Seattle’s coffee history probably started with one sleepy guy who needed a really well-crafted latte to get his serotonin on the upswing, since from October to May, we all live in a gray wasteland of rain, fog, and tech companies. But if you’re not a 9-to-5’er at Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Nordstrom, Expedia, Costco, Zillow, or (insert Fortune 500 software giant here), you’re probably a freelancer. And while doing your taxes blows, at least you live in the country’s coffee shop capital - there are a ridiculous number of good places to get work done.
We’re not going to send you to places like the Starbucks Reserve where you can get swallowed up by loud tourists knocking back coffee flights as you pay seven dollars for a carbonated mint cold brew that will give you heart palpitations and murder your productivity. These are local hangouts with free wifi and plentiful outlets, where you can buzz on some great espresso and plug your laptop in for the long haul. Just save your receipt from that cortado - you can probably write it off as a business expense on TurboTax.
We typically try to avoid superlatives, but Vivace probably makes the best espresso in the city. It’s the kind of place that puts a lot of care into their coffee - they’ll even replace your ristretto shot for free when you drop it all over the sidewalk (this has certainly not happened to us). For your early morning starts, grab some Sunrise Tacos for breakfast here and get to work - there’s a room in the back that’s specifically meant for quiet time. Also, the proximity to Bait Shop is ideal when happy hour is necessary post-hustle.
Anchored Ship is perfect if you need a chill place to park it and get some work done, but also like changing up the scenery once in a while without having to relocate to another coffee shop. We realize that’s specific, but if you’re a person who posts up at coffee shops on the regular, you know this is a very real problem. This place is tiny, but there are window-facing bar seats if you like working while people-watching, a back room full of tables for the heads-down crowd, and if you’re lucky enough to find it unoccupied, a micro-loft with string lights and a sofa. Their almond milk lattes are so good we wished they were sold as IV drips, and sometimes there’s a fun special (like lemon-lavender cold brew).
La Marzocco Cafe is a huge garage space that doubles as the headquarters for KEXP radio, so the soundtrack you hear while you’re typing away is actually the live radio show in the room over. We realized this when we saw some guy in a booth lip-synching whatever was coming through the loudspeakers incredibly well. The espresso options are complex and delicious, and there are a bunch of tasty pastries available, too. If it’s nice out, sit near the patio so you can get a good view of the Space Needle. Also important: they have coffee soft serve.
Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Company2200 N 56th St
Zoka has a very delicious lavender mocha that will kickstart your productivity. The whole space is suspiciously quiet and full of dark brown wooden furniture, so it feels like a library where you can get some serious tasks done in peace. There’s no silent rule in here or anything, but you probably won’t want to carry on a loud conversation.
Sometimes you just want to sit at a bar to do some work, but you don’t want it to involve cocktails or a bottle of wine, because that’s when your emails get really passive aggressive and/or question marks get typed out in multiples of six. Luckily, Elm Coffee has a nice big marble bar where you can drink a latte.
Great location, awesome espresso, a nice constant buzz of other working humans, and a communal table with enough room for you, your laptop, and your massive mug of liquid life: Victrola in Capitol Hill checks all the boxes. Plus, in the summer, they have air conditioning - a must for when a heat wave strikes and you’d rather your iced vanilla latte (theirs is great, by the way) not melt into a puddle of sadness the second you get it.
From the outside, Realfine Coffee looks like it could be a gas station. It’s small, it has a garage door, it’s smack in the middle of a random part of West Seattle, and it shares a building with a barbershop. But on the inside, it’s a well-designed little space perfect for escaping when you want to make some headway on your to-do list. The tables and shelves have plants on them, which gives the place a homey feel, and the coffee is great. Plus, if you’ve been working so hard that you’ve really let yourself go, you can always pop in next door for a haircut.
Retreat is a great neighborhood place to grab a macchiato and work when you need to be surrounded by activity. People are always coming in and out of here, and there’s also an outdoor patio overlooking Green Lake. Not to mention that you could also drink cocktails and eat upscale bar snacks like burrata or braised short ribs. Your go-to sidewalk espresso hut definitely doesn’t have that. The best part is that if you need a break, there’s a three-mile lakeside walk outside the door.
