Elizabeth Childers rounds up Berlin’s best Third-Wave coffee spots…
The basis for an authentic Third Wave café should be in the quality and source of the ingredients. This means, whenever possible, direct trade over fair trade for the beans, and local organic milk.
Equipment should be top-notch and calibrated on a regular basis. Water quality is monitored, water temperature is exact, and timing is the barista’s best friend — as if every drink is made from science.
That said, some cafés seem to be “better” at being Third Wave than others; some seem to lean more into the Second Wave of specialty coffee zones. They’re both included in the list because they are part of the scene, and didn’t deserve to be ignored just because they won’t fit into a perfect box —the coffee waves are movements and not everyone is going to sit in a clearly defined slot.
Atmosphere also counts for enjoyment of a drink, and I’ve tried to give a feeling for that in the short summaries below. Finally, this selection of cafés will likely change and expand as new spots open and others close. Happy sippin’…
Ralph Rüller opened the first Barn in 2010 on a corner of Auguststraße, in the middle of Mitte’s gallery district. The second location in Prenzlauer Berg opened in 2012 and is a significant upgrade on space, allowing for on-site roasting. Beans are sourced from personal farm relationships with Fair Trade pricing applied. Quickly becoming a reliable roast, beans from The Barn are showing up at other Third Wave cafés around town, and internationally.
Significant at all The Barn locations (they now have several dotted around the city; check their website for more info) is the dedication to unadulterated coffee; sugar and milk aren’t laying about at a cluttered condiment station, and this is a good thing: coffee drinkers find themselves inadvertently initiated into quality Third Wave coffee this way. Sugar (whole cane, of course) is offered, but slightly hidden and not officially recommended.
The biodynamic milk, local from Brodowin (which already has a sweetness to it), is never steamed twice, and if someone wants to add milk to their drink they will get it steamed, not cold. Better yet though, is to choose a drink which already has milk in it. While some people may find this attitude off-putting, the purpose is to present coffee in the best possible way and for customers to connect with each farm The Barn works with through individual flavours.
All the locations highlight a slow-brew bar with V60 Hario Pour Overs and a Single Origin Menu that rotates weekly. A time investment and luxury that not many cafés are offering. A decent selection of house-made sandwiches and sweets (delicious pastel de natas) are offered, as well as a curated assortment of fine teas. Cuppings and workshops are held on a regular basis.
Yumi Choi and Kiduk Reus opened shop in 2007, officially bringing Third Wave coffee to Berlin. Located on Oderberger Straße – a street lined with gorgeous pastel coloured buildings and right around the corner from Mauerpark – weekends at Bonanza can be, especially on Sundays with the Flohmarkt crowds, a little hektisch. Luckily, although there’s limited seating inside, there are some benches out front for leisurely sipping.
Bonanza also has a flagship store and roastery in Kreuzberg, the roasting style is light in order to focus on the flavours inherent in the beans, unspoiled from the roasting process itself. Espresso drinks are made on a gorgeous Kees van der Westen Spirit, and slow brew methods are available as well. Landliebe milk, bottled 575 kms away in Köln, comes from regional farms. The flat whites are consistently prepared silky smooth, and handmade cookies sweeten the visit.
Nora Šmahelová and Björn Köppke opened Chapter One at the tail end of 2011. Barista Nora won a German Championship in 2002 and is a wizard on the brew bar, while Björn Köppke is from No Fire, No Glory and Double Eye fame. Both are extremely consistent with their drinks, a strong barometer of following Third Wave techniques, and are a favourite among coffee geeks, both local and international.
A small and cosy place with limited seating, the café could almost be missed from the street, which makes it feel that much more rewarding when savouring one of Nora’s perfect creations. And what choice there is: outside of espresso drinks are a plethora of brew methods: Hikari Siphon, Hario V60, Cold Brew. Espresso is from different roasters from all over Europe and rotates daily; brew coffee is mostly from JB Kaffee, plus guest coffees from other roasters.
Formerly located inside Kreuzberg’s VOO fashion store, Companion is now located on trendy Weserstrasse in Neukölln. Opened by Australian Chris Onton and Canadian Shawn Barber, whose barista skills were instrumental in making the Barn what it is today, these guys are as knowledgeable and passionate about tea as they are about coffee; indeed the reason to move to a bigger space was to have a bigger space for their tea import business as well as be able to seat more guests.
The beans here come from JB Kaffee, Square Mile, Red Brick and local roaster Five Elephant, while teas are from their own line – single-estate and directly imported, which have been popping up in other city cafes lately, and absolutely not to be missed. There are also some home-baked sweet treats to enjoy with.
Namy Nosratifard and Benjamin Pates opened Concierge Coffee last summer. The location – off a cobblestone street, across from the canal, and concealed in the entrance of a Hof, makes you feel a bit like you’ve stumbled across secret treasure. Both Benjamin and Nami are veterans of the Berlin Third Wave scene, both having worked at Bonanza Coffee Roasters for a few years, but their experience in coffee began even earlier, as is perhaps obvious by the attention they give to their coffee.
