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Mar 5, 2012 08:33 PM

Good coffee in San Diego?

Again, just moved here from SF and am dying for a good cup of coffee. All my coffee paraphernalia (aka - press, chemex, pour over gear) is in storage b/c I'm in between places. Please, where can I find a cup of coffee that hasn't been sitting in an urn for 3 hours???? Four Barrel was my favorite in SF so anywhere that is even remotely close to them in quality would be so greatly appreciated!


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  1. What part of town are you in? We love the made to order coffee at Extraordinary Desserts with 2 locations - 1 in Little Italy and 1 in Bankers Hill/Hillcrest.

    1. In San Diego, one needs to break it down between brewed and espresso. For espresso, right now my top recommendation is a small roaster/cafe called Zumbar in Sorrento Valley. Since their best baristas are also the ones who spend most of their time up on bar, your chances are pretty good. The ones to look out for are Nicole, their best, followed by Aaron.

      They'll often feature a special coffee in their third grinder that they'll pull shots for 50 cents more, and is almost always worth the charge. Typically it'll be, but not always, a DP SO Ethiopian, but they've also had some stellar blends as well. (Still long for their Red Sea Blend...)

      For brewed, you can find shops here and there, but the big standout in terms of a broad selection of SO coffees is Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, who also won roaster of the year in last year's Roast Magazine roundup.

      In fact this might be a good time to go as Chuck, their owner, just came back from a buying trip to origin. Also keep in mind that every Friday at 10:30 Chuck conducts a free coffee cupping that's open to the public.

      4 Replies
      1. re: cgfan

        Second Bird Rock.

        If you're up in OC, I really recommend Kean Coffee also. cgfan let me know about them and I was pretty impressed with their single origin Tanzanian

        1. re: karaethon

          Normally like Kean Coffee but the last few times their espresso and cappuchino were just plain awful and a few of their barrista simply don't know what they are doing. Very disappointing after some good experienced before.

          1. re: karaethon

            To be clear, though, Kean is not my top rec in OC. In regards to technical execution, that vote would go to Portola Coffee Lab, in the OC Mix Mart. ...they also have a very nice cheese shop a few doors down where one can pick up a light bite.

            ...and while there one might consider oggling over the dream-house goodies at the Fixtures for Living store in the same complex, where they'll serve you a complimentary espresso drink from their very prominently displayed La Marzocco right at their entrance/reception area. (Not to say that one would go there for their espresso drinks, but the price is right...)

            1. re: cgfan

              Having had the two, I think I actually preferred the taste of the free drink at Fixtures than the one I had at Portola last night. Maybe they were having an off night, because it was the put a lot of work into something that I thought was just above corporate-chain quality (it was about as good as Influx-Little Italy, which I never bother with for good reason).

        2. If you're near North Park, I'd look into Cafe Calabria, which brews a damn fine french press. When you get your stuff out of storage, you can also take advantage of the fact that Cafe Calabria is its own coffee roaster.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jmtreg

            Sad to report that the last time I was at Calabria, about 2 weeks ago, Max said that they don't do french press coffee anymore.

          2. In order to avoid the "stale" urn phenomenon and still get a respectable cup of drip style coffee, it's best to go for a high volume shop. Peet's in Hillcrest fills that bill. The coffee itself is not great but very good and they serve a lot of customers all day long.

            For Italian style espresso you can't beat the small kiosk just outside the front door to the Mary Birch Hospital on the Sharp Main Campus. The family that operates the stand is from a town just outside of Rome. Very authentic. They have good drip coffee as well but their forte is espresso, latte, and cappuccino.

            For a good balance of quality coffee, proper brewing, and a nice place to drink it at your lea sure, consider "Red's" on Rosecrans in Point Loma. A good coffee shop with some very nice baked goods as well.

            1. This really does depend on where you're at. Cafe Moto is pretty good their coffee is also whats used at Influx and a few other places. I've heard Santos is decent, Calabria does quality coffee as well. All these places are closer to downtown... sorta.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kriot

                i miss philz in sf - we still order their beans and have them shipped to us.... down here good places to try are bird rock coffee roasters in la jolla, ryan brothers coffee, zumbar in sorrento valley. we just buy the whole beans and do it all at home - i don't like bird rock as much as philz but 10:30am you can go to a cupping and try it for yourself. to me, bird rock has a weird "weed-like" thing going on...not as round as philz - not for me. zumbar is more blends so it's like philz, and bird rock is mostly origin, so it just depends what you like. although i love the atmosphere at pannakin - the coffee is not good. kean and cafe calabria are good but inconsistent.