Compass Coffee

The following post is part of the “‘I Can’t Stop Drinking the Coffee’: Exploring DC’s Coffee Scene” series. 

The first coffee shop on the D.C. Eater’s List of 25 Essential D.C. Coffee Shops list was Compass Coffee. I visited this place on a very warm Thursday morning and the place was hopping. Compass Coffee is located in the Shaw area of D.C. and is both metro and parking accessible.


The website advertises simplicity as part of the coffee shop’s mantra, and it shows. The place is spacious and sticks to the essentials: tables & chairs, coffee beans for sale, minimal wall art. Even the menu is straightforward and, well, simple. I like this–instead of overwhelming customers with a 1,000 different options, complicating the entire process of simply ordering a cup of coffee, Compass Coffee seems to acknowledge that making and selling good coffee doesn’t have to be a complicated process.
But let me be clear here. They DO sell good coffee. This was clearly evidenced by the hoards of people coming in and out of the place the entire time I was there, as well as the deliciousness of the coffee I drank. 



What I ordered: a medium latte and a croissant. The latte had a lovely leaf design on the top and stayed warm for 75% of drinking time, which is a win in my book. Like I established in the last post, I’m pretty simple when it comes to my coffee, especially in the morning. The croissant was flaky and delicious because you have to really work hard to screw up a croissant. However, it was the last one when I ordered it, so guessing they have limited supply of some bakery items.

Latte Grade: As I said above, the latte stayed warm for 75% of drinking time, which is a remarkable feat, if you ask me. I didn’t even have to ask for extra hot! Plus, the latte had a great, full coffee flavor instead of being overwhelmed by milk. Overall grade: A

Delicious and so pretty.

Delicious and so pretty.

What I’ll get next time: I’m definitely interested in the nutella mocha, so would try this if I were in a mood for something sweet. They also had PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES, which is always a win in my book.

Best time of day to go: I read online that this place gets packed, and that was no joke. I got there around 10:30, thinking that would still be early enough to beat a crowd. Yeahhhh, that was straight up wrong. The place was already packed, but I was lucky enough to score a seat at one of the bar-like tables near the front door. Sitting at communal tables always makes me feel a little nervous—I hate feeling like I’m taking up too much space—but it worked out just fine. I think the answer here is “right when it opens,” or just be prepared to sit at a communal table or bar. As far as seating competitiveness goes, be prepared to pounce when a table opens up. The place emptied out a bit around lunch time, but I’m sure it picks back up in the afternoon.

The ambience: The décor is pretty minimal and not distracting—displays of their coffee beans, big bags of coffee in the book, with drawings of the countries their coffee comes from on the walls. Because the décor is minimal, it feels spacious, even with the loads of people packed inside. There’s a “community bookshelf” feature, which would be nice to take advantage of if you live close by. Their soundtrack was very similar to Pandora playlists I’ve listened to before, with songs by Miike Snow, Grizzly Bear, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I.e., fun to listen to, but not distracting or too loud (looking at you, Starbucks).

Good for: There was a mixed crowd here of people working on their laptops, friends meeting up, business meetings…so really, a variety of options.

Will you need a jacket? It was blazing hot when I first arrived and then cooled down. So, yes.

Other things to know: They make their own coffee blends, which are for sale at the coffee shop! Definitely grabbing some next time I visit.


Did they spell Katherine with a K or C: Catherine. Dammit.

What I did: I worked on a story I’m trying to write and sent some emails.

Stupid thing I read online: The Katy Perry-Taylor Swift feud. I literally felt my brain cells dying as I read this.

Come back next week to read a review of coffee shop #2, The Coffee Bar. 


5 thoughts on “Compass Coffee

  1. Hi, Katherine. Saw your blog featured on Eater, and I’m excited to follow along as you explore and imbibe! I’ve been to all the 25 you’ll be visiting, so I’m anxious to see how your assessments align (or not) with my own. In any case… one quick fix: Compass doesn’t “make” their own beans, though they do make their own blends. :)

    • Ahh! Good catch. Oops. As an English teacher, I always appreciate helpful proofreading! Thanks for reading, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on my assessments!

  2. This is so fun! I’ve been to and loved many DC coffee shops, but far from all the ones on the Eater list. Can’t wait to hear what you think of them all. I haven’t been to Compass yet, but only hear good things. That and the fact that several restaurants use their beans makes me think I need to make a visit!

    • Hi Kacy! What are your favorite coffee shops? There are a few that didn’t make this list that I love, but I decided to try these out to see what makes them the best! Compass was great, you should definitely go! I saw their beans on sale at Busboys in Takoma Park. Thanks for reading!

  3. We should try to meet at a coffee shop this weekend! Maybe Sunday? Love that the DC coffee shop tour is back. I can live vicariously through you. :)

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