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Discovering the Best Specialty Coffee in NYC — A Coffee Lover’s Ultimate Guide

New York City, a bustling metropolis bursting with energy, is not just the city that never sleeps; it’s also a haven for coffee enthusiasts. Amidst its iconic skyscrapers and fast-paced lifestyle, NYC hides a vibrant world of specialty coffee. From Brooklyn’s historic lanes to the creative enclaves of Manhattan, every sip offers a story of dedication, artistry, and the pursuit of coffee excellence. Join me as I explore the best specialty coffee spots in NYC, a city as diverse and dynamic as its coffee offerings.

As a specialty coffee enthusiast, my exploration of New York City’s streets was a truly thrilling experience. Every café and roastery I stepped into presented its own distinctive charm, providing a window into the vibrant core of the city’s coffee culture. After spending two weeks in NYC and visiting over 20 coffee spots I have picked the ones I think are the best and most authentic. Let me take you on a tour of some of NYC’s best specialty coffee spots the city has to offer, each reflecting the diverse and lively spirit of the city.

Quick links

Notable Rosters

Unique Coffee Experiences

Notable Roasters

Unveiling the best specialty coffee in NYC starts with its roasters, the true pioneers of the city’s thriving coffee scene. Their passion for quality and innovation ensures every cup is a masterpiece of flavor. I usually start at the well-known hubs of the specialty coffee scene and seek recommendations. In this section, I aim to shine a light on the roasters who are the heartbeat of the best specialty coffee in NYC.

SEY Coffee

SEY is “YES” spelled backwards.

Without a doubt SEY is among NYC’s best specialty coffee destinations. Even before heading to New York City, I gathered recommendations from several coffee enthusiasts, and SEY Coffee was a recurring suggestion. Their Bushwick location offers a unique ambiance, characterized by a blend of natural elements like wood, glass, and concrete, all complemented by an array of plants.

This design choice creates an atmosphere that’s both inviting and reflective of their coffee’s clean and vibrant profile. Adding to this unique ambiance is a glass wall in the back, separating the café area from their roastery. This feature allows you to watch the roasters at work, adding a dynamic and interactive element to your coffee experience.

The story behind Sey Coffee is just as intriguing as their brews. The duo behind it all, Tobin Polk and Lance Schnorenberg, kicked off their roasting adventure back in 2011, tucked away in a fourth-floor loft just around the corner from their current spot. However, it was in 2014, after fine-tuning their craft under the watchful eye of Joanna Alm from Drop Coffee in Stockholm, that they really hit their stride. Back then, operating as Lofted Coffee, they quickly became a kind of underground sensation – the kind of coffee gem that you’d feel lucky to discover or go out of your way to find.

And there’s more to Sey’s charm. They’ve adopted this cool European twist by running a gratuity-free model. It’s all about the coffee and the service, no tips expected. This isn’t something you see a lot in New York, and it really adds to the whole experience. It’s like a little slice of Scandinavian coffee culture right in the middle of Bushwick, offering a delightful getaway for anyone eager to immerse themselves in a uniquely European coffee experience.

Sey focuses exclusively on washed coffees, chosen for their clarity and pure flavors. Rather than the typical pour-over methods such as V60 or Kalita, they prefer using the Aeropress. This method ensures that each cup full-bodied and juicy. Their commitment to the Nordic style of roasting highlights the beans’ delicate nuances, setting their coffee apart.

On my visit to Sey, the menu featured three of their seasonal coffees: Colombia, Burundi, and Kenya. I opted for the Colombia, drawn to its tropical and bright notes, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of their selections.

SEY Coffee Bushwick

Loveless Coffees

Just a short stroll from Sey lies another of NYC’s best specialty coffee havens, Loveless Coffees. Founded in 2017 by Will Douglas and Joe Wieczorek, the project originally took off under the name Spectrum Coffees. They started off roasting in Red Hook, but as they evolved, they moved to Bushwick and rebranded to Loveless Coffees, drawing inspiration from the iconic album by My Bloody Valentine. The café itself radiates a vibrant, somewhat punk ambiance – a bit of a contrast to SEY. One highlight that’s hard to overlook is their Loring Falcon roasting machine, prominently stationed at the back of the shop.

Speaking of their coffee, while they’ve got some clean, crisp flavors that coffee purists love, they’re also not afraid to play around with some really funky ones. So, whether you’re in the mood for something straightforward or something a bit more adventurous, they’ve got you covered.

Beyond their excellent coffee, Loveless Coffees is deeply committed to fair trade practices and transparency. Their approach goes beyond mere transactions; they actively support the ecosystems and communities of their coffee growers. By paying prices that facilitate sustainable growth and reinvestment, they contribute positively to their partners’ livelihoods. This commitment to fairness is transparently communicated to customers, with the purchase prices of their beans openly shared on their store page.

