It’s no secret that Seattle is a football city with a coffee problem. Coffee shops line the well-planned, wide streets, from Seattle’s native juggernaut Starbucks to the most quaint, precious pour-over stands this side of the Cascades. Coffee-land is Seattle’s senior superlative, its mantra, its reputation.
But what puts Seattle’s caffeine scene a cup above the rest? Eater has combed the city for the list of essential coffee operations. From roasters to espresso-pullers, chains to mom-and-pop cafes, this list covers Seattle’s second, third, and yet-to-be-defined fourth wave of coffee. There’s a jolt for every palate here.
1. Tin Umbrella Coffee
Until 2012, Hillman City didn’t have a local favorite coffee shop. Then Tin Umbrella grew out of a love of coffee, bikes, Rainier Valley, and Ethiopia. While on paper these four things don’t necessarily go together, in practice they fit together for an amazing addition to a richly diverse neighborhood.
5600 Rainier Ave S, Ste A, Seattle, WA 98118 | 206-743-8802 | Website
2. Caffè Umbria
Master roaster Emanuele Bizzarri comes from a long line of coffee makers — he’s a third generation roaster from Perugia, Italy. His family came to Seattle where he opened this flagship retail store with two business partners. The company, now with additional locations in Seattle, Portland, and Chicago, emphasizes the Italian tradition of blending beans, using more than 15 varietals of coffee in its scientific mixtures.
320 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104 | 206-624-5847 | Website
3. Elm Coffee Roasters
It’s hard to think of another word besides “lovely” to describe Pioneer Square’s young coffee haven. Beyond its delicious coffee, Elm features warm service, which can be rare in the land of the Seattle Freeze. Thank you, Elm, for the friendly faces and hazelnut milk.
240 2nd Ave Ext S, Ste 103, Seattle, WA 98104 | 206-445-7808 | Website
4. Seattle Coffee Works
The best thing about Seattle Coffee Works is easily the differentiation between the express bar, for those who need to get caffeine and get going, and the slow bar, for those who like to taste, touch, look, and learn. It’s a perfect way to cater to two important groups.
107 Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98101 | 206-340-8867 | Website
5. Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room
Starbucks may be The Man — and damn The Man, right? But Eater isn’t suggesting you wait in line at the “original” Starbucks for your average cup o’ joe. Instead, pay tribute to Starbucks’ massive, upscale, copper-plated Capitol Hill coffee shrine, where the chain’s specialty beans are roasted on-site. You won’t experience anything else quite like it.
1124 Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98101 | 206-624-0173 | Website
6. Victrola Cafe and Roastery
All three Victrola locations focus on single-origin coffee, but offer blends as well. Founded in 2000 on 15th Ave, Victrola opened a Pike Street location in 2007 to give the brand space for a roastery, training facility, and cupping room. This light-filled cafe hosts free cuppings, or coffee tastings, open to the public every Wednesday at 11 a.m.
310 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122 | 206-624-1725 | Website
7. Caffé Vita
Sit back, enjoy a well-made brew of your choosing with beans from an independent farmer, and watch the in-house roasting process at one of Seattle’s most famous coffee families.
1005 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122 | 206-709-4440 | Website
8. Tougo Coffee Co.
This gem gets infinite brownie points for being a welcoming, community-focused, nerdy-not-jerky haven for lovely pulled espresso and baked goods. Almost a decade old with a heavy focus on beans and neighborhood, Tougo provides the perfect place to relax with friends, read a book, and more.
1410 18th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122 | 206-329-2869 | Website
9. Analog Coffee
Analog Coffee is the quintessential hip coffee shop. It feels like the culmination of Seattle’s coffee waves — roasting Herkimer beans to perfection, offering cold brew on tap, and spinning records all day from the shop’s private collection.
235 Summit Ave E, Seattle, WA 98102 | 206-678-7443 | Website
10. Espresso Vivace
Focusing on the Northern Italian style, Vivace has been praised with accolades from numerous publications, celebrity chefs, and coffee enthusiasts around the world. At the three locations (two on Capitol Hill, one in South Lake Union), you won’t find a cup of drip on the menu (just order an americano, if that’s how you like your coffee), but you will taste a contender for the greatest cappuccino of all time.
532 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102 | 206-860-2722 | Website
11. La Marzocco Cafe
This Italian expert on espresso machines has been around for nearly 100 years and played a role in countless coffee shops, including Starbucks’ original boom; the Pacific Northwest is its home away from home. This cafe/showroom is a worldwide first, though, and, quite frankly, a BFD. The space highlights a rotating lineup of roasters-in-residence, providing coffee partners the opportunity to present their vision in the beautiful, KEXP-adjacent space.
472 1st Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109 | 206-706-9104 | Website
12. Caffe Ladro
It all started in a little coffee shop on Upper Queen Anne. Now, 20-something years later, this mini-chain is a well-loved staple of the Seattle coffee scene. Five years ago, Ladro launched a roasting program, sourcing its own coffee directly from farmers and roasting on the same hill where it all started.
2205 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA 98119 | 206-282-5313 | Website
13. Milstead & Co.
The offerings at this multi-roaster cafe switch out frequently, much like the tap list at a great beer bar, taking the idea of the “coffee bar” to the next level. This company is part caffeine purveyor, part coffee educator, and all good.
900 N 34th St, Seattle, WA 98103 | 206-659-4814 | Website
14. Lighthouse Roasters
Lighthouse-roasted beans can be found all over the city, but you have to venture to Fremont to get them directly from the source. The company roasts directly in its little shop, in small batches all day long, which means the coffee is fresher than fresh.
400 N 43rd St, Seattle, WA 98103 | 206-633-4444 | Website
15. Vif Wine and Coffee
Can combination coffee-and-wine stores be the official fourth wave of coffee? Vif has won hearts in Fremont by creating an open, airy cafe serving espresso and pour-overs from Olympia Roasting Co. alongside glasses of intriguing natural wine.
4401 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 | 206-557-7357 | Website
16. Slate Coffee Bar
The Ballard coffee bar was Slate’s first brick-and-mortar; the company has since opened two more locations in the University District and Pioneer Square. Surprisingly, the tiny shop is not made for quick to-go ordering — like Slate’s coffee, it’s a place to savor. Pull a stool up to the bar, drink a deconstructed espresso and milk out of precious stemware, and talk to the knowledgeable staff about exposure roasting.
5413 6th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107 | 206-240-7174 | Website
17. Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Company
Zoka is one of the great second-wave coffee shops truly specific to Seattle. Opened in 1997, when people started clamoring to know where their coffee came from, this gem is still just as good as it was in the days of grunge.
2200 N 56th St, Seattle, WA 98103 | 206-545-4277 | Website
18. Herkimer Coffee
In true neighborly fashion, the staff here know your name, your order, and will even let you pay later if you forget your cash. The chainlet also happens to make some of the best coffee in Seattle. Balanced, technical, with an artistic flair, Herkimer combines attention to detail and Seattle’s patented “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” style with ease.
7320 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 | 206-784-0202 | Website
Seattle Eater | Sept 2016