Top LA Indie Coffee Bars

Third Wave Coffee FTW

Cappuccino at Civil Coffee

 |  Photo:  Joshua Lurie

No longer must Angelenos subject themselves to old, overly roasted coffee. A new wave of specialty coffee purveyors is now either roasting their own beans or brewing beans from trusted purveyors to deliver variety and nuance. Homegrown coffee players like Cafecito Organico, Coffee Commissary and Groundwork Coffee now complement national brands like Blue Bottle, intelligentsia, La Colombe, Philz, and Stumptown, who have all set up shop in L.A. Now, nearly every neighborhood has at least one standout coffee bar. Learn about 23 top indies that are helping to propel the movement forward.

 

#AlfredCone at Alfred Coffee Melrose Place

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Alfred Coffee Melrose Place



“But first, coffee.” Joshua Zad started on Melrose Place with that tagline, drew a fashionable crowd, and now has six locations that span the city, plus Alfred Tea Rooms extending from WeHo to Tokyo. Alfred’s original coffee bar is split-level, with an umbrella-shaded patio (branded, of course), a communal work area, and a subterranean bar with Stumptown coffee, a workhorse La Marzocco espresso machine, Farmshop pastries, and grab-and-go fridge. To show how integral social media has been to Alfred’s growth, two drinks on the menu have hashtags: #10DollarLatte and #AlfredCone - espresso served in a tiny chocolate-dipped ice cream cone cup.

Zayde Naquib at Bar Nine

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Bar Nine



Zayde Naquib was a long-time barista who teamed with Jereme Pitts on Bar Nine, a coffeehouse, roastery and platform for culinary pop-ups near Culver City’s Hayden Tract. The airy, industrial space features an L-shaped wood counter with built-in Modbar, a large communal table with clear view of the coffee roaster, and a laid-back vibe. Everything Bar Nine does is designed to “push coffee forward,” from sourcing single-origin, single-variety beans from Panama and Ethiopia, to all-inclusive pricing.

The Boy & The Bear Coffee Roastery

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

The Boy & The Bear – Coffee Roastery



Colombia native Andrés Piñeros started The Fika Company in 2012, and later changed his coffee company’s name to The Boy & The Bear to honor a favorite children’s story. Piñeros sources beans directly from three Colombian farms and treats them to an aqua Diedrich coffee roaster at his Redondo Beach café. The space features a patio with wooden furniture and indoor lounge with couches, exposed wood rafters, and counter with striped façade. Coffee varietals like Tabi and Castillo brew on a custom three-group La Marzocco Strada espresso machine and in fashionable copper pourover cones.

Nicaraguan Bella Aurora ground coffee at Caffe Luxxe

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Caffe Luxxe



Mark Wain and business partner Gary Chau have carved out a European niche on the Westside, beginning with Santa Monica in 2006, and now including cafes in Brentwood Country Mart, “downtown” Brentwood, and a branch by the beach in Malibu. To end 2012, Caffe Luxxe even started roasting their own coffee beans in a Gardena industrial park, keeping with the Italianate style they developed. Now, expect even more artistry, and not just in the cup, as the airy Santa Monica flagship hosts frequent art shows.

Coffee For Sasquatch

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Coffee For Sasquatch



Melrose shoppers can now spot an elusive yeti thanks to entrepreneur Claire Ackad. Her Coffee For Sasquatch café features the folkloric figure outlined in what looks like a massive metal cookie cutter, partially hidden in a living plant wall. A hand-painted mural opposite the playful beast helps frame the airy coffee bar, which features Ritual beans brewed on a three-group La Marzocco espresso machine, pourover bar, and cold brew. Their Cubano is a judiciously sweetened Cuban-style latte. They also serve Saint-Tropez-style pastries from La Tropezienne Bakery, (fōnuts), and vegan cakes.

