Though Americans had been enjoying coffee across the new and growing nation for decades already, California's mid-1800s Gold Rush saw demand for this stimulating beverage skyrocket ("A Bay Area Coffee History", 2016).
As a busy port city, San Francisco's contributions to the production and culture surrounding coffee began early and continues to set trends to this day.
From those early days of innovation and on through first, second and now third wave coffee shop scenes, San Francisco's neighborhoods boast a bevy of brewed goodness.
Whether it's a hyper-local indie cafe or a Bay Area chain, there's a cafe to please every mood, style or taste. Check out our favorite spots for meeting up with friends, spending some quiet moments people-watching or finding your new go-to brew.
If you're looking for the perfect spot to work remotely, we've got you covered with a look at those after our list of best coffee shops in San Francisco below.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Philz Coffee
- 2 2. Cafe Reveille
- 3 3. The Buena Vista Cafe
- 4 4. Blue Bottle Coffee
- 5 5. Ritual Coffee Roasters
- 6 6. Sightglass Coffee
- 7 7. Saint Frank Coffee
- 8 8. Four Barrel Coffee
- 9 9. Mazarine Coffee
- 10 10. Andytown Coffee Roasters
- 11 11. Java Beach Cafe
- 12 12. Flywheel Coffee
- 13 13. Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters
- 14 Best Coffee Shops to Work in San Francisco
- 15 Best for Busy Financiers: Workshop Cafe SoMa
- 16 Best for Study Groups: The Social Study
- 17 Best for Budding Entertainers: Caffe Trieste
- 18 Best for Bold Entrepreneurs: The Interval at Long Now
- 19 Best for Serious Wordsmiths: Duboce Park Cafe
- 20 Best for Inspired Creatives: Trouble Coffee
- 21 Best for Savvy Socialites: Contraband Coffee
- 22 Best for Quiet Bookworms: Matching Half Cafe
1. Philz Coffee
With shops all over the Bay Area, San Francisco natives and visitors alike can enjoy a uniquely crafted cup of coffee in almost every neighborhood of the city. This local chain started small and built itself up around a desire to deliver quality brews and practice a business that bettered the lives of their customers, employees and the world at large.
Philz Coffee takes care in how it sources their coffee beans and offers over 30 proprietary blends that they then brew into a variety of coffee and espresso drinks to please the masses.
2. Cafe Reveille
Not only does Cafe Reveille focus on the clean, modern look of California aesthetics, but they also prioritize the customer experience as much as they value the quality of the coffee drinks they serve.
They're a triple threat in the San Francisco third wave coffee scene with three locations spread strategically across the city, plus a food truck. The brand's love of community and camaraderie with their clientele, plus delicious food and drinks made to order, earns them plenty of repeat business.
3. The Buena Vista Cafe
No list of the best coffee shops in San Francisco could be complete without a nod to The Buena Vista Cafe. This historic San Francisco spot put Irish coffee on the map for America in 1952 (O'Mara, 2017). Technically a cocktail due to its alcohol contact, this spirited and brewed beverage is a mixture of hot coffee, whiskey, sugar and foamy whipped cream.
While it has many variations and twists these days, the one on Buena Vista's menu holds the historical record for starting the trend for Irish coffee fanatics in America. They're not the only Bay Area coffee shop with a claim to coffee fame on our list -- keep reading to find out more.
4. Blue Bottle Coffee
This California-grown coffee juggernaut now has locations all over the United States but enjoys some of the best locations within the Bay Area itself. With shops in beloved San Francisco landmark spots, like the Ferry Building, enjoying a fresh cup or a cold brew at Blue Bottle Coffee is a great way to see this historic city.
The quality and integrity of the Blue Bottle business model, which focuses on fresh product and fair trade, also appeals to customers who favor cafes with a conscientious culture.
5. Ritual Coffee Roasters
Another San Francisco staple, Ritual Coffee Roasters has places in some of the city's trendiest neighborhoods, including Mission and Hayes Valley. As a purveyor of proprietary roasts, this local chain prides itself on perfecting the craft of precision brewing methods like the Chemex and Aeropress style of pour-over coffee.
