A Barista's Guide to the Best Coffee Shops in Austin, TX

A pro's account of the city's burgeoning coffee scene.

Austin can credit its recent growth to an influx of tech industry money, a growing population that works remotely, and the entrepreneurial streak of the city's individualistic culture: all factors that have ensured its coffee scene's bloomed with it. Austin can boast at least a dozen different local coffee roasters—Chameleon Coffee started here, and Greater Goods, Civil Goat, and Wild Gift are three smaller startups worth trying—and more cafes than you can shake a mug at. As someone who was a barista in the third-wave coffee world for ten years, I have a list of my favorite coffee spots, each hipper than the last.

Houndstooth

best coffee shops in austin

Boasting four locations in Austin and a huge rotating menu featuring coffee from roasters all over the country, Houndstooth arguably serves the best coffee in Austin. They take it seriously; baristas have to show up an hour before their shift to taste the full menu, and they can't even touch the espresso machine until they've completed a six-month training program. They offer classes, tasting menus, and occasional free tastings where you can learn how to develop your palate. In fact, my problem with Houndstooth is that they might just be a little too into coffee. Their extensive menu and daily offerings can be a bit overwhelming, and the baristas there tend to possess a sort of overbearing friendliness. Maybe it's just all the caffeine they ingest, but a simple interaction with them can be exhausting. Their logo, a silhouetted fedora in black and white, hasn't aged well, but serves as a fitting representation for a cafe that's trying a little too hard to be cool. Still, if you're looking to learn about coffee or try something new, it's hard to argue with their expertise.

Mañana

best coffee shops in austin

Mañana is a bit of a dark horse on this list. While most of the hip coffee shops are located in East Austin, Mañana is off the courtyard of South Congress Hotel, right in the middle of the touristy drag. They use local roaster Cuvee's beans to great effect. Their iced coffee is wonderful, made using a lighter flash brew method popularized in Japan and showing up more and more in the States. I'll be honest, I'm cheating a little bit here. The real reason Mañana makes the list isn't for the coffee, but for their home-made pastries. They have a frosted cinnamon roll that I see in my dreams. Offerings can be pricey, but the pastries are half off from 5 PM to 7 PM every day, so you know when you can find me there.

Brew & Brew

best coffee shops in austin

The folks behind the bar at Wright Bros Brew & Brew can pull you a great shot of espresso, sure, but the cafe is also notable for its extensive selection of beer and cider—39 taps to be exact. Get there early for a coffee and a mighty decent bagel (Rosen's) or a breakfast taco from Pueblo Viejo, get some work done, and reward yourself with a beer. What else could you need? Brew & Brew stays open until midnight, and though there are other late night cafes in Austin, like the 24-hour Bennu Coffee, there's no better way to kill an hour before heading to a concert with your friends than a late night espresso and a beer. They've recently expanded to offer more seating, and if you like what they have to offer, check out Better Half, their full menu cafe, and Little Brother, their comically tiny bar.

Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors

best coffee shops in austin

Walking out of the Texas sun into Figure 8 feels like walking into a cave. In a good way. It's cool and dark, but not too dark. It's hip and can get a little busy, but those things never feel intrusive. It's the perfect place to get away from the world and get some reading done. Oh, and in my opinion, Figure 8 consistently serves the best shot of espresso in Austin. They serve a selection of different roasters, but the small batches they roast themselves are obviously where it's at. Their cold brew isn't my favorite, a bit too sludgy, and they tend to keep the place a little too cold, but they have patio seating and a more secluded little grotto around back.

Fleet

best coffee shops in austin

Fleet is a tiny spot, consisting only of an espresso bar, two single-person tables inside the cafe, and a couple larger tables outside. Because it's so small, they keep the menu tight and simple. It's great for grabbing a quick shot, chatting up the barista for a minute, and heading out to whatever's next. I have a soft spot for small cafes that focus on no-nonsense efficiency. But a small, simple menu means that you really have to back it up with quality. The folks at Fleet know their business. They have a knack for pulling great single origin shots, extracting the fruity notes without being overly acidic (a hard thing to do).

Flattrack Coffee Roasters

best coffee shops in austin

Flattrack Coffee Roasters shares its space, a refurbished garage, with Cycleast, a friendly neighborhood bike shop. Its large open space is vaguely industrial, decorated in equal measure with motorcycles and plants. With a patio out front and a picturesque little yard out back, the cafe is designed to be Instagram-friendly. But all that outdoor space also means that it's particularly popular with a four-legged constituency, and you are sure to run into some cute dogs while hanging out there. And to complete the Austin atmosphere, they've recently started serving breakfast and lunch fare from a food truck out back.

Those familiar with Austin cafes refer to the last three places on this list as "The Three Fs." The final "F," and my vote for the best coffee in Austin is Flattrack Coffee. They serve a constantly rotating selection of single origin beans, roasted right there. One of their mainstay blends, Sidepipe, was designed specifically for a fruity and malty cold brew, and it goes above and beyond. They roast most weekdays from 9-5, so you can pull up a stool at the bar in back and watch the show. With the roasting, the bike shop, the dogs, and now food being shuttled in and out, it can get a little hectic. But the staff is always friendly and accommodating, and there's no better place to grab a tasty beverage and a bag of beans.

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There are several things about wine that can confuse the average person. If you haven't spent the last few years of your life learning everything there is to know about wine, you can be forgiven for picking up a box of the good stuff every now and then. However, if you want to know a little bit more about how to choose a good bottle, we can help you out. We've created a beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine so you can enjoy yourself a little more.

Know What Type of Wine To Choose

First things first, you're going to need to decide the type of wine that you're looking for in order to narrow your search. Are you looking for a red, white, sparkling, or rosé? The choices may seem overwhelming, but try to focus on what foods you'll be pairing the wine with. Reds go great with heavier meals like red meat, while whites tend to lend themselves towards lighter dishes like fish and cheeses. If you'll be drinking the wine on its own, consider what you've tried in the past and what type you tend to gravitate toward.

Know How Much You're Willing To Spend

It's no secret that a penchant for wine can become an expensive hobby. If you're just getting into the idea, don't waste your time or money with the extremely pricey bottles. A good place to start looking for decent bottles of wine is somewhere between the $10 and $30 price range. This will keep you from buying something too low quality without breaking your bank in the process.

Read the Labels Closely

A good bottle of wine will often give tasting notes right on the bottle. Because everyone's palette is different, you may not get the same notes when you try the wine, but it's a good place to start. Choose something with tasting notes that you already enjoy like berries or cocoa and try to see if you get any hints of that as you drink. The labels may also tell you about the wine's acidity, or how tart it is, and the wine's body, or the way it feels in your mouth.

A beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine can only go so far without being overwhelming. The next part of your wine journey will need to be undertaken on your own. Try various types of wine and see what tastes best to you—that's what wine is really all about.

Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!