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 crystals!), the nation is experiencing yet another coffee rebirth. From Folger's to Starbucks to fair-trade ethically-sourced craft brews, Americans love their coffee both as a morning pick-me-up and as an artisanal experience for the distinguishing palate.
From La Colombe Torrefaction in Noho to Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, Café Du Monde in the French Quarter to Stumptown in Portland, Starbucks in Seattle to Dunkin' in Boston, America is filled to the brim with 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?
We scoured the nation and found nearly 9,500 cities in the U.S. with at least one coffee shop for a national total of almost 105,000 coffee establishments. We then eliminated any city with a population of less than 100,000, leaving us with the 308 largest American cities with at least one coffee shop or business, offering a total of nearly 18,000 individual locations in those cities.
We then calculated the ratio of coffee-related establishments per 100,000 residents in each of those cities and ranked them 1 to 308. We then made the same calculation for the ratio of coffee-related establishments per square land miles (city limits only). We weighted both ratios equally and utilized the combined rankings to determine the places deemed the top 10 best cities for coffee lovers in the nation.
We did this survey last year using a slightly different methodology, and we received a lot of messages from people (we're looking at you, Seattle) who were upset that their city didn't take the top spot. Well … it looks like we'll be hearing from some of them again this year.
Here are the best cities for coffee lovers in America.
Los Angeles' busy downtown is not conducive to relaxing respites with a latte in hand over conversation with friends. The rush-rush of L.A. businesspeople, restaurant workers and entertainment professionals create a to-go cup and app pickup culture of caffeine fixes over small-batch sipping.
This is not the case 10 miles from downtown on the east side of L.A. County in Pasadena. The slower pace, suburban walkable streets and a booming arts scene are the perfect recipe to launch the City of Roses into one of America's best coffee cities.
Many coffee shops in Pasadena are large, welcoming spaces perfect for a book club meeting or to set up a third office space. But what permeates the coffee scene in Rose Town are a number of hybrid spaces, coffee shops and somethings else — coffee shops and bakeries, coffee shops and bars, coffee shops and salons, coffee shops and delis, coffee shops and bike stores and coffee shops and art galleries like Two Kids Coffee, which speaks to the suburb's arts landscape.
Other spots highlight the growing coffee community in Pasadena like bakery Copa Vida, ice cream shop Float, sushi spot Art+Science Cafe and original sustainable and ethically sourced cafés Jones Coffee Roasters and Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters.
While Los Angeles is one of the most expensive cities in the nation for renters, the burden is lessened a bit elsewhere out in the county. Despite its reputation for higher education, the Jet Propulsion Lab, upscale shopping and the Rose Bowl, it's less pricey than L.A. proper. A one-bedroom apartment rents for $2,823 a month on average.
Vancouver — four hours south of Seattle, six hours south of Vancouver, B.C. and across the Columbia River from Portland — is a coffee hotspot smaller in stature and population than its Pacific Northwest coffee rivals, oft overlooked but strong in both taste and standing.
The city of just more than 183,000 is the largest suburb of Portland (though many Vancouverites would argue the label of “suburb"), Vancouver takes the best of the PDX coffee culture and the legacy of Washington state's coffee history and makes it its own.
The exponential growth of Vancouver is directly proportional to the growth of Portland. As Portland expanded, so did Vancouver. But being across the I-5 and I-205 bridges gave Vancouver enough separation to keep its own identity.
As “the Couv" grew and brought families and hipsters alike over the river, those Portlandians brought their love of coffee with them. Booming Vancouver retains its small-town feel, while its coffee scene is most decidedly big city. You can see this in evidence at VWA staples like Relevant Coffee, Kafiex Roasters Coffee Lab and Gold Cup Coffee House.
Vancouver's suburban open spaces allow its coffee shops to put out their shingles in roomy locations and offer co-working facilities and collaborative environments without crushing crowds or being shooed quickly out the door. The same goes for its rental properties, with bedroom community convenience to Portland with suburban charm. An average one-bedroom unit lists for a monthly rent of $1,651.
Cafecito. Café Cubano. Cuban espresso. Cuban pull. Call it what you wish. 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, is obsessed with the refreshing shot, often served for less than a buck and regularly enjoyed at 3:05 PM (for Miami's area code).
