The best coffee shops in Canberra

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Two Before Ten is one of Canberra’s most recommended coffee shops. Photo: Michelle Taylor.

Canberra might not be top of the list of the best coffee destinations in Australia, but we definitely give our sister cities a run for their money! With a booming café landscape, more and more venues roasting their own beans in-house, plus a huge population of public servants and uni students who need coffee like they need water, Canberra sure knows a thing or two about a good cup of coffee.

Whether you’re looking to kickstart your day or catch up with friends, a café brewing fresh and delicious coffee is the way to go. But living in a city that’s absolutely bursting with top-notch cafes – how do you choose the right one?

In this article, we’ll tell you a little bit about how to tell an average café apart from a great one, and give you a helpful guide to some of Canberra’s favourite spots.

What makes a great coffee shop

Choosing the right coffee shop guarantees a great experience, whether you’re sitting down or on the go.

It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when choosing a coffee shop.

  • Quality beans. A cup of coffee is only as good as the beans it’s made from. A great coffee shop prioritises the quality of their ingredients, and only source the best, locally produced, freshly roasted and properly ground beans for their coffee.
  • Trained barista. A great coffee shop takes pride in properly training its employees to make excellent coffee. Anyone can learn how to steam milk and pour a shot of espresso, but a trained barista knows how to execute it perfectly, every time.
  • Consistency. The appeal of having a local coffee shop is being able to expect consistently delicious coffee every time you visit. A great coffee shop knows that to keep customers happy, the coffee should be on point every day.
  • Great service. Great coffee shops have great service and are conscious of your time. Look for a café that doesn’t sacrifice time for quality, or vice versa, and helps you start your day out right with efficient, friendly service.
  • Tasty menu. Excellent coffee shops do much more than serve delicious coffee – they also serve food, from a simple pastry selection to a full breakfast and lunch menu.

The best coffee shops in Canberra

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Little Oink

Little Oink is a favourite among locals, with great coffee and a kid-friendly atmosphere for the whole family to enjoy. Between the bright blue walls and tropical mural, a gated play area for kids and plenty of outdoor seating, you’d be hard pressed to find a more exciting-looking cafe. Boasting a menu of classic breakfast items (that you can order half-size for the little ones), a dessert cabinet filled with cakes and sweet treats, plus some delicious coffee and special milkshakes, Little Oink is a real suburban gem.

On Google, Ian McTaggart wrote, “Little Oink, one of the destination coffee shops in Canberra.  Easy to access, great coffee, fresh juice and other beverages and simple but tasty reliable menu to satisfy the appetite. Indoor and outdoor dining options add to the appeal.”

The Cupping Room

Designed by the team from award-winning Ona Coffee, The Cupping Room is dedicated to making quality coffee to feel passionately about, with their very own coffee sourcing company and a philosophy dedicated to expanding your knowledge and appreciation for coffee. With an exciting menu of inventive food and a rustic, welcoming interior, The Cupping Room is the perfect destination for coffee enthusiasts.

Zoe Askew wrote on Google, “One of the best cafes I’ve been to globally. Amazing coffee, amazing food, amazing staff.”

Ona Coffee House Café

Since the ONA brand was established way back in 2008 by world champion barista Saša Šestić, ONA has taken its philosophy of making great coffee and sharing it with the world to great heights, with venues across Australia and wholesale partners around the world – rest assured, ONA coffee is top quality. The ONA Coffee House here in Canberra, attached to the ONA Coffee roastery, offers ONA’s entire range of signature blends and single origin coffees, plus a delicious breakfast and lunch menu.

Steve Schaefer wrote on Google, “The coffee alone is the reason to stop here … but the breakfast was phenomenal.”

Barrio Collective Coffee

Barrio Collective is a classic hole-in-the-wall coffee bar in bustling Braddon. Barrio has a strong commitment to simplicity, quality, and accessibility – not only can you dine in on their delicious food and coffee but you can also subscribe to a fortnightly delivery of Barrio’s very own coffee blends. If you want delicious coffee in a more intimate setting, then Barrio Collective is for you.

