October 19, 2018

A Specialty Coffee Shop Tour of Edinburgh, Scotland


Edinburgh is a city of history, whisky, and coffee. Yes, coffee. Scotland’s capital has a progressive third wave scene with an impressive choice of specialty coffee shops. These cafés are all proudly independent, with strong identities and an even stronger determination to keep growing.

Nestled between the hills and the sea, Edinburgh has wide appeal for tourists and locals alike. This medieval city may have an ancient castle as its heart, but its beat is dynamic and modern. Let’s explore my personal picks of Edinburgh’s third wave coffee scene.

Lee este artículo en español Un Recorrido Por Las Tiendas de Café de Edimburgo, Escocia

View of Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street Gardens. Credit: Exploredi

Why These Six?

Listing your favourite coffee shops is a little like trying to tell someone how to drink their coffee: it’s hugely personal. These are my favourites in Edinburgh, based on their atmosphere and quality, and on my own experience working in hospitality in the city.

Three of these café’s roast their own coffee, three do not. All are independent, locally owned small businesses that keep me caffeinated and happy every day.

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lowdown coffee from outside

Lowdown Coffee from the outside. Credit: Exploredi

1. Lowdown Coffee

Lowdown brings Nordic simplicity, functionality, and precision to each drink. Step below ground into a clean and minimalist respite from George Street. Entering from Edinburgh’s busy main shopping district can feel like escaping into a tranquil new world.

Inside, you’ll find exposed wood features and expertly crafted coffee. The weight, grind, water, and extraction are carefully monitored in every cup. Why settle for less than perfect?

Lowdown typically rotates roasters including Colona, Gardelli, Coffee Collective, Koppi, Friedhats, and La Cabra.

A barista makes coffee at Lowdown in Edinburgh.

A barista in action at Lowdown Coffee. Credit: Exploredi

Where40 George St, EH2 2LE
AtmosphereWelcoming, including table service
Espresso MachineSlayer Espresso V3
GrinderMahlkӧnig EKK-43 with SSP burrs
Coffee OfferingsEspresso and V60 choices from multiple roasters
Must-Try DrinkPour over. The range changes every week, but the selection is always of exceptional quality.
Retail OfferingsRotating choice of coffee
Food & Other DrinksAvocado toast, soups, sandwiches, sweets.


Individual tea menu from Postcard Teas including Fuji Sencha, roasted Oolongs, and lemon verbena.

Nearby SightsBusy George Street, scenic Princes Street, and the historic Scott Monument, among other central attractions.

2. Cairngorm Coffee

Cairngorm Coffee has its original shop on Frederick Street. It is the only café in the city that freezes its beans, which they say aids extraction. The second shop, on Melville Place, is roomy and welcoming. The bright space has large windows from which you can watch the world go by.

The light and warmth, as well as the friendly staff members, invite you to sit and linger for a while. For me, it’s the well-priced batch brew that keeps me coming.

View of Carirngorm coffee from the street

Cairngorm Coffee from the street. Credit: Exploredi

Where1 Melville Pl, EH3 7PR
Espresso MachineSan Remo Opera – 3 Group
GrinderVictoria Arduino Mythos One, Mahlkonig twin k30, Mahlkonig EK43
Coffee OfferingsEspresso-based drinks and batch brew
Must-Try DrinkBatch brew
Retail OfferingsCoffee beans roasted in-house, branded clothing, coffee publications
Food & Other DrinksSandwiches, toasts, granola, sweets
Nearby SightsHistoric Edinburgh Castle, scenic Princes Street, and the West End, which is home to many of the city’s arts venues.
Cairngorm Coffee's bright space

Cairngorm Coffee’s bright, welcoming space. Credit: Exploredi

3. 27 Elliott’s

Situated on a leafy suburban street, 27 Elliott’s could almost pass as a country kitchen. Warm colours, wooden furnishings, and walls lined with bookshelves invite you to relax.

This cafe stands out for pairing inventive food and local produce with its specialty coffee. The owner worked as a food stylist before taking to the kitchen herself, and the evidence is clear in the café’s own cookbook. On the south side of the Meadows, this is a great spot for a relaxed brunch.

