Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, and among its many treasures is a fantastic coffee scene — a scene full of dedicated people who are bringing great vibes and great coffee to a booming region.
This is, in some ways, an ode to the jewels of the Pittsburgh coffee scene. This is seven different coffee shops and seven different coffee beverages within a seven hour period. This is caffeine crashing on a potentially lethal amount. This is the Pittsburgh Coffee Crawl.
1st Stop: Zeke’s Coffee
Arrived: 10:50 am
Drink: Auto-Drip Cup of Coffee
Drink Quality: 5/5
I decided to make Zeke’s Coffee the first stop on the crawl because, for me, the best way to start off any day is with a powerful, well-rounded, and delicious cup of coffee. Zeke’s delivers that cup through an auto-drip system providing you with 16 oz. of caffeinated goodness for the meager price of $2.50.
Zeke’s also owns a roastery, in which they not only roast natural fair-trade single origin beans to perfection, but also roast their signature hometown blends ranging from Steel City Roast to Allegheny Reserve to Three Rivers Roast, and more. No matter what they are brewing in the morning though, you will not be disappointed by any drink they offer.
Plus, the food at Zeke’s is fantastic, everything is made fresh directly in front of you, and speaking from experience, their cream cheese iced cinnamon buns (hot out of the oven) are to die for.
The environment is also very chill with great service and good people. This is a badass spot in an up and coming part of town. Definitely a must-see shop.
2nd Stop: La Prima Espresso
Arrived: 11:50 am
Drink: Doppio (Double) Espresso Shot
Drink Quality: 5/5
There are few things more enjoyable for the caffeine addict than finishing a cup of coffee and then having a shot of espresso right after. So for this caffeine addict, I decided to fulfill my desire at the place that everyone in Pittsburgh knows has the best espresso, La Prima Espresso.
This place is dedicated to finding the best roasts available and delivering quality coffee drinks from them. When you go to La Prima, and if you are a serious coffee drinker, you must order the Doppio shot of espresso and enjoy the ride an always assuredly amazing shot of espresso takes you on.
While enjoying that ride, you will also love the atmosphere you are surrounded by, because the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh’s Strip District provides a unique snapshot of the Pittsburgh culture. There’s an adjoining bakery offering sweet treats, so this place is a 100% must-go for anyone who proclaims to love coffee.
3rd Stop: Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange
Arrived: 12:30 pm
Drink: Nitro Draft Cold Brew
Drink Quality: 4.7/5
As soon as you walk into Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange, you are blown away by the insane selection of small batch, select region roasts as well as the enormous tea selection and the adjoining cafe.
The anchor of the cafe is the range of cold brew nitro draft options. I went with the Heart of Darkness Porter blend and was captivated by the unique flavor. It had that robust, well-roasted quality which all good porters possess, and it also had the smoothness and richness that nitrogen-infused cold brew blends are known for.
This was a powerful drink that I decided to pair with a chocolate covered coconut macaroon from The Enrico Biscotti Co. This combination was phenomenal, and every bite gave me more pleasure.
Plus, with it being a sunny warm day, I was able to enjoy this pairing while people watching in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Strip District. If you want variety (and quality amidst all that variety), then this is the place for you.
4th Stop: 21st Street Coffee and Tea
Arrived: 1:30 pm
Drink: Caffè Americano
Drink Quality: 5/5
In between stops three and four, I happened to wander upon a local urban winery named R Wine Cellar. Naturally, I took a detour to taste some local Pittsburgh wine and ended up buying a bottle of Pinot Noir.
Never to fear, the Coffee Crawl continued on schedule at 21st Street Coffee and Tea, where a caffè Americano was the next logical choice of beverage. Brewed with a Columbia espresso blend, this drink was a perfect match for a piece of chocolate almond biscotti from Enrico’s. The espresso was flavorful and well-rounded, every sip making me want more.
Not only do they do coffee right here, but this spot also has a really interesting interior design. With a second floor seating area and garage door windows that open for fresh air in the front, this place has awesome appeal and always is abuzz with a good crowd. I love this shop, and I promise it is never a bad decision to head over to 21st Street Coffee and Tea.
5th Stop: Espresso A Mano
Arrived: 2:10 pm
Drink Quality: 5/5
With a great location in the hipster heavy Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville, Espresso A Mano delivers quality coffee drinks centered around weekly rotating espresso roasts. They make it their goal to find the best roasts available, and they always brew those roasts to perfection.
A pro tip for going here is to make sure you order a latte. You will not go wrong if you decide to order something else, however, Espresso A Mano makes one irresistible latte. Their latte is smooth, frothy, and with tremendous flavor; don’t even dare to consider adding a flavor shot to this latte, for that would only compromise the quality of this drink.
This place is almost always packed and with a cool interior and exterior seating design, there is little not to love. Espresso A Mano is simply a quality coffee shop, if you ever find yourself in Lawrenceville do yourself a favor and stop in.
6th Stop: 61C Cafe
Arrived: 4:00 pm
Drink: Barista’s Choice
Drink Quality: 5/5
This cafe is a cool little spot located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. At 61C Cafe, they offer delicious coffee from quality beans, dope fresh food, and a really fun atmosphere.
The indoor and outdoor seating is excellent and the people are always friendly. For this stop on the crawl, I decided to go with whatever drink the barista felt like concocting. She made me a latte with a touch of amaretto and a dash of vanilla, and it turned out to be quite good.
I ventured outside to enjoy my beverage and the take in some Squirrel Hill scenery, which was a great way to pass some time. If you are looking for a nice cafe to spend a few hours at, then I highly recommend 61C.
Final Stop: Commonplace Coffeehouse
Arrived: 4:45 pm
Drink: Pour-Over Coffee
Drink Quality: 6/5
The coffee shop that inspired me to write this article and get involved in the Pittsburgh coffee scene was Commonplace Coffeehouse, so I decided that the best way to end the crawl would be at the best coffee shop.
Commonplace Coffeehouse is the best because of their ability to always get in hard-to-find, top shelf coffee beans. Plus, by brewing these roasts pour-over style, you really taste the true essence and complexity of the incredibly diverse beans they acquire.
For my last caffeinated beverage of the day, I decided on a Columbian high altitude small batch roast from Las Palmas, and it was hands down the best cup of coffee I had all day. It was a dryer roast, but very complex, with strong jalapeño notes and an amazing mouthfeel.
Pairing this cup of coffee with the highly knowledgable and friendly staff and the comfortable and relaxed atmosphere is the reason why Commonplace is the best coffee shop in Pittsburgh. For anyone who has ever enjoyed a cup of coffee, this place is your new spot. Trust me, it’s incredible.
Going into this day, I knew a huge caffeine crash was inevitable, and I tried to prepare my mind for it as well as I possibly could. Nevertheless, when the crash hit, I felt like crawling out of my skin. I couldn’t think straight and all I could do was sit at my desk with my head in my hands and wait for the crash to pass.
As do all things, the crash passed and I can honestly say it was well worth it. I had an amazing day traveling throughout Pittsburgh, stopping in the best coffee shops and drinking the best coffee beverages. I sparked up some wonderful conversation with my fellow Pittsburghers and I would not change a single thing about this day.
So whether or not you try all seven of these shops within seven hours, seven days, or seven weeks, try at least one. I personally guarantee you will have a great experience at any one of these spots.
And, who knows, you might get adventurous and go on your own coffee crawl. Whatever you do, though, remember to always drink your coffee black and always support the little coffee shops.