Young, vibrant, and caffeinated. I spent a few days in Columbus exploring neighborhoods, visiting museums, and enjoying local shopping. But nothing surprised me more than the number of coffee shops. So guess where I spent most of my time in Ohio’s capital city?
Whenever I visit a new destination, I spend a few hours scouring Google maps – my favorite road trip planning tool – looking for points of interest. After plotting nearly a hundred coffee shops, I wondered if this could be the most caffeinated city in the country. It’s entirely possible.
With three days that felt shorter than they were, I snuck into a coffee shop in between visits to other POIs around the city. Unfortunately, I still only managed to visit ten. But that has just given me a reason to return to Columbus and complete the Columbus Coffee Trail.
Columbus Coffee Trail
Food and drink tours have become synonymous with travel at destinations worldwide. Travelers can explore liquor on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, wine on the Finger Lakes Wine Trails, and savory pulled pork on the North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail.
In Columbus, visitors can explore a different kind of trail – the Columbus Coffee Trail.
The trail includes nearly two dozen coffee shops offering locally roasted beans and fresh coffee drinks. A mobile app, downloadable through the Columbus tourism website, plots the coffee shops on a map surrounding your current location. Buy a coffee, ask for the confirmation code for the app, and check in to the coffee shop.
After checking in at just four stops, you get a commemorative t-shirt. But you’ll have to check in at all the coffee shops on the trail to receive an insulated coffee mug.
Note: The Columbus tourism folks updated the app. If you find the app does not contain any data, you will need to delete it from your phone and re-download the app from the link above.
Boston Stoker Coffee Co.
In 1973, Don and Sally Dean opened a specialty tobacco shop in Englewood, Ohio, called Boston Stoker Pipe Shop. In the first few years, the couple began brewing specialty coffee and offering it free of charge to their tobacco customers. Interest in the coffee outpaced the interest in their original business, and eventually, they began roasting their own beans purchased directly from a farm in Costa Rica.
Today, the Dayton-based coffee roaster and shop has five locations across Ohio, including one in Columbus. Boston Stoker is in a small shopping center a block from Goodale Park on the city’s north side. Comfortable indoor seating with large picture windows creates a bright and invigorating atmosphere. Metal tables and chairs outside offer the chance to enjoy a sunny day.
Boston Stoker offers a full lineup of locally roasted coffee beans, espresso drinks, tea, and a bevy of brewing tools to make your own coffee at home.
Bottoms Up Coffee
The owners of Bottoms Up Coffee are on a mission to make a social impact with their business. Standing in line, I read a sign about a Diaper Fund. The small coffee shop raises awareness of the child mortality rate by raising money to give diapers to newborn families. It was a unique fundraiser for a coffee shop and one the locals were passionate about.
Fresh ground beans are used for every coffee drink. The menu also includes breakfast sandwiches, muffins, and lunch sandwiches. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with natural light. The creaking wood floor contrasts with the white tin metal ceiling. Square tables with wooden chairs are spread around couches and armchairs, offering plenty of places to sit and enjoy the coffee.
The folks at Brioso Coffee take coffee roasting and brewing seriously. Roasting in small batches and meticulously studied, the local coffee roastery determines the best way to describe the roast for their loyal customers.
Brioso Coffee features two coffee bar locations, both in downtown Columbus. The location on Long Street is “where the magic happens,” the roastery. Featuring traditional coffee shop hardwood floors and brick walls, the coffee shop is a comfortable place to enjoy a fresh brew. The location on High Street features a modern appearance with large windows, natural light, and light tones.
Multiple Locations | https://briosocoffee.com
Nate and Sharon Grenier moved to Hillard, a suburb northwest of Columbus, in 2013. After three years running a catering company, the company partnered with Jeff and Jenn Heimberger to turn their mobile coffee cart into a brick-and-mortar store. In 2016, they opened Coffee Connections in downtown Old Hillard.
Fresh ground beans are used for every coffee drink. Drip, pour-over, espresso, and iced, they even offer nitro cold brew. Enjoy the coffee with plenty of outdoor seating on moderately comfortable metal chairs and benches.
Multiple Locations | https://connections.coffee
Community Grounds Coffee
Everything about Community Grounds Coffee is about the local community. When the small coffee shop opened its doors, the idea was to create a friendly co-working space while offering locally roasted beans and fantastic coffee drinks.
But the most interesting aspect of Community Grounds Coffee is their “Suspended South Side” program. Customers can pay for a drink or food item in advance for a future customer in need. Called “suspensions,” the pay-it-forward scheme is not a novel idea but still something nice to see in a local coffee shop.
Get a drip coffee, pour over, espresso, or tea drink, take it to the comfortable tables with wooden chairs, or relax on the sofa while getting work done.
Crimson Cup Coffee
I discovered Crimson Cup Coffee long before I ever arrived in Columbus. Founded in 1991, the coffee roasters churn out award-winning roasts used in dozens of coffee shops across the country. Their startup program is recognized as one of the best in the country for helping franchise locations get up and running – they have a step-by-step guide to opening and operating a coffee shop.
