Washington, D.C. is bustling with life and filled to the brim with things to do and see. People from all corners of the Earth come here for the many museums, monuments, landmarks, and other treasured historical sights it boasts. But what do I go for when visiting the capital of the United States? Coffee shops. Yep—I plan for excursions throughout the city that have café-hopping as their focal point. The options of coffee shops in Washington, D.C. are abundant, which makes it hard to choose for an indecisive person like myself. Nonetheless, I managed to find some favorites (and they’re not just my own.) These five are absolute must-visits for coffee lovers everywhere. Here they are.
Minimalists, you will love this unique coffee joint. Cloaked in modern simplicity, Maketto is unique for its multifaceted building. Walking in you’ll be met with an uncluttered retail shop hosting books, apparel, accessories, and more from various brands from around the world. Straight ahead is a laid back bar and some stylish seating, and through the doors that lead outside is even more seating in a secluded but open courtyard. This is where people enjoy the authentic Cambodian and Taiwanese flavors created by Chef Erik Bruner-Yang and his crew.
Upstairs is home to the spacious café that boasts large marble tables spread neatly throughout the room and a soothing combination of natural and artificial lighting. It’s the ideal atmosphere for a remote workday or long conversation with a friend, with music at a moderate level and perfect spacing between each table.
Maketto’s coffee itself is absolutely scrumptious, serving up local beans from Vigilante Coffee alongside the fresh baked goods made in house daily. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I ordered a white and chocolate latte, and it was pure, creamy goodness.
2. Compass Coffee
With nine different locations throughout the D.C. area, I chose to visit Compass Coffee’s very first café and roastery. The space is bright and cheery, decked out in an orange and white color palette and a generous dose of natural light. Behind the low bar, baristas work their magic as they craft and pour many a beloved java drink. Busy people typing away on their laptops and friends catching up populate the variously sized tables and sip on their coffee of choice.
Part of the satisfaction of experiencing Compass Coffee is knowing its backstory and motto. As for the backstory, owners Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez were in the Marines together before experimenting with coffee. From testing various roasts to various brewing methods, they become quite the java connoisseurs. They came home with a determination to brew “real good” coffee. According to their site, the hope is that Compass Coffee and cafes “will always help our customers get their bearings and point them in the right direction for the rest of the day.” Seriously, how could you not enjoy a good cup o’ joe with such a unique history and genuine goal behind it?
I went ahead and succumbed to the lure of the Fall season and indulged in a gingerbread latte—which I highly recommend. But I also hear that their mint nitro brew and simple iced coffees are pure magic. Whichever flavor floats your boat, Compass Coffee does them all right.
3. Peregrine Espresso
Of the three locations in D.C., I ventured to Peregrine Espresso’s Eastern Market location to get my fill of caffeine for the day. With white walls striped with bright green blocks and soft brown accent walls, I couldn’t help but feel energized as I sat at my small wooden table. The friendly baristas greeted everyone from moms and their toddlers to young businessmen. The space is small with few places to seat, but the outdoor patio is the perfect spot for some reading or people watching.
From winning national barista competitions to latte art battles, Peregrine has proven its deliciousness and skill time and time again. In fact, they even offer to share these skills with customers who are interested in improving their brewing expertise through two classes. Take the “Better Brewing at Home” class if you just want some better cups of joe in the morning, or “Espresso Fundamentals” to hone in your espresso mastery.
But what sets Peregrine apart from the rest is its commitment to sustainability. They use wind power and reusable glass milk bottles, and composting and recycling all they can. Not sure about you, but there’s something gratifying about enjoying food and drink that does a little good.
Whether you’re looking for a sweet and creamy latte, a single-origin filter drip, or a flash-brewed iced coffee, you’ll be in java heaven. No surprise that I went for a vanilla latte and was not disappointed. The team at Peregrine clearly know what they’re doing, and you can taste it in every cup.
4. Commonwealth Joe
Located in Arlington, this hip coffee shop is known for its rich Nitro Cold Brew and single-origin pour-over coffee. D.C. natives have demonstrated their love for Commonwealth Joe as it earned the spot as the city’s best coffee shop in 2017 in the Washington City Paper’s Reader Poll. And for good reason, as this coffee company certainly takes care of its people. For example, you’ll find them on the streets in the summer months with trikes of their signature Nitro Cold Brew to lend relief from the unrelenting heat. That’s love, am I right?
The atmosphere is upbeat and open, welcoming generous doses of natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Its walls are cream-colored tiles accented by dark wood and gold details. There’s even a cupping room where you can—which, by the way, you can attend for free every Friday at 10am.
Okay, don’t judge me—but I went with a raspberry mocha, and it was perfect. But if you don’t live near the capital, I suggest trying their Nitro Cold Brew to get the signature Commonwealth Joe experience.
5. Northside Social Coffee & Wine
Another coffee joint technically located in Arlington, Northside Social is too good not to mention. You’ll want to bring some work and your wallet and camp out here for a while. With plentiful indoor and outdoor seating, good (and free) Wi-fi, and sufficient outlets, it’s a lofty space with everything you need for some solid productivity. The lighting is gentle but plentiful, so you won’t feel like you’re in a hospital nor like you could fall asleep.
Downstairs is where you’ll order all your coffee beverages, tasty pastries, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates. Head upstairs for Northside Social’s Wine Bar when it opens at 5pm. Sip on a quality international wine of your choice—maybe paired with a delectable charcuterie plate.
I gulped down a caramel latte and situated myself at one of the roomy tables in the front room for hours. When I got hungry, I pampered myself with their perfected roasted chicken salad sandwich that came on a savory croissant.
Java Lovers’ Best Coffee Shops in Washington, D.C.
These five coffee spots wowed me (and my taste buds) and seem to have done the same for many other java lovers. Make sure to hit up at least one of these delightful coffee shops next time you’re in the Capital, or you’ll seriously miss out!
- Maketto, https://maketto1351.com/
- Compass Coffee, https://compasscoffee.com/
- Peregrine Espresso, https://peregrineespresso.com/
- Commonwealth Joe, https://commonwealthjoe.com/
- Northside Social Coffee & Wine, https://northsidesocialarlington.com/
- On our site: 8 Best Places to Eat in Washington, D.C.
-All photos by Arliss Veldhuizen.