Mmmmmmmmmm, coffee. The elixir of the gods of which no day can start fresh and anew without.
Once the land of automatic drip and freeze-dried instant (with flavor crystals!), the nation is experiencing yet another coffee rebirth. As the country graduated from Folger's to Starbucks to fair-trade, ethically-sourced craft brews, Americans continued to prove their love for coffee both as a morning pick-me-up and as an artisanal experience for the distinguishing palate.
From La Colombe Torrefaction in New York City's Noho to Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, Café Du Monde in the French Quarter to Stumptown in Portland, OR, Starbucks in Seattle to Dunkin' in Boston, America has so many great coffeehouses and cafés in a carafe of amazing coffee cities. But of all the latte locales and espresso spots around the nation, which are the best cities for coffee lovers?
To uncover the best cities for coffee, we looked at every city in the U.S. with at least one coffee shop or coffee-related establishment and a population of over 73,000. All told, that's 483 cities with a total of over 72,000 coffee shops and coffee-related establishments.
We then calculated the ratio of coffee establishments per 100,000 residents (population density) in each of those cities and ranked them 1 to 483. Then, we made the same calculation for the ratio of coffee establishments per square mile (geographic density). We weighted both ratios equally, gave them a 0 to 100 score and utilized the combined rankings to determine the places deemed the top 10 best cities for coffee lovers in the nation.
Outdoorsy and surrounded by nature. Crisp air, crisp mountains and crisp beer. Asheville is rugged and beautiful. It's like a little piece of Rocky Mountain Colorado in the Appalachians. In the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is known these days as an unlikely craft beer mecca. But long before that, the mountain air made for great coffee drinking.
There are 176 coffee shops and businesses in this city of 94,000. The population is small, but the coffee scene is big. While that ranks Asheville just 102nd in coffee per person, it leaps to the eighth-most per square mile. Whether you're out for a hike or prepping that long bike ride, Asheville has plenty of great places to stop for a caffeine fix. Some well-known spots include Dynamite Roasting, High Noon, Mountain City and Malaprop's Bookstore & Café.
In Washington State, coffee is a religion. And Everett, the state's seventh-largest city, is one of three Evergreen State cities to crack the top 10. That's a lot of joe. Nearly a decade ago, Everett made coffee headlines over the city's controversial bikini barista scandal. A very Everett story, the incident highlighted just how important coffee is to the city's identity.
Everett's coffee history is a long one. It dates all the way back to 1898 when Bargreen's Coffee Company began just eight years after the city itself. The institution continues going strong, in its current downtown location for over 110 years. Among Everett's 200 other coffee shops are popular Cafe Makario, Loft Coffee Bar and former “Best Café in the World," Narrative Coffee.
The city of Bellingham, is just a half hour from the Canadian border, a bit south of Vancouver, BC. With a population of 92,000, it's the smallest in the top 10. It's also the second-smallest by area and has the fewest total coffee shops. But, Bellingham packs 174 of them into just 27 square miles. And, here in the extreme Pacific Northwest, coffee comes in two legendary names: Tony and Woods.
Long before coffee shops dotted every corner in America, there was Tony's Coffee. The legendary coffee stop opened just over half a century ago in Bellingham's historic Fairhaven neighborhood, where it remains a local staple serving nearly 30 house blends.
While Tony's focused on its one special location, another institution had grander dreams. Founded along the border in 2002, coffeehouse chain Woods Coffee quickly became an innovator in both coffee roasting and service technology. In just two decades, Woods has grown to nearly 20 locations.
Orlando, better known as the home of Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter, doesn't seem a fit with coffee hubs like Portland or Seattle. But, the recipe is easy. Pour three shots of hyper-tourism into a venti Americano of Florida coffee culture and serve. Orlando is one of the most visited cities in the world. All of those tourists need to fuel up with a cup of hot or iced coffee to ramp up for a day of roller coasters and animatronic presidents.
There are dozens of spots for coffee throughout Orlando's theme parks. Grab a cup of joe at Disney World in places like Coffee Margs, Joffrey's and Kusafiri Coffee. Order your daily latte at Universal at Copper Moon or Lard Lad Donuts. You can even indulge in a cappuccino at Coaster Coffee or Expedition Café at SeaWorld. But, locals have to grab their coffee fix, as well. Some resident favorites include CREDO, Lineage Coffee and Vespr Coffeebar.