Espresso drinks and cold brews get the same love from the cafe's trained baristas. Because they're a wholesale producer for roasted blends that ship all over, you may even find their brand of coffee served at a few of the other locations on our list.
6. Sightglass Coffee
Five locations serve up this brand's delicious coffee in San Francisco's different neighborhoods, but it's the flagship space in the SoMa neighborhood that put this coffee shop on the map. Sightglass Coffee’s open floor space and factory-like feel of its industrial chic style still have warm and lively energy that customers enjoy.
This location is also where the roasting magic happens and a front-row seat at the coffee bar lets you see the process in action, which is best enjoyed with a freshly brewed cup. The location also serves as a training ground for baristas and special events that let the public attend and up their coffee knowledge.
7. Saint Frank Coffee
With its name serving as an ode to the city itself and its namesake, Saint Francis, this coffee shop is quintessential Bay Area goodness and monk-inspired social consciousness. By sourcing their beans from small Central American farms, Saint
Frank Coffee offers its customers more than just a great brew, but a chance to spread the love in return. Their cafe on Polk Street, in the Russian Hill neighborhood, is the perfect spot to relax with friends and enjoy a wholesome and satisfying cup.
8. Four Barrel Coffee
Purpose and intention inform every part of the service and menu available at Four Barrel Coffee's two cafes, one in the Valencia area of San Francisco and the other in Portola. They roast their own blends and source responsibly from small estates across the coffee-growing world.
This attention to detail extends all the way to sharing the secrets of their trade by offering classes to the masses. Visit one of their cafes just to experience a cozy place for a hot coffee beverage or to plan an informative get-together at one of their workshops.
9. Mazarine Coffee
Named after and inspired by France's first public library, this industrial space prides itself on fine coffee and gourmet food to pair with it. They keep their menu of single origin roasts and specialty blends super fresh by featuring new favorites alongside old standards.
If you want a chance to experience boutique beans you can't find anywhere else in San Francisco coffee shops, you'll find no better place than Mazarine for unique and one-of-a-kind offerings. Their menu features a few options, including traditional drip coffee selections.
10. Andytown Coffee Roasters
Home of the Snowy Plover, a frothy, creamy coffee drink that shares its name with a bird, Andytown Coffee Roasters started in Outer Sunset proved a winning combination of comfort, charm and creativity.
They now reign supreme over this neighborhood with two more locations in the area, as well as a fourth in downtown San Francisco. Enjoy the smell of the freshly baked pastries they churn out at their flagship store or catch them roasting fresh for retail and wholesale delivery at the Taraval location.
11. Java Beach Cafe
By sourcing from local small-batch roasters, Java Beach Cafe keeps business thriving within the San Francisco family of nearby coffee entrepreneurs. The close proximity to the Pacific Oceans makes for breezy outdoor seating where customers can enjoy the Bay Area's unique coastal climate.
Java Beach Cafe prides itself on feeling like a cozy extension of your favorite neighbor's living room or front porch, so be prepared to feel at home while sipping on your freshly brewed cup of joe or iced coffee treat.
12. Flywheel Coffee
The history of Flywheel Coffee’s expertise comes from a legacy of coffee growers and cafe owners, which shows in the quality and care this brand takes with its product. The industrial-inspired design of their single location serves a dual purpose as shop and factory where they roast and sell to customers and wholesale clients alike.
The bright copper and warm wood decor create an inviting environment for an individual outing or a group meet-up with plenty of seating. When it comes to finding good coffee in San Francisco, it doesn’t get more authentic than this.
13. Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters
Like many of the best coffee shops in San Francisco, Wrecking Ball is one part retail and two parts wholesale production. This perfect union of coffee shop and roastery has put Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters at the head of the pack of third wave coffee, a term its owner is credited for coining.
Enjoy their menu at their Union Street location in Cow Hollow, a cafe with a bright white interior and a streamlined design aesthetic. If you're looking to turn your love of coffee into a professional trade, consider their curriculum of coffee cupping classes and certification program.
Best Coffee Shops to Work in San Francisco
Many companies now offer their employees the chance to avoid a long commute, especially in a place as congested as the Bay Area (Kotkin, 2014). It's far easier to walk down to the corner coffee shop for a cup of nitro cold brew and breakfast while you work than it is to fight through hours of traffic on the freeway. Freelancers, artists and student also benefit from the cozy atmosphere of the neighborhood cafe.
