Though San Diego initially missed out on much of the nation's third-wave coffee craze in the 1990s, the coastal Southern California city has seen a rise in craft coffee shops and micro-roasters over the past decade, with dozens of new cafes entering the picture alongside longtime city favorites such as Bird Rock Coffee Roasters and Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.
Today, the city's coffee scene rivals more well-known coffee-loving areas such as Seattle and Portland. For coffee lovers who prefer an extra kick with their brew, many of the city's roasters have teamed up with regional and national breweries to create coffee-infused beers, such as Stone Brewery's renowned Xocoveza stout, a collaboration with Mostra Coffee.
Ironsmith Coffee is a hip Encinitas coffee company founded in 2014 by Alden Hozouri, Matt Delarosa, and Raul Macias, named in honor of its commitment to master craftsmanship and hands-on work. The company oversees its roasting process from start to finish, sourcing beans for its brews from Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Columbia. Its cafe, which opened to the public in the winter of 2015, is a collaborative operation with local bakers Wayfarer Bread, owned by Crystal White, a former baker at San Francisco's acclaimed Tartine Bakery. Espresso-based beverages pair with delicious baked goods and cafe fare from Wayfarer, including classic, expertly-prepared avocado toasts.
458 S Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, Phone: 760-230-2311
2.WestBean Coffee Roasters
© WestBean Coffee Roasters
WestBean Coffee Roasters are one of the newest entrants into San Diego's cafe scene, though the company are hardly strangers to roasting, as their Grantville roastery was originally founded in 2009. Since 2014, the roaster has opened three cafe locations throughout the San Diego area, including locations in the city's downtown district, Bankers Hill neighborhood, and as the primary coffee tenant at Liberty Public Market. A wide array of unique coffees and espresso-based beverages are served up at each location, including lattes infused with flavors such as chai or lavender and the cafe's signature Kryptonite cold brew, which is flavored with mint and brown sugar. A selection of fresh fruit and pastries complements a savory cafe menu, including egg-based breakfast sandwiches and lunch selections such as chipotle turkey sandwiches.
2550 Fifth Ave #75, San Diego, CA 92103, Phone: 619-794-2052
© Cafe Virtuoso
Cafe Virtuoso is an ethically-focused roasting company in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood, serving up only 100%-certified organic coffees. The cafe, which was founded by Laurie Britton in 2008, is San Diego's only certified organic roaster, receiving scores of 90 or better for all of its coffees reviewed by the prestigious Coffee Review organization. At the company's newly-renovated cafe, visitors can enjoy signature light and medium roast coffees brewed via Chemex or Kalita pot at a built-in pourover bar or choose from several variants of the company's popular cold brew available on tap. Kombucha from regional company Whalebird is also served, along with iced tea, kefir soda, and lattes infused with ingredients such as matcha and Mexican chocolate. Pastries from regional bakery Bread and Cie are available for purchase alongside beverages.
1616 National Ave, San Diego, CA 92113, Phone: 619-550-1830
4.Coava Coffee Roasters
© Coava Coffee Roasters
Coava Coffee Roasters are a Portland-based coffee company that was first opened by veteran barista Matt Higgins in 2008, best known internationally for its patenting of its Kone filter-free system for Chemex pourovers, a system used at roasters throughout the United States. The roaster's San Diego cafe, its only non-Oregon outpost, is located in the city's downtown district near Horton Plaza, serving up all of the company's signature brews and espresso-based beverages, including its Bee Local honey-infused lattes. The downtown location is also a prime source for coffeemaking tools, including coffee scales, Chemex brewers, and Kone filtration systems. Special events at the cafe include Wednesday afternoon coffee cupping classes, which teach coffee enthusiasts how to evaluate brews according to industry standard practices.
400 West Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 858-859-1782
5.Better Buzz Coffee Roasters
© Better Buzz Coffee Roasters
Better Buzz Coffee Roasters is a delightful cafe and roastery offering eight locations throughout the greater San Diego area, including a recently-opened coffee bar at Fashion Valley. Rustic-chic decor permeates all of the shop's locations, including its flagship two-story location in Hillcrest, which is decorated in a honeycomb-style theme to reflect the company's commitment to sustainable practices. An incredibly unique menu of coffees and espresso-based beverages is available at all locations, including the cafe's signature Best Drink Ever, a classic Americano infused with sweet and creamy vanilla flavor. Other favorite drinks include the cafe's mint mocha lattes, spicy mochas de Mexico, and unique iced Moroccan spice drinks, which blend exotic spices and cane sugar into espresso and cream. Smoothies are also available at some locations, along with creative multigrain toasts, grilled sandwiches, and acai bowls.