Pittsburgh? Really? Yes, the Steel City. Home of the Black, Gold… and blonde roasts. Pittsburgh has always been a unique mix of East Coast and Midwest, busy coastal and slower Great Lakes. Long gone are the steel mills, coal mines and sooty skies. Today, it's a modern, shining business and tech hub, alive with culture, music and growing café culture.
But even as Pittsburgh experiences its 21st-century renaissance, Yinzerville residents are still down-and-dirty hard hatters at their industrial heart. That blue-collar attitude is why it ranks so high for coffee lovers. Pittsburgh loves its coffee, whether it be gourmet single-origin small batches popular around The Point or brim-filled mega-chain paper cups for the lunchpail crowd.
Sprinkled throughout PGH, you'll find two dozen workaday Starbucks. But, there are plenty of neighborhood cafés like Espresso A Mano, Allegheny Coffee and Tea Exchange, Carnegie Coffee Company and small chain Commonplace Coffee.
Aside from rival Seattle, nowhere in America is more of a “coffee city" as firmly as Portland. Oregon's largest city has been a coffee capital long before its trendy rebirth. A world leader in specialty coffee, Portland houses the most roasters per capita in America. That includes the O.G. Stumptown Coffee, along with spots like Coava Coffee, Sterling Coffee Roasters, Water Avenue Coffee and Heart Coffee, many along "roaster's row."
Just the 26th most populated city, Portland still offers the eighth-most coffee shops. Like a family cheesesteak in Philly or go-to deep dish in Chicago, visitors and locals alike have their most favored java spot. Among these are Albina Press, Never Coffee, Crema Coffee, and Tov Coffee & Tea, along with local chains Case Study Coffee and Barista.
Though ranked No. 4 by data, Seattle is probably the No. 1 coffee city by reputation. If not for its large land area — third-most of the top 10 — the Emerald City might sit atop the standings.
Local lore says it's virtually impossible to walk a single block downtown without passing at least one café. Just the 18th-largest city in America, it offers the fifth-most coffee shops anywhere. Seattle ranks fourth in the nation for both most coffee spots per square mile and per person. Starbucks, Seattle's Best and Tully's Coffee all started in Seattle. It's also home to a large Stumptown Coffee roasting facility.
The city is home to some of the most iconic and popular coffeehouses in the nation like Bauhaus Capitol Hill, Caffé Vita Coffee, Café Allegro, Espresso Vivace and Monorail Espresso. It also features a number of local chains, including Caffè Umbria, Top Pot Doughnuts and Caffe Ladro. Revolutionary coffeehouse Last Exit on Brooklyn was a University District landmark for 33 years before closing in 2000.
Cafecito. Café Cubano. Cuban espresso. Cuban pull. Tiene muchos nombres. The heartbeat of coffee culture in Miami is the Cuban specialty, a sweetened espresso shot with natural brown sugar whipped into a creamy foam. Miami, many say, loves the refreshing shot, often served for under a buck and regularly enjoyed at 3:05 p.m. (for Miami's area code).
There are cafecito, colada and cortadito cafés in nearly every neighborhood. Many feature ventanitas for to-go cups, including at the iconic Versailles in Little Havana. Cubans and non-Cubans alike love spots like Los Pinarenos Fruteria, Pasión de Cielo, Casavana Cuban Cuisine and local chain La Palma Latin Café. Even traditional coffee spots are Latin American-tinged, many founded and run by Latinx immigrants and descendants like Per'la Coffee, All-Day MIA and local chain Panther Coffee.
But, it's not Cuban coffee alone that makes Miami great. Coffee culture is widespread in Magic City. Despite ranking as just the 44th largest city, it offers the third-most cafés per capita. Some renowned Miami craft beaneries include Alaska Coffee Roasting Co., Nespresso Boutique, Vice City Bean and Europa Cafe, one of Miami's many gas station/coffee shop hybrids.