Zargham Khan wrote on Google, “I came here when I was searching for breakfast with a friend. The coffee is exceptional – Canberra’s very own slice of Melbourne! Perfectly smooth and well extracted.”

Two Before Ten

Two Before Ten now has four cafes across Canberra—Aranda, Hobart Place, Greenway and Brindabella Business Park. It also operates its own roastery, to maintain quality control, and creates its very own blends with their own unique flavour profiles. Customers enjoy each cup with fabulous food, rounding out their coffee experience.

Natalia Abbasi wrote on Google, “We started with coffee but liked it so much we stayed for lunch … Will definitely come back.”

Highroad

Highroad is another recent project by the nationally-renowned Canberra business ONA Coffee, and focuses on specialty coffee, locally sourced ingredients and innovative menu items. The gorgeous interior of Highroad pays homage to the Canberra landscape, with high glass windows, a few eucalyptus sprigs and art-deco finishes on the wooden panelling, Highroad’s bright and welcoming interior is matched by its top-notch coffee and delicious food.

On Google, Shannen Kelly wrote, “Amazing food and atmosphere and all the staff are so polite, friendly and attentive. Great place”

Thirty8 Espresso

Waterfront views, great coffee and delicious eats are on the menu at 38 Espresso, a character-filled cafe perfectly located along the Kingston Foreshore. This is a charming coffee bar and a perfect place for people watching along the water. Enjoy a professionally made coffee and dine on breakfast or lunch.

On Google, Jason Atherton wrote, “Popular place, and I can see why. My piccolo is one of the best I’ve had in Canberra.”

Tilley’s Devine Café Gallery

Bringing jazzy vibes and good times to Canberrans since 1984, Tilley’s is named after Matilda ‘Tilly’ Devine—a Sydney-based gangster and madam. Although the café started as a women’s space, both genders are now welcome to indulge in this icon’s creamy coffees and mouth-watering cakes.

Russell Gentle wrote on Google, “A great place to have a coffee and chill out with jazz music in the background.”

Mocan and Green Grout

Mocan and Green Grout is a cosy, quirky, eclectic venue with an open kitchen and homely interior. The coffee shop’s dedicated team offers a simple menu of handcrafted food, at breakfast, lunch and or dinner. The coffee at Mocan and Green Grout is fair trade, locally roasted, and expertly prepared.

On Google, Ellen Harvey wrote, “Great coffee, great food, lovely people. Mocan and Green Grout is now my go-to-café.”

Red Brick Coffee

Part café, part roastery, Red Brick Café is all about delivering the best coffee for all tastes. They’ve got free public tastings of their house blends every week, plus a passionate team of knowledgeable baristas that are here to help you find the perfect cup of coffee. With their own house-roasted blends blends of single origin beans, and a commitment to environmentally friendly practices, Red Brick Café is about quality, sustainability, honest practices and, of course, delicious coffee.

On Google, Kathryn Stefancik wrote, “Super amazing coffee, and the staff are lovely and cheerful. They ground some coffee beans for me and made a lovely mocha.”

Rye

Situated on Lonsdale Street in Braddon, Rye is a local hotspot that’s open daily for breakfast and lunch. Serving up specialist coffee and fresh, simple, delicious food, the passionate team is ready and willing to go above and beyond to make your café experience as enjoyable as possible.

As Facebook user Danielle Gurr writes,Amazing food, great coffee, friendly staff and just a generally wonderful vibe. The breakfast board was so yummy, would recommend.”

If you’re looking for more information on eating and drinking in Canberra, you might like our articles on the best restaurants in Canberra, the best restaurants and bars in Kingston, the best vegetarian cafes and restaurants as well as the best bakeries Canberra has to offer.