801 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103, Phone: 619-269-2740
6.Bay Park Coffee
© Bay Park Coffee
Bay Park Coffee is a laid-back cafe in Mission Bay that serves up delicious direct-trade brews sourced from local roasters Zumbar Coffee. All of the roaster's beans are sourced via a farm-to-cup process, embracing fair-trade and sustainability practices in all its operations. Teas at the cafe are sourced from Q'Trade Teas and Herbs, all of which are organic, fair-trade, and kosher. Classic and inventive coffees and espresso-based beverages range from simple cappuccinos to international fare such as matcha lattes and Vietnamese-style cà phê s?a. Until 1:00pm daily, the cafe also serves up a simple but elegant menu of breakfast and lunch fare, including acai bowls and lox toasts prepared with dill, capers, and salmon.
4130 Napier St, San Diego, CA 92110, Phone: 619-275-4000
7.Zumbar Coffee and Tea
Zumbar Coffee and Tea is one of San Diego's premiere boutique coffee roasters, originally opened in 2003 by Steve Rayle. The roasters, which are named for the Spanish word for "to buzz or hum," is noted for its fair-trade sourcing practices, using a unique farm-to-cup process to ensure the highest sustainability and farm partnership practices. Three public storefront locations are operated by the company, including cafes in Sorrento Valley and Cardiff and a coffee cart in Del Mar parked in front of Zel's Bistro. Expertly crafted espresso beverages complement French press and nitro cold brew offerings, with a selection of pastries available daily, including croissants, bagels, and doughnuts. The roaster has also collaborated with regional beer brewers New English Brewing Company to craft their hoppy Zumbar Imperial Stout, which received a gold medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival.
115 Chesterfield Dr, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007, Phone: 858-622-0000
8.Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
© Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is one of San Diego's most nationally-acclaimed roasting companies, selected as the micro-roaster of the year in 2012 by Roast magazine. The company has operated four cafes in the San Diego region since 2006, including popular locations in La Jolla, Little Italy, Torrey Pines, and Pacific Beach. A wide selection of high-quality beans are sourced from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Brazil, prepared in brews and blends that have won high-profile awards nationally. Brews can be prepared in simple pourover form or in upscale espresso beverages, with a full pourover bar offered at the company's impressive La Jolla location. Delicious cafe menu options range from fresh-baked focaccias to pumpkin pies, with more extensive menu selections available at the Pacific Beach location. Cupping events, live music performances, and art exhibitions are presented throughout the month at the La Jolla location.
5627 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037, Phone: 619-272-0203
© Bean Bar
Bean Bar is a hidden gem in San Diego's East Village neighborhood, located across from the San Diego Central Library near Petco Park. The cafe, which was opened in 2014 by married duo Jason Serres and Sandra Scheller, serves up specialty coffees directly sourced from Vancouver's 49th Parallel Roasters, which use ethical fair-trade practices to acquire some of the world's best beans available. Creative espresso-based drinks are rotated seasonally, with offerings available throughout the year such as the cafe's plum-syrup-infused cold brew or sticky chai lattes, prepared with masala chai, fresh ginger, and orange peel. Fresh-baked pastries are also served, along with cleverly-topped toasts prepared with ingredients such as prosciutto and fig. Coffee lovers looking for a more complete cafe experience can also chat with baristas at the cafe's slow bar, which showcases coffee cupping techniques.
1068 K St, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 657-223-3463
Lestat's is a popular coffee house chain in San Diego, offering three locations in the city's Normal Heights, University Heights, and Hillcrest neighborhoods. The company's original location on Adams Avenue was first opened in 1997, named after a character in Anne Rice's popular novel Interview With A Vampire and drawing on French Quarter-inspired design elements. Traditional French-themed decor permeates its cozy University location, while its Hillcrest cafe draws on Napoleonic Egyptian theming. Simple but delicious Americanos, cappuccinos, and flavor-infused lattes are served up, along with a menu of light cafe fare items such as egg salad sandwiches and homemade pastries. The cafe's original location is also located adjacent to the Lestat West music venue, which hosts a variety of live performances and open mic events throughout the month.
