These days, new coffee shops sprout out every other week and you can’t go more than four strides down a street in Manchester city centre or turn a corner in the leafy suburbs without finding a new terrace to have your flat white on.
When it comes to coffee, Manchester knows what’s going on. Like your coffee black? You’re in the right city. Like your coffee to be inspired by Scandinavia? You’re in the right city. Like your coffee with cointreau? Ditto. Manchester is the place to be when it comes to having a good cuppa – not just during UK Coffee Week – and you don’t want to miss out on these coffee connoisseurs.
“The community spirit of the UK speciality coffee scene is as vibrant as ever,” says Kathryn Lewis, the editor of Independent Coffee Guide.
“There have, of course, been some casualties as a result of the lockdowns. However, it’s inspiring to see so many coffee shops and roasteries bounce back stronger thanks to the dedication of the loyal customers who’ve supported them through the pandemic.”
Research has found that Manchester is the UK’s top coffee shop hot spot outside London. A quick Google search will tell you that Starbucks has 18 branches in the city centre. Keep walking; our beloved city is increasingly dotted with little independent gems and hideouts. Cool speciality coffee shops that have that little more flair and love for coffee. It’s been heartening to watch the growth of smaller coffee establishments…
Independent coffee shops have become the hub of creativity, co-working and an industry all of their own. We’ve gone through some rigorous caffeine-fuelled testing to bring you the best the city region has to offer.
Think of how much time you spend in coffee shops a week. Most meetings are invariably done ‘over a coffee’ these days, and free wifi means you can actively get work done in a coffee shop – away from the distractions of the office.
Shoppers will retreat for a brew in between purchases. Coffee bars have even become a place for teenagers to hang out in.
So there’s more than enough business to go round. And that has to be a good thing if it mean start-ups and indies are getting their shot too.
So what makes a coffee shop cool? Independently operated? The atmosphere? Or is it quality coffee? How about free wifi? The space, the interior? Cosmo food? We think it’s their own little twist of individuality and when you spend locally, it helps the economy – unlike spending at say Starbucks for example.
This is our guide to the coolest speciality coffee shops in Manchester. Might not want to try them all in one day, unless you plan on being awake until next January.
The best coffee shops in Manchester
Atlas bar have a great range of amazing speciality coffees for you to enjoy, not to mention their superb breakfast spread.
Situated in the railway arches of Deansgate, Atlas Bar has been a Manchester icon for over two decades, and has matured into an elegant, quality bar specialising in gins from around the world; with over 570 at the last count.
Check them out here
Bold Street Coffee
Originally founded in Liverpool back in 2010, this speciality coffee shop found its way on to Cross Street – taking over the former Nero site – and prides itself on using its space to support local artists, championing their work and showcasing it as a gallery throughout the shop. We love it when a big chain moves out and an independent business moves in, especially one in which showcases community spirit.
Pot Kettle Black
Baristas at this popular antipodean-style brunch spot in Manchester’s biblical Barton Arcade champion awesome coffee for all.
Shoppers in need of pick-me-ups, socialites meeting friends, laptop lingerers catching up on emails and budding home brewers all find a friendly welcome and an exceptional brew.
From piccolo to wilson (espresso over coconut water), there are plenty of serve styles to try from a coffee menu that makes the most of Workshop-roasted beans.
A vibrant, healthy (okay there are a few naughty treats like the swoonsome millionaire’s shortbread) and internationally inspired brekkie and lunch line-up gets credit for being thoughtfully sourced and made in house. And PKB’s own bakehouse is responsible for the irresistible aroma of sourdough, pastries, cakes and brownies wafting through the industrial-inspired space.
This is also the perfect spot for post-work drinks or a tipsy weekend brunch – the cocktail, wine and beer menu is definitely worth exploring.
Michaels Coffee House
Michaels Coffee House is run by cousins Thanasis and Andreas Michaels.
