Watch out Melbourne. When it comes to specialty coffee, Brisbane is hot on your heels. Several cafes have formed alliances with micro-roasters around the River City and interstate leaders in the industry, resulting in delicious cups of coffee being served to coffee fiends like ourselves.
It’s been a delight to discover these cafes serving specialty coffee in Brisbane. From the northside to the southside, we’ve done some serious traipsing across town to taste espresso blends here and sip on tasting flights there. It’s always a pleasure to meet baristas and cafe owners who take pride in delivering the highest calibre in coffee tastes and experiences.
Good coffee in Brisbane is no longer difficult to find so if you’re passing through Jasmine’s hometown, make sure to include some of these cafes on your list!
your specialty coffee guide to Brisbane
Best Coffee Brisbane CBD
1. John Mills Himself
Located in a historic building between Elizabeth Street and Charlotte Street, this compact cafe & cocktail bar is no secret to in-the-know city workers. Decorated with white hexagonal floor tiles and terracotta brick walls, you can take a seat at a stool in the squishy space if you don’t need to rush off with a takeaway. Whipping up superb espresso blends for its loyal customers en route to the office, a seat inside the cafe will permit you time to enjoy the John Mills Himself coffee flight and a sweet morning treat. Coffee beans are from Five Senses, Everyday Coffee and Brisbane favourite, Parallel Coffee Roasters. Our flat white and long macchiato are brewed on Ethiopian washed beans delivering subtle flavours, however, we heard from some regulars that the dark blend is also a firm fave. Two thumbs up for top-notch service.
2. Edward Specialty Coffee
Housed next to the entrance and exit of Brisbane Central Train Station, it comes as no surprise that there is always a line out the door at Edward Specialty Coffee. We suspect the queue is for its convenient location but more so for its exceptionally brewed coffee. The tiny narrow space features four bench seats to watch scuttling commuters along Edward Street and a table for two in the back corner. We visit on a Friday morning pre-8am where four baristas sporting brown leather-look aprons are working in harmony and smashing out coffee orders behind the emerald green counter. Sydney-based coffee roasters, White Horse Coffee, supply the coffee beans to this cafe. Despite the peak hour rush, we concurred that our latte and piccolo tasted delicious with a pleasant aftertaste. Further, we were appreciative of the fact that despite the rush, it seemed that the baristas didn’t sacrifice on quality. A strong contender for Best Coffee Brisbane CBD.
Situated a stone’s throw from Milton train station, this hole-in-the-wall coffee shop retains the name of its original intended use. But instead of hiding from artillery and falling bombs, Bunker brews sensational specialty coffee in Brisbane. We visited Bunker late in the morning on a Saturday on a blistering spring day. We opted for a Cuban Iced Latte and batch brew cold drip, the latter emitting a delicious caramel flavour.
Bunker mixes things up, rotating its supply of coffee beans from various Australia coffee roasters including: Five Senses Coffee, Blackboard Coffee Roasters, Code Black Coffee Roasters (Melbourne), Mecca Coffee (Sydney), Villino Coffee Roasters (Tasmania), Sample Coffee Roasters (Sydney) and Parallel Coffee Roasters (Brisbane). Aside from its espresso menu, Bunker serves cold pressed juices and rich hot chocolates. Cold pressed coffee is also sold by the bottle.
4. Bellissimo Coffee
Established in 2009, Bellissimo Coffee has become “Australia’s highest awarded coffee roaster” and expanded its business to three branches across Brisbane (Fortitude Valley, Bulimba and Coorparoo). Headquartered at its original flagship in Fortitude Valley, owner Mark Bignell has worked diligently to provide premium coffee from the highest quality green beans. Bellissimo Coffee offers single origin espresso blends and filter coffee and creates unique and exclusive house blends. Whether your palette prefers fruity tasty notes or the chocolate-y kind, you’re sure to find something to make your taste buds tingle.
The Wandoo Street location is tucked behind James Street Deli and (thankfully) open 7 days a week from 6.00am – 6.00pm. A wooden flap window opens up out onto the street to serve the never-ending stream of takeaway customers. Three tables of recycled wood and metal perch on the pavement whilst inside features an upstairs seating area for the overflow of customers and digital nomads.
5. Only Specialty Coffee
Tucked underneath an apartment building on Hope Street at the end of Fish Lane, you’ll find the newly opened branch of Only Specialty Coffee in South Brisbane. Limited seating options mean that you’re unlikely to hang around for too long, but the cafe is conveniently located for West End workers en route to the office. Whipping up espresso blends with Five Senses coffee beans, this specialty coffee spot is a good option off the main thoroughfare for Brisbane visitors AirBnb-ing in the area. In our opinion, the coffee is a little on the expensive side, but kudos to the business for setting up a prepaid credit system (e.g. spend $25, receive $35 coffee credit); no doubt a favourable option for the cafe’s regular coffee-goers. You’ll find a sister cafe on Queen Street in Brisbane CBD with a new branch coming soon in Fortitude Valley.
