Best Coffee in San Francisco: 24 Cafe’s To Hit For Caffeine
Visiting San Francisco is all about culture, atmosphere, and escaping the grind of everyday living.
At the same time, you probably don’t want to forget about one sort of grind that is essential to energy levels — the coffee grind! Especially when you’re out around town, enjoying the sights and the beautiful weather, you don’t want to run low on fuel, but you won’t be disappointed with the number of coffee houses with delicious roasts and eclectic tastes in décor and atmosphere!
Take a look at this list of suggestions to get you on a roll so you’re prepared for the journey into a slower, more relaxed way of life. Here's the best coffee in San Francisco.
#1 Outer Sunset
Take a trip through Outer Sunset, where the view consists of colorful and quaint houses a few blocks from the shore. It’s a part of the city that’s not very urban and has a laidback, easygoing atmosphere, and these coffee houses reflect that attitude, giving you an early glimpse of what your stay in the bay city will encompass.
Start with breakfast and a cup of coffee at Outerlands, and then stroll through shops full of local artistry and design to get a feel for the San Francisco vibe.
#2 Coffee on the Beach
Wake up to a beautiful sunrise on the beach with a cup of stout espresso from Andytown Coffee Roasters. What makes this place special, aside from its prime location near the beaches? Let’s start with the fact that everything is roasted in-house, making it not only some of the freshest coffee around, but also one of the most aromatic locales in San Francisco.
Add to that the fact that every barista is a roaster, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Whether you like a light, dark, medium, vanilla, or other roast, you’ll find something to your liking at Andytown!
#3 The Battery
Events, hotels, restaurants, shopping…what can you not find at The Battery? With multiple bars and two restaurants, there is no shortage of food and beverage. The boutique hotel experience is posh, with a penthouse and a few private rooms.
Life at the Battery also provides a gym, a spa, and nutrition assistance, making for luxury living. Visitors can expect time at the bars or restaurants to include a fine cup of java to start or end their days, especially if they visit the House Bar for weekend brunch.
#4 Americanized Nomenclature
Much of California — all the Southwest, really — has a naming convention picked up from Spanish roots, including the great city of San Francisco. Let’s take the romance out of the romance language and call it what it is — Saint Frank. And at Saint Frank Coffee, you’ll find what you’re looking for…coffee.
It’s sourced exclusively, roasted weekly, and served to satisfy your taste buds and your craving. There’s no need for a big to-do, and they don’t dress up the verbiage to make it sound fancy. It is what it is, and that makes it some of the best java in San Francisco.
#5 Workaholic Heaven
So, you want a vacation, but you can’t leave work behind. You don’t want to sit in your hotel and stew over the problems with the office. Instead, you can enjoy your surroundings while getting work out of the way. Here are some cafes with space, atmosphere, and scenery conducive to concentration.
Each location on the list offers reliable Wi-Fi, good coffee and food to satisfy your hunger and keep you going, and enough space to spread out in. For serious quiet, try the hole in the wall Mission Creek Café, and for an unpretentious atmosphere, head over to Mercury Café .
#6 The Original 50s Diner
A throwback to a time past, It’s Tops speaks to the romantic in all of us, setting us in an environment that feels like we’ve been transported back through time. Go back to a place where you could have a bottomless cup and sit all day, watching traffic, or order your cup with a slice of pie late at night.
Voted “best” on several menu staples, the place has a full espresso bar and a complete ice cream soda fountain for your enjoyment. Start with coffee, enjoy fabulous diner favorites, and end with a dessert that fills you (and another cup of joe to wash it down).
#7 Get in Trouble
Juliet claimed that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Still, it seems like the best is only made better by the right title. Enter a name like Trouble Coffee. Go around asking for Trouble, and you’ll end up in a fun place with excellent coffee.
The tiny spot and hipster vibe with fab décor add up to an eclectic and likeable experience you’ll rave about, spreading the news of the good brew. It’s not a place you want to crowd watch when it’s standing room only, but it’s still a great place to meet or make a friend over coffee conversation.
#8 Portrero Hill
San Francisco is not a big city size-wise, which makes it seem quite busy. But tucked away inside is a little gem of a neighborhood called Potrero Hill, where you’ll find less foot traffic and fog with more to see and do that first meets the eye.