There are only four corporate locations – two in Columbus, one in Akron, and one in Cincinnati. The other locations are franchise, but all use their award-winning roasted beans for their coffee drinks – and most use the same coffee machines.
I visited Crimson Cup Coffee in Clintonville on my way to the Columbus Zoo. The freestanding store had several tables with comfortable chairs, the perfect place to enjoy a latte while I got some writing done. Their expansive menu features hot and cold coffees, frozen drinks, and breakfast sandwiches served all day.
Multiple Locations | www.crimsoncup.com
Fox in the Snow Café
The folks at Fox in the Snow Café believe finely crafted coffee goes best with freshly homemade pastries – so they decided to do both. The bakery and coffee shop was started in the Italian Village inside a renovated auto repair shop, an appropriate destination during a road trip adventure.
Large glass-plated garage doors allow natural light to flood the interior. The real wood tables and chairs are complemented with real house plants, creating a comfortable and homey feel inside the industrial space. Interestingly, the coffee shop features no Wi-Fi connection – much to my chagrin since I enjoy writing at these coffee shops.
Multiple Locations | www.foxinthesnow.com
Mission Coffee Roasting Co.
Since 2014, Mission Coffee Roasting Co. has roasted its own beans in a renovated warehouse south of downtown Columbus. The industrial space with concrete floors and exposed brick walls go well in the industrial area on South High Street. A large glass garage door allows natural light into the space, balancing the dark wood and granite interior.
One Line Coffee
In 2009, the father and son team of Mark and Dave opened One Line Coffee with the intent to source the best beans, roast them in-house, and serve coffee to the community. Established in the Short North neighborhood, it was the perfect location for visitors to sit down with a fresh coffee while exploring the galleries, retail shops, and restaurants.
The circular bar stands at the very center of the small space – a testament to complete transparency. Plenty of seating is available along the exposed brick walls, and there is even a custom pour-over station for avid coffee drinkers.
Multiple Locations | www.onelinecoffee.com
Roaming Goat Coffee
Large picture windows, a bar along the wall, and high chairs provide the perfect place to watch the world while enjoying a delicious coffee at Roaming Goat Coffee. Located in the Short North Arts District, the coffee shop is the perfect location for walking to shopping, dining, and entertainment.
The folks at Roaming Goat Coffee roast their own beans, offer them for sale by the bag, and even offer wholesale commercial sales for other coffee shops.
The Roosevelt Coffeehouse
The Roosevelt Coffeehouse interestingly serves more than just great coffee – they’re also on a mission to serve injustice. It doesn’t take long to learn about their fight against unclean water, world hunger, and human trafficking.
The modern chic space was filled with natural light from enormous windows. The large space probably had more seating than any other coffee shop in Columbus – and they were more than excited about long-term remote workers.
They use Roosevelt Coffee Roasters beans – a new addition to their lineup – roasted locally from beans around the world. The baristas take coffee seriously – you can order drip, V60, Chemex, or espresso in various ways. However you order the coffee, it’s made carefully with expert knowledge and just might be the best coffee you’ll have all day.
Multiple Locations | www.rooseveltcoffee.org
Stauf’s Coffee Roasters
Stauf’s Coffee Roasters was the first micro roaster in Columbus, opening the first roastery in 1988. Since roasting their first beans, seven locations have opened throughout the capital city. The original location in Grandview Heights features a sandblasted wooden sign above an old awning. Inside, the menu is written on a chalkboard-painted wall.
Each location of Stauf’s Coffee Roasters offers a different experience. Three of their locations – the Columbus Idea Foundry, The View on Grant, and North Market – are located inside established businesses with a smaller footprint. But wherever you end up, you’re certain to have a great coffee from the people who believe “the proof is in the cup.”
Multiple Locations | www.staufs.com
Third Way Café
In 2017, John and Tim Rush founded Third Way Café, the latest extension of their entrepreneurial spirit. The veteran-owned business roasts their own beans at a cozy corner shop along a busy highway and whips up savory coffee drinks.
Wooden floors, exposed rafters, and brick walls lit by exposed lightbulbs create a comfortable, chic industrial atmosphere. Large tables with moderately comfortable wooden chairs will keep you working for hours. Using locally roasted beans, the drinks are always fresh and robust.
Winans Chocolates + Coffees
What could be better than fresh coffee using locally roasted beans? Freshly baked chocolate! The Winans established a baking and confectionery business in the early 1900s, and in 1961 Max and Dick Winans opened Winans Carriage House Candies in Piqua, Ohio. In 1993, Max’s daughter, Laurie Winans Reiser, and her husband, Joe Reiser, bought the company and added coffee to the menu. Max commented that chocolate and coffee “seem to fit together like a glove.”
There are twenty locations throughout Ohio, two in the Columbus area – German Village and Grandview Heights. The smell of freshly roasted coffee competes with sweet chocolate inside the small shops. Large glass display cases are filled with every type of chocolate treat, tempting the sweet tooth of everyone who ventures inside.