Despite growing up in Seattle, which now is synonymous with good coffee, I was never a coffee drinker. That is, until I started waking up at 5 am every day in college to study for the LSAT before classes. Then I started drinking a full pot of (awful) coffee a day. Since then, I’ve gone through a progression that started with a Keurig, evolved to a Nespresso machine, and finally resulted in full blown coffee snobbery that has me hand-brewing a cup of coffee every single morning, complete with electric kettle, electric grinder, and a raised pinky while sipping.
Basically, if it’s not single origin with a silky mouthfeel and floral notes with a lingering citrus finish, I don’t want it. One of my favorite things to do when we travel is drag Alysha, who has never had coffee in her life, around to all the best coffee shops to try them all. Since I spend so much time in Seattle, I decided to put together a guide to the best coffee shops in Seattle to help travelers and locals alike discover a new favorite spot. If you love good coffee, this guide is for you.
My two brothers, both of whom live in the Seattle area, have gone through a similar coffee progression as I have. So I roped them into helping me create this guide to finding the best coffee in Seattle. We went to 12 different coffee shops, all with Seattle addresses, to put together this Seattle coffee guide.
To make the ranking slightly less subjective, we came up with a system to rank them on their brewed coffee (pour over where possible, if not then batch brew) and their cappuccino (the best milk + espresso drink in my opinion). We rated each out of five, for a total score out of ten points.
Below, you’ll find our perspective on where to find the best coffee in Seattle, ranked. Plus, some background on each shop and whether they have any specialty drinks worth ordering.
A quick note: There is some serious coffee snobbery going on in some of these reviews. But if you’re looking for the best coffee in Seattle, then that’s kind of what you’re here for, isn’t it? Just remember, while I have strong opinions about coffee, I also don’t take myself nearly as seriously as some of the writing and nitpicking below makes it sound like I do. And the reality is that each place on this list can serve you a great cup of coffee.
Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you click on one and purchase something, I make a small portion of the sale at no additional cost to you. It goes without saying that I would never recommend something I wouldn’t use or do myself.
The Best Coffee Shops in Seattle, Ranked by Three Coffee Snobs
Before we got to the specialty coffee shops in Seattle, we went to the coffee shop that started it all: Starbucks.
Getting a Baseline at Starbucks
Starbucks, which is based in Seattle, paved the way for the mainstreaming of specialty coffee when they brought coffee to every street corner in America. Or at least Seattle. Seriously, in Seattle there are sometimes multiple locations within the same two block radius.
Really quick, a mini rant about the so-called “first Starbucks” at Pike Place. SPOILER. It’s not the first Starbucks. It’s unclear if it’s even the second. It’s just the oldest (and has brilliant marketing too) and it’s not any different than any of the other ones you’ll find in a two block radius. Skip the line and head there, or even better, head to Anchorhead Coffee which is less than a block away.
We wanted to get a baseline for what your average coffee is like. I think Starbucks makes a really consistent cup of coffee (it’s almost like they designed it to be exactly that). It’s not good. It’s not terrible. It’s just “meh.”
I will say, I do enjoy the Starbucks Reserve, which is their answer to specialty coffee shops and has expanded pretty much nationwide at this point. It’s not because the coffee is amazing, although it is significantly better than the usual stuff you find at their regular shops. It’s the whole experience.
From the cold brew bar, to the hot brew bar downstairs where you can get a flight of coffees prepared in all kinds of cool ways (including siphon!), to all the Starbucks swag and gear, and the ambiance of the entire building. The location in Capitol Hill is cool, and I always take visitors there (even if there’s better coffee literally half a block up the road).
We went to the Starbucks Reserve on Capitol Hill to get a drip coffee and a cappuccino to start our tour of Seattle coffee shops, and I have to say… it wasn’t bad. That’s the thing about Starbucks – it’s a well-oiled machine that is automated to the point where you’re going to get a drink that is somewhere between a 4/10 and a 6/10 almost every single time.
We got a coffee brewed with their “Clover” system, which the barista informed us is more like a French press with a heavy body and roasty toasty notes. Which is exactly what their Kenyan coffee gave us, a coffee that would be more light and bright if brewed differently. It wasn’t great, and it wasn’t terrible. Which is just about exactly what you’d expect.
