Whether you live or work in the city, pass through on your commute, or brave the crowds for weekend shopping, it's a rare Sydneysider who hasn't found themselves in the city in need of a coffee. Thankfully, the number of fantastic cafes in the CBD has exploded in the past couple of years, and it's easier than ever to get a decent cup whether you're in Circular Quay or Haymarket.
Here are 10 of our favourites places for coffee in the CBD. Some of them are newly opened, and some we've been going to for years. They range from holes-in-the-wall, perfect for a post-commute espresso, through to places with space to sit down with the morning paper and a pour-over.
Baker Bros. Espresso
Here's something we hope catches on in Sydney: $1 espresso if you take it standing up at the bar, as they do in Italy. That espresso is very good, too: smooth and velvety, using a seasonal blend from Melbourne roasters Veneziano.
Shop 1, 56–58 York Street, 9262 3884, bakerbros.com.au
Coffee: Veneziano Coffee Roasters
Cabrito Coffee Traders
Circular Quay is no longer the coffee desert it once was (see also the newly opened Ground Control Cafe abutting the train station), and Cabrito has been a go-to at this end of the city for a while. The house blend is roasted on-site, with single origin beans from guest roasters, and there's cold drip and filter too.
10-14 Bulletin Place, 8065 8895
Coffee: Cabrito Coffee Traders
Double Barrel Coffee Merchants
This York Street cafe gets swamped by commuters pouring out of Wynyard Station and off York Street buses in the mornings. Using seasonal blends and single origin beans from Melbourne's Seven Seeds, the lighter roast blends with milk beautifully, showing off dried fruit characteristics in a silky piccolo latte, while single origins star in pour-overs.
301 York Street, 0413 683 949
Coffee: Seven Seeds
Gumption by Coffee Alchemy
Christmas came early for Coffee Alchemy fans when Hazel des los Royes opened her second venue outside the Marrickville original in the city late last year. The store, tricked out in pale jade green and gold, takes advantage of its gorgeous location in the Strand Arcade. Service is engaged and knowledgeable, with staff explaining the origin of the beans as they deliver your sublime espresso with its thick crema.
Shop 11, Ground Floor, Strand Arcade
Coffee: Coffee Alchemy
Klink Handmade Espresso
In a city where everyone's in a rush, a takeaway window makes sense - there's a steady line of coffee to grab-and-go outside Klink every morning. But if you've got 10 minutes, it's far nicer to take a seat inside, checking out what's in the Gaffa Gallery with your cup of caramel-toned Golden Cobra coffee.
Gaffa Gallery, 281 Clarence Street
Coffee: The Golden Cobra
Tiny but cleverly designed Marlowe's Way, tucked into a drab laneway, is a destination at this end of town for its sweet, smooth coffee, made on Little Marionette's Bankistan blend. Beer taps share space with the espresso machine, as it turns into a bar on Thursday and Friday evenings.
Cnr Tank Stream Way and Bridge Lane, 0432 487 598
Coffee: The Little Marionette
Mecca Espresso King Street
There are two Mecca outposts in the city (the other one is at Circular Quay), but we particularly like (and frequent) the King Street espresso bar. Staff are efficient and helpful, turning out exceptional espresso and filter coffee, with a single-origin choice on the go for each. Tables are few, but takeaway trade booms, so it's usually easy to get a seat.
67 King St, 9299 8828, meccaespresso.com
Coffee: Mecca Espresso
Pablo & Rusty's
Another exciting city opening from a specialty roaster this year saw the launch of Pablo and Rusty's fifth Sydney outpost, on Castlereagh street. Its their first foray into the CBD. Milk coffees are made on a seasonal blend, and there are usually a couple of choices of single origin beans for black espresso and filter coffee. Try the bright, fragrant batch brew, served on a wooden board in a generous glass bottle, enough for two cups that will have you reverberating back to the office.
161 Castlereagh St, CBD, 9807 6293, pabloandrustys.com.au
Coffee: Pablo & Rusty's
Vella Nero Coffee Couture
The narrow entrance is a bit blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but it opens into a high-ceilinged, turquoise-toned space devoted to specialty coffee. The blackboard menu offering more than a dozen "crew's brews" is a great excuse to break out of your flat white habit - will that be a ¾ double ristretto latte, a Swiss Gold filter, or a sparkling cold drip?
Shop 3, 259 Clarence St, CBD, 9268 0755, vellanero.com.au
Coffee: Vella Nero
One of the best-placed joints in the CBD, just a skip from Town Hall Station and across from the QVB. Baristas work the twin Spirit machines, producing reliably excellent coffee of the Toby's Estate custom house blend, meaning the queue turns over quickly. Seating is scarce, but if you can get one, sit down with your syrupy, rich long black - it's a fantastic vantage point for people-watching.
The Galeries Victoria, 500 George St, CBD, 9264 8836
Coffee: Toby's Estate
Georgia Waters is the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Cafe Guide 2014, which launches on Monday, June 16. Follow the awards as they happen via the @goodfoodAU Twitter account, or the hashtag #SMHGoodCafeGuide, from about 6.30pm.
**The book will be available for $5 with The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, June 21 from participating newsagents, while stocks last. It will also be available from Tuesday in selected bookshops and online at smhshop.com.au for $9.99.