Coffee Bar Definition

An image of crema on top of a well-pulled shot of espresso.
Espresso shots are a staple drink at coffee bars. Marko Goodwin

Definition: A coffee bar is an establishment similar to a coffee house or a coffee shop. However, coffee bars tend to be set up more like a bar, offering quick coffee drinks (particularly espresso shots) that can be drunk while standing or while seated on a bar stool or similar chair.

Many coffee bars outside of Italy have contemporary, European-inspired decor. However, the styles and numbers of chairs is often very different, reflecting a major cultural difference on how and when coffee is consumed.

In Italy, most drinks are quickly consumed at the bar, though it is sometimes possible to order and drink a drink while seated indoors or outdoors (though this may require a surcharge). Outside of Italy, coffee bars almost always offer cozy seats and drinks "to go," and consumers tend to either buy a drink to consume elsewhere or linger over a drink while using WiFi (which is often free of charge), chatting and relaxing.

The term "coffee bar" is roughly synonymous with "espresso bar." Espresso and coffee bars originated in Italy. Today, the most famous coffee shop based on the espresso bar model is Starbucks Coffee, followed by the UK's Costa Coffee.

Most coffee bars offer some food in addition to the espresso and coffee drinks. These tend to be pastries (such as Italian biscotti and cannoli and less traditional sweets like muffins, scones and croissants), though some coffee bars also offer savory options (such as sandwiches).

Within Italy, it is also common for espresso bars to offer alcoholic beverages, such as grappa and sambuca). In fact, the term barista comes from the Italian word for bartender! This is due to the tendency for alcoholic beverages and espresso drinks to be prepared by the same professional. Still, the inclusion of alcoholic beverages on non-Italian espresso bar menus tends to be limited to more upscale coffee bars.



Famous coffee shops going by the name "coffee bar" include Coffee Bar (located in The Mission, San Francisco), The Coffeebar (located in Gastown, Vancouver), CoffeeBar LA (located in downtown Los Angeles) and The Coffee-Bar (located in Philadelphia).