Where do I get coffee in the Greater Seattle Area?

The Greater Seattle Area is blessed with tons of great cafés. This post is my opinion of the ones recommended on Reddit. I typically order a double espresso and a pour over (or a drip, if a pour over is not available). If a café offers a pour over flight, I take that instead. Most cafés have multiple offerings for each of those, and I pick the one that I think is most interesting. Ratings are based solely on the coffee.

  • Victrola Coffee Roasters: 5/5. Good espresso, boring latte. I should clarify: “boring” is not necessarily bad. It tasted absolutely fine, and you’ll likely be satisfied with it. But it isn’t super interesting, and isn’t the best place for a latte. If you’re going to Victrola, get their espresso or their drip (which is done really well, by the way). Update: I did go again, and if you try the latte with the single origin beans on offer, you will likely have a more interesting drink. Their hot chocolate is fantastic, as well, and I highly recommend trying it. It’s a great place to sit and work as well…if you can find a place to sit.
  • Espresso Vivace (Capitol Hill): 5/5. I reluctantly went here after the other Vivace (see below), but was pleasantly surprised–here, the espresso was excellent. It’s Italian-style, so expect a much smaller shot than most cafés, but it’s absolutely delicious. Here too, the caffe nico is great. The barista recommended I try a flavored latte, and I got a “white velvet”. He also recommended I get a spritz of lemon on top, and while I was skeptical, it did make the drink taste uniquely delicious. I did also order a macchiato, though what they served was closer to a piccolo latte. Delicious again, but I was expecting a much smaller drink. If you’re in Seattle, you absolutely must try this place.
  • Third Culture Coffee (Bellevue): 5/5. Third Culture is unique in its offerings, and one of their missions is to offer coffee beverages from around the world. In pursuit of that mission, they make a great Indian filter coffee and a Vietnamese coffee. That said, their espresso is absolutely delicious too, with tons of cherry notes. They had trouble making a decent latte, though–I’d recommend ordering the larger size, not the 8oz. I’ve gone to this location several times, and the quality isn’t the most consistent, but it’s enough that I’m comfortable recommending it to people in the area.
  • URL Coffee: 5/5. This place is one of the easiest to recommend. It’s probably up there with Vivace (Capitol Hill) on my favorites. I had the most amazing Ethiopian espressos here, and the latte was just as excellent.
  • Hagen Coffee Roasters: 5/5. Hagen shines in the coffee they offer. Each coffee is unique and interesting, and of course, prepared well. It’s definitely worth a visit to see just the variety of flavors coffee can offer.
  • Five Stones Coffee Co (Redmond): 5/5. A short walk away from Mercury is Five Stones, which is the polar opposite. This place had a line out the door, and it absolutely does not disappoint. They also have a location in Bellevue, which is a little more spacious; both locations serve excellent coffee.
  • Milstead & Co: 4.5/5. Located in the Fremont area, Milstead does an extraordinary espresso and an equally delicious latte that tasted like jam on toast. It’s one of the few memorable lattes I’ve had where the espresso shone through the milk. The pour over was far less impressive, and I could only describe what I had as rubbery.
  • Bellden Cafe: 4.5/5. Bellden does a good espresso, but it isn’t memorable in the way Milstead’s is. It’s usually a nice, quiet place to work, and their pour over is pretty good, too. Their coffee is solid, but you’ll forget it the minute you leave.
  • Caffe Ladro: 4.5/5. Some branches of Ladro aren’t open very long, so it’s a little tricky to get to those in time. If you do make it, though, you’re in for a treat. Their espresso is delicious, smooth, and very welcoming for beginners. I had the shakerato as well, which was pretty acidic, for some reason. Stick to hot espresso-based beverages, and you should enjoy it.
  • Anchorhead Coffee: 4.5/5. Anchorhead delivers on great coffee, and you can tell by how busy they can get. Their espresso is delicious, with notes of cherry and a nice sweetness (I had the Ethiopian Hambela); their pour over is good, but nothing special (I had the Colombian). I want to like this place more than I do; it just doesn’t stand out in ways that others on this list do. I should restate: the coffee is really good; I’ve simply been spoiled by other great cafés in the area.
  • Zoka: 4.5/5. My first impression of Zoka is that it lets itself down in little ways. Their espresso is good, with notes of black cherry, but there’s a slight bitter aftertaste. Their Chemex is great, but might be better with a better grinder (it’s very odd that they use a Baratza Encore, an entry-level, home grinder), and rinsing the paper filter. Their mocha…was weird in that the flavors just didn’t go well together at all. If you want a good pour over, though, Zoka is a solid candidate.
  • Storyville Coffee (Pike Place Market): (4/5). Storyville does dark roasts, so if you don’t like dark roasts as much, you likely won’t enjoy this place. That said, they do brew those roasts well. Their espresso has notes of chocolate and caramel (with the usual bitterness that comes with dark roasts), and their French Press has a roasty, nutty taste. Their mocha is really good, and probably my second favorite after Victrola.
  • Espresso Vivace (SLU): 4/5. I could’ve just had a bad experience, but they served a 1:0.5 espresso. That drink tasted pretty bad–it was harsh and unpleasant. However, their caffe nico was delicious.
  • Realfine Cafe: 4/5. This café sorta lives up to its name. The drip is pretty bad, but the espresso does make up for it. You can find better coffee than this place, though.
  • Caffe Vita: 4/5. Caffe Vita has really good espresso. Unfortunately, that seems to be it. The drip was pretty roasty and didn’t have much complexity, they seemed to be confused about what was in their muffins, and their mocha had the same weirdness as Zoka.
  • Elm Coffee: 4/5. With the context of all the other cafés in the area, Elm is one of those places that makes reliably good espresso, but is outshone by others. I’m not implying it’s bad at all, but that you can do better.
  • Olympia Coffee: 4/5. Olympia suffers from the same problem as Elm, so I don’t have much else to say here, really.
  • Coffeeholic House: 3/5. This feels like an unfair rating, because I did say I’d judge these places by their coffee, and the espresso here is just terrible. However, their specialty is in Vietnamese-style drinks, and those are delicious.
  • Starbucks Reserve Roastery: 2.5/5. The Reserve Roastery is an experience in itself, and is worth a visit just for that–but don’t expect good coffee here. You’ll find very expensive single origins, but they somehow manage to butcher most of them. What a shame.
  • Mercury Coffee Co (Redmond): 2/5. I’m not entirely sure why this was ever recommended; perhaps it was good a long time ago and then became worse over time. This was embarrassing.
  • River Trail Roasters (Redmond): 2/5. I’d give this place a lower rating for its bitter, over-extracted espresso, but somehow they’ve been outdone…
  • SoulFood Coffee (Redmond): 1/5. …and this is the worst place I’ve been to. Not sure why it was ever recommended, but between the terrible espresso, the strong smell of incense, and the snake oil they sell, it’s impossible to find anything to like about this place.

In summary, you should absolutely try anything that’s a 5/5 on the list above, and that’s close to you. Vivace, URL, and Milstead are particularly noteworthy for their extraordinary espresso; Ladro gets a special mention.

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