If you need a spot that feels like a mountainside small-town book nook, Green Bean is your place. There’s an assortment of armchairs as well as personal and communal tables (vulture-stalk to get one by a window). The coffee here is served in mugs that you’d mistake for ones from your own home, and everyone tends to be really warm and friendly in here.
Capitol Coffee Works is hands-down one of the most pleasant places in Seattle to spend a few hours and get some work done. The windows let a ton of light in, the artwork is nice to look at, and the baristas bring your coffee to you wherever you decide to sit. Speaking of which, you have plenty of seating options: personal tables, communal tables, a sofa, or even a swing suspended from the ceiling. The espresso isn’t the best in the city, but we’ll take it if it means we get to caffeinate in a space this nice.
You’d like to work somewhere besides your couch, but you don’t actually want to see, talk to, or be breathed on by anybody. Head to Moonshot Coffee in White Center, a distraction-free espresso bar that doesn’t have a lot of seating, but is usually fairly empty. It’s only 15 minutes from downtown, and the lattes are excellent.
Union Coffee keeps things simple. The design is minimal, the entire menu fits on a little black felt board, and the inside looks like your Amazonian friend’s open one-bedroom: white walls, giant windows, and a ton of succulents. The music isn’t too loud, the baristas are actually nice to you, and the upstairs balcony bar is the perfect spot to sit with a mug of chai and a slice of creme fraiche coffee cake and finally finish that piece on great coffee shops to get work done in Seattle. This example is purely hypothetical and definitely not happening right now as we write this.
If you’ve ever tried to get work done at Barnes and Noble and ended up reading 16 issues of Family Circle magazine/using your pocket change to impulse-order a slice of peanut butter cheesecake only to return home and nap through your deadline, Little Oddfellows is the coffee shop for you. It’s inside Elliott Bay Book Company, but removed from the bookcase-perusing action so you won’t get distracted. Their espresso is from Caffe Vita (which means it’s great), and you won’t have to worry about starving yourself in order to power through the entire day - they have paninis, avocado toast, and pastries galore, plus beer and wine to either reward yourself afterwards, or boost your creativity before you get down to business. We don’t judge - whatever gets your word count up.
If you’re a person who prioritizes quality coffee above everything else, Milstead & Co. is your spot. They serve an excellent cup of coffee, and also sell bags of Intelligentsia beans to-go for when you procrastinate and need to finish up at your kitchen table at 3am. Note: most of the seating is communal, so use this place if you’re great at tuning out all other humans, or you need a place for your team to work.
A weird little dark place with brick walls, Pokemon-themed latte specials, bookcases, and vintage tchotchkes of things like skulls and old film cameras. If you’re not caught here during one of their movie screening/life-drawing/game night events, it’s actually a surprisingly peaceful spot to grab an iced mocha and get through your workload. If you’ve tackled everything you needed to (or even if you didn’t), convince your friends to meet you at Tu Cantinas down the street for tacos and margaritas. If you drive, save time for parking - it’s not great over there.
Fremont Coffee Company is perfect for when you really want to work from home, but you need to actually leave the house in order to get anything done. It’s an old rickety house with a porch, hodgepodge seating arrangements, carpets, and really good coffee. Whether you want a simple Americano or a cherry coconut milk latte, you probably won’t want to leave, much like your own apartment.
Maybe coffee’s not your thing. Miro Tea is the leaf-only club where beans aren’t cool enough to hang, and we’re OK with it. Get a personal hot kettle, or a glass of hibiscus-mint iced tea lemonade (air conditioning in liquid form). There are a lot of seats, baguette sandwiches, and if you can’t type one word without a latte in you, the matcha one is great.
The worst part about freelancing is making a plan to dive into a massive to-do list the same day that the sun decides to dive into its own to-do list, which happened to consist of “shine today.” General Porpoise is where to spend the day inside without missing out on the sun. Massive windows let an insane amount of light into this space you can really only describe as cute, their coffee is sourced from places other than Seattle (which is a nice change of pace), and most importantly, the homemade filled doughnuts will blow your mind (get the lemon curd). Note: General Porpoise closes at 3pm, so get there early.