Cappuccino at Civil Coffee

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Civil Coffee



Brothers Alan and Alex Morales built on the success of their espresso pop-up by unleashing a full-fledged Civil Coffee café in Highland Park in 2015. Their sharp-looking, glass-fronted space features an eagle logo, white and blue color palette, wood counters and tables, and high ceiling. They brew Coava and Heart beans in a La Marzocco espresso machine and Luxus batch brewers. Expect the standard complement of coffee drinks, plus signature beverages like The Arroyo made with espresso, milk, and “the best darn lavender syrup you’ve ever had.” Heirloom LA cooks breakfast and lunch.

Copa Vida in Old Pasadena | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Copa Vida



Seasoned coffee professionals Steve Chang, Sam Hong, and Frank La Sharp have developed a much larger presence in San Diego, but their original location in Old Pasadena remains vital. The corner space features plenty of seating in two adjacent rooms, a white and silver counter, a sleek silver espresso machine, and state-of-the-art Steampunk brewer that’s like a French press on steroids. Copa Vida divides their beverages into two categories – hot pressure and cold pressure, and also reveres tea.

Cognoscenti Coffee | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Cognoscenti Coffee



Architect Yeekai Lim popped up in Burbank and Eagle Rock before settling behind a marble counter at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village, bringing his multi-roaster showcase with him. In late 2012, Cognoscenti Coffee added a dedicated coffee bar below Clive Wilkinson Architects in Culver City’s Arts District. There, Lim employs an even wider selection (Ritual, Wrecking Ball and Phil & Sebastian among them) and utilizes premium equipment. Expect a shimmering silver La Marzocco espresso machine and an Über Boiler to make sure pourover stays piping hot. Call it quid pro quo, but Cognoscenti now carries Proof pastries. Lim recently boomeranged back east with two DTLA branches.

Dinosaur Coffee | Photo: Dinosaur Coffee

Dinosaur Coffee



Michelle Hantoot and husband Ben created a great Silver Lake hangout with Dinosaur Coffee. Their sun-streaked café features Douglas fir plywood, white counter, and custom Ogassian tiles that resemble tiny hats. Little dinosaurs line shelves, giving you the chance to sip within view of a stegosaurus or T-Rex, two of the only creatures more imposing than a Sasquatch. A fire-red La Marzocco espresso machine is the engine for their coffee drinks. If you’re looking for something different, consider specials like coconut cacao cold brew, cardamom cinnamon cappuccino, or a seasonal shrub.

Espresso at Endorffeine

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Endorffeine



Chemist Jack Benchakul brings an exacting approach to Far East Plaza with Endorffeine, a concept that combines an endorphin rush with caffeine. The tiny glass-fronted shop features a U-shaped stainless steel counter with built-in Modbar. Benchakul favors nuanced beans from Portland’s Heart Roasters, though he does rotate guest roasters. Endorffeine serves typical espresso drinks and pourover, but delves deeper with compelling specialty lattes like Makrut lime Malbec and vanilla pandan. Benchakul even created a maple bourbon iced latte to complement Howlin’ Ray’s chicken and waffles.

Mocha at Espresso Cielo | Photo courtesy of Espresso Cielo, Facebook

Espresso Cielo



Diane Maler and husband Lew found inspiration in the Pacific Northwest, attending the Seattle Barista Academy and sourcing coffee from Vancouver’s 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters to fuel their chic Santa Monica café. Espresso Cielo features sky blue walls, Carrera marble counters and an 18th Century clock, which originally told time in a French church. Sure they’ve got espresso drinks and a pourover bar, but the company’s probably become best known for their cold brew coffee, which slowly drips through coils in twin Kyoto style towers, resulting in an especially smooth cup that’s leeched of bitterness. The couple opened a larger, more modern coffee bar near the Third Street Promenade.

