20 Best Coffee Shops In San Diego A Local Says You Should Know About

Coffee cups in San Diego
Coffee cups in San Diego - Static Media / Getty / Instagram

There's certainly no shortage of top-rated restaurants in the San Diego area, and the same goes for coffee shops. San Diego County is huge, and it even boasts some of the best cafes in the United States. So if you're looking for the most popular or unique coffee spots to visit in one of the county's several cities, such as in Carlsbad, Oceanside, or downtown San Diego, look no further than this list. I'll explain why each one made the cut — whether it's the range of coffee options and flavors, how it tastes, how the coffee is sourced, the shop's place in its community, and more.

This list covers mainly independent cafes and small roasters, but I included some coffee shops with multiple locations. You'll also find that even some of the little shops have found local success and were able to open additional spots. I've visited many of these cafes, but for the ones I haven't, they come highly recommended, well reviewed, and are commonly mentioned among social media users and food critics alike.

Whether you prefer hot espresso drinks, cold brews, flavored beverages, or anything in between, prepare to get your caffeine fix in San Diego. Save this to refer back to when you want to check out some cool spots that care about coffee.

Read more: 31 Popular Coffee Brands, Ranked

Moniker General

Iced coffee and breakfast sandwich
Iced coffee and breakfast sandwich - morellidgerwood/Instagram

Moniker General, part of Moniker Coffee Co., is located in Liberty Station. It's a convenient location in a buzzing hub where you can spend a whole day walking, shopping, and eating. Moniker General itself is chic, with an aesthetic cafe, retail shop, and loads of space to sit down to enjoy your cup of Joe.

This open and bright coffee shop usually has a long line of patrons waiting to get their drinks. It has brewed coffee, nitro cold brew, espresso drinks, like the lavender latte with housemade vanilla syrup, as well as food like the Bae Breakfast Sando with bacon, avocado, egg, harissa aioli, pickled onion, and arugula on a brioche bun.


(619) 255-9118

2860 Sims Rd, San Diego, CA 92106

Zumbar Coffee & Tea

Zumbar's to-go coffee
Zumbar's to-go coffee - firsttrip1970s/Instagram

While this coffee shop in a strip mall looks nondescript as you pass by, the proof is in the taste of the coffee. Zumbar Coffee & Tea is a small roaster and retailer where its employees can show off its passion and work in the retail cafe.

This small shop has friendly, sincere service, indoor and outdoor seating, and a simple, to-the-point menu with staples like French press coffee, flat white, and iced coffee. If you enjoy what you taste, purchase its individual bagged roasts at the store, such as the Hummingbird or the El Mundo, which have tasting notes conveniently written on the signage.


(858) 622-0000

10920 Roselle St, #106, San Diego, CA 92121

Copa Vida

Copa Vida mural and coffee
Copa Vida mural and coffee - copa_vida/Instagram

There are a handful of Copa Vida establishments throughout San Diego County, but the San Marcos one made the list because of its central location in the North City community near California State University San Marcos.

This place always feels like it's buzzing with life. Look out for its seasonal menu, which may feature delicious options like the kumquat espresso tonic in the spring or toddy-cano in the wintertime. We also like this unique coffee shop's wall mural of a cat, the large, airy space and high ceilings, and that it has lots of chargers for patrons to hang out on their laptops as they enjoy a coffee, tea, or espresso drink.


(760) 415-0193

250 North City Dr, Ste 1, San Marcos, CA 92078

Cafeina Cafe

Iced coffee at Cafeina Cafe
Iced coffee at Cafeina Cafe - pipersmom426/Instagram

Order incredible Mexican specialty drinks at Cafeina Cafe, such as the mazapan latte with De La Rosa mazapan, espresso, and milk or the housemade horchata cold brew. While you're there, grab a locally sourced pan dulce from Split Bakehouse to snack on or dunk into your coffee.

The drinks are delicious, whether you prefer hot or cold beverages, and the interior is colorful, with a whole wall covered in a mural. Whether you order a traditional cold brew or choose a flavored drink, this community-driven spot is an inviting place to get fantastic coffee in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Come for the flavorsome coffee but stay for the community feel and warm ambiance.


