A huge roundup of Budapest’s speciality coffee shops
Photo : Balkányi László - We Love Budapest
04/3/2015, 12:59 AM●12-minute article
There has been great hype surrounding specialty coffee and the cafés that serve it. It seems coffee has travelled down the same road as wine, with expertly trained baristas, carefully selected beans, premium equipment and homely hospitality. We decided to put down our cup of mediocre coffee and round up the speciality coffee shops where you can expect expertise and consistency in every cup.
Lumen, one of the haunts of Pest’s coffee maniacs, roasts its own coffee blend. They usually use carefully selected Ethiopian, East African, and Middle American beans and they serve light roasted and slightly darker alternatives. They brew with an ECM Michelangelo, which is a reliable and relatively stable coffee machine without extra options. The gist of the café is its community space and friendly atmosphere. In addition to quality coffee, Lumen also offersHungarian craft beer and Hungarian wine, while its kitchen is also a force to be reckoned with thanks to its ever-changing offer of sandwiches, pumpkin and beetroot frittata, salads, jasmine chicken soup and the like. Espresso 350 HUF, latte 550 HUF.
When it comes to coffee in Budapest, nothing satisfies like Kontakt. The weight of the ground coffee in the handle and the finished espresso are both closely monitored, plus there is a taste check and refractometer control. The apple of the café’s eye is the La Marzocco GS3 coffee machine, while the grinder is going to be replaced by a largely superior one, which would open new dimensions in the field of espresso. Kontakt uses a variety of coffee beans: at the moment, they concentrate on northern roasters and interesting blends like Drop Coffee (Sweden), La Cabra (Denmark), Koppi (Sweden), or Casino Mocca (Hungary). They have small stocks of the coffee that you can take home, as well as accessories for filter coffee. Their expertise is available for you to take advantage of in any area of coffee culture. Espresso 450 HUF, filter coffee: 650 HUF.
Cirkusz in Dob Street is one of Budapest‘s coffee ambassadors, which is also clear from their drinks: they prepare coffee with beans that go through micro-roasting (a procedure, which can yield a wide palette of unique flavours) using the LaMarzocco Strada EP pressure-profiled miracle machine. Pressure-profiled means that the barista has perfect control of the pressure at any time of the extraction, hence the same type of beans can be used to prepare coffee with varied flavours, and small errors can easily be ironed out. Your coffee is in great hands with barista Edit Juhász who came 3rd in the world championships. Cirkusz uses its standard Cirkusz Blend, plus another, ever-changing seasonal blend – the latter is kept mostly for the coffee zealots. The café places emphasis on ethical and direct trade (no civets, beans straight from the plantation). Espresso: 400 HUF, latte 600 HUF.
Satisfied coffee fans sing hymns of praise about the precision of Addicted2Caffeine, which has chosen the Berlin-based roaster The Barn. At the moment, the café uses Finca Tamana coffee beans from a Columbian plantation. The coffee machine is a La Marzocco Linea MP, the grinder is a matching La Marzocco Vulcano. Since they have only one grinder, they only work with one kind of coffee a day, but they also have test days, when they switch to another bean. The place tries to be something else: it seats 20, which is unusual for a new wave café, and it’s the only one with a huge kids’ corner so parents can unwind. There is also a limited breakfast selection. Espresso 450 HUF, latte: 650 HUF.
My Little Melbourne
One of the most popular coffee bars in Budapest, My Little Melbourne, has undergone a few changes recently due to the opening of the My Little Brew Bar next door. Their La Marzocco Strada machine was replaced by a Synesso Hydra, of which there are only two in the country – the other is also in this family of spots as it’s owned by This is Melbourne Too. Other things, fortunately, have remained the same, for example the coffee, the workshops, and the weekly and bi-weekly guest coffees (from around the world, but mostly from Europe). At the moment, they have Climpson&Sons from London, and you can taste some of Bonanza Coffee Roaster’s from Berlin as well. The place’s little brother, This is Melbourne Too, is on the Buda-side banks of the Danube and opened in September 2014. Its shipping container design is absolutely unique in the world of specialty coffee. The prices and selection follow that of My Little Melbourne. Espresso: 500 HUF, latte: 700 HUF.