Here, the slow, quiet environment is chill and gives you a chance to slow down and take your time experiencing the city’s great subculture. While you’re there, be sure to grab your coffee from one of the local cafés. You definitely don’t want to peter out on this tour of the upper limits of the town.
#9 Dining Delight
Do you like artsy affairs, even when it comes to culinary creations? Then you’ll love Marla Bakery, where even the coffee appeals to the eyes. Have a heart-shaped froth on top of your cappuccino, or expect marshmallow and cream designs. Enjoy the artistry of perfectly symmetrical scones that taste as good as they look.
And peruse the art and design of the entire coffee house, with its modern-antique juxtaposed design. Stop at the window of the original location and order some of the best brioche with your java to go. Either way, you get a great experience.
#10 Fully Loaded
Four Barrel delivers exactly what it says — a richly fuelled shot of caffeine in every cup of java served. Don’t expect the typical cyber café popular in the technology district. In keeping with the historic feel of the Mission District, this is an old-school café, complete music from an old record player.
You know, the large vinyl things that look like oversized CDs? There are no Wi-Fi and outlets, so don’t bother with the laptop. Just bring a good attitude, some friendly conversation, and a taste for incredible coffee. Then, you’ll be prepared for one of the most intriguing throwback coffee experiences to be had in San Fran.
#11 No Cut-Rate Beans Here
For those who are worried about trying something outside the box — and by “box” I mean the corporate coffee affairs like Starbucks — here is a list of the top independent coffee houses in San Francisco.
It can be daunting, if you’re used to calling out a specialty drink to your local big-box barista, to step into a small café and depend on someone who doesn’t wear a green apron. But following these recommendations should ease the pain and anxiety, giving you a guide as to who the real coffee artists in San Francisco are and why you should give them a chance to tickle your taste buds.
#12 Fashion Forward
Are you interested in design? Architecture? Atmosphere? Then this is a list for you. Touted as “design-forward” locations, several San Francisco coffee shops are pleasing to the eye and intriguing to study, whether it’s a quick pass by, a step inside to browse, or a lengthy stay for coffee and a bite to eat.
Get taken in by the French-inspired library look of Mazarine in the Financial District. Aside from the great high fashion look of the place, you’ll find designer coffee, espresso, and more. Enjoy toast (drenched with a million different toppings), or come in the evening for beer and a salad. The atmosphere is consistently inviting and buzzing at any time of day, so visit anytime.
#13 Spontaneous Success
The story behind Epicurean Trader is almost as intriguing as the locale itself and its fabulous brews. The inspiration for the coffee comes from Australia and New Zealand, like the owners, who have a love of growing, roasting, and brewing in their blood.
Like wine, the cultivation of fine coffee has become a must for New Zealander and Australian alike, and the couple who owns this establishment really take the need for a perfect cup of coffee to satisfy everyone’s need for flavor and wakefulness to heart. It doesn’t hurt to read the wonder of their humble beginnings, either!
#14 Easily Remembered
There are two ways to make the name of your business memorable. The first is to think of something really trendy, catchy, or cute. This is a common method of naming businesses, and you’ll find some great ones out there. The other is to keep it stupid-simple. Coffee Bar did just that, not getting creative and simply naming the place exactly what it is.
Now they’ve opened three locations throughout San Francisco to wild success. Visit them in the ground floor of the Saint Mary’s Square Garage on Kearny, or head to the location on Bryant Street for their tasty brews.
#15 Patty Cake, Patty Cake
Bakers Chad Robertson and Elizabeth Prueitt work out of Tartine Bakery and their home, creating confectionery delights that appeal to the most demanding of tastes. And to accompany their baked goods, they offer some excellent coffee.
Like many who have followed in the trend of Cupcake Wars and Cake Boss, the desserts created by these bakers — who love their trade — aren’t just the most delicious around. They are incredible works of art, inspired and inspiring. They just happen to have chosen an edible medium for their talent, and we’re all luckier for it!
#16 Made to Order
Philz Coffee corners the market on the perfectly individualized cup of joe. Have it made to order — the blend based on an assessment of your taste — and then creamed and sugared to your fancy. You would think this innovative idea would have occurred to more people, considering that Philz is now a powerhouse across San Francisco with six locations (and several more in the Northeast), but it is still a niche that only this creative corporation has cultivated.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a great concept, and you aren’t likely to find a better way to match your palate anywhere else.