(619) 861-2104

4011 46th St, San Diego, CA 92105

Manzanita Roasting Company And Coffee House

Manzanita Roasting Company's garden
Manzanita Roasting Company's garden - xenathepooh2/Instagram

The Poway location of Manzanita Roasting Company and Coffee House looks like a secret garden with lots of plants and foliage before you enter. This spot is located at Rancho Bernardo Winery, making it a two-in-one spot for a morning caffeine jolt and then a glass of wine once the winery opens at 11 a.m. It roasts its own coffee and has found enough local success to open a second location on Grand Avenue in Escondido.

If you love experiencing different flavors, order a honey latte or brown butter latte and pair it with a slice of gluten-free apple zucchini bread. This is an ideal site to visit if you want to support a local business and get a fantastic cup of coffee while you're at it.


(858) 376-7335

13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte S2, Poway, CA 92064

Scrimshaw Coffee

Scrimshaw's cold brew
Scrimshaw's cold brew - scrimshawcoffee/Instagram

We love this small, bright, and excellent coffee shop on the east side of San Diego, with indoor and outdoor seating to appreciate your beverage. It has a modern look with its whimsical whale logo displayed to easily spot it from afar.

Scrimshaw Coffee's drinks are thoughtfully presented, and this cafe roasts its own coffee, with classics like Americano and iced vanilla latte. But when you're seeking fresh flavors, try the seasonal drinks (like the Ride That 10 Speed shaken cold brew with smoked tangerine and rosemary syrup, pictured) or the highly recommended Vietnamese latte. It also has a wide selection of pastries and bagels, like the Pink Lady on an everything bagel with cream cheese, apples, honey, and Maldon salt.


(619) 501-2355

5542 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

Steady State Roasting Co.

Pouring Steady State cold brew
Pouring Steady State cold brew - steadystateroasting/Instagram

Grab the PSL — which stands for pancake syrup latte — made with maple syrup, espresso, oat milk, salt, and cinnamon at Steady State Roasting Co. and then cruise along the Carlsbad Village area. Or enjoy a cold fashioned, featuring Panama Geisha cold concentrate with bitters, honey, and orange, at the beach, which is just blocks away.

This convenient location has become a local favorite, having grown from founder and lead roaster Elliot Reinecke's fun side hustle in a small space into a separate cafe and roaster. Steady State sources beans from all over the world and aims to maintain a close relationship with the farmers and importers it works with — making for a tasty, feel-good cup of coffee.


(760) 696-3066

2562 State St, Ste G, Carlsbad, CA 92008

Mostra Coffee

Mostra Coffee latte
Mostra Coffee latte - travkat75/Instagram

Get a sip of Philippine coffee without booking a long-haul flight. San Diego's Mostra Coffee serves coffee from around the world, but this specialty coffee is the standout, with a portion of its sales being donated to community projects benefitting the farmers themselves. Order the Bibingka crème brûlée latte with espresso and milk infused with Philippine coconut and vanilla bean.

Locals clearly love this highly ranked roaster's dedication to humanity and good coffee, because now it has a few locations in San Diego. The Carmel Mountain Ranch spot, in particular, is a cool, moody space with dark floors, ceiling, and wooden seating with a bold pop of yellow.


(858) 304-0061

12045 Carmel Mountain Rd, Unit 302, San Diego, CA 92128

S3 Coffee Bar

S3 Coffee Bar summer drinks
S3 Coffee Bar summer drinks - s3coffeebar/Instagram

This alluring spot is featured all over social media and articles about the best coffee shops in San Diego, thanks to its fun flavors and unique 2D decor by artist Alexis Samano. S3 Coffee Bar has house coffee and an espresso bar, but patrons are more likely to get something bolder, like the honey rose latte or Vietnamese cold brew. When you're craving a beverage other than coffee, the color-changing lemonade freezes or strawberry iced drinks make a refreshing choice.

The interior's black-and-white look makes it the quintessential establishment to share an Insta-worthy experience since you're unlikely to find a place that looks quite like it. So don't feel self-conscious about taking a selfie or drink pic — you won't be the only one doing so.


(619) 693-5333

6225 Mission Gorge Rd, San Diego, CA 92120

Pannikin Coffee & Tea

Pannikin Coffee & Tea exterior
Pannikin Coffee & Tea exterior - electricglow760/Instagram

Pannikin Coffee & Tea has been a North County San Diego staple since 1968. This local business in the Leucadia neighborhood of the beachy city of Encinitas has a wide selection of not only coffees like a cafe au lait or iced blended mocha but also teas, such as black, white, oolong, decaf, fruit, and more.