My Little Brew Bar
An exciting new initiative in Budapest’s coffee scene. My Little Brew Bar uses one of the best grinders in the world, Mahlkönig EK43, and has several Bonavita water heaters. It is a strange café, however, since it has no coffee machine, hence there is neither espresso, nor coffee with milk. What does it offer then? Only filter coffee, available 9 +1 ways: Aeropress, Chemex, V60, EsproPress, Gino, Bonavita, Clever, and – only here in Budapest – Eva Solo and Syphon. These might sound strange at first, but the baristas will gladly enlighten you. Option ‘+1’ is the cold drip. The baristas are, of course, top of the game, and will help you learn the ropes so you can prepare your favourite at home as well. Prices are around 650–950 HUF.
MadalCafé defines itself as a specialty coffee shop, and its unquestionable that their coffee is among the best in town. Every week, specialities arrive from English (Square Mile Coffee Roasters) and Hungarian roasters, the selection changes monthly and there are three options to choose from: 1. Classic, 2. Special and 3. Filter. Madal uses a La Marzocco machine. This café differs from other coffee shops in its spiritual inclinations; it tries to be an island of peace. The slogan says it all: ‘Good coffee. Good karma.” No wonder it was named after philosopher Sri Chinmoy, whose childhood nickname was Madal. Espresso: 420 HUF, latte 620 HUF.
Mantra Specialty Coffee Minibar
The credo of Mantra is that coffee is a herb that always winds you up and relaxes you to the perfect extent, while also having special effects on the body. This parlour is by no means huge, but its practical layout saves you from claustrophobia. Filter coffees like chemex and clever dripping are served in a brandy glass, which accentuates the flavours and the fragrances. They consider coffee a fruit and – as explained on several signs – not a sour one at that. It is the perfect place for collecting coffee-related knowledge, since the staff love to chat, plus they also organise coffee courses and tastings. Espresso: 420 HUF, latte 640 HUF.
‘Budapest is the best place one can be right now”, says Ryan who arrived here from the Philippines and now runs the Barako Café near the Buda-side abutment of the Margaret Bridge. The special preparation methods include gems like the Ice Drip. Although the method originates from Japan, it is called Dutch Coffee, and its brewing takes 7-8 hours – but they just might have some in the fridge. They say that the flavour of the coffee brewed from the Barako beans available here does not collapse when it gets cold, and best yet a pleasant, sweet flavour replaces any sourness when chilled. Espresso: 400 HUF, filter: 450 HUF.
WarmCup is a home-like kitchen/café, or coffee bar, where people love to spend even hours over a coffee and a croissant. The baristas use light roast, espresso and filter coffees. The goal of the two friends running the place is to spread coffee culture and introduce the idea of filter coffee to the public, while also trying to convince guests not to use sugar or milk. They work with several different roasters with the goal of serving a perfect final product. Try the cascara aka coffee cherry tea, which is brewed from the fruit around the coffee beans, or give the special coffee cocktails a try instead. Espresso 390 HUF, latte 600 HUF.
The Goat Herder – Espresso Bar
The oddly named TheGoatHerder was christened after the goat herder Kaldi, who – supposedly – discovered coffee with the help of his goats. As the legend has it, Kaldi noticed that the goats become very active after grazing a certain plant, so he also started eating it. Fast forward to today, coffee is larger than life. At this spot in István Street, everything is handcrafted. They pay special attention to food as well, while guests are also pampered with care. The guys work with Nicaraguan coffee roasted in Budapest, concentrating on getting the taste just right. The coffee machine is a La Marzocco Linea 2AV. Espresso 350 HUF, latte 600 HUF.
