Edinburgh has a surprisingly vibrant independent coffee scene with specialist cafés dotted all over the city. From refurbished police boxes and canal boats, to repurposed shops along the Old Town and trendy New Town basements, coffee lovers will never have to look far for their caffeine-fix. With each of these independent coffee shops having their own unique take on coffee, whether it be specialty pour-overs or espresso, visitors are often stuck on where to begin. Fret not, we’ve done the hard work for you and compiled a guide to the capital’s best cafés.
From their humble beginnings as a small kiosk at Waverley Station, Cult Espresso has now opened this cozy café along Buccleuch Street. With its wide glass windows allowing plenty of daylight to filter through, creating a natural, soothing atmosphere in the café, it is no wonder it has become a favourite among university students in need of caffeine.
Featuring coffees courtesy of Round Hill Roastery, as well as a full menu of delicious waffles, sandwiches and soups, Cult Espresso has quickly become an Edinburgh favourite. There is also a collection of comic books in the shop to flick through as you sip your brew. Don’t miss popping into this minimalistic café when you find yourself in the Southside, next to the University of Edinburgh!
Address: 104 Buccleuch St, Edinburgh EH8 9NG, UK
Ask any Edinburgh local where to go for the best coffee in the city, and Brew Lab will be on the top of that list. The first choice of many a coffee connoisseur in Edinburgh, Brew Lab was one of the first third wave cafes to open in the city. They focus on single-origin specialty-grade coffee provided by Union Hand-Roasted, known for their ethical sourcing and heritage, and feature a rotating menu of two different espressos and filters each day.
The shop itself is as trendy as they come, with bare-brick walls, modern tunes and is constantly buzzing with their clientele of hipsters, university students and workers. Non-coffee drinkers need not worry, as craft beers and local wines, along with salads, soups and sandwiches from local suppliers are also available in this modern coffee house.
Address: 6-8 S College St, Edinburgh EH8 9AA, UK
Since opening its first outlet on Frederick Street, Cairngorm Coffee has earned a solid place on the Edinburgh coffee scene. Their trademark minimalistic décor ensures that the café is full of light, with the perfect combination of neutral colours and enough plants to resemble a greenhouse.
This local favourite prides themselves on roasting their own coffee in Kingussie in the Cairngorms, and utilising the first San Remo Opera Machine in all of Scotland. With plenty of seating, mostly at large shared tables, and with wifi and power sockets aplenty, it is the perfect place to cosy up and get some work done.
P.S. They also serve a mean hot chocolate, and have plenty of vegan and gluten-free dishes available!
Address: 41A Frederick St, Edinburgh EH2 1EP, UK ; 1 Melville Pl, Edinburgh EH3 7PR, UK
Artisan Roast is a household name among coffee fans in Edinburgh. Credited by many with laying the foundations for the capital’s independent coffee scene when they first opened on Broughton Street in 2007, it has now expanded to a total of 3 shops, a lap and a roastery in the city. Bags of their specialty coffee line the walls, creating a rustic atmosphere, and the knowledgeable staff are always eager to walk you through the different types of coffee available. A must for those interested in the art of the brew, and who take their coffee seriously.
Address: 57 Broughton St, Edinburgh EH1 3RJ, UK
A Grassmarket institution, Lovecrumbs is café heaven. Exposed lightbulbs and the odd neon sign illuminate industrial columns, cascading plants, and charmingly mismatched tables and chairs lend themselves to the vintage, upcycled look of the café, with the highlight being the Narnia-esque dresser filled with the day’s cakes.
At this quaint café, their inviting menu is entirely constructed around freshly baked breads and cakes, with savoury items firmly off the menu. Wash these delicious treats down with either a coffee, tea or a tasty hot chocolate. They source their coffee from Artisan Roast, and their teas are supplied by Anteaques on Clerk Street.
Address: 155 West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DP, UK
Once housing a confectionary shop, this intimate spot in the Old Town features a vintage façade and intimate interior, including cozy nooks by the window perfect for people watching along this busy street. With a claim to be one of Edinburgh’s most picturesque cafes, the Milkman stands out for its excellent coffee, service and food. The house espresso is sourced from the Edinburgh-based Obadiah Collective, while a range of rotating guest coffees ensure that Edinburgh locals have a chance to taste some of the world’s best roasteries. Very much a coffee shop, there is also a small range of pastries, cakes and tray bakes supplied by local bakeries, making it the perfect pitstop during a busy day exploring the city!
Address: 7 Cockburn St, Edinburgh EH1 1BP, UK
Located in a George Street basement, this hidden gem is a great spot to enjoy a Swedish-style cuppa courtesy of Koppi Roasters. Lowdown goes back to basics, and is all about the methodology, with its manual espresso machine that allows the barista to control every shot of coffee from grind to extraction. This secret hangout has been wonderfully designed to be simple and practical, with plenty of seating and lots of light despite being in a basement. Don’t miss ordering a slice of cake from the cult favourite Archipelago Bakery while you’re here!
Address: 40 George St, Edinburgh EH2 2LE, UK
In the midst of the bustling city-centre, Fortitude is a calm escape from the outside world. This little shop on York Place has quickly risen to become one of the capital’s most respected coffee spots, and what it lacks in space, it makes up for with its coffee. Fortitude uses single-origin espresso roasted by the London-based Workshop Coffee Co., and their filter coffee menu features two single-origin beans, hand-brewed using a Kalita Wave pour over. With freshly-made baked goods, and daily selections for breakfast and sandwiches and soups for lunch, Fortitude is definitely not one you want to miss when in Edinburgh!
Address: 3C York Pl, Edinburgh EH1 3EB, UK
Planning on cafe-hopping while in Edinburgh? The Disloyal 7 loyalty scheme is the perfect reason to visit the various cafes in the capital. Unlike most other loyalty schemes which encourage you to return to the same old place, the Disloyal 7 is about getting you to go to lots of different places (crazy right?). Head to any of the 7 shops onboard the scheme (most of which have been included in this article), and start collecting stamps from each of them. Once you’ve gotten all 7 on your card, head back to your favourite cafe to get a free coffee!