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Best Coffee Shops in San Diego

Funny story: I woke up one morning and told Kevin I was craving Philz Coffee. He said, “well let's go get you some!” – and thus began one of our many road trips to California. When we tell people we've driven 6 hours for coffee, they definitely give us the side eye… but it's true! 😉 For this reason, we are totally qualified to write about the best coffee shops in San Diego.

What makes the best coffee?

Everyone has their preferences for coffee as well as sugar, milk, etc, right? Some of us are pickier than others; you wouldn't catch us at a SBux unless there was literally NO other coffee around. We wrote this post not to rank the coffee shops from best to worst, but to inspire you to try different small coffee businesses while you're in San Diego. Whether you live here or are just visiting, create a plan, and execute it. Start with our #1s, for sure.

About our coffee habits

When it comes to coffee, Kevin is more adventurous than I am, so his drinks vary from coffee shop to coffee shop. For example, he tried a white coffee “Christmas Morning” drink from California Bean, but usually orders a drip coffee + 4 shots of espresso if we are forced to go to Sbux. I order a decaf iced mocha with oat milk almost everywhere we go. I will try Vietnamese iced coffee as well, but very few coffee places execute that one properly.

Thankfully, San Diego has no shortage of coffee shops! We literally had to make a plan and execute it to make sure we visited as many coffee spots as we could during our month-long stay.

Enjoy these shops – they ALL made the top 10 list – and remember everyone has their own opinions, especially when it comes to coffee. I'm much more particular than Kevin is. He used to drink gas station coffee before we met, so he isn't as snotty about his drinks as I am. 😉

FAQ: What the heck is a “vibe check”?

Simply put, we add the vibe check section to give a heads up if a place is uncomfortable for women or Black folks, from our individual perspectives. We aren't speaking for everyone's experiences when we do these, but would find them helpful if other people included them in their reviews.

#1 (Tie) California Bean: Best Hot Coffee

Our favorite that we kept going back to again and again: California Bean. When we arrived, it was based on reviews on Yelp and everyone and their mother mentioned “white coffee”, so I wanted Kevin to try it. The baristas explained that white coffee has more caffeine, and doesn't taste like coffee… like, at all.

Address: 2222 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110
Parking: Plenty of parking, free.
Website: californiabean.com

White coffee is best when added to a drink that already has a lot of flavor… a latte, for example. One of the baristas whipped up a drink she calls “Christmas Morning”, which is white coffee plus… well, we didn't ask. Some super sweet stuff like white mocha is my guess. Kevin said it was verrrry sweet, but delicious.

He wanted to order his regular drink here, but California Bean only does espresso… no drip coffee. So he ordered his Americano style, with 4 shots of espresso and some vanilla and sugar. I ordered my regular drink. Both were amazing.

Vibe check: We both felt welcome here every time we visited!

#1 (Tie) Coffee n Talk: Best Iced Mocha

Tied right up there at #1 with California Bean, Coffee n Talk is located in downtown San Diego. They roast their own coffee and have bags of coffee for sale. They also kick ass at making delicious pastries, and have the perfect Instagram photo opp as you're walking in. Be sure you're at the downtown location, as the Hillcrest location does NOT make their coffee the same way…

Address: 1143 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Parking: Limited street parking, free.
Website: coffeentalk.com

grabbing the photo opps anywhere we can! 😉

Because I didn't like the coffee at Moe Coffee, we headed to Coffee n Talk and I'm so glad we did. The coffee is smooth, not bitter at all, and the chocolate is literal perfection!

decaf iced mocha with oat milk
look at that sexy lil' roaster and all those beans!

Coffee n Talk is more than just a coffee shop, though. Their menu is quite extensive, featuring pastries, bagels, sandwiches, and even omelets! We didn't try those yet, but we will. The pastries are drool worthy.

extensive menu at coffee n talk

Vibe check: I went in alone because Kevin was parked on the street and I wasn't sure if it was a legit parking spot LOL but these guys definitely passed the vibe check. They were friendly and cool without being pushy.

Meshuggah Shack: Most Controversial

We both got a kick out of the menu here, but found ourselves covering MC's eyes when they glared at the menu.

Address: 4048 Goldfinch St, San Diego, CA 92103
Parking: Plenty of parking, most customers are walk-ups from the neighborhood
Website: none

Menu items include:

  • Missionary: because sometimes good ol' vanilla does the trick
  • Call Me in the Morning: because honey, we've all been there
  • Crackhead Chai Latte: calling you a crackwh*re to your face instead of mumbling it behind your back
  • Sparkle Pony: Crackhead Chai with Lavender OMG

Other drinks include the El Kinky Nut and Mother's Little Helper, which is a Crackhead Chai with chocolate.

This coffee shack was right around the corner from our rental. It was convenient to go to but the coffee was “meh” to me and Kevin liked it but it wasn't one of his favorites, so we only went once. We'd definitely go back for the live music, and the hot chocolate was awesome, according to MC. So it wasn't a total wash, but the real attraction is their controversial menu.

Vibe check: Tottttally passed the vibe check. Everyone is welcome here… though Christians may feel a tad uncomfortable, especially with the “tip” jar, complete with Jesus peering at you.

Achilles Coffee @ The Rey: Best Pour Over

If you're looking for the best pour over coffee in San Diego, head to Achilles Coffee. Not only do they have a full breakfast and lunch menu, you get to choose which type of roast you want for your coffee… and they grind the beans right in front of you!

Address: 800 B St, San Diego, CA 92101
Parking: Limited street parking, free.
Website: achillescoffeeroasters.com

Achilles Coffee takes pour over coffee to the next level with all of the options they offer, and they make their own syrups. Kevin got a coffee here, but I didn't… why? Because Coffee n Talk is right around the corner and I wasn't sure if Achilles would be any good. After Kevin gave the thumbs up, we went back a few days later so I could try an iced mocha.

