Australia's claim to the flat white may be contentious, but our love affair with coffee is hardly up for debate. Our roasters and baristas are some of the most accomplished, inventive and technical in the world. It seems with each passing month there’s a new brewing technique, new gadgets or a shift in the idea of what good coffee actually means.

These are the cafes defining the future and, at the same time, giving us the basics at their very best. The only thing left for you to do is decide how you like your coffee.

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Single O Cafe and Sideshow

When Dion and Emma Cohen fired up their roaster in Surry Hills in 2003, few people knew what single-origin coffee was. Since then Single O (formerly Single Origin) has been instrumental in improving our general understanding of coffee, with a focus on ethics and traceability. The company also cares about the environment: its roastery runs on solar and the Cohens helped developed the Juggler, a milk-bladder system that cuts down on plastic bottles.

60-64 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills

Ona Coffee

Ona's founder, Sasa Sestic, won the 2015 World Barista Championship with a bright blend called Raspberry Candy. It's the primary attraction at this spartan "coffee experience bar", where baristas pull espresso through a San Remo Opera, a machine Sestic helped design. Hardcore coffee drinkers can splash out for premium-reserve coffees, which have been roasted, aged, then vacuum-sealed into individual doses and frozen. It's easy to see why Ona is so revered in its hometown of Canberra.

140 Marrickville Road, Marrickville

St Dreux

The owners here have over 30 years experience in coffee combined. And it shows. The coffee selection at St Dreux is inventive, inclusive of all tastes (three kinds of roasts) and at the forefront of the field – both in terms of tech and know-how.

151 Clarence Street, Sydney

Mecca Coffee Alexandria

Mecca was one of the Sydney's earliest specialty roasters. From a small espresso bar in 2005, owners Paul Geshos and Sam Sgambellone have built one of the city's most important coffee operations. Their roasts can be found in cafes across Sydney, but they're rarely brewed better than at this big, beautiful warehouse that serves as the brand's HQ. Drop in from 10am on Saturdays to participate in a public cupping (tasting) session.

26 Bourke Road, Alexandria

Reuben Hills

Every coffee company has relationships with its growers, but few have gone so far as Reuben Hills. Owner Russell Beard and his team have a particular affinity for Central and South American coffees, which are here matched with unusual food inspired by the region. Filter coffee is brewed on the Marco SP9, an incredibly consistent, single-serve percolator.

61 Albion Street, Surry Hills

Paramount Coffee Project

Russell Beard's other big project in Sydney is a collaboration with Mark Dundon, the godfather of Melbourne's coffee scene. This stark site has some operational quirks only baristas would notice, such as the stainless steel trays loaded with cups of pre-ground coffee shots. Presumably, it's to keep up with demand – even in busy Surry Hills, this is a destination spot for many drinkers. PCP has proven so successful, it's been spun into two cafes in Los Angeles.

80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills

Neighbourhood

Plenty of cafes focus on coffee and little else, but few do it with as much dedication as Neighbourhood. This tiny little cubby hole hosts just two baristas, a coffee machine and a few pastries. Beans are roasted by the Neighbourhood team with help from Artificer.

16 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills

Primary Coffee Roasters

This is more showroom than cafe, with coffee from one of Sydney's most experienced baristas.

1/9 Ward Avenue, Potts Point

Regiment

No expense was spared on this gorgeous space, where baristas work with Five Senses beans, two Synesso Hydras and milk is steamed by machine, not hand, using dual Übermilks. Like Reuben Hills, Regiment also uses the consistent Marco SP9 for its filter orders.

Ground Floor 333 George Street, Sydney

Artificer Specialty Coffee Bar & Roastery

This neat, American oak panelled shop is a visual hint at what you'll get in the cup: clean, bright, light roasts that make each small shipment of beans sing. Owners Dan Yee and Shoji Sasa don't even serve any food, so as to give the coffee their full attention.

547 Bourke Street, Surry Hills

Skittle Lane

Skittle Lane beans are harder to find than say, Single O or Mecca, but it's not for lack of quality. This diminutive shop just off King Street roasts its own well-rounded espresso blend and a number of seasonal filters, making it well worth a stop next time you're in the area.