The cappuccino was okay as well. The espresso was a little burnt, sure, but that’s the way Starbucks does it on purpose to get a more consistent coffee I think. It was still pleasant to drink, and I wouldn’t be mad if that’s what I got every time I ordered a cappuccino at Starbucks.
I’d give each drink a 3/5, and maybe even a 3.5 on the cappuccino.
My conclusion about Starbucks Coffee is this: A lot of coffee snobs turn their nose up at Starbucks (myself included, to be clear), but if you’re somewhere new and unfamiliar and you’re not sure where to find a solid cup of coffee, Starbucks is a pretty good choice for a ruthlessly-consistently-average cup. But you can probably do better, it’ll just take a little work.
Alright, now that we’ve got all that stuff out of the way, on to the rankings!
Where to Find the Best Coffee in Seattle: Seattle Coffee Shops, Ranked
As we set out to craft the rankings below, I realized there are essentially three kinds of coffee shops in Seattle, and probably in cities around the world.
The distinguishing feature is how they source the coffee they use.
- Coffee Roasters: These shops use beans that they roast themselves. Pretty self-explanatory.
- Coffee Loyalists: These shops don’t roast their own beans, but exclusively use beans from one specific roaster. After touring Seattle coffee shops, I saw a lot of Counter Culture, Olympia, and Heart (one of the best coffee roasters in Portland).
- Coffee Curators: This type of shop isn’t loyal to a specific roaster, but looks for the best coffees from a variety of roasters, usually local, but sometimes venturing further afield.
In general, I think I prefer the coffee curators, who look for exciting and interesting coffees regardless of who roasted it. Those shops are a good way to explore the world of coffee, I think, and there are plenty of them in Seattle.
Anyway, here are the best coffee shops in Seattle, ranked by me and my two brothers, a few amateur coffee snobs looking for something to do last winter.
Sound and Fog
If you like good coffee, go here. Like, now.
Sound and Fog is a modern specialty coffee shop in West Seattle. They primarily brew with Heart Coffee, one of the best coffee shops in Portland, but bring in a rotating selection of their favorite roasters from around the world on a monthly basis to give you a sampling of what else is out there. For example, in the next two months, they’re bringing in DAK from Amsterdam, and Methodical Coffee from South Carolina.
I’m already excited to go back. It was my first time there, and it’s going to be a staple on all future Seattle trips to discover new and exciting coffees from around the world.
They also have a nice selection of natural wine, beer, and cider, if you want to pick some up while you’re there.
Cappuccino: The only thing missing from this cappuccino was the latte art, but honestly who cares. Perfect texture, excellent espresso, and a lovely sunny morning in West Seattle sipping great coffee. Rating: 5/5.
Brewed Coffee (Pour over, Costa Rican coffee): Fruity. Complex. Delicious. When I asked what coffees they had as pour overs, the barista pulled out four bags! Which is awesome! Then I asked him to narrow it down to two so I could choose from those… then asked for his recommendation between the two (sorry for being annoying!). Anyway, he chose this coffee – I’m not sure what roaster it was – and it was FANTASTIC. Rating: 5/5.
Overall Rating: 10/10
Specialty Drinks: Yep! All made with housemade syrups. My mom got a cardamom rosemary (??) latte, and loved it! And she’s not one to try new things all that often, so that’s a good sign.
Go For The: Fantastic pour over options and rotating selection of coffee from around the country.
Milstead & Co.
This is a great spot for coffee nerds like me.
Milstead & Co. is another one of our go-to spots in Seattle. Mostly because it’s in Fremont near our favorite bar in Seattle, Schilling Cider, and they make great seasonal specialty drinks, which my mom loves. But also, they bring in a rotating selection of coffees from roasters up and down the west coast. It’s a cool way to discover new coffee companies and try some stuff you wouldn’t usually get in Seattle (though they definitely also have the usual suspects out of Seattle).
The space is open and bright, with high ceilings and plenty of seating, at least in normal times.
It’s also just down the street from the Fremont Troll, so if you’re coming from out of town make sure to make the journey up the hill to check it out. It’s worth seeing once, at least.
Cappuccino: Amazingly light and fluffy! This was one of our favorite cappuccinos of the bunch. Nice espresso, too. Would absolutely recommend and order again. Rating: 5/5.
