[Update – 2017 June 07: Daily News Hungary recently posted a great list of new coffee shops. We haven’t had time to visit most of them yet, but if you’re looking for other options in addition to the ones below, give it a look!]
We love coffee. We are not coffee experts; we have no degrees or certificates or experience in the industry. We just drink a lot of coffee; and since arriving in Hungary, we’ve made it our mission to source out the best coffee in Budapest.
(We also drink a lot of coffee at home. Curious how we make it? Scroll to the bottom of this post for a short walk-through of the pourover process.)
We also hail from the Pacific Northwest, widely known as the vanguard of coffee’s third wave, and we’re used to trying and re-trying coffee at some of the Seattle area’s most well-regarded shops.
You won’t find Starbucks or Costa Coffee on this list (though they are plenteous in Budapest), nor will you find sandwich shops that serve passable coffee on the side. Instead, this list contains a wonderful collection of fine coffee shops who take pride in pulling an amazing shot of espresso.
Sure, some of these shops serve food as well, but make no mistake: These are coffee shops, and great coffee is what you’ll get. We judged these shops by their espresso and lattes (and boy, did we enjoy doing it!), with a little extra credit for great atmosphere.
By the way, we’re not getting payed to promote any of these coffee shops. These our just our honest opinions about what’s good in Budapest. There’s better coffee out there than what you’ll get at the big chain shops, and we want you to enjoy it!
Before we get started, a few notes on craft coffee in Budapest:
- Prices for prepared-coffee in Budapest are your wildest dream come true, close to $2 for a latte.
- Drinks are typically served warm, not hot.
- Decaf is extremely rare.
- Light roasts prevail.
- Téjes kavé = latté; hosszu kavé = Americano; koffeinmentes = decaf (good luck with that one).
- Sizes are usually kicsi (small) and nagy (large).
- If you’re asked “Itt vagy elvitelre?” then the barista wants to know if you’ll take the coffee here (itt) or to go (elvitelre).
- And if you don’t speak Hungarian? Don’t worry. You can use English at any of these places, and the baristas are quite nice about it.
Coffee shops in Budapest that are really, really good
The Goat Herder
The Goat Herder has, in our opinion, the best espresso in Budapest. It’s dense, complex and heavy on the citrus flavors. The lattes here are good, too, and it’s a comfortable little shop for meeting with friends. It’s often full of English-speaking students from McDaniel College (known in Budapest as the American School) on the corner and the veterinary school across the street. It’s pretty near to Keleti Station, but it’s out of the way enough to be not very well known.
Espresso Embassy is the only location we’ve found thus far that consistently offers decaf beans for sale (roasted in Budapest by Casino Mocca). You can also get decaf prepared drinks, too. Whatever you try, the coffee here is superb and the drinks are well-made.
Because one of our children doesn’t (yet) share our coffee obsession, we also often order an almafröccs (apple spritzer), which is delicious.
Műterem Kávézó & MTRM roast Kávépörkölő Műhely
In addition to amazing espresso (seriously, amazing) and lovely lattes, MTRM sells light- and medium-roast coffee beans at bargain prices compared to elsewhere in the city. They’re constantly working to perfect their roasting process and bean-sourcing (it’s already great, in my opinion), so be sure to share your thoughts with the owner while you’re there.
We have a bi-weekly coffee subscription from Casino Mocca because it’s the best way to keep ourselves stocked in decaf beans (Brittany only drinks decaf). But when I run out of caffeinated between shipments, we head to MTRM for delicious supplementary beans.
MTRM is another great place to sit and study; it’s often calm and quiet. Plus, there’s lovely outdoor seating on a quiet pedestrian thoroughfare.
There’s also a small park with a playground across the street at Mátyás tér.
Like Espresso Embassy, Budapest Baristas sells beans roasted in Hungary by Casino Mocca. It’s in close proximity to a couple other shops on this list (Kontakt and Fekete), and there’s a nice park with several children’s playgrounds nearby (Károlyi kert).
There’s a cute little balcony here in addition to some sidewalk seating, but it’s not a great place for groups, as there’s only one larger table.
Inside or out, it’s a nice place to sit and enjoy a great cup of coffee while you watch the little yellow trams pass by.
Csészényi Kávézó és Pörkölő
So far, this cute little place near the western end of the Castle Hill tunnel is the only craft coffee shop we’ve found on the Buda side.
In addition to the ample seating on the main floor, there’s a small balcony, too, that is open when needed.
Fekete, which is near Kontakt and Budapest Baristas on Múzeum körút, is set back from the street in an adorable little courtyard with table seating. There’s a small amount of seating available inside the shop, as well.
In addition to traditional espresso drinks, Fekete also sells nitro cold brew and Chemex pourover coffee.
As at Fekete, which is just down the street, the entrance to Kontakt is through a small alley that empties into a courtyard. In this case, the courtyard is lined with small businesses.
Fekete is a hipster-looking place, clean and sparse and peopled by impeccably bearded men.
Matinée, just off Andrássy út at Kodály körönd, is my go-to place for study-group meetings with friends from school. It’s not a huge place, but there’s a little upstairs area with a couple of tables that are perfect for study sessions. Most recently, five friends and I crammed for our cultural studies final while a server kept bringing us coffee.
