The Best Coffee Shops in San Francisco
Switch up your work from home routine.
Coffee serves many excellent purposes: It wakes us up, it keeps us up, it gives us something to drink until happy hour, it warms you up on a foggy day (so, everyday), and when made well, it tastes really, really good. Lucky for those of us who live in SF, there are lots of places here that make it incredibly well, which is why we’re so excited to espresso (sorry) some of our favorites, perfect for escaping the confines of your WFH office, catching up with a friend, eavesdropping on strangers, reading a good book, grabbing a snack, and more.
Verve Coffee Roasters
Verve is the perfect coffee shop for being extra productive thanks to excellent coffee, a light-filled room and serene ambiance (exposed brick, lots of plants, light wood, etc), ample seating, and legit food options. Our favorite part? It closes at 4 pm, which is exactly when Blackbird, an excellent cocktail bar less than a mile away, opens!
Progressive Grounds is what you think of when you think of a ‘90s coffee house (that’s a good thing). The walls are temporary homes to rotating exhibits from local artists, there’s comfy seating with lots of colorful pillows, it’s open late (okay, 8 pm, so late for a coffee shop), there’s a (newly renovated) garden, and not only is there good coffee, there’s a huge food menu, and, our favorite thing in a coffee shop: wine and beer!
Caffe Trieste opened in 1956 and claims to be the first espresso coffee house established on the West Coast. (We choose to believe that claim because the coffee tastes even better that way.) Today, this iconic neighborhood gem is a welcoming haven for artists, musicians, and tourists alike, as well as a casual spot to people watch, catch up with friends, and listen to live music on the Saturdays when it happens (in “normal” times: every single one).
Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters
Will it be impossible to get the Miley Cyrus song out of your head for the rest of the day after you stop by this tiny shop on Union Street? Yes. But it’s totally worth it for the hand-crafted pour-over coffee (one of the owners is literally credited with inventing the term "third wave" coffee and the other—her husband—is known for being one of the best baristas in the country). The tiny shop has Instagram-friendly pineapple wallpaper and only a couple of seats at the bar and benches along the wall (as well as a few tables outside), so it's more of a place to meet a friend for a chat than a place to settle in with your laptop. As far as what to order? The go-to is the iced cappuccino, but if you're a fan of hot chocolate, you'll want to order that. (Just add a shot of espresso if you also need a caffeine boost.)
Sextant was founded by a first-generation Ethiopian who works with farmers across Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, and more. It was named after the tool used by sailors to navigate, as a symbol of how coffee was first transported out of Africa, as well as the commitment to finding the best beans possible. All of the beans are roasted in SF and are “neither too light or too dark,” so if you’re feeling a little like Goldilocks, this is the spot to hit up.
We’d certainly be in trouble if we left this hole-in-the-wall shop by Ocean Beach off of this list. That’s because Trouble has the best cinnamon toast you’ll ever eat in your entire life and delicious coffee to go with it. There’s no seating inside, but there is a small parklet outside for maximum cinnamon toast enjoyment.
Pinhole’s colorful, kaleidoscope-esque paneled wall, abundance of succulents, vintage camera equipment as decor, and tree trunks that double as chairs and tables makes it a dream destination for San Franciscans seeking a coffee fix and a place to pose for that perfect lazy Sunday Instagram pic. Even better, it’s a place where people actually go to enjoy company and conversation, perhaps sparked by the Linea espresso drinks and the abundance of pastries, but probably because of the purposeful lack of WiFi and outlets. Prefer to get your caffeine fix outside? There’s a parklet for that.
A joint-venture between Four Barre and Josey Baker Bread, the (absolutely worth it) $5 to $8 toast-serving Mill -- is known as much for its coffee as its fresh baked bread made with whole grain flour that’s stoned in-house (they’re making extra right now since everyone’s eating at home). It’s pretty much impossible to go there and not grab some to take home. Right now the popular pizza night is on hiatus, but will “hopefully return in a few months.” Something to look forward to.
Piccino Coffee Bar
This spot used to be a humble coffee bar where night owls could go to get a cup until 10pm and though it is now both a restaurant and a coffee bar, the coffee part of the operation is still clearly a big priority. The love for coffee starts by serving coffee drinks with beans roasted by Sightglass, but don’t forgo the pastries (made in-house) or urban trail mix.