Brewed Coffee (Pour over, Ethiopia by Wrecking Ball Coffee): I was really excited about this coffee, since Wrecking Ball is one of my favorites from San Francisco and I’m a sucker for a good natural Ethiopian coffee. But honestly, it just wasn’t as good as I was hoping. And maybe that’s my fault for the high expectations. The barista used a Kalita Wave (they let me choose between Wave, V60, and Aeropress), and the coffee ended up kind of flat. None of the fruitiness that I had hoped for really came through, but it wasn’t like it was a bad cup of coffee or anything. Rating: 4/5.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Specialty Drinks: Yes! Rotating menu of specialty lattes / chai and loose leaf tea, for the non-coffee drinkers. My mom got a mocha, pictured above.
Go For The: Great espresso-based drinks and rotating selection of coffee from around the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond).
Victrola Coffee Roasters
Bias alert: I went into this with Victrola being one of my favorite coffee shops in Seattle. And I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest .
Victrola has a couple of locations in Cap Hill – one on 15th, and the flagship right in the heart of the Pike/Pine corridor – plus a location downtown, and one in Beacon Hill.
We’ve been going here for years – specifically to the flagship in Cap Hill – and the one thing that gets me every single time I walk in is the music selection. It’s always 2000’s alternatives, and they always play the jams (“I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend”).
The decor in the shop is minimalist, with solid wooden tables and chairs and high ceilings. It’s a great place for a weekend morning with a book, or if you need to get some work done.
They have public cuppings on Fridays (last I checked, these were on hold) from 11am-12pm where you can learn about the different coffees they have on offer, and hear a passionate barista or coffee-sourcer (is that the technical term?) talk about their philosophy. Oh, and taste some coffee. It’s fun, and we’ve done it two separate times now.
Cappuccino: My older brother, the elder coffee snob, was blown away by this cappuccino. We had gone through two relatively average cups before this one at other places, and this one was silky smooth with perfectly-pulled espresso (although, we wondered if it was a single shot because it wasn’t super coffee-forward). Really, really solid. Rating: 5/5.
Brewed Coffee (Batch Brew, Uganda): This coffee was interesting, but I don’t think a batch brew will ever be a 5/5 for me. The tasting note that we came up with was peanuts, which is one you don’t see every day. They have pour over options normally, but not while we were there. Rating: 4/5.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Specialty Drinks: They have a mocha and chai, for non-coffee drinkers, but I think that’s all.
Go For The: House-roasted coffee, bright high-ceilinged space, and the free cupping on Fridays.
This was almost an accidental find. We were looking for a place to grab coffee on the way home to the Eastside from Discovery Park, and happened upon Analog. Then, when we drove up, I was not entirely sure they were open because I couldn’t see a sign. But I am SO glad we found Analog Coffee, because the coffee turned out to be excellent.
They aren’t a roaster – they curate the best coffee from local coffee roasters. When we were there, they had beans from Camber (in Bellingham) and Stamp Act (from Seattle), and Herkimer Coffee (also from Seattle).
It’s a bright and inviting space, and the baristas were friendly. We grabbed a seat on the wooden bench outside to relax and let the coffee cool before trying it.
Cappuccino: The texture was great, although I do wish it was a little more foam and a little less milk. But that’s a personal preference, I suppose, and my bias for 6oz cappuccinos is showing. A really solid cappuccino, either way, with perfectly pulled espresso that was neither sour or bitter. Rating: 4/5.
Brewed Coffee (Pour Over, Camber Ethiopian Coffee): Yo, this coffee was everything I dream about in coffees from Ethiopia. Light, floral, a little fruity. Delicious. We really enjoyed this coffee, and I kinda wish I had bought a bag, but I already have too much coffee floating around at home. They usually have at least two or three pour over options, which is kind of cool. Anytime there’s more than one, I get excited. Rating: 5/5.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Specialty Drinks: Does La Croix count? They’ve got things like housemade vanilla syrup, but not too much else, at least that I saw. Their cold brew is supposed to be legendary too.
Go For The: Neighborhood coffee shop vibes and the rotating selection of pour over options.
Empire Roasters & Records
Before this fun little exercise, I had never been to Columbia City, which is on Rainier Avenue south of Downtown Seattle. Empire Espresso has been here for over a decade, and they now have a record store upstairs. Inside, you’ll find a long and narrow bar with a nice little patio out back that would be an excellent spot to grab a cup of coffee and relax with a good book on a warm summer day.
