We’re not trying to pick any fights, and we’re definitely not claiming cold brew is better than flash brew or iced coffee, but for those of you who take the cold brew side, we rounded up the best in the city.
The difference between flash brew and cold brew is the preparation time and method. Flash brew is pour over coffee brewed with hot water and immediately drained into a container of ice. Cold brew, on the other hand, steeps coffee grounds in cold water for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. This cold process doesn’t release coffee oils the same way hot water does and results in a much different—sometimes smoother and sweeter—flavor profile.
But all cold brew is not created equal. So, to find out if you’re a cold brew fanatic, taste it at these San Francisco spots then let us know what you think in the comments below!
701 Haight St | Instagram
As the masters of craft brewing, it makes sense that this innovative team can craft an excellent cold brew. Though it’s only on the Saturday and Sunday brunch menu, you can get that cold brew inside cocktails, too! Check out the Don’t Spill My Coffee, a brunch cocktail made with rye whiskey, herbal and alpine liqueurs, cold brew and lemon peel.
7 locations | Instagram
Photo courtesy of Equator Coffees
Headquartered in San Rafael with locations throughout the Bay Area, Equator began as a two-person endeavor with a focus on quality, sustainability and social responsibility. Today, their team has grown into more than 500 wholesale accounts, seven cafes and more than 100 employees, but they still produce coffees and teas that combine our local community with growing communities across the globe. That same care goes into each and every cold brew prepared with their freshly roasted beans, and you can find the beverage in San Francisco in SoMa, the Tenderloin and at the entrance to Fort Mason.
672 Stanyan St | Instagram
The Flywheel story is steeped in coffee tradition. Founder Aquiles Guerrero was born on a coffee farm in Nicaragua, grew up picking coffee, was a barista by the age of 12, a roaster by 18, attended Capuchino High School in San Bruno, and began his San Francisco coffee experience at Martha and Bros. Coffee which was owned by his family. Today at Flywheel, he and his team of artists, coffee lovers and San Francisco locals roast some of the Bay Area’s best coffee and serve some of the city’s best beverages from their Haight-Ashbury shop which was hand-built using mostly reclaimed wood and repurposed materials. Their menu includes both regular and nitro cold brew, which are both must-trys with different vibes.
335 Kearny St | Instagram
Photo courtesy of Wes Rowe / Foundation Cafe
Located in the Financial District in the heart of Downtown, Foundation Cafe is a family-owned coffee shop and restaurant that pairs expertly brewed Sightglass Coffee with gourmet breakfasts and lunches. Try the Nitro Cold Brew with your Avocado Toast and, trust us, you’ll want to come back every single morning. To see the full menu, click here.
3 locations | Instagram
Founded and owned by Amanda Michael, the Jane story started with their Fillmore location in 2011. Since then, Jane has grown to include Jane on Larkin and Jane the Bakery, and the team has become known as one of the best in San Francisco’s bakery and culinary (and Instagram-worthy) worlds. Their expertly brewed cold brew is available on tap at all three locations, and we also recommend tasting the Cascara Cooler, a lighter iced beverage made from dried coffee cherries.
720 Market St | Instagram
Photo courtesy of Mazarine Coffee
Inspired by the Bibliothèque Mazarine—the very first public library in Paris—the owners at Mazarine have created a coffee shop where everyone can taste and appreciate the finest coffee and food, enjoy engaging conversations, and work to accomplish your own great works. Alongside a delectable café menu, you can enjoy espresso, teas and tea lattes, signature drinks, various pour over selections, iced coffee and a fantastic, smooth Nitro Cold Brew.
1415 18th St | Instagram
This super small and super amazing neighborhood coffee shop is located in Potrero Hill. Founded on the ideals of supporting the community through local coffee, nourishing food and lively conversation, their team has created an outstanding venue to try some of the region’s best small-batch coffee roasters, artisanal tea suppliers and local artists. Not to mention, their Maplewood Cold Brew is a bit famous in the cold brew coffee world. Prepared with beans from Andytown Coffee Roasters, they prepare their cold brew over about 15 hours then blend it with maple syrup and a bit of milk.
6 locations | Instagram
At Ritual, everyone embraces the craft coffee movement—from the farmers to the roasters to the baristas and even the customers. Since opening in 2005, they’ve been carefully following and controlling the whole process from farm to cafe and brewing your cup however you like it, whether that’s French Press, Hario V60 pour over or cold brew. And that cold concoction is strong, bold, crisp and never overly acidic.
5 locations | Instagram
Independent and sibling-owned, Sightglass sources green coffee directly from sustainable farms and practices small production methods to roast the perfect beans. Named after the sightglass—the viewing window on the team’s vintage PROBAT coffee roaster—this coffee company is driven by precision. And that care, knowledge and experience extends to their brewed coffee, too, available at five different locations in the city. For cold brew, head to their SFMOMA or Divisadero shops and order the Vanilla Cold Brew or Single Origin Nitro for the best of the best.
1352A 9th Ave | Instagram
Inspired by family, friends and their neighbors in the Inner Sunset and beyond, Snowbird Coffee is a small, neighborhood coffee shop that deserves a lot of buzz. The team serves small-batch coffees of their own alongside other distinct selections from around the country and they do it all inside a cozy, coffee hideout that will quickly become your favorite in the city. Since we’re here for the cold brew, we recommend ordering yours then grabbing a seat on the bench outside to enjoy it under the sun.
Do you have a favorite?
Have a favorite cold brew that’s not on our list? How about outside of San Francisco? Tell us about it so we can expand our cold brew taste buds!