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.

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.”

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”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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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Special G Special G 7:40 am 20 Sep 07

Straight to the pool room with that comment Woody.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 6:33 pm 19 Sep 07

No article about statistics will change that.

Yeah, who needs facts when you have faith, and some crap coffee to wash it down with?

asp asp 6:17 pm 19 Sep 07

hingo_VRCalaisV6,

True. Though such things don’t ensure good coffee. Starbucks and Muffin Break both make claims about barristas going through intensive training. Starbucks makes the biggest show of sending people to special coffee making academies and how they have Ls for months before doing the real work. Well, the girl on the coffee machine at a certain Starbucks in a certain plaza made an espresso for the manager who was rushed of his feet. He gagged on it and said it was pretty bad. The person who made it had been there for five or so months and has stuff up two of my drinks. She must have surely earned a diploma at Starbucks Coffee Academy?

hingo_VRCalaisV6 hingo_VRCalaisV6 4:13 pm 19 Sep 07

One of the reason why Michels is usually pretty good is because they run Barrista competitions among their staff. I’m not to sure if these competitions involve other coffee shops or if it is just an internal competition, but it results in a great coffee for the everyday customer. Good to know its not all about making a quick buck with bland coffee and zombie-like service.

MrM MrM 3:27 pm 19 Sep 07

Agree with the comment about Michel’s at Lanyon – the coffee there is quite nice. Muffin Break not too bad, but you can keep the rest of your chain coffee shops.

jono1 jono1 2:29 pm 19 Sep 07

But of course you’re right – there’s nothing at all unethical about pushing a narrow, covert moral agenda under the guise of a balanced and objective term like ‘counselling’. The vague and contradictory wishes of your imaginary sky fairy are much more important than a real person’s physical and emotional well-being.

Good for you, you found an article.
I’ll admit I didn’t have the latest up-to-date scientific knowledge on the matter and I stand corrected on the numbers. But I know people who have gone through with abortions, and I know a guy who’s girlfriend aborted their kid without even asking him (for the record, he was willing to take responsibility and raise the kid himself), and I have seen the devastation it can cause in someone’s life, and those around them. No article about statistics will change that.

Now we’ve already gone off topic and, well, your best tactic is apparently to throw around childish insults so I’m really not willing to continue this discussion here.

asp asp 1:04 pm 19 Sep 07

“Call me a purist, but I don’t see how you can really rate a coffee once you’ve adulterated it with those sugary flavoured syrups.”

Indeed. That’s why at stores where I tried the flavour coffees, I also tried a plain latte or flat white.

astrojax astrojax 12:20 pm 19 Sep 07

Call me a purist, but I don’t see how you can really rate a coffee once you’ve adulterated it with those sugary flavoured syrups.

or milk…

nice article, though coffee chain stores are always likely to be of lesser quality than a good ‘real’ barista, like loui…

philbert83au philbert83au 11:55 am 19 Sep 07

Re hot chocolate: KokoBlack (at like $5.50 a cup) is pretty average in comparison to Chocolat in Cusacks at Kingston.

Starbucks, I agree, is woeful.

hingo hingo 11:38 am 19 Sep 07

I don’t want to name names, but said Muffin store is not in Tuggeranong 😉

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 11:34 am 19 Sep 07

And what exactly is wrong with encouraging people to avoid a choice that is statistically proven to lead to major depression in a majority of cases?

Proven?

But of course you’re right – there’s nothing at all unethical about pushing a narrow, covert moral agenda under the guise of a balanced and objective term like ‘counselling’. The vague and contradictory wishes of your imaginary sky fairy are much more important than a real person’s physical and emotional well-being.

asp asp 11:16 am 19 Sep 07

“Michels Patisserie has the best coffee in my opinion”.
Agreed. I’ll review them along sid some of the smaller stores, because even though they’re a chain of franchises, I find that one store’s coffee tastes very different to the others. My local store (Lanyon) has an award winning Barrista.

Skidbladnir, eating at GJs is a risk. I recently purchased a ham+chees criossant and it was served to be almost all black on the outside. She asked if I wanted it replaced to which I replied… probably a good idea.
For the record. GJs (except for in the USA) is owned by two senior members of the Hillsong Church. I am not sure if the company i actually directly linked to Hillsong. Sanitarium on the other hand is 100% owned by Seventh Day Adventists. Eitherway, so long as the relgious affiliations don’t imact on staff and customers, there isn’t really a problem.

Hingo, given that south Canberra includes Woden and Tuggeranong. Could you say “hypotehticaly” which store of said muffin shop isn’t the one stuffing around their staff. I just want to make sure I boycott the right place.

Regarding Hot Chocolates. Planning try KoKo soon.
I would rank the hot chocolates in the following order so far (1 being higest):
1:Gloria Jeans
2: Michelles
3:Starbucks

caf caf 11:10 am 19 Sep 07

Call me a purist, but I don’t see how you can really rate a coffee once you’ve adulterated it with those sugary flavoured syrups.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 9:47 am 19 Sep 07

Having once been a GJ’s employee, I would hesitate to eat there.
But since management has changed at least once since I worked there, things should have almost certainly improved from the ‘significanly below par, bordering on the terrible’.
But unless they start to compete with the $2 happy hour place in food court for price & quality, I won’t be going back.

shiny flu shiny flu 9:45 am 19 Sep 07

Josh: go to koko black in the north quarter (canberra centre)- I think you may change your m ind and discover what a good hot chocolate really is.

josh josh 9:31 am 19 Sep 07

i maintain that starbucks make the best hot chocolates around, in their signature range. i mean, i don’t drink coffee, so i couldn’t give a toss about ‘omg they burn their beans!!’ or whatever. but just about every cafe i’ve been to in melbourne (bar only two) makes a pitiful hot chocolate. starbucks, while not being *amazing*, make a consistently good (and comparatively decent value for money, despite not being cheap) hot chocolate.

for extra win, add a ‘mint’ shot into it, and you have yourself a warm treat for the wintery months.

in other non-coffee/chocolate related drinks: gloria jeans consistently disappoints, milkshakes from anywhere are often horrible (hello cottee’s topping+milk), and starbucks makes average cold drinks, in general.

my opinion only. take it or leave it.

jono1 jono1 9:24 am 19 Sep 07

Yes, Gloria Jean’s is owned by Christians, but there’s nothing “fanatic” about them. And what exactly is wrong with encouraging people to avoid a choice that is statistically proven to lead to major depression in a majority of cases?

jono1 jono1 9:18 am 19 Sep 07

Great article.
Maybe a coffee aficionado from the north side could do some reviews of stores in Belconnen, Gungahlin etc to complement this?

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 9:17 am 19 Sep 07

Is it true that Gloria Jean’s is owned by right-wing Christian fanatics who divert a proportion of their profits to “counselling” services that encourage pregnant teens to “just keep it, Jeebus will provide”?

hingo hingo 8:41 am 19 Sep 07

Rumor is that a certain Muffin store in a major shopping centre in South Canberra is not paying their staff superannuation. Needless to say, everyone I know who used to go there have boycotted the joint, myself included. Thier coffee was good though. Several complaints have been made and they are being investigated.

I have never really had a problem with any of the coffee chains above although, you can usually get a better coffee at most cafes. As far as chain stores go, Michels Patisserie has the best coffee in my opinion.

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