Located in the antique Royal Exchange Arcade, Michaels Coffee House is proud to serve full-bodied coffee with a smile. A variety of crafted coffees are available, but the white chocolate mocha should be at the top of your tasting list.
Stepping into this 200 Degrees outpost is like sliding into a silky ristretto: the rich decor that envelops visitors is a prelude to the full-immersion coffee experience that awaits.
Freshly prepped dishes and bakes (including a good vegan offering) are served throughout the day to supplement the core pleasure of savouring 200 Degrees coffee (named after the slightly lower than usual temperature at which its beans are roasted) in its natural environment.
The roasting team source Rainforest Alliance-certified coffees and also support smaller uncertified farms that are committed to looking after workers, community and their local environment. The beans are then bronzed at the company’s roastery in Nottingham.
This Mosley Street cafe also hosts a barista school (kitted out with four Victoria Arduino Primas), which gives an idea of the calibre of coffee prep you can expect here. Whether you’re dashing through and grabbing a flattie to-go or sitting in to sip and savour, your coffee will always be expertly brewed and served.
Federal Cafe & Bar
Ask the clan of antipodean expats where they go for a morning flattie in Manchester and there’s a good chance they’ll say Federal.
Like any good Down Under drinking den, this place specialises in top-notch speciality coffee (with or without booze), all-day eggs and laid back vibes.
Brunch is an all-Aussie affair, with the likes of halloumi and ‘shrooms, corn fritters, french toast and smashed avo served with a cheery “g’day”.
Collaborations with fellow small businesses have provided fresh inspo for the Federal fraternity this year; local beers from Cloudwater and Runaway breweries fuel post-work drinks, a new floral installation from Frog Flowers has freshened up the cafe space and local artwork adds community spirit.
Idle Hands moved home in 2017 after a tough time with landlords. After months of painstaking planning and investment in a new permanent unit, were told by their new landlord’s solicitors that their lease had been terminated, leaving them out on a limb with a baby on the way.
Following a heart-warming blog post from the pair that went viral on social media, fellow independent food and drink traders pulled together fundraising efforts that have now led to a new home on Dale St.
Whilst the fit-out offers up the same minimal and clean vibes we’ve come to expect, it’s less rough and ready and the new space feels more grown-up. Light and airy with an open hatch allowing you to peek into the kitchen, we think this will be a lovely cool spot to get some work done of an afternoon once the summer heat picks up.
Their espresso coffee offers choices from regularly rotating roasters. In addition, they also have a kitchen throwing out great brunch food and pies, and sell natural wine and craft beer to both drink in and takeaway.
Just Between Friends
Locals tried to keep this Northern Quarter newbie to themselves when it opened on Tib Street in early 2018, but the fact that it’s already thrumming with colleagues chatting caffeine and chums scoffing cake suggests that someone let slip.
To be fair to its fanbase, the capsule cafe hasn’t exactly gone incognito. The word “coffee” in large letters above the bifold window, cup-adorned street sign and sandwich board signalling “espresso this way” more than hint at the space’s new guise.
With just six months under their belt, the Just Between Friends team are focusing on cracking the seasonal coffee offering, Beans from London’s Assembly stump up the good stuff via the La Marzocco machine, batch brewer and pourover filters.
If you catch the cafe between the crowds, take a moment to appreciate the contemporary minimalism of the place. Hexagonal tables, leather-studded stools and a small curation of house plants all contribute to its modern vibe.
Cycle shop Rapha’s cafés are emporiums stuffed with historic posters and jerseys in frames and glass-topped tables displaying curated collections – and Manchester is no exception.
Tucked discreetly behind St Ann’s Church, on St Ann’s Passage, it serves good coffee, snacks and light meals.
Fig + Sparrow
If you’re going to serve incredible coffee in a beautifully designed setting, it’s only right to enable customers to pick up a few pieces in store to fashion their own slice of cafe culture at home.