Conveniently located underneath South Bank train station and next door to Emporium Hotel, PourBoy is equipped to deliver specialty coffee alongside fine cafe food. The establishment is quiet when we visit early-ish on a Saturday morning, allowing us to take our pick of velvety blue chairs at a high bench table or at a back table where the sunshine filters through the windows. Pourboy’s coffee beans are roasted by Melburnian coffee roasters, St. ALi. These roasted coffee beans are available for sale next to beans by Sydney coffee roasters, Mecca Coffee, and One Less reusable coffee cups. Our latte and long macchiato have smooth tones with no bitterness, leaving Bevan to think its the superiority of the Victorian label. For coffee connoisseurs, filter, nitro coffee and brewed filter coffee is also available.
7. Blackstar Coffee Roasters
“Bringing specialty coffee to life”
Well, we certainly won’t dispute that statement. Visit this boutique coffee roastery and espresso bar in Brisbane’s inner city for an exceptional cup of coffee. Nestled in a spot off the main West End thoroughfare, Blackstar roast fair trade coffee beans on site. The Thomas Street cafe is decked out with black table tops and metal back chairs for parties of two.
The morning that we visit, the cafe is peppered with cyclists, mothers with babies and office workers from the surrounding area. The barista presents us with single blend options from Guatemala, but we learn that the coffee beans rotate daily. The signature blend black promises tasting notes of caramel, coffee and brown sugar, while the signature blend white offers the flavours of a buttery, almond & cinnamon scroll. It was the caramel that stuck on my palette this particular morning. There are also smoothie options and a small cake cabinet to check out. The cafe’s generous opening hours mean that you can literally pop by at any time from early in the morning to late in the afternoon.
8. The Maillard Project
Maillard [Mey-YAR] Reaction
The chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars at elevated temperatures that gives coffee (and browned food) its distinctive and delicious flavour.
Opened by the legends from Coffee Anthology, The Maillard Project is the latest specialty coffee spot to launch in Brisbane’s CBD. And to our utter delight, it’s open on weekends!
The Maillard Project is a multi-sensory experience featuring a cafe, a roastery and a training hub in its digs on Charlotte Street. You’ll find a low-set island bar in the middle where baristas pump out espresso blends, batch and pour-over options with coffee beans roasted in-house.
A raised dining area up back allows visitors to sit in and order from the classy food menu featuring pork bone broth congee, potato rosti with gourmet sausage, nutella waffles or cardamon pancakes.
For coffee enthusiasts, The Maillard Project is a destination to learn more about roasting, practice their espresso skills or come in for a cupping session. While we dream of investing in some serious coffee equipment in our first home, for now, we’re happy to leave the brewing to the experts.
On our first visit, we tasted a Colombian coffee bean from the Caldas region with fruity undertones in an espresso blend. We also selected an Ethiopian coffee bean for a filter coffee which was hands down, one of the smoothest chocolate-y aftertastes we had sipped in the longest time. The baristas must have picked up on our excitement as they gave us a sample of another filter blend brewed with coffee beans aged in a whiskey barrel – mind-blowing!
City Workers, we envy you. Make sure to stop by The Maillard Project. We can’t wait to return.
Best Coffee Brisbane Northside
9. Wolff Coffee Roasters
If you’re looking for specialty coffee in Brisbane, don’t be surprised if you see and hear the name Wolff Coffee Roasters more than once. Established in 2010, Wolff Coffee Roasters possesses over 30 years of industry experience by the leaders of the pack, husband and wife team, Peter & Penny Wolff.
Our visit on a weekend morning coincided with an early airport drop off so we were ecstatic to discover the Big Bad Wolff cafe open for service. The baristas dressed in smart white shirts and grey aprons are on hand to talk you through the award winning haus blends (for fruity, go Lil Red but for chocolate-y, choose Big Dog). A full range of breakfast items and sweet treats featuring gluten-free and vegan options means that you can sit down and relax without needing to wolf down your food.
10. The Wired Owl Coffee Co
“Life is too short to drink bad coffee…choose wisely”
After a brisk morning stroll along Shorncliffe Pier, pop into the Wired Owl Coffee Co for your first dose of caffeine. The northside cafe occupies a small space next to the Wired Owl Kitchen, featuring a mini courtyard with lacquered wooden tables, hanging pot plants and wooden crates for seats. The cafe’s coffee beans are sourced from Wolff Coffee Roasters, so regardless of whether you choose a small or large cup, you know you’re in for an excellent cup of coffee. If you decide not to eat brunch, you can choose from a small selection of cakes and treats. During the cooler months, you’ll find blankets on the outdoor chairs and all weekend mornings, there will usually be groups of cyclists hanging out here too.
