Every San Francisco Coffee Shop You Should Visit for the Best Brews

Where to Get the Best Coffee in San Francisco, According to Locals!

Welcome to the city that takes its coffee seriously!

For the caffeine-dependent, exploring the local speciality coffee scene is an absolute must when travelling. And San Francisco is no exception! Along with rolling hills and constant fog, coffee is a huge part of the overall experience. After all, this city is the birthplace of Folgers and Hills Brothers — whose founders set up shop to sell instant coffee during the Gold Rush. Fast forward to now, it’s like every San Francisco coffee shop aims to uphold this legacy with further innovation! 

From decades-old institutions to fast-rising third wave cafés, it’s truly a city that takes its coffee seriously. Here are some of the best coffee shops in San Francisco that are worth a visit! Go on, wake up, and enjoy your coffee on a San Francisco street. (This is obviously a reference to the Sun Rai song, you guys.) 

Also read: 10 Luxurious Airbnbs in San Francisco That Are Worth the Splurge

Best coffee shops in San Francisco

From burgeoning new roasters to decades-old local haunts! 

1. Saint Frank Coffee

Among the three stores of Saint Frank Coffee, it’s the one in Russian Hill that stands out the most. With its dominantly white minimalist interiors, tinged with wood accents set in an airy two-floor space, this is perhaps the most stereotypical millennial San Francisco coffee shop. It’s also a great place to enjoy your coffee in peace, as most of its patrons are yuppies who go there to get work done. 

It’s best known for its pour-overs and espresso drinks. For the latter, I recommend the espresso tonic and latte with house-made almond milk! Their beans are ethically sourced from independent producers all over the world. From Honduras to Kenya, the baristas would be more than ready to describe the specific agricultural climate that makes for each batch’s unique flavour. 

2. Sightglass Coffee

Established in 2009, Sightglass Coffee has remained on top of the San Francisco indie coffee scene for over a decade now. Its flagship store in the SoMa district is a spacious former warehouse that doubles as its production roastery, too. Keep an eye out for free cupping (a fancy term for ‘tasting’ in coffee lingo) sessions as well as brewing classes, if you want to enhance your coffee knowledge! 

Meanwhile, on the mezzanine level, they have an affogato bar, where you can customise your espresso and ice cream combo according to your desired sweetness. Another must-visit branch would be the one inside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. As someone who loves coffee and art in equal ratio, this was heaven to me! And with so many galleries to explore inside, you’ll probably need some cuppa in between. 

3. Mazarine Coffee

If you find yourself in the bustling Financial District, make sure to drop by at Mazarine Coffee. Don’t expect to find many quintessential hipsters here; most of its patrons are suited up white-collar employees getting their caffeine fix, as well as start-up hopefuls pitching to investors. And while the menu changes regularly, some recommended mainstays would be their Gibraltar, mocha, and the signature Raf: espresso, half-and-half, and cinnamon. 

This San Francisco coffee shop is named after the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris, which also happens to be the first public library in France. Though, you won’t see any books shelves or other library-inspired stuff, except maybe for the Penguin classics-print wallpaper in the bathroom. 

4. The Buena Vista

Fisherman’s Wharf is quite the foodie tourist spot, what with the hype over clam chowder in sourdough bowls and the OG Ghirardelli Chocolate shop. But if there’s one more place you should try in this waterfront neighbourhood, it would be The Buena Vista! Alternatively, you can visit it after a tram tour, as it’s right beside the final stop for one of the tram’s routes. 

The Buena Vista is responsible for bringing Irish coffee to the US back in the ‘50s. That said, it’s definitely the must-try drink! The place has been around since 1916 and the decor hasn’t changed much either, which is great if you want to experience the old San Francisco. At night, it’s illuminated by neon lights that make you feel like you’re in a classic Hollywood detective movie! 

5. Equator Coffees

What is it with the abundance of über-spacious San Francisco coffee shops? Not that I’m complaining, as most of ‘em offer equally impressive coffee, too. A clear example would be Equator Coffees — specifically, the one in SoMA, which was actually built in partnership with LinkedIn! In a city where tech startups are birthed in cafés here and there, it totally makes sense. 

