The 5 Types of Coffee Shops

What makes a good coffee shop? Coffee, most obviously, but that’s not all. I know how to make good coffee at home, but I go to the coffee shop for the atmosphere and the convenience. I’ve gone to an awful lot of coffee shops over the years, and I’ve noticed a few trends. Most coffee shops fit into a few simple categories. For example, some coffee shops are geared more to people “on the go”, whereas others cater to lingering hipsters and artists. Here are the five types of coffee shops I’ve noticed, ranked (in my opinion) from worst to best.

5. The Grab-and-Go Cafe

Grab-and-Go CoffeeSeattle’s Best recently opened a series of drive-thru locations across Dallas. And though it’s Starbucks’ “discount” brand, the coffee is pretty damn good. The food’s not bad either. The downside is that there’s no seating, so it’s really only good if I’m getting a coffee on my way to work. But just because a coffee shop has seating, doesn’t mean it’s not a “Grab-and-Go” cafe. Most of the Starbucks you see along the side of the freeway are just drive-thru huts with a few chairs inside. That is to say, there’s not much of a “life” to the cafe. Even the people inside are just sitting for a minute. Otherwise, it’s just a “Grab-and-Go” kind of cafe.

4. The Restaurant

Restaurant CoffeeThe word “cafe” has a wide range if meanings. It can mean everything from a coffee house to a diner to a fancy bistro. So when you see a business with the word “cafe” in its name, you never quite know what to expect. I recently went tyo a cafe with really good pancakes and pretty good coffee, but it wasn’t the kind of place where I could pull out my laptop and work. Still, the restaurant/cafe can be a good place to go with friends, as long as the staff aren’t too pushy about buying food.

3. The Hipster Hangout

Pretentious CoffeeA few weeks ago, I was at an upscale coffee shop in Austin when I realized that I’m not really a coffee snob. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate good coffee, but I couldn’t tell much of a difference between two different hand-roasted fair-trade espressos. Lately I’ve noticed a new crop of coffee houses (in both Dallas and Austin) where the baristas look down on me for wanting cream in my coffee. You can always tell these places when you walk in the door, because they look like the Apple Store: brightly lit and sparsely furnished, with very little color on the walls. I sometimes go to places like this, because the coffee’s good and the wifi’s fast, but for the most part, I prefer places that are a lot less pretentious.

2. The Corporate Store

Corporate CoffeeWhen you hear “corporate store”, you’re probably thinking Starbucks. This is partially true, but there are plenty of indie cafes in the category as well. These types of stores are more colorful and homey than the hipster hangouts, but everything looks just a little too polished. Still, the coffee is decent enough, and depending on your location, these corporate stores can be great for people-watching, as they draw a wide variety of people. And since Dallas, unlike Austin, is a very Corporate-minded city, these are the kinds of coffee shops I patronize most.

1. The Old House

Homey CoffeeThe first cafe I visited on my Austin trip was way too snooty, but the next day my friend Brian took me to a place down the street that I liked a whole lot better. This coffee shop was made from an old house, opened up with big windows and brightly painted walls. On the lawn there were picnic tables and umbrellas for shade. This is my favorite type of coffee shop. The best coffee shops feel like home, they may even be made from an old home. It’s weird, since I usually go to the coffee shop to get away from the distractions of home. But I love a place that feels comfortable, where I can meet other people who are comfortable as well. As long as the coffee is good, I’ll keep coming back.

What’s your favorite kind of coffee shop? Let me know in the comment section.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs regularly at

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18 Responses

  1. Jose Luis Hernandez says:

    Gracias por tu opinion a cerca de los distintos tipos de coffee shops, por cierto estoy pensando abrir uno en Chiapas México, con el concepto Grab and go.

  2. Gabby says:

    This simple article made me finally realize the exact type of coffee shop I wanted to start up. It sure is making the business plan writing a whole lot easier. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out but this just saved my day. Thank you.

  3. Ali says:

    Thanks… Helps me in my business plan.

  4. M says:

    I’ve been wanting to start a coffee shop, what is your opinion on a cultural coffee shop?

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