Seattle is a city in flux, and with soaring rents and endless construction projects, many argue it’s for the worse. Coffee is the city’s emulsifier—it's common ground for new arrivals with freshly minted Amazon badges, longtime Seattleites lamenting the departure of treasured dives, and swarms of tourists who descend on this beautiful city. While cafes with slick designs and knockout coffee offerings pepper neighborhoods throughout the city, there are a few particular coffee drinks in Seattle that are so outstanding they deserve the full love and devotion of residents new and old. Here are five drinks offering the best coffee in Seattle.
Macchiato, Espresso Vivace
Since opening a small coffee cart in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1988, Vivace has been on an espresso vision quest. To find the best shot, they’ve tricked out machines, modified equipment, and ignored trends. You won’t find any Chemex or V60s here. But the result of all that tinkering and toiling is the city’s (dare I say country’s?) very most perfect espresso. Roasted a few shades lighter that the traditional Northern Italian style, Vivace’s espresso is caramelly sweet, and you can sip it all day. But if you only have time to order one thing, go with Vivace’s macchiato. Like magic, adding a few ounces of milk to the equation makes for a heartbreakingly good drink.
The Runners Up
Deconstructed Espresso + Milk, Slate Coffee Roasters
When they opened shop in 2013, Slate was the one of the first in a new cohort of Seattle roasters to jump on the light roast bandwagon. It took a minute for some dark roast devotees to come around, but Slate’s deconstructed espresso + milk drink can change the mind of the most curmudgeonly dark roast loyalist. Three drinks are served up in proper stemware: one with a shot of espresso, a second with steamed local milk, and a third with the two combined. Breaking it down lets you pick up on flavors and think a little more critically about a drink that a lot of us would take in IV form first thing in the morning.
Hopped Cold Brew, Anchorhead Coffee
There’s no shortage of coffee-infused beer on the market, but Anchorhead flips the equation with its Hopped Cold Brew. The cold brew is dry-hopped at Anchorhead’s HQ just outside the city limits using citra hop flowers from Washington State. It’s unsweetened and coffee-forward, with citrus from the hops adding aromatics before your first sip. Some people add a hit of cream or tonic water to the mix. But if drinking cold coffee off-season doesn’t work for your wintry palate, try pairing it with with a fancy warm cocktail.
Pour Over, Street Bean
Some of the city’s best coffee can be found at a nonprofit barista and roaster training program for young people. Street Bean student baristas start at the register and move to the bar, where they learn how to prepare a full, traditional coffee menu. Opt for either of two rotating single origin pour overs here—on a recent visit, beans from farms in Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea were featured. Go ahead and drink it black—this coffee is too good to be doctored up with cream and sugar.
One & One, Elm Coffee Roasters
The presentation is part of the appeal for Elm’s version of the One & One. A single shot macchiato and espresso are served separately on gorgeous custom Teranishi trays. The single shot will keep you from becoming super buzzy after drinking, and you can fully taste the nuances of the espresso. Elm favors a lighter roast with many of the same qualities found in its traditional, full-bodied peers: It’s chocolaty, bright, and sweet, with all those flavor profiles amped up when topped off with steamed milk.