03 June 2019

Berlin Speciality Coffee Guide: Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg

For more Berlin speciality coffee recommendations, check out my coffee guide to Kreuzberg and Neukölln.

A great (very) last-minute deal saw me spending the last bank holiday weekend in Berlin. I visited the German capital in December for the first time in more than 20 years, but as I was there for work, I only had one day of free time and spent most of it exploring the speciality coffee scene in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. This time, I saw a bit more of the city and visited a number of different speciality coffee shops and roasters in the sprawling Mitte (city centre) district — especially around Alexanderplatz, where I stayed — and the pretty and historic Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood. The map below covers coffee spots I visited on both this trip and my penultimate visit.

19 Grams (Mitte)
A few minutes' walk from the busy Alexanderplatz station, you can find the 19 Grams cafe and roastery. Launched under the Tres Cabezas name in 2002, the company underwent a rebrand last year and now has four cafes in Berlin, the original Friedrichshain location retaining the Tres Cabezas name. The Alexanderplatz cafe is large and airy with plenty of seating inside and on the pavement outside. The roastery is at the back, and there was a wide selection of bags of retail beans available when I visited. There are sandwiches, cakes and breakfast/brunch dishes too.

I stopped by practically as soon as I arrived in the city on Saturday afternoon; my hotel was only ten minutes' walk away. I ordered a piccolo, which was made with the Wild at Heart espresso — a sweet blend of Costa Rican and Colombian varieties that worked beautifully with a little milk.

I returned on my last day to buy some beans and I was in luck because they'd just finished roasting some Costa Rican Black Punch beans from Finca Las Lajas, which the friendly barista recommended to me after I described my coffee preferences. The coffee was naturally processed and then sun dried, and as soon as I smelt the sample as a filter coffee, I knew it would be my kind of coffee and I bought a bag. As I got a free coffee with the beans, I also got a cup of the Black Punch to go, and the dark chocolate and strawberry notes came through very nicely. The coffee has also been tasting great brewed through my V60 at home.

19 Grams is located at Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 13 (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

The Barn Roastery (Prenzlauer Berg)
Last time I was in Berlin, I visited Berlin roaster The Barn's then-newest location, in Neukölln. This time, I hit the roastery–cafe on Schönhauser Allee, a leafy boulevard in Prenzlauer Berg. Were it not for the A-board, you might miss The Barn altogether but luckily, I knew what I was looking for. Inside, the centrepiece is a huge, wooden L-shaped counter, one 'arm' of which holds the espresso machine and the other acts as the brew bar for hand-brewed filter coffee. The roastery, meanwhile, is at the back. There are lots of small wooden tables across from the counter, and a bigger high table next to the roaster.

As usual, there was an impressive pourover menu but I was soon sold on the newly arrived Ethiopian Dambi Uddo natural coffee, whose strawberry and bergamot flavour notes made for a delicious brew. This is a relaxing place for a coffee, and the knowledgeable, welcoming baristas made the experience very enjoyable. They also serve more creative seasonal drinks, and sell sweet treats, coffee kit and retail bags of beans.

Although I was coffee-d out by the time I got there, I did also pass by The Barn's newest branch in Potsdamer Platz. The small cafe in the historic Haus Huth is a lovely location for an espresso-based drink or filter coffee. It would also have been perfect for my last trip, when I was staying close by and couldn't find much in the way of speciality coffee in close proximity.

The Barn is located at Schönhauser Allee 8, Haus Huth — Alte Potsdamer Str. 5, (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Ben Rahim (Mitte)
You can find most of the big names in Berlin speciality coffee in Mitte, but I was keen to try some of the less well-known (internationally, at least) places too. Ben Rahim was one such spot that came highly recommended. The tiny coffee shop is tucked away in a quiet alley off Sophienstraße, a Mitte street that boasts a number of artisan and other independent shops. Ben Rahim serves speciality coffee with an Arabian influence. This means that you can have your coffee brewed in an ibrik, if you like, and the influences continue in the décor and in the sweet treats they serve (baklava).

