Die Züri Kaffee Szene

— Gavin Gray

The morn­ing air chills, fog hangs over the Zürisee, and com­puter sci­ence stu­dents at ETH line up to drink the shitty free cof­fee pro­vided by VIS. This means the fall semes­ter is under­way! As a mem­ber of the Irra­tional Cof­fee col­lec­tive, and affec­tion­ately known as that friend who cares too much about cof­fee, I inevitably get asked what my rec­om­men­da­tions are for drink­ing cof­fee in Zürich. I decided to write up a short list to pro­vide a good start­ing point for those try­ing to find great cof­fee in Zürich.

The ques­tionWhere can I get good cof­fee in Zürich?” Like most ques­tions, is hard to answer with a straight­for­ward response. I first want to know whether you’re look­ing for a bag of roasted whole bean cof­fee, or sim­ply the name of a café. Each of those clar­i­fi­ca­tions in turn demand more fol­low up ques­tions to nail down specif­i­cally what infor­ma­tion is being asked for. Fac­tors such as price range and taste pref­er­ences cer­tainly inform my response. In this post there will hope­fully be a lit­tle some­thing for every­one.

Here I’ll pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions for both roasted cof­fee and cafés. But first I need to qual­ify the infor­ma­tion with a short descrip­tion of what I deemgood cof­fee.” In the morn­ings I enjoy cof­fee made with a Kalita wave, or V60, and tend to drink juicy, fruity, and nat­u­rally sweet cof­fees. This means that my rec­om­men­da­tions grav­i­tate towards roast­ers and cafés that offer this taste pro­file. The sec­ond qual­i­fier is that I’m a poor stu­dent. There exists some over-the-top-uber-expen­sive places in Zürich; they aren’t on this list. Here are my cof­fee rec­om­men­da­tions for any­one liv­ing in Zürich, or vis­it­ing, with the hopes of get­ting a decent cup.

Roasted in Zürich

All prices listed are price per 250g of beans. Some high-end places will sell you bags with 150–200g, just dou­ble check before buy­ing.

Miró.  If you’re a stu­dent, you’re most likely already famil­iar with Miró. They have a cof­fee truck at Poly­ter­rasse on Mon­days and at Höng­ger­berg Wednes­days & Thurs­days. A fun fact is that the beans used in the afore­men­tioned VIS cof­fee machines is Miró’s Boa Vista espresso blend. At CHF 11.50 a great choice for espresso, the VIS machines are just poorly tuned and main­tained to make a decent cup. Miró has a wide selec­tion of cof­fee in the CHF 12 – 30 range, the beans are offered sea­son­ally and there’s always some­thing great to try. This is an all around solid option with rel­a­tively lit­tle room for error.

Stoll.  A great bud­get-con­scious choice or for those sit­u­a­tions when you need cof­fee in a pinch. Stoll has three cat­e­gories of beans: clas­sic, organic, and spe­cialty—listed in order of increas­ing price. The clas­sic range is good for tra­di­tional cof­fee fla­vors, or if you need okay-ish cheap beans for a recipe. The spe­cialty range is a great bud­get choice, usu­ally the cof­fees here are no more than CHF 18 with­out suf­fer­ing on qual­ity. Their office/shop, located near tram stop Schmiede Wiedikon, is a con­ve­nient loca­tion and the staff are extremely friendly.

Ver­ti­cal.  For your infor­ma­tion, at the Höng­ger­berg Irra­tional Cof­fee stand we often pro­vide Ver­ti­cal beans as a fruitier option to the tra­di­tional espresso. A fan­tas­tic option for the lazy. Ver­ti­cal offers free domes­tic ship­ping on orders of three bags (or more). They pro­vide a very reli­able order, roast, ship cycle that makes it easy to get fresh roasted cof­fee right to your door. Prices in the range CHF 10 – 18 and there’s a decent selec­tion, though some­times a lit­tle homo­ge­neous in tast­ing notes.

Bal­loon.  Less pop­u­lar than other roast­ers men­tioned here; Bal­loon offers a small curated selec­tion of sea­sonal organic cof­fees. To my knowl­edge the best way to buy their beans is to order online. They don’t, how­ever, pro­vide free ship­ping which is kind of a bum­mer. They also don’t roast to order like Ver­ti­cal, so make sure to look at the pro­vided roast sched­ule. I recently tried the Peru Orwell Moreno, a plumy and sweet cof­fee I thor­oughly enjoyed! I’m kind of a sucker for good mar­ket­ing and I really like Bal­loon’s. It’s play­ful, and they use two really great fonts: Krana Fat A and GT Maru. Another way to buy Bal­loon cof­fee is from Kaf­feew­erk­stadt, though I don’t rec­om­mend it. Kaf­feew­erk­stadt pro­vides a large selec­tion of local and inter­na­tional beans, but unfor­tu­nately they aren’t always fresh. I’ve been sold beans that were more than two months old, so if you do take a trip there, make sure to check the roast date before you buy.

Birch­bach.  Another great option for the lazy liv­ing within Zürich city lim­its—Birch­bach offers free ship­ping to the city. The offer­ing is usu­ally small. I’ve drunk less Birch­bach cof­fee than the oth­ers on this list but can still rec­om­mend it safely to those want­ing to brew at home. Prices aren’t too high, with most beans sit­ting at the lower end of CHF 15 – 30 range.

Outside of Zürich

Drip (Bern).  Poten­tially a viable option in Zürich if you’re lazy enough, or have at least four cof­fee drink­ing friends. Drip offers some of my favorite cof­fees, and ships free within Switzer­land if you order 5 or more bags. This is also one of the few places to my knowl­edge that offers Kalita 185 size fil­ters.

