Baltimore is a bustling Mid-Atlantic port town with a rich history. By United States standards it’s an old city, woven through with memories of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and battles for worker’s rights and the Civil Rights Movement. Old brick rowhouses and beautifully aged colonial-era architecture can be found around every corner; nearly a third of Baltimore’s buildings are designated as historic in the National Register of Historic Places!
Whether in the tourist-centric Inner Harbor or the far north university towns, people are proud of their home in the Charm City.These communities need gathering places, of course, and local coffeeshops are here to fill that role. In this “city of neighborhoods” there are plenty of opportunities, although of course this has been complicated by COVID. Still, it’s an exciting time to be a coffee lover in Baltimore, and any local barista will tell you that the coffee scene in this city has never been better.
Put on a mask, check hours and availability, tip your barista heartily, and enjoy what Baltimore has to offer for delicious coffee.
Located in the historically Black neighborhood of Reservoir Hill, this shop runs itself as a community-focused third space first and a cafe second. A standout in the local coffee scene, Dovecote Cafe is high-energy, one of the great cultural hub cafes in America today.
From the outside the space is instantly striking, with former display windows from the building’s pharmacy days now forming an alcove entryway. Often local artisans hold pop-ups right in front. Inside, you’ll find walls filled with artwork, long rustic communal tables, deep and comfy couches and some of the raddest wallpaper in the Mid-Atlantic.
Coffee offerings are brought to you by local roasters. The daily food menu offers a selection of choice items, each elevated versions of comfort food. The popular and ambitious weekend brunch menu receives a monthly refresh.
3 Bean Coffee
Just outside of the iconic Baltimore Inner Harbor, past the aquarium, science museums, and tourist shops is 3 Bean Coffee. An oasis from the corporate coffee offerings nearby, this cozy shop is welcoming to both locals and visitors. Its website boasts that it has the best views of any coffee shop in Baltimore—and the interior vibes are pretty nice, too.
Brick walls are accented with rough woods and sky-high ceilings. The lighting complements the industrial vibe, made from reclaimed iron piping and Edison bulbs. The wall-length windows allow in plenty of natural light, even on rainy Baltimore days.
Coffee offerings are by local roaster and mobile coffee company Vagrant Coffee. Espresso beverages are prepared by a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine paired with a Nuova Simonelli Mythos grinder. Batch brew is ground on a Mahlkönig EK43 and dripped by a FETCO XTS. The menu includes grab-and-go options as well as prepared sandwiches.
Named after the Korean word for the coffee bean, OneDo Coffee is clean and streamlined, with gleaming whites, stark blacks, and soft greys making up the color scheme. The cafe is dotted with small plants and arrangements adding green pops of color to the fresh space. The front counter leads to a beautiful matte-black Modbar espresso system paired with a Mahlkönig K30 Twin grinder and a set of Marco SP9 brewers. Nearby counter seating gives patrons a front row seat for the busy barista show.
The cafe leads back to a more open space with a communal seating, a few tables for two, and a view of their sparkling white Diedrich roaster. The simple food menu is just enough to keep you happy, with familiar options such as egg and cheese sandwiches, avocado toast, and grilled cheese.
Avely Farms Coffee Roasters
In the Harbor East area, when cutting between main avenues, you might stumble upon a garage-door-sized mural of a to-go cup and think, “I could use a coffee.” This old warehouse is home to Avely Farms Coffee Roasters. They take a minimalist approach to design—no clutter here. The walls are painted bright white while the 13-foot ceilings are painted black, making them seem endlessly tall. The original warehouse floors are well-worn and add a bit of warmth to the space, as do the huge windows. In this perfect rectangle there is a 12kg Diedrich roaster on one end and a coffee bar on the other, sporting a La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine.
Ceremony Coffee Roasters
Ceremony Coffee Roasters is the biggest specialty coffee name in Baltimore. Characterized by their commitment to serving only 85+ scoring coffees and with plenty of high-tech coffee gear, this Mid-Atlantic mini-chain now has three locations in the city, with more to come.
Ceremony’s Harbor Point cafe is beautifully bright in design. Poured concrete floors support ample seating at the many communal tables. The furniture is made of light woods, as are many of the fixtures. White walls guide your eyes up to artistic details. The lighting is a centerpiece on its own, with simple but elegant gold fixtures holding exposed bulbs which are surrounded by a single hoop. By the coffee counter, a modern take on shoplights illuminate the powder blue Synesso MVP Hydra espresso machine, Modbar pour-over modules, and the busy staff hustling coffee and creative seasonal drinks.
Dear Globe Coffeebar
Antique Row in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood is home to Dear Globe Coffeebar, a cafe quite at home in its surroundings. Antique curiosities and coffee gear intermingle on countertops and shelves around the cafe. Houseplants add green to the customer seating areas and have completely taken over the jungle of a bathroom. (A creative and aesthetically pleasing use of a bathtub!) Front and center on the counter, a retro adding machine with a growing paper ribbon makes a juxtaposition to the iPad point-of-sale. The display case overflows with local baked goods looking decidedly fresh—especially in comparison to their antique neighbors.
At the helm of this cafe and roasting operation is LieAnne Navarro, a West Coast transplant who has turned a love of coffee in to a community connection. Dear Globe features local products heavily, and often participates in pop-ups at area markets and businesses. City musicians come in to hold court when the cafe stays open occasional evenings for live shows. Dear Globe Coffeebar is uniquely charming, and a perfect fit for Charm City.
Dripping with hip, this basement coffeehouse is located in the Old Goucher area of the city. Though located underground, the bright color scheme makes the interior feel anything but claustrophobic. The main wall is painted white, and makes use of the natural historic character of the building, showing off brick and stone. The far interior wall, in contrast, is decorated with wood boards and dual-purpose light fixtures; functioning as both art and lighting. Customers gather around built-in seating on both ends of the space, happily enjoying the addition to their neighborhood.
The centerpiece of the cafe is the work counter, with carefully affixed modern tiles in shades of blue, peach, and maroon geometrically linking to form feather-like patterns. Here, at this coffee command center, beverages and light eats are served. Coffee is roasted by Partners Coffee, a Brooklyn based company that seems to be right at home. Espresso is pulled via La Marzocco Strada machine and ground by a Nuova Simonelli Mythos grinder. Drip coffees are ground on a Mahlkönig EK43.
Vent Coffee Roasters
Since 2013, owner Sara Walker has been working under the banner of Vent Coffee Roasters with designs to make a communal space that highlights local products and welcomes all. In 2017, Walker’s dream was realized when Vent got its own home in the Union Collective: a group of independently run Baltimore based businesses located in a repurposed warehouse in Medfield, Baltimore. The interior is spacious and laid-back with picnic tables dotting the concrete floors, factory-high ceilings, and an open floor plan. The cafe feels a bit like an open house, with a Diedrich coffee roaster pleasantly humming next to seating where customers have front-row seats for the action.
Behind the counter you’ll find a White La Marzocco Linea, a Mahlkönig EK43, and a collection of AeroPresses and Chemex. In addition to coffee, customers can grab some local pastries or duck next door for a beer. Vent Coffee Roasters often collaborates with neighboring Union Craft Brewing!
Eric Tessier is a freelance journalist based in Providence, RI. Read more Eric Tessier on Sprudge.