The Best Coffee Shops for Every Type of Java Lover in SF
Because it’s not “appropriate” (or, you know, healthy) to drink cocktails when one first wakes up or during the week, the universe gave us coffee. And luckily for those of us who live in San Francisco, it gave us really, really good coffee. As long as you know where to look for it, of course (this neighborhood guide should help). These days it’s not hard to find a high-quality small-batch coffee drink as there’s a new third-wave artisan roaster brewing around every corner. Still, with such a latte (sorry) coffee shops all over town, it can be hard to know where to go when one is in the mood for (or in dire need of) a fantastic caffeinated beverage and free WiFi… and available seating… and great light. That’s why we put together this list of coffee shops perfect for sipping, socializing, strategizing, or just staring into space, all of which cater to something that will make at least one reader happy, and none of which are Starbucks or Peet’s.
Best for when you’re craving SF’s tastiest cinnamon toast: Trouble Coffee
You can try to make cinnamon toast at home, but it will never come anywhere near the magic that is the toasted bread slathered with butter and topped with the perfect ratio of cinnamon and sugar at Trouble. Pair it with a quality cup of coffee and grab a seat on the twisted log in the parklet outside and remind yourself that you’ve done something right in life to have it this good. Afterwards, head a few blocks west to the ocean and double down on that feeling.
Best for an Instagram-worthy background: Pinhole Coffee
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 each other’s 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.
Best for coffee nerds who take their beans and brewing seriously: Flywheel Coffee Roasters
This sizable industrial coffee shop right across the street from the entrance of Golden Gate Park is known for its excellent brewing techniques that are seemingly more complicated (but less time consuming) than putting a man on the moon. The nitro cold brew is the way to go if you’re looking for a real jolt to get you through the afternoon. Feel free to set-up and do a little work, but just know that the Wi-Fi is gifted in two-hour intervals and seats next to outlets are competitive.
Best for those who aren’t quite sure what they like: Saint Frank Coffee
We named Saint Frank one of the 21 best coffee shops in the country for good reason: a serene, minimalist environment that’s perfect for quiet conversation or plowing through emails, coffee beans sourced from independent producers, and excellent pour-overs and espresso drinks. But what makes it even a little more extra special is that customers can try a tasting flight -- single origin coffees served four ways: regular brew, cold brew, espresso, and latte -- to get an idea of which they prefer best.
Best for a mid-day meeting with a tech entrepreneur: Sightglass Coffee
Sightglass has a couple of spots in SF, but the industrial flagship location in a sort of no-man’s land on 7th Street between Howard and Folsom is the one to visit when you need a quality pour-over, cold brew, or espresso in order to get through that meeting you’ve been putting off for three weeks. About that: You picked this spot because there’s ample seating, including a mezzanine level where, after you’ve made the deal or at least survived the pitch, you can reward yourself by hitting up the affogato bar. The only thing is you’ll have to enjoy that heavenly ice cream espresso combination with only your thoughts since Sightglass doesn’t have WiFi.
Best for an authentic Italian experience: Caffe Trieste
Caffe Trieste opened in 1956 and claims to be the first espresso coffee house established on the West Coast. 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 every Saturday.
Best for when you actually need to accomplish some work: Equator Coffees
This Marin County-based company started by women has a couple of locations in SF, but when you’re Downtown and you want to escape the office, but actually be productive, the SoMa shop inside of LinkedIn’s enormous POPOS (privately-owned public open space) lobby is the one to hit up. The service is speedy, there are plenty of places to sit (including stadium seating), there’s tons of light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, the WiFi is fast, and they source organic, fair-trade, and single-origin coffee. Regarding the latter, the menu has everything you could want, including some good pour over and cold brew, but the Shakerato (shaken with cream) is an indulgent treat, especially if you add caramel or chocolate. Working late? Equator has beer and wine starting at 4pm.
Best for when you want to escape back to the ‘90s: Farley’s
It’s undetermined if Farley’s is SF’s first “third-wave” coffeehouse, but what is determined is that it’s one of the few coffeehouses in San Francisco that feels unchanged by the tornado of tech. The coffee (roasted in-house) is great and affordable and there are also some great food options that go beyond pastries. And while they do have WiFi, usage is limited to two hours (and there are no outlets) because the real point of Farley’s is to do something besides work. Browse and shop the newstand which has over 400 titles, borrow a board game, soak in the sunshine in the parklet, write in one of the community journals, listen to live music, or just enjoy your surroundings while you sip on your coffee and remember how things used to be.
Best for coffee drinks who want a super light roast: Ritual Coffee Roasters
We’re never going to agree on who pioneered third-wave coffee in San Francisco, but there’s an argument to be made that it was Ritual Coffee, a cult-favorite among locals that was founded in 2005. There are several locations around the city (and you can also find it in a ton of other cafes and restaurants), but our favorite is the bright and airy shop on Haight Street right across the street from Buena Vista park. Granted, the vibe is kind of the opposite of everything that Haight Street is, but if that bothers you, just take your delicious cup of coffee (known for being bright and naturally sweet) to-go and enjoy it sitting on the hill in the park where you’ll get more than your fill of the cliches that make this area a popular tourist destination.
Best for when you want Ethopian coffee, but can’t afford the plane ride: Sextant Coffee Roasters
Ethiopian coffee is considered by many to be some of the best coffee in the world due to its high altitude growing conditions. At this SoMa cafe (named after a navigation instrument) run by a native Ethiopian, you’ll get only the finest beans sourced directly from his homeland and roasted in-house to bring out the inherent sweetness that culminates in a coffee that is complex and distinct. There’s also plenty of seating and WiFi, which makes this a great spot if you want to escape the office or need an excuse to change out of your pajamas and leave the house.
Best for a breakfast meeting: Mazarine Coffee
Frankly, breakfast meetings should not be allowed under any circumstances, but despite what civility calls for, there are inevitably going to be times in your life when you need to meet someone before you go into the office. In those instances, opt for Mazarine, a stylish coffee shop inspired by the first public library in France with ample seating in the form of leather banquettes, a great selection of pour overs, espresso drinks, and cold brew, as well as every kind of fancy savory toast one could ever want, and a Belgian-style liège waffle that’s impossible to resist.
Best for warming up after a walk on the beach: Andytown Coffee Roasters
Whether you’re hitting up Ocean Beach to paddle out, dip your toes in the ocean, or just remind yourself that, oh right, San Francisco is actually located literally on the coast, Andytown is the place to go afterwards to get your caffeine fix. The good news is that you’re a savvy San Franciscan, so you dressed appropriately for the beach, which means you’re also dressed appropriately to order Andytown’s signature drink, the Snowy Plover, a sweet and bubbly coffee soda made with espresso and topped with whipped cream. Pair it with the housemade soda bread, both of which you’ll take to enjoy outside in the back garden (there’s no indoor seating) where hopefully you can find a spot of sunshine, but if not, just pull up your hood and remind yourself that so many people would love to be in your shoes (and puffer) right now.
Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.