North of Oakland and across the Bay from San Francisco, Berkeley is most known for the University of California, social activism and educated hippie culture. West Coast sensibility, a large student population, a small business-supportive community and an entrepreneurial graduate population combine to make this small city a well-established java capital. Whether frazzled BioMed students pulling all-nighters or neo-Beatniks discussing Marxism over locally-sourced espressos, it is no surprise Berkeley ranks second among the best cities for coffee.
The Berkeley coffee giant is, of course, Peet's Coffee. Founded by Dutch immigrant Alfred Peet in 1966 on Vine Street near campus, his small spice shop introduced America to dark Arabica blends like French Roast. That kicked off the “second wave" of modern coffee, the popularization of lattes, mochas and flavored coffee served in corporate social spaces. House morning blend was in, Folger's Crystals were out.
Flash forward half a century and Peet's has grown to over 200 shops in 11 states, plus placement in 14,000 supermarkets. And, that culture has spawned a ton of great coffee spots in this small city, including Artis, Highwire Coffee, CoRo Coffee Roastery and 1951 Coffee Company.
San Francisco is not a cheap place to… well, do anything. It's among the most expensive for real estate, utilities, groceries, transit and gas. It's the priciest place to raise a family and carries one of the highest average rents. Whether to keep going during a long workday to afford the nation's highest cost of living or wind down to beat the stress, it's no wonder San Francisco tops the list of best cities for coffee.
While just the 17th largest city in the nation, San Francisco is by far the most populous among our top 10. That speaks to the importance of the coffee culture. Megacities are often so large, the sheer number of people diminishes the per capita ratios. Not here. With the third-most coffee shops in the nation and grabbing the top spot for both most per capita and per square mile, San Francisco coffee is for both gourmets and for the masses.
“What defines San Francisco's coffee scene? Innovation," postulates Ritual Coffee Roasters owner Eileen Rinaldi. And, it's that spark that elevates the city to coffee mecca status. That innovation is on display at cafés popular for both the C-level and punch-clock crowds like Andytown Coffee Roasters, Henry's House of Coffee, Lady Falcon Coffee Club and Rinaldi's iconic Ritual Coffee.
That's just a taste of America's best cities for coffee lovers. If we expand the list to the top 50 cities in the nation, you'll find many more big cities like Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Boston. But, proving you can find a good cup anywhere, several of the nation's smallest metros like Kalamazoo, MI; Missoula, MT and Santa Fe, NM, are also some of its best.
|Rank||City||State||Per Capita Score||Density Score||Total Score|
|23||Salt Lake City||UT||35.23||3.69||38.92|
Which cities top the list if you only take into account those with the highest number of coffee businesses per person? The top four remain unchanged, proving just how strong the coffee culture is in those cities. But, that shows how population density affects coffee availability in crowded cities like Washington, Boston and New York, which pops up to eighth from 100th.
|Rank||City||State||Coffee Shops Per Capita (100k People)|
Conversely, what stands out if you view the list solely through the lens of the most coffee establishments per square mile? Well, not much has changed. Every city in the top 10 best cities for coffee overall are also the best for most by geographic density.
|Rank||City||State||Coffee Shops Per Square Mile|
When you look at the sheer number of coffee shops and businesses in each city, it's clear that cities with the highest populations have the most cafés. New York — the nation's largest city — ranks just 100th for best cities for coffee with density metrics, but jumps to No. 1 in volume. Same for the second-most, as Los Angeles leaps from 173rd ranked to No. 2.
But, San Francisco, the best city for coffee overall by density score in America, also has the third most coffee shops overall, a case study on just how important coffee is in the Golden Gate City.
|Rank||City||State||Number of Coffee Shops|
To determine the best cities for coffee we looked at every city in the U.S. with a population of more than 100,000 and at least one coffee shop. From there, we divided the total number of coffee-related establishments by the total population. This gave us a list of cities with the most number of coffee businesses per person.
We then repeated the calculation for the number of coffee-related establishments per square land mile, which gave us a list of cities with the most number of coffee businesses per area calculation. The cities with the highest combined per capita ratio, weighted equally, were deemed to be the best cities for coffee lovers in our quantitative report.
Data used in this report comes from the following sources: