Columbus is booming. This fact is hard to miss as you drive towards it—construction is everywhere and cranes dot the skyline as more and more companies move in to chase a growing talent pool. Much of that talent has graduated from Ohio State and chosen to stay in a city that offers a high standard of living without bigger cities’ corresponding costs.
A young, diverse workforce and an influx of investment bring the need for coffee companies to keep that momentum caffeinated. Luckily for residents and visitors alike, Columbus now boasts a flourishing coffee scene, featuring local stalwarts evolving with the times and young upstarts trying to save the world.
The city is not only home to a panoply of cafes and roasteries, it even has its own organized coffee tour, the Columbus Coffee Experience. Visit any four of the 18 locations, and you earn a free t-shirt; complete the set and you get a travel mug for your (probably by now over-caffeinated) troubles.
So after first stopping at the Columbus Convention Center to gaze in awe at the oddly lifelike visage of Arnold Schwarzenegger, here are six of the best coffee shops around Columbus to consider visiting.
Fox in the Snow Cafe
Since its inception in 2014—as a reaction to the lack of pastry options in Columbus—Fox in the Snow has garnered not only regional but national acclaim for its inventive baked goods and coffee menu. Prospective customers line up out the door most weekends. Started by two Blue Bottle Coffee alums and serving coffee supplied exclusively by Tandem Coffee Roasters from Portland, Maine, Fox in the Snow now has three locations across Columbus.
The flagship bakery and cafe in Italian Village lies within a renovated garage, which benefits from large factory-like windows that flood the space with sunshine. Light wood furniture and a myriad of house plants help to further enhance the airy, woodland glade feel. Fox in the Snow maintains a no-Wi-Fi-no-outlet policy, which does away with laptop campers and lets the cafe’s relaxed atmosphere thrive unimpeded.
Impressively, the crew at Fox in the Snow’s Italian Village location handles the almost constant flow of customers using only a two-group La Marzocco Linea PB and a host of Hario V60 brewers. Pastries, which usually sell out rapidly, range from cinnamon rolls and sticky buns to brownies and galettes.
One Line Coffee
Just one of a number of cafes running the length of the Short North neighborhood’s High Street, One Line opened in 2009 and has since expanded to a second location across from the Statehouse downtown. Founded by a father and son team, One Line began as a way to find out more about the supply chain behind the coffee they sold. With an emphasis on sourcing as well as brewing, One Line boasts a large selection of single-origin options roasted on a Loring Kestrel at their facility in nearby Heath, Ohio.
The original cafe in the Short North features exposed brick walls, hardwood floors, and an impressive array of bar seating along three sides. The focal point of the cafe is a circular bar in the center of the space, with a three-group La Marzocco Strada EP, Mazzer grinders, and a custom pour-over station to allow customers a full view of the coffee-making process, no matter their choice of brew. Public cuppings take place on the weekends as part of One Line’s commitment to transparency and education, and sourcing information adorns the walls to further inform those interested in learning more about specific coffees.
Mission Coffee Company
Tucked away just off High Street in the Short North, Mission Coffee Company gives the impression of a well-kept secret, a hideaway coffee spot that only the savvy locals know. Of course, such a thing is almost impossible in 2019, but Mission holds onto that feeling with an atmospheric cafe space featuring the requisite exposed brick walls and reclaimed wood accents. Industrial elements like a garage door and granite bar top are softened by the lighting and comfortable seating, especially the back corner which features a number of low-slung sofas surrounded by Mission merch.
Mission started roasting its own coffee in 2014 after starting out as a multi-roaster cafe, with a separate facility that also incorporates an education program located near Fox in the Snow in Italian Village. At their cafe, a La Marzocco Strada is assisted by Mahlkӧnig and Mazzer grinders, offering a range of classic espresso-based drinks, complemented by more experimental fare such as a seasonal cascara cider. Pour-overs, batch brew, cold brew on tap, and tea from Chicago-based Spirit Tea round out the drink menu, while pastries are provided by local bakery Mmelo.
Stauf’s Coffee Roasters
When it comes to coffee in Columbus, Stauf’s is undoubtedly a trailblazer, having been in business for over 30 years. With seven locations spread across the city, Stauf’s has something for everyone—from the neighborhood hangout vibes of its original shop in Grandview Heights to the pared-back industrial minimalism of its cafe within the Idea Foundry maker’s space in Franklinton.
Stauf’s newest site, inside a renovated church close to Ohio State’s sprawling campus, feels very much made for the student population of Columbus. The vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, and upcycled pews pay homage to its past, while its size and a plethora of two-top tables make it an ideal study location. Unlike most other Stauf’s locations, this one doesn’t boast its own shop roaster, although it more than makes up for it with the latest in coffee brewing tech, most notably a Slayer Steam LP three-group espresso machine and Marco SP9 automated pour-over brewer.
Stauf’s claims no fewer than five of the 18 stops on the Columbus Coffee Trail which, combined with the two newest locations, means that no matter where in the city you find yourself, you’re never far from a cup of Stauf’s coffee.
Another of Columbus’ specialty pioneers, Brioso Coffee was founded in 2001 by Stauf’s alum Jeff Davis. 18 years later, with a second cafe also housing the company’s roasting operation open a few blocks away (and the original location about to move across the street), Brioso is not sitting still. The cafe-roastery features exposed brick walls, wood floors, and a 15-kilo Giesen roaster that supplies both locations as well as an ever-evolving list of wholesale accounts across the region.
A brick wall separates the roasting and education side of the space from the bar area, which hosts a matte black Synesso Hydra and Mahlkönig PEAK grinders for espresso, Hario V60s for pour-overs as well as batch-brewed drip coffee and cold brew on tap. On the other side of the wall sits the roaster alongside space for cupping and education as well as seating for customers who would like to observe the roasting operation in full swing.
The Roosevelt Coffeehouse
A newer entrant to the Columbus coffee scene, among non-profit Roosevelt Coffeehouse’s mottos is “Good coffee for good.” Catchy, and also a succinct summary of its mission: all profits go to various social causes around the world, from fighting hunger and human trafficking to providing access to clean water.
The Roosevelt, in partnership with its sister roasting company Roosevelt Coffee Roasters, aims to do all this by sourcing, roasting, and serving the best coffees possible to the people of Columbus. Having previously been a multi-roaster cafe, Roosevelt started roasting their own last year from their second location within The Gravity Project, a retail-office-living space across the river in Franklinton.
The original cafe, opposite Brioso on Long Street, is sprawling, high-ceilinged, and spacious, boasting enormous street-facing windows and a series of connected rooms and event spaces. The bar, along with all the tables, is made from recovered bowling alley lanes, and features a Modbar espresso machine and Hario V60 pour-over setup, supported by Mahlkönig EK43 and PEAK grinders. Roosevelt’s coffee menu is complemented by doughnuts, bagels, and cake pops, all supplied by local and like-minded businesses.
Fionn Pooler is a journalist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the publisher of The Pourover. Read more Fionn Pooler on Sprudge.