Watch out, Seattle. Boulder is one of the best places in the country to get a cup of coffee.
In fact, downtown Boulder has more independent coffee shops per capita than anywhere else, according to Redfin rankings.
And we’re not talking about a gaggle of Starbucks chains. Boulder boasts many local roasters — Ozo, Boxcar, Dragonfly, Allegro — and indie java spots galore.
Expedia even named Boulder one of the nation’s hottest up-and-coming coffee cultures.
In coffee houses, Boulderites work, share art, listen to music, read, go shopping and even gather for sports. The bike shop, Full Cycle, also has a coffee bar, and so does the Rapha Cycling Club on Pearl Street.
Whether you want to gather or get away, Boulder’s got a coffee shop for you. Here are the best coffee shops in Boulder and a little bit about what makes each one special enough to warrant a visit.
Boxcar Coffee Roasters
Boxcar Coffee Roasters, on the Pearl Street Mall, is a coffee shop for people who know coffee. It’s a serious, careful coffee curator, where everything is handmade with precision, using cutting-edge technology and ethically sourced coffee. Naturally, Boxcar roasts its own beans.
Boxcar shares space with Cured, a gourmet meat counter and our favorite sandwich-maker in town. There is also a small wine shop toward the back, as well as a retail space. This layout is surprising and may feel a little confusing during your first visit.
The space is hip and unique, although it can get crowded (head to the back for the best chance of getting a table). It feels more like a market than like a home away from home or a comfy place to crash for the day.
Boxcar also offers great cold brews, tea and a few types of pastries, although the real place to eat is across the room at Cured.
Ozo Coffee Company
Ozo is respected for its creativity, community involvement and coffee cred. It created a coffee stout with Boulder Beer, is involved with tons of community events and even has a training center — one of the few that is actually accredited by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Ozo roasts its own coffee and teaches others how to do so. In fact, Men’s Journal named Ozo one of the top 25 coffee roasters in America.
The shop sells food beyond standard pastries (the breakfast burritos are bomb), wholesale beans and some of Boulder’s best coffee.
Ozo has three locations, including one on the Pearl Street Mall and another in east Boulder. Both are pretty spacious with plenty of tables, but due to its popularity, those tables are often filled. The third location is on Flatiron Court in east Boulder.
Amante has three Boulder branches: one downtown, one uptown and one in north Boulder.
Amante serves Italian-roasted espresso with beans imported from Italy. This is the only U.S. coffee shop that serves this particular coffee, which makes Amante a novelty and a must-try in town. The shop’s decor echoes the Italian culture, too.
The Laughing Goat Coffee House
Laughing Goat is not just a coffee shop. It’s a hangout, with a stage and plenty of tables to sprawl out on. This spacious yet warm coffee house offers all kinds of entertainment, including local musicians and poetry.
By day, the open layout makes it ideal for working without having to listen to your neighbor’s phone call. (Bonus: There are usually plenty of outlets to plug into, a real issue for mobile workers.) By night, Laughing Goat is hoppin’ with nightly entertainment, often for free. It also serves alcohol.
You can find Laughing Goat Coffee at the University of Colorado library and several other locations throughout town.
Editor’s note: The Cup has closed.
When you walk past The Cup on the Pearl Street Mall, you’ll want to stop, especially in the summer, when the garage doors are cranked open, transforming the shop into a fresh indoor-outdoor space. Even if you don’t score prime real estate by the giant windows, the decor throughout is fascinating enough, from maps to old ice skates. The great atmosphere complements the beverages, made with micro-roasted beans.
Trident BookSellers and Cafe
Trident is O.G. Boulder. This coffee shop is connected to one of the city’s oldest bookstores. It has an old-fashioned feeling, too. Signs on the walls ask patrons not to use their phones when inside. The bookstore’s carefully curated selection sets the mood for deep conversations and reading. While many people do work here, Trident feels more suited for a contemplative discussion or those days when you need to bury your nose in a classic novel.
In warmer weather, the few tables outside on the patio are a great place to people-watch on the mall.
Trident claims its cafe is “internationally famous” for its beverages, specifically its locally roasted small-batch espresso, made by Dragonfly Coffee Roasters.
Trident is also a great place to get a tea.
It’s open until 11 p.m. daily, which makes it a popular place to study or handle a late-night project.
Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe
Innisfree, on University Hill, is notable because it’s unique. It’s one of only three poetry cafes in the United States.
It is also connected with a bookstore (buy books on one side, drink coffee on the other), except these shelves are lined with unique poetry books.
Innisfree has regular poetry events and readings. In addition to coffee, this cafe has organic food.
When in South Boulder, refuel at Caffe Sole. This is a Boulder classic, around for about two decades. In fact, it claims to be one of the very first coffee shops in Colorado.
Quality coffee is a given. The food offerings are much more impressive than the standard cafe.
Caffe Sole has plenty of space across two rooms, and it also offers live entertainment many evenings.