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Cup of love: your guide to the perfect coffee date

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

You found each other online, hit it off in your conversations… now it’s time to finally meet in person. Regardless of whether you’re in coffee capital Starbucks or somewhere less caffeinated, a coffee date works really well for a first in-person meeting – it’s low pressure, less expensive than a dinner date, and easier to either cut short or extend depending on how things are going. In this article, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons of a coffee date, talk about how to behave on one, and even offer you a couple of ideas on the perfect coffee date outfit.

Why you should (or shouldn’t) ask someone out on a coffee date

Are coffee dates a good idea? Like any other first date idea, there are upsides and downsides to a coffee date.

Pro: Coffee dates are public

Sadly, safety is a huge concern on first dates, especially for women. This makes a coffee shop ideal for a first date – it’s a public venue with (hopefully) plenty of other people around. Especially if you’re meeting someone you’ve only interacted with online before, it’s prudent to have your first date be somewhere public, such as coffee date, ideally somewhere reasonably busy, is a great idea. 

Con: Big coffee shop chains are often bad first date locations

Coffee shops are often busy and loud… and not very romantic. Plus, a lot of them have less than great lighting, and tables pushed close together to accommodate more people. Not exactly the best place to get to know somebody better. And that’s before we even get to the awkwardness of standing in line…

Pro: Coffee dates can be short

How long does a coffee date last, normally? 45 minutes at most. Contrast that to dinner, which takes at least two hours, or activity dates, which might take even more. This means that if the vibes aren’t there, you’re not forced to spend hours in the other person’s company before being able to make your escape. The other advantage? If you do wind up hitting it off, you’ll be all the more eager for a second, longer, date.

Con: Coffee dates may be considered too casual

For some people there is such a thing as too casual and a coffee date is a good example. If your date  thinks that way, they may mistakenly be put off by what they see as a lack of effort – basically, that a coffee date only happened because they weren’t good enough for a ‘real’ date. So make it clear that both of you agree on a coffee date and eliminate emerging misunderstandings.

Pro: Coffee dates don’t involve alcohol

We’re so used to dates involving alcohol that we often forget to think about why that might not work for some people. (Many religions disallow alcohol, for instance, and there are several common medications that shouldn’t be mixed with booze). While some people might argue that alcohol is a social lubricant, it’s also nice to get to know somebody for the person they are rather than who alcohol makes them – which is why a coffee date is such a good idea. 

Con: Coffee dates can be hard to schedule

When do most people drink coffee? In the morning, which is not a great time for a first date, or in the mid-afternoon, usually while they’re at work. Unless you have a flexible schedule, it can be really difficult to find a time to have coffee during the week that won’t have you still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 3 A.M.

Pro: Hot drinks encourage warm feelings

It’s science! A study from the University of Colorado showed that when people were asked to hold a warm cup of coffee, they reported warmer feelings for a fictional character than when they were asked to hold a cold beverage. And while correlation is not causation, perhaps it might be worth switching out the frap for something a little more traditional next time.

Get an overview about great date ideas

Explore a bunch of different date ideas – casual, spontaneous, and memorable. Regardless of what point you’re at in your relationship, you’ll find cool and interesting date ideas to wow your partner with.

Keepin’ it hot: rules for a successful coffee date

While coffee dates aren’t as formal or structured as traditional dates, there are still a few rules to keep in mind if you want the best chance of success.

Pick the actual coffee shop carefully

Your choice of coffee shop can say a lot about you and your intentions. Ideally, you’ll pick a small local place rather than a chain like Starbucks or Dunkin’. Choose a shop that has good lighting and comfortable seating and offers food as well as coffee in case your date is hungry. You should also try and pick a place for a coffee date that isn’t too far for either of you.

Get there early

Try and be there about five minutes before you both agreed to meet. Not only is being early a sign you respect the other person’s time, but it’ll also give you time to calm down from any first date jitters. Plus, being early means you have a chance to scope out the menu and decide what you want rather than delay the line and potentially annoy your date.

Have some conversation topics handy

If things go well, you’ll fall into conversation like you’re old friends. If you aren’t so lucky, though, it’s good to have a few icebreakers handy so you’re not staring awkwardly at each other in between sips of coffee. Keep your questions light and open-ended – there’ll be time for deeper, more personal questions on future dates.

Offer to pay for the java

No matter who did the inviting, coffee shops are a good place to offer to pay. One of the advantages of a coffee date is that it’s cheaper than a classic dinner date – offering to cover both your orders, regardless of your gender, is an easy way to show off your generosity and leave a good impression.

Put your phone away

Yes, we realize that coffee dates are casual, but that doesn’t mean your phone is invited, too. It’s still a date, which means your phone should be in your bag or at the very least face down so all your attention can (rightfully) be on your date.

Further day date ideas as an alternative to coffee date

Coffee dates are great for a first date – but why not thinking out of the box? With this list of day date ideas, you’ll be well set to inject a little romance into your life no matter what time it is.

What to wear for a coffee date

Coffee dates are casual, sure. But that’s no reason not to dress up at least a little, as long as you’re feeling comfortable and authentic. 

Coffee date outfits for guys 

In summer: light-colored jeans or chinos, a button-down linen shirt with the sleeves rolled up or a nice shirt, a sleek pair of sneakers.
In winter: jeans or chinos in a darker tone, a heavier shirt or sweater over a t-shirt, chic dress boots, a jacket or a coat depending on the temperature.

Coffee date outfits for women

In summer: a light sundress (with a cardigan in case of a sudden temperature drop), nice flats or sneakers, and a crossbody bag just large enough for the essentials. If you’d rather wear pants, jeans and a casual top,  are perfect.
In winter: A  dress with tights and boots, with a scarf depending on how cold it is. Wear layers, since coffee shops do tend to be heated.

Start your relationship off with a buzz when you take them out for coffee

 A coffee date can be a great, low-pressure way to meet someone in person for the first time. They’re inexpensive and easy to either end early or prolong, depending on how well things are going. Looking for someone to get to know better over coffee? Come on over to eharmony, where our Compatibility Matching System helps you find eligible singles who’re looking for the same things you are. Sign up for eharmony and start looking for real love today!

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