Special Report

The Best Independent Coffee Shop in Every State

“America runs on Dunkin’,” goes the slogan of the widespread chain formerly called Dunkin’ Donuts (it dropped “Donuts” as of January 2019). That might be exaggerating a little, but it is no exaggeration to say that America runs on coffee, whether from Dunkin’ or Starbucks or anywhere else.

Coffee reached our shores, courtesy of the British, in the mid-17th century, and after the Boston Tea Party of 1773 — protesting a hefty tax on the nearly 1.2 million pounds of tea consumed in the colonies every year — coffee became our go-to beverage.

Espresso, invented in Italy in the late 19th century, first appeared here as early as 1927, but grew popular at least in certain segments of society during the bohemian coffee house era of the 1950s and ‘60s. Fast forward to 1971, when three coffee-loving academics in Seattle opened a coffee store, naming it Starbucks after a character in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”  

Repositioned in the late 1970s as a series of Italian-inspired environments where people could relax, converse, and connect over beverages and light food, Starbucks grew to become the largest coffee chain in the world today, with more than 31,000 outlets around the globe.

The Wall Street Journal reports that there are now almost 33,000 coffee shops in the U.S. That includes both chain stores and independents — the so-called “third wave” coffee emporiums that have redefined the genre and that represent America’s best independent coffee shops. 

To find the best independent coffee shops in every state, 24/7 Tempo collected Yelp user ratings for coffee specialists in the country’s 1,000 most populous cities across all 50 states. We filtered out bakeries, cafés, and other places focused on food, even if their coffee is good, and eliminated drive-thrus and coffee carts. Chains like Counter Culture, Intelligentsia, and Stumptown, even though they are considered third-wave independents, were not included, nor were any smaller independents that have more than five units.

Click here to see the best independent coffee shop in every state
Click here to read our methodology

The independents produce some of the best coffee in America today, and they do much to educate people about coffee’s complexity, helping to build appreciation for the beverage itself and for the people who produce and process it. Independent coffee shop proprietors tend to be passionate about coffee and have strong opinions on how to source and brew it. Some of them travel the world to seek out quality beans from small farmers and promote fair-trade practices. Some of them also invest in state-of-the-art roasting and brewing equipment, sometimes made to their own specifications.

Some of the coffee shops on this list offer wide varieties of beans, made into beverages by a number of different methods (cold brew, pour-over, espresso, etc.). Others keep things simple, settling on a house blend and limiting the variations on the menu. All of them, though, serve first-rate java that will help get you up and running — and that might quite possibly be good for you, too. Some of the coffee shops on this list offer wide varieties of beans, made into beverages by a number of different methods (cold brew, pour-over, espresso, etc.). Others keep things simple, settling on a house blend and limiting the variations on the menu. All of them, though, serve first-rate java that will help get you up and running — and that might quite possibly be good for you, too. Here are 18 reasons to drink coffee for your health.