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Just like the waltz, the traditional coffee houses are an inherent part of Viennese culture. When we interviewed coffee expert Oliver Goetz about his favourite topic, we simply had to ask him for his café recommendations for Vienna. Here are his top 11 picks of specialty coffee shops serving third wave coffee you simply must visit while in Vienna.
But first: How the coffee house culture found its home in Vienna
Going for a coffee in Vienna often proves to be the fastest and undisputably one of the most pleasant ways to travel back in time, at least, when at a traditional coffee house. The coffee house is the birthplace of radical thought and change in Europe, cradle to the Sezession, and inarguably interwoven with the cultural tissue of Vienna. A source of inspiration, the coffee house was a third place (i.e., a place with equal private and public connotations) long before café chains claimed the term for themselves, dazzling us with personalized toppings or missspelt names on disposable cups, all in the name of worshiping the customer’s individuality while ironically serving nothing but standardized flavours.
Coffee arrived in Vienna after the defeat of the Turks just outside the city walls in 1683, a victory that resounded throughout Europe. The Viennese quickly got accustomed to the not-so-bitter taste of their victory and came up with countless typical variations which still confuse non-Viennese café-goers: Kleiner Brauner, Wiener Melange, Fiaker, Einspänner and many, many more.
Leaving the coffee house: Viennese coffee culture at its finest
In 2011, the UNESCO recognized Viennese coffee house culture as “Intangible Cultural Heritage”. But even before that, a myriad of professionals had been working on rescuing the glamour of Viennese coffee from being a thing of the past or referring to a place rather than a culinary experience. Passionate career changers alongside brave entrepreneurs, roasters and baristas (all with more caffeine than hemoglobin running in their veins) coax a sheer symphony of aromas from the precious coffee beans in order to prove that coffee is more than just “coffee”.
Without a doubt, one of the key figures of the Viennese coffee scene is Oliver Goetz, coffee roaster and co-owner of Alt Wien Kaffee, whom we interviewed in our last article. What many people do not know: At Alt Wien Kaffee, you can not only purchase the best coffee, but also drink it! Although the coffee store doesn’t have its own café, its small bar invites you to enjoy a coffee directly on site. And there is a lot of tasting to be done: over 45 types of coffee from their own roastery, Arabica, Robusta and even Liberica, every style and pretty much every method of preparation (be sure to try the nitro coffee!). So, if you’re looking for a place where you can savour all the variety and depth coffee has to offer, you’re definitely in good hands here. In the small coffee world of Alt Wien Kaffee, Oliver has got you covered, whether it’s about preparation, equipment or types of coffee.
During our interview, we simply couldn’t pass by the opportunity to ask him for his favourite cafés in Vienna. Instead of giving into the temptation of a quick and anonymous hit of caffeine to go, why not visit one of these specialty coffee shops? While learning about aromas and preparation or indulging in the nuances of different terroirs, you’ll not only be giving yourself a treat. Embracing a transparent way of work and relying on strong relationships, most cafés source at least part of their beans through direct or fair trade. Consequently, this improves the conditions in the countries where the coffee is grown, leading to more diversity in coffee. There are even some extra karma points in it for you: By consciously consuming your coffee at these cafés, you’ll also be supporting an essential part of (new) Viennese coffee culture. So, what are you waiting for?
The 11 Best Cafés for Specialty Coffee in Vienna
Midnight blue, intense turquoise and an idyllic court: get ready to fall in love with this café which is more than an influencer’s dream. Hidden away near the Palais of the archduke Carl Ludwig, a Latin American trio hailing from Argentina, Guatemala and Mexico brings its vibrant addition to the Viennese coffee scene.
Not only the location is first class: Amidst their oasis of calm within the busy capital, the owners Xavier Comas, Juan Zorreguieta and Juan de Rosenzweig delight their customers’ palates with highly aromatic brews. Only coffee of the highest quality, preferably their customised roasts, has been poured here since they opened their café in October 2019.
