This list contains everywhere I have had remarkable coffee or service at. Space, service and actual taste of coffee are all super important in the coffee world, and anywhere on this list has proven to me they do an exceptional combination of these three things. This is not to say there aren’t other places I like or would recommend highly, in fact that would be a whole other list. But these are very special places I think you’re very likely to have very very good coffee and/or a very very good time.
Call it a home town advantage but Sydney is my favourite coffee city in Australia. I will concede that visiting my brother in Melbourne helped me realise that Melbourne cafes have a certain advantage of having better food options at more places, but Sydney’s best is consistently my favourite in Australia. It helps that I have worked with a lot of the people behind my favourite places, but for that reason I believe that these people are truly dedicated to providing excellent coffee and excellent hospitality experiences.
Primary Coffee, Potts Point
I always feel like I’m walking into a coastal retreat when I go into Dans shop. The soft almost-blue-almost-green-almost-cream paneling, sunny white bar and beechy details really fill me with the same calm as walking into a friends beach house and being told “can I get you anything?” The house blend is beautiful, the espressos are long and the filter is made on a fetco, so it really ticks all the boxes for me.
Try any coffee with a Penny Fours croissant sitting in the inside bench in the sun.
One Another, Newtown
What makes One Another so damn good is you can sit down for breakfast, finish with a tart or a cookie or whatever, have three coffees and a tea and every one of those things will be really really really good. For a place to do all of those things really well just blows my mind.
Try a batchie, espresso and a tea. Stay for lunch while you’re at it.
Fleetwood Macchiato, Erskineville
Fleetwood is like your dad that’s always at your soccer game. They’re just glad to see you and want to support you and make you feel good. Lots of local darlings are featured as coffees, such as Sample and The New Paradigm, with Melbournites Wood and Co making often appearances.
Try the brekky roll (with morcilla) and ask for whatever coffee you normally enjoy, because it’s all good.
Small Talk, Dulwich Hill
I love Small Talk. I love Sam Terrey’s Reuben Hills espressos, I love the chocolate babka, I love the focaccia, and I love the donuts, and most of all I love that everything is hand made. I think it’s rare to have a space that feels so personal, so connected to the owner. There are few local cafes that are as rewarding to revisit as Small Talk. It also gets on here for having my favourite texture of a drinking vessel too.
Try choccy babka, focaccia and wash it down with an espresso. Stir your espresso well and listen to the sound the cups make. It’s really nice.
Artificer, Surry Hills
Artificer is professional and cool and do those two things to an absolute t. I love their Kenyan espressos and they do the best natty Brazil filters I’ve ever had. Sit by, watch the dogs, friends catching up and be jealous you don’t live around the corner (unless you do).
Try an espresso in the sun, drink a filter in the shade.
Skittle Lane, City
I wish the city had more shops like Skittle Lane. But it doesn’t. It just has this one. Skittle Lane has incredibly fast service, incredibly friendly faces and really consistent coffee. If you want to know how best to operate in a fast environment, watch these guys.
Try sitting down with a filter and watching waves of people at peak times. Or go early on a weekend and enjoy the space for something different.
Sample Coffee, St Peters and Surry Hills
Full disclaimer, I worked for Sample for two-and-a-bit years and managed the St Peters shop for a period of that. It was here I learned how different coffee could be, and what made good coffee buying. Weekends are my pick for exploring coffee options, two batch brewed filters that are extracted to have a lot of body and be really complex, and one long ass espresso.
Try an espresso if you’re not an espresso drinker. Best recipes in the biz.
Brighter Coffee, Stanmore
Brighter Coffee makes you happy. That’s literally it. It’s comfy, it’s inviting, and you feel like you’ve been going there every week for 6 years, even though it’s been 5 minutes since you’ve walked in and 6 months since they’ve opened. Find me a happier space in Sydney and I’ll give you $5.
Try a filter out of their old bubble tea maker.
Single O, Surry Hills
Single O are era-defining. They have done so much to make specialty coffee accessible. I used to make a 30 minute detour on my way to uni just to get a long black and watch throngs of people spill out onto the street. I know it’s all different now, but they deserve a mention for being one of the first to do things right.
I spoke to Connor from The Cupping Room before moving down here about my time going through different cafes in Canberra. He said “In Canberra everywhere is about the experience.” and he is not wrong. Places in Canberra tend to have either a lot of choice or a lot of atmosphere. The places that succeed in Canberra are the places that do their best with these two aspects. As a Sydneysider I am used to a lot of a certain kind of service, which you simply don’t get in Canberra. Things aren’t as on it, but sometimes that can be really charming. I’ve learned to accept that as a part of the hospitality world down here, but consider this your first notice if you’re coming from Sydney or Melbourne and will be referring to this list.
