Dublin—The Fair City—its center sits along the winding flow of the river Liffey, opening out into the east coast of Ireland. First a settlement of vikings, it bore and bred many a famous artist, musician, and writer. It’s wise to bring an umbrella with you, so as not to be caught out with the surprise of a rain shower.
The Irish capital’s specialty cafe scene is nothing new. Establishments like 3FE, Coffee Angel, and Roasted Brown were paying attention to what was in the cup since the 2000s. Many people were also returning home or gracing Irish shores for the first time. With them, they brought a thirst to experience the coffee they had made a daily ritual abroad. Ever so slowly but what felt like all at once, the country saw a blossoming of coffee shops and roasteries.
Over the last decade, many coffee shops have opened their doors for the first and last time. But many others have weathered the changes brought by time, tighter budgets, and the odd global pandemic. The series of lockdowns that went in and out of effect over the last number of years drastically changed the city’s cafe culture. Shops made temporary adjustments permanent. Many switched to takeaway-only models and made the safety aesthetics a lasting feature.
Through it all, it has led to an eclectic and high-standard Dublin cafe scene that focuses on quality coffee, friendly service, and inviting atmospheres. Here in 2023 the enormous influence of 3FE, Coffee Angel, and Roasted Brown make them must-visits for anyone exploring Dublin’s cafe scene for the first time. But there is a world beyond these favorites, with new faces and reinterpretations of established favorites ready for you to discover. It’s an exciting time for coffee in Dublin.
Through the years, Proper Order has changed with the city around it. First functioning as a sit-in cafe, it now thrives as a wholly takeaway business. Located on the cusp of Smithfield Square and a stone’s throw away from the banks of the River Liffey, the cafe is a prime spot for excellent coffee. It’s easy to spot with the green facade and eye-catching street art on the side. The cafe’s doors first opened in January 2016. It is now operated by owners Aliona and Niall Wynn, previous coffee champions on the Irish competition circuit.
Flush beside a quartet of Victoria Arduino grinders, a three-group La Marzocco espresso machine sits center stage. Throughout the year, you can spot coffee bags from the likes of Dak, Square Mile, Coffee Collective, and many other European roasters.
The menu includes a selection of espresso-based drinks, nitro coffee, batch brew, and a rotating offer of specialty drinks. Make sure to pair your to-go coffee with a pastry from the cafe’s “sensible sibling” No Messin’ Bakery. But be aware that the sweet and savory treats do sell out fast!
Brew Lab is one of the newest specialty coffee shops in the capital, only opened in February of this year, and it already seems to be making waves. Situated on Redmond’s Hill, the cafe sits close to the busy area of southside Dublin city. The concept cafe is owned by barista champions Arvin and Renata Khedun. The space has seen a slow and steady stream of customers come and return through their doors.
Brew Lab is a bright and clean coffee shop, with a long bar running along much of the length of the building. The service area is split into two sections. The section toward the front of the shop hosts a large display of enticing cakes and a La Marzocco machine. The other side is dedicated to a competition-style pour-over experience. High seats are placed by the bar to invite visitors to sit and listen to the barista as they brew delicate drinks. Past featured coffees have been hailed from companies like Coffea Circular, Sumo Coffee, and Lucid Roasters. Brew Lab is already proving itself as a one to watch in the Dublin coffee scene.
The Morning and The Morning Bakery
Close to the beaten track of the popular Camden Street area, sits a small row of older brick buildings. It’s the perfect place to catch the sun (when it happens to be out) and enjoy the surroundings of the recently opened Morning Bakery. You’ll find their extensive and evolving drinks menu written on a long mirror and a large hatch offers a great view 0f the bakery staff working away on sandwiches, donuts, and more.
The interior, owned by Kevin Powell and Brian O’Keefe, shares a wall with The Morning Takeaway. Peeking through the to-go window, you’ll spot a sunflower yellow La Marzocco, which serves both spaces. Bags of coffee switch with the seasons, displaying the logos of roasters like KB Coffee, Lucid, Established, Manhattan, and more.
The Pleasant Street cafe and bakery are one and the same but have changed their names and focus over the years. Opened as Meet Me in the Morning in 2016, the current incarnation shares many of the same characteristics as its original predecessor. Its an ideal place for great coffee, simple, tasty food made with Irish ingredients, and a relaxing atmosphere.