If you're feeling hungry, you can grab an acai bowl for breakfast or a cheesy quiche for lunch. While it has other locations, the Leucadia one is the signature of the area with its sunny yellow exterior that was once a train station. It doesn't have Wi-Fi, which we actually appreciate, since it feels like a homey coffee shop to gather with friends.


(760) 436-5824

510 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

Revolution Roasters

Hands grabbing coffee
Hands grabbing coffee - revolutionroasters/Instagram

In the beachy city of Oceanside, you'll find Revolution Roasters, which is popular amongst locals. The woman-owned-and-operated coffee shop, founded by Jen Byard in 2016, not only has a prime location but also roasts its own coffee. A second spot has since opened a few miles south in Carlsbad.

From a classic house-brewed coffee to the butterscotch latte, there's an array of coffees to choose from, as well as non-coffee options like tea, kombucha, matcha, or orange juice. If you can, try a seasonal drink like the rosemary maple cold foam or orange cardamom mocha.


(760) 529-9736

1836 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054

James Coffee Co.

James Coffee Co. coffee bag
James Coffee Co. coffee bag - bennnrjo/Instagram

Created by two brothers, David and Jacob Kennedy, James Coffee Co. makes small-batch coffee with both single-origin beans and crafted blends. When you come here, you're supporting a family business, which is named after the duo's father.

It has locations in Bankers Hill, Escondido, Little Italy, and North Park. But the Little Italy spot has an excellent location near downtown San Diego and the San Diego Bay, making it a terrific place to get coffee before heading to the Little Italy farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It has an interesting industrial look with high ceilings and indoor seating. Whether you want a black coffee or a honey cinnamon latte, James Coffee is the perfect place to sit and sip alongside a seasonal pastry.


(619) 756-7770

2355 India St, San Diego, CA 92101

TERI Common Grounds Café & Coffee Bar

TERI Common Grounds breakfast burrito
TERI Common Grounds breakfast burrito - Carmen Varner/Tasting Table

TERI Common Grounds Café & Coffee Bar is all about community engagement and inclusivity, so this is the business to patron when you want a latte or French toast that serves a purpose. The coffee shop is part of TERI Campus of Life, a multi-purpose campus with just about everything to aid special needs adults and children. The cafe serves coffee drinks such as espresso shots, brewed coffee, caramel macchiatos, blended mocha cold brew, or the non-coffee cherry almond smoothie.

Eat a breakfast burrito or chicken bacon cobb salad while you're there. It has a large patio with tables as well as plenty of indoor seating. Come here when you want a coffee that not only benefits you but others too.


(858) 356-4546

555 Deer Springs Rd, San Marcos, CA 92069

Finjan Coffee Co.

Finjan cup of coffee
Finjan cup of coffee - finjanco/Instagram

Come to Finjan Coffee Co. to get yourself Turkish coffee and traditional Arabic sweets for a memorable Middle Eastern coffee shop experience in San Diego. It uses James Coffee Co. beans to make its creations, like sparkling orange espresso or Turkish coffee that's brewed as it boils in a hot sand pit. The cups and plates are stylish and refined, and while the coffee is a staple, don't leave without the housemade knafeh or baklava.

Finjan Coffee is a full-on experience that feels as though you teleported to Turkey, if only for a few minutes. This is one best coffee shops in San Diego when you want something other than a standard cup of Joe.


(858) 355-9619

9119 Clairemont Mesa Blvd G, San Diego, CA 92123

El Kafecito Hut

El Kafecito coffee exterior
El Kafecito coffee exterior - elkafecitohut/Instagram

Small but consistently busy, El Kafecito Hut is a favored spot for coffee lovers. In the morning, there are often cars lined up winding in the parking lot waiting to order coffee. We're fans of specialty Mexican-inspired drinks like the dulce de leche latte, horchata coffee, and tres leches latte, but it serves other options, such as a matcha latte or the blended banana nut chai.

Get your cup of caffeine via drive-thru, and don't leave without a concha — that is, if it hasn't already sold out. Don't take our word for it. The morning line speaks for itself, and this coffee shop has plans to open more locations in the San Diego area.


(619) 362-5973

949 S Santa Fe Ave, Vista, CA 92083

Communal Coffee

Communal Coffee sign
Communal Coffee sign - communalcoffee/Instagram

Communal Coffee has multiple locations, but the North Park one stands out with its large Coffee + Flowers block-lettered outdoor mural. But it's also known for its photo-friendly interiors, which are bright, white, and laden with light. There's a plethora of places to sit inside and out, but you might have trouble finding a spot in the seemingly always-packed coffee shop.

