh, and coffee roasting. There is a lot of that going on here too.

As the Tampa Bay Times reports, King State began specifically as a coffee roasting business before opening up shop in an old car wash and garage. The focus has always been on having a dialed-in java game, and this spot has it. (They also serve up beer, food, and wine.) A wide outdoor section allows guests to catch the best of Florida's sun without it beating down on them. The terrazzo floors and orange accents bring together local NFL colors while other design elements create a fun and retro feel to the place. King State is somewhere you can have an amazing coffee without having to be a wild person to get it.

Spyhouse Coffee - Minneapolis

In an interview with Barista Magazine, the owner of Spyhouse Coffee spoke about how his journey to becoming a coffee shop proprietor was started by the weather of Minneapolis. Christian Johnson's college apartment was so frigid he would "spend nights studying at a Minneapolis indie café that was located a few blocks away." Two decades (and five locations) from those shivering days, there is nothing cold anymore about the cafes that Johnson is hanging out in. Spyhouse Coffee has been a staple of the Midwest's third-wave coffee scene since opening in 2000.

Spyhouse boasts a black and white scheme as its primary design with dark timber elements that bring home the woodsy feel of America's Mid-North states. The website details a long list of local business partners which help the coffee menu excel to be one of the tops in the nation, as well as reducing the mileage that food products have to travel to the shop. Sustainability is a core principle at Spyhouse Coffee, one that becomes clearer with every repeat visit. 

Bloom & Plume Coffee - Los Angeles

Los Angeles design has a modern reputation for being a town of minimalist design. This next shop is what happens when that notion is turned inside out. Imagine a local coffee house where the culture invites people to show up and be the best version of themselves. Listen to it happening all about you as people laugh and connect over their coffee. Then, look around at the royal purple walls, down at the striking orange chairs, up into dense verdure. You've arrived at Bloom & Plume Coffee, a Black-owned cafe that opened in Echo Park in 2019.

The coffee is exceptional, the aesthetic is astounding, and the prioritization of people is most important. This is what Bloom & Plume Coffee represents. Carefully curated by co-owner and floral design artist Maurice Harris, this coffee shop stands as a stunning space where community is key. The shop's mission statement cites the South African ideology of Ubuntu, which means "I am because you are," noting that it "embraces the idea that humans cannot exist in isolation." Bloom & Plume exists because the community does, and they treat their guests with the radical respect that this philosophy calls for. If buildings grew from the ground like beautiful flowers, they might look more like Bloom & Plume.

Sophomore Coffee - Baltimore

Underground lairs are typically understood to be popular haunts for movie villains, but there are the occasional heroes that take up residence in subterranean hangouts. Batman (sort of), the Ninja Turtles, and Sophomore Coffee are all good samples of this group. You might expect an under the sidewalk cafe to be cold or uninviting, but Sophomore is neither of those things. With captivating pink tiling and stark white walls, it turns out that the sunny side of the street is actually underneath it. An inclusive, friendly, community-minded staff makes it all the more welcome of a place to gather.

At the moment, kicking it inside Sophomore Coffee is out of the question. The business is currently operating as a take-out-only counter due to coronavirus protocols. You might not be able to enjoy the hospitable shop in full, but these safety measures turn full attention onto the wicked coffee program happening at Sophomore. The current menu boasts naturally processed Ethiopian coffee and honey processed beans from Costa Rica.

Crema - Denver

According to the baristas at Denver's Crema, this cafe is more than a simple coffee shop. It is a community focal point. One where friendships between regulars have turned into marriages, a training ground for baristas to go on and open new shops across the city. Crema is also Denver-born. As a Crema barista shared with MegaMenu, the story goes like this: Owner Noah Price started the shop in 2008 after an experience owning a snowboard apparel company. They started small, having just one small room in a Larimer street building. The buzz grew, and the shop expanded to fill out the building. Now, the "OG" Crema features 22+ local and nationwide coffee roasters. The food menu includes delightful hits like sweet potato waffles, tofu banh mi, and world-class quiche.

The walls of Crema are decked in resounding works from staple Denver painters. A sit down at Crema is akin to having your cup of joe in the middle of a street art gallery. The transition from mural adorned sidewalks into this RiNo Arts District shop is seamless. An opposing interior of raw wood and concrete is made organic through scattered plants and a large outdoor patio for natural air. Although that backyard no longer features the halfpipe it once did, you should still skate, ski, scooter, board, or blade over to Crema as soon as you can.