Happily, Fig + Sparrow’s design-shop-meets-brunch-stop provides a constant stream interior inspiration for the latte lovers and creatives who flock to its Northern Quarter nest.
Rosetta-flourished flatties, colourful lunch bowls and chunky slabs of millionaire’s shortbread turn out to be as delicious as they are aesthetically pleasing. Take the time to browse the boards of brunch and lunch staples while the baristas craft the latest seasonal origin on filter.
Sandwiches (such as the pesto, mozzarella and sundried tomato number) and salad sides feature stonking bread from the team at Trove. If you visit early, you can even nab a loaf to add to your haul of greeting cards, book and coffee soap to take home.
Ancoats Coffee Co
Ancoats Coffee is part of Royal Mills and offers a homely welcome. With the dark, exposed brickwork swamping the walls and ceiling, it’s easy to tell that you’re in an old mill but the excellent lighting making for a comfy set-up that could quite easily become one of your favourite places in Manchester for a coffee.
Using only accredited importers to source their products, these guys deeply care about their coffee farms and aim to provide a broad range of information about the country and the variety of coffee that’s been imported, allowing for plenty of choice for the coffee bods amongst us.
This new indie visual arts orientated bookshop and print/editions gallery on Stevenson Square sells coffee table books, independent magazines and lifestyle products – and you can also get coffee.
As well as serving fresh filter coffee for £2, with a cute seating area to drink while you peruse a magazine, you can also buy beans to take home.
Ezra & Gil
With Ezra translating to ‘helper’ and Gil meaning ‘happiness’, this Northern Quarter cafe is perking up its customers’ days – one flat white and caramel slice at a time.
Pass the urban cafe and let the scent of freshly ground ManCoCo beans and the intoxicating hum of activity pull you in to where the baristas work their magic on the La Marcozzo machine and small collection of filter kit.
Customer service tops the agenda for manager Lizzie Harper, and her whole team work hard to make their customers feel at home in the industrial-chic space. Braille menus are available on request, and the chatty rabble behind the busy bar are always up for recommending their current faves from the brunch specials.
The perfect spot to gather with friends for brunch, expect a prolonged period of silence while your party contemplates the various options including house-baked granola, french toast and smashed pumpkin.
Takk Coffee House and Brunch Kitchen
A bazaar of beans awaits at this Nordic-inspired hangout in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
Alongside the house roast from Clifton, Takk’s weekly curation spans from Berlin’s well-established The Barn to Copenhagen’s inspirational Coffee Collective to Wiltshire’s all women-roastery, Girls Who Grind. And owner Phillip Hannaway is keen to top last year’s achievement of serving beans from 25 roasteries.
“Diversity and personality is what made us fall in love with speciality coffee, and we love to share this with everyone,” says owner Phillip Hannaway who is keen to top last year’s achievement of serving beans from 25 roasteries. “Coffee is in our DNA so everything is done with love and respect for the product.”
This passion for perfection includes fuelling coffee fiends with a simple but delicious all-day brunch menu. Try the nduja and eggs (spicy sausage, poached egg, avo and luscious salsa verde on Manchester-baked sourdough) for a fiery start to the day – and ask the knowledgeable baristas for the perfect brew to accompany it.
Richmond Tea Rooms
Despite being known for their range of wacky flavoured teas, Richmond Tea Rooms offer essential coffees that can be enjoyed in a memorable Alice in Wonderland setting.
Unlike most independent coffee shops, it’s based in a Victorian Mill on Richmond Street in the Village. Be sure to check out their amazing cakes and fresh patisseries. What’s a coffee without a cake, after all?
Local bakery Pollen needs no introduction such is its popularity, specialising in sourdough bread and viennoiserie baked goods, plus coffee.
The cafe on New Islington Marina is a buzzing spot with outside seating, and a new branch is due to open at garden neighbourhood Kampus in May 2022.
