best cafe

How to spot the best cafe in town: 15 tricks that will make your life much easier

Quality over anything else

Not all cafes are created equal, and not all cafes mean a delectable, high quality, and a superb cup of coffee. In fact, it is more than possible to end up in a less-than-ideal cafe. And the result of such a miscalculation? Some less than palatable coffee!

But then how can you walk the narrow path between bad cafes and good cafes? How can you spot the best cafe? Certainly, the good cafes are few and far between, awash in a bitter sea of burnt grounds, dirty shot glasses, and bitter brews?

Unfortunately, in this exciting, confusing, fast-paced, and definitely nuanced world of coffee, good cafes may be hard to come by. But don’t despair, instead look on the bright side! Or at least look out for some of these traits that set good cafes apart from the not-so-good cafes!

The eye of the beholder

In this day and age, when in doubt, look online. This may be your first method of decoding whether a cafe is good or not. But in situations when that isn’t an option or just simply maybe not considered at all, then taking a look at what is going on in the cafe can give you a broad overview of what to expect.

If you are checking out for the best cafe online, if it has an active website or online presence, that may be the quickest way to tell if the cafe is good or not. If there are reviews or comment sections see how the general feel of things is.


Many bad reviews or negative comments might be a sure fire way to tell a keen from a crumby cafe. On the flip side, lots of social media posts from happy fans and customers, pictures of their menu items on social media, and generally the vibe that this cafe is cool and is transparent with customers online and offline are things to chalk up to good cafe traits.

best cafe

The eye of the beholder

In this day and age, when in doubt, look online. This may be your first method of decoding whether a cafe is good or not, or just simply the best cafe. But in situations when that isn’t an option or just simply maybe not considered at all, then taking a look at what is going on in the cafe can give you a broad overview of what to expect.

If you are checking out for the best cafe online, if it has an active website or online presence, that may be the quickest way to tell if the cafe is good or not. If there are reviews or comment sections see how the general feel of things is.

Many bad reviews or negative comments might be a sure fire way to tell a keen from a crumby cafe. On the flip side, lots of social media posts from happy fans and customers, pictures of their menu items on social media, and generally the vibe that this cafe is cool and is transparent with customers online and offline are things to chalk up to good cafe traits.

Constant grinds


Fresh coffee grinds are key to creating good coffee brews. So try to look and listen for a grinder every time coffee is being made. If coffee drinks are being prepared without a grinder going that means the baristas are using stale grounds! In which case you are definitely far from the best cafe in town.

Steam pitchers


When it comes to observing milk frothing and pitchers, there is some science that comes into play. We will spare you the more chemistry-related details, just keep in mind that the makeup of milk is not the same as water and so steaming water and steaming milk or reheating water or reheating milk are not the same. Ideally, the best cafe will use fresh cold milk when they froth some milk up for a cappuccino or other delicious milk-based treat.

best cafe

Knowledge is power for finding the best cafe

Feel free to take a more active role in clarifying whether the cafe you have chanced upon is good or not-so-good. A cafe should present some info about their coffee, the beans, the regions, anything that lets their customers know a little bit more about the coffee experience they are about to have.

A barista should have some knowledge of these things too, and ideally be willing to share freely when asked politely about details such as the roasting types, the beans, the farm where the beans came from, etc. The best cafe will have the best baristas.

Coffee wares

The coffee wares, by which we mean cups, demitasse, machines, counters, the whole nine yards should be relatively clean. If the cafe is using shot glasses to pull espresso take note as to whether the glasses look clean or not. In the best cafe, they should be using ceramic demitasse cups, but shot glasses are okay if they are clean!

That goes for counters and coffee preparation areas, too. And the prep area should be visible, too! Backrooms and coffee coming from an unseen area may not be a good sign. Transparency in a cafe means the baristas are proud of their preparation methods and aren’t hiding anything. The best cafe has high hygiene standards.

Sampling


If you notice the barista sampling coffee and espresso shots every once in a while, that’s good! That means they are checking their coffee’s quality and the best cafe in town surely checks for the quality of its product.

Grinder adjustments

If baristas are adjusting and tuning machines and grinders, that’s another good thing! That means the staff knows that their machines will need a tightening or adjustment or two throughout the day with all the changes that may occur due to steam, heat, pressure, and other variables in the coffee brewing process. In The best cafe in town your baristas will always know the science behind your coffee.

