A couple of weeks ago we travelled to Berlin for a little break, but as business owners, we're always thinking about Coffee Flamingo and what's next. We always take our coffee on our travels and a V60 with filters. This time we took the Peru. However, we soon realised there is a big coffee shop culture in Berlin (as with most cities now). Having fallen in love with the city we thought we would take a little tour to see how the coffee compares and maybe even learn something along the way.
Below we've shared our favorite finds and how they ranked for us. It's worth saying that there may be many more shops we didn't come across. But we didn't set out to find the 'best' coffee shop before our trip so these were a pleasant surprise.
19 Grams - We absolutely loved this place. Located in Alexander Platz, 19 Grams are a roaster as well as a coffee shop. They are a fairly established brand. The decor was industrial style, playing to the on-site roaster, but it had a warm, comfortable feel nonetheless.
It was a very 'cool' place and we can imagine a hub for creatives (probably too 'cool' for Dan and me (James)). To be honest, they had a slight advantage as a heavy night before meant we were eager for a great coffee and a hearty breakfast. They offered table service which adds to the relaxed but premium feel. Worth saying, the staff were brilliant. Their attention to detail and knowledge of the coffee was spot on.
We both had long blacks using their Colombian bean. The Colombian bean went through a long fermentation to provide an intense acidic flavor. This reduced the bitterness you
can get, but it still packed a strong punch. Very smooth and utterly delicious. Dan is less keen on acidic coffee flavours but he really rated this one. They had a filter coffee option too which is usually our go-to.
The menu was compact but the food was brilliant. The breakfast/brunch items were cooked to a very high standard. Their focus is on sustainability in both food and coffee. All natural, regional ingredients.
19 Grams was a joy. The only negative for us was that it was a little too far from our hotel to visit more often (which is being picky). If you find yourself in Berlin, make sure you visit.
2. Concierge Coffee - Luckily for us, while 19 Grams was several miles away, Concierge Coffee was just several meters from our hotel in Potsdamer Platz. Another very 'cool' place, it had a small entrance where the baristas took and made your order. Up some small stairs and further back was a corridor that turns into a labyrinth of small rooms and spaces to sit and enjoy your coffee. Very quirky and minimalist, completely up my alley.
We both had our favourite Cortado here. They use their own roasted coffee for all of their coffees. Their espresso is a mix of origins and has a similar profile to our own Espresso blend. The second time we went we had a standard filter coffee. On this occasion, they used their Guatemalan bean. It was a great bean, very smooth and rich, and easy to drink. The barista was very nice and well-trained. They even went out of their way to put a new batch on just for us.
Concierge Coffee offers a limited selection of classic pastries, all looking lovely, but unfortunately nothing substantial. This being said, they know what they are. A very good coffee shop, delivering high-quality coffee. This is clearly their sole focus, which we think is amazing. A genuinely lovely, comfortable place to have a coffee, relax and chat.
3. Bonanza Coffee Roasters - Less quirky and 'cool' than others. More inner city, business like, which makes sense as it's in the metropolitan area of Brandenburg. Bonanza was a very clean modern style decor, with marble and wood finishes, using the latest brewing technology. It looked great. It was very small with simple window benches and a couple of tables on the pavement. Dan loves an outside seat to people watch so we sat on the pavement.
This time we both ordered slightly differently. I had the Guatemalan coffee and Dan had the Ethiopian coffee, both as filter coffees. Firstly, they had a selection of coffees on offer, more so than the others. Using modern brewing technology added a little more 'theatre' to the coffee service.
The Guatemalan was a medium roast with a light chocolatey flavour. The Ethiopian was also a medium roast but it had a light fruity flavour. Similar in profile to our Peru, but to be honest, not as flavourful in our opinion. We felt the Guatemalan really lacked something and needed more punch. Maybe more suited to a slightly darker roast. We were left feeling unsatisfied and a little disappointed. Like Concierge Coffee, there wasn't much of a food menu, just a nice selection of pastries.
The staff were knowledgeable and we didn't have any espresso based drinks, but they looked good from what we saw. The location and shop is great and we enjoyed sitting and watching the world go by, but it did feel like they had put more effort into the coffee paraphernalia than the coffee itself.
4. The Barn - As our own coffee shop namesake, we had to visit The Barn. They have a couple of shops around Berlin. We visted the Potsdamer Platz shop. Like the others, it was modern and minimal but more on the comfortable side than the others. Wood finishes and marble, lots of seating inside and outside. A real mixed crowd which was nice to see.
So the coffee...it was a little different this time. Dan had a Cortado (okay not different for Dan) and I had a Cappuccino. The coffee sizes were great and they looked beautiful. But the important thing is taste, and unfortunately, there was something not quite right. We couldn't quite put our finger on it. The Cappuccino wasn't textured correctly and was more like a Latte. The Cortado was large but had a very sweet taste. We think the milk used was different. The coffee wasn't powerful enough to overcome the milk and it just lacked punch.
We aren't sure if they offered alternative coffee beans on filter as the staff, while very nice and friendly, didn't seem to have knowledge or confidence. We may have caught them at a bad time or if they don't know, they don't know, and that isn't their fault. Again, nothing substantial to eat, but a good selection of homemade cakes and pastries. We indulged in a PB&J cookie and a chocolate and banana loaf slice. They were bloody good and we enjoyed them more than the coffee, which isn't a good sign I guess.
The Barn was disappointing and we would go to Concierge Coffee with no cake over The Barn. And if you know me, cake is usually top of my list.
We'd also like to give a special mention to Factory Girl and Milch Halle. We didn't get to go into these two but they both looked great and had queues out the door, which is always a good sign. My patience for queuing and Dan's joy for drinking German beer doesn't allow us to stand around, so they had to be missed on this occasion.
Overall, you'll get good coffee in all the mentioned coffee shops and they all have their good and bad (although we're struggling for negatives for 19 Grams). In truth, we're being hypocritical as coffee snobs, and with our desire to continue learning about coffee beans, brewing techniques, and providing the best coffee experience possible.
We hope you enjoyed our blog. It is a little different for us but if you like it then let us know and next time we travel we'll hunt down the 'best' coffee shops around. If you're in Berlin and you try out any of these, let us know what you think. You may have a different experience.