Your experience with the best coffee shops in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the coffee places listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a great coffee?
A great coffee involves many elements. First, the quality of the beans. Second, the way they’re roasted. Third, the quality of the coffee machine. Fourth, the expertise of the barista making the coffee.
What makes a great coffee shop?
First, and foremost, the coffee. That’s the quality of the beans and an expert barista. And because so many customers want more than just a coffee, the food is important. The atmosphere also plays a role. So does the quality of staff and the service. Location can also be key. You’ll want a coffee shop that’s conveniently located.
Do all coffee shops roast their own coffee?
Not all coffee shops roast their own coffee. More and more quality coffee shops do. If they don’t, they make sure they buy coffee from a company that roasts quality beans locally. This way they can be confident of the quality.
Do all coffee shops run cafes as well?
Not all coffee shops run full cafes, but most offer some food. Some might have a small menu of baked goods and light lunches. Others provide more substantial menus. Some are open during the day only and some also at night.
Why does it take so long to get my coffee?
Making a quality coffee takes a bit of time. Great coffee shops don’t like to rush the process. Quality coffee shops have long lists of loyal customers and are super busy at peak times. This can add to your wait time, but a quality coffee is so worth it.

What's Your Opinion?


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104 Responses to The best coffee shops in Canberra
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TorrensTom TorrensTom 7:03 pm 30 May 15

I tried ONA in Manuka yesterday after reading many favourable comments about it here – VERY disappointing. I ordered a small Cappuccino; it was $3.50, which is a fair price, but came in the SMALLEST CUP I’ve ever seen! The coffee wasn’t even particularly good – overly milky and not much flavour. I expected better and won’t be going back 🙁

Ezy Ezy 10:04 am 30 May 15

Rollersk8r said :

Masquara said :

LSR make OK coffee but their “attitude” approach is weird. In the good cafes in San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Melbourne, Brisbane – all the baristas are chill and friendly. LSR’s behind-the-counter hauteur is mystifying. Wrecks their coffee – along with the too-loud music at breakfast time.

Indeed.

We go through 1kg of beans a month at home @ $40-something a time. Have been a loyal customer of LSR for over a year. But last time I waited 15 minutes in line *just to buy beans* and got a shrug at the counter: “Yeah, well, we’re out of pretty much everything. Can’t sell you more than 250g”.

Fine then. Business permanently taken elsewhere.

You are in luck – soon to open Barrio in the Ori building in Braddon also sells coffee online and offers free delivery as well. I have some beans on the way for home filter http://www.barriocc.com

Hit up Sam and have a chat about a subscription service. Can I also suggest you break down your 1kg into 500g? Fresh is always best 🙂

rosscoact rosscoact 6:56 pm 29 May 15

Rollersk8r said :

Masquara said :

LSR make OK coffee but their “attitude” approach is weird. In the good cafes in San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Melbourne, Brisbane – all the baristas are chill and friendly. LSR’s behind-the-counter hauteur is mystifying. Wrecks their coffee – along with the too-loud music at breakfast time.

Indeed.

We go through 1kg of beans a month at home @ $40-something a time. Have been a loyal customer of LSR for over a year. But last time I waited 15 minutes in line *just to buy beans* and got a shrug at the counter: “Yeah, well, we’re out of pretty much everything. Can’t sell you more than 250g”.

Fine then. Business permanently taken elsewhere.

Yep. That’s a similar story except we go through a kilo a week. It was a no thanks, we don’t want your business.

Rollersk8r Rollersk8r 4:39 pm 29 May 15

Masquara said :

LSR make OK coffee but their “attitude” approach is weird. In the good cafes in San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Melbourne, Brisbane – all the baristas are chill and friendly. LSR’s behind-the-counter hauteur is mystifying. Wrecks their coffee – along with the too-loud music at breakfast time.

Indeed.

We go through 1kg of beans a month at home @ $40-something a time. Have been a loyal customer of LSR for over a year. But last time I waited 15 minutes in line *just to buy beans* and got a shrug at the counter: “Yeah, well, we’re out of pretty much everything. Can’t sell you more than 250g”.

Fine then. Business permanently taken elsewhere.

dungfungus dungfungus 12:29 pm 29 May 15

Pencil said :

Two Hands in Fyshwick make a good strong flat white. I like the vibe in there as well

……and the lack of MAMILs.

