The coolest, best independent coffee shops and cafes in Greater Manchester

A list of the coolest coffee shops across Greater Manchester for people who really know their beans and want that caffeine buzz. Because coffee is everything.
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We aren’t short of a coffee shop or a coffee drinker in Manchester, with some of the best beans available on the market.

These days, new cafes/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.

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 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, networking 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. Meetings are invariably done ‘over a coffee’ these days. 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 food and coffee? How about free wifi? The space, the interior? Cosmo food? We think it’s their own little twist of individuality.

This is our list of the coolest coffee shops in Manchester. Might not want to try them all in one day, unless you plan on being awake until next January.

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.

Atkinsons, The Mackie Mayor

Pulling the shots on a stunning Sanremo Opera until 11pm on weekends, the crew at Atkinson are bringing quality caffeine – and speciality grade cocktails – to Manchester’s late night revellers.

Every cortado, Kalita and cold brew served at their first residence outside of Lancaster is roasted in store. Visitors to the magnificently reimagined meat market can watch roaster Will bronze the next batch of beans on a beautifully restored vintage Uno which was only saved from extinction by 3D engineering its missing parts.

On-tap nitro is new to the bold blue and white bar this year, with silky smooth house-roasted cold brew reviving weary shoppers and caffeine tourists when the temperature soars.

The Grade-II listed building is stuffed full of indie restaurants and artisan street food. Ease in with a flat white at Atkinsons then take your pick of the food hall’s smorgasboard of bao buns, stone-baked pizzas and rotisserie chicken before going full-circle and finishing with a spiced rooibos tea negroni nightcap at the cafe.

Kickback Coffee

Situated under a railway arch in Viaduct Road, Altrincham, Kickback Coffee was founded by former professional rugby player, Alex Shaw.

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.

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

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.

Rapha Clubhouse

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.

Unitom 

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.

Foundation Coffee House – NQ

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.

Ezra & Gil Coffee And Provisions

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

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?

Pollen

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.

Grindsmith – Salford

The perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, Grindsmith’s Salford store at Unit 5&6, The Garage, serves breakfast and brunch alongside the tastiest coffee this side of the Quays.

It features a stained-glass window, giant chandeliers, bespoke bar, and a cosy mezzanine.

Nibble NQ

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 – Whitworth Locke

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 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 new spot will feature 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.

The Anchor Coffee House

Down past the universities just off Oxford Rd lies Anchor Coffee. It’s fittingly named, as they aim to ‘anchor’ the community by investing in the ‘pay it forward’ concept which allows the customer to buy a free coffee for someone else in the community who really needs it.

Given that they also stock, arguably, the best coffee around – Monmouth coffee – it’s a retreat for the student community and anyone who fancies a wander out of the city centre.

Maxed out on coffee? Try one of the Manchester-made, small-batch sodas and a slice of something sweet sourced from one of a clutch of local indie bakeries.

Nook

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.

Two Brothers Coffee

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.”

Lupo Caffe Italiano

Lupo used to be based on Chapel Street but has moved to the Boat Shed in Exchange Quay. This award-winning coffee shop has its own coffee plants growing on site and is deeply involved in the journey of their beans, all the way from roastery to cup.

Pop in and enjoy a selection of Italian classics alongside some primo cakes and other sweet treats.

Siop Shop

This Tib Street doughnut shop is owned by Blawd bakery team Iwan Roberts and Lucy Jackson, who were working out of a basement kitchen in Common prior to the shop’s opening. As we all know, coffee and doughnuts go perfectly together and Iwan and Lucy’s coffee selection shows they respect this.

With an eclectic range of doughnut flavours on offer, including a decent vegan selection, there’s a whole range of goodies to delve into. Doughnut highlights include the tiramisu and lemon meringue pie, but they’re not a one trick pony. Siop Shop also offer fantastic soups, sandwiches and other sweets treats for you to get stuck in to.

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.

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