It used to be that a cup of coffee was just that: a paper cup of liquid caffeine. Nothing special — it tasted relatively the same whether it was from your local greasy spoon or your favorite diner. Heck, you'd even suffer through 12 ounces of gas-station sludge if it meant getting your morning pick-me-up.
Today, all that's changed. Specialty coffee is quickly becoming the next craft craze, from organic beans to Fair Trade farms to small-batch roasting to a whole slew of fancy brewing methods.
In South Florida, you could say it started with Panther Coffee in Miami, the region's very first small-batch coffee roaster that paved the way for more like-minded spots. More locally, in Palm Beach County, new wave coffee hit at Oceana Coffee Roasters in Tequesta, where with house-roasted beans and fresh-drip coffee are made-to-order.
Today, there are even more specialty coffee spots. From the slow bar at newly opened SwitchBox Coffee Roasters in Oakland Park to the fresh-roasted beans at Subculture Coffee in West Palm Beach and Delray Beach, here are our top spots for the best coffee shops in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
12. Harold's Coffee Lounge
509 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-833-6366; haroldscoffee.com.
Coffee snobs looking for an artsy hang and Intelligentsia-brand beans, this is your spot. This eclectic coffeehouse plays the perfect host for painting exhibits and photographer meet-ups, and it's great for just hanging out. It's also on top of the latest coffee trends. Special-order a siphon brew that results in a beautifully mild cup of coffee, or be all made-to-order-cool with a hand-pour java. And you can always keep it simple with a plain ol' espresso. Get a coffee education while you're here: The well-informed staffers will tell you how a French press creates a unique flavor or how to detect notes of flora, caramel, or toast in your roast. This specialty shop uses the Blue Bottle Kyoto-style cold-brewing system, a fancy-looking and somewhat costly setup composed of tall, fragile glass drip towers, traditionally called an Oji machine in Japan. Drip by drip — 48 drips per minute, to be exact — the Oji produces a six-cup batch after around seven hours. If this sounds highly specialized, that's because it is. Small batches with extremely high caffeine content means the drink is typically prepared by pouring four ounces over ice for an exceptionally deep, smoky, and light-bodied coffee experience.
11. The Seed
199 W Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton; 561-430-5640; theseedboca.com.
Business partners Carly Altier and Monique Huntington are the founders of The Seed, a Boca Raton business that is one part juice and smoothie bar, and one part third wave coffee shop (a term that refers to a focus on producing a higher-quality, handcrafted product similar to the idea behind crafting boutique wine or microbrews). The Seed opened at the end of November 2014, partnering with Boca Raton-based Wells Coffee Company, which roasts in-house to produce the eatery's own line of micro-roasted beans. Offerings include single-origin and specialty blends, and rotate often according to bean sourcing. At The Seed, patrons have the option to order from the "slow bar" where they can have their coffee prepared using alternative brewing methods including pour-overs like Chemex and V60, or aero press. What something more classic? The full menu offers classic drip, cold brew, espresso, lattes, cortados, macchiatos, and cappuccino. The real treat is the cold brew coffee (ground bean soaked for 12 hours) on nitro tap, or the house brewed tea that's chilled and naturally sweetened.
10. Atelier 3
1901 Harrison St., Hollywood; 954-505-3843; facebook.com.
Rather than relocate their Wynwood-based production studio within the Miami neighborhood, Leo Anato and his wife Maricel Zambrano found the perfect space in downtown Hollywood off Harrison Street. Their coffee shop, which opened about three months ago, looks more like a loft-style living room than a shop. Anato says he designed it to be inviting, which explains the mismatched couches, tables, chairs, and wall decor that together create a cozy and comfortable space. On the menu, find light bites like finger sandwiches, croissants, cookies, muffins, cakes, and small pies. Besides a full menu of hot and cold coffee drinks, the cafe also makes mimosas, which are available all day, every day.
9. Sip Java Co.
638 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-990-5597; sipjavaco.com.