Cappuccino: For real, this cappuccino was among the best I’ve ever had, and all three of us were in agreement on that. It was nice and light in terms of texture, but the espresso was what really made it. Instead of roasty toasty flavors that you usually get with espresso, it was bright and fruity. So much so, that the elder coffee snob went back in to order a straight shot of espresso to try it. Perfectly-pulled espresso and light and fluffy foam made for an amazing cappuccino. Rating: 5/5.
Brewed Coffee (batch brewed, self proclaimed dark roast): Usually when I see dark roast, I run the other way. But I was committed to the experiment here, and it was the only option. And I will say, for a coffee advertised as “dark roast, but not too dark,” it delivered. It wasn’t the best batch brew coffee I’ve ever had, but it was nicely balanced. (Note: They do have an Aeropress offering, which I completely missed when we were there). Rating: 3.5/5.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Specialty Drinks: They make their own cashew milk in-house, which is kind of cool. On their menu, you’ll find things like a Cayenne Mocha and a Lavender Latte, among other things.
Go For The: Great espresso and specialty drinks with house-made syrups and cashew milk.
Located on Yesler Way, in a part of Seattle that I haven’t spent much time in despite its relatively central location near Capitol Hill, Tougo Coffee was a pleasant surprise.
It has been around since 2009, but this is the first time I had heard of it. We were there on a Saturday morning at 8am, right when they opened, and we were the only ones around. The barista was super friendly and chatty, putting up with our bad jokes and “aren’t we so funny” vibes that I almost certainly would have been annoyed by had our roles been reversed.
Cheers to her for that, and for making one of the best cups of coffee we had in the “research” for this guide.
2021 Update: We returned to Tougo almost exactly a year later, and once again had a pretty spectacular pour over coffee – again from Onyx Coffee – along with some of the most friendly service imaginable from Brian, the owner of Tougo.
What really stood out to me, though, is the fact that he knew almost every single person that walked into his shop, and had fairly in-depth conversations with them about their lives, experiences, and other things going on as he prepared their coffee. Or, the customers knew each other. Either way, connections were clearly being made at Tougo.
For me, coffee is partially about exploration, partially about connection. And it was pretty clear to me as I sat there for 15 minutes, sipping a lovely natural Costa Rican coffee prepared with love by Brian, that he is all about connection. And I like that.
However, it’s one of my new favorite discoveries – they bring in a variety of different ethically-sourced coffees from some of the best roasters in the country like Heart (in Portland) and Linea (in San Francisco).
Cappuccino: The cappuccino was okay – the espresso was pulled perfectly, and my major complaint is that it was an 8oz cup, which is a more milky experience than a 6oz cappuccino, which is what I tend to gravitate to. The milk texture was fine, not light and fluffy, but also not overly latte-like. Overall, a solid cup of coffee, but nothing spectacular. Rating: 3.5/5.
Brewed Coffee (Pour Over, Onyx Ethiopia): Every once in a while, you get a pour over coffee that changes your life. In this case, it was an Ethiopian coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab, which I have recently fallen in love with due to their incredible coffee and, more importantly, their beautiful packaging. This happened to be a cup of excellence winner, and it was like getting slapped in the face with a branch of ripe blueberries. And I mean that in the best possible way. All three of us immediately gave it a 5/5, and it’s one of my favorite cups of coffee on this entire list. Rating: 5/5.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Go For The: Selection of coffees from Pacific Northwest roasters made with care by friendly baristas on a deconstructed La Marzocco machine.
Fulcrum Coffee is an amalgamation of three different brands – Fulcrum, Urban City, and Silver Cup – with slightly different points of view on coffee. The one we’re talking about here – Fulcrum – has a lovely minimalist cafe in Belltown just a few blocks away from both the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. They also have a roastery in SoDo that I haven’t made it to quite yet.
Cappuccino: This was a really, really good cappuccino. Texture was excellent, with a smooth transition from foam to coffee, and the espresso was there, but not overpowering or off in any way. I really liked how light the cup felt, which is usually a good sign for the foam. A really pleasant cappuccino that I would definitely order again. Rating: 4.5/5.