Their roasting style, termed ‘New York-Nordic’, is a fusion of the delicate, nuanced techniques they learned in Norway and the bold character of New York’s coffee culture. This results in a medium-light roast, characterized by exceptional clarity, richness, and a well-defined structure – a harmonious blend that delights the palate.

And there’s an exciting partnership to note – Loveless has teamed up with April Coffee. So, if you’re looking to buy the April Brewer or paper filters, you can find them right at Loveless.

Loveless Coffees Bushwick

La Cabra

Living in Aarhus, Denmark, for a few years now, La Cabra has become a name I’m pretty familiar with. It’s like a piece of home followed me around, especially when I visited their coffee shops in Bangkok and NYC. There’s a ton I could say about this roaster, but I’ll keep it short here. I might just save the full scoop for another article about Aarhus, or maybe give La Cabra its own feature – so stay tuned! Without including La Cabra, this article would have been called “Best Specialty Coffee in Bushwick” but I just had to mention them as well.

La Cabra’s really made a name for itself with its simple, Nordic approach to coffee. Think flavorful, crisp, and bright roasts. Their motto is ‘Brighter is Better,’ and they totally deliver. The coffee is just that – clean, light, and super bright. It’s a caffeine lover’s dream. If you’re into design, you’re in for a treat. Their spaces are a masterclass in Nordic aesthetics, complete with pottery from the Danish studio KH Würtz. It’s like a little slice of Scandinavia right in the heart of NYC.

La Cabra Soho

Back in 2021, they launched their bakery and coffee shop on 2nd Avenue, where they serve not just their signature coffee but also a selection of freshly baked goods. It’s a perfect marriage of the art of coffee brewing and the craft of baking. Shortly after their debut on 2nd Avenue, Esben Piper, the founder, decided to make NYC his long-term base. Following this move, they expanded their presence by opening another coffee shop in Soho and began roasting their beans locally in Bushwick.

La Cabra Bakery

Unique Coffee Experiences

NYC’s specialty coffee scene is not just about the beans; it’s about unique experiences. Let’s dive into some of the city’s most unique and best specialty coffee shops.

Principles GI Coffee House

In the of Brooklyn’s Ninth Street area, straddling Park Slope and Gowanus, Principles GI Coffee Shop stands as a unique destination for the best specialty coffee in NYC. This rather industrial part of Brooklyn is a melting pot for creative souls like artists, poets, artisans, those with creative careers, and everyday workers. Definitely not a typical place to find a specialty coffee shop.

Principles is a testament to the vision of its owner, Katie Bishop, a 33-year-old former Marine and bassoonist. The coffee shop embodies an idealistic goal: to serve as a social hub that fosters community engagement and lively exchanges of ideas.

The shop’s got this vibe that harks back to those rad antiwar coffeehouses of the 60s. Imagine spots where soldiers during the Vietnam War could kick back and get into some deep conversations. That’s the kind of openness and activism Katie’s infused into her place. Katie hustled to get Principles GI going – crowdfunding, borrowing from friends, and scoring an interest-free loan. The space itself? It’s big, artsy, and has a bit of a found-object flair, with furniture from here and there, even some cool pieces from a local woodworker.

Beyond the inspiring story of Principles, Katie offers an impressive range of coffee beans sourced from various local roasters. During my visit, I noticed she featured beans from Passenger Coffee, a roaster from Lancaster, PA. They’re known for their innovative technique of freezing green beans and roasting them at their peak. But I’ll write more about Passenger in a separate article!

Principles GI Coffee House Brooklyn

Dayglow

From Los Angeles to NYC, Dayglow is a name synonymous with the best specialty coffee. Situated just below the East Williamsburg border, this multi-roaster shop and coffee subscription stands out with its extensive variety of beans from roasters from all around the world including some of my favorite Danish roasters like April, La Cabra or Coffee Collective, however, they also roast their own coffee, which is definitely worth a try!

Additionally, they offer a remarkable range of coffee options for pourover, typically featuring about ten different choices. Their menu also boasts an impressive array of coffee mocktails. When evening arrives, the shop transitions into Niteglow, where, alongside coffee, they serve craft beer and an assortment of actual cocktails.

Dayglow Williamsburg

Did you enjoy our best picks from the NYC specialty coffee scene and feel like writing about your own city? We’re on a mission to gather recommendations from fellow coffee enthusiasts. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’re interested. Your insights and experiences are integral to our ongoing coffee journey. Get in touch!

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