The original space is small and minimally decorated, the brick and concrete interior allowing the barista —and the shiny sexy Kees van der Westen Mirage Duet —to take the spotlight. But they recently expanded into an adjacent building, where there’s seating and a larger selection of edibles including sandwiches and salads. As the name suggests, you can order takeaway through the Hof’s concierge window or enjoy the warm sunshine on a park bench with a slice of insanely delicious pie and one of their remarkably good flat whites.
American and Austrian team Kris Shackman and Sophie Weigensamer opened Five Elephant in December 2010. He’s the coffee king, she’s the baking queen, and both are famous city-wide for their respective talents (Sophie’s cheesecake is possibly the best in the world). Kris makes frequent visits to farms, where he sources the beans directly, and Five Elephant beans feature at a number of other Third Wave cafes. Arguably, the reason behind this is their emphasis on roasting according to the flavour profile of the bean —and taking the time to experiment in order to discover exactly where that “sweet spot” is.
Roasting used to be done on-site, and as such stood for the openness toward the process and an invitation for the consumers to observe and ask questions. Recently though, they moved the Dietrich roaster to another building in order to open up more seating for their growing fanbase as well as increase their roasting volume. Laptop work is possible, but relegated to certain areas—the emphasis is on people talking to each other—and outside seating is also available. There are also branches in KaDeWe, Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte; see their website for more info.
No Fire, No Glory has been open since 2009, and is dedicated to educating their guests about what Third Wave is. At every table you will find a menu with information about coffee and brewing methods—a great way to make people feel welcomed into a scene they might not quite understand.
Drinks are made on a Slayer Steam, as well as via AeroPress and cold drip. Filter coffees are provided by Triple Co Roast, andbeans at the time of visit were Bonanza and The Coffee Collective, and the milk was from Brodowin; the surprisingly large menu also offers breakfast and brunch, fresh juices, smoothies and long drinks.
The space is inviting and cosy with bench tables in the front area and a big squishy sofa off to one side. There’s a more private area set in the back, and a large terrace outside that’s covered by tents during autumn and winter.
Kristian Moldskred and Benjamin Mosse opened Oslo Kaffebar in July 2012. Their menu is simple: choose from four espresso to milk ratios, or ask for one of the more usual “big-cup” drinks. They also brew on AeroPress and Chemix; beans are sourced from The Barn, Bonanza, Koppi, and Tim Wendelboe, and the milk is Landliebe (rice milk is available too).
The space has a classic Berlin rawness; unfinished walls, exposed ducts and wiring contrasted with simple wood furnishings. Seating is spread out, providing guests with plenty of options for how to enjoy their time; there’re spaces for sitting alone with a book, a bar for laptop work, and scattered tables for more caffeine-fuelled tête-a-têtes. There’s even a section along a wall with records for sale. The place is often close to full and seems to have a good deal of regulars. They also have a coffeebar located within the Nordic Embassies, and you don’t have to be a diplomat to stop by.
Morgan Love and James Maguire opened Silo in 2013. Located a stones throw away from Simon-Dach Straße, it was the first specialty coffee shop in Friedrichshain. Drinks are made on a La Marzocco Linea PB, or batch brew. Beans are sourced from their own roastery and Fjord Coffee Roasters milk from Brodowin.
Silo is perhaps as well known for their breakfasts as their coffee, offering a wide range of creative and vibrant brunch dishes The space is minimal but cosy – a clean design with wooden furniture, a back room with larger tables for privacy or big groups, as well as smaller tables and a bar up front. There are also tables and chairs outside for nice-weather-enjoyment.
Owner Kai Bröer opened West Berlin in November 2012 with the help of coffee consultant April Melnick. April, who hails from the heart of American Third Wave coffee —Portland, Oregon – has ten years experience managing and opening cafes such as Stumptown and Heart Roasters. She worked closely with Kai to design a bar layout, as well as sort out all pertinent coffee equipment. Espresso drinks are made on a La Marzocco Strada MP, using Drop Coffee beans from Stockholm and Brodowin milk. Five Elephant beans are used for AeroPress and the batch brewer.
Kai’s architectural background is apparent in this open and well-furnished cafe. Part of the space is a dedicated “mediashop” with a curated selection of books and magazines on art and design, both international and domestic, for sale. A big table with outlets for laptops sits amongst the print material, welcoming people to sit and work.
There’s smaller table seating by the street windows, as well as in the back and outside in warmer weather. Located just down the street from Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin becomes crowded at lunchtime weekdays with an interesting mix of neighbourhood workers, tourists, and regular cafe-goers. Sandwiches, salads, and croissants, along with home made cheesecake are also available.
Double Eye was a game changer when it entered the Berlin scene in 2005, finally offering Berliners “real” coffee. It’s still a beloved cafe with some of the best people watching in the city. Opened in 2005 by European World Cup Barista champ Arno Schmeil, it’s more of a Specialty Coffee venue, serving micro-foamed cappuccinos and other traditional specialty basics, including old-school-style coffee beverages in oversized cups.
With standing-room-only inside and almost always a line threading out of the door, it’s not uncommon to find people leisurely wandering around in the street in front of the café. Beans are sourced from Bobalink, FAF Brazil Direkt Trade, Cafes do Brasil, and the milk is GMO-free from Wiesehof, about 500 km away.
To learn more about the history of Third Wave coffee in Berlin, check Elizabeth’s associated article here.