Brewed Coffee (Pour over, Guatemalan Coffee): This coffee was hand brewed by the friendly barista with a V60, and it was a solid cup of coffee, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think the coffee was particularly interesting or exciting. Brewed well, but I wish we’d chosen a different coffee. They’ll give you a couple of choices, and we just happened to choose wrong here. Rating: 3.5/5.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Specialty Drinks: They have a rotating selection of interesting seasonal drinks, including a blueberry muffin latte that looked really interesting.
Go For The: Bright and airy space and solid coffee.
Woodland is not a coffee roaster, but they curate some amazing coffees from Olympia coffee and have a nice space in Ballard. It’s a relatively new spot, only a few years old, and I had never heard of it until very recently. Still, showing that age is just a number (our mom’s favorite saying), all three of us were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the coffee, and the design of the interior.
It’s locally owned and operated too, which I view as a plus.
Cappuccino: The cappuccino here was really, really good. Nothing spectacular, but the milk was light and fluffy (some might say too light, but I like my cappuccinos dry) and the nuttiness of the espresso really came through and was quite nice. Rating: 4/5.
Brewed Coffee (Batch brew, Olympia Coffee Holiday Blend): Normally, batch brewed coffee is pretty “meh” (side note: I’ll still drink it if needed because of my raging caffeine addiction). Especially if it has been sitting for a while, which this one almost certainly was since we were there at an off-peak hour after lunch. Still, somehow the coffee tasted fresh, fruity, and rich. If you had told me it was made especially for me as a pour over, I would have believed you. Both of my brothers agreed, and noted that the coffee was fantastic. Rating: 4/5.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Olympia Coffee Company
Before we did this whole shebang, Olympia Coffee was among my favorite coffee roasters in the world, and they started right here in the Pacific Northwest! Until recently, it has been hard to get my hands on their coffee in Seattle because the nearest location was in Tacoma. But now they have two locations in Seattle – one in West Seattle, and one in Columbia City (south of Downtown Seattle).
Their cafes always feature amazing design, full of natural light and sporting the white-walled minimalism you tend to find at hip coffee spots around the country.
One thing I like about Olympia is their commitment to “Fair For All,” which creates transparency in the way they source coffee and results in a better quality of life for all involved throughout the entire supply chain. Learn more here. They’re also a Certified B-Corp, which I know involves a ton of ongoing work to achieve and applaud them for.
Cappuccino: The first thing we noticed was how light the cup was. They serve their cappuccino as a 6oz drink, which is the perfect balance of coffee and milk, in my opinion. The texture was great – light foam on top, and smooth on the bottom. To be honest, the coffee itself had a little bit of a burnt taste. Rating: 4/5.
Brewed Coffee (Pour Over w/ SteadyPour, El Salvador): All three of us were disappointed in this coffee. It clearly had potential, but it was a little bit flat. You got a little bit of brightness / citrus, but it wasn’t super pronounced. In general, my reaction was “meh.” I know, from experience, that they have some outstanding coffees, but this wasn’t it. Rating: 3.5/5.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed. They’re still one of my favorites, but the coffee wasn’t as spectacular as I remember having on our many trips before this one.
Specialty Drinks: They have a bunch of seasonal specialty drinks – we were there in the wintertime and they had a “Nutcracker,” which is a latte with bourbon-barrel aged maple syrup and pecans, and “the Great Pumpkin,” which is milk, espresso, and roasted kabocha squash with chai spices. Plus, they have a good selection of tea lattes, including a London Fog, which is Alysha’s go-to order, and housemade chai.
Located on Union Street (surprise!) in the Central District, Union Coffee is part coffee shop, part wine shop, and serves a range of different Pacific Northwest coffee roasters like Olympia and Looking Homeward, among others.
As I was researching spots to add to this list, Union Coffee jumped out to me based on this article I read about it. Having traveled a fair amount and spent a ton of time researching exciting coffee shops to visit, I always feel conflicted about seeking out a hip new coffee shop in a gentrifying neighborhood, which is fairly commonplace in cities around the world at this point.
New owner of Union Coffee, Geetu Vailoor, said this about that conflict I’ve felt in the past: “I’d like to curb that narrative and rewrite that because I think that coffee is for everyone.”
Cappuccino: This was a great cappuccino, with fantastic texture and perfectly pulled espresso. After a whole bit on whether or not a ⅘ is “great,” we decided that while it was nothing spectacular, it was certainly worthy of a “B” rating. Rating: 4/5.