4496 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116, Phone: 619-501-6638
© Cafe Moto
Cafe Moto is one of San Diego's longest-operating micro-roasters, originally opened in 1990 by owner Torrey Lee, the stepson of the owner of famed La Jolla cafe and kitchen store Pannikin. The cafe, which operates its roasting facility out of its public Barrio Logan storefront, is committed to sustainable business practices in all of its operations, utilizing solar power to fuel its roastery and emphasizing fair trade and sustainable agricultural practices in all of its coffee sourcing. Elegant coffee beverages are served up, including delicious cortados infused with steamed milk. At the back of the cafe's storefront, its roasting facility sells a wide variety of coffee-related products, ranging from bags of the cafe's beans to bottles of Torani and Monin flavor syrups to flavor at-home beverages.
2619 National Ave, San Diego, CA 92113, Phone: 619-239-6686
12.Coffee and Tea Collective
© Coffee and Tea Collective
Coffee and Tea Collective is a high-quality micro-roaster offering two locations in San Diego's East Village and North Park neighborhoods, originally founded as a home roasting company in 2010. The roaster, which is operated by Daniel Holcombe and Stephen Freese, is known for its high bean selection standards and small-batch brews, serving up batch brews, pourovers, and specialty drinks such as matcha tonics and cold brew-infused Arnold Palmers. A wide variety of hot and iced teas are also served, including specialty drinks such as hibiscus, lemongrass, and ginger sparkling tea. Both cafes feature open layouts and modern decor, with an espresso and pourover bar offered that lets visitors discuss their brews with baristas.
2911 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104, Phone: 619-849-9806
© Holsem Coffee
Holsem Coffee is an exciting new entry into North Park's coffee scene, co-owned by Salpi Sleiman, the founder of former mobile coffee cart enterprise Roast Coach Coffee Bar. The cafe focuses on a menu of cocktail-style coffee mocktails, blending offsite-roasted brews with homemade fruit purees, nut milks, and syrups to create truly unique coffee-drinking experiences. Cocktails include the spice-infused Gingersnap cold brew and the La Vie en Rose, which infuses a traditional cappuccino with flavors of honey, cardamom, rose water, and rose petal. Espresso shakes, affogatos, and cold brew floats are also served up, using ice cream provided by Gelato Vero. Traditional and gluten-free pastries are sourced from Bake Sale, and a light cafe fare menu includes items such as gluten-free buckwheat granola, brown rice porridge, seasonal quiche, and charcuterie boards.
2911 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104, Phone: 619-546-8542
© Mostra Coffee
Mostra Coffee is an artisan micro-roaster offering two locations at San Diego's Carmel Mountain Ranch and Palomar College in Rancho Bernardo. The cafe, which was opened in 2013 by business partners Jelynn Malone and Mike Arquines, is named after the Italian word for "exhibition" and is most known for operating San Diego's only Mavam cafe espresso machine. Fair-trade coffees are served up in delicious beverages such as Bibingka Crème Brûlées, which play off a traditional Filipino dessert favorite and infuse coconut milk into sugar-torched vanilla lattes. Flavored cold brews are also served up, including horchata and banana variants. The brewery has also partnered with a large number of regional and national craft breweries to create coffee-infused beers, including Stone Brewery's acclaimed Xocoveza coffee stout.
12225 World Trade Dr Ste G, San Diego, CA 92128
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© Young Hickory
Young Hickory is a delightful counter-service cafe offering two locations in San Diego's North Park and East Village neighborhoods, originally opened in 2013. Bird Rock coffee roasts are served at both cafe locations, including the East Village cafe, which is housed within the IDEA1 live/work community. Beverages range from drip coffees and espresso shots to Mexican mochas and ice-blended cold brews in flavors such as caramel, vanilla, and chai. Light breakfast and lunch menus emphasize options such as steel-cut oatmeal, acai bowls, and clever paninis with ingredients such as goat cheese, pear, and horseradish. Both cafes also serve a large selection of canned craft beers from regional and national favorite breweries, including Oskar Blues Brewing, 21st Amendment, and Uinta Brewing.