Sip Java Co. opened off Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale last December and has since been serving up a large variety of hot and cold coffee drinks for caffeine addicts ever since. Coffee drinks get creative, from the homemade frappes to the drink of the day whipped up by the team of highly skilled baristas. The shop also has an amazing cold brew, a specialty blend from Anodyne Coffee that's course-ground and brewed using an old-fashioned Toddy system, then steeped for 24 hours. The result is a smooth, balanced cup of cold brew available by the glass (or in take-home, refillable glass bottles).
8. Roasting Buddies
18457 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines; 954-441-2441; roastingbuddies.com.
There's something new brewing out west in Pembroke Pines: a coffee shop that features in-house roasting and specialty brew methods all in one. We're talking about 5-month-old Roasting Buddies, a coffee shop that features micro-lot-sourced beans from places like Kenya, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and El Salvador — freshly ground and prepared a number of ways. There's an espresso bar with all the usual hot and iced suspects, including house frappes in flavors like hazelnut, mocha, caramel, peppermint, and Caribbean coconut. A slow bar offers up still more options with syphon, V60, Aeropress, and French press brew methods as well as cold brew iced coffee. Try the vanilla and coconut, the house cold brew sweetened with vanilla syrup and coconut water.
7. Brew Urban Cafe Next Door
537 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-357-3934; facebook.com/brewnextdoor.
Tucked into an almost clandestine location inside Fort Lauderdale's C&I Studios, Brew Urban Cafe Next door originated as an offshoot of the first Brew Urban located in downtown Himmarshee Village (now closed). Next Door took off, occupying a large open space that resembles a library but serves some of the best coffee around. For all its coffee drinks — both hot and cold — Brew uses locally roasted Wells Coffee. But cold brew gets its own brew method — two, to be exact. In addition to Wells, baristas also use various single origin coffees, primarily from Colombia and Honduras, to make their house cold brew in small batches steeped for 18 hours and using the Toddy brew method. For East African coffees, a yama cold brew dripper is employed. Talk about fancy.
6. Kay Rico Coffee
1940 North 30th Rd., Hollywood; 954-708-9695; kayrico.coffeemain.com.
Head into the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood on any given weekend, and you'll find a special caffeinated treat: Kay Rico Coffee. Here, a family is brewing, blending, and mixing up some of the best coffee drinks around, using beans sourced from across the globe and roasted onsite. The menu offers a dizzying array of options, and most customers are happy to grab a seat at the counter rather than take their coffee to go. That's because the order counter is also a slow bar offering a number of table service-style, pour-over brew methods. Menu highlights include the Chips Ahoy frappe; their take on the Bulletproof Coffee (or the Kay-Vlar Vegan Coffee that substitutes animal ingredients for vegan ones); or the authentic Vietnamese service coffee, also known as Ca Phe, a drip coffee that's brewed directly into the glass. And don't leave without the "Coco Loco" — coconut water cold brew coffee naturally sweetened with coconut water sourced from fresh coconuts at a nearby Yellow Green Farmers' Market stand. Prices are incredibly affordable — just remember that if you ask too many questions, it's a $3 charge.
5. Warsaw Coffee Company
815 NE 13th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-990-4189; warsawcoffee.com.
Fort Lauderdale, you've been caffeinated — thanks to Warsaw Coffee Co., which opened earlier this year. The 3,800-square-foot space has indoor and outdoor lounge spaces, an onsite pastry kitchen, walkup and drive-through barista bars, and rentable office "flex" space. The bakery creates from-scratch delicacies: cookies, pop pastries, muffins, and cakes, to name a few. But don't forget the coffee, a full menu of hot and cold beverages featuring North Carolina's Counter Culture Coffee. Try the affogato, a coffee-based beverage typically made with ice cream or gelato and a shot of hot espresso. The drink menu includes espresso shots and the standard selections like Americanos, macchiatos, cappuccinos, and lattes. If you're looking for fresh-brewed offerings, take your pick of various pour-over methods including Kalita. On a hot day, the cold brew is where it's at — a special blend roasted just for steeping cold. It's even available by the bottle to take home.
