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Did you know that Hamburg is one of the world’s most progressive cities when it comes to third wave coffee? Don’t feel bad if your answer is no. We didn’t know either until we experienced the quality of Hamburg coffee shops for ourselves.
When we think about the city’s role in global coffee trading, Hamburg’s coffee obsession makes sense. Hamburg is Germany’s largest port city and the third biggest in all of Europe. In this capacity, large quantities of coffee from countries like Brazil, Colombia and Kenya arrive all year long before departing for EU countries including Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the UK.
With much of this coffee processed in the city’s Speicherstadt warehouse district, Hamburg has access to great beans. In other words, this is a city where coffee is ubiquitous from roasters who produce some of the best beans in Europe, if not the world.
Hamburg’s Coffee History
Hamburg’s coffee history dates back to the 17th century when the city opened its first coffee house. Years later, with the start of its initial coffee exchange in 1887, the German port city became a leading coffee player and one of the world’s major green coffee trading centers.
Hamburg also participated in coffee’s history with the emergence of companies like Darboven and Tchibo during the mid 20th century. Today, the Port of Hamburg imports approximately 700,000 tons of coffee each year while exporting 400,000 to countries in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
Hamburg’s Current Coffee Culture
Rivaling Berlin, Germany’s modern coffee behemoth to the east, Hamburg has evolved into a third wave coffee hub with specialty coffee houses throughout the city. The city mayf have been late to the party but has caught up quickly.
For those not familiar with the third wave coffee movement, its disciples (including us) favor artisan preparation of lighter roast coffee using beans singly sourced from sustainable farms primarily in South America, Africa and Asia. Many believe that the movement started in American cities like Seattle and Portland before going further afield to the likes of Melbourne and Cape Town.
The Best Hamburg Cafes
You don’t have to look hard to find good coffee in Hamburg. The city has an abundance of third wave coffee shops, many offering free Wi-Fi and tasty treats in addition to cappuccinos and flat whites. Its coffee culture compares favorably to European coffee-centric cities like Amsterdam, Bucharest, Budapest, Dublin and Lisbon.
True lovers of modern coffee will want to skip chains like Starbucks and Balzac (a local operation acquired by Espresso House in 2017) and instead frequent independent cafes in Hamburg. When you’re thirsty for good coffee in Hamburg, we recommend the following spots:
Roasting and selling specialty coffee since 2004, Elbgold Röstkaffee can easily claim seniority in the Hamburg cafe scene. However, this elder statesman doesn’t sit on its laurels when it comes to the business of coffee.
The Elbgold operation now has six cafes including its original cafe in the Winterhude neighborhood, a bustling cafe in Sternschanze and a specialty lab near the Rathausmarkt. The roastery also runs a successful retail operation, selling roasted beans to local customers and throughout Germany.
We recommend a stop at Sternschanze since this is where much of Elbgold’s magic happens. Talented Hamburg coffee roasters like Sebastian Kohrs transform sustainably sourced arabica beans at this location. Also worth noting is the on-site bakery that uses local ingredients to create cheesecake, bagels and other tasty treats.
Elbgold Röstkaffee is located at Lagerstraße 34c, 20357 Hamburg, Germany.
Nord Coast Coffee Roasters
If we had to pick a favorite Hamburg cafe, Nord Coast Coffee Roasters would be a top contender due to its combination of solid coffee, good food and free Wi-Fi. Open since 2015, the two-story cafe exudes exactly the kind of friendly atmosphere we like to frequent when it comes to coffee.
Jörn Gorzolla and Paula Mendes created this full-service Hamburg cafe and located it near the waterfront as well as by various office buildings. Coffee-loving locals line up at the popular cafe at prime times like lunch and on the weekends.
In addition to coffee drinks brewed to order with globally sourced beans, Nord Coast offers a full cafe menu with breakfast and lunch items like waffles, paninis and avocado toast. Health nuts will be happy with acai bowls and fresh juice. As for us, we loved Nord Coast’s Franzbrötchen, Hamburg’s signature pastry.