4096 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104, Phone: 619-795-6574
16.Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
© Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters is one of San Diego's favorite cult classic roasters, offering four locations in the city's North Park, Normal Heights, Golden Hill, and La Mesa neighborhoods. The cafe has recently partnered with Joyride Coffee Distributors to bring their whole bean coffee and cold brew kegs into wide distribution throughout the Southern California region, including locations in Los Angeles. All four cafes offer up fine single-origin pourovers and French press coffees alongside clever specialty drinks, including nitro cold brews and lattes such as The Champ, which highlights honey and cinnamon. A selection of vegan doughnuts is offered from regional bakers Skinny Donuts, served alongside Liege-style waffles available at the cafe's La Mesa location. The next step for the roasters is the company's first outpost outside of California, with a cafe in Koloa, Hawaii slated for an early 2019 launch.
811 25th St, San Diego, CA 92102, Phone: 619-344-0500
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© Por Vida
Por Vida is a culturally-focused cafe in San Diego's Barrio Logan, bringing Mexican influences to the city's third-wave coffee scene. The cafe, which was founded in 2015 by Milo Lorenzana and Carolina Santana, strives to create a community gathering space for the Barrio Logan community, featuring music, art, and other cultural events throughout the month. A unique specialty menu highlights items such as horchata cold brews and canela y brown sugar lattes alongside housemade aguas frescas such as spicy mango limonada. Small bites for sale include pan dulce and oatmeal, sold alongside the cafe's branded merchandise. Mexican-themed decor permeates the cafe's interior, including benches and tables painted with calaveras and likenesses of La Virgen de Guadalupe.
2146 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113, Phone: 619-307-3233
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18.Heartwork Coffee Bar
© Heartwork Coffee Bar
Heartwork Coffee Bar is a cozy cafe that was opened in 2015 by local musician Rob Moran, located in San Diego's charming Mission Hills neighborhood. The cafe, which has long served favorite beans from regional roasters such as James Coffee Co. and Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, has recently begun roasting its own coffees, including Ethiopian, Guatemalan, and custom espresso blends. Beverages and cafe fare focus on locally-sourced ingredients and health-conscious options, with housemade syrups and non-dairy milks such as oat milk available in all espresso-based drinks. Teas from Tea Gallerie are also available for purchase, along with a selection of traditional and vegan pastries sourced from regional bakers. Indoor and outdoor seating is available at the cafe, which also hosts local art shows on a rotating basis.
3993 Goldfinch St, San Diego, CA 92103, Phone: 619-293-3300
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19.James Coffee Co.
© James Coffee Co.
James Coffee Co. is one of San Diego's most prominent independent coffee roasters, offering four locations in the city's downtown district, Little Italy, and Bankers Hill neighborhoods. The company is operated by David Kennedy, a former rock guitarist who made his name playing for bands such as Angels and Airwaves and Box Car Racer before starting the roastery in 2013. Today, the cafe serves up top-notch pourovers and espresso-based beverages at all of its locations, with a focus on brews using lighter roast beans from East Africa and Central America. Interesting menu options include spicy Mexican-style mochas, cinnamon and honey-infused lattes, and light and refreshing coffee sodas perfect for warm days. At the cafe's Little Italy location, visitors can see the company's roasting process at work or peruse goods from a mini-mall of regional boutique retailers, including a greeting card shop and bespoke men's clothing store.
2355 India St, San Diego, CA 92101, Phone: 619-756-7770
19 Best Coffee Shops in San Diego
- Ironsmith Coffee, Photo: fotogiunta/stock.adobe.com
- WestBean Coffee Roasters, Photo: WestBean Coffee Roasters
- Cafe Virtuoso, Photo: Cafe Virtuoso
- Coava Coffee Roasters, Photo: Coava Coffee Roasters
- Better Buzz Coffee Roasters, Photo: Better Buzz Coffee Roasters
- Bay Park Coffee, Photo: Bay Park Coffee
- Zumbar Coffee and Tea, Photo: vagharshakyan/stock.adobe.com
- Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Photo: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
- Bean Bar, Photo: Bean Bar
- Lestat's, Photo: Lestat's
- Cafe Moto, Photo: Cafe Moto
- Coffee and Tea Collective, Photo: Coffee and Tea Collective
- Holsem Coffee, Photo: Holsem Coffee
- Mostra Coffee, Photo: Mostra Coffee
- Young Hickory, Photo: Young Hickory
- Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, Photo: Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
- Por Vida, Photo: Por Vida
- Heartwork Coffee Bar, Photo: Heartwork Coffee Bar
- James Coffee Co., Photo: James Coffee Co.
- Cover Photo: djile/stock.adobe.com