There was only one barista and she seemed pretty overwhelmed with the orders she was getting, so keep in mind you need to be patient. Perfection takes time. If you don't have 10 minutes or so to wait for a coffee, you may want to come back when you have more time. 🙂

Vibe check: This is an outdoor/walk-up only place, and it's right in downtown. If you like sitting and watching the hustle and bustle of it all, Achilles Coffee is the perfect spot. They also have a Black lives matter sign prominently displayed, which is pretty cool if you ask us!

Make Good Coffee: Best Roastery + Friendliest

There was construction going on when we navigated to Make Good Coffee, but I'm glad we didn't let it deter us. After spending just a few moments in this little shop (that smells AMAZING), we felt like we had made a friend.

Address: 2110 Hancock St Unit 100, San Diego, CA 92109
Parking: Plenty of free street parking.
Website: makegoodcoffee.com

All beans are roasted in house and there are many to choose from. The baked goods are from various bakeries and the dark chocolate salted caramels were my favorite part. There is an Oatmeal Bar, with affordable breakfast and on-the-go options as well.

My only complaint here is that they don't make their own chocolate syrup. I know I'm being SUPER picky when I say this, especially because he gave me delicious whipped cream with my mocha, but this place would definitely be number 1 on the list if they had a better chocolate. 🙂 I will say they were the most affordable out of all of the coffee shops we visited, though!

Vibe check: Like I said, it felt like we made a friend after spending just 10 minutes or so in the shop. We both really loved this place. There's no indoor seating but there is a cute little spot outside that would be perfect to sit at when the construction is gone.

James Coffee: Most Sustainable

James Coffee has multiple locations in San Diego. What makes James Coffee unique? They use glass bottles only… no single-serve cups here, no straws, nada!

Address: 2355 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Parking: Limited on street parking, free.
Website: jamescoffeeco.com

At first I felt like this was a bit impractical, but when I read the facts on the koozie I realized James Coffee is ahead of their time and all coffee shops need to follow suit.

600 billion one-time-use cups that are thrown out annually? WHAT THE FORK, Y'ALL?

Delicious coffee, if you're going to drink it plain. Drinks like lattes and mochas and such, they have no sweetness to them at all. The barista warned me ahead of time that my mocha wouldn't be sweet, like at all. I asked how we could make it sweeter and she said she'd add more brown sugar. Awesome! Only… it still wasn't sweet.

But we will be going back because we love the glass bottles (no waste!!), and we are going to see if they can do “extra sweet” (which will still probably be lightly sweetened but that's okay). I do wish they had tastier chocolate; that's part of the joy of a mocha.

Vibe check: Whew! Kevin and I disagreed on the vibe of this place. I thought it was a tad pretentious and he thought the baristas just weren't overly friendly like they are at most places. You'll have to try for yourself and let us know what you think.

Cliffs Cafe: Best Food

While Cliff's Cafe didn't make the top of the list of best coffee shops in San Diego, their bomb ass BBQ chicken wrap was enough to make us go back a second – and third – time.

Address: 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd UNIT D, San Diego, CA 92107
Parking: Limited street parking, free.
Website: none

Located in Ocean Beach right next to a donut shop, this BBQ chicken wrap was good enough to go back a second time while Kevin went to get donuts. Y'all knowwwww all about my sweet tooth, so that is saying a lot!!

While Cliff's Cafe didn't make the top of the list of best coffee shops in San Diego, their bomb ass BBQ chicken wrap was enough to make us go back a second – and third – time. Unfortunately, the third time was not as great… so we gave it a fourth shot and had the same result: the greens were wilted and old and the flavor just wasn't there.

Because the food was so awesome the first two times, we did want to include it on the list in hopes that the quality will return to what it was.

Moe Coffee: Cute Space

We are being pretty generous with this “best coffee” list when we include a shop just for the outside space, but there was a steady stream of coffee drinkers walking up to get their cuppa so our guess is you may like it as well.

Address: 4195 Kansas St, San Diego, CA 92104
Parking: Limited street parking, free.
Website: www.moecoffee.co

Moe's Coffee is cute and has the perfect little outdoor space, complete with one of those free mini libraries. The coffee wasn't quite strong enough for Kevin's liking, and I did not care for the mocha, but they have many other drinks as well as pastries on their menu.

Kettle & Stone: Not Great Coffee + Unfriendly Baristas

I'm going to be honest here. Even if the coffee at Kettle and Stone was good, we wouldn't go back. The coffee was weak, chocolate flavor in the mocha wasn't strong at all, and Kevin's coffee tasted as if it was watered down. The worst part, though, was the snobby baristas that definitely did not pass the vibe check.

Address: 1619 W Lewis St, San Diego, CA 92103
Parking: Limited street parking, free.
Website: none

This place felt like a whitewashed attempt at cultural coffee, right in the center of Mission Hills. We were not fans, and we dipped out as soon as we got our milk coffee. The baristas weren't friendly at all and the customers matched that same energy. The only good thing they had going for them? They're dog-friendly, but we don't think our dogs would like them much, either.

Unless you like your coffee weak, served with a heaping side of pretentiousness, we recommend the other coffee shops on the list instead. There are too many awesome coffee options in San Diego to go some place where you clearly aren't wanted.

Finding good coffee in San Diego

It's soooo easy to find delicious coffee in San Diego. We've tasted coffee from many places, but this town is full of amazing flavors that everyone will love. Add your favorite San Diego coffee shops to the comments below!

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