It used to be that a cup of coffee was nothing special: a paper cup of liquid caffeine. It tasted relatively the same whether it was from your local greasy spoon or your at-home coffee maker. Be honest: you'd even suffer through 12 ounces of gas-station sludge if it meant getting your morning pick-me-up.
Today, that's all changed. Specialty coffee has quickly taken over, 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 first small-batch coffee roaster that paved the way for more like-minded spots.
In Palm Beach County, new-wave coffee first hit at Oceana Coffee Roasters in Tequesta, where house-roasted beans and fresh-drip coffee are made to order. In Broward, specialty coffee spots include everything from a slow bar at SwitchBox Coffee Roasters in Oakland Park to the fresh-roasted beans at Wells Coffee Company.
Whether you like your coffee black, sweet, or fancy, here are the best coffee shops in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
1. Oceana Coffee Roasters. Oceana Coffee is the OG — that is, the first roaster to open up shop in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Established in 2009, today the Tequesta-based Oceana continues to offer some of the freshest coffee around. It's all thanks to co-owner Scott Angelo, a talented roaster who takes hand-harvested green beans from all over the world before roasting in small batches, ensuring some of the freshest beans around. What began as a small operation focused on educating customers on a proper cup of Joe has since expanded with a larger space that combines a lounge and retail shop with a conference room that continues Angelo's mission for offering coffee-focused educational courses. If you've come for the caffeine, a menu includes traditional pour-overs, house cold brew, espresso, lattes, and more. Some of the best stuff is even on tap; serving everything from Oceana's cold brew and fresh brewed iced tea to locally made kombucha. Their cold brew is something to savor too, produced on a sealed Toddy system that results in a smooth, low-acid concoction derived from one of Angelo's medium blend roasts. For customers looking to try their hands at brewing their own, the store sells everything needed, from equipment to fresh-roasted beans. 221 Old Dixie Hwy., Tequesta; 561-401-2453; oceanacoffee.com.
2. SwitchBox Coffee Roasters. In 2016, SwitchBox Coffee Roasters cofounders Brian Protsman and his wife, Miriam, opened their coffee shop and roasting facility in the heart of Oakland Park's new culinary arts district. Built as a work space and coffee shop in one, it offers an eight-seat, half-circle slow brew bar that gives customers a chance to order their brew via Chemex, Kalita Wave, or AeroPress coffee (fancy names for different pour-over brewing methods). Brian has been roasting for over a decade, a career he began 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 rotate with the seasons and availability. Two espresso blends offer a more consistent flavor profile, and each roast is available for retail purchase or as beverages. 3446 NE 12th Ave., Oakland Park; 888-849-7269; switchboxcoffee.com.
3. Wells Coffee Company. What began as a small roasting operation inside a Boca Raton coffee shop, the Seed, has now expanded into a full-blown roasting facility in Fort Lauderdale's Flagler Village. Wells Coffee Company founder Brandon Wells says his coffee is all about expressing the unique terroir of each bean he sources. That means roasting with just enough exposure to heat to unveil the unique qualities that distinguish each bean from others — his own approach to developing the coffee for ultimate flavor and taste profile. At the Flagler Village shop, get a cup with a fancy pour-over method that allows you to taste the beans in their truest form. Don't leave without a taste of the house horchata cold brew coffee on tap too. A blend of Wells cold brew is lightly sweetened with a spiced rice/almond milk mixture for heaven in a cup. Then take some coffee to go and recreate the experience at home. 737 NE Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-982-2886; wellscoffees.com.
4. Grind Coffee Project. While Brew Urban Cafe Next Door, tucked into a clandestine location inside Fort Lauderdale's C&I Studios, is one of our favorite spots (it resembles a library but serves some of the best coffee around), a new-ish coffee shop around the corner is snagging a spot on this list. Grind Coffee Project — once a pop-up endeavor — is now a thriving coffee shop with a second location in Kendall where owners Yoni Martin and Brian Hayes are sourcing, roasting, and brewing some of the best beans around. While Martin cringes at the thought of putting cream and sugar in his fine roasted brew, he's relaxed enough to let you indulge with house-made flavored organic syrups and treat-like hot or cold coffee drinks that feature an array of flavors like from cereal-inspired Coco Puffs to matcha green tea whipped cream. 599 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-774-0555; grindcoffeeproject.com.
5. The Alchemist. 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 wooden 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. 2430 NE 13th Ave., Wilton Manors; 515-981-6165; thealchemistcoffee.cafe.
6. Warsaw Coffee Company. Fort Lauderdale got its first highly-caffeinated coffee shop several years ago thanks to Warsaw Coffee Co. The 3,800-square-foot space has indoor and outdoor lounge spaces, an onsite pastry kitchen, walk-up and drive-through barista bars, and rentable office "flex" space. The in-house bakery creates delicacies from scratch: 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. 815 NE 13th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-990-4189; warsawcoffee.com.
7. Kay Rico Coffee. 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 has been brewing, blending, and mixing up some of the best coffee drinks around, using beans sourced from across the globe and roasted onsite. They've been so successful, it prompted a second brick-and-mortar location earlier this year. (It also won the 2018 best café con leche from Miami New Times.) 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, a take on the Bulletproof Coffee, the Kay-Vlar vegan coffee, 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: cold-brew coffee naturally sweetened with coconut water sourced from fresh coconuts at a nearby Yellow Green Farmers' Market stand. 1940 North 30th Rd., Hollywood; 954-708-9695; kayricocoffee.business.site.
8. Subculture Coffee. Before coffee shops were cool, former Habatat Coffee founder Sean Scott and South Florida restaurateur Rodney Mayo paired up to open Subculture, West Palm Beach's first specialty coffee-roasting facility. Today, their downtown shop is one of several downtown spots where you cab grab a cup of coffee, but it's still one of the best. Set right on Clematis Street, Subculture continues to roast beans onsite in small batches using a Diedrich IR-12. From there, it's bagged in-house and shipped promptly to subscription and mail order customers. Sipping in the shop? The cold-brew is done 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. Visit the original location or one of two additional shops that have since opened in Delray Beach and Jupiter. 509 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-318-5142; subculturecoffee.com.
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9. Sip Java Co. Sip Java Co., now with two locations in Broward County, opened its first off Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. For the past two years, they've been serving up a large variety of hot and cold coffee drinks designed for the South Florida caffeine addicts. Coffee drinks get creative here, 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, if you're feeling in need of some extra energy, take some home in refillable glass coffee growler bottles. 638 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-990-5597; sipjavaco.com.
10. Aroma Joe's. An adorable drive-through coffee shop in Pompano Beach is home to more than just a convenient cup of morning Joe. Sure, you can get your morning hot or cold brew coffee here from a shop that looks like a tiny home, but there's a lot to love if you're looking to do some serious caffeinating. Aroma Joe's boasts over a dozen flavored syrups that are used to make everything from a S'More Fantasy, Mudslide, or Coconut Joy iced latte to the Irish Kicker, Black Raspberry, or Perfect Pumpkin (yes, it's available all year round here). The coffee bar baristas will also prompt you to try one of their Flavor Rush infusions: iced blended smoothies with fruity flavors with a natural energy boost. Of course, there's frozen blended coffee, too, made with espresso and appropriately dubbed FroJoe. Get them in any of the signature flavors you can with the hot or cold coffee drinks. 1450 Powerline Rd., Pompano Beach; 954-532-0596; aromajoes.com.