North Tea Power
Don’t be misled by the name. They do cracking coffee, too. North Tea Power has been serving up espresso-based coffees since 2010. Over the past eight years, they’ve been whipping up some of the smoothest cappuccinos around, currently featuring Deerhunter Espresso.
If 100% Kenyan Othaya Chinga beans aren’t your thing, they have a selection of guest espressos in hand ready to craft the perfect coffee . If you’re into sipping a coffee whilst watching the cool kids of Manchester skate/walk/run past by, then this is the place for you.
Independent, female-run cafe Nibble NQ has a passion for local espresso – and it’s also a great spot for cakes and other sweet treats.
Menus are inclusive, with plenty of options for dietary requirements including vegan and gluten free, plus brunch specials.
Foundation Coffee House
Fed up of sinking the same old morning flattie? You need a trip to Foundation.
These guys specialise in a unique line-up of quirky caffeinations: try the red eye, black eye or dead eye (filter coffee with one, two or (gulp) three shots of espresso). Or set your sights on a bulletproof (black coffee with butter and coconut oil) for silky smooth sipping.
If the sun’s past the yardarm, an espresso martini is a good call for its foamy blend of espresso, Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, Black Cow pure milk vodka and brown sugar.
You can even polish up your mixology skills at one of the house cocktail masterclasses (barista courses and tea experiences also feature).
Other reasons to visit include yoga sessions, movie nights and, of course, the brunch menu: the french toast changes each week while seductive vegan vibes come in the form of cannellini beans with garlic, rosemary, thyme and lemon on toast.
The second Foundation outpost opened its doors in November 2018 and makes more of the glorious caffeine kicks it’s already famed for on Lever Street. Located in the beautiful Whitworth Locke Hotel, the contemporary decor (a mature reimagining of the original shop’s slick set-up) provides seriously stylish surrounding for your morning pick-me-up or late night espresso martini. As with its sister cafe, this spot features a moreishly good menu – of both the food and culture variety.
Events, monthly exhibitions and coffee courses are added attractions and there’s also a co-working space in the lobby, so whether your visit is for work or play, Foundation’s a great stop at any time.
Ancoats General Store
Serving up fresh beans from established local roasters Ancoats Coffee Co, the General Store is also home to the beetroot latte. Smooth, pink and nutritious, enjoy all the benefits of your caffeine hit without the risk of getting the jitters.
With a relaxed coffee and bar area in the front of the shop offering the full barista experience alongside freshly baked goodies from local bakers, this is the only place you can do your weekly food shop and have a quality, sit-in coffee experience in one.
Speciality coffee shops across Greater Manchester
Nook, Heaton Moor
Doors on the ceiling, tiles on the stairs and hilariously quirky notes scribbled on the blackboard outside: there’s an Alice in Wonderland-style surrealism to this popular cafe and bottle shop in the heart of Heaton Moor.
As the name suggests, Nook is a cosy space where you can enjoy a touch of whimsy with your flat white or a dash of eccentricity with your espresso.
Manchester’s Passion Fruit and Leeds’ North Star provide consistently great beans, while a roster of guest roasters such as Heart and Graft and ManCoCo add adventurous alternatives.
And should you find your caffeine limit coming close to capacity there are plenty of other potable potions on the menu – including craft beer, gin and wine.
At lunch and brekkie the team set out to make the most of local ingredients in sterling soups, stews, sandwiches and wraps, complemented by a wicked selection of homemade cakes and bakes.
111 Heaton Moor Rd, Heaton Moor, Stockport SK4 4HY
Salford Roasters, Salford
During the madness of 2020, the Salford Roasters tribe took the plunge and upped sticks to new premises, providing a bigger base for their banging beans, top-notch team and focus on social value.
The gang have developed four blends to encourage those new to speciality but the focus of the roasting operation is definitely on single origins. The reason? To shine a spotlight on the talent of the producers: ‘Single-origin coffees portray the hard work that goes on at farm level to produce the quality in the cup, and we know the story behind the individual coffees is important to our online customers,’ says founder Nik Storey.
