Step into Berlin from abroad and you might be surprised. In many ways this global city prizes nonchalance, resulting in a palpable resistance to the attention-seeking retail presence commonplace in other major cities. Here, cafes are hidden behind nondescript signage, cash is king, and true quality is married to subtlety.
Walk any neighborhood in Berlin, cell phone in hand, and your favorite apps will fail you in your quest to find world-class coffee. Yet it exists in every neighborhood—hidden jewels only locals can tell you about, or delivered by serendipity if you walk the streets and take a few chances yourself.
Unique hole-in-the-wall pop ups and famous well-established roasteries, even Berlin’s first cannabis cafe, show that Berlin is evolving fast and that good coffee options are appreciated and in demand. It’s a certainty that this year (and decade) will bring even more variety. Indeed, Berlin is one of our most thoroughly guided cities on Sprudge—we’ve published multiple city features [1 & 2] plus zoomed in features on neighborhoods like Kreuzberg, Mitte, and Prenzlauer Berg, yet still there’s more to see.
In this guide, we’re featuring new or new-to-us cafes from all across the city. For even more coverage, consult our Berlin archives, and don’t miss this handy natural wine guide from Susie Kealy for Sprudge Wine—after all the coffee you’ll certainly need a splash.
The first on the list is 19grams, which despite opening in the height of summer 2018, is just hitting its stride in the local scene. It’s a highly ambitious feat of a roastery, cafe, and daytime restaurant all under one roof. Located under the shadow of the iconic TV tower (Fernsehturm) and Alexanderplatz, what most Berliners would dismiss as a touristy locale, the cafe defies expectations with gusto. Staff have a combined 20 years of experience from other cafes in Berlin and have come together at 19grams to really showcase their knowledge and passion for coffee. Partner Garrit Peters sees the spacious facility as a full coffee experience. “It’s a cafe and roastery where you can see, touch, feel, and smell the process of roasting coffee, and a school where anybody interested can learn about specialty coffee.” (19grams offers coffee courses in case you want to improve your barista skills.)
The Aussie-influenced food menu is seasonal and it’s probably some of the best value and quality you can find in the area. Everything is made in-house, from the cakes and pastries to the bread featured in the changing dishes. Lunchtime is the best time to stop in before the kitchen closes at 3:00 pm, but sandwiches and sweet treats are always on hand in case you arrive too late. The coffee is supplied by La Marzocco machines and Mahlkönig PEAK as well as an EK43 grinder. There are also Chemex, AeroPress, and V60 drippers on hand.
Seek out Kioski—a bright yellow square kiosk that sits in the middle of a Hof, or German courtyard, in an office block in Kreuzberg. This is one of the cafes that you’ll come across through word of mouth or a happy accident, seeing as it’s not situated on the street.
Co-owner Martin von Löw fell in love with a vintage K67-model vending kiosk in Ljubljana, Slovenia and knew it was destined for greatness. The K67 was a mass-produced 1960’s kiosk design popularized in modern-day Slovenia (under the former Yugoslavia) most notable for its eye-catching shape and vibrant school-bus-yellow color. Martin explains, “In cooperation with the architect Saša Mächtig, who designed the K67 in the ’60s, we were able to bring the kiosk back to its original condition.” After being brought over to Berlin, it was furnished and equipped with an up-to-date interior with the help of About Space design studio. The result is Kioski, which doubles as an exhibition of design and a cafe at the same time. The cafe is headed by Martin and his wife, Ann-Marie von Löw, who carefully curate the coffee and daily lunch options.
Drawing from her Finnish heritage, von Löw showcases her roots in the menu. On offer, you’ll find a large variety of Finnish treats, like delicious Korvapuusti—cinnamon rolls with cardamom and a lot of butter. There are also Karjalanpiirakka or Karelian pirogs, which are Finnish rice-filled pies served with egg butter. Spanning other cultures, you’ll also find croissants, pretzels, pasteles de Nata, homemade cakes, sandwiches, and soup every Tuesday. The coffee is, of course, also a main attraction, especially in an office courtyard. An Atlas Wega Compatta machine and Wega Max grinder are the workhorses keeping patrons happily caffeinated.
