For its modest size and small-town vibe, Des Moines is a remarkably great coffee city. Everywhere you turn, another excellent coffee shop awaits. With all of these choices, it’s a breeze to find a different spot for every mood or day of the week. Get comfortable with your laptop at a cool, contemporary café in downtown Des Moines, or enjoy an afternoon get-together with friends at a funky university coffee shop. Whether you’re a coffee purist or a lover of sweet specialty drinks, these cafes have you covered.
With its cool, industrial vibe — think exposed metal pipes and concrete floors — and huge windows, Scenic Route Bakery is one of Des Moines’ most contemporary coffee shops. The menu features the usual assortment of espresso drinks. If you love a specialty drink, try the Honeybee, which features hints of honey and cinnamon. The real standout at Scenic Route is the bakery section; the muffins, pastries, and cookies are hard to resist.
Need to get some work done? Feel free to bring your laptop and spend a few hours working. There are usually a few people doing the same thing, and the employees don’t mind.
Freedom Blend Coffee is a coffee shop with a cause. All of the coffees on the menu are roasted on-site and sourced using fair-trade principles. That’s not all — Freedom runs the coffee shop for Youth Ministries to provide faith-based skills training for at-risk young adults.
The coffee shop itself is beautiful, with plenty of natural light. It’s a great place to visit if you’re alone; grab one of the counter-style seats next to the large windows and enjoy the view. A variety of tables and booths serve couples and groups. If you’re not in the mood for coffee, the menu also includes fruit smoothies and bagels.
Smokey Row Coffee attracts a wide variety of customers, thanks to its delicious breakfast options and fun, relaxed vibe. Come with friends and snag one of the cozy booths, or come along with your laptop — everyone feels at home in the big, open building.
In addition to coffee, Smokey Row offers a large menu packed with sandwiches, panini, soups, smoothies. Make sure to leave room for one of the delicious desserts. This coffee shop is popular in the humid Iowa summers; it has excellent AC, free Wi-Fi, and an outdoor patio. You can even cool down with ice cream.
A popular hangout for students from Drake University, Mars Café is a good option if you like to support independent, locally owned businesses. This space-themed spot is compact and colorful, and it’s common to see people with laptops or textbooks. The Wi-Fi is strong and stable, and the atmosphere tends to be lively and fun.
If you like flavored coffee drinks, Mars Café is a great option. The menu includes a range of specialty lattes; try one of the small-batch coffee blends made in-house.
Located a few streets away from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in an industrial area, Horizon Line Coffee is one of the most stylish spots for coffee in Des Moines. The interior is bright and airy, with a welcoming Scandinavian-chic vibe.
Horizon Line is known for its coffee flights, including samples of different espressos, pour-overs, and cold brew options. Keep an eye out for the limited-release seasonal drinks, which are available in limited quantities each day. This is a place for true coffee connoisseurs, but the menu also includes excellent gourmet tea options. The sparkling tea is one of a kind.
Ritual Café is a standout coffee shop in Des Moines for one key reason: it offers an all-vegetarian menu with plenty of vegan options. Try a hemp nut smoothie; the horchata latte is another standout.
During the day, Ritual is a popular spot for locals seeking a quick vegetarian breakfast or lunch. In the late afternoon, grab a beer or a glass of wine to go with your tempeh Rueben or curried chickpea bowl. The inside is warm and inviting, thanks to the colorful walls and global decorations.
Waveland Café is another popular spot in the University neighborhood. It’s more of a diner than a traditional coffee shop — you won’t want to miss the indulgent breakfasts. There’s often a line, especially on weekend mornings, but the friendly service and reliable food are worth the wait.
The interior of Waveland Café is exactly what you’d expect from a casual, family-owned Midwestern diner. It’s relaxed and filled with mementos collected over the decades. This is the kind of place that makes you feel like a local from the moment you walk in. There’s a reason it’s a local legend!
A hub for local espresso enthusiasts, Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure is all about small-batch coffees. Each one is roasted on-site using specialty beans, ensuring fresh, unique brews. The baristas are knowledgeable and friendly, and every drink is carefully crafted. If fancy coffee drinks aren’t your thing, the Americano is just as delicious. In a city with an inordinate number of great cafes, this is one of the best coffee shops around.
Given its beans’ quality, Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure is a place to savor your drink and chat with friends. Seating is limited, and the clever decorations create a cozy, comfortable atmosphere.
As you might guess from the name, Coffee Cats is a part coffee shop, part cat café. In fact, it’s the first cat café in the state of Iowa. The cat lounge is separate from the dining area, so you can enjoy an espresso and then spend some time petting kittens in the lounge. (Make sure to reserve a time slot in advance.) All animals come from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, so you can rest assured that the money you spend helps create a safe and comfortable home. If you’d like to adopt one of the cats, the staff can help you submit the request.
For the well-being of its feline occupants, Coffee Cats maintains a quiet, relaxing atmosphere. A large window enables you to watch the cats while you enjoy a coffee or Italian soda.
Located in the historic Valley Junction neighborhood of Des Moines, Corazon Coffee Roasters is unlike any other coffee shop in town. It’s more of a roastery than a place to hang out — there isn’t a seating area, so you can grab a few bags of beans and a simple cup of coffee to go.
All of the beans at Corazon Coffee Roasters are certified organic and roasted locally. The selection changes by season, so there’s always something new. The shop is locally owned and operated.
Grounds for Celebration has three different locations in Des Moines. Each one features a bright, airy atmosphere with tall ceilings and plenty of tables. Feel comfortable bringing your laptop or a book; many visitors linger over their coffee for hours.
In addition to coffee, Grounds for Celebration offers a wide variety of pastries, salads, and sandwiches. Lunch hours are limited, but you can order the restaurant’s special chicken salad sandwich or quiche at any time. The coffee in the shop comes from a single coffee farm in Panama; the beans are shipped in small batches and roasted carefully to ensure maximum flavor.
Located in West Des Moines near Fair meadows Park, La Barista Coffee is a great suburban option. This veteran-owned business has a drive-through and an eat-in area, and the service is fast and friendly.
Inside La Barista, you’ll find a low-key atmosphere that reflects the small-town character of the area. The decor is casual and welcoming, and regulars’ groups often gather for a chat and a coffee. Don’t leave without trying one of the breakfast burritos or the legendary cinnamon rolls — they’re baked in-house every morning.
You’ll come to Mahalo’s Coffee for the espresso, but you’ll come back for the cafe’s signature dessert: mini donuts. Get a basket of eight donuts to go with your coffee; the turtle, cinnamon lava, and strawberry varieties are among the most popular options. If that’s not enough, you can also get a bigger order in a to-go container on your way out.
Inside Mahalo’s Coffee, the colorful, tropical decor and large tables invite you to stay awhile. The atmosphere is cozy and slightly dark, with a feeling that’s more homey than cool. The coffee menu is simple, except for the specialty menu. Each drink features a Hawaiian twist — try the Aloha Moka or the peppermint-flavored Mele Kalikimaka.
Which Des Moines Coffee Shop will You Choose?
With so many great options to choose from, one visit to Des Moines is never enough — that’s why it’s not unusual to see customers from Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, and other parts of Iowa. No matter which coffee shop you visit, exceptional coffee and tasty treats are sure to keep you coming back for more.
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