The Unwritten Guides: Amsterdam’s top 10 Specialty Coffee Shops

You have to be careful with the term “coffee shop” in Amsterdam. Try a simple sentence, “I’m going to a coffee shop” and you are bound to illicit some knowing looks and wink wink / nudge nudge jokes in your direction. But what I love about Amsterdam are the real coffee shops (you know, the ones with actual coffee). I don’t seek fulfillment in the pungent smelling, smoke filled rooms of tourists’ dreams but rather from the singular smell of coffee beans roasting and in the beautiful rosetta of a well-poured flat white. Yes, I am a coffee snob and am the first to admit it. Wherever I go, I sniff out the best places to get me some specialty coffee. Places that know their flat white from their cortado and preferably have tasty baked goods to match.

And although I believe that the best part of discovering a city is walking it on your own, peeking your head around corners and asking locals, it’s also good to have a starting point — a place to gather one’s thoughts and narrow down the options. That’s why I bring you a top 10 list, an overused format on the Internet today for sure but a useful one nevertheless!

I give you..

The Top 10 Third Wave Coffee Shops in Amsterdam.

But first, what is a third wave coffee shop? Well, the technical definition from Wikipedia states:

The third wave of coffee refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity.

In other words, it is a giant step above your local Starbucks or Starbucks look-a-like. Every aspect of the coffee is given consideration — from how the bean is grown to the amount of time the water touches the coffee.

A Third Wave establishment is one of those places that they have, at one point, probably made fun of on Portlandia for being too hipster and employing only attractive people who freelance as graphic designers in their spare time. It may have an industrial, modern decor with local art hanging on the walls. It may just have a bearded barista pulling your espresso shots. But, hey, whether these stereotypes prove true or not, you can count on the fact that a true third wave coffee shop will offer you the following:

  1. Expertly prepared espresso, shots pulled to just the right level of sweetness, neither over nor under extracted.
  2. On-point latte art with perfect milk texture — think no fluffy whipped cream type cappuccinos here.
  3. If you ask for a flat white or a cortado, the barista won’t look at you like you have two heads.

Now if you aren’t as crazy about coffee as me, don’t worry. These places are a delight to visit no matter your level of coffee geekery. I promise you will not be turned off by any pretentious vibes. So whether you want a place to hold up with your laptop or are looking for a sunny spot to have a chat, read on for my tried and tested list of the top 10 best third wave coffee shops in Amsterdam (in no particular order).

PS. It’s very possible I may have left one out (there are just too many choices in Amsterdam). Feel free to share any favorites I missed in the comments!

1. Headfirst Coffee Roasters

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Headfirst coffee is the real deal when it comes to third wave coffee, it even holds the title of “2015’s Dutch Barista Champion” to prove it. But this place isn’t one for boasting, from the minimal interior with industrial wood and stone surfaces to the friendly disposition of the baristas, you will feel comfortable to ask any questions and relax for awhile.

Nestled on a street in the heart of Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, they offer a range of espresso drinks, including flat whites and cortados, and three filter brew methods; V60, Aeropress and Clever. If you’re hungry, they have a selection of pastries, as well as yogurt with granola and freshly baked croissants. Keep in mind that there is limited seating and no wifi, so this isn’t the place to linger with your laptop. Bring a friend for some conversation or stop in for a quick shot of espresso on your way to work.

Address: Westerstraat 150, 1015 MP

Neighborhood: Jordaan

Website: headfirstcoffeeroasters.com

Hours: Monday – Saturday: 8am-6pm,  Sunday: 9am-6pm

Images: on a hazy morning, Headfirst Coffee Roasters

2. White Label Coffee

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White Label Coffee is a relative newcomer on the specialty coffee scene in Amsterdam, celebrating its first anniversary this past March. But this coffee shop has wasted no time in establishing itself as a prime coffee roaster and cafe in De Baarsjes, an up-and-coming neighborhood in Amsterdam’s Oud West. Right across the street from Mercatorplein, White Label has a unique interior, with raised platforms that lead up to the espresso bar in the middle of the room and go down to the roaster and seating in the back.

It is a place to hang out for awhile with a book or bring your laptop and join the remote working crowd it attracts. This place is messy yet cozy, like being in your cool older brother’s apartment, and you can tell the locals are thrilled to finally have quality coffee in the neighborhood. Take your pick from one of White Label’s delicious espresso drinks or buy a bag of their fresh roasted beans (which they roast in the back). They also offer filter brew methods, including V60, aeropress and Chemex to satisfy your cravings. Revel in the artsy vibes, the quirkiness is part of the charm.

