Just a few decades ago, Americans' coffee choices were largely limited to regular or decaf. No more, obviously. The explosion of cappuccino- and latte-laden shops of the eighties and nineties gave way to the so-called "third-wave" movement of the early aughts, in which owners (smartly) began treating coffee beans technically seeds from coffee berries as a proper ingredient and not some simple commodity. That point of view has evolved even further, and it's now easier than ever to find a shop staffed with coffee obsessives who will happily blow your mind with their knowledge and skills.
Here's what defines the modern American coffee shop, circa 2013: a desire to source coffee responsibly (or buy beans from someone who does), trained (but not grumpy) baristas who can pull perfect shots and turn them into top-level espresso drinks, and a mind-boggling array of coffee-extracting techniques (awesomely named things like Chemex, v60, and Steampunk).
That's not to say all of these new-look spots are created equal: As with all things in life, some are better than others, which is why Grub Street tracked down every coffee expert we could think of people like Oliver Strand, Atera chef Matthew Lightner, and coffee entrepreneur Duane Sorenson to tell us which spots they think are the best in class. The results include industry hangout Joe Pro Shop & HQ in New York, Octane coffee in Atlanta (which specializes in Coke-and-espresso shots), and Barista Parlor, tucked into an old auto garage in Nashville.
Everyone has a favorite coffee shop, and the reasons for a customer to pick one place or another vary greatly. But the spots on this list aren't just dedicated to pouring excellent coffee; they're also committed to pushing the movement forward with next-level food, booze, and hospitality programs, continuing to make America an even better place to grab a cup of coffee.
To make things a little easier, we've broken the list down by city. Click any of the names to jump ahead: New York; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Chicago; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and the rest start right here.BEGIN SLIDESHOW