Looking for a pick me up? Something tasty is always brewing in the Des Moines coffee scene. From Instagram-worthy lattes and pour-over processes to cold brews and dark roasts, you’ll find your perfect blend with our list of Best Coffee in Greater Des Moines, as voted by locals. Cool beans, indeed.
Also, here is a quick primer to the different “waves” of coffee discussed below. But cliff notes version: Second Wave is typically dark roast coffees with a heavy focus on flavored drinks and Third Wave is more light roasts, single-origin beans, and manual brewing methods.
Located in a small industrial space in the West End Artistic District downtown, Horizon Line is arguably the hippest, tastiest, and most thoughtful coffee shop in town, serving their drinks in reusable glass jars that are both environmentally friendly and incredibly chic. Started by two friends from Southern California, this Third Wave coffee shop roasts their own coffee to the most modern standards and specializes in light roast coffee, using acclaimed Picket Fence Creamery (from Woodward, IA) as their milk source.
Slow Down Coffee Co.
This cute Third Wave shop in the up-and-coming Highland Park neighborhood serves beans from Ames roaster Windmill Coffee Roasters. You can even purchase Windmill beans on site. Bonus: They have some of the coolest merchandise in town, so you can literally wear your love for this place on your sleeve. Make sure to stop next door at Hiland Bakery for a pastry to pair with your java as well!
Blk & Bold
One of the buzziest new coffees in Des Moines, Blk & Bold burst onto the scene and won over fans not only locally, but nationally, quickly becoming Amazon’s best-selling coffee brand. How did they do it? By not only creating amazing coffee but giving back to amazing causes. Five percent of their profits are distributed to at-risk youth, both locally and nationally. There is no storefront (yet), but you can purchase their products online and at supermarkets throughout the metro.
One of Des Moines’ favorite coffee shops and most popular meeting spots, Smokey Row serves up flavored coffees with a heavy dose of nostalgia across their seven locations in Greater Des Moines, with the Cottage Grove location serving as the “Central Perk of Des Moines.” The carefully curated décor makes it the perfect place to meet an old friend and catch up over a cup of joe and a giant cinnamon roll or slice of quiche.
If you're in the Ingersoll area, pop into Zanzibar’s, a locally-owned shop that has been brewing small-batch coffee on-site since 1993, making it one of the original stalwarts of the Des Moines coffee scene. You’ll feel like you stepped back to 1993 too, since they don’t have Wi-Fi, so bring a book to cozy up with, old-school style. Their specialty-grade Arabica coffee is roasted Tuesday – Friday inside the shop. And you’re also a stone’s throw from some of the coolest restaurants in town as well (Harbinger, Eatery A, Lachele’s Fine Foods).
You don’t need to go downtown to get a great cup of coffee. Lightbrite, a new Third Wave coffee shop in Grimes, is one of the best coffee shops in the metro. They offer Picket Fence milk along with coffee flights and signature drinks like Nightlite (vanilla and lavender paired with espresso and milk) and the Spicy Mayan (housemade chocolate, spice from ancho, cinnamon, and nutmeg, paired with espresso and milk). Need we say more?
Owned by one of Des Moines' longest-running (and best) baristas, Danniel Bosman, this Third Wave coffee shop in the East Village carries quality sourced beans from top-rated roasters from around the country. It's a wonderful place to explore new beans that are constantly rotating in and out. Fun fact: Dan is also a beekeeper and works his passion for honey into his shop's theme and into its drinks.
Started by a native Iowa couple in Waukee, The Coffeesmith has a fun, industrial feel filled with natural light, along with pretty much everything else you’d want in a favorite coffee spot. Drinks like the S’more Latte and Pablo Honey (espresso + cinnamon + honey + milk) are almost too pretty to drink and their breakfast sandwiches are rave-worthy. And for the kids, their smoothies and hot chocolate are out of this world as well.
5 Borough Bagels
Come for the Capital City Coffee (Altoona), stay for the best bagel you’ve had outside of New York City. That’s because owners Tony and Sarah Chem moved from New York and brought their New York artisan-style bagels to West Des Moines with them. Pair a café au lait or cappuccino with a bagel and lox or a sesame bagel with sriracha bacon cream cheese and you'll be speaking with a New York accent in no time.
One of Des Moines’ oldest coffee houses, Java Joe’s is in the heart of downtown and specializes in dark roasts. Popular with the downtown work crowd, this unpretentious Second Wave spot is the perfect place for a dark coffee and rice krispie treat. It also happens to be the place where they film the MSNBC morning show Cup of Joe every Caucus season!
Mars Café in the Drake neighborhood was Des Moines' first Third Wave coffee shop. They claim to have the galaxy’s best coffee and who are we to argue? Mars stocks beans from Wisconsin-based roaster Wonderstate and other rotating roasters. Their Sputnik drink (honey, almond, cinnamon) is the stuff of local legend, and pairs perfectly with their peanut butter, banana, and honey over toast.
St. Kilda Café & Bakery
St. Kilda’s modern and comfortable space makes it the ideal place to warm up with a cup of Counter Culture coffee and an order of their legendary avocado toast. It’s also the only place in town where you can get Australian Iced Coffee. What’s that, you ask? Two shots of espresso over vanilla ice cream with milk. The game has been changed forever.
Another popular meeting spot in the East Village, Scenic Route is a bakery and café serving Tugboat coffee (Chicago) and espresso drinks, along with lunch options that include items like kale salads, steel-cut oatmeal, and ham or turkey sandwiches. This is the perfect place to escape the office and get some work done in a comfortable atmosphere while staying caffeinated and content.
Special thanks to coffee aficionado Dave Poyzer from Canoe There for his contributions to this piece. Check out his polaroid coffee passion project here!