You wouldn’t even know you were next to Ketori unless you actively searched for it as your destination. Situated in a bar in Neukölln, Ketori operates in the off-hours of Bar Kuschlowski during the day when it isn’t quite 5:00 pm for a different sort of drink.
Coffee pros Eunsool Yeom and Ralf Weber wanted a place to experiment but weren’t quite sure where to take their ideas until one serendipitous night. Yeom says, “We were having dinner at Kuschlowski one night when we had a chat with the owners and after a couple of drinks, the idea was born—to use their space during the daytime as a pop-up.” Ketori opened two months later.
The cozy bar is a perfect choice for a café. Once inside, patrons can choose between either coffee or a variety of delicious homemade kombuchas. For coffee, there’s a La Marzocco Strada AV and Mahlkönig E65s, alongside hand grinders for the pour-overs. It’s a minimal setup, but ideal since the “cafe” part gets taken down every night when the bar opens and gets built again every morning. Ketori uses their own roasted beans for espresso drinks and a variety of local roasters for their pour-overs. In addition to the beverage options, there are also homemade vegan pastries that should not be missed.
Five Elephant is one of the most well-known roasteries in Berlin. They’ve already made their mark in the city with their Mitte and Kreuzberg cafes, but their latest opening is in one of Berlin’s most iconic locations, Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe for short). The luxury mall, originally built in 1907, was mostly destroyed in World War II and had to be rebuilt. It was brought back to its former glory and has since become a landmark of West Berlin. The top two floors are dedicated to food, and it’s here that the newest Five Elephant has opened.
This new cafe, designed by Sunst Studio, showcases a handmade Terrazzo marble bar equipped with slick Modbar espresso and La Marzocco machines. The coffee roast options change according to the season. Unlike previous Five Elephant locations, there will be other drinks on offer, such as wine, beer, and even coffee cocktails. Their ever-popular cheesecake will also be available at Five Elephant KaDeWe along with a few other sweets.
Enjoying a coffee at Five Elephant KaDeWe is as much about the coffee as the experience of the space. The wide-open design allows and insists visitors to enjoy being in the bustling, centennial establishment and take it all in.
Cafe Canna is one of the more interesting newcomers to Berlin’s coffee scene—and a bit of a departure. The cafe is the first in Berlin to serve CBD-infused drinks and treats. While cannabis is still not “legal” in the sense that it’s not available to everyone, as of 2017, medical cannabis has been legalized. The law shows a change in the public and legal perception of cannabis and how it may be legalized one day in Germany. For the meantime, CBD containing no more than 0.2% THC can be sold openly. [Ed note: If you’re looking for the stronger stuff, head to Görlitzer Park.]
Opened in August of 2019, Cafe Canna is headed by Berlin native Nico Schack who wants to spread the health benefits of the plant. He says, “I thought it was a good way to show people something new through food and drinks, since it’s easier when trying something new to explore it this way. CBD and CBD coffee was a big trend in America already so I thought the Berliner should get the experience as well.” Many menu items at Cafe Canna have either hemp or CBD, or CBD oil can also be added to anything. The cafe’s açai bowls are topped with hemp seeds and there are also homemade raw “Happy Balls” that contain CBD. Coffee drinks are made with CBD-infused beans shipped from the Netherlands and all other drinks can also be made with CBD oil. There’s also hemp beer and soda available alongside CBD oils of various percentages that can also be purchased.
While the food or drinks aren’t meant to make you high, there may be a mild, calming effect which is what Schack is aiming for. Most patrons who come in without much knowledge of the plant are looking for the pain-relieving or calming properties. It’s the right place to learn about CBD and try it before committing to a big purchase.
Tatiana Ernst (@TatianaErnst) is a freelance writer based in Berlin. Read more Tatiana Ernst on Sprudge.