DC’s 6 Best Coffee Roasters (and Where to Find Them)
These are the places worth a detour on your morning commute
Thanks to the “third-wave” movement of independent roasters and enough corner coffee counters to fuel an army of Hill-bound caffeine fiends, DC is undoubtedly becoming one of the country’s most prolific coffee cities.
But that comes with its own set of problems: eternally wondering whether you are, in fact, drinking the freshest cuppa joe in the neighborhood or missing out on something far more delicious down the block.
To help you parse a busy space, we’ve put together a rundown of the cream of the crop: our favorite local roasters, along with the various counters around town that serve them.
Their story, in brief: It was during their time in the Marines that Compass founders first got into coffee — it became a ritual for them as they were stationed and then deployed in Afghanistan together. While they began to experiment with different roasts and brewing methods they realized that coffee didn’t have to taste stale and burnt, it could taste … really good.
What makes ’em unique: Compass created an easy to understand flavor matrix, so that customers with any level of coffee knowledge would be able to pick the right one for them. Most of their blends are also named after DC neighborhoods for added local pride.
The brew you’ve gotta try: The Nutella Mocha.
Try it at: One of their many locations throughout DC.
U Street Corridor & Navy Yard
Their story, in brief: The founders of Slipstream started off on completely different career paths in finance and nursing before deciding to focus on their shared love of coffee, cocktails and food. Their goal in starting Slipstream was to help the customer cut through the noise of the quickly increasing number of options and jargon out there and just provide the best.
What makes ’em unique: We’ve seen the all-day cafe serving breakfast time and time again, but Slipstream leans towards the other end of the spectrum by also specializing in cocktails, realizing that they are both “complex beverages where the nuances of flavor matter and greatly impact the quality of our experience.”
The brew you’ve gotta try: The Cream, with house-made almond cashew milk, Finca Chelin, and pure clover honey.
Try it at: Their two locations on 14th Street and Navy Yard.
Their story, in brief: An independent, locally-owned coffee company, Grace Street roasts their beans in small batches in the back of their cozy Georgetown location. They serve single-origin coffee, and “tinker with the mechanics” of it “day in and day out,” recognizing coffee as a seasonal fruit. They also make their own syrups in-house.
What makes ’em unique: The purpose of your next visit to their Georgetown location doesn’t have to just be a quick coffee run, as it functions as a sort of tiny food hall, also featuring South Block Juice and SUNdeVICH. Grace Street just opened a much-anticipated second location as well, a block away from Stachowski’s featuring a charming backyard patio.
The brew you’ve gotta try: An Aussie-inspired flat white.
Try it at: Either one of their Georgetown locations.
Their story, in brief: If you know Peregrine Espresso then, by proxy, you know their sister roasting company Small Planes. Both were founded by Ryan and Jill Jenson, who met while working at rival coffee shops before falling in love, getting married, and starting their own.
What makes ’em unique: The founders of Peregrine and Small Planes don’t just want to make and serve really good coffee, they’re also focused on getting others just as excited about the craft as they are, encouraging their baristas to compete in regional and national competitions and hosting classes and events for the public. The two classes they offer are espresso fundamentals and better brewing at home.
The brew you’ve gotta try: a tried and true cappuccino — let the espresso speak for itself.
Try it at: Peregrine Espresso locations at U Street, Union Market, and Eastern Market as well as many other local coffee shops.
Their story, in brief: Established in 2010 in the small town of Floyd, Virginia (think population of just over 400 small), Red Rooster is now a multi-award winning coffee company built on the premise of “Taking Good Care of Our Coffee, Our People, Our Farmers, Our Planet.” Besides making a bangin’ cold brew their main shtick is making a positive social impact both at home and abroad at the coffee’s origin.
What makes ’em unique: Red Rooster is all about operating under the three main tenets of transparently traded coffee, sustainability and environmental action, and hiring locally as well as giving back to the local community. They’re also the only coffee company in the country with an onsite daycare facility to look after their staff’s kids.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Their most popular brew, the Funky Chicken.
Try it at: Their coffee roaster and cafe in Floyd, Kintsugi in the Eaton Hotel, and multiple locations in Virginia.
Their story, in brief: Founder Chris Vigilante first roasted his beans in small batches from the basement of a Trinidad rowhouse, until a run-in with the local fire department made him realize it was time to get a devoted space for his craft. A phone call from a customer who had seen what they thought was the perfect place for a cafe, a one-time Ford Model-T dealership in the Hyattsville Arts District, ended up being the new home for Vigilante Coffee. Since, they’ve also opened a branch in College Park, MD.
What makes ’em unique: Despite humble beginnings in Vigilante’s basement, the roaster has gone on the win numerous accolades including being rated in the top 5 in the country at the 2017 US Roaster Championship and voted by Food & Wine as the best in Maryland.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Their DANK Espresso Blend.
Try it at: Their roasting house in Hyattsville, their newest location in College Park, and cafes around the DMV like Politics & Prose and Detour Coffee.