Beans from Africa and Central America are bronzed on an Italian smokeless air roaster. House favourites include the much-loved Signature Blend and Nik’s ‘find of 2020’: Bukonzo Dream, a Ugandan lot featuring strawberry and peach notes with a stunning tropical-fruit finish.
The crew are keen to make quality coffee all-inclusive, so rookie sippers and experienced connoisseurs are all welcome at the on-site espresso bar or to take a roastery tour and dive into the Salford speciality experience.
Unit E, Protector Lamp Business Park, Lansdowne Rd, Eccles, Manchester M30 9PH
Grindsmith Coffee Roaster designed its Salford cafe with the goal of expertly fuelling the community that work and live in the area.
The venue caters brilliantly for MediaCity’s worker bees and provides kickstart caffeine with a side of comfort, style and ambience. Urban concrete interiors are embellished by a beautiful stained-glass window, giant circular chandeliers, a bespoke geometric bar and cosy mezzanine level.
Grindsmith is just as suitable for casual brunching and post-dog-walk relaxing as it is for an email blitz (FYI, the wifi is good and you won’t feel out of place on your laptop). Food options range from hearty to nibbly – we recommend the stack of fluffy pancakes topped with berries.
The team serve top-notch espresso made from beans sourced from the three major coffee-growing regions, which are own-roasted just a few miles away in Ancoats. Visitors can choose between the house blend and a selection of seasonal single origins.
5-6 The Garage, MediaCityUK, Salford M50 2BS
Another Heart to Feed, Salford
It is gloriously minimalist in both its design and offerings. Think rich classic espresso brews sans the kitschy caramel swirl. To get the ideal picture, grab a shot of your beverage looking down at the Pinterest-worthy coffee tables. Once you’re done taking photos, head straight to the counter and order yourself an acai bowl because it’s probably one of the best you’ll taste outside of Oz.
77-79 Chapel St, Salford M3 5BZ
Kickback Coffee, Altrincham
Situated under a railway arch on Viaduct Road, Altrincham, Kickback Coffee was founded by former professional rugby player, Alex Shaw. And considering Alex first got into the industry by attempting to roast beans from eBay in a secondhand popcorn machine, the company has come a long way.
Kickback serves fresh unique tasting coffee sold within two weeks of roast date, and since 2017 they have been putting out a new single origin roast each month.
“Kickback to us means ‘to hang with friends, adventure and enjoy life’,” they say.
You can also find a solid selection of single origins which can also be sipped at the roastery-cafes or ordered via the Kickback website.
Arch 4 Viaduct Rd, Altrincham WA14 5DU
Two Brothers Coffee, Altrincham
The realms of quality coffee and electrical engineering rarely cross wires, yet brothers Dave and Steve have successfully fused their two passions at Altrincham’s latest speciality player.
While the cafe’s blueprint-inspired machine mural, bookcase brimming with engineering books and industrial-style lighting hint at the duo’s day jobs, the haul of speciality brew gear and collection of beans suggest incredible caffeine is more than a pastime.
With two espressos and four filter coffees to sample at any time, there’s always something new and noteworthy to be discovered here. Lancaster roaster Atkinsons and Manchester’s Ancoats hold regular residences on the Sanremo machine, while other guests make shorter appearances on filter.
If you’re deciding between cold drip and intro or washed and natural, and you haven’t had a lightbulb moment, the clued-up baristas are full of suggestions.
“We’ll happily chat about the coffee for a day if that’s your thing” says manager Sean. “If not we’re not precious. We’ll let you come to your own conclusions.”