At Matinée, place your order and find a seat, and they’ll bring it to you when it’s ready. Pay when you leave.
This local chain has three spacious locations: one in the inner city, one farther north in the 13th district and the newest near the Hungarian Parliament Building.
My Little Melbourne Coffee and Brew Bar
This family of coffee shops, the first of which opened in 2012, also administers a school for baristas in Budapest.
My Green Cup is on a gorgeous, tree-lined street in the 13th District that parallels the Danube River; the street features many cute shops and cafes, and it makes for a lovely walk.
The original cafe and Brew Bar are side by side — and within a block of Coffee Market — in a bustling part of the inner city, always busy with a cross-section of society: tourists, locals, business-people, fun-seekers. Both of these locations offer fun opportunities to people-watch.
Tamp & Pull Espresso Bar
Tamp & Pull, down in the 9th District, is near the beautiful Corvinus University and the large, modern glass structure called the Balna, or Whale, that sits beached along the Danube. It’s worth a visit not only for the incredible coffee but for the beauty of the surroundings; all of Budapest is eminently walkable, and not all areas look the same, so go down to Tamp & Pull and explore!
WarmCup is on the Nagykörút, or Grand Boulevard, that rings the inner city, connecting on both its northern and southern ends to bridges that span the Danube. This spot in the 7th District, about halfway between Oktogon to the north and Blaha Lujza tér to the south, offers an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and shops. The sidewalks are wide along the Grand Boulevard, and during the summers (but throughout the year, really) restaurant seating expands to outside, making walks along this stretch of road particularly enjoyable.
Cafe El Mondo
This stretch of Wesselényi utca seems, to us, like a haven for young tourists and locals alike. A little off the busy path of the Grand Boulevard, this street is packed with bars and restaurants, and it’s a fun atmosphere.
After grabbing a cup of coffee at Cafe El Mondo, walk this street toward the river, to the southwest, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Budapest.
Cafe El Mondo serves coffee roasted by Pall & Yotz in Hungary.
Coffee Shop 64
This is the first coffee shop we visited in Budapest. It’s a tiny hole in the wall on bustling Rákóczi út, and there’s almost no seating. But the coffee is good, and if you’re on the go (say, walking from Keleti pályaudvar to Blaha Lujza tér), it’s a great place for a pit stop.
How we make coffee at home
Like I mentioned up above, prepared-coffee prices in Budapest are quite low, which is great for those of us who love a good cup of coffee but have always been hesitant to spend what artisan espresso costs in the states.
In addition to going out for coffee on occasion, we spend a lot of time at home drinking great coffee and trying to perfect our brewing process.
We make pourover at home. It’s a simple, one-cup-at-a-time process that allows great control over coffee quality. And, unlike with automated coffee makers, you’re never stuck drinking burnt coffee. Ever. It’s bliss. Here are the steps:
Note: There are a few affiliate links in the information below. They don’t cost you anything extra, but if you buy something, we’ll get a little bonus. As always, we only recommend products we know, love and use ourselves.
1. Start with great, fresh coffee beans. This is essential. As I mentioned above, we buy from Casino Mocca and/or MTRM.
2. Heat up your water. We bought this Bonavita electric kettle from My Little Melbourne here in Budapest. Back in the states, we had the same kettle, but without the temperature control. We heat the water to around 207 degrees Fahrenheit (just shy of boiling). If you don’t have temperature control, just boil the water and let it sit for a minute or two before pouring.
3. Weigh out 15 grams of coffee beans into your grinder. For several years now, we have been using this Hario hand coffee grinder, which still works as well as ever (despite having been dropped a billion times). To weigh the beans,
we use this Hario coffee drip scale and timer. Like the grinder, we brought it with us from the states, and it has served us well for years.
4. Place your mug on top of the scale with the dipper and filter on top. Pour some water through the filter to ensure that the paper flavors don’t make it into your coffee. Empty your cup and then dump the ground coffee into the filter inside the coffee dripper. If you can, just for the aesthetics of it, get your hands on a ceramic one, like this Hario V60 coffee dripper. Plastic ones also work well; we have this plastic one from Melitta.
5. Zero out the scale and start a timer (this is why we love the Hario scale; a timer is integrated). Next, pour just enough water into the filter to wet the grounds, maybe 30 grams or so. Having a goose-neck kettle will make this much easier. If your coffee is fresh enough, it will mound up as the gas escapes. This is called the bloom. If the coffee doesn’t bloom, odds are it was roasted long enough ago that all of the gas trapped in the beans has escaped. It could also be that your water is too hot.
6. After about 30 seconds (or 45 seconds, if your coffee was roasted more than two weeks ago), start pouring in the rest of the water. pour it slowly in a circular pattern, making sure all of the grounds are saturated. In total, you’ll want around 260 grams of water for 15 grams of beans. Of course, you might want to adjust this ratio to match your personal preference.
By the way, we learned much of what we know about the craft of brewing good coffee from this gorgeous tome from Blue Bottle Coffee. We bought this when we were in San Francisco, but we didn’t bring it with us to Budapest. We have come to regret that decision; we miss it. The book explains all about coffee, from the plant to the cup, and includes some recipes (which we haven’t had a chance to test, unfortunately) that use coffee as an ingredient.
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