**March 2021 Update**
It feels like the best coffee in Bangkok is a lot easier to find in 2021 than when I first wrote this post! Despite everything that 2020 threw at us, I’ve noticed a big increase in the number of high quality coffee shops in Bangkok over the past couple of years. So bookmark this post to keep up to date with the best coffee in Bangkok – there are some places that should be high on your Bangkok coffee list!
Coffee. I love coffee. A morning espresso is a vital cog in my daily routine that I can’t easily skip. But finding the best coffee in Bangkok – or indeed any good coffee, has often been a surprising challenge during our time living here.
Before moving to Bangkok, I was pretty confident about finding good coffee in the Big Mango after a friend reassured me it was a cornucopia of amazing brews. I trusted his judgment because he is a) Australian b) cool and c) a Proper Coffee Person or PCP. PCPs are the hardcore of caffeine – never without their own supply of beans, able to tell you with clarity what a flat white is, obsessed with the size of their grind. You know the type. I am not that type of coffee lover. As long as it’s hot, strong and not overwhelmingly acrid I’m happy.
Bangkok has been something of a culture shock in this respect.
Bangkokians love coffee. There are coffee shops everywhere and vendors on every corner selling coffee. On paper it’s ideal – the only tiny flaw is that, as far as I can tell, the coffee that’s enjoyed here is, umm, not actual coffee.
To give an example, I ordered an espresso when we had just arrived in Bangkok from a perfectly respectable looking stand (they had a proper, swishy whooshy coffee machine thing). I received the following:
Now, call me old-fashioned, but that is not an espresso. I will accept that there is an espresso in there. Somewhere. But it’s most definitely not alone. This was the equivalent of asking for an egg and receiving a large chocolate gateau.
In Bangkok, a normal coffee is both iced and full of condensed milk. If you just ask for an espresso, you will more than likely get a pint of icy, sugary gloop. It actually tastes fine, but it is not what I’m looking for and contains many more diabetes than I am interested in consuming.
It’s easy to understand why Thais go for the cold stuff in perennial tropical weather – heck, I’ve even been converted to a morning cold brew in year round 30-degree plus heat. There’s also something of a national sweet tooth which explains the fondness for sugar. When you can get an actual hot coffee, it’s often quite bitter and tough to drink, presumably because it’s such an unusual request. Also be prepared to be looked at, justifiably, like you’re insane for ordering a hot drink in this climate.
Even in more specialist coffee places like the ubiquitous Coffee Club – which you might hope given the name had some of the best coffee in Bangkok – alas – the standard is an iced beverage. I’ve asked for a hot espresso on three occasions in there and been presented with: a bad espresso, a bad Americano, and most memorably a quadruple espresso on ice with a side of sugar syrup from a very confused-looking lady.
What I find quite confusing about all of this is that Thailand grows some of the best coffee in the world, even if it’s tough to locate the best coffee in Bangkok (or even good coffee sometimes).
If you head up to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, you can barely move for excellent coffee from little independent shops dotted all over the place. You can pick up bags of the most amazing beans from places like Akha Ama for very little cash, and there are great coffee options in every town.
Some of my favourite coffee I have ever had was served up in a tiny coffee shop in a little town called Chiang Dao an hour north of Chiang Dao, into the mountains and jungle-covered hills of the north. A great town to visit if you are planning a trip to the north! I asked the owner where he got his coffee beans and he pointed to the bushes next to us. The coffee is incredibly abundant up there and a true coffee lover should seriously consider a dedicated, caffeine-loaded trip to the north and areas such as Doi Chang.
In order to find something a bit more familiar and a whole lot more tasty in Bangkok requires a bit of investigative work both in terms of location and in knowing what to ask for. Thankfully there is hope in the hunt for the best coffee in Bangkok; as new coffee shops really have been springing up at quite a rate. In true and typical Thai style, many of the new breed of coffee shops have a lot of style and atmosphere as well as some of the best coffee in Bangkok.
Where to find the best coffee in Bangkok
Thankfully, we’ve tracked down a few good places in our time here so far that serve up some of the best coffee in Bangkok. Be aware that a decent espresso or similar will set you back around 100baht which is pretty punchy by Thai standards.
The best coffee in bangkok for value
Convent Coffee The best coffee in Bangkok for simplicity – Soi Convent, Silom. My fave for best coffee in Bangkok. This little shop is easy to miss amongst the sprawling street vendors of Soi Convent, but is probably my favourite coffee haunt. It’s usually quiet, decidedly un-flashy and serves a great americano for about 50 baht. Check out the Kuay Teow Khae noodle shop down the road, or the litany of amazing food along Soi Convent. Seen here among Bangkok’s finest cheap eats.
Coffeelism – Soi Sathorn 8. Really good brews from a corner stand and an award-winning barista. Espressos from just 40THB. No frills, just good and highly dependable coffee. Probably the cheapest good coffee I’ve come across in Bangkok.
The best coffee in bangkok for atmosphere
Factory Coffee The best coffee in Bangkok for fancy concoctions – Phaya Thai, just under the BTS (head towards the airport link and take the stairs down on the left before you reach the airport link. Super popular new(ish) place with a line of fun specials which still contain good coffee.