But aside from the enormous space, it’s also where you can have some of the best coffee in San Francisco. Aside from their seasonal roasts, other must-try drinks are the La Mika Cascara (coffee-fruit tea combo) and the Shakerato (iced espresso shaken with cream). Don’t forget to bring home a bag or two of their beans exclusively from the brand’s own coffee farms. 

6. The Laundry

The Laundry is a café, art gallery, and events space all rolled in one! This is your best bet if you want a taste of both the local art and coffee scene. It has quite the cosy interior, with exposed brick walls, plush vintage-y seats, and other charmingly rustic elements. As for the coffee, it’s similar to most indie speciality cafés, where the focus is on quality (single-origin beans from a Berkley roastery) over quantity (menu options)! Their bestsellers are the latte, mocha, and cold brew.

It’s located in the famous Mission District, which is perhaps the most vibrant neighbourhood in San Francisco. There, you’ll find a diverse cultural melting pot set amidst a backdrop of colourful street murals. And yet The Laundry is still hard to miss, with its bright yellow front sign reminiscent of a novelty shop in a magic realism film! 

7. Linea Caffe

Another must-visit in the Mission District is Linea Caffe. Its founder, Andrew Barnett, was actually featured in the 2015 documentary Barista, which centres on the prestigious National Barista Championship. So, it’s no surprise that this place is considered as one of the best coffee shops in San Francisco! 

Head over for a splendid cup of cortado or nitro cold brew, best paired with house-made waffles. Though, do take note that the original store doesn’t have much space. Good thing it recently opened a second one in Potrero Hill, which is way more expansive and even houses their roastery. 

8. Caffe Trieste

San Francisco coffee shop

Image credit: Dan DeLuca

You’ll find Caffe Trieste in North Beach: best known as the home to the Beat movement, as well as to SF’s very own Little Italy. It’s also one of those rare neighbourhoods well-loved by both locals and tourists! In between checking out old bookstores and munching on yummy cannolis, make sure to drop by this famous San Francisco coffee shop, too. 

Having been around for over 50 years, Caffe Trieste is your best bet for Italian-style brews. Cappuccino, latte, and espresso con Panna are their all-time bestsellers, and if you’re feeling feisty, get these in doppio (double shot). The local patrons are mostly poets, musicians, and other artists discussing their craft. Oh, and a fun fact: this is also where Francis Ford Coppola wrote much of the screenplay for The Godfather! An offer we can’t refuse, indeed. 

9. Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters

I’ll say it ahead: nope, not that Miley Cyrus song! Okay, glad we got that out of the way. 

Now, I’m sure you’re very much aware of third wave coffee. Well, guess what? This term was actually coined by Trish Rothgeb: one of the founders of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters! Meanwhile, her co-founder and better half, Nick Cho, is considered one of the best baristas in the country. So, by now, it’s probably no surprise that it’s a popular go-to for the best coffee in San Francisco. 

As for the coffee itself, try their special Pillow Fight espresso, a blend that comes with a strong flavour upfront then a balanced finish. You can also opt to have it as an iced cappuccino, which is a favourite among regulars! Try to visit early in the day because seats run out fast. They also have a cute pineapple wall that makes for a good backdrop when you take pictures of your drink! 

10. Blue Bottle Coffee

This is probably already a given for any coffee lover who’s headed to California! After all, Blue Bottle Coffee is headquartered in nearby Oakland. While it has a handful of stores scattered around northeast San Francisco, the standout would be the ones in the Financial District and Pacific Heights. Probably because these are the most indicative of the usual Blue Bottle interior: historic yet upscale setting as well as rustic-modernist elements. 

Like in every other location, the baristas brew your coffee right in front you, which all the more adds to the experience. Nothing like the divine smell of roasting beans keeping you company, am I right? And while you’re at it, get the Gibraltar — A.K.A. the brainchild of a San Fran-based Blue Bottle barista. 

Must-try San Francisco cafés for breakfast

Because sometimes, one can’t run on great coffee alone! Here’s where you can get delish food, along with some of the best coffee in San Francisco. 