53 Stamford New Rd, Altrincham WA14 1DS
California Coffee & Wine
“Come for the coffee, stay for the wine” is the motto at this California-inspired family-run cafe in Altrincham. California Coffee and Wine roast their own beans and serve up ‘kick-ass’ coffee before tempting you into (a bottle) a glass of natural biodynamic wine. Co-owners Justin and Diane conceived their independent coffee shop and wine bar venture after getting married in Las Vegas. They’ll make you feel welcome and comfortable with exceptionally warm and friendly service. However you like your coffee, whether it’s black or white, cow or oat, make sure it’s accompanied by their LA Brunch – you won’t be disappointed.
3 Oxford Rd, Altrincham WA14 2DY
This independent coffee house is run by a couple of coffee loving enthusiasts. After landing theirselves in various different jobs and careers, they decided it was time to do what they really wanted and share their unwavering love for coffee and cake with everyone else. This cheeky little coffee shop has loads of character and offers something for everyone. If you’re ever confused or overwhelmed by the coffee menu (we have been there don’t worry) just ask and they’ll happily guide you to a drink perfectly suited to your taste. The basement space is used for various pop-up events and baby groups such as sensory classes.
22 Victoria Rd, Hale, Altrincham WA15 9AD
Propeller Coffee, Sale
Propeller, on Northenden Road in Sale, is the kind of friendly neighbourhood coffee shop most of us can only dream of having close to home.
Its most obvious charm is the cracking house espresso, which founder Benny Au masterminded with the team at Cartwheel Coffee in Nottingham. A 70/30 blend of Brazilian/Ethiopian beans, it tastes sensational when prepared as the house-favourite flat white. There’s also a guest roast (switched up every two months) from the likes of UE Coffee Roasters and Heart and Graft.
The cafe’s food offering comes in a close second to the brews and is the kind of familiar fodder we all crave but can’t always be faffed to whip up at home. Think plump poaches on avocado toast, toasted waffles showered in berries, and crisp golden pastries (the latter made by Pot Kettle Black).
The cafe’s other attractive quality is the service: the team are super helpful and the entire experience is family friendly, building coffee aficionados of the future
– one babyccino at a time.
7 Northenden Rd, Cheshire, Sale M33 2DH
Grind & Tamp, Ramsbottom
‘This market-town coffee shop puts to bed a notion that you have to head into the city to find god-tier coffee in Greater Manchester.
Since 2016, the Grind & Tamp team of coffee enthusiasts have brought some of the UK’s best beans to Ramsbottom.
Revolution, Square Mile and Atkinsons are the current suppliers; however, the G&T crew like to mix things up so visit with an open mind and let the barista’s recommendations guide you through the latest selection.
Every cup is expertly prepared with the kind of care and precision you’d expect at one of the Northern Quarter’s next-level brew bars. Choose between espresso, V60, AeroPress and Chemex prep methods, then perch at the window bar as you explore the nuanced flavours.
The food menu is as progressive as its coffee counterpart, so it’s worth scheduling a visit around breakfast or lunch in order to partake in the all-day brunch fest. If you’ve no time to linger, grab a golden-crusted pastel de nata with vour coffee to-go.
45 Bridge St, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 9AD
Weaver and Wilde, Oldham
You’ll leave this delicious find grasping more than just a full takeaway cup: the speciality coffee shop not only serves smashing brews and tempting seasonal dishes, it’s also the local grocer and homewares emporium.
Farm-fresh veg, Saddleworth honey, Roger’s Bakery bread and McLintock’s Dairy milk are among the goodies fighting for shelf space with arty prints, houseplants and ceramic pots. Prepare for the inevitable by visiting armed with a stash of empty Tupperware tubs and tote bags.
Before commencing an extensive browsing and feasting session, we’d recommend revving up with a flat white that stars the house blend Deer Hill from Dark Woods.
Feeling adventurous? Plump for a guest filter.
The last year has seen the gastronomic treasure- trove partner more closely with local growers and producers, expand its seasonal menus and introduce natural wines to the boozy line-up. Head over Thursday to Saturday for sundown sipping – local beers and spirits feature, too – and an evening grazing menu.
30 High St, Uppermill, Oldham OL3 6HR