In 2001 – the year I moved back to Omaha from the coffee mecca of Austin, Texas – Caffeine Dreams opened its doors. Eric and Amber Goodenough purchased the burned-out hulk of a historic brick building at 46th and Farnam and turned it into a proper coffee shop – the kind that would be right at home in Seattle or Austin.

the now-defunct Caffeine Dreams coffee shop in Omaha
Caffeine Dreams in its prime

The Goodenoughs eventually sold the business, and it began a long slow decline into mediocrity, finally closing its doors in 2018. But Caffeine Dreams had established a beachhead for coffee culture in Omaha. In 2002, Starbucks came to town (back when Starbucks still cared about coffee), and since then specialty coffee shops have continued to multiply. I’ve watched various players come and go: Echo, Fox Hollow, Beansmith, Aroma’s.

Based upon 2 decades of espresso-drinking in this city, I offer this humble list of the top ten coffee shops in Omaha. This isn’t one of those “best of” lists where the writer gets compensated to promote someone’s pet business: I’m local and unbiased. The rankings are based entirely on my personal opinion. If you disagree, or if you have a local joint you think should be added to the list, feel free to post a comment.

1. Archetype Coffee

Archetype is the best coffee shop in Omaha, hands down. They know their craft, they love their craft, they excel at their craft. If you’re from a city where top-quality third-wave coffee shops are a basic staple of urban life, skip everything else and go directly to Archetype. While you’re there, ask master roaster Jason Burkum to tell you about the time he won a Grammy award.

Archetype Coffee | 3926 Farnam St. | 1419 S. 13th St.

2. Rally Coffee

For a brief period of time, downtown Omaha boasted an excellent artisan coffee shop called Beansmith. Then it closed down. But coffee director Ian Wiese saved the day by purchasing Beansmith’s assets and launching Rally Coffee! Rally runs a close second to Archetype, and it should be your go-to if you’re staying, working, or playing in north downtown.

Rally Coffee | 749 N. 14th St.

3. Hardy Coffee

Local entrepreneur Autumn Pruitt has been a fixture in Omaha’s coffee and bakery scene since 2010. Hardy is her labor of love, and she’s been steadily perfecting her craft for a decade. You can now enjoy the success of her endeavor in three different locations.

Hardy Coffee | 6051 Maple St. | 1033 Jones St. | 2112 N. 30th St.

4. Roast

Roast is the brick-and-mortar expression of local roaster A Hill of Beans. They opened their Aksarben Village store right in the center of a bustling redevelopment boom, and it’s gone well for them. They’re a little less hipster, a little more suburban – but their coffee is good.

Roast Coffeehouse | 1904 S. 67th St. | 1919 Papillion Pkwy.

5. Starbucks

I can hear all you purists complaining already. But listen: some of us live west of 72nd Street. And as you’ll notice, every single coffee shop on this list is east of 72nd. Yes, Starbucks has turned into the McDonalds of coffee. Yes, it’s compromised its craft and completely sold out to capitalism. Yes, it smells like a gas station convenience store (breakfast sandwich, anyone)? But despite all that… it’s still better than Scooter’s.

Starbucks Coffee | 15 freestanding locations in Omaha & Council Bluffs

6. Culprit Cafe

Culprit is an excellent little café that features beans from Broadway Roasting in KC (one of my favorite Kansas City coffee shops).

Culprit Cafe | 1603 Farnam St. | 3201 Farnam St.

7. Blue Line Coffee

If you’ve seen the “Soup Nazi” Seinfeld episode… that’s Blue Line. Skip the pleasantries. Do not ask questions. If you’re a Dundee local, you are welcome to speak to the barista; but otherwise, just state your order, step aside, and let them get on with things. Nevertheless, Blue Line has great coffee… proving that if you have a quality product, you can afford to be a bit aloof.

Blue Line Coffee | 4924 Underwood Ave.

8. Zen Coffee Co.

Zen is a relative newcomer to the Omaha coffee scene. Its ambience is perhaps a bit overly zen-like… upon entering, one feels a strange sensation to order a decaf or a nice herbal tea. However, they take sustainability seriously and seek to run a 100% waste-free business, which is something our city needs more of.

Zen Coffee Company | 230 South 25th St.

9. Myrtle & Cypress

Myrtle & Cypress is a truly grassroots local business, started by residents of Omaha’s Gifford Park neighborhood. It’s located in a really cool little converted house around the corner from Creighton University. The shop has a great neighborly vibe, and they keep things local by brewing Hardy beans and Artemis teas.

Myrtle & Cypress Coffee | 517 N. 33rd St.

10. Classic Rock Coffee

This place is… maybe a little TOO excited about their concept (all the coffee roasts have cutesy rock-n-roll names?). Apparently the franchise is a self-conscious attempt to blend classic rock culture with specialty coffee culture. It’s an odd mix, and the jury is still out on this one… but the coffee is tasty. And if you’re looking for a decent cup north of 72nd and Maple, good luck finding anything else.

Classic Rock Coffee | 3912 N. 72nd St.

Not on the List…

Scooter’s Coffee

Scooter’s employees are some of the nicest people in the city. But Scooters’ business model is a drive-thru where you order a caramel-drizzle-topped blended coffee beverage. They’re wonderful people who are good at what they do; it’s just that what they do isn’t coffee, per se.

Crane Coffee

To its credit, Crane was “Omaha’s original coffeehouse” back in 1991 (think: second-wave, pre-Starbucks). To its detriment, Crane’s coffee has just never been good. Recently Scooter’s announced that it is acquiring Crane… regarding which, see above.