HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Excellent Cappuccino in the Boston area?

Hi Experts :-)
I am rather new to the area (6 months) and still looking for perfect coffee...

Some time ago we found the place called "the thinking cup" downtown on Tremont street (see picture) - the Barista was an artist.

Please direct me to the best places around here (not necessarily in the city) that will serve coffee at such a high standard.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Lover of exceptional coffee and bread? We would get along well!

    Dwelltime (Cambridge) and Cafe Fixe (Brookline) are my two favorites for exceptional espresso/coffee and both are friendly and have great atmosphere.

    Others like 1369 (Cambridge), Diesel (Somerville), Thinking Cup (Boston), Simon's (Cambridge), Barismo (Arlington) are all good to great but not exceptional.

    I have yet to visit Terroir by George Howell in Newton but anything from him is going to be high quality. Two other places I haven't made it to yet but might be worth checking out: 3 little figs and Voltage, both in Cambridge.

    A few other random places that look great from the outside but are disappointing: Espresso Royale, Wired Puppy, Refuge Cafe, Bourbon Coffee, Blue State.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Klunco

      You list most of the good spots for espresso but I am puzzled by your assessment of their relative merits.

      For one thing you set off Dwelltime from Barismo...you do realize Dwelltime is a Barismo project, right?

      In any event I have had espresso at all of those places [1369 (Cambridge), Diesel (Somerville), Thinking Cup (Boston), Simon's (Cambridge), Barismo (Arlington)] including Voltage and Howell's and I think they are all mostly in the ballpark and are the ones most espresso (and consequently cappuccino) lovers will mention in the Boston area.

      You could also add Bloc 11 and Cafe Crema if you like as well in that general range.

      Traditionally, Simon's has received a lot of praise and awards for whatever that is worth to you.

      1. re: retrofabulousity

        Hey, good to great is nothing to sneeze at! The OP could go to any of those places and get a great cappuccino. All are miles above super-automatic machine places.

        But, for my tastes (as someone who is so far gone when it comes to coffee that I spend mornings weighing my home-roast in grams before pulling it in a pre-millenium La Pavoni), I wouldn't say that your average espresso at a place like 1369, as much as I enjoy them, is the same thing as the average espresso at a place like Cafe Fixe (which by the way is a triple-ristretto).

        Dwelltime and Cafe Fixe are places where I have had exceptional espresso on a somewhat consistent basis. The other places listed are all good to great and I would certainly stop in for a coffee or espresso, but maybe the weather, barista, or gods made it so I have never had a truly exceptional pull from them.

        Dwelltime is indeed a Barismo project, but a lot of espresso is the barista themselves along with a host of other factors. Barismo is pretty far from me, so I haven't been as many times as I've been to dwelltime and it may have just been in the handful of visits, the magic just hasn't happened. That said, they're a great roaster and make great coffee/espresso. But if espresso could be perfected and easily replicated at multiple locations (ie. what chains try to do), baristas would be superflous and super-automatics would be able to make exceptional espresso. Sadly, this isn't the case even with the same beans and the same machines.

        Just my opinion though! This thread definitely inspires me to visit Howell's this weekend.

        1. re: Klunco

          I was trying to avoid entering too much into the specifics of taste; I find Chowhound useful as a preliminary resource to get a good list together but then I think it's best to try it for yourself when possible.

          So I generally, unless there are huge and obvious discrepancies, try to avoid saying definitive sorts of things like Dwelltime is awesome and Barismo is merely good...especially given the relation between these 2.

          Having said that, I had the impression that Barismo and Simon's have done a lot for the culture of coffee here in the Boston area and remain reference points more so than Dwelltime or Cafe Fixe (places I have been to only a few times but wouldn't have thought to elevate over the others).

          Please post your impressions of Howell's as well if you would...

          1. re: Klunco

            I have to agree with Klunco on the assessment. We do have many good options but I would say Cafe Fixe and Dwelltime are in the top running for best Espresso drinks in town. I am also a huge fan of Render (Counter Culture coffee program) and also have had very solid drinks at Great Barrington in Fort Point (bad ass Synesso on display) and the Great Barrington beans are starting to show up at a few places in town (Cafe Fixe, Area 4).