We rapped with Gorzolla during our third visit when he wasn’t busy roasting beans on the cafe’s onsite Giesen roaster. Having spent time in Indiana during his formative years, the German owner speaks excellent English in addition to roasting mighty fine beans.
Our only regret about the bag of Guatemalan beans we bought from him is that we didn’t buy two bags. A bargain at €8.30 for 250 grams, the beans were some of the best we’ve ever brewed in our Chemex coffee system.
Nord Coast Coffee Roasters is located at Deichstraße 9, 20459 Hamburg, Germany.
Roaster Linus Köster artfully executes the concept of minimalism at Tōrnqvist, his thoroughly modern Hamburg coffee shop. The list of coffee drinks at Tōrnqvist can be counted on one hand – flat whites, hand brews, espresso shots and that’s it.
Don’t let the drink list size lull you into assuming that Köster takes short cuts when it comes to coffee. Rather, he focuses on details like filtering water and sourcing single-origin beans from rotating Scandinavian producers like Sweden’s Drop Coffee and Denmark’s La Cabra Coffee Roasters.
During our visit, we drank flat whites brewed with Ethiopian beans. The flavor profile was fruity with hints of apricot, black tea and lemon zest. At €3.80, the ‘flattie’ cost a bit more than at other Hamburg coffee shops, but we had no regrets as we savored every sip in the starkly designed space.
If you’re looking for a caramel macchiato, Tōrnqvist is not for you. However, if you’re looking for a textbook flat white, hand brew or shot, Tōrnqvist will be your happy place in Hamburg.
Tōrnqvist is located at Neuer Pferdemarkt 12, 20359 Hamburg, Germany.
It’s all fun and games at Playground Coffee except when it comes to the drinks. Despite its fanciful name and colorful decor, Playground is serious about coffee. Without a doubt, this Hamburg coffee shop is a necessary destination for followers of coffee’s third wave movement.
First-time visitors may be wary when they notice toys upon walking through Playground’s front door. The key is to look beyond the miniature trucks, classic Etch-a-Sketch screen and hanging plants to see the cafe in action.
Owner Veljko Tatalovic and a crew of dedicated baristas brew excellent drinks using the shop’s proprietary coffees. The shop globally sources its beans and roasts them locally.
Customers can buy these beans in boxes artistically designed by graphic designer Andreas Teichmann. Keeping with the playful theme, coffee roast names include Dirty Berry, Skywalker and Two Face.
Playground Coffee is located at Detlev-Bremer-Straße 21, 20359 Hamburg, Germany.
Public Coffee Roasters
Public Coffee Roasters addresses the age-old question of what Jesus would brew, not to mention drink. If he were living in 21st century Hamburg, the answer is obviously coffee.
In addition to answering this question, Public Coffee blurs the lines between coffee and art. Customers first experience the art when they walk into the stylish cafes and then taste it in coffees adorned with latte art.
Public Coffee has three Hamburg locations including the Goldbekplatz cafe where we visited. Located in a converted metal foundry, the chic space has an airy vibe that welcomes guests to relax over coffee or lunch.
We observed an eclectic group of coffee fans as we drank cappuccinos made with a medium blend of Brazilian, Guatemalan and Ethiopian beans. Though the cafe encourages slurping, we didn’t hear any during our visit.
The team at Public Coffee focuses on all aspects of the process starting with sourcing top quality beans from sustainable coffee farms around the world. This attention continues at the Hamburg roasting facility as well as at the cafes where baristas proudly serve the end result.
Public Coffee Roasters has multiple Hamburg locations.
Formerly known as Less Political, Hermetic is a funky yet serious Hamburg coffee shop in the Schanze near Feldßtrasse.
We couldn’t help but notice the funk as we walked past graffiti-filled walls to enter the cafe. A sign near Hermetic’s entrance in an old, converted industrial building aptly states Coffee – No Lies. Just Love.
We felt comfortable in the cozy cafe as we drank our coffee amid fellow coffee lovers and shelves filled with Kalita drippers and other necessary coffee brewing accessories. We would have been tempted to make a purchase had we not been traveling with carry-on luggage.
