We are currently in the third coffee “wave.” If you didn’t know, now ya know. Here’s a crash course.

There have been three coffee waves total, with the first wave starting all the way back in the 1800s. This was when salesmen saw an opportunity to make coffee that was affordable and easily accessible, so enter the brands of Maxwell and Folgers. In this movement, however, the complaint was that convenience took precedence over taste.

So along came the second wave, and Starbucks to introduce lattes, french press, and specialty coffee beans, served quickly and in spaces that invited you to stay a while if you so choose. The first Starbucks opened in 1971, changing the face of the coffee industry permanently. Other examples of second wave coffee shops are Dutch Bros, Caribou, and The Coffee Bean. These places made drinking coffee a social experience, and you can thank them for the ever popular classic, coffee date.

This brings us to our current wave, the third wave. Third wave coffee is focused on the quality and source of the beans used to create craft beverages. Customers want to know where their coffee is coming from and how it is being made, and that’s what the third wave is all about. There’s also an emphasis on roasting in-house, and fair trade coffee beans.

And now that you know the history of coffee, we’ve rounded up the best places in SF by neighborhood to enjoy a cup of third wave coffee (although we’ll try not to hate on you if you order a PSL too).


Hayes Valley

Ritual Coffee Roasters

32b Octavia Streeta

Because you can find Blue Bottle in multiple locations besides the hidden side street spot in Hayes Valley, Ritual takes the cake on this one. Located conveniently next to Smitten ice cream and a dog park, the quality and location make this a can’t miss stop for your java fix. There’s another one in the Mission and the Haight so you can give it a whirl no matter where you’re at.


Sightglass Coffee

270 7th Street

There are multiple locations of this hipster spot because it’s just that good. They serve up cold brew, all the kinds of milks you could want from almond to coconut, and their beans come from a wide range of places like Ethiopia and Columbia. Customers recommend that vanilla cold brew with almond milk.

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Flywheel Coffee Roasters

672 Stanyan Street

Alright, so I’m a little biased considering I worked here and it’s right below my apartment (I was basically Rachel from Friends for a few months except slightly better at my job). That being said, the beans are roasted in-house, once a week for ultimate freshness and flavor, the emphasis is on how the coffee itself tastes, so you won’t find any fancy flavors here, but one sip of the Costa Rica coffee will make you realize you don’t need them. The pastries are also brought in fresh daily from local bakeries, and the chocolate croissant is addictingly good.


Mazarine Coffee

720 Market Street

There’s a Philz truck that used to be on my way to work in the FiDi that I was crazy about, but it doesn’t beat Mazarine Coffee, not by a long shot. There’s wifi, tasty pastries, and a killer cold brew as well as nitro brew coffee. Other spots you can check out include Coffee Cultures and Workshop Cafe which stocks Stumptown brews.

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The Mission

Four Barrel Coffee

375 Valencia St.

One of the SF OGs of the third wave coffee movement, Four Barrel provides a hipster chic interior and beans that are much raved about. The pour overs are some of the best around, and you should grab a bag of beans while you’re at it for in-home convenience.

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The Embarcadero

Blue Bottle Coffee

1 Ferry Building

Located inside the Ferry Building, Blue Bottle serves up a killer mocha, and a New Orleans Style Iced Coffee that can’t be beaten. Their daily treats are also a great morning companion to that much-needed cup of Monday fuel.

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Pacific Heights

Jane on Fillmore

2123 Fillmore St.

Jane does double duty, serving up legitimately tasty vegan eats alongside solid coffee by third wave “big three” member Stumptown Roasters. The atmosphere is lively but cozy, perfect for a date or study sesh.

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Inner Sunset

Snowbird Coffee

1352A 9th Ave

For a change of pace, this place uses beans that aren’t SF based, alongside tasty baked goodies from the ever popular Devil’s Teeth Baking Co. Because really, is there a better match than coffee and breakfast sandos? I think not. They also make the ice for their cold brew out of coffee, so it never ends up watered down.

The Marina/Cow Hollow

Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters

2271 Union St.

High-quality beans roasted in-house pair with fresh pastries worthy of Marina moms and skeptical tourists alike at Wrecking Ball. Come in early for the best selections.

Outer Sunset

Andytown Coffee Roasters

3655 Lawton St.

Skewing Irish, this cozy-chic spot serves up espresso, soups and more daily. Expect comfort and a retreat from the fog-ridden neighborhood.

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North Beach

Reveille Coffee Co.

200 Columbus Ave.

While North Beach is best known for the classic Italian Food it provides, you’d be remiss to skip out on this spot. There’s an outdoor patio to relax and work on, or just meet some friends for a solid cup of joe.

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Nob Hill

Contraband Coffee

1415 Larkin St.

Beans are roasted in-house, and the interior is modern chic. Try the daily pastries and snacks while getting some work done here.

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So there you have it, a handy guide for how to stay properly caffeinated.

[featured image by @srihari.harry on instagram]


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