            Overall though it's really cool that more of these threads on coffee and espresso drinks keep popping up. As more Hounds get hooked on properly prepared coffee and espresso the specialty coffee movement in Boston will keep on growing.

        2. re: Klunco

          thanks for the full overview,
          I will have to try your best spots, and will report back :-)


        3. I love a number of places in the North End for their coffee and ambiance, but the single best cappuccino I have had in Boston is at a place in the West End called Equal Exchange. Not much ambiance, but I swear there is crack cocaine in their espresso beans. They just make a more flavorful cup than anywhere else I have found. It's sort of an odd duck place, but everyone I know who tries it thinks it is amazing.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ScotchandSirloin

            This is my friend's favorite coffee in Boston. I don't normally drink black iced coffee (I usually have it unsweetened but with milk), but I actually really liked it when I had a sip of his.

            1. re: ScotchandSirloin

              Completely agree about some of the North End caf├ęs for coffee and ambiance. There's nothing like having a pastry and coffee at a place like Caffe Vitoria or Caffe Paradiso. I also love that these places are open late and are a welcome alternative to Starbucks etc for a late night coffee.

              Just like the way exceptional food can make us overlook a divey atmosphere, there are times when the atmosphere easily makes me overlook the technical aspects of coffee and I find myself saying, "they really make the best coffee and pastries here."

              1. Best espresso I've had pulled was at Flat Black on Broad St downtown. But since this is an art, it depends on the person doing it.

                In terms of coffee quality generally, my favorites are Thinking Cup, which uses Stumptown Coffee, and Flat Black, which roasts its own.

                1. Three Little Figs in Somerville is my preferred spot.

                  1. Barrington Coffee in Fort Point Channel deserves to be mentioned alongside the other good recommendations you are getting here.

                    1. RJ Gourmet in East Cambridge is my favorite, they use High Lawn Farm milk which is insanely creamy.

                      1. I'm sort of piling on at this point, but just to reinforce what others have said, I've had spectacular espresso and cappuccino at Simon's, Dwelltime and Barismo. Ive only had brewed coffee at Barrington, bit it was quite good. And while you've already been there, I will just add that I had an incredible cappuccino at Thinking Cup this past week.

                        1. If you're in the suburbs (e.g., out for a trek on the Minuteman Bike Path), the Peet's in Lexington Center consistently makes terrific lattes and cappuccinos

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rlh

                            In a way, I was raised on Peets when I was at grad school in Northern Calif/Bay area. We were thrilled when Peets opened in Boston area....then we could stop mail ordering. I still love the espresso there (I don't do milk) but I really want to branch out and try the new independent local places so I am really glad to have this recent thread as a good ongoing reference. Please keep updating!

                            By the way, SO and I started grinding our own beans in 1975 using the only whole beans we could find then at the old Cambridge Country Store on Mass Ave. in North-ish Cambridge, and using Chemex. For morning coffee we've done manual drip ever since so the new pour over designation is kind of fun.

                          2. THANKS EVERYONE

                            glad to here there are several options to explore...

                            1. To these most excellent suggestions, I'll add Area IV in Cambridge. They use Barrington beans, and we've really enjoyed the cappuccinos from both places.

                              I'll also add that there is a new Thinking Cup on Hanover St. in the North End. I haven't tried it, but I love the espresso drinks at the one on Tremont and I'd say it's a safe bet to say the NE location is just as good.

                              1. Some Central Square options that haven't been mentioned yet. Cafe Luna has Blue Bottle. Toscanini's used to do George Howell and maybe also Barismo? (Maybe someone knows the current situation better?) Four Burgers has started a small breakfast menu and has Barismo pourovers. Clover (Inman, Kendall, Harvard and everywhere) takes coffee seriously but I don't think they do espresso. Fazenda has a cafe in JP and roasts locally, supplying Flour and many restaurants. Owner is ex-Espresso Express and Terroir.