There are cafecito, colada and cortadito cafés in nearly every Miami neighborhood, many with ventanitas, where you can order to-go, including at the iconic Versailles in Little Havana. This specialty alone makes Miami one of the best coffee cities in the U.S.
While even the Cubano locals flock to spots like La Palma Latin Café, Los Pinarenos Fruteria, Pasión de Cielo and Casavana Cuban Cuisine, it's not just Cuban coffee that makes Miami great. Traditional coffee culture is widespread in the Magic City, but even standard spots remain Latin American-tinged, many founded and run by Latinx immigrants and descendants including cafés like Panther Coffee, Per'la Coffee Roasters and All-Day MIA. Other popular Miami craft beaneries include Alaska Coffee Roasters, Vice City Bean and Europa Car Wash & Café, one of Miami's many gas station/coffee shop hybrids.
Coffee culture is widespread in Miami. While the city sits firmly in the top 10 for most coffee establishments per square mile, it's just the 18th most per population capita. That means that no matter where you live in the city, you're likely to be close to a coffee business. And to live close to all these cafés, it will run you $2,554 a month on average for a one-bedroom apartment.
Breaking news: It's cold in Minneapolis. That alone should make the western Twin City a hotbed, no pun intended, for coffee. But the history of java in Minneapolis is very important in coffee circles.
The “first wave" of modern coffee was the early days of mass consumer brewing on the East Coast (think Folgers and Maxwell House). The “second wave" began with the popularization of lattes, mochas and flavored coffee served in corporate social spaces, ushered in by Starbucks and Peet's on the West Coast. But the “third wave," that was all Minneapolis.
The third wave of modern coffee highlights fair trade coffee from ethical, sustainable sources brewed in small batches by an endless number of cooperatives and independent coffee shops across the U.S. That can all be traced back to Peace Coffee of Minneapolis, and the work of Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen and Café Imports' Andrew Miller. All the fair trade coffee you drink in America comes from the work of these men in Minneapolis.
That early history, and Minneapolis' unique place in coffee culture, has led directly to the place it holds today as one of America's best coffee cities. The city is home to a wealth of quality, popular coffee shops and roasters, most selling third wave coffee, like Spyhouse Coffee Roasters, Roundtable Coffee Works, UP Coffee Roasters, Five Watt Coffee, Angry Catfish Bicycles & Coffee, Peace, of course, and Caribou Coffee, which started in Minnesota nearly 30 years ago.
Regardless if you're tasting a small batch at a haute café or grabbing a Starbucks on the go, everyone can agree that a steaming cup of Joe is a great way to warm up during a frigid Minneapolis winter. But even if you are interested in brewing up a cup of Folger's or cueing up a Keurig pod, you'll need a place to set your cup. A one-bedroom apartment in the Mini Apple averages $1,512 a month, good to the last drop.
Aside from its rival to the north (spoiler: see below), no city in America is branded a coffee city as firmly as Portland. The land of hipsters, craft beer and Voodoo Doughnuts, the largest city in Oregon has been a coffee capital long before its trendy rebirth.
A worldwide leader in specialty coffee, Portland houses the most roasters per capita in America, including the O.G. Stumptown Coffee Roasters (now owned by Peet's Coffee), along with spots like Coava Coffee Roasters, Sterling Coffee Roasters, Water Avenue Coffee and Heart Coffee Roasters, many along "roaster's row."
So, what makes Portland's coffee scene different from other West Coast havens? "Seattle coffee might have more muscle, and San Francisco coffee might have more mystique, but Portland's coffee scene is arguably the country's most intimate. It's also one of the most relaxed," explained Oliver Strand to the New York Times. A study even found Portlanders searched Google for the word "coffee" more than anyone else. It's only Portland's robust geographic size, the most square mileage among the top 10, that keeps it from ranking higher and gives the city a more laid back, if not more educated, coffee town.
Just the 25th most populated city in America, Portland still offers the eighth-highest number of overall coffee shops. As one must find the best cheesesteak in Philly or the best Hot Chicken in Nashville, visitors and locals alike have a slew of coffeeshop options to sample, including Spella Caffe, Barista, Never Coffee Lab, Crema Coffee + Bakery, Case Study Coffee and Tov Coffee & Tea.
But while the image of the man bun-topped bearded hipster tooling around Portland in a bowtie and horn-rimmed glasses atop a fixie bike might give the impression Portland is a cheap city in which to live, apartment leasing remains pricey in many spots. An average one-bedroom unit rents for a monthly rate of $1,883.