27 Elliots bright exterior

27 Elliott’s bright exterior. Credit: Exploredi

Where27 Sciennes Rd, EH9 1NX
Espresso MachineLa Marzocco Linea PB – 2 Group
GrinderEureka Olympus 75E
Coffee OfferingsEspresso-based drinks made with coffee from Obadiah Roasters
Must-Try DrinkThe ‘Chick’s’ cold brew
Retail OfferingsSalad Feasts, a cookbook by the owner, Jess Elliott Dennison
Food & Other DrinksFull breakfast and lunch menus, as well as baked goods and seasonally inspired supper events
Nearby SightsThe Meadows, Edinburgh’s large public park

4. Fortitude

Some call Fortitude’s owner, Matthew Carroll, the friendliest man in the Edinburgh coffee community. This is a wee, cosy café and roastery in New Town where you’ll always get a warm welcome and impressive soundtrack.

But you can expect more than a great cup and warm atmosphere here. At Fortitude, you may also get a fascinating story. It currently offers a “house honey processed” from El Salvador named Geraldo’s House. Geraldo is the coffee producer, who, after having his first child, realised he could no longer spend as much time at the farm. So he brought the farm to his house, from where he now undertakes the drying process.

Owner serves customers at Fortitude

Owner Matthew Carroll serves customers at Fortitude. Credit: Exploredi

Where3C York Pl, EH1 3EB
Espresso MachineLa Marzocco Linea PB – 2 Group
GrinderVictoria Arduino Mythos 1,  Mahlkonig EK43
Coffee OfferingsEspresso-based drinks and pour over made with house-roasted beans
Must-Try DrinkGeraldo’s House, a “house honey process” El Salvador filter
Retail OfferingsHouse-roasted beans, coffee supplies and equipment
Food & Other DrinksSoups, sandwiches, desserts, avocado toast, various teas
Nearby SightsHigh-end and historic St. Andrews Square, landmark Carlton Hill and its iconic acropolis

5. Baba Budan

Situated in the beautiful Edinburgh Arches, Baba Budan is a great respite from the city centre crowds. In the rabbit-warren alleyways of the historic Old Town, this spot offers coffee from Workshop, Craft House, and The Barn. It also has a full breakfast menu including vegan options and breakfast burritos alongside bacon rolls.

Pair one of the delicious doughnuts with your drink for a revitalising sugar rush. The filling flavours change daily, but I’m a fan of the classic jam.

Coffee and doughnuts will revitalise you at Baba Budan. Credit: Exploredi

WhereArch 12, 17 East Market St, EH8 8FS
Espresso MachineLa Marzocco Linea PB – 2 group
GrinderVictoria Arduino Mythos 1, Mahlkonig EK43
Coffee OfferingsEspresso-based drinks and batch brew
Must-Try DrinkAnything, served with a doughnut
Retail OfferingsCoffee beans, doughnuts
Food & Other DrinksDoughnuts, full breakfast menu, teas
Nearby SightsLandmark Edinburgh Castle, charming and historical Old Town

Baba Budan’s menu board. Credit: Exploredi

6. Williams & Johnson Coffee Co.

Talented micro-roasters Williams & Johnson opened their first café in a small art space on the water in Leith. It may be a walk from the city centre, but Leith is steadily becoming more popular with visitors and locals alike. Soft gentrification has mellowed, but not ruined, its gritty charm.

The aroma of coffee from Williams & Johnson’s roasting mixes with the sea air here. Take a seat in the mixed-use outside area and watch a game of table tennis while you enjoy your drink.

A recently opened a second shop is inside Waverley Mall, above the central train station. The space is a super refined place to hang out even when you don’t have a train to catch.

Seating area at William and Johnsons

The seating area outside Williams & Johnson Coffee Co. Credit: Exploredi

Where67 Commercial St, Customs Wharf, EH6 6LH
Espresso MachineSynesso Cyncra
GrinderMazzer, Mahlkonig EKK-43
Coffee OfferingsEspresso-based drinks and pour over made with house-roasted beans
Must-Try DrinkFlat white
Retail OfferingsRetail coffee beans
Food & Other DrinksSandwiches, baked goods
Nearby SightsLeith, the Royal Yacht Britannia, the promenade and arcades of Portobello Beach
Flat white being served at 27 elliots

A flat white in a beautiful mug at 27 Elliott’s. Credit: Exploredi

Edinburgh has many great specialty coffee shops – this list could easily be twice the length. But these are the spots that I return to for unique experiences and excellent service.

It’s what makes the city so liveable and why I love this city so dearly – we don’t just have a great choice of quality coffee, but some of the most passionate people in the industry.

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Feature photo: Edinburgh from Carlton Hill. Credit: Exploredi

All views within this opinion piece belong to the guest writer, who has lived in Edinburgh since 2016, and do not reflect Perfect Daily Grind’s stance.

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