Ask The Expert: Coffee in Michigan

Ask The Expert: Coffee in Michigan

Note: We got a lot of feedback from our readers after we published Seven of the Best Coffee Shops in Michigan last month. So, we’ve brought the subject back and sent Erica Starr, a Michigan coffee expert, on a tour of the mitten to compile her list of recommendations. This is her first installment.

A cup of coffee, to many, is a simple pleasure. To some, however, that cup of coffee is much more than just a drink; it represents passion for an ever-developing craft. Similar to beer or wine, coffee is a complex beverage that holds the capability to produce a delicious flavor experience far superior to that of your average cup of joe. Here in Michigan, we’re lucky to have a large number of coffee professionals eager to share the magic of specialty coffee with the world. It’s my mission to introduce you to the coffee shops that provide their customers with an excellent experience (and maybe free wi-fi, too.)

Photo Courtesy Erica Starr

1. The Red Hook – 220 W. 9 Mile Rd., Ferndale

Open M-F 7a-5p, Sat 8a-5p

Named for the famed Brooklyn neighborhood, The Red Hook is a small operation located in the front of Pinwheel Bakery in Ferndale. This is the only shop in Michigan where you can enjoy coffee from Portland-based roasters, Stumptown Coffee. Approachable and knowledgeable baristas offer a simple menu of espresso beverages, drip coffee and brew-to-order coffees. Add to this a warm, charming atmosphere, a convenient location and delicious pastries and you’ve got the recipe for an awesome café experience.

Photo Courtesy Erica Starr

2. Anthology Coffee – 1401 Vermont St., Detroit

Open M-Sat 9a-2p

Hole-in-the-wall is a fairly literal description when it comes to Anthology Coffee’s latest digs in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. Located inside of Ponyride, a collective of local artists and entrepreneurs, Anthology offers espressos and brew-to-order coffees in a very intimate setting designed to allow their customers to see and learn just what goes on in the process of making coffee. They regularly host events such as tastings and introductions to various brewing methods. Dedication to coffee excellence is what drives Anthology, and what gives them recognition; you can find their beans all over Michigan, such as at Cuppa Joe in Traverse City and the (espresso) bar in Ann Arbor.

Photo Courtesy The Ugly Mug

3. The Ugly Mug – 317 West Cross Avenue, Ypsilanti

Open M-F 6a-9p, Sat&Sun 8a-8p

I hesitate to use the word “cool” as a main description for most things – but “cool” is precisely the word that best fits The Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti. With its warehouse vibe and eclectic décor, this café and roastery is the perfect space for art exhibitions, performances by local musicians, and food/coffee education – just last month they hosted a raw garlic tasting and a poetry night! Comfy couches and big tables are great for setting up shop to work on homework or just browse the interwebs while drinking a cup of coffee (which they roast in house) or snacking on one of their tasty menu items.

Photo Courtesy Erica Starr

4. Comet Coffee – 16 Nickels Arcade, Ann Arbor

Open M-F 7a-8p, Sat 8a-8p, Sun 8:30a-8p

If variety is something that interests you, Comet Coffee is perhaps your best bet when it comes to coffee in Michigan. At any given time, this cozy shop conveniently located in Nickels Arcade has coffees from roasters around the country such as Ritual, Terroir, Ceremony, 49th Parallel, and Counter Culture Coffee. Their bar features a menu with espresso drinks and a number of brew-to-order choices such as v-60 and eva solo. While the space is small and seats are often hard to come by, Comet is comfortable and relaxed – a perfect stop if you’re on your way to class or on break from work.



Photo Courtesy Erica Starr

5. The (espresso) bar – 327 Braun Court, Ann Arbor


Open M-F 9a-5p, Sat&Sun 10a-3p

This cozy barista-owned shop, located right beneath The Bar at Braun Court, opened in early 2012 and has since taken off among Ann Arbor’s coffee crowd. I don’t exaggerate when I say that this is where I’ve enjoyed the best traditional cappuccino I’ve ever had.  On top of the excellent coffee (sourced by Counter Culture Coffee and Anthology Coffee,) the (espresso) bar offers pastries from Zingerman’s, home-brewing equipment and accessories, books, and events such as public cuppings and game nights. If you are looking for excellent coffee and a place that feels like home, you need look no further.