Like peanut butter and jelly or fireworks and the Fourth of July, some things just belong together. The same is true for a hot cup of coffee and curling up with a good book. Cambridge, MA, ranks as the No. 1 city in America for book lovers, so it's not a big leap to see why it's a top five for coffee lovers.
The smallest city among our top 10 for both population and area, the Boston suburb still offers more than 42 coffee businesses for every 100,000 Cantabrigians and nearly eight per square mile. Home to both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coffee is a staple for both college students and the communities and businesses that depend on them.
It's not unusual to spot a majority of Harvard and MIT students lugging ventis and frappes to class, but also around the campuses of Cambridge's elite cultural institutions, along the Charles riverfront or throughout Kendall Square, a major software hub housing offices for Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
And of course, a number of coffee shops and cafes filled with exam-cramming students and caffeinated coders dot Cambridge like Jenny's Café, Tatte Bakery & Café, Darwin's Ltd. and Hi Rise Bread Company. And that's not to mention all the Dunkin's.
Cambridge's proximity to Boston has also made it a bedroom community for bankers, brokers, tech professionals and entrepreneurs mingling with young families and college commuters, with high yet stable apartment lease prices. An average one-bedroom unit rents for a pricey $3,234 a month.
Ranked at No. 4 based on the data, Seattle is, at heart, the No. 1 coffee city in America by reputation. While just the 18th-largest city in America, it offers the ninth-most total coffee shops and businesses anywhere, more than much larger cities like Phoenix, Dallas and San Jose. If not for its large land area — the second-most square mileage among the top 10 — the Emerald City might sit atop our standings.
But Seattle's place in coffee culture is unmatched. Seattleites drink more coffee than residents of any other city in America, and it is said it's virtually impossible to walk a single block downtown without passing at least one café. Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee and Tully's Coffee were all founded in Seattle, and the city is home to Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Company and Espresso Vivace, as well as a large Stumptown Coffee Roasters' roasting facility. And, of course, the city is home to some of the most legendary coffeehouses in the nation, like Caffè Umbria, Top Pot Doughnuts, Caffe Ladro, Café Allegro and Monorail Espresso.
Seattle is well-defined by the industry titans it hosts, even outside of Starbucks. Giants like Boeing, Amazon, Nordstrom, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Expedia and Nintendo of America all call Seattle and its surrounding region home. The sheer number of employees vying for housing, particularly those at Amazon, drive rent prices here up. A monthly rent of $2,593 will snare you an average Seattle one-bedroom apartment.
Pittsburgh? Really? Ahead of stalwarts like Portland, Seattle and New Orleans? Yes, Pittsburgh. The Steel City. Home of the Black, Gold … and blonde roasts. The 'Burgh is a unique mix of East Coast and Midwest, busy coastal and slower Great Lakes. Long past are the days of steel mills, coal mines and smoky air. Today's Pittsburgh is a modern, shining business and tech hub, alive with culture, music, championship sports and a growing café culture.
Across bridges and tunnels and among the hills and three rivers, even as Pittsburgh experiences a 21st-century renaissance, residents of Yinzerville are still industrial, blue collar, down-and-dirty hard hats at heart. It's a city that also loves its coffee, from both gourmet single-origin small batches popular around The Point and brim-filled mega-chain paper cups for the lunchpail crowd.
Sprinkled throughout PGH, you'll find two dozen Starbucks, but also neighborhood cafés like Espresso A Mano, Allegheny Coffee and Tea Exchange, Fort Pitt Coffee, Commonplace Coffee and Carnegie Coffee Company.
Despite residing in the same state as East Coast Philadelphia, Pittsburgh is pure workaday Midwest. It's a town at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, so rental prices still reflect more Middle America than coastal. A one-bedroom apartment leases for an average of $1,598 a month.
The second-most populated city in the Bay Area, San Francisco is not a cheap place to, well, do anything. San Fran is the most expensive city in the most expensive state and is home to the No. 1 most expensive neighborhood in the entire nation.
Big name financial and B2B companies like Salesforce, Visa, Charles Schwab, McKesson and Wells Fargo are headquartered here. With businessfolk and tech professionals always on the go, go, go in the Golden Gate City, it stands to reason that it's a coffee capital.