Feeling peckish? The trio also serves scrumptious pastry creations of the renowned Dampfbäckerei Öfferl, which has taken Vienna by storm. So, what are you waiting for? You need to visit Carl Ludwig before it no longer is an insider tip!
What if I told you there is a café in Vienna where you can belly dance, visit an art exhibition, learn everything about the art of photography and sip a delicious coffee (preferably, not all at the same time, but hey, I’m not judging)? Well, if you don’t believe me, see for yourself and check out CLUSTER, the creative co-working space in the 7th district hosting photo exhibitions, workshops, an art shop and even boasting its own built-in dark room. Not that it will take much convincing to make you want to pop in to grab a beautiful coffee at the front-house café run by Zeljko „Zack“ Abci.
The name Coffee and Beard might evoke the memory of that special moment when you put down your cup of coffee after the first invigorating sip to find that a foamy moustache of crema graces your upper lip. Though neither the café nor the full potential of the space are easily spotted from the outside, it’s pretty clear where (or rather, who) the brand got its name from in the first place.
Zack first transformed his passion for coffee into an online shop in 2017, followed by a pop-up café in the lively shopping street Marahilfer Straße and at events like the popular Feschmarkt with Charles Fürth of Fürth Kaffee. This is where he reconnected with his friend Dino Rekanovic, the fine arts photographer behind the art organisation ZIGUTAMVE, and as recent as autumn of 2019 his coffee-making skills were finally destined to find the home they deserve in the friends’ shared co-working space.
A crafty person with an eye for detail, Zack even built the bar and shelves with the support of his father (without whom he couldn’t have done it, as he is quick to emphasize) customizing the intimate space of his café. If you feel like a special performance, you should definitely admire his steady hand while pouring delightful latte art with enviable ease. Though absolutely everything about this unique place invites you to stay, Zack also offers a sustainable system for his customers who prefer to grab their coffee in a “mug to go”, which helps prevent waste. What’s not to love?
Not only students thirsting for knowledge take refuge in the safe haven of this unique café situated near the university. “Where there is coffee, there are people”, the café states. And when said good coffee is good, its consumption turns into so much more than the caffeine infused kick-start to the grey cells so many of us crave.
Set in Vienna’s 9th district, this third wave coffee shop with its own roastery and vintage interior takes you on an expedition to far away places. If you want to learn more about their coffee, you can read up all kinds of interesting facts on their own blog.
Several times a year, the crew sets sail to visit coffee producers directly on site and to improve their mutual relationship. Since their opening in 2012, they’ve been focusing on ecological cultivation and fair payment (approximately, three to five times higher than the average fair trade price) for the producers, while further honing their coffee roasting skills. Because, let’s face it: What is a true pirate without his treasure?
(photo credit: Coffee Pirates und @sophia_grabner_fotografie)
Not only the majestic tree in the centre of the café has taken root at Cowome: Owner and barista Ali Vogel visited Vienna while on his honeymoon. To his own surprise, he decided to stay and the rest is history: By chance, he came across the location of his café, which he shares with a hairdresser, while he was out for a stroll.
In contrast, when it comes to the interior design of the location, the barista with Romanian roots doesn’t leave anything to chance. Cowome, short for concrete, wood and metal, the main elements of the café, turned out just as he had envisioned, as his eye for detail proves. Even before opening his own café, Ali had received multiple awards for his infamous and creative latte art. The location off the beaten track has proven a huge advantage: Instead of an unsteady influx of tourists, he can count on a strong community of local regulars, whose names he knows just as well as their favourite order.
While placing your order at the counter, you might also want to check out the mouth-watering variety of cakes, lovingly baked by his wife. As a pharmacist, she is a natural for getting the dosages right, Ali tells us with a grin. Make sure to pair the slice of your choosing with an equally beautiful coffee with Ali’s own latte art creations!