Masquara Masquara 7:32 pm 28 May 15

LSR make OK coffee but their “attitude” approach is weird. In the good cafes in San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Melbourne, Brisbane – all the baristas are chill and friendly. LSR’s behind-the-counter hauteur is mystifying. Wrecks their coffee – along with the too-loud music at breakfast time.

Pencil Pencil 4:49 pm 28 May 15

Two Hands in Fyshwick make a good strong flat white. I like the vibe in there as well

bryansworld bryansworld 3:58 pm 22 May 15

rubaiyat said :

bryansworld said :

Same here. I will walk past them and into one that serves coffee in reusable cups.

Cool, I don’t feel so alone with my attitude now!

Whatever happened to the customer is always right?

I loath those plastic throw away cups with the baby spout, and always insist on a regular porcelain cup, but not infrequently they ignore your request.

Particularly the coffee chains. They know what we “need”.

We “need” to trash our planet or we will be unable to maintain our lifestyle!

They “need” to trash the planet by exploiting externalities to keep making profit, because its free money for them. It’s only dangerous to say in Australia because we seem to have lost touch with reality, but we need a price on carbon.

rubaiyat rubaiyat 1:50 pm 22 May 15

bryansworld said :

Same here. I will walk past them and into one that serves coffee in reusable cups.

Cool, I don’t feel so alone with my attitude now!

Whatever happened to the customer is always right?

I loath those plastic throw away cups with the baby spout, and always insist on a regular porcelain cup, but not infrequently they ignore your request.

Particularly the coffee chains. They know what we “need”.

We “need” to trash our planet or we will be unable to maintain our lifestyle!

bryansworld bryansworld 10:55 am 22 May 15

Maya123 said :

bryansworld said :

Ezy said :

bryansworld said :

On a related issue, there are a lot of take away coffees drunk on this planet. I understand that the vast majority of takeaway paper cups have a plastic lining, which means they cannot be recycled at our current recycling facilities in Australia. Where in Canberra uses cups that are recyclable here?

Get yourself one of these: http://www.keepcup.com.au

Got one, and use it when I can. Spread the word! But, still amazed at the number of non-recyclable cups that we as a collective must churn through. Particularly saddened by the cafes that have decided that completely disposable is the way to go. I try to avoid these ones. Must be financially better for a business to not have to wash up?

“Particularly saddened by the cafes that have decided that completely disposable is the way to go. I try to avoid these ones.”

Same here. I will walk past them and into one that serves coffee in reusable cups.

Cool, I don’t feel so alone with my attitude now!

CJ CJ 7:15 am 22 May 15

My only complaint with Lonsdale Street Roasters over many visits in past years was that the coffee was almost always lukewarm by the time it arrived at our table. Taste-wise it was fine, with good body and balance, and the selection of beans to take home was excellent. I second a previous poster re the Johnny Cash blend.

MattLowe MattLowe 11:53 pm 21 May 15

2 B4 10

Maya123 Maya123 10:04 pm 21 May 15

bryansworld said :

Ezy said :

bryansworld said :

On a related issue, there are a lot of take away coffees drunk on this planet. I understand that the vast majority of takeaway paper cups have a plastic lining, which means they cannot be recycled at our current recycling facilities in Australia. Where in Canberra uses cups that are recyclable here?

Get yourself one of these: http://www.keepcup.com.au

Got one, and use it when I can. Spread the word! But, still amazed at the number of non-recyclable cups that we as a collective must churn through. Particularly saddened by the cafes that have decided that completely disposable is the way to go. I try to avoid these ones. Must be financially better for a business to not have to wash up?

“Particularly saddened by the cafes that have decided that completely disposable is the way to go. I try to avoid these ones.”

Same here. I will walk past them and into one that serves coffee in reusable cups.

MotherHen MotherHen 7:00 pm 21 May 15

Niugini Arabica at Duffy does a nice latte and is a lovely spot to sit on a sunny day. They roast their own beans (from the PNG highlands) and also sell coffee beans so you can also enjoy at home.

