San Francisco has long been an important city when it comes to coffee. The first cup of restaurant coffee in the West was served here in 1846; and big brands including Hills Brothers and Folgers got their start here as well. In the 1950s the Italian espresso houses of North Beach were meeting spots for the famous beat poets. Today “third wave” coffee roasters are everywhere and great coffee is our daily drug of choice. Go ahead and geek out on the sourcing, roasting or how it’s brewed and you’ll fit right in. Top spots offer plenty of education and even tasting events. Looking for a jolt of caffeine before tackling the best things to do in San Francisco? We know some places downtown. Need somewhere to hunker down with a laptop? We got you covered. No matter where you are in SF, here's where to find the best coffee in San Francisco.
RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in San Francisco
Best coffee in San Francisco
Founded in 2014 by Michael McCrory and Lauren Crabbe, this indie roaster brought high-end beans to the Outer Sunset. The original, 600-square-foot location opened on a caffeine-starved strip of Lawton Street—thus, the perpetual line snaking out the door. A second cafe arrived on Taraval in 2017, in addition to a roasting facility next door. Single-origin beans are sourced from Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, and Peru. Don’t miss the baked goods, like blueberry corn muffins and candied blood orange and chocolate scones, all made on-site at the Lawton cafe.
The brainchild of freelance musician and coffee obsessive James Freeman, Blue Bottle began in Oakland in the early 2000s. Today, the iconic blue logo is symbolic of a coffee empire, with outposts in New York, LA, Boston, Miami, Washington DC, and Japan. Blue Bottle’s stark, white-and-natural-light aesthetic has since been mimicked by dozens of haughty copycat cafes, but the emphasis here has always been on the coffee: responsibly sourced and served less than 48 hours from the Loring roaster.
Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell started roasting beans out of a Marin County garage in 1995; today their business has grown to over 500 accounts and seven cafes. Equator sources organic, fair trade, and single-origin coffee from Colombia, Sumatra, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Rwanda, Malawi, and Costa Rica; the company also creates blends for a wide variety of Bay Area restaurants, including Per Se and the French Laundry. The most impressive of the cafes is located in the historic Warfield Building, where a lush mural by Mona Caron blooms across the concrete walls and there’s the patio is bordered by flower-boxes. The menu offers toasts, salads, and pastries.
Klatch’s first San Francisco location is clean and modern with marble countertops and rustic reclaimed wood tables and chairs. Known for their exquisite cold brew, Klatch Coffee is family-owned. Founder and master roaster Mike Perry works directly with farmers curating seasonal selections, including some of the most coveted beans in the world, such as the El Salvador Las Mercedes Pepinal 1, a first-place winner at the El Salvador Cup of Excellence auction, Kenya Kabingara, and the world’s most expensive coffee, Elida Geisha, which currently sells for a whopping $100 per cup.
This Potrero Hill standby opened on St. Patrick’s Day 1989. Rather than fussy cuppings and snail’s-pace pour over, owner Roger Hillyard (and now his son, Chris) serve good old-fashioned drip coffee sourced from De La Paz on Mission and roasted in-house. The cafe is the epitome of a homey neighborhood coffeehouse: The former butcher shop is decked in local art and well-loved plants, with ample seating inside and at the parklet out front. In addition to coffee, Farley’s has earned a loyal following for its extensive selection of magazines, which spans hundreds of titles.
Flywheel owner Aquiles Guerrero has coffee in his blood. He was born on a coffee farm in Nicaragua and grew up picking coffee. His family owned local chain Martha and Bros coffee shop, and he became a barista at age 12 and a roaster at age 18. Guerrero’s spacious Haight cafe is purposefully designed to avoid a corporate feel, outfitted with reclaimed wood and minimalist pendant lighting. The coffee is sourced from Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and Kenya and overseen by Flywheel’s master roaster Stephen Beebout.
SIghtglass has five San Francisco locations, but the most impressive of the bunch is its flagship on 7th Street in SoMa, which doubles as the production roastery and company headquarters. There, knowledgeable baristas host free public cuppings (that’s tastings, to the uninitiated) at the in-the-round open coffee bar. The spot also offers regular brewing classes for burgeoning coffee buffs. Coffees are sourced from around the world, and the cafe offers espresso drinks, pour-over, and cold brew on tap.
At Ritual, the baristas approach coffee as a sommelier does wine. The 15-year-old coffee company has made a reputation for its coffee-buff beans and highly specific tasting notes. Beans are sourced from Kenya, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Guatemala, and up to five pour over flavors are offered daily (plus cold brew and espresso drinks). On the ever-rotating menu, coffee lend tout tasting notes of caramel apple, Rocky Road ice cream, and citrus, another blend might offer comparisons to chocolate orange, honeydew, and sweet mint. Coffee lovers can test their palates at regular cuppings and public tastings.
Owner Kiani Ahmed grew up watching his mother and grandmother grind coffee beans with a mortar and pestle, roast the beans in cast iron pans, and pour the results from clay kettles in his native Ethiopia. At this SoMa cafe, his methods may have gotten more modern, but his reverence for coffee remains unchanged. Beans are roasted on a Probat roaster in the back, while espresso is made on a La Marzocco up front. True to his roots, Ahmed specializes in Ethiopian beans sourced directly from farmers in his home country. Try the Jostel Gandi, a spicy house specialty made from espresso and chai.
This sleek FiDi coffee shop is inspired by the first public library in France. Fittingly, the 1,500-square-foot space is a gathering spot of sorts, where regulars congregate with newspapers and laptops—and even the occasional book—for their morning coffee. The cafe serves a rotating assortment of pour overs, roasted locally, as well as espresso drinks. The cold brew comes care of Ritual, a first for the FiDi. In addition to drinks, the spot serves Starter Bakery pastries, toasts, salads, and sandwiches.
Another spot for coffee nerds, Contraband specializes in single-origin, fair-trade coffee sourced from independent farms from all around the world, particularly from Guatemalan and Colombian farms. They offer a wide variety of coffees that are typically roasted more “medium” than the light style popular with many third wave roasters. Brewing is done as you like it—pour over Kalita Wave, Chemex or espresso machine.
Ritual alum Kevin Bohlin founded this cafe in 2013. While regulars line up for pour over, cold brew, and espresso drinks, for coffee buffs, the draw is Bohlin’s obsessive attention to his beans’ farming, roasting, and sourcing. He can rattle off the names of the producers he works with in Guatemala, Kenya, and Honduras—the Zelaya family in Antigua, for example, or the Paz family in Peña Blanca—and describe the specific agricultural climate that lends each batch of beans its unique flavor.