Ben Rahim's house roaster is London-based Square Mile but because one of the coffees available on filter — a Tanzanian Magwila — was one I'd had at home, I decided to go for a Kenyan from April, a Copenhagen coffee roaster. Brewed through the V60, the coffee tasted very good with lovely fruity notes. I also ordered a baklava (it would be rude not to), which was crisp, sticky and sweet, exactly a it should be. The baristas were great too, providing a welcoming atmosphere and putting a lot of care into each cup of coffee that they brewed.

Ben Rahim is located at Sophienstraße 7. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Bonanza Coffee Heroes (Prenzlauer Berg)
Bonanza's roastery in Kreuzberg was one of my favourites of my last Berlin trip. Their Prenzlauer Berg coffee bar is smaller, but on a sunny Sunday lunchtime, it was bustling, with most of the seats outside fully occupied. I nabbed a stool at the window, and then went to choose some beans to take home. I decided to go for the Rwandan Bumbogo #2 honey-processed beans, which promised an unusual combination of bananas, berries and boiled sweets. I'm not sure I've managed to taste the bananas in my extractions at home, but the latter two flavours have been evident.

I also ordered a piccolo, which was brewed with a Colombian El Carmen espresso. The coffee was brewed immaculately and tasted fantastic. Just what I needed to energise myself ahead of a walk through the flea, craft and street food markets of Mauerpark, just across the road.

Bonanza Coffee Heroes is located at Oderberger Str. 35 (and Kreuzberg). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Brammibal's Donuts (Mitte)
In Kreuzberg last year, I enjoyed an excellent vegan doughnut at Brammibal's, but because there was no off-menu coffee ordering — and no macchiato, piccolo or cortado on the menu — I didn't sample a Populus coffee with Oatly milk. The same is true at the Potsdamer location of Brammibal's, whose gorgeous, millennial pink bar — and coordinating coffee cups — is quite something.

I can't drink large quantities of cow's milk, and I'm not a huge fan of oat milk in my coffee, but I decided to go for a flat white made with Populus's Fazenda Sertao espresso from Brazil. The flat white was well brewed and the milk didn't overpower the taste of the coffee, although I still would have preferred a piccolo or macchiato. They do serve batch-brew filter coffee too. Brammibal's other main draw is the doughnuts and I had a brown butter and rosemary doughnuts — one of their seasonal selection — which was delicious.

Brammibal's Donuts is located at Alte Potsdamer Str. 7 (and Kreuzberg). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Five Elephant (Mitte)
I get to try Five Elephant coffee from time to time in London and on my travels but I was still keen to visit their Mitte location, a slim coffee bar on Alte Schönhauser Strasse. It was pretty close to my hotel so I decided to stop by for breakfast after a run around Friedrichshain park. The design of this cafe is particularly lovely, with a long counter made of the same material as you can see underneath my coffee in the second photo, and the sweet treats on display in an elegant glass display. There are stools perched at the front window and along the wall opposite the coffee bar, plus a few seats outside, which are great for people-watching.

I had an excellent macchiato, brewed with a Brazilian espresso, as well as a raspberry baked good that seemed to be a hybrid of a muffin and a scone.  It was very good, and if you have a sweeter tooth than me, you should be well-served by Five Elephant's food offering. Colourful bags of coffee beans are also for sale.

Five Elephant is located at Alte Schönhauser Str. 14 (and Kreuzberg). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

No Fire No Glory (Prenzlauer Berg)
In the heart of Prenzlauer Berg, No Fire No Glory is a large, laid-back cafe that was positively bustling on the Sunday afternoon I visited. Most of the outdoor tables, on the broad pavement, were full, but I managed to find a space inside, just opposite the coffee bar. As well as coffee and drinks, they serve brunch until 2 pm and the brunch crowd was out in full force during my visit.

Their espresso is a custom Brazilian and Colombian blend, roasted by Bonanza. As I was pressed for time, I ordered a macchiato, which I just about had time to drink before dashing off for a walking tour. The coffee was very good, but next time, I'd like to linger a little longer at No Fire No Glory to soak up the atmosphere — and sample the brunch.

No Fire No Glory is located at Rykestraße 45. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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