Aside from roasting really really good coffee, Barrio made the list for me because they do the best non-dairy milk I have ever had with coffee. It’s so damn good. I would put it down as a necessary coffee experience just to try how good a non-dairy milk can be. The whole place stinks of loveliness and is super cool.
Try the non dairy milk in a flatty.
Church Neighbourhood Goods, Civic
I feel at least 5 points cooler when I go to Church. Brock has got friendly service on lock, and the food is salty, moreish and will be the highlight of your day. As a matter of fact, just going there will be the highlight of your day.
Try the brekky roll with a hash brown.
The Cupping Room, Civic
I often find it hard to really enjoy big and busy spaces. It’s really just personal preference. But it’s easy to see how much The Cupping Room has shaped Canberras hospitality scene, even 7 years on. As far as choice goes, The Cupping Room has got you covered. It’s really a place that makes everything very easy for you, and I think that says a lot.
Try a daily filter and a plate for breakfast.
It takes your eyes a moment to adjust walking out of the sun filled alleyway next to the glowing suburban park into themoody blacks and greys of Intra’s interior. In a sense, it’s like you’re entering a portal into a place that has no hangups on what kind of tea or coffee they want to give you. It’s the sort of place you have to trust will take care of you, and if you’re lucky, you’ll leave with something you never thought you wanted.
Try an oat milk flatty and a carafe of Kuura tea.
Melbourne has amazing experiences in coffee. They’ve been doing it there way before anyone else and will keep on doing just that. It’s rare to see a city as a whole that jumps on to outlandish coffee trends, experimental menus and fitouts, but that’s what makes places in Melbourne so exciting.
I went to a lot of these cafes at a very pivotal time of my life: I was very impressionable, I wanted to go to the hottest places with the coolest coffee setups and I was ready to enjoy (almost) anything that came my way. Assembly was the first of my coffee binges and I had an amazing cold brew tea and a lovely chat with the owner. I also had like 6 coffees. This is when it was a filter only bar, with a wide variety of coffee roasters available to take home in nifty little tins.
I’ve been since then and now you can get espresso too, and I still love everything about the space. It’s a really beautiful space and everything is just so damn nice. If you’re interested in coffee, this space will get you excited, it’s done that for me for as long as they’ve been open.
Try whatevers going. Enjoy the service. Enjoy the neon.
Patricia, Melbourne City
You haven’t had good coffee service until you’ve been to Patricia at 8.35am. Hundreds of people, hundreds of coffee orders being taken, and you still feel like you’re a goddamn superstar. You don’t feel like you’re holding anyone or anything up. You just sit at the bar, have a canale, have an espresso, have a chat to someone on the machine, read the paper, maybe get a little batch brew sample, and leave with everyone waving goodbye to you. There is a single place on this list that can suspend time and space with good service, and that’s Patricia.
Try having a coffee and reading the paper.
Market Lane, Prahran
This is an outstanding shop. Their roasting operation is a visible well oiled machine which is my favourite roasting experience in the country. It’s very nice to watch people working effeciently, buckets of green coffee being pushed back and forth, bags being packed, and a full coffee bar all going at the same time. It’s so rare to see both production and retail operating in such great harmony, and really worth your time.
Try a filter flight.
Everyday Coffee, Carlton, City
Every time I book a flight to Melbourne I stay as close as possible to Everyday. Their old Carlton space was always #coffeeshopgoals for me. The batchies were strong and flavourful, the yellow bench so inviting. This is a gem of a company that is always worth a visit.
Try a batchie and some baked goods from All Are Welcome.
Seven Seeds, Carlton
What Melbourne list would be complete without vanguards Seven Seeds. They practically invented good Melbourne coffee! It feels special to go to a space that preserves the atmosphere of what made coffee just so special, exciting and interesting for so many baristas.
Try whatever’s running. Get some crumpets too.
Adelaide surprised me as a coffee-destination city. I felt really blindsided by it. I think one thing that makes the coffees really good is how bad the water is (sorry Adelaide!) The water has a high minerality, so a lot of the coffee shops here use reverse osmosis water and add chemicals and the such, giving a lot more control over the way the coffee tastes.
Mondays, Adelaide City
This was the first place I went when I had my first spare moment in Adelaide. It came up on a few lists so I thought I might as well check it out. The coffee blew me away. This was a few years back now, since then their roasting has gotten even better and their fitout changed for the better. Their original store is closing down unfortunately, but their Monday - Friday operation in a lobby on Grenfell St will keep kicking. It’s a cool, neat, easy breezy place that always makes me feel really happy.
Try a filter and an espresso.
Exchange, Adelaide City
Exchange is another spot that hit me for six, and another place that has had a facelift, and has been super consistent for as long as I’ve been visiting. They offer Market Lane coffee with some guests, namely Wood and Co. Service is super friendly, food is super tasty and it’s right across the road from my second favourite bottle shop in the country. What’s not to love!
Try coffee how u like it!