Equator Coffee started as a coffee roaster out of a garage in Marin County in 1995. Today, as the first California coffee roasting B Corporation, they have multiple locations in the North Bay and SF with a focus on sustainable and transparent practices. Unfortunately, the SoMa outpost is still temporarily (?) closed since no one’s really going to work in office buildings these days, but you can still get your lattes, pour-overs, and tea (there’s a big selection), as well as breakfast sandwiches, croissants, and other pastries at the Fort Mason location, which (fun fact) used to be the gatehouse of the former military base and the newest spot, the Round House at the Golden Gate Bridge, a 1937 Art Deco building with amazing views of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Ritual Coffee Roasters
It wasn’t that long ago that Ritual was “just” a pop-up shop made from a shipping container. Now it has four locations, including three in SF, so it won’t be too hard to stay close to home while getting your energy boost. If you want to linger, the Hayes Valley location is a good option since there’s a fair amount of outdoor seating in the parklet it’s right next to, but whichever location you go to, you can feel safe as Ritual has implemented detailed social distancing guidelines, including cues painted on the sidewalk, cones, and more.
Jane on Fillmore / Jane the Bakery / Jane on Larkin
As soon as Jane opened up its first cafe on Fillmore Street, it was packed with people on the hunt for breakfast sandwiches, healthy salads, all kinds of expensive toast, and coffee (custom blended and roasted in-house) and tea (also custom blended in-house) drinks to go with it. Once it opened up the Tenderloin and Fillmore locations, things got even better because with those spaces came an entire line of house-made breads. Jane also took over Toy Boat in the Inner Sunset and you can get lots of coffees and pastries there as well, but we’re not technically including it here since it’s more of a dessert destination. Looking for a place to work? The Fillmore spot gets crowded during prime breakfast and lunch hours, but when things mellow out, you can take advantage of the free wifi and decent number of outlets.
Andytown Coffee Roasters
We love Ocean Beach, but it can be really cold there, so you’ll want to warm up with a cup of coffee, which you can procure from one of Andytown’s two Outer Sunset locations. And since you’re there, you might as well get one of the popular breakfast sandwiches made with bacon, ham, soft egg, cheddar, and mayo on griddled pan de mie. Andytown roasts its beans in-house, and boasts a straightforward coffee selection, with one exception: The Snowy Plover, with a shot of espresso, ice, sparkling water, and a dollop of cream.
Saint Frank Coffee
Saint Frank Coffee was named one of the 21 best coffee shops in the country and is known for its specialty coffee made with beans sourced from small-scale farmers around the world, which are most popularly manifested in espressos and pour-overs. Working from home? Right now you can get everything you need from beans to almond macadamia milk by the quart to take with you.
This café was named one of the best indie coffee shops in America by Food and Wine, and it lives up to the hype. Coffee nerds will celebrate knowing that they’re sipping an espresso from a café featured on the “Barista” documentary and non-coffee nerds will just be stoked about the freshly roasted beans, nitro cold brew, and Dynamo donuts. In case that doesn’t sell you: Founder Andrew Barnett was the judge at the World Barista Championship, so you know they’re passionate about creating the perfect cup.
Sightglass has become synonymous with San Francisco's independent coffee scene. The operation all started in 2009 with a small cart and a few Chemex pots and has grown significantly. The siblings who run the business value green coffee and travel to the countries they source from before roasting the beans in-house.
Before you go exploring in Golden Gate Park, get your coffee fuel at Flywheel. Each cup is made-to-order, the beans are roasted in-house, and the founder was raised on a coffee farm where he picked and roasted beans, so you know he takes this stuff seriously. Stop in the hand-built shop (converted from an old bike shop) on Stanyan or go across the street to the kiosk with outdoor seating that’s officially inside of the park.
Urmila Ramakrishnan is a coffee snob caffeine addict who gets migraines if she doesn’t get at least one cup in before 8am. She’s also a food and drink writer based in SF. Follow her latte art on Instagram @mila_makes.
Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who will take a slice of Trouble’s cinnamon toast over a wait in the Outerlands brunch line any day. Follow her on Twitter @daisy.