Brewed Coffee (Pour Over, El Salvador): We saw a gesha (or is it “geisha” for the region of Ethiopia it’s said to be from?) coffee on the menu, which we were excited about, so we ordered it. I have only had a geisha coffee once, and that was in Colombia at Pergamino Coffee in Medellin. It was fantastic – floral and fruity, and everything you would expect from the special variety of coffee that tends to sell for well over $800 a pound at auction. However, I think the way it was brewed left a lot on the table – it was over extracted, and some of those lighter flavors were muted and overrun by that bitterness. I think the coffee had tons of potential, but it was let down by the brewing method. I will say, though, that I respect that the barista was able to make it as good as it was, given that she was the only one in the shop and was serving multiple other customers while making a cup of pour over coffee, which is something I certainly can’t do. Rating: 3/5.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Specialty Drinks: They’ve got a selection of the usual espresso drinks on the menu, along with pour over offerings and specialty seasonal lattes (maple rosemary and chaga mushroom were some of the winter offerings when we were there).
Ghost Note Coffee
Go for the specialty drinks!
I was pretty excited about Ghost Note, a small, modern shop in Capitol Hill. They have really interesting specialty drinks, and they bottle their own drinks like chai to buy to take home. Unfortunately, the coffee just wasn’t that good.
That being said, I would absolutely go back to try their specialty drinks that they craft with homemade syrups. They’re more like fancy cocktails than anything else, and I would say those are the highlights.
Cappuccino: The espresso was bitter. Like, really bitter. Usually I can’t tell much of a difference unless it’s WAYYYY out of whack, so that’s saying something. The texture also wasn’t super pleasant – instead of silky smooth, it was one dollop of foam on the top, and then essentially a latte right below it. Though, props for the 5oz cappuccino! That’s the right size, if you ask me. Rating: 3/5.
Brewed Coffee (Modified espresso machine, natural-process Ethiopia): I’m still not quite sure how this really works, but they use a modified espresso machine that applies less pressure and runs the coffee through the machine. However the science works, the coffee (which I’ve actually brewed myself at home before) was pretty flat. Only a hint of the fruitiness came through, and we even tried it at multiple temperatures to make sure we weren’t missing anything. Still, it was “not offensive” as one of my brothers put it, it just didn’t live up to our expectations for the coffee used. Rating: 3.5/5.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10
Specialty Drinks: This is where Ghost Note really shines. While their straight coffee options weren’t great the day we were there, their specialty drinks look incredible. Try the “Lush Life” – “Cold drink with espresso, almond milk, orange blossom honey & grapefruit aromatics” – and the “London Smog” (which Alysha can’t wait to try) – “a hot drink with pine-smoked black tea, chai-spiced honey & steamed oat milk.”
Go for the: Cocktail-like specialty drinks.
Zoka Coffee Roasters
Zoka is an ethical coffee roaster who recognizes that their coffee purchasing has an impact on communities in coffee growing regions, and they purchase over 90% of their coffees directly from farmers to ensure their investment stays with the community that grows it. Which I think is super cool.
Their owner was an expert judge in the Cup of Excellence program around the world, and their baristas consistently do well in national barista competitions, so they know good coffee.
They have a bunch of locations around the Seattle area – we chose their flagship in Green Lake, which is actually super close to where I used to live in Seattle and I wish I had known about it back then. The rustic space features a lot of wood and wing-backed chairs, and my younger brother commented that it would be a fantastic place to come on Saturday morning with a book or some work and hang out.
They also have locations in South Lake Union, the U-District, and Kirkland.
While the ambiance of their location was great, the coffee was pretty underwhelming.
Cappuccino: First off, the texture on this cappuccino was a 10/10. Unfortunately, while the milk was steamed perfectly, with a nice light and creamy texture, the espresso let us down a little bit. It was pretty bitter, and it got worse as it cooled and the espresso flavor got a little bit more pronounced. Rating: 3/5.
Brewed Coffee (V60 hand-poured, Ethiopian coffee): Unfortunately, the pour over was just a little bit off too. It was watery and underdone. You could certainly taste notes of citrus, but the first tasting note that I would feature on the cup of coffee we got was “water.” Rating: 3/5.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Specialty Drinks: You’ll find a variety of seasonal specialty drinks – in the winter when we were there, they had a pumpkin spice latte, an eggnog latte, and a honey cardamom latte to choose from, along with three different types of chai, which Alysha loves (lavender, ginger, and morning glory).
