Coffeelab is a quirky specialty cafe located in Hongdae and run by Bang Jong Koo. I’ve only been there twice – the first time just long enough to drop in and try a single espresso. I finally made it back this weekend. Click below for my thoughts and photos.

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The last time I visited Coffee Lab I was in and out just long enough to try a quick espresso shot at the counter. It tasted pretty good at the time, so I made a note to return and take some photos. I also reviewed their Coffeelab Express location a few blocks away, which made me eager to try the espresso at the main location.

Walking inside, it’s quite dimly lit (I bumped up the brightness on most of these pictures) and you’re confronted with a ceiling made of old chairs. It’s a unique space to say the least. Throughout the shop there are a number of roasters, though I’m not sure how many are actually in use. We found a seat in a side area with an air conditioner that slightly mitigated the wall of cigarette smoke in the main part of the room, and sat down to try the coffee.

Perhaps I was expecting too much, because the double espresso I got was a bit of a let down. The extraction was off, with acidic notes overshadowing the sweetness, and an unpleasant bitterness. The volume also looks a bit high. I usually prefer a slightly ristretto double. Maybe it was a goof, which happens, and I should have asked for a re-do if I’m gonna be that picky.

Truthfully, I’m being so harsh on an espresso I would have otherwise been happy to receive at any large, low-expectation chain cafe because I think Coffeelab has great potential and I’d love to see them excel and produce consistently awesome coffee. Coffeelab is slightly above average and I want to support that effort, so if I’m in the area again I’ll give them another shot.

The cappuccino was nice, and I’m sure anyone besides coffee purists would be perfectly satisfied here. They offer quite a range of menu choices that are worth exploring on future visits. Next time I’m there I’ll probably try their hand-drip coffee, give the espresso yet another shot, and pick up some roasted coffee to try out at home. I’ll update this post after my next visit. UPDATE: I tried some roasted coffee and found it to be too dark for my tastes. YMMV.


Coffeelab is just off the big road that runs past the entrance to Hongik University. Check out the map below and figure out which way you want to go. If you’re familiar with Hongdae, then head out Exit 5, turn left and go to the main path that runs up and down Hongdae. Turn left and walk up (North) on that street until you see the second small rotary for cars. Then turn right and walk up the long road. Coffeelab will be on a side street visible on your left. Look at the map below, it’s hard to explain. It’s not far from Sinchon either.

View Coffeelab in a larger map