SparksAndSawdust SparksAndSawdust 6:15 pm 21 May 15

Sly Fox Coffee on the bike path near MacArthur Avenue – the only coffee I don’t have to add sugar 🙂

Vindalu Vindalu 4:46 pm 21 May 15

Hi Guys – loved reading everyone’s take on good coffee. I travel around the ACT all day long and usually do 3 coffees a day; yes, and I hate to admit it – they’re double shots. Coffee Guru does it for me, consistently good with slight variations in excellence among the various outlets. I’d give first prize to their Weston franchise. Coffee is more than a matter of personal taste; to get the max flavour with depth and minimal bitterness takes skill and attention to detail. I could wax lyrical about coffee for pages having had several coffee shops and been a trainer in the hosp industry throughout the coffee boom but I’ll end on this note. There are better coffees than coffee guru but they are few, for a consistent happy hit I love em!

Ezy Ezy 3:48 pm 21 May 15

garglebutt said :

I struggle to find a decent cup around Woden town centre. Urban Bean (Ona beans) is okay but goes well down hill during mid morning peak. Gizmo’s (Cosmorex) at IP Australia is okay most of the time. Nothing like the Cupping Room or 10 to 2 though ????.

Espresso Room in Westfield are not a bad option around that area. They should be close to the same standard as Cupping Room because they are under the Ona/Project Origin umbrella. Other options within a 15 minute walk are Lava in Phillip or Stand By Me in Lyons.

garglebutt garglebutt 3:28 pm 21 May 15

I struggle to find a decent cup around Woden town centre. Urban Bean (Ona beans) is okay but goes well down hill during mid morning peak. Gizmo’s (Cosmorex) at IP Australia is okay most of the time. Nothing like the Cupping Room or 10 to 2 though ????.

garglebutt garglebutt 3:19 pm 21 May 15

Holden Caulfield said :

But I can observe and comment on coffee culture, which, it has to be said, like wine culture, or cycling culture, is often full of people who take the subject much too seriously.

I think the focus and attention that “a good coffee” receives is mildly amusing at best and a complete embarrassment at worst.

The fact that the coffee shops using stale old Vittoria beans and the like still have lots of customers shows that there is plenty of breadth in the market for all levels of taste.

Each to their own of course but many people are interested in finding a better product at an acceptable price which is what this discussion is about. I walk past half a dozen coffee shops every day to find a better product because I’d rather drink water than a mediocre cup of coffee.

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 12:41 pm 21 May 15

Ezy said :

Fair enough, I understand and respect your point of view. But to be embarrassed about having a passion and an interest no matter what the subject is? I totally disagree with that comment. If you can’t get excited about things in your life, then why bother getting up in the morning. You could be into building model planes for all I know, that could be your thing? I’m not going to look down on you for that. There are always different levels of ways people consume things. You can walk in with your blinders on and just see coffee as a ‘coffee’ and thats it.

Fair enough in return. And thanks for your honest reply.

It’s the depth to which coffee culture has entered the mainstream that is the interesting thing for me. People often look at me odd when I say I don’t really like coffee as if there is something wrong with me. Talk about having blinders on, haha.

You’re right, it’s good to have passions, especially if they are a bit left of centre. It helps the world go around.

However, in my experience, some coffee snobs (for want of a better term), not all, remind me of the gag:

Q: How do you know if someone is vegan?
A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

It’s good to have passions, we agree, it’s also good to know when to curb your enthusiasm.

Ezy said :

I am a little different when it comes to this subject – I see it as much more in coffee than just the drink itself. It is an experience, an opportunity to learn and interact. The things I have learnt and the conversations I have had whilst waiting in line for a coffee – my eyes and ears are always open, it is fully immersive. The people I have met and relationships I have built with some of the owners of local and interstate cafés are valuable, all of this before getting the coffee itself. The cafe has really become a social hub and bit like the modern day roman forum – important meetings take place, deals are made, relationships start and end. The first thing I do when I get to an unfamiliar town is head to the best local cafe and have a chat to the guys behind the machine, they are a great source of information on your surroundings.

That’s not a bad way to look beyond the drink itself. And I’m all for the social aspect of “meeting for a coffee”, it’s just rare that I’ll actually have one.

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