Copenhagen is quirky, charming, and incredibly fashionable—it’s home to high-end designers, minimalist cult brands, top-class gastronomical institutions, and a fast-growing natural wine scene.
Along with the rest of those in Scandinavia, Denmark continues to rank amongst the top coffee consuming countries in the world. So it isn’t so strange that the specialty coffee scene has flourished, slowly but surely, in the small capital these past few years. Copenhageners love their coffee—below are some of their scene’s best offerings.
The Coffee Collective
You can’t talk about specialty coffee in Copenhagen and not mention The Coffee Collective somewhere in the conversation. The Coffee Collective remains Denmark’s most widely known specialty cafe and roastery. The four gentlemen behind the collective opened their first shop in Jægersborggade in 2008, and have since opened three more locations around the city. Most recently, in Kristen Bernikowsgade in a former brown bodega, where they serve up cold coffee, coffee beer, and coffee kombucha among other delicious, refreshing beverages on tap, including Evil Twin’s Wet Dream—a coffee-infused brown ale.
The newest Coffee Collective space has the authentic nostalgic atmosphere of an old Copenhagen bodega. Bernikow Vinstue, the former occupant, was the first in Denmark to serve beer on tap. “Hopefully people will come here for an after-work beer—something that we haven’t been able to offer till now,” says Klaus Thomsen, Coffee Collective’s head of wholesale, marketing, and coffee shop quality (and a former World Barista Champion). Feel free to take it as a suggestion.
Behind the bar at Forloren Espresso you’re on any given day very likely to find Niels H.S. Nielsen, its founder. Nielsen proverbially fell for coffee in Tokyo, when he was introduced to kissaten culture—when he came back to Copenhagen, he felt his city’s cafes lacked intimacy, and so opened Forloren Espresso in 2014. A cafe the size of a shoe box, in Store Kongensgade just off the buzzing Kongens Nytorv, Forloren has a strict no screens and no phone calls policy. Instead, customers are invited to browse Nielsen’s private photography book collection or simply enjoy the cafe’s ambient jazz. Forloren uses coffee from Aarhus-based La Cabra as well as British Has Bean. “I use La Cabras light roast beans for the drip and filter coffees, and Has Bean’s slightly darker roast profile for the espresso,” Nielsen says. “We always have four different coffees to choose from: an espresso that goes well with milk, an espresso with fruitier notes that should be consumed without milk, and finally the hand brew and filter coffees with which we experiment with different guest roasters.”
Forloren’s clientele consists mainly of office workers from the surrounding area who stop by for a cappuccino before or after a meeting or during their lunch break.
Prolog Coffee Bar
In the trendy Vesterbro meatpacking district lies Prolog, a very petit coffee shop founded last year by Sebastian Quistorff and Jonas Gehl. Gehl formerly worked at Democratic Coffee, and Prolog roasts its coffee in a rented space on Refshaleøen—although they hope to open their own roastery in the future.
“It has been quite the journey opening Prolog,” Quistorff says. “We’ve been pleasantly overwhelmed by the strong sense of community there is in the coffee and restaurant business in Copenhagen. Everyone wants to help each other and make each other’s places successful. We’re grateful to be part of that.”
The majority of customers who come for their morning coffee are people working in the neighborhood—chefs, office workers, but also true Vesterbro-connoisseurs. The croissants on display in the morning come from La Banchina’s bakery, Alimentari. They roll them and Prolog bakes them, so guests can rest assured that the croissants offered are freshly baked and heated.
Sonny manages to be one of those it-addresses amongst hip Copenhageners, bloggers, and the like, while remaining unpretentious. The vibe is warm, cozy, and welcoming—it has that oh so French je ne sais quoi that makes absolute sense once you know that Sonny’s 30-year-old owner, David Andersen, used to work at Paris’ Coutume. In Paris, Andersen says he learned all he knows about coffee—from roasting to tasting and preparation. When he returned to Denmark he started working at the acclaimed restaurant chain Madklubben while also studying at the Scandinavian Wine Academy to become a sommelier. Finally, 10 years after he first started dreaming of opening his own place, Sonny became a reality.
Coffee is served on beans from Aarhus-based La Cabra and Swedish, Helsingborg-based Koppi.
Besides the coffee, food served in the cafe is homemade, home-baked, or sourced from nearby bakery Brød. The rye bread with avocado, beetroot puree, and chimichurri is particularly tasty.
Democratic is the go-to place for coffee-loving students and freelancers, and roast their own coffee in the same space as Prolog. Located on Krystalgade in the public library, one can be surrounded by three floors of literature while sipping one of the city’s very best cups of coffee. Another good reason to pay Democratic a visit is their almond croissant, which most locals will argue is the best in the city. In the morning (and once again later in the day) you can see and smell the croissants being prepared and baked in the kitchen while a barista pulls shots out front. The cafe itself consists mostly of the long bar and the window seats opposite it, but in the library space there are 20-plus seats, where meetings take place, and coffee tourists can soak up the local vibe.
Café Det Vide Hus
Located in the quieter end of Gothersgade, around the corner from Nørreport Station and across from the King’s Garden and Rosenborg Castle, you’ll find Café Det Vide Hus.
The interior of Café Det Vide Hus is cozy and dark, and customers include businesspeople conducting meetings, freelancers and students working on their laptops, and a certain type of newspaper-reading middle-aged man. Other regulars include Noma’s René Redzepi and writer Jørgen Leth.
Almost, always the same guy is standing behind the bar pulling shots—the unassuming owner, Claus Dalsgaard.
A seat at this cafe’s window offers a view of the marching Danish Royal Life Guards and a place to listen to background reggae playing from the speakers.
Monica Steffensen is a Copenhagen-based freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer. This is Monica Steffensen's first feature for Sprudge Coffee.