The café in Arany János Street is affiliated with ex-Printa baristas Tibor Várady and Lívia Szőllősi. The team has expanded to seven but it’s still one of the coffee shops of most reliable quality. The selection is based on Casino Mocca coffees and include espresso, cortado, flat white, cappuccino and filter coffee, which is brewed somewhat slower and is best drunk without milk and sugar. The shop is always busy, but has remained hospitable: the staff are always open to a bit of a chat, especially if it revolves around a coffee of course! The place will surely get you hooked on coffee, which, let’s admit, is great.
At NOMURI both the ingredients and the expertise are there to provide the highest standard of results. The previous is guaranteed by the top notch Casino Mocca beans, while the latter is guaranteed by the well trained baristas. Coffee arrives in espresso and filter versions, courtesy of a La Marzocco V60 and the drip. The cups accentuate the aroma, which only enhances the experience. The milks arrive from small producers and include lactose-free and soy options. As it is the custom, you can learn about ripe beans, hand-picking and coffee chemistry here, which might inspire you to dig deeper into the topic. The menu also includes sandwiches, salads and desserts. Espresso 450 HUF, latte 550 HUF.
NOMURI (closed) Address: 1051 Budapest, 15 Sas Street
Mesterbike + Coffee Project
The bike shop + specialtycoffee shop combo might sound strange at first, but such a thing exists in Budapest. The young couple running the place are enamoured with these two things, so they went on and opened a hybrid in Mester Street. It turned out fine: the team is as expert in brewing as in bike repairs, both of which happen about one metre apart. They use light roast coffee from London, and while you’re sipping on your latte, they can get your brakes fixed up if that’s what you need. The place is impressive and spacious, the design is refined, the service is above average. Espresso: 400 HUF, latte: 550 HUF.
Kelet Café and Gallery
Kelet is the place where the air of classical cafés meets new wave technocrat brewing. For espressos, they use a La San Marco 2 retro coffee machine, which was touched up specifically for them. Soon it will be replaced with another machine, just like the grinder. They also place emphasis on filter coffee, brewed with various alternative methods, like the V60, the Kalita, and the Aeropress, as well as cold dripping. There is also Turkish coffee and a re-imagined moccha pot-brewed drink. They use Casino Mocca beans. There is a great buffet kitchen with eastern flavours and home-baked cookies. The café is unique because of the freely exchangeable books lining the shelves on the walls, the late night opening hours and their decaf options. If you’re looking for something else, go for the Czech beer – urban legends have it that a caffeine overdose is best cured by beer and a banana. Espresso: 420 HUF, latte 550 HUF.
Tamp & Pull
The name of the HQ of coffee in Budapest, Tamp&Pull refers to the last two steps of espresso brewing. Their four-time Hungarian champion barista is perfect at espresso and various other brewing methods. Each month, they use three different Has Bean coffee blends: one for espresso and ristretto, the second for milky beverages, the third for alternative methods. If you’re not sure what to get just ask the staff. 400 HUF, latte: 550 HUF
Sock’s opened in Dohány Street, right opposite to the Synagogue in 2013. Naturally, they only use 100% arabica, which is of unquestionable quality thanks to Lucky Cappel. And Sock’s really knows how to brew it. The coffee selection is quite wide, including their own Sock’s Blend, there are specials to taste and the cortado is smashing. You can also customise your Sock’s experience by leaving your mark in the form of a tag on the wall – many have done so from all around the world. There is also a Sock’s Coffee to Go in the downtown, aimed at those on the run. Espresso: 470 HUF, latte 690 HUF.
Fekete on Astoria is tiny but it need not be more spacious to fulfil its aim of brewing good coffee. The layout allows you to have full view of the coffee machine and the preparation. It also works with a La Marcozzo machine, and the selection includes espresso, ristretto, cappuccino, cortado, latte and flat white. There are also fresh sandwiches and cookies. The filter options (alchemy guatemala, whitelabel ethiopia adado & kenya gatura) are excellent. There is a loyalty program, coffee to take home, and reusable take away mugs, which come with a fill of coffee. Espresso: 450 HUF, latte 650 HUF.