The first date or is it? I like to call this, the trial. Going for coffee is not a date. Going for coffee is the time when a Sophisticate and her potential other determines whether a date would a good idea. With the combination of the economy, the weirdos that are out there, and the odds that most dates and marriages end up failing in the 21st Century, its the best way to for both parties to get to know each other. That is, get to know each other before you are ready to commit to a date.
For someone you have just met or want to meet from an on-line dating site, having a drink or a coffee is also the best ways to get to know someone before you commit to a date. You are in public place and have a way out if the conversation takes a turn for the worst.
Whether you talked to some one on-line or met at a bar or had a conversation, you had a brief encounter that made both of you to consider the next step. What is the next step? A drink at a bar? An expensive dinner? There is nothing more uncomfortable or miserable then sitting in an expensive restaurant, all dressed up, with someone who you can't talk to or who may be rude or insensitive to your feelings? Or maybe, you decide that you should go grab a cup of coffee.
Isn't the basis of any good relationship about being able to feel comfortable?
In the end, meeting at a party and spending a night together is one way to get to know someone. The other is knowing who you are getting involved with especially if you believe they could be someone special. Going for coffee may allow you the opportunity to get to know the truth and get to know another person for who they are one drink at a time.