Unlike its name-sake, Dodo Coffee, the love child of the Premium Goods Store Stil-Laden and Wolfgang Coffee, has evolved in order to survive. Now, more than ever, the café aspires to be a haven for the greater community of people living and working in the neighborhood as well as coffee lovers.
Whether you celebrate your urban lifestyle or enjoy being outdoors, the specialty coffee shop has got you covered. This child-friendly place even has a kids’ corner, where the little ones can read and play, while you sip your oat flat white or shop for sustainable threads. True to its eco-friendly approach, Dodo Coffee charges an extra 20 cents for take-away paper cups and donates them to an NGO. You can also opt for reusable to-go cups sold on site to go with your irresistible cookie from Ausnahmsweise.
If you can’t get yourself into the woods, this spot run by Michael Paul offers peace and serenity. And hasn’t the lockdown taught us to appreciate the rare places where you can enjoy the outdoors while being inside?
Their reputation as true experts precedes the team of Gota Coffee Experts even far beyond Vienna. Opened in the 15th Viennese district in 2017, the once budding café with only eight seats has now reached its full bloom. In addition to serving highly addictive third wave specialty coffee, the siblings Katharina and Markus Brun also add a splash of vibrant color to the neighbourhood with their own in-café floral shop Miraflores.
Despite opening a new, bigger venue as recently as August 2020, they still remain committed to their home district. Consequently, Gota (Spanish for “drop”) is more than just a café, but a second living-room for the neighbourhood. The fact that all baristas are employed full-time naturally promotes a warm exchange with the guests, who appreciate the personal interaction. Also, the founding team has proven to have an open ear for the needs of their guests: Not only did they grant their wish for a local flower shop, they also found the perfect partner for the venture in their regular Bella.
But enough with the flowery language: What can coffee fans expect here? While most of the plants are sourced regionally, the team also serves high quality coffee from its main roaster The Barn in Berlin and various international guest roasters, in addition to its own Gota roasts. By weighing every single coffee before and after preparation, the café offers consistent quality.
Obviously, the baristas’ precision pays off, since it attracts loyal coffee enthusiasts from all over the world. Have you ever heard of international travelers catching a cab just to enjoy a coffee in their favorite Viennese café between two flights? At Gota Coffee Experts, the regulars even fly in all the way from Asia!
However, the projects don’t stop there: The construction work, which started three years ago, is still under way to give the café more space to thrive. In addition, the plans to have a company-owned coffee cultivation abroad are still on the agenda to fulfill the motto “we harvest, we roast, we brew, we serve”. So, there is still room for growth. But, as they say: every flower blooms in its own time. We’re excited to see what the future holds for the Gota Coffee Experts!
(photo credit: Ruben Scott)
Fun fact: “Jonas Reindl” is not the name of an actual person. In fact, it refers to the locals’ nickname for the traffic construction Schottentor near the first location in the 9th district of Vienna.
Due to its success, owner Philip Feyer opened the second café in the 7th district, which boasts a beautiful coffee roaster as part of the modern interior design. If you’re lucky, you might even get to experience a roasting on site while sipping your freshly brewed coffee.
Philip favours coffees from direct trade and occasionally travels overseas to visit the coffee plantations of his partners. So, if you’re picturing him swinging a machete to make his way through the jungle, you’re not mistaken at all.
It’s a good thing, the Kaffeefabrik (German for coffee factory) doesn’t fully live up to its name: While the team has been making coffee for almost a decade, the result is far from the mass product one might expect from a factory. Instead, Kaffeefabrik sets a brilliant example for a carefully thought through, ethical concept in their coffee business.
Kaffeefabrik is all about walking the talk: direct trade, sustainability and transparency aren’t just empty promises for marketing purposes. Quite the contrary, Kaffeefabrik has committed itself to only working with small coffee farmers in order to promote a fair distribution of wealth and encourage sustainable cultivation. As part of the network Roasters United, owner Tobias Radinger only imports green coffee with organic certification, in close exchange with cooperatives which don’t accept child labour.