Photo Courtesy Erica Starr

6. Madcap Coffee – 98 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids

Open M-F 7a-7p, Sat 8a-7p

One of the heavy-hitters of the specialty coffee industry, Madcap is known nationwide for the quality of its coffees. The company’s founders, Trevor Corlett and Ryan Knapp, have both won titles in the United States Barista Championship and trained many of their baristas to go on and compete as well. The staff here is happy to tell customers about their impressive selection of coffees both on the bar and for retail sale (if you’re looking for beans to brew at home, this is the place to go.) Located in downtown Grand Rapids, the entire experience provided by Madcap is one that exudes quality. Clean lines, simple décor, and admirable professionalism amongst the baristas ensure your experience here will be a great one.

Photo Courtesy Erica Starr

7. Morsels – 321 E. Front St., Traverse City

Open M-F 7a-7p, Sat 7a-9p, Sun 8a-6p

Living in Northern Michigan, a delicious coffee beverage can be difficult to come by – that’s where Morsels comes in. In Traverse City, a town full of coffee shops, Morsels shines with well-trained staff, top-of-the-line equipment, and a variety of coffees and teas from Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee. While their claim to fame lies in the delectable bite-sized treats so adequately called ‘morsels,’ the owners of this popular café value quality across the board with a seasonal food menu, house-made syrups and sauces, and excellent customer service from their baristas. It’s no wonder they’re set to open a second café early in 2013!

-Erica Starr, Contributing Writer

Erica Starr has worked in the coffee industry for a seemingly-mere three years, but has worked in the service industry for seven and knows how to give the people what they want. A Traverse City native, she manages Cuppa Joe, a coffee shop with three locations in this Northern Michigan destination town. She’s visited coffee shops all over the Midwest and recently traveled to Norway to meet Tim Wendelboe, the 2004 World Barista Champion and owner of this self-named shop in Oslo. She is a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, though she would never call herself a coffee expert. But don’t worry, we definitely define her as one.

Tagged , , , , , , , , .

I like to think that I’m just a simple northern Michigan twentysomething who loves good craft brews, great wine, summertime grillouts, and well-roasted coffee. I'm also a dedicated yoga practitioner, social media and marketing enthusiast, reader and writer, local food junkie, and outdoors explorer--and I'm always adding to the list. If you want to know something about what's going on in Traverse City, chances are I know about it and it's even more likely that I'm involved in it. I love this town and I love helping to make it shine.
  • Brie Todd

    How is Chazzano Coffee not on this list????

    • Adam

      I second Chazzano. Commonwealth Coffee in Bham also roasts their own, and Astro in Detroit always has amazing roasts.

      • Jess

        The owner of Anthology is the same person who roasts for Commonwealth. They’ve got good coffee but every time I’ve been there the baristas have been snarky and offered very little information about the coffee they were serving. (One of them actually said “Uhh… I think the espresso is a brazil….” when I asked about it.)

  • Gluftar

    How is Higher Grounds not on this list?

    • awesomemitten

      Please refer to the note at the top of the article. This is the first in a series, so we will definitely be naming other coffee locations! Higher Grounds has been feature a few times in other articles as well! :)

  • Placido

    How is BREW not on this list?

    • awesomemitten

      Please refer to the note at the top of the article. This is the first in a series, so we will definitely be naming other coffee locations! Brew has been feature a few times in other articles as well! :)

    • meg

      pretty sure it’s supposed to be about the quality of the coffee being served, not just about everyone’s favorite hang out spot…

  • JIm Saborio

    Why is COMET on the list? I hang out there all the time and it’s totally LAME!

    • BuddhaRocks

      … and so you hang out there all the time? (Maybe THAT’S why it’s lame?)

      • dave t

        Thanks Buddha…that makes sense!!!

    • dave talberg

      if its so “lame” y do u hang out there all the time? go somewhere else!!!

  • Awesome Mitten

    Hi guys! Please refer to the note at the top of the article. This is the first in a series, so we will definitely be naming other coffee locations! Both Brew and Higher Grounds have been feature a few times in articles as well! :)

  • johnny

    How is the starbucks in meijer not on this list? Shopping and coffee. Boom.

  • Brian

    Hidden western coast gem is Redolencia in Ludington. They roast all their own beans in house, and have ruined most other coffee for me because their coffee is so good.

    • Erica S

      Cool! Looks like I’ll have to take a little coastal road trip to check it out. :)

  • Lisa

    Check out Artie’s Filling Station in Lansing…incredible little walk-up coffee shop.

  • Will

    This is a great list, and I’m glad other coffee shops will be added in the future. Rowster New American Coffee is definitely one you should check out. I’m sure you didn’t want to have two coffee shops in Grand Rapids, but it’s noticeably better Madcap Coffee (which I also enjoy). I’ve had the good fortune of trying most of the places you listed, and in my opinion, Rowster’s coffee is the best Michigan has to offer.