If you make it in time for a seasonal beverage, order one. Who can resist delicious flavors like lemon almond latte and ube matcha latte? Communal Coffee also has non-coffee drinks like kefir soda and hot teas, plus a pretty hefty food menu with soyrizo burrito, pear ricotta toast, and more.


(619) 363-7737

2335 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

Ascend Coffee Roasters

Ascend Coffee Roasters interior
Ascend Coffee Roasters interior - flodine2018/Instagram

Ascend Coffee Roasters roasts its own coffee with high-quality beans that support ethical farming communities. It was previously located in San Marcos and known as Old California Coffee House at Restaurant Row, which was a buzzing spot for three decades. The transformation to Ascend allowed owner Erin Harper to welcome a second place in Carlsbad before eventually closing the Restaurant Row location because of property development in March 2024.

Come to this woman-owned coffee shop as early as 7 a.m. for food like homemade lemon bars or seasonal raspberry scones. Enjoy quality coffee beverages such as an iced coffee, white chocolate mocha, or coffee smoothie (made with banana, coffee, almond butter, and other "secret" ingredients).


(760) 274-6886

3231 Camino De Los Coches, #107, Carlsbad, CA 92009

Spill The Beans

Coffee bagel and exterior
Coffee bagel and exterior - spillthebeanssd/Instagram

When you're in the mood for a breakfast of coffee and bagels, Spill the Beans Coffee + Bagel might be your jam. The Chagaccino with chaga mushrooms, vanilla, cinnamon, monk fruit, espresso, and milk is a favored pick, but you can't go wrong with a drip coffee or the on-tap nitro cold brew. It has homemade bagels and cream cheese, such as lemon poppy seed or bacon and white cheddar, but you should also ask about the flavor of the month.

With multiple locations, we like the Gaslamp District one, in particular, with its cheeky "Pot Head" sign against a coffee pot mural. This makes for a top photo spot, which is shared with restaurant and bar The Smoking Gun.


(619) 233-3836

555 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101

Bound Coffee Company

Bound Coffee to-go cup beach
Bound Coffee to-go cup beach - boundbycoffee/Instagram

Order a drink and stay at Bound Coffee Company to relish the coffee and pastries in a welcoming space. It showcases a myriad of coffee drinks like the espresso tonic or cold brew, plus sencha, matcha, and hojicha teas if you're not in the mood for java.

Feeling hungry? Enjoy some coffee shop classics like avocado toast, breakfast burrito with roasted Fresno chile crema, or bacon egg & cheese bagel. Find this pleasant spot in a small strip mall with ample parking located in South Oceanside. The conveniently located shop always has people filtering through for a drink with a few seats available indoors and outdoors.


(442) 266-2259

2110 S Coast Hwy, Ste C, Oceanside, CA 92054

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

Coffee and donut on table
Coffee and donut on table - fouster78/Instagram

Since opening in 2013, Dark Horse Coffee Roasters' popularity and growth has expanded from the San Diego area into Orange County and Hawaii, which isn't an easy feat. With a focus on community relationships, both with customers and the farmers that grow its beans, it's both the coffee and service that keep patrons coming back for more.

The North Park location, in particular, is small, with a few window seats, but it consistently has people coming in to order coffee. It concentrates on drip coffee and espresso drinks, such as pour-over coffee, iced latte, or cortado — nothing too elaborate. This is the place to visit when you want a good cup of coffee, no fuss, no muss.


(619) 955-7447

3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104


San Diego's city skyline
San Diego's city skyline - Ron And Patty Thomas/Getty Images

This list combines places I have personally visited with popular coffee shops in San Diego County that you'll hear about time and again among local foodie groups. These coffee shops made this list because of factors like how the shop sources the coffee, what the coffee shop does for its community, whether it roasts its own coffee, the diversity of coffee choices and flavors, how it tastes, and if you can purchase bagged coffee to go. I also considered location, quality of service, in-store food options, interior design, ambiance, seating, and accessibility to parking.

As a San Diego County resident for most of my life and a food and beverage writer for many years, I constantly visit and learn about new-to-me places and stay apprised of the goings-on in the area. While I have visited a lot of San Diego coffee shops and cafes, I'm only human and haven't visited them all. For the ones I have not visited, I researched top-named shops in news articles and roundups paired with coffee shops I have heard a lot of positive reviews about over the years from food groups, online reviews, news, and personal connections.

Read the original article on Tasting Table