4. Subculture Coffee
509 Clematis St., West Palm Beach (561-318-5142); 123 E. Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach (561-808-8482); subculturecoffee.com.
Former Habatat Coffee founder Sean Scott and restaurateur Rodney Mayo paired up to open Subculture, West Palm Beach's first coffee-roasting facility. Today, their downtown shop is one of the best places in Broward and Palm Beach to grab a cup. It even won New Times' pick for Best Coffee Shop in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach in 2014. Set right on Clematis Street, it's the real deal. Mayo and Scott actually roast the beans onsite. Small batches are then cold-brewed in a Japanese-style Oji machine, which creates a rich and flavorful liquid. It's one of just a few places in the area to use the elaborate process. Since then, they've opened a second shop in Delray Beach and are looking to grow the brand throughout South Florida. For now, you can find their fresh-roasted coffee and homemade home brew at both the West Palm Beach and Delray Beach shops.
3. Oceana Coffee
221 Old Dixie Hwy., Tequesta; 561-401-2453; oceanacoffee.com.
Oceana Coffee is OG — that is, they're the first roaster to open up shop in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Just over 3 years old, the Tequesta-based roaster offers some of the freshest coffees around; green beans are hand-harvested from all over the world and roasted by co-owner Scott Angelo in small batches, ensuring the freshest coffee bean you can find. What began as a small operation has since expanded with a retail shop featuring a conference room that doubles as space for a series of coffee-focused educational courses. You can also order from the same menu of coffee selections as the original store, including pour-overs, espresso, lattes, and more. Most exciting is the shop's newest addition: several taps serving Oceana's cold brew, fresh brewed iced tea, and kombucha provided by One Kombucha in Palm Beach Gardens. For the cold brew, a sealed Toddy system produces a smooth, low-acid concoction from one of its many medium blends. For customers looking to try their hands at brewing their own, the store sells everything needed, from equipment to fresh-roasted beans.
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2. SwitchBox Coffee Roasters
3446 NE 12th Ave., Oakland Park; 888-849-7269; switchboxcoffee.com.
SwitchBox Coffee Roasters cofounders Brian Protsman and his wife Miriam recently opened in the heart of Oakland Park's new culinary arts district. It was built as a work space and coffee shop in one, complete with an eight-seat, half-circle slow brew bar that gives customers a chance to order Chemex, Kalita Wave, or AeroPress coffee (fancy names for different pour-over brewing methods). Brian Protsman has been roasting for over a decade, a career he began right here in Deerfield Beach in 2005. For him, there's more to a good cup of joe than how it's brewed. There are also factors like the type of bean, how and where it's grown, and the type of roast as well as how it's ground. As SwitchBox's head roaster, Protsman sources micro-lots from farms he selects in South and Central America as well as East and South Africa. Each week, expect SwitchBox to have anywhere from three to five single origin coffees that will rotate with the seasons and availability. Two espresso blends will offer a more consistent flavor profile, and each roast will be available for retail purchase or as beverages.
1. The Alchemist
2430 NE 13th Ave., Wilton Manors; 515-981-6165; thealchemistcoffee.com.
The Alchemist may very well be one of South Florida's most adorable hidden gems, a homey coffee shop at the end of a quiet street. Behind a tall wood fence you'll find a garden-like grotto patio area where patrons eat and drink in quiet conversation. Inside, order from a menu of hot and cold coffees, including syphon — the house method of brewing. Of course, there's also a killer cold brew. The beans are roasted onsite and cold-steeped for 24 hours. From there, the resulting cold brew is mixed with brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk for a rich, creamy flavor and poured into a giant glass dispenser where it infuses further. Order up a cold brew, and one of the baristas will hand-shake the brew with coffee ice cubes before serving it in a glass Mason jar with a rather unique handle.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.