11. Andytown Coffee Roasters

Andytown Coffee Roasters has two stores in the Outer Sunset neighbourhood, which is close to the foggy western shores. The original location is on Lawton Street, while the roastery is on Taraval Street. Unlike most of the San Francisco coffee shops on this list, Andytown is on the opposite side and rather far ‘from the action.’ But hey, it makes for a great stop on your way to/from the Golden Gate Bridge or Twin Peaks

Apart from roasting their own beans, the espresso drinks all automatically have double shots! How’s that for a bang for your caffeine buck? Their coffee menu is mostly straightforward — except for their signature Snowy Plover: two espresso shots, sparkling water, and a dollop of whipped cream over ice! Think of it as a grown-up version of rootbeer float. Pair it with their house-made Northern­ Irish-style soda bread, with bacon and jam on top! 

12. Surisan

Craving an Asian-American breakfast? Surisan is your best bet! It’s situated in Fisherman’s Wharf, so you might want to opt for an outdoor table and enjoy the cool, salty breeze complementing the warm sunshine. While fusion tends to get a bad rap sometimes, this San Francisco café actually does it quite well — thanks to its head chef Nick Yoon, who originally hails from Seoul. 

Some of their must-try dishes include: Eggs Benedict with Korean Fried Chicken, Blueberry Stuffed Crunch French Toast, and good ol’ Pajun (Korean pancake). There’s also the signature Millionaire’s Bacon, a thick slice glazed with brown sugar and three kinds of pepper. Don’t forget to order their latte — it’s one of the best I ever tried, and that’s saying a lot! 

13. Tartine Manufactory

best coffee shops in San Francisco

Image credit: T.T Seng

Located in the artsy Mission District, Tartine Manufactory is every bit as fascinating as the neighbourhood it’s in. Basically, it’s an ice cream shop, bakery, restaurant, bar, and coffee shop, all rolled in one! How’s that for a multi-faceted gastronomic haven? 

With such vast dining options, you can literally come here any time (within its opening hours, of course) and leave satisfied. Although I’d recommend visiting in the morning, so you’ll have plenty of time to order and enough tummy space to eat whatever you want! Make sure to pair these with coffee; the beans come straight from their Oakland roastery. 

The options are more simplified than other speciality coffee shops in San Francisco: filter, espresso, with chocolate, and with almond milk. Nonetheless, feel free to be specific and maybe order a potent cold brew or flat white! Hmm… it’s almost as if they’re making up for the vast, bordering-on-overwhelming food selection. But hey, who’s complaining? 

14. The Mill

If you ever find yourself in Alamo Square Park (perhaps to see the famous Painted Ladies?), walk one block to Divisadero Street. There, you’ll spot The Mill with its chic red-brick storefront that might as well be a setting in a ‘00s indie rom-com! Step inside and breathe in the aroma of coffee and freshly baked bread. This is, after all, a joint venture between Four Barrel Coffee and Josey Baker Bread

The roastery where they get their coffee from specialises in drip, though you can also order a latte that comes with IG-worthy foam art. For the artisanal bread, try the Black Pepper Parmesan Roll, Whole Wheat Bird Bread, and Adventure Bread. Other crowd faves are the chocolate croissant, blueberry scone, and the quintessential avocado toast!

P.S — There are no electrical outlets or WiFi here, so you might want to bring a book or drop by with friends to chat with! 

Also read: The Best Things to Do in San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island & More!

As someone who loves coffee as much as she loves travelling, it’s easy to see why this has always been one of my favourite foreign cities. It’s definitely true when they say that every San Francisco coffee shop is an experience on its own! And quite frankly, I can’t wait to come back and try out more.

Featured image credit: The Mill Official Instagram Page

About Author

Marcy Miniano
Marcy Miniano

A fast-talking caffeine-dependent wordsmith, Marcy has never been one to shy away from sharing a good story or two. If she’s not in a quiet coffee shop somewhere, she enjoys spending afternoons in a museum or art gallery — whether it’s around Metro Manila or a foreign city she’s visiting. She wishes to retire in a winter village someday, so she can fulfil her lifelong dream of wearing turtlenecks all year round and owning a pet penguin.