Go For The: Ambiance. A perfect place to read a book or get some work done.
Even More Great Seattle Coffee Shops: A 2021 Update
This section is not about ranking these shops, but is an addendum based on further explorations of Seattle’s coffee scene a full year after the previous version was written.
These shops are places that we’ve been before, but revisited an came to the conclusion that they belong somewhere on this list, even if we weren’t going to meticulously dissect their coffee offerings and ruthlessly rank them.
In most of the guides I write about Seattle, you’ll usually find some sort of rant about the so-called “First Starbucks.”
Which is really just a marketing ploy more than anything. It’s not the first Starbucks. That location no longer exists, so maybe you could call it the oldest remaining Starbucks, but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It’s also not any different from any of the other seventeen Starbucks locations within a four block radius. To top it all off, there’s almost always a line around the block for what is ultimately an average-at-best drink.
What does this have to do with Anchorhead? My recommendation for coffee lovers visiting Pike Place Market is to skip that Starbucks and walk a block down the street to Anchorhead.
While their filter coffee isn’t my favorite (at the Seattle location near Pike Place, it’s all batch-brewed as far as I know), it’s about nine times better than the Starbucks version. What they do well, I think, is the specialty seasonal drinks – they had an orange mocha this winter that was great – and espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
Their cold brew is also really solid, though it gets me way, way too caffeinated way too fast for me to choose it often.
They also make their own food and pastries, which is fairly unique in the Seattle coffee scene (many places bring them in from other local businesses).
The last cappuccino we had there was almost perfect – I’d give it a 4.5 / 5 if I was including it in the rankings above.
Caffe Vita is one of the O.G. coffee roasters in Seattle, though to be honest, I hadn’t really given them a shot until they opened in the old La Marzocco / KEXP space at Seattle Center.
Because I love that space so much, I decided it was time to give them the shot they probably deserved well before I got around to drinking their coffee.
And you know what? They delivered.
Their coffee menu has everything I look for – filter coffee, with options for both batch brew and pour over with various different single origin beans, espresso-based drinks, and seasonal specialty drinks, including a Seville Orange latte.
Side note: I have a problem with the name of that particular drink because, based on our recent trip to Seville, this drink would be absolutely awful if they used the bitter oranges that line the streets of Seville.
Anyway, I got a one-and-one, which is a double shot of espresso split into two single shots, one served as espresso, one as a macchiato. I love when places give you the ability to try different styles and coffees, and this was a fun one.
I love their KEXP location at Seattle Center- the last time we were there, my brothers started making fun of me for saying how much I enjoyed the space after the fourth time I said it in the space of an hour. They also have locations in Cap Hill, Queen Anne, Seward Park, and Fremont.
This was a huge surprise for me, because I always thought that Cafe Hagen was less about the coffee, and more about Amazon employees arm-wrestling each other over a cheese plate. Probably mostly due to the location, which is smack dab in the middle of Amazon-ville in South Lake Union.
Turns out, I was wrong.
While they do have a strong focus on food – their freshly baked pastries look incredible (I have Celiac Disease, so no pastries for me) – they also take their coffee seriously.
“You have to try the Wush Wush [a single origin Ethiopian coffee – here], it tastes like a Jolly Rancher!” one of my coffee-loving friends told me as we waited in line at the hip, modern space in South Lake Union.
You can get your coffee anyway you want it, from single origin pour overs to perfectly-frothed cappuccinos, and anything in between. They also have a couple of rotating seasonal drinks, like a black currant espresso concoction in the spring.
However, my favorite part about Cafe Hagen’s coffee offerings is the espresso flight, where you can get three shots of espresso side-by-side, which helps really highlight the differences between the coffees.
Exploration is the fun part of coffee for me, and I was ecstatic when Mr. Wush Wish said “I have never tasted an espresso like that” after trying one of the espresso shots that was particularly lively.
My verdict is that the coffee is really good, and the addition of great food (did I mention the in-house pastries?) and fun coffee experiences make this a worthwhile stop for coffee lovers in Seattle.
Boon Boona Coffee
Boon Boona is a coffee shop in Renton that specializes in sourcing exclusively African coffees, but they recently opened up a location in Seattle across the street from Seattle University on the border between Cap Hill and the Central District.