Utopia (Genève).  When in France, or in this case Genève, stop by one of the Utopia cof­fee shops. I’ve never been to one, but I have tried their beans which have yet to dis­ap­point.


When vis­it­ing a café there’s a few extra cri­te­ria I look for besides hav­ing good cof­fee. I want the staff to be friendly and help­ful. This may seem obvi­ous, but some­times high-qual­ity cafés have an impa­tience for the unknow­ing cus­tomer. I think this snob­bi­ness is ridicu­lous, every­one deserves good cof­fee. A good café needs to have ade­quate seat­ing, and impor­tant for when the weather is nice, good out­door seat­ing. Ide­ally a café also pro­vides food; at a min­i­mum I would hope for a sim­ple crois­sant. The most obvi­ous, a café should serve high-qual­ity cof­fee. Espe­cially in Zürich where a cup of cof­fee can be upwards of CHF 14, it needs to be worth it.

Col­lec­tive Bak­ery.  Nes­tled 200 meters behind the Zürich Uni­ver­sity of the Arts, Col­lec­tive Bak­ery is by far my favorite café. The cof­fee they use is from Rose Cof­fee Roast­ers, a local roast­ery owned by Matt Win­ton. Rose cof­fee is very good and too expen­sive to make my list of rec­om­men­da­tions. Despite using this expen­sive cof­fee, Col­lec­tive’s menu isn’t overly pricey. (At least no more than any other café in Zürich.) An espresso if CHF 4.50 and a cup of fil­ter cof­fee is CHF 6. They offer a sim­ple brunch menu, but most impor­tant is they have fan­tas­tic pas­tries. It is a bak­ery after all. Dur­ing my last visit I ate some­thing named a Cruf­fin. The child of a crois­sant and a muf­fin, born with a smooth black for­est cream fill­ing. Heav­enly.

MAME.  If you’re a stu­dent, we some­times offer MAME cof­fees at our Zen­trum Irra­tional Cof­fee stand. Come check us out! A favorite of my part­ner and me, MAME is a local cof­fee roaster with two café loca­tions. My favorite is located at Josef­s­trasse 160. While MAME is too expen­sive for me to rec­om­mend as a roaster, beans cost­ing some­where in the range CHF 18 – 100, their cafés tick all my boxes.

Miró.  The dat­ing ambiance is strong with spa­cious indoor and out­door seat­ing areas. The sec­ond dual roaster/café on this list, Miró’s phys­i­cal loca­tion is a great place to grab a bag of their roasted cof­fee. They have a selec­tion of fan­tas­tic look­ing pas­tries, though I’ve never pur­chased one and can­not vouch for their taste.

Cafe Leon­hard­streppe.  Located 500 meters from the ETH main build­ing, this café is a must try for any stu­dent on the Zen­trum cam­pus. This loca­tion does not have any seat­ing, thus labeled a take­away café. No seat­ing vio­lates one of my cri­te­rion, but Leon­hard­streppe is def­i­nitely worth it. Take your cof­fee for a waltz down­town or wan­der up to ETH and find a seat. They use beans from Miró and Henauer, but these beans are roasted specif­i­cally for Leon­hard­streppe so you won’t find them any­where else! A bag of these spe­cial roasts can also be pur­chased for some­thing between CHF 18 – 24 and usu­ally work best for espresso-based drinks.

Honorable Mentions

There are many cafés beyond this small list. Some of them are fine. Some are not. I’ll men­tion a few note­wor­thy shops here, either to tell a cau­tion­ary tale or praise it as ahalf-rec­om­mend.”

Bean Bank is one of those places whose toplofty atti­tude rubs me the wrong way. Their drinks, while good, are over­priced. As are the beans they sell. They sell beans from sev­eral dif­fer­ent EU roast­ers, all with some sort of markup. Nei­ther of their loca­tions has seat­ing, and Europaallee is not a nice place to take a stroll. Every­thing is con­crete, every­thing is hot, and I rarely enjoy myself.

Boréal should raise an imme­di­ate red flag because one of their loca­tions is on Bahn­hof­s­trasse. Still a fun street to walk down. Just don’t acci­den­tally buy a Rolex! Any­thing in this street is likely to be over­priced, unau­then­tic, and not worth it. All these labels apply to Boréal. They also roast their own cof­fee which usu­ally dis­ap­points. I’ve been in their café two times, and if every­thing in my life goes accord­ing to plan, there won’t be a third.

COF­FEE is an unbear­ably small and hot café, and the min­i­mal out­door seat­ing is usu­ally occu­pied. The staff is friendly, and they’re the one place I know of that brews with Stoll cof­fee beans. If you enjoy mak­ing cof­fee at home, I’d sug­gest you buy beans from Stoll and skip COF­FEE all­to­gether.

Omnia pro­duces some con­tro­ver­sial opin­ions. I know sev­eral peo­ple who really love it, or even go there with­out qualms. I am not one of those peo­ple. I’ve been to Omnia sev­eral times, ordered sev­eral dif­fer­ent kinds of drinks, and each one seems to have gone wrong. Espresso has been overly sour, tonic was flat and sans aroma, and the cap­puc­cino was seem­ingly a cup of milk. Omnia makes what they call Indone­sian Spe­cialty Cofee. Full dis­clo­sure, I don’t really know what that means and it’s very likely that they make good cof­fee that isn’t to my lik­ing. It’s located in an unsa­vory area of Zürich and I’d rather go to one of the places that’s never let me down.