As technology and commerce make it easier to work independently from anywhere in the world, coffee shops remain a popular choice for switching up the scenery and getting out of the home and office. The fact that someone else does the dishes and brews the next cup or latte is an added bonus.
Best for Busy Financiers: Workshop Cafe SoMa
Located on Montgomery Street, which is often called the Wall Street of the West, Workshop Cafe is located in San Francisco's bustling Financial District ("Neighborhoods - SFCED"). If you need to step out of the office and enjoy a more relaxed environment while you're shooting off emails to coworkers in New York, Los Angeles or beyond, this is the place to go.
Though they charge a small per-hour fee for use of the space as a remote worker, this cafe makes your money count by offering fast WiFi, a bevy of outlets and ergonomic chairs.
Best for Study Groups: The Social Study
By day, this San Francisco coffee shop boasts plenty of seating and table space with a red-brick and book-lined atmosphere that soaks up the chatter of a busy cafe. You can enjoy Four Barrel brand coffee here while organizing your class notes on your own or meeting up with a group to go over a project plan.
Plan the study session just right and you can reward your hard work with a cocktail as the cafe shifts into lounge mode once the evening rolls around.
Best for Budding Entertainers: Caffe Trieste
Iconic, classic and credited as the first cafe on the West Coast to serve espresso-style drinks, Caffe Trieste charms you with old world style and coffee as fresh as the music is lively. Movie and television buffs would recognize their North Beach location as a favorite set for filming scenes, and the walls are lined with pictures of visiting celebrities who returned for a cuppa on their own time.
Stop by on a Saturday night to see one of the longest-running shows in San Francisco in between sips of their world-famous espresso and jotting down lyrics for your next song. Then, schedule session time at their own recording studio.
Best for Bold Entrepreneurs: The Interval at Long Now
More than just a cafe, The Interval serves as a bar, museum and learning space all in one. With a decor somewhere between steampunk factory workroom and old-world apothecary, there's inspiration everywhere to get busy innovating.
The Long Now Foundation calls this space home and fosters the kind of thinking that seizes the moment and crafts the future -- with a healthy helping of great brews, spirits and free thinkers in the mix.
Best for Serious Wordsmiths: Duboce Park Cafe
Affectionately named after the dog park across the street, this is one of the smaller shops on the list, but that means it's perfect for the writer who needs to crank out the word count without a crowd around to distract them.
Get cozy in the corner with a cup of good coffee, maybe a scoop of gourmet ice cream and get to work finishing that story. Sure, you may still find yourself staring out the window to watch dogs chase each other across the park, but then again, their antics may prove an inspiration for a four-legged character to show up in your tale.
Best for Inspired Creatives: Trouble Coffee
The scene at either of Trouble Coffee's locations might be best described as a pop-up punk show than a formal cafe, especially in a city rich with third wave shops all designed with clean lines and quiet minimalism.
However, the owner's focus on fostering a creative community may just help you make those necessary connections all artists need to open their mind and feed their soul. Speaking of feeding the heart and soul, there's strong coffee and gourmet toast to go with that garage rock aesthetic.
Best for Savvy Socialites: Contraband Coffee
Located in Nob Hill, one of San Francisco's oldest and also most upscale neighborhoods, this coffee shop embodies the essence of the city at its most modern and on-trend.
Get together with friends to plan your next event or sit at the ample window seat to people-watch for the latest in streetwear fashion and inspiration for your next social media story or photo shoot. Inside, great lighting and simple, tasteful decor mean every angle looks good for a strong selfie game.
Best for Quiet Bookworms: Matching Half Cafe
The warm and welcoming atmosphere of Matching Half Cafe is just the sort of space you could feel comfortable in while reading up on industry news or the latest edition of a trade journal. Matching Half's team prides itself on creating a retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life or crowds that mill about, so you can expect your space to be respected while your nose is between the pages of a book you need to finish before your next project is due.
Not only do they offer up great coffee and a menu with a delicate selection of tasty treats, but you can also join their community-supported agriculture program and pick up fresh foods on delivery days.