Their coffee is roasted in Renton, and they focus on creating long-term partnerships with farms and cooperatives in Africa.
We stopped by on a sunny weekend morning, and the café was buzzing with a combination of students and locals. The coffee itself was great – we had an espresso that was bright and juicy, and a cappuccino with perfectly-frothed milk that we all really enjoyed.
If you’ve never experienced it before, it is worth heading over to their roastery in Renton to experience an Ethiopian (or Eritrean) coffee ceremony, where the beans are roasted over an open flame and brewed fresh in front of you.
It’s a unique way to experience coffee, and is a welcome alternative to the “fast fast fast” coffee culture that has been created by mobile ordering and, well, Starbucks.
I also really enjoyed their “three origins within an origin” sample pack, which is three different coffees from Ethiopia with different processing and tasting notes that highlights how diverse coffee can be, even within the same country.
We’re all about trying new and exciting coffees, and this is a fun way to do it.
The Best Coffee in Seattle: A Map of Seattle’s Coffee Scene
Here is an interactive map of our favorite coffee shops in Seattle, so that you might discover one or two new spots to add to your own list.
Three Amazing Seattle Coffee Experiences
These three spots don’t really fit into the list and criteria above for one reason or another, but are absolutely worth checking out if you’re in Seattle and love coffee.
La Marzocco Cafe: My absolute #1 must-stop for coffee in Seattle, this place brings in a new roaster from around the world every month. They have a variety of single origin offerings available as pour over, traditional espresso drinks, and a bunch of really cool and innovative coffee cocktails. RIP La Marzocco Café – it has been replaced with Caffe Vita in the same space, which is still great. It’s also in a beautiful space – home of the Seattle radio station KEXP, which records live in the space – at the foot of the Space Needle. It’s an amazing experience, and one I highly recommend. Unfortunately, they were closed when we were doing this, but I wanted to include them because I tell anyone and everyone that will listen about them.
Counter Culture Tasting at Ten: I first discovered Counter Culture and their Tasting at Ten in Emeryville, when I worked a block away from their roastery there. And ever since, I’ve been in love. Every Friday (in normal times, it currently isn’t happening), they have what is basically a free hour-long class about coffee. The topics range from how to brew pour over coffee at home, to trying the same coffee brewed three ways, to doing a cupping of new and exciting coffees they are releasing. The Seattle Training Center in Pioneer Square has a Tasting at Ten every Friday at, you guessed it, 10am. We’ve been multiple times, and it’s always a joy.
Espresso Vivace: I decided to include Espresso Vivace, a Seattle institution and probably the origin of the modern, more fruity espresso, in this section. Because if you judge them based on their cappuccino and brewed coffee, the latter is something they don’t even serve, then you’re missing the point of going here. You should go here for a shot of espresso done perfectly, and the Cafe Nico.
In a city full of great coffee, those are our picks for great coffee in Seattle.
Have a coffee shop that you love that we didn’t include? I would LOVE to hear it! Shoot me a note and I’ll add it to my list to try!
More to Explore in Washington State
Heading to the great state of Washington? Here are some other posts you might like.
- The Best Things to Do in Seattle: A Local’s Complete Guide (coming SOON!)
- Where to Stay in Seattle: 7 Amazing Areas to Stay
- How to Plan an Amazing Weekend in Seattle (3 Day Itinerary)
- One Day in Seattle: How to See The Best of Seattle in a Day
- The 8 Best Day Trips from Seattle: A Complete Guide
- 10 Amazing Weekend Getaways from Seattle: A Complete Planning Guide
- Where to Find the Best Coffee in Seattle: 15+ Amazing Seattle Coffee Shops
- Gluten Free Seattle: A Complete Travel Guide for Celiacs
- How to Plan an Amazing Washington State Road Trip
- The 19 Best Airbnbs in Washington State
- 33 Incredible Cabins in Washington State
- 12 Amazing Easy Hikes in Washington State for Beginners
- How to Plan an Amazing Olympic National Park Itinerary
- What to Do in Leavenworth, Washington: A Complete Guide
- What to Do on San Juan Island: A Complete Visitors Guide
- The Best Things to Do on Orcas Island: Complete Planning Guide
- The Best Things to Do on Vashon Island: A Complete Day Trip Guide