Address: Jan Evertsenstraat 136

Neighborhood: Oud West

Website: whitelabelcoffee.nl (bonus: check out this blog post of their trip to Rwanda, a step-by-step look into the process of coffee production-super interesting!)

Hours: Monday – Friday: 8am-6pm, Saturday-Sunday: 9am-6pm

Images: Proudly RepresentsGiesen Coffee Roasters

3. Caffènation Amsterdam

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With its roots in Antwerp, Caffènation has been serving up their signature espresso drinks and filter coffees for ten years. Now, the famous Belgian brand has opened up shop in Amsterdam’s Hoofdorppleinbuurt, overlooking a lovely park at the end of the Postjeswetering. Caffènation clearly has a deep knowledge of and passion for their coffee, with carefully selected blends for sale that come with precise brewing recommendations.

The spacious, open floor plan features two levels with colorful touches and light wood flooring and cabinets adding to the lighthearted vibe. The playful barista, Bert, and off-beat drink options, including their original “Ginger Spice,” a cappuccino with white chocolate, honey and ginger powder covering the top in a checker board fashion, will intrigue you and entice you to stay awhile. There are limited options of cakes available, but no food. They also offer a selection of teas and homemade sodas.

Address: Theophile de Bockstraat 37, 1058

Neighborhood: Hoofdorppleinbuurt

Website: caffenation.be

Hours: Monday: Closed, Tuesday-Friday: 8am-6pm, Saturday: 9am-6pm, Sunday: 11am-6pm

Images: Bourgondisch AmsterdamKoentor.nl

4. Scandinavian Embassy

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The Scandinavians are known for their minimal design aesthetic and their innovative take on simplicity. Scandinavian Embassy gives you just that and more, serving up culinary delights and one of the best flat whites I’ve tasted in the city. The coffee is balanced with no bite, leaving you wondering how they make it so smooth.

This destination is equally known for its selection of unexpected, savoury gastronomic dishes as it is for its range of lightly roasted Scandinavian coffees prepared to perfection. Think: sprigs of green onions balanced perfectly in between two poached eggs with wild salmon carefully placed on the side. Go with your laptop and sit in the back sun room or sit at their kitchen-side bar and watch the chef whip up your masterpiece, you can’t go wrong either way.

Address: Sarphatipark 34, 1072PB

Neighborhood: De Pijp

Website: scandinavianembassy.nl

Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 8am-6pm, Saturday-Sunday: 10am -5pm

Images:  Sprudge.com

5. Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters

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Lot Sixty One may not be large in size, but it is a coffee shop not to be missed. Residing in the heart of Oud West, it sits on the corner of Kinkerstraat and Bilderdijkkade beckoning passerbys with the smell of freshly roasted coffee wafting from the large and exquisite roaster that sits in the basement. They offer rich, balanced espresso drinks or Chemex brews made with the perfect thick and creamy milk texture. You’ll also want to choose something from their small selection of baked goods on hand that changes daily.

The intimate space is not conducive for work, so hang out for a bit on one of the stools alongside their two bars (one upstairs and one a few steps below in their basement) or head outside and enjoy the fresh air on a bench.

Address: Kinkerstraat 112, 1053 ED

Neighborhood: Oud West

Website: lotsixtyonecoffee.com

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am-5pm, Saturday-Sunday: 10am-5pm

Images: Nicole Franzen Photography, Lot Sixty One

6. Coffee Bru

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Located in Amsterdam Oost, Coffee Bru is a major player on the local scene. With an eclectic vibe and cozy atmosphere, it’s a great place to hang out and grab a cappuccino or a pour over. Since my home is in the West, I don’t make it out here as often as I’d like, but, when I do, I feel right at home amongst their helpful baristas and sprawling wall of plants in the back. Not to mention, there’s also a plethora of tasty baked goods to choose from to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The coffee is roasted by their sister cafe Rum Baba (up next) and the treats are made there too. Do stop by and check out both if you’re in the area!

Address: Beukenplein 14, 1092

Neighborhood: Oosterparkbuurt

Website: coffeebru.nl

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am-6pm, Saturday-Sunday: 9am-6pm

Images: Catch 52Dear Coffee I Love You

7. Rum Baba

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Rum Baba has an airy and irreverent vibe. With light walls marked by intriguing murals and shocking pops of colors, most notably, the bright blue floor, there is a lot of energy infused into this space.