Coffee beans and cold brew at G&B Coffee | Photo by Joshua Lurie

G&B Coffee



Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski are accomplished baristas, managers and educators who previously worked for Intelligentsia Coffee and struck out on their own in 2012. The duo set up shop inside SQIRL, Jessica Koslow’s hub for modern California cuisine, and now run a 360-degree coffee bar at the base of Bunker Hill in Grand Central Market. They aren’t beholden to any brands, and prepare seasonal coffee with precision not typically found in cafes, going so far as to weigh espresso output. They bottle cold brew and iced tea, pull a full complement of espresso beverages, and take some creative liberties. G&B also own three branches of Go Get Em Tiger with a similar approach.

goodboybob coffee

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

goodboybob coffee



Tool production company founder (and coffee junkie) Erich Joiner planted goodboybob in the middle of a Santa Monica hub for production houses, alongside his Virtual Reality Theater. He hired coffee pro Ryan Fisher from Denver to execute his caffeinated vision. Fisher sources and roasts coffee beans off-site and baristas brew them in-house on a custom La Marzocco espresso machine, by hand, and in nitro-charged cold brew. They make a killer mocha with espresso, single-origin Askinosie cocoa powder, house-made vanilla syrup, and Clover milk. On Fridays, they brew rare micro-lots by pourover.

Highlight Coffee

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Highlight Coffee



Frank Kim has set the specialty coffee bar for Glendale at Highlight Coffee, an impressive corner shop that debuted at the end of 2016. The space features a white and light wood color scheme, with limited counter and banquette seating. Rotating roasters may include Demitasse, Sweet Bloom, and Phil & Sebastian, which get brewed on a two-group La Marzocco espresso machine and by pourover. Butterscotch and orange vanilla syrups are made in-house for lattes. They also have frothy cold cappuccinos; espresso pom-tonic with house-made grenadine, espresso, and tonic water; and cascara tea made with residual Phil & Sebastian coffee cherries. Coffee lemonade may be Highlight’s greatest innovation, featuring two parts house-made lemonade and one part cold brew.

Kindness & Mischief | Photo: @seedotalvarez, Instagram 

Kindness & Mischief



Highland Park’s former home to Seymour Jeweler now belongs to Mo Maravilla and Kindness & Mischief. Her coffee bar’s motto, “Be Kind Make Mischief,” appears on the front door. A tiny fox hides out in aqua rafters, overlooking glossy wood tables. A two-group La Marzocco espresso machine yields proper drinks made with beans from roasters like Take Flight. They also serve basic hot brew, cold brew, and on weekends, pourover. Purchase a “kind cup” for the next guest to enjoy, a way to pay caffeine forward. Signature drinks include “The Kindness,” sweetened coconut condensed milk with cinnamon, espresso, and steamed milk; and “The Mischief,” made with house chocolate ganache, cayenne, espresso, and steamed milk. Both drinks are available hot or iced.

LAMILL Coffee | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Lamill Coffee



Craig Min brought an elevated culinary commitment to coffee by opening LAMILL Coffee Boutique in Silver Lake to start 2008. Scott Mangan and Nick Bianco from Rubbish Interiors designed the mid-century Colonial space, which includes chandeliers, restored furniture and hand-painted Chinese wallpaper. Every cup of coffee is made to order, whether it’s a Chemex, siphon brew, espresso drink, or a signature beverage like maple bacon latte with Tippleman’s barrel-smoked maple syrup and house-made bacon garnish; or East Side mocha, champurrado with dark chocolate, cayenne, and cinnamon.

#2 Pencil at Menotti's Coffee Stop

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Menotti’s Coffee Stop



Louie Ryan and wife Netty entrusted Menotti’s Coffee Stop to brilliant coffee mind and hospitality champion Christopher Abel “nicely” Alameda. Under his watch, the Venice Beach café has expanded while maintaining high quality. Menotti’s nails the classics, and also features a secret menu on the back of namesake Cesar Menotti’s photo. Expect drinks like Caffe Rico, made with house vanilla syrup, half-and-half, espresso, a dusting of cinnamon, and orange peel garnish. #2 Pencil is a cappuccino featuring espresso blended with activated charcoal. Menotti’s coffee truck launched in 2017 and can frequently be found on weekend mornings in front of sister business Hatchet Hall.

