12 of the Best Coffee Shops in San Diego

Switch up your work from home routine.

San Diego’s coffee scene has exploded in the past few years, with more new roasters and cafes than ever competing to deliver your caffeine jolt. To help navigate some of the best options in the city, we’ve put together a shortlist of the best places to linger over a cup of coffee, including neighborhood favorites that have been around for ages and new additions to our ever-growing bean scene.

Ryan Bros Coffee

Barrio Logan

Ryan Bros. Coffee is an old timer when it comes to the local coffee scene. Founded in 1994 by siblings Harry, Carmine, and Tom, this purveyor got its start as a coffee cart in La Jolla and Old Town but later moved to Barrio Logan in 2003, where today they serve the largest collection of nitro cold coffee in California. Select from 12 flavors including Mexican mocha, vanilla latte, and classic mocha.

Mostra Coffee

Carmel Mountain Ranch & 4S Ranch & and Bankers Hill

Locally owned and operated Mostra Coffee had a banner year in 2020 being named Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine and they haven’t slowed down since. Each one of the three locations serves up creations from beans sourced around the world, including the Philippines. Head in for hot espresso drinks ranging from Americanos to seasonal sips like champorado, based on the Filipino chocolate breakfast porridge of the same name but made into a chocolatey latte topped with crisp rice cereal and chocolate powder.

Programmers and those who know code will get a kick out of the names for all the beverages here, like Ko.Ko (a house-made cold brew with coconut cream and maple syrup), Code Black (a single-origin infused with nitro). In addition, all coffee beans used are direct-traded and roasted with a zero-emission roaster so you can feel good about every sip.

Communal Coffee

North Park & South Park & and Oceanside

Every wonder if you could just plop down with a coffee in the midst of a flower shop and enjoy the surroundings? That’s what Communal Coffee achieves by surrounding cafe elements with gorgeous greenery that’s for sale. Each location has its own unique look, but those who want an al-fresco experience should head to South Park where drinks are prepped in a coffee camper with lots of dedicated outdoor seating nearby. Go to Communal for simple batch brews, cold brew concentrates, or our favorite, a latte flight featuring your choice of two: lavender honey, rose vanilla, or vanilla bean.

Zumbar Coffee & Tea

Cardiff and Sorrento Valley

If you like your coffee strong without too much adornment, Zumbar is the place to go for French press, Americanos, espressos, and cold brews, but you can also find lattes and macchiatos here too. The difference is in the beans that are roasted in a vintage, cast ­iron coffee roaster that is carefully monitored for optimum flavor and sourced from around the world, including Honduras, Guatemala, and Ethiopia.

Find this small-batch roaster in four San Diego locations, plus additional spots in Orange County, Truckee, and Hawaii. Their strength is in the community they foster, usually choosing locations with great walkability and a place you’ll want to just hang out. While picking up whole beans to enjoy at home, also satisfy your caffeine fix with the Salted Maple latte.

WestBean’s Kryptonite, a mint-infused cold brew, is what put this local roaster on the map but the other drinks are just as good. From classic drip coffee to flat whites and specialty lattes like honey cinnamon and mocha, the quality is in the beans. Coffee beans are trial-roasted before they are committed to a full production roast and then cupped prior to being released to the public.

Beans are roasted weekly at this North Park spot, meaning every cup you order will be super fresh. You can taste it in espresso drinks like the Cafe Breve, as well as a simple hot coffee. Those looking for a big jolt of caffeine should try the shop’s signature drink the Flying Nun which incorporates three shots of espresso, sweetened condensed milk, steamed milk, and is finished with whipped cream and caramel sauce.

Por Vida

Barrio Logan and National City

Coffee and Chicano culture come together at this locally owned coffee shop. There are two locations but for a dose of art visit the Barrio Logan space that’s part gallery and part cafe. The menu is diverse, featuring espresso-based drinks like casa de cafe, cortado, and pan dulce. More enticing is the selection of specialty drinks using traditional Mexican ingredients for authentic flavors. Order the De La Olla Cafe with orange peel, cinnamon, and clover, or Vida Pop, featuring an espresso shot mixed with vanilla syrup, Topo Chico, and a twist of lime, for a quick boost of caffeine.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

Various locations

Since 2006, this local roaster has been serious about brewing excellent coffee from responsibly sourced, sustainable, direct-trade beans. Its dedication has resulted in several high-profile awards, including being selected as Roast Magazine’s Micro Coffee Roaster of the Year in 2012. The original location in Bird Rock holds sentimental value for many of the city’s coffee connoisseurs (and has comfortable seating and a chill ocean view) but the newer locations throughout San Diego have their unique charms too.

Copa Vida

Various locations

When Copa Vida opened in the East Village in 2015, it already had some stiff competition, but its selection of quality coffee beverages and obsessive dedication to the craft of brewing the perfect cup of coffee (or tea) secured its coveted place in the local market. The shop’s original location in East Village features a lofty interior and spacious patio just a short walk from Petco Park, while other locations throughout the county make it easy to get your caffeine fix on the go.

Holsem Coffee
Photo courtesy of Holsem Coffee

Holsem Coffee

North Park

This North Park coffee shop serves up the usual caffeine-fueled beverages but shines with its house-made creations. One look at the menu and you’ll see three unique cold brew flavors, like lemon meringue, nutella, and banana bread, plus a bevy of lattes flavored with the likes of orange zest, rose water, and strawberry malt. The drinks feature house-made nut milks, fruit purees, and beans roasted on-site.

Darlene Horn is a contributor for Thrillist.

Erin Jackson is a contributor for Thrillist.