Library Among the best coffee in Bangkok for cool surroundings – Warehouse 30, Bang Rak and Jam Factory, Khlong San. Artsy but undoubtedly great coffee. Added bonus at Warehouse 30 is that you’re right next door to Sweet Pista, home to one of the greatest burgers I’ve ever tasted. Beans are roasted on site and are delicious, if pricey.
Ports – In Chinatown opposite Wat Pho. Lovely new place in a converted Thai-Chinese style shophouse with a cool upstairs area. Well-priced and a very minimalist design.
Walden Home Cafe – Khlong San Somdet Chao Praya 15
Achingly hip (just look at their IG), tiny new place in Khlong San with excellent brews. Particularly good piccolo and reasonably priced. Beautiful decor and excellent food, because who doesn’t want sausage and potato on toast (update may 2019 – sadly discontinued but the toasted sarnies are a hit)? If you go to Iconsiam stop by.
Golden Mount Coffee The best coffee in Bangkok based in a temple on a hill – Golden Mount Temple, Yaowarat (Chinatown). Something a little different. One of Bangkok’s grander temple complexes, with a centrepiece artificial hill and temple, Golden Mount also boasts an eclectic coffee shop. Set halfway up the walk to the summit of the Golden Mount, this coffee house offers welcome respite from the heat with properly made coffees in addition to delicious, cooling fruit sodas. The fact that the majority of patrons are monks adds to the fun.
The best coffee in bangkok for aficionados
Coffee Academics – The best coffee in Bangkok if money is no obstacle – It’s nice. Bring money. Extremely high end single origin drip coffees and generally pricey bean-related outcomes at this spot in Velaa Sindhorn and also Central World. Very nice coffee but for me just too screamingly expensive. See aldo % in IconSiam for a similar vibe.
Pacamara – Velaa Sindhorn (Langsuan) and various others – One for the hardcore. All manner of brews and potions are on offer at this speciality place. Espressos pack a punch but are just the right side of bitter. There’s also a good range of cold brew and a good cola cold brew (because who doesn’t want more caffeine with their caffeine?) if you want something chilled that isn’t just sugar.
Red Diamond Specialty Coffee – ICONSiam and actually now at DMK airport
At the flashy end of the new mega mall is Red Diamond. On the ground floor, it’s in the middle of the area near the doors to the boats. Prices are high, but they have a range of beans and tasting notes with each coffee. Usually I’m not into that level of faff, but here it works nicely. I like the Old School blend for a monstrous caffeine hit with a good flavour.
The best coffee in Bangkok for chain options
Doi Chaang – various – these are dotted around Bangkok and definitely pricey but have good coffee in a nice setting. There’s one just outside Chatuchak market near Kampaeng Phet MRT if you want a break from that particular madness.
Phufa Coffee – various – means something like ‘mountain sky’ in Thai, these are small shops and cafes which are part of a royal project. Coffee is nothing special, but comes with a small pink drink on the side which is somewhat addictive. No idea what it is.
Muanchon Coffee – various – zero fuss and frills at these small outlets dotted around town. Won’t win awards, but will net you a drinkable Americano for 29 baht (24 if you bring your own cup). Unbeatable value!
The best coffee in Bangkok for brunching
Roast – Thong Lor – The Commons Soi 17 (top floor) and the Commons Saladaeng (temp closed Mar 2021)- hipster as f spot for coffee and brunch with a particularly good piccolo latte (think macchiato/cortado). Far too cool for me to be anywhere near this place, but the coffee is good (as are the sweetcorn fritters – a line I never thought I’d write). Busy at the weekends!
Sarnies – The best coffee in Bangkok for chowing down on a huge brunch Charoen Krung Soi 44, Bang Rak, Sathorn.
Ultra hip place in Bang Rak, a few minutes from Saphan Taksin BTS. Great black coffees and beans available to buy. Also sensational food. Pricey, and expect a wait on the weekends, but this is excellent stuff.
The Unnamed – Soi Pipat (Chong Nonsi BTS) – Tiny little cafe serving up good coffees alongside great homemade food. Really friendly owner and a worthwhile small business to support. I particularly like the piccolo latte and long black coffees served here.
In most of the specialist places on this list of the best coffee in Bangkok, the menu and ordering will be in English. In some of the chain places and more generally, you may need to order in Thai and so here is a little set of pointers to help you navigate and get a good coffee rather than a chilled, sugary cup of liquid surprise (and disappointment.
The key word to get what you want is ‘rawn’ – meaning ‘hot’. As standard, Bangkok coffee is ‘yen’ (cold/iced). This being Thailand, the official romanised spelling and reality are quite different. The letter R is a purely theoretical concept here in Bangkok, it’s actually pronounced as L (me neither). So you need to ask for ‘laaawn’, stretching the ‘a’ as though you were posh and talking about your garden.
Throw this on after your chosen brew (espresso lawn, americano lawn) to make yourself clear. You can also bulletproof your order with ‘mai sai waan’ (don’t put sugar) to avoid and bonus syrup.
Happy hunting – and if you have any tips or places let us know!