11. U&I Espresso
A suburban gem in the heart of Ashgrove, U&I Espresso serves the residents of Brisbane’s inner (north)west in a small, comfortable space on Waterworks Road. U&I Espresso brews their coffee beverages with coffee beans from bayside coffee roaster, Dramanti Artisan Roaster. We visit on a summer’s day where the industrial fans are going full blast. Opting for a cold drip (served with a metal straw, garnering a big tick of approval!) and Aeropress, we manage to resist the tempting sweet treats and sit on the pavement. Bottled kombucha is also available. The hole-in-the-wall spot is located on a busy thoroughfare with a second hand book store next door, so you can always nestle in on one of the old pews with a page turner or the newspaper. If you decide to sit in for a spot of breakfast, be sure to check out the chalkboard for the daily specials.
12. Fonzie Abbott Coffee Roasters
Describing themselves as a lifestyle, beverage company, Fonzie Abbott has now been selflessly brewing up two of the best beverages in since 2010. We visited for the coffee and ended up learning about the brewery and distillery, all located on the same site in Brisbane’s northside. With owner Dan’s ‘Farm to Palm’ initiative, Fonzie Abbott has gone from strength to strength with its rotating single origin coffees and seasonal blends. Baristas working through the morning coffee wave pump out orders under pigment light bulbs. A garden outside allows patrons to bask in the sunshine over a wonderfully brewed double flat white, this particular morning blend promising fruity and chocolate-y tones. Plenty of coffee beans, merchandise and beers are available for purchase if you want to take more of the good stuff home.
Best Coffee Brisbane Southside
13. Coffee Supreme
When we entered Coffee Supreme on a rainy Saturday morning, we were greeted by a gentleman brewing filter coffee with utmost care. We knew instantly that we would be in good hands. Occupying the bottom level of a residential apartment block not far from The Gabba, the Brisbane branch of Coffee Supreme (initially christened “Day Made”) has been open since 2014.
Originating from Wellington, New Zealand, Coffee Supreme now operates branches in New Zealand, Australia and Japan. The Brisbane cafe is fitted out with natural timbers and tubular furniture. The interior features a combination of high bench seating and lower wooden seats with hanging pot plants in each corner. The coffee menu reminds us of the Bocca Coffee menu in Amsterdam, your options limited to Black, White, Filter and Cold Brew. If you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed because you can’t find the cappuccino option, be sure to ask your barista.
14. Black Sheep Coffee
You’re probably a little tired of hearing about hip and cool cafes serving specialty coffee in industrial spaces but you shouldn’t be, because they work! Amongst the automotive sheds and water sport warehouses at Woolloongabba, you’ll find a small, boutique roasting house called Black Sheep Coffee. Born from the passion of two creatives, the point of difference of Black Sheep is that the business doesn’t strive for wealth or industry recognition. Rather, Black Sheep is driven by ethically sourced products, quality output and positive tactile experiences.
Inside, you’ll discover wooden and black steel accents. A micro-roaster sits in the back space with equipment stacked haphazardly on shelves that look like they would fit inside your grandpa’s shed. During our visit, a Triple J-esque playlist crooned overhead; the vibe inside feeling like you’ve been invited to jam in a friend’s shed or downstairs garage. The brew bar features premium blends and single origin beans, with all milk alternative options available too.
15. Dovetail on Overend
A suburban darling in Brisbane’s inner-east, Dovetail on Overend is without a doubt a firm favourite of dwellers in the neighbouring Queenslander homes. Run by a lovely couple, Adam and Rejoice, the pair deliver outstanding customer service next to stellar breakfast menu items and exceptional specialty coffee. The corner cafe is well-known for its gluten-free doughnuts with some vegan-friendly options too. The doughnut cabinet was basically screaming at us on the morning we visited, with Apple Cider, Ube and Cookies & Cream flavours on-site. Locals supporting locals, Dovetail on Overend uses beans roasted by Brisbane micro-roastery Almanac Coffee Roasters. Served in beautiful Tiffany-blue cups and saucers, your coffee also comes with antique Australiana silver teaspoons. We experienced a Brazilian/Kenyan house blend for our flat white and short macchiato. Rich flavour with no bitter aftertaste made for a pleasant coffee experience. Seating is limited so arrive early!
16. Penny Coffee Co
An unpretentious cafe gem on busy Annerley Road, we swung by on a warm spring morning where the menu was sporting some noticeable Japanese elements and left us wishing we hadn’t already eaten breakfast. The specialty coffee menu had us stoked, particularly Jasmine as her name featured as a floral tasting note more than once. We opted for the Penny Black Coffee Flight which included the espresso of the day, a cup of batch brew and cold brew coffee. All coffees were brewed with Ethiopian beans roasted by Brisbane locals, Parallel Coffee Roasters and Light Coffee Co. We were suitably impressed with this selection and hope to return again. For those who are learning to drink coffee, this cold brew coffee was on the sweeter side and would be in our opinion, a fab choice if you’re wanting to get onto the good stuff.