The Fumbally is a feast for the senses. When first entering, you are greeted with the hum of conversation, the bright, full displays of local produce, and the smell of coffee wafting across the entire room. A central sign opposite the front door states that “all sorrows are less with bread.” The whole room is adorned. Covered with paintings, drawings, local event flyers, and the odd headless figurine to watch over your eggy brunch meal.
The Fumbally, opened in 2012 by friends Aisling and Luca, has seen itself transform over the years. Sitting close to St Patrick’s Cathedral, it is a relaxing and welcoming haven for the surrounding community. The coffee station plays host to a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine flanked by batch brew makers and two baristas. The small space of the pass is framed with several Nouva Simenello grinders and a Mahlkönig EK43.
Originally a busy cafe, it is now a hybrid business. From sit-in food and drinks, it now includes a huge selection of artisan groceries from the best producers in Ireland and abroad. A wall stacked to the ceiling with coffee equipment features beans from the likes of Bailies, The Barn, Farmhand, Coffee Collective, and more. The Fumbally is a thoroughly unique cafe, familiar for many and yet likely quite different since the last time you’ve visited, if you’re reading this from abroad. It is very much worth your time to explore again here in 2023.
Two Boys Brew
Started by Taurean Coughlan and Kevin Roche, Two Boys Brew was the result of years of inspiration. The couple returned to Dublin after living in Australia for nearly half a decade. There, Coughlan and Roche drew no small amount of inspiration from the country’s world-famous specialty coffee scene and wanted to bring that culture back with them.
Located in the heart of the Phibsborourgh neighborhood, the cafe has been operating since the summer of 2016. Beans sourced from Belfast’s Root and Branch take the place of the house coffee, with a rotating selection of guest roasters on filter. A matte white La Marzocco gurgles and hisses atop a wood-wrapped bar. At the sprawling communal table, under a large skylight decorated with a multitude of hanging plants, you can enjoy a Chemex of coffee. Make sure to flick through their seasonal menu of food and the retail section filled with homemade granola, jams, and hot sauces.
The space also proves popular with the locals. Couples, friends, young families, and students tapping away on laptops fill Two Boy Brew throughout the day. Kevin and Taurean recently opened up a second space, named after their dog Milo, in the Drumcondra borough.
The Little Cactus
Found in the charming Stoneybatter area, the Little Cactus is an amalgamation of a passion for both coffee and plants. The concept cafe opened in the summer of 2021, run by owners Jamie and Kate. In the foyer of the shop, a vibrant green La Marzocco machine sits among a collection of foliage. Bags of coffee beans, embellished planting pots, and indoor gardening books are displayed around. Over the machine, bright, lush tendrils and leaves curl across the ceiling, leading the eye to the prints on the wall and the sitting area. The bar serves up both espresso and batch-brew drinks. The aptly suitable Pine Cone Roasters was in the grinder. The cafe has also had other roasters in the past like La Cabra, Climpsons & Sons, and Lucid. A small but wholesome menu of sandwiches and pastries changes throughout the week.
When trailing through the interior, you arrive out the back to a hidden greenhouse-like area. It feels a million miles away from the city around it, with large colorful murals juxtaposed against wooden seating and an array of more plants. It would be very easy to spend a quiet afternoon here, leafing the pages of a book among the succulents.
Under the neon glow of the cafe’s sign, owner Tom Stafford carefully pours cream over a small spoon, topping off one of his signature Irish coffees. Tom has won a range of awards for his menu of boozy drinks, a concoction created in an Irish airport but perfected in this coffee space.
Vice Coffee first opened 10 years ago on the ground floor of the Twisted Pepper Club, now known as Wigwam. Close to the historical General Post Office, the venue is among other bars and pubs on Middle Abbey Street. A nighttime hotspot, known for its music events, is a much quieter and more relaxing place during the daytime light. The cafe area sits in the front area of the building, with a restaurant and bar situated towards the back, under the gleam of a disco ball.
Vice offers a rotating selection of roasters to try and buy, including Friedhats, Roundhill, Manhattan, and Bailies. Depending on the gloominess of the weather outside and the time of day, there are plenty of choices on the menu to heat you up or cool you down. The offerings change with the seasons; iced espresso-based drinks, fruity filters, cold brew, hot chocolate, and more. But the famous Irish coffees are a year-round staple.