The word Hermetic apparently refers to the ancient art of alchemy. Ironically, there is nothing ancient about this excellent Hamburg cafe and its modern approach to roasting and serving coffee.
Hermetic Coffee Roasters is located at Sternstraße 68, 20357 Hamburg, Germany.
The name Black Delight enticed us enough that we took a metro to Hamburg Eimsbüttel neighborhood to check the cafe out for ourselves. What we found was a cute indoor/outdoor cafe serving excellent coffee away from the tourist zone.
In addition to trying a cappuccino, we also ordered a cup of filtered coffee. As we watched a stream of fresh milk splash into freshly brewed coffee, we knew that our short journey was worth the extra effort.
The team at Black Delight has been ‘respecting coffee’ since 2008. This respect is evident in the cafe’s locally roasted beans as well as in the resulting coffee. It would be wrong not to pay them respect when you visit Hamburg.
Black Delight is located at Friedensallee 32, 22765 Hamburg, Germany.
Recommended to us by a local, CODOS is the kind of Hamburg coffee shop that buzzes with activity but lives under the radar. At least that’s how it seemed to us the few times we stopped by the centrally located cafe to enjoy drinks like macchiatos, cappuccinos and filtered coffee.
The cafe serves a full range of espresso drinks and brewed coffee as well as teas and tempting baked goods. CODOS originally served frozen yogurt too, but the owners have since fine-tuned their offerings to focus on the main event, i.e. coffee.
Though CODOS sells its own beans, the progressive coffee shop also sells bean from a variety of Hamburg roasters in a ‘show of community support.’ Whichever beans you order, plan to stand while you drink your coffee or take it to enjoy on the go – seats are sparse at CODOS.
CODOS has two Hamburg locations. We frequented the location at Bartelsstraße 26, 20357 Hamburg, Germany.
Stockholm Espresso Club
Stockholm Espresso Club provides a Swedish coffee drinking experience from coffee beans imported from Stockholm’s Koppi Roasters to design elements featuring clean lines and soothing tones. This Hamburg cafe takes the concept even further by serving sweet treats like kanelbuallar cinnamon pastries ideal for fika, Sweden’s traditional coffee break shared among friends.
The Scandinavian theme starts with Owner David Vahabi who hails from Sweden. He has infused his Hamburg coffee shop with lagom or the right amount of details like free Wi-Fi and ample seating to ensure a balance between comfort and quality. If you close your eyes, you may think you’re drinking coffee in Stockholm or Turku.
Though skilled baristas have access to modern coffee equipment like Hario V60 drippers, we were drawn to the cafe’s Bosco lever espresso machine imported from Naples. We love sipping expertly pulled espressos at Napoli cafes, but we also love drinking third wave coffee in comfort. At Stockholm Espresso Club, we can do both at the same time
Stockholm Espresso Club is located at Peter-Marquard-Straße 8, 22303 Hamburg, Germany.
In a neighborhood more famous for Portuguese food than specialty coffee, locating Milch is like finding a needle in a haystack. However, don’t think that Milch is a hidden gem. This Hamburg cafe located in a former dairy shop and delicatessen has been popular among locals and tourists since it opened in 2014.
Milch, which translates to milk, retains much of the charm of the building’s prior business. The most notable feature is the pale blue tiling where we chose to photograph our cappuccino.
Baristas at Milch craft coffee drinks to order and serve them with fresh milk. Considering the cafe’s name, we wouldn’t expect otherwise.
Milch is located at Ditmar-Koel-Straße 22, 20459 Hamburg, Germany.
Getting To and Around Hamburg
European travelers will find it easy to get to Hamburg. The city’s airport offers flights via both premium and discount airline carriers.
Hamburg is easy to navigate both by metro and bus. The city’s public transportation system is both extensive and user-friendly.
Plan Your Hamburg Stay
We recommend the Heikotel am Stadtpark if you’re looking for a moderately priced hotel near a U-Bahn station. This hotel is conveniently located halfway between the airport and the Rathaus, Hamburg’s city hall.
You can look for an Airbnb apartment instead if you plan to buy beans and brew them yourself each morning.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.