Paper or Plastik Cafe | Photo: Paper or Plastik Cafe

Paper or Plastik Cafe



This creative space from Yasha Michelson and wife Anya has the shape of an airplane hanger and features a dance studio on one side of a wall, a two-story café and design shop on the other, and handcrafted steel and wood elements everywhere. The Michelsons are constantly fine tuning, whether it’s upgrading a multi-roaster roster, roasting their own beans, adding seasonal dishes to complement pastries, or incorporating beer and wine. One constant is that Paper or Plastik is popular with artists, writers, dancers, and chefs.

Paramount Coffee Project

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Paramount Coffee Project



Sydney import Paramount Coffee Project set up amidst Fairfax Village’s shoe and skate shops, combining the talents of Jin Ng (Right Angle Studios), Mark Dundon (Seven Seeds), and Russell Beard (Reuben Hills). The concrete and wood café features a pleasant back patio, a three-group La Marzocco espresso machine, and multi-roaster line-up with beans from global brands like Heart, George Howell, and Reuben Hills. Enjoy a recognizable roster of espresso drinks, plus popular Australian options like a flat white and long black. Specialty beverages include an espresso spritzer.

Nitro Flight at Rubies+Diamonds

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Rubies+Diamonds



Jean Shim, who co-founded LAMILL Coffee Boutique, now runs this creative coffee bar (#notajewelrystore) at Hollywood’s Columbia Square development. The space features blue-grey and red chevron walls lined with art, elaborate chandeliers, cushioned banquettes, and a white, L-shaped counter. They utilize Bkon vacuum-processed RAIN technology for coffee and tea, and they have plenty of drinks on nitro. Drip coffee is available on a 1-4 caffeine spectrum, and they also sell R+D signature beverages like coconut sea salt cold brew, smoked chile mocha lattte, and rose vanilla latte. Shim’s daughter Elia Min bakes her signature chocolate chip cookies to team with coffee.

Tiago Coffee Bar & Kitchen | Photo: Tiago Coffee Bar & Kitchen, Facebook

Tiago Espresso Bar + Kitchen



Hollywood is better known for tourist attractions than for interesting beverages, but Santiago Garfunkel’s café is an exception. The businessman has a spacious patio and allusions to Hollywood legends on the walls. However, Tiago is more focused on quality coffee than showmanship. A two-group Nuova Simonelli espresso machine and a four-cone Hario V60 pourover station brew beans from revered roasters like Coava and Equator.

Tierra Mia Coffee | Photo: Tierra Mia

Tierra Mia Coffee



Ulysses Romero, who earned an MBA from Stanford University, is a firm believer in vertical integration, but has no interest in WiFi. The South L.A. native now operates 10 Latin inflected cafes in Los Angeles and a pair of Bay Area cafés. Tierra Mia roasts beans at a former KFC in Pico Rivera, bakes at the Huntington Park location, and preaches community. You won’t find WiFi. Instead, Romero expects customers to communicate the old fashioned way, in person, and so far, they’ve bought into his approach. Maybe it’s the Cup of Excellence winning coffees and horchata-inspired lattes that have helped to convince people to put down their laptops and cell phones.

Woodcat Coffee Bar | Photo: @beat_riceee, Instagram

Woodcat Coffee Bar



Woodcat Coffee Bar isn’t Echo Park’s first specialty coffee bar, but Janine Awan and husband Saadat have become a neighborhood favorite. The couple named their shop for a Scottish hare, which also gets the spotlight in a song from U.K. band Tunng. Woodcat features spare Ducati parts in the window, red and grey walls, and plenty of reclaimed wood. Wrecking Ball coffee courses through their Faema espresso machine. Seasonal specials may include peppermint marshmallow or Madagascar vanilla lattes.