A Scientific Ranking of Bloomington’s Coffee Houses

Which one is REALLY the best?

Bloomington’s legion of coffee shops is famously massive, and many people go to cafes for their caffeine and snack needs. Which local coffee shop is objectively the best is hotly debated, so I decided to rise to the occasion and definitively rank them. The methodology and results are as follows. 

For the purposes of these rankings, only independent, local coffee shops were included in the data. That means none of the Starbucks locations, the Graduate cafe or the cafe in Lucky’s are ranked. Moreover, “Coffee Shop” was defined as an establishment which primarily relies on its selection of cafe beverages (coffee, tea, smoothies and juice blends) for its business, with baked goods and sandwiches or other casual food being possible, but not necessary, offerings. Just because a place serves coffee doesn’t make it a coffee shop, and just because a restaurant is called a cafe doesn’t qualify it to be a coffee shop. Uptown Cafe and Samira, for example, are not included in these rankings even though they both serve coffee. Shops which serve tea and not coffee, i.e. Bloomingtea, were also not included. 

The ten coffee shops I evaluated were rated in five subcategories: Location, Space, Value, Food and Drink. Location refers to the shop’s physical place in town, with higher ranks rewarding shops that have a closer proximity to stores, green spaces, and walkable areas. Consequently, the shops closest to downtown Bloomington received the highest rankings in this category. Whereas Location is external, the second category, Space, refers to the shop’s internal environment. Questions I asked when considering this category included: Is the shop’s atmosphere open, warm and relaxing? Is it decorated well? Does it have outdoor seating? Is it easy to find a place to work? The more the answers to these questions were “yes” the higher the shop’s Space rank. Value considers whether the shop’s products are worth what they cost. This doesn’t necessarily benefit cheaper shops. Expensive coffee can still rank highly if its price is fair. The Food category is a measure of the quality and selection size of food the shop offers, and Drink is a measure of the quality and selection size of the shop’s drinks. Each of the ten shops in my study were given a ranking, 1 through 10, in each category, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. The points from each category were then totaled, and whichever shop had the lowest number of total points won. Each category was equally weighted, and rankings were chosen via my personal opinion. 

The data was as follows:

As seen above, the race for first between the downtown Soma and the B-Line Hopscotch was very close. Although the downtown Soma’s funky ambiance (Especially, and I’m serious, in the bathroom. Check it out.), large menu and nearly-perfect location worked in its favor, its downfall was that it’s extremely overpriced. For the price of one cinnamon roll at Soma, I can get two that are three times as big at the Pourhouse, and Soma sells six-dollar carrot-apple juice, which is a bit obscene. The B-line Hopscotch, on the other hand, consistently scored well across the various categories, with some of its best features including its location on the trail, close to the new Switchyard Park, wide open but still inviting spaces and reasonably priced selection (especially considering that some of its baked goods are fancy-ish, i.e. Rainbow Bakery donuts).

Many of the decisions were close, and given that they were based on my opinion, there’s a large component of subjectivity in these rankings. Ultimately, I would say that all of Bloomington’s coffee shops have different pros and cons, and they’re all pretty solid choices.