The 5 Hottest Indie Coffee Shops in Milwaukee

Anodyne Coffee
Anodyne Coffee's Walker's Point cafe. Visit Milwaukee

With snowflakes tumbling to the ground and record wind chills potentially putting a pause on outdoor fun, there’s no better place to spend a wintry day than indoors with a cup of coffee. Apologies to the chains, but there are plenty of local, indie coffee shops with a unique spin that translates to the décor and the drinks menu. Also of note are Colectivo Coffee Roasters and Stone Creek Coffee, which each have a handful of cafes spanning Milwaukee metro and its suburbs. Some might even say those two companies launched the city’s current coffee wave.

In some sections of Milwaukee, such as Bay View, there are no less than five indie coffee shops to get your morning joe.

Pleasant Kafe

On a street corner on the Lower East Side, this Euro-inspired spot pours coffee and wine. Either grab a seat on the lower level or head upstairs. Both spaces are filled with light and are a great place to either catch up with a friend or dive into a good book. Coffee is courtesy of Valentine Coffee Roasters and there are some rare offerings, like the trendy Cascara (featuring dried berries from the coffee plant) and a 20-ounce coffee is on deck for java fanatics.

Valentine Coffee Roasters

Walking into this Washington Heights café—open since 2013 on Vliet Street next to the Times Cinema, after a few years of roasting for clients including the Bartolotta Restaurant Group and selling at the Wauwatosa Farmers Market—is akin to experiencing a lab. Dubbed a “tasting room,” you get to see the baristas craft your cup of coffee via an open-kitchen concept where the brew bar is front and center. A cup of coffee brewed at 209 degrees Fahrenheit using the pour-over method results in a cleaner cup that doesn’t mask a coffee’s characteristics (yes, you might really taste the blueberries and cocoa that pro coffee tasters hint at).

If you really like what you drink, peruse the shelves and walk out with your own manual coffee brewer.

Anodyne Coffee

With two locations (Walker’s Point and Bay View), the experience at each Anodyne is completely different but for one common denominator: the organic coffee. Roasted daily in small batches at the Walker’s Point location, which is inside a former warehouse (think brick walls and hardwood floors) and bursting with sunlight—and, on weekends, live music—the variety ranges from a brightly acidic Kenyon Ichuga AB to a lighter-bodied Guatemalan San Pedro La Laguna. Then, at the Bay View location, as of 2015, cracker-thin pizzas (with unique toppings like beets, goat cheese, soppressata, and salumi) are cooked in a wood-burning oven imported from Italy, providing the perfect pairing with your cappuccino.

Note: there is also an Anodyne inside the Milwaukee Public Market.

Kickapoo Coffee Roasters

Open since late 2015, and in the Third Ward neighborhood, this is the Wisconsin roaster’s first café. For a cozy feel, the furnishings were built by the Amish and signage commissioned by a Minneapolis craftsman. A cup of coffee is culled from eight single-origin coffees on a rotation, plus six fun blends like “Cast Iron” and “Driftless Morning,” all roasted in a solar-powered roastery in Viroqua, which is tucked into the Driftless Region on the west side of the state. Are you a coffee geek? Don’t miss the daily 3 p.m. cuppings (coffee-speak for evaluating a coffee’s nuances).

Hi-Fi Café

Snug along the main drag in Bay View—along Kinnickinnic, or KK Avenue—this hipster café was a pioneer in the ‘hood’s development when it opened in 1996. Marked by mismatched, Midcentury furnishings, it’s possible to get a full breakfast here, too, like a diner-style stack of blueberry pancakes or (served until noon on weekdays, 1 p.m. on weekends) or eggs benedict. The coffee is always bold and strong, and espresso drinks are inventive, like the Butter Cup (espresso, steamed milk, chocolate syrup and peanut butter).