#17 How-To Guide to Brew
By offering advice on how to add ingredients that help you brew the perfect cup of coffee at home, Sightglass Coffee has blended the retail market with the wholesale idea of building an empire of amateur apprentices at home.
Known for the design of their spaces (in four locations now) as well as the quality of their roasting and brewing, it’s no wonder people flock to Sightglass for a cup of joe and to learn to make their own. An educational and enjoyable experience, a visit to this café will leave you wondering why you haven’t thought of brewing on your own before!
#18 Award Winning Beans
Aside from its interesting design and artwork, Equator Coffee offers a variety of coffee drinks brewed from award-winning beans. The artwork, like their beans, is local, and the décor is industrial. There are enough of conversation pieces to keep you around for a second cup, whether it’s to talk more about the mural on the wall or to try another flavor.
Sit and read a book to catch a break from your sightseeing, or ask a local where to go next on your trek through the city. I bet, either way, you’ll be thoroughly satisfied when you leave!
#19 A New Take on an Old Look
You’ve seen all the old-school diners in the movies. Take a load off at a place with a similar but updated vibe. The same long counter with the same row of tables along the wall create the space in the Universal Café, building an atmosphere reminiscent of another age. But the actual design is more modern-chic, with cleaner lines and colors.
What never changes in places like this, though, is the quality of the company and the coffee you’ll find. Universal is no disappointment, and you’ll find yourself craving the caffeine as well as the companionship as if it’s addictive.
#20 The Big Work Getaway
Even the locals like to get out of the office for a while, and there are plenty of places around San Francisco that provide a view of the bay to calm the mind while carrying the office with you.
The Stable Café could be a cooperative classroom with its design, though the ambient aroma of coffee and the delectable sweets cater to those with laptops and laundry lists of technologically advanced work responsibilities. Relax in the peaceful environment with plenty of room for your mug of coffee, your pastry, and your laptop and mouse.
#21 Decadent Design
398 Brasserie has a lot to say before you even look at the menu. The design of this place is to die for, and the food is even better. The cocktails are inspired, and the desserts are out of this world. But to top it off, you must relax and let everything settle with a cup of coffee to warm the soul and the stomach.
You can admire the light fixtures and the dramatic décor while you sip, infused with French idealism and topped with San Francisco’s take on classic modern. You’ll definitely feel like a movie star amidst the decadence of this dining and café locale.
#22 Scientific Appreciation
There is a place for everyone to satisfy their inner geek, and in San Francisco, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Blue Bottle Café. Like mad scientists brewing up potions behind the counter, the baristas serve your concoction in beakers.
Whether you feel like a lab rat or a roasting genius, you’ll enjoy the strange and weird vibe of this place, which is at the top of several “favorites” and “best” lists. So go back to your high school lab and sit on the metal stools while browsing the shelf of baked goods that look like experiments of their own.
#23 Oatmeal and Espresso
Okay, not exactly oatmeal…but the reviewers rave about the iced oatmeal cake at Hollow, located in the Inner Sunset district of San Fran. Everyone seems to have a favorite drink at this highly ranked coffee shop, but the consensus is that anything based on espresso should be tested for your approval (and will likely earn it).
Some of the recommendations include the green tea latte, the French press, and the vanilla bean latte (iced or hot). They also serve Spanish empanadas, so make sure you come with your appetite!
#24 Jane’s Addiction
Was the popular punk band referencing coffee? Anything is possible, but at Jane Café, the addiction is definitely caffeine. Of course, there’s also great food, but the coffee shop is steeped (pun intended) in great brews.
With two locations, one in Tenderloin and one in Pacific Heights, you can’t miss the delightful addition to the San Fran neighbourhoods. Enjoy the juxtaposition of local modern art with 70s chic style, and check out why San Francisco is such a haven for subcultures by mingling with the crowd while you pick your poison from the coffee menu.
Just because you’ll be in a laidback environment doesn’t mean you have to yawn your day away. San Francisco is a powerhouse of cafés, especially independent places that will win your heart and your vote for best coffee in the county.
Take a load off and unwind without a haze on the brain like it hangs over the bay. You’ll love the throwback quality of peace and love in a cool locale while staying alive and enthusiastic with a little extra caffeine through the day available at your fingertips. Do java West Coast style!
Did you like this list of San Francisco coffee shops? Every great adventurer and coffee lover should have a collection of the best coffee joints around the world to hit on their travels, no matter where you’re travelling. Be sure to comment and share!