While just the 15th-largest city in the nation, San Francisco is the most populous among our top 10, which speaks to the importance of the coffee culture here, as megacities are often so large, the sheer number of people diminishes the per capita ratios.
With the fourth-most coffee shops in the nation, coffee is viewed here as both gourmet and for the masses. “What defines San Francisco's coffee scene? Innovation," Ritual Coffee Roasters owner Eileen Hassi Rinaldi tells Open Skies Magazine.
And it's that spark to innovate that elevates the city as a coffee mecca. That innovation is on display at cafes popular for both the tech and C-level crowds like the legendary Ritual along with Trouble Coffee, Andytown Coffee Roasters, Henry's House of Coffee and Lady Falcon Coffee Club.
The San Francisco peninsula is a confined space, forcing the city to grow only up. That's helped make the city No. 1 in the nation for the highest density of coffee establishments, with 8.25 per square land mile. But it's also pushed rents to skyscraper heights, with an average lease for a one-bedroom apartment running $4,613 a month.
Berkeley is known most for three things: The University of California at Berkeley (or just Cal, if you love football), a long history of social activism and as the epicenter of educated hippie culture. So, whether it's frazzled biomedicine students pulling an all-nighter for an exam or a group of neo-Beatniks discussing Marxism over locally-sourced espressos, it's no surprise that Berkeley ranks as the best city in America for coffee lovers.
Just north of Oakland and just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, Berkeley is a well-established land of social change, higher education and coffee. The combination of West Coast sensibility, a large student population, a small business-supportive history and an entrepreneurial graduate population has made this small but important city the sixth smallest city in the nation with more than 100,000 residents — a long-time java capital.
The Berkeley coffee giant is, of course, Peet's Coffee, founded by Dutch immigrant Alfred Peet in 1966 on Vine Street near the Berkeley campus. His small Peet's Coffee, Tea & Spices first introduced America to dark-roasted Arabica blends like French Roast, kicking off the “second wave" of modern coffee.
Flash forward half a century or so and Peet's has grown to more than 200 shops in 11 states, plus placement in 14,000 supermarkets. And that culture has made room for a ton of great coffee shops in this small city, including Artis Coffee Roasters, CoRo Coffee and 1951 Coffee Company.
Coffee culture just feels right at home in Berkeley, with the paper cup crowd and espresso aficionados alike mingling in cafes, bookstores and stunning parks. But living in this West Coast coffee paradise — just the 11th-biggest city in the Bay Area — isn't cheap. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment lists for $2,457 a month on average.
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 an interesting mix of small towns like Allentown, Ann Arbor and Syracuse, with bigger cities including D.C., Boston and Philadelphia.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Coffee Shops Per Capita (100k People)||Coffee Shops Per Square Mile|
|49||Salt Lake City||UT||200,591||49.9||0.9|
Which cities top the list if you only take into account just those with the highest ratio of coffee businesses per person? Top spots like Berkeley and San Francisco still make the cut, but so do lower-ranking towns like No. 49 Salt Lake City and No. 38 Wilmington, NC. As well, seven out of the 10 are West Coast or Rocky Mountains cities, and just one is along the East Coast.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Coffee Shops Per Capita (100k People)||Coffee Shops Per Square Mile|
|4||Salt Lake City||UT||200,591||49.9||0.9|
Conversely, what stands out if you view the list as the most coffee establishments per square mile? Condensed geographic areas like Miami and Seattle climb high on the list while spread out metropolises like Portland and suburbs like Pasadena and Vancouver drop off.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Coffee Shops Per Square Mile||Coffee Shops Per Capita (100k People)|
It's no surprise that the largest cities in the nation also occupy the top spots for the sheer number of coffee shops. But this metric also highlights that places like New York (No. 132), Los Angeles (No. 138) and Houston (No. 174) have a large number of coffee spots but too many people to rank well per capita.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Coffee Shops||Coffee Shops Per Capita (100k People)||Coffee Shops Per Square Mile|
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 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.
Per capita calculations were based on dividing the total number of coffee-related establishments in a specific city by that area's population, then multiplying by 100,000 to determine the number of book-related establishments per 100,000 people. Per area calculations were based on dividing the total number of coffee-related establishments in a specific city by that city's raw number of square land miles.
Data used in this report comes from the following sources:
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.