Re-pulling shots


Good baristas will ensure each and every shot they pull is perfect as can be. If they re-pull a shot, it’s not because they made a mistake and don’t know what they’re doing, quite the opposite. It means that they know what is and is not a perfect shot and want their customers to only ensure a perfect one.

Menu

A cafe’s menu is an important sign of its quality. A good cafe will ideally have a few different sandwiches or pastries to choose from. Cakes, muffins, even some fruit or salad options to pair well with a coffee and make for a nice spot for breakfast or lunch. Some non-caffeinated options should make an appearance on the menu, too.

Music

A cafe’s music is important for setting the atmosphere of a cafe. So, the best cafe will have slow-paced, relaxing, calming music is great for cafes because they welcome guests to sit and chill for a while. A cafe that wants its guests to spend time there is probably a place you want to be. Faster paced music or music that seems out of place can throw off the good vibes of a cafe and build a less than the optimal atmosphere.

Seating


Comfy seats and tables that can allow patrons plenty of space to sit and chat, or work on a laptop or read means that the cafe is comfortable with patrons enjoying their time there too. And if there is some enticing outdoor seating, take a look and see if the outdoor area looks well taken care of. If it is clean and looks like a nice place to be, then you are most likely in good hands with this cafe. 

Internet and wifi

With the exception of some more cutting edge cafes that insist on no-wifi, instead of imploring patrons to actually talk to each other or do non-phone related things, a good cafe should, in this day and age, provide some wi-fi! How else can you take photos of their coffee to share to Instagram or other social media platforms? A cafe that encourages its patrons to post about it may be a signal that they are confident in their coffee abilities and want the

Specialty coffee


If a cafe claims to be specialty coffee or among the many third wave of coffee scenes, then they should know their beans from the soil they grow in, to the farmers who pick and process the coffee cherries. The roast types for specialty coffee will generally not err on the side of super dark and oily looking beans. Pour-overs and other more nuanced means of preparing coffee will be present, and the baristas will often have their own styles and artforms to prepare coffee.

The service


The baristas and other staff at a cafe are part of the ensemble cast that builds an atmosphere worth spending time (and money) in. The staff that are friendly, sociable, knowledgeable, and willing to assist patrons to make for an atmosphere conducive to the best cafe. Staff who take pride in their work and are happy to work there are a very good sign that you have found a keen cafe!

Spotting the best cafe…


…isn’t always a simple task, but also doesn’t have to be an impossible one, either! Many traits of a good cafe can be noticed by coffee laypeople, while other things may require the more discerning ears, ears, and nose of a seasoned aficionado.


Don’t forget to pay attention to the location and the external display of the cafe. is the cafe easy to find? Does it have a pleasing facade? Beauty is only skin deep, but when it comes to a building or place of business’s external displays and upkeep, looks can be a little bit less deceiving. If it looks clean it most likely is. And not everything has to be mint condition and immaculately spotless, but does it seem like the owners of the cafe care for and show affection for their cafe?


Does the cafe have a theme, style, or particular atmosphere they are trying to present? If they do, does it all coalesce? Are they attempting to present a Milanese style cafe, with some vintage signs in Italian, or with motifs and equipment that fit into that aesthetic style? Or is the name Italian, but there are random tropical plants, some pictures of zebras, and menu items that seem to be a hodge-podge of different restaurant items? Those are things to consider and pay attention to.


Now we aren’t suggesting you become a snob and turn your nose up at any and every sign of imperfection, but these are the things to be wary of or to try to seek out when on the hunt for good coffee and the best cafe. So, happy hunting, and be sure to sample some espresso to be sure that the coffee is to your liking. The only way to be truly 100% certain as to whether a cafe is good or not is to go in and grab a cuppa! So get out there and explore some cafes today!

The best cafe might be hiding in the most unexpected places.
If you are interested in how to find the best cafe, don’t forget to check also our content on coffee bean nutrition. If you are interested in how to make your own coffee at home, check out our top 5 grinders.

 

For some trivia, check this video about the most luxurious cafes in the world:

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How to spot the best cafe in Town

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