40 King Street, Sydney

Edition Coffee Roasters Haymarket

Edition’s second location has much the same appeal as its older sibling, albeit in a larger, moodier space.

60 Darling Drive, Haymarket

Coffee Alchemy

Don't be dissuaded by the queue – it's worth it.Coffee Alchemy’s Hazel de los Reyes has a few competitive titles to her name, most notably in cupping, the tasting process by which roasters grade coffee and determine whether or not it qualifies as “specialty”. That experience is evident in her down-to-earth roastery and espresso bar, where there’s always a line.

24 Addison Road, Marrickville

Gumption by Coffee Alchemy

Coffee Alchemy’s second outlet announces its mission as soon as you walk in. A bank of brass-capped tubes fixed to the wall hold multiple roasts ready for customers to take home or enjoy right there. This is an essential stop at the Strand.

Shop 11, Ground Floor Strand Arcade, Sydney

Dutch Smuggler

It’s getting harder and harder to stand out solely by roasting beans to a high-quality standard. Dutch Smuggler does that, but we’re particularly enamoured with its creative coffee mocktails, which include ingredients such as lemon and ginger beer. It's a whole new way to enjoy coffee.

200 George Street, Sydney

Mecca Coffee CBD

It’s been more than a decade since Paul Geshos opened this little shop, and it’s still one of our favourites. House Blend, the brand’s straight-facedly named house blend, is a classic and it’s pulled with noted consistency here.

67 King Street, Sydney

South by Dukes

Dukes was an early entrant on the Melbourne specialty coffee scene and arrived in Sydney in 2017. It’s particularly committed to fair trade and the environment, using traceable bags of coffee from ethical plantations, such as Honduras Organic Coffee. It also works with organisations such as One Percent for the Planet, which donates one per cent of a company’s earnings to selected charities.

Southern Lobby Tower One , Barangaroo

Brewtown Newtown

Coffee and baked goods is one of life’s great pairings. Especially so when the coffee is roasted to the standard of Brewtown and the goods are cinnamon scrolls, cheesecake, peanut butter and chocolate brownies.

6-8 O'Connell Street, Newtown

Brewtown Surry Hills

Before starting Brewtown, Simon Triggs and Charles Cameron worked at Gnome Espresso, a popular coffee destination in Surry Hills. Now they’ve taken it over and increased its coffee cred even further.

536 Crown Street, Surry Hills

Soma

Before Alexandria came along, this was Mecca’s headquarters. It’s still an excellent place to taste the brand’s full range and, if you’re interested, take a coffee course to learn more.

646 Harris Street, Ultimo

Single O CBD

This even more compact version of the Surry Hills HQ has the same attention to detail and as a result, the same excellent coffee.

89 York St, Sydney

Bondi Hall

The Reuben Hills’ team eastern outpost is a real counterpoint to the sunny, light cafes that you normally find in Bondi. The walls are lined with dark felt and the food feels rather sophisticated. Likewise, the coffee manages to stands out in an area that’s not exactly lacking.

1 75-79 Hall Street, Bondi

Sample Coffee Surry Hills

Competition is fierce in Surry Hills. This little cafe made a name for itself by rotating coffees from other specialty roasters around town, hence the name “Sample”. Now, though, the main attraction is its own roasts, which come from a newer site in St Peters.

118 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills

Sample Coffee St Peters

The mothership. Most days the place smells of freshly roasted coffee – a wonderful accompaniment to your brew, whether it's a black Kenyan Gaguyuni, cold-brew Ethiopian Wottona Boltuma, or batch brewed Colombia Villa Linda.

Suite 1.03 75 Mary Street (cnr Albion Lane), St Peters

Double Tap Coffee

This is a great place to get acquainted with beans from Panorama Coffee, a relatively unheralded roaster that Double Tap owner Daniel Karaconji has a soft spot for.

54-56 Smith Street, Marrickville

Queenside

Owner Jim Papadakis previously roasted for Campos and Little Marionette. He’s a big believer in using blends to achieve a unique taste, rather than the single-origin coffees other roasters in Sydney get from the same farms and growers.

1 727 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill