A cup in the morning—and maybe another in the afternoon to re-energize—is a fairly universal human experience, but despite the best efforts of Starbucks, coffee isn’t one size fits all. Like any respectable city, Las Vegas has plenty of cafés and shops, roasting operations and experimental baristas that sculpt a unique coffee culture. It’s not just about the drink; there’s science and style and a whole lot of stuff involved in crafting these experiences.
If you’re going to swim in this sea and find your favorite deep-roasted varietal, mind-jolting cold brew or sweet, pretty latte, you’re going to have to act quickly ... and then, slowly. So let’s dive into different aspects of Vegas coffee one cup at a time and keep it moving.
Vesta Coffee Roasters
As a purveyor of some of the freshest specialty grade coffee in the city, Vesta Coffee Roasters (1114 S. Casino Center Blvd. #1; 9031 W. Sahara Ave.; vestacoffee.com) knows its role. Founder Jerad Howard, who opened the Downtown café in 2016, stresses that as the last link in the supply chain, Vesta must strive for excellence.
Howard recently took a trip to Costa Rica and El Salvador, two destinations from which Vesta directly sources a majority of its coffee, in addition to a farm Oaxaca, Mexico. “We buy their farm’s harvest every year. That helps us create better relationships and stability,” he says. “We always know we’re gonna have a good supply, and they don’t have to stress about it. They only get one harvest a year, and that’s how they eat, so having that trust really helps.”
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Vesta’s production— including for wholesale—is done in-house, five days a week. The café’s San Franciscan drum roaster is a gorgeous, old-world machine that cranks through batches of beans poured in from the top, tumble-roasted in the drum for nine to 12 minutes and then dumped on a drying tray to cool for two to three minutes.
“Then we data-log every roast for time, temperature and airflow,” Howard adds, noting that Vesta samples each roast, too. “If there’s any anomalies, for better or worse, we can document those and improve.”
It’s all in the details for this diligent local roaster. “I think that’s what sets us apart,” Howard says. “We make 90% of our food menu from scratch. We don’t use any store-bought syrup or anything like that. We do this because we like it.” –Amber Sampson
WANT MORE? Not far from Vesta’s Lakes-area second location, Desert Wind Coffee Roasters (7772 W. Sahara Ave., desertwindcoffee.com) offers small-batch, fresh-roasted beans to take home or enjoy in another charming café space, and there’s little lag time—once they’re cooled and ready to go, you’re drinking these aromatic brews. The popular Red Rock Blend is low on acid and rich with toasted almond and chocolate notes, a perfect complement to your favorