Our guide to 6 out-of-town coffee chains now in San Antonio, from Black Rifle to Austin’s Summer Moon

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, San Antonio.

A 2021 study found that we were among the “least awake” cities in the country based on the number of cafes per person. But for anyone who has traveled our many highways over the past couple of years, you know that is changing rapidly as many new java stores pop up at major intersections and in malls across the city.

While many of these newcomers are local businesses, foreigners clearly see an opportunity here as well. At least half a dozen cafe chains based outside of San Antonio have opened or aggressively expanded their footprint here since 2020.

With all that free-flowing caffeine, it can be hard to tell the difference from chain to chain. We’re here to help with a guide to six coffee chains that have become very visible in the city.

We’ve visited at least one location of the following brands and rated the store on decor, functionality as a remote desktop – think amenities like Wi-Fi and power outlets – soundtrack playing while people sip their cold nitro beers and flat whites, and, naturally, the coffee itself. All locations visited offer drive-thru.

On ExpressNews.com: Mike Sutter’s 10 Best Cafes in San Antonio

Black Rifle Coffee Co. has several stores in the San Antonio area.

Paul Stephen/Staff

Black Rifle Coffee Co.

This Utah-based chain opened its first physical store in Boerne in 2020 and has continued to expand in the San Antonio area. We visited the location along Bitters Road near US 281 and the first thing we saw was the need to park a quarter mile away in a nearby lot. This place is almost always bustling with customers, and it will be a challenge to find a spot for your car.

Black Rifle is probably best known for its pro-military stance and frequent viral videos poking fun at hipster cafe culture. And it looks the part, with military-inspired decor and merchandise throughout the shop. The soundtrack during our visit included hits from Chris Stapleton and Eric Church playing above. It’s a great option for setting up a laptop, with plenty of tables and counters, free Wi-Fi, and plenty of USB-equipped power outlets.

Black Rifle’s potent drip coffee was powerfully aromatic with a balance of bitterness and acidity. A cappuccino delivered an impressive airy cloud of milky froth mixed with a splash of espresso. The ice cold Vanilla Draft Latte was almost like sipping on a strong beer, with a creamy head and a solid balance of flavors.

Black Rifle Coffee Co., multiple locations, blackriflecoffee.com, Facebook: Black Rifle Coffee Company

Drinks are served at the Black Rock Cafe Bar.

Drinks are served at the Black Rock Cafe Bar.

Paul Stephen/Staff

Black Rock Coffee Bar

This Portland-based chain debuted in San Antonio in 2022. Its boutique at the intersection of West Avenue and Blanco Road on the north side is a complete sensory experience with an Instagram-ready psychedelic wall, funky modern light fixtures, exposed brick, black paint and wooden beams punctuated by an eclectic soundtrack ranging from Deniece Williams to Daddy Yankee. There are a dozen surfaces that could double as a desk with USB outlets and free Wi-Fi.

Black Rock’s basic drip coffee had a pleasant aroma but was brewed with a light touch and tasted watery. A blended frosted matcha latte had a pleasant sweetness and strong green tea flavor that was well balanced with a slug of whipped cream. A warm latte delivered a modest bitter, slightly fruity espresso in a creamy, full-bodied milk base.

Black Rock Coffee Bar, multiple locations, br.coffee, Facebook: Black Rock Coffee Bar Texas (San Antonio)

A selection of drinks are served at the Dutch Bros. cafe.

A selection of drinks are served at the Dutch Bros. cafe.

Paul Stephen/staff

Dutch Bros. Coffee

This Oregon-based brand has apparently found a place to set up one of its stores in nearly every neighborhood in town with at least 15 locations open or soon to be scattered across the San Antonio landscape. There is no indoor seating at any of these drive-thru and walk-in locations, though the location at the intersection of West Avenue and Loop 410 has a pair of picnic tables outside serenaded by the tunes of Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. No public wifi or power outlets were available.

Dutch Bros. Nitro Cold Brew. had a sweet fruity flavor with little bitterness, and was a perfect easy sip for a hot day. A festive hot chocolate was intensely sweet with a playful sprinkle of peppermint candy on top. The Rebel energy drink was overly sweet but delivered a nice hit of fruity acidity under a creamy cap floating on top.

Dutch Bros. Coffee, multiple locations, dutchbros.com, Facebook: @DutchBros

A selection of beverages are served at The Human Bean.

A selection of beverages are served at The Human Bean.

Paul Stephen/Staff

The human bean

Another import from Oregon, this drive-thru and window chain’s location along Bulverde Road in the far north has no indoor or outdoor seating, nor Wi-Fi or music above. But there is good coffee.

A cup of straight black coffee has a flavor somewhere between a medium to dark roast and has been brewed quite gently. It’s perfect for buying in bulk to sip on a long road trip without the jitters. The Irish Breve was more powerful and had a robust body thanks to half and half. A green tea smoothie was a little sweet, but refreshing and had a pleasant tea flavor.

The Human Bean, multiple locations, thehumanbean.com, Facebook: @thehumanbean

Drinks are served at PJ's Coffee in New Orleans.

Drinks are served at PJ’s Coffee in New Orleans.

Paul Stephen/Staff

New Orleans PJ’s Coffee

If you need a quiet place to work, this is the place. The new location at the intersection of Wurzbach Road and Interstate 10 near the medical center is equipped with plenty of tables, free Wi-Fi, USB-compatible power outlets, and barely perceptible music. The hum of the kitchen refrigerators was louder than the sound system. The space is light and airy with soothing cream-colored walls and a staff that said “bless you” in unison when a guest sneezed.

The drip coffee served black here is dark, strong and bitter with just a hint of acidity. A mocha latte had just a hint of sugar, allowing the chocolate and coffee flavors to shine through in a frothed milk mixture. And don’t miss the granitas. It’s basically a coffee slurry made in an iced drink machine with a great balance of flavors and just the tiniest sweetener.

PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans, multiple locations, pjscoffee.com, Facebook: @pjscoffee

Drinks are served at Summer Moon Coffee in Austin.

Drinks are served at Summer Moon Coffee in Austin.

Paul Stephen/staff

summer moon cafe

The Austin-based Summer Moon has been in San Antonio since 2016. Its latest addition is a store in Stone Oak along US 281 that opened earlier this year. This cozy spot welcomes patrons with a playlist of indie hip-hop, synth pop and other obscure tunes and a heady aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. The space is small and only offers a few tables to use as a desk, but you’ll find free Wi-Fi and power outlets to keep you working.

Of all the stores visited for this story, Summer Moon had the most playful and diverse line of drinks. The 007 – one of many James Bond-inspired drinks on the menu – featured two shots of dark, rich espresso in a sweet cream-based concoction called “Moon Milk” that had substantial body and a good balance of flavors. The Blue Moon Latte was a surprise hit, essentially a conventional latte modified with aromatic lavender. Autumn Blend Black Coffee eschewed the sticky territory of sweet pumpkin spice, instead tasting nuts, chocolate, and caramel without any sugar.

Summer Moon Coffee, multiple locations, summermooncoffee.com, Facebook: @sipsummermoon

[email protected] | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen

About James Almanza

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