The coffee and baked goods don’t disappoint either. Rum Baba roasts their own beans and has their own line of tea called Monkey Chief, which they also sell in specialty shops around town. An extensive knowledge of both coffee & tea is a real plus and the fact that all of their baked goods are homemade too gives these guys the holy trifecta.

It’s an ideal spot to work or have a chat with friends as there is ample seating and tables.

A bit off the beaten path for tourists, Rum Baba is a neighborhood hangout and attracts many locals who finally have a haven for coffee nearby.

Address: Pretoriusstraat 33, 1092 EX

Neighborhood: Transvaalbuurt

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am-6pm, Saturday-Sunday: 9am-6pm

Images: Travel Rumors,  Awesome AmsterdamMondo Mulia

8. Trakteren Koffie

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When it comes to an amazing cup of coffee, the guys at Trakteren don’t mess around. Not only do they have high quality sourced beans and perfectly pulled espresso drinks, their latte art is hands down the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve had puppies, elephants and swans staring up at me from inside their little white saucer world. It’s truly impressive what the baristas can do with some espresso and steamed milk.

Aside from latte art, they also offer monthly espresso tastings. This is a nice spot to come with your laptop and work at their long table, or sit on their chairs outside when the sun decides to pay a visit. But be warned, it’s quite a small space, so on cold days it may be hard to secure a spot.

They have some tasty looking lunch options and cakes for sale that, unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to try yet myself. Nestled on the quaint Jan Pieter Heijestraat,  it’s the perfect pitstop to grab a flat white or matcha latte (yes! they have these too) for a day of shopping on Overtoom or Kinkerstraat. If you like your coffee drinks to have some umph then this is also your place. Try their “dorica,” essentially an extra strong cappuccino that will give a kick in the pants to your day.

Address: Jan Pieter Heijestraat 119-A, 1054

Neighborhood: Helmersbuurt

Website: trakterenkoffie.nl

Hours: Monday: Closed Tuesday-Friday: 8am-6pm, Saturday: 9am-6pm Sunday: 10am-6pm

Images: Bij Ons In De JP

9. Espresso Fabriek

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Espresso Fabriek is a stalwart in the Amsterdam specialty coffee scene. Situated in the industrial complex in Westerpark (an area that used to house gas extraction facilities), Espresso Fabriek has a slightly edgy vibe and embodies the warehouse-chic style that so many places are imitating these days. The high ceilings and unfinished floors speak to the building’s past, while the modern espresso bar and sleek espresso machine speak to its forward coffee brewing future.

The guys at Espresso Fabriek source and roast all of their own beans and put a lot of care into preparing their espresso and filter coffee drinks. If you get hungry, they have some pastries and cakes to nibble on as well, and if you have any questions about your coffee’s origins, these are the guys to ask. Knowledgeable and open, they will help guide you and make sure you get the drink you desire.  Stay for awhile or take your coffee to go and explore Westerpark and the surrounding area. They do have wifi here, but I’ve found it to be spotty.

Address: Pazzanistraat 39, 1014 DB

Neighborhood: Westerpark

Website: espressofabriek.nl

Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am-6pm, Saturday-Sunday: 10am-6pm

Images: The CoffeeVineHannaskoog.com

10. Koko Coffee & Design

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This is one of my favorite spots to meet up with people in the center of Amsterdam. The atmosphere is just right for talking and working. Just enough background noise, spacious but cozy layout, with different styles of seating available (i.e. couches + tables + armchairs). This place is also a design lover’s dream (hence the name!). Beautifully spread out throughout the shop is gorgeous clothing from little-known designers you’ve likely never heard of, for both men and women. There are also cute postcards and little trinkets that make great gifts up by the espresso bar.

The lady who owns the place is also just the sweetest. She instantly makes you feel at ease and welcome. Koko serves coffee from Caffènation, another added bonus, and can make you a top-notch milk drink just as well as a filter coffee. There is a small case with baked goods (always some vegan options), including some savory empanadas if you are looking for something a bit heavier. Take a look whether you are on your way to gawk at the red-light district or simply need a sanctuary in the center to get some work done.

Address: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 145, 1012 DG

Neighborhood: Centrum / De Wallen (Red Light District)

Website: ilovekoko.com

Hours: Monday 11am-6pm, Tuesday – Friday 9am-6:30pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12pm–6pm

Images: Little Wanderbook, Cool Cities

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