Where to Get Coffee Near Churchill Downs for Derby

The Coffee Compass exists to help you navigate the world of craft coffee. It just so happens that we live in Louisville, the home of the Kentucky Derby. If you’re in town for the Run for the Roses this year, we have a trifecta of coffee shops for you to visit, all surprisingly close to Churchill Downs.

Sunergos Coffee Espresso Bar and Roastery – Woodlawn

Where the derby horses drink their espresso...
Photo: The Coffee Compass

We love Sunergos. The business made its debut back in 2004 with the opening of its Preston location near UofL and now in 2013 has three Louisville locations. Their location closest to Churchill Downs, Sunergos Woodlawn, is nestled just south of the Watterson Expressway on a small business strip between 3rd street and Southern parkway. The shop is the main roasting headquarters and showcases what Sunergos is all about:

Throughout the life of Sunergos we have enjoyed participating in a diverse community of people who regularly come together around coffee.  Out of the fabric of this daily coffee community, people have emerged to join us in our work, enriching and being enriched through working together.  The work of Sunergos continues to grow as each person engages their craft, from the roastery to the espresso bar. – www.sunergoscoffee.com

The shop has a paddle-group La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, two Kompaq K10 grinders boasting one blend and one single origin espresso, manual pour-overs (Chemex or V60), and has two rotating Sunergos coffees on their Fetco automated drip brewer. There is plenty of seating and depending on how far away you park for Derby events, might just be within walking distance!

Hours Of Operation (as of April 29th, 2013)

Monday through Thursday: 6:30am – 9:00pm

Friday: 6:30am – 10:00pm

Saturday: 7:30am – 10:00pm

Sunday: 7:30am – 8:00pm

Twitter account: @SunergosCoffee
Suggestions of what to order:

For here: “Yes I would like to have a cappuccino, please, for here. I heard you guys have world class latte artists that compete on the national level?”

To go: “Yes I would like to have your most delicious, lightest roast, single origin coffee for a v60 pour over. No room for cream.”

Quills Coffee – Cardinal Towne (University of Louisville)

More than just a college coffee shop
Photo: Matthew Stevenson

Another company in Louisville raising the bar in the specialty coffee scene is Quills Coffee, (Full disclosure: my Compass cowriter Michael slings shots for Quills). This shop is adjacent to the campus of the  University of Louisville, so it’s usually packed with sleep-deprived grad students cramming for exams. But at 1.6 miles from the gates of Churchill Downs, it’s definitely the closest craft coffee shop to celebrate your horse winning (or recover from your mint julep hangover).  

This board actually is no longer in the shop, but there is a sweet chalk mural of three scientists/philosophers sharing coffee together.
Who’s that handsome guy? Photo: Matthew Stevenson

This place has plenty of seating and can sometimes feel crowded during a busy semester, but for Derby time, you’re less likely to find students and more likely to find a detail oriented, craft coffee experience. The store hasn’t held back on equipment costs with a La Marzocco Strada MP, a Mazzer Robur E, and the same Fetco brewer you’ll find at Sunergos, all brewing coffee roasted by Quills exclusively. A selection of single origin coffees can be ordered on Hario V60, Clever, or Chemex. Their roasting headquarters is actually across the Ohio river in New Albany where they also have a shop that is, in our opinion, the most beautiful shop in the Kentuckian area. Definitely worth checking out if you have time to kill or want to make your coffee experience complete.

Hours Of Operation (as of April 29th, 2013)

Monday through Thursday: 7:00am – 8:00pm

Saturday: 8:00am – 5:00pm

Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Twitter account: @QuillsCoffee
Suggestions of what to order:

For here: “Yes I would like to have a cortado, please. For here. I heard you guys can pour 7 layer tulips…”

To go: “I would like a Clever of the La Palma, Colombia. I heard it’s expensive, but worth it.”

Sunergos Coffee – Preston St.

Sunergos Preston signage
Photo: Brian Moats

Did we mention we love Sunergos? If you are closer to the Eastern Parkway area or find yourself perusing the Highlands, you might want to make a stop at the Sunergos Preston location. As the original shop, it doesn’t get much more grass roots than this, without sacrificing the best coffee equipment and coffee selections.

Kenny Smith, the SCAA 2013 Latte Art National Champion pouring a tulip at the Sunergos Preston location...
Photo: Brian Moats

Sunergos Preston has limited seating, a community atmosphere, and makes you feel like you’re sitting on your grandmother’s furniture, but in a purposeful meaningful way. Some shops feel either too hippie, too hipster, or too contrived, but Sunergos Preston feels honest, comfortable, and true to the predominant culture that makes Louisville feel so much like home, even if you’re just passing through.

While we recommend Woodlawn and Preston for its proximity to Churchill Downs, our favorite Sunergos of the three locations is Sunergos 5th street. We love this store for many reasons, the least of these not being that it has a Slayer, two Kompaq K10 grinders that offer two single origins alongside the Sunergos Blend, and is in the heart of downtown Louisville in what many would consider a hole in the wall. This is a one stop shop for getting your caffeine fix, chatting with some of the most skilled baristas in the city and tasting the best coffee Sunergos has to offer.

Hours Of Operation (as of April 29th, 2013)

Monday through Friday: 6:30am – 5:00pm

Saturday: 6:30am – 10:00pm

Sunday: 7:00am – 8:00pm

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