No one would ever mistake the city of Minneapolis for a coffee producing region. But here in Minnesota, be it on a shady patio in the summer or inside the a cozy cafe as the snow falls in winter, this city is home to a love of coffee that spans cultures and traditions.
The coffee culture in Minneapolis is in a constant state of evolution as new people immigrate to the city, sharing their traditions and recipes, and learning from one another. There’s the Swedish egg coffee served in church basements, Vietnamese iced coffee, cafe de olla poured from steaming pots, and numerous African espresso bars. Alongside these traditional methods of preparation there’s also a collection of cafes focused on high-quality coffees, drawing on the past and pushing the industry forward.
Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota and shares the banks of the Mississippi River with St. Paul, the state’s capitol. There’s a long history of coffee here, from a giant instant coffee plant that supplied the U.S. Military during World War I, to Peace Coffee, who helped pioneer a more ethical approach when they opened in 1996, and remain popular and influential today. Add to that the internationally noteworthy green coffee importer Cafe Imports, and roaster manufacturer Mill City Roasters, and there’s clearly no shortage of expertise to draw on.
It’s always worth a visit to Spyhouse or Dogwood, two of the city’s largest and oldest specialty coffee companies. Both roast their own beans and are well-known throughout the city, with multiple locations to choose from. But there’s also a group of smaller shops with their own approaches to coffee, forging unique independent identities that reflect the wider culture—and cross-pollination of cultures—that makes Minneapolis what it is today.
It’s not often you get the chance to try Turkish coffee at a specialty coffee shop, but for those who love this style of preparation, Cafe Ceres is an essential place to visit in Minneapolis. Alongside this traditional delight, Cafe Ceres also offers an array of lattes with Middle Eastern flavors such as date syrup, sumac, and carob. These flavors continue with the food offerings. Pistachio croissants, Turkish bagels, and heartier options like falafel bowls all show the influence of the Red Sea region on the menu.
The larger food menu and abundance of seating attracts all kinds of customers. There are families, people working on laptops, and everyone in between. Despite this, the baristas keep things moving. Drinks are prepared using a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine and Mazzer grinders, and come out quickly without feeling rushed.
The Minneapolis roastery Silverbird provides coffee for all three Cafe Ceres locations. The two larger shops in Southwest Minneapolis are ideal for sitting down or having lunch, while the downtown Cafe Ceres caters more to workers getting their morning coffee.
Harmony Coffee, tucked into an alley in Northeast Minneapolis, feels like that quintessential hidden gem that every great coffee city is proud to have. Here the location and space is half the fun, partially sunken underground with Brutalist cement walls, exposed brick, and beautiful old wooden floors. Adding to the experience is the sound system. If the name Harmony isn’t a tip-off enough, the large freestanding speakers and sizable record collection show that a focus on acoustics is also an important aspect of the cafe.
Harmony has a small menu, focusing on classic cafe drinks and a couple high-quality teas. They serve coffee from a variety of roasters, including Dak from Amsterdam, Mother Tongue out of Oakland, and local roaster Misfit. On the bar is a FETCO batch brewer, La Marzocco Linea Classic, and a Nuova Simonelli espresso grinder.
Even on weekends Harmony tends to be relatively quiet and relaxed. This makes it a great place for working, having a mid-day reset, or enjoying a nice coffee break with a friend.
After the closure of their original cafe location in 2022, Misfit pivoted by adding a cafe space to their roastery. The result is a charming space with a distinctively DIY vibe. Stepping through the open garage doors into the cafe feels a bit like entering a clubhouse. There are large couches to sit on, neon signs, a motorcycle, and a collection of troll dolls looking over the bar.
The cafe’s eclectic design continues through to their varied drink menu. Alongside cafe classics Misfit also offers a wide variety of specialty lattes with seasonal ingredients, cocktail-inspired Kyoto chilled drinks, a large tea menu, and house-made soda. While the menu might stump indecisive cafe-goers, its wide variety means there’s something for everyone from the coffee snob to the caffeine-avoidant friend.
Misfit is always roasting an array of coffees from around the world. It’s worth trying their single origin offerings, either brewed as espresso using a Mahlkönig twin grinder and Synesso espresso machine or as a Kalita Wave pour-over.
Misfit’s roastery and cafe is a little off the beaten track in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, but on many days they can also be found serving coffee out of their trailer around the city, or from their stand at the Weisman Art Museum.
Wesley Andrews Coffee and Tea
Their phrase “conversation complements” reflects the idea behind Wesley Andrews. It is a small, bright cafe in the Whittier neighborhood. On a typical day you will find people working, reading, or talking with their friends over drinks. The idea of engaging in conversation is further referenced by a large communal table, stacked with issues of coffee magazines and books, and bar seating where customers often sit to wait for their drinks and chat with baristas. The diverse menu with made-to-order drinks means Wesley Andrews is a great place to sit and enjoy a coffee and less suited to grabbing something in a hurry.
If you are looking for a pour-over coffee or well made tea, Wesley Andrews is the place to go. They have multiple single origin pour-over options at any given time alongside high quality tea that can often be hard to find, even at specialty coffee shops. In fact, for those who love tea, or are coffee drinkers looking to learn more, Wesley Andrews also hosts weekly tea tastings where you can learn more about their offerings.
Wesley Andrews roasts their own coffee and sells a selection of retail bags, as well as brewing equipment and other goods.
The Get Down Coffee Co
When a new company comes onto the scene with a splash, it can be a struggle to keep up with the attention and expectations. That’s not the case here. The Get Down Coffee Co has been able to maintain their physical location, open a new roasting facility, and sell coffee through the retail giant Target all while keeping quality high.
The coffee shop, which aimed to bring a welcoming take on specialty coffee to North Minneapolis, is small but inviting. Vinyl records on the wall and a bank of speaker’s point to the importance of music at the shop, a trend that is continued in the drink names—espresso and drip coffee together is called “footsteps in the dark” here—and coasters made out of old records. There are a couple communal tables in the space, but overall seating is limited. Because of this, The Get Down Coffee Co is a great place to stop on a walk, or before getting breakfast at one of the weekend pop-ups hosted right outside the shop.
While the normal cafe mainstays are great here, it’s worth trying their specialty drinks too. It’s hard to beat a Brown Sugar Banana Cream latte or the “Cranes in the Sky,” a strawberry vanilla latte with strawberry cold foam.
Marco Dregni is a freelance journalist based in Minneapolis. Read more Marco Dregni for Sprudge.