In 2014, a Bunch of Nerds (no kidding, that’s the actual name of the company!) opened this stylish café in Zollergasse. Said bunch of nerds aka software engineers missed the good quality coffee they were used to in other cities. So, they decided to take matters into their own hands by opening their own café just across the road from their offices.
“Kaffemik” is a Greenlandic term for a “coffee with friends”. However, this philosophy doesn’t merely refer to the relation with the many regulars. Natascha Kretzl first started working at the café as a barista, before taking on the position as general manager. She highly values the mutual respect amongst the staff: “I’ve been dealing with Specialty Coffee intensively for approximately six years and am trying to juggle running a specialty coffee shop and creating a cosy café. We want to make this a place where everyone feels welcome and also encourage asking us about coffee and talking to us. Every single person on the team plays an important role, that’s what makes kaffeemik special.”
Putting the community first is vital for kaffemik: That’s why they have created the brilliant Vienna Independent Coffee Map with the best specialty coffee shops in town (also available as an app!).
Of course, kaffeemik is also worth a visit: The cool, minimalistic design pairs well with the warm welcome you receive there. Here, the focus lies on filter coffee. The team in Vienna strives to highlight this preparation perfectly thanks to its main roastery Alpha Coffee from Vienna, but also by constantly sourcing beans from different talented roasteries from all over Europe. Consequently, even regulars always get to discover fresh and exciting flavours. Got a sweet tooth? Savour the irresistible pastries by Marischka Wien or grab your breakfast goods by Bäckerei Felzl. While you’re at it, don’t forget to treat yourself to some fascinating coffee talk with Natascha and her team, who never grow tired of sharing intriguing facts and stories about their favourite topic.
A generous, arched room with unusual architecture (check out the picturesque waves connecting the door and windows), free newspapers at your disposal -– have we stumbled into a Viennese coffee house by mistake? But if that is the case, how come the coffee is so ridiculously good?
Well, that must be due to the owners of the Pelican Coffee Company, Adam Kovacs and Vedran Sormaz. After discovering the coffee scene in London and New Zealand, Adam decided to open a coffee shop closer to his home country, Hungary. Vedran first started his career in IT, where he spoilt his colleagues with his coffee skills on a regular basis. Luckily, he decided to follow his calling and perfected his know-how as head barista at Süssmund Kaffeebar.
(photo credit: Faruk Pinjo)
No wonder the alchemists behind Wolfgang coffee control the liquid elements like no other: Owners Gianni Ciaccia and Gilles Reuter have been delighting mixology-fans with their take on aromas and creative mixtures of intriguing concoctions in the popular bar Die Parfümerie.
By opening Wolfgang Coffee, they’ve created a place for coffee lovers which prioritizes service and quality above all. Thanks to its homely atmosphere, happy customers flock to the in-store café of Qwstore in the lively 7th district. In case you’re still looking for your feel-good spot in town: You’ll definitely leave this café feeling elevated and happier than when you first got there.
Of course, the two leaders of the pack have proven they wouldn’t leave their community hanging: During the lock-down, they came up with the idea of a delivery service for cocktails, handing their customers a dose of creative drinks or their supply of coffee beans through the window where necessary. Thanks to their creative challenges, they also play an essential role in reviving the local coffee scene in Vienna.
(Foto Credit: Manuel Peric)
Thank you to Oliver Goetz fpr the recommendations and to all participating cafés for your time, the photos provided as well as letting us catch a colour glimpse into your world! Would you like to find out more about coffee? You’ll find our in-depth interview with Oliver Goetz here!
Text: Mia Schlichtling
Images (unless indicated otherwise): Johnny What Photography
*Due to transparency, we’d like to mention that we did get invited to a couple of fantastic coffees during our photo shoots. Thank you very much! The opinion stated here is our own and was not influenced in any way.