— 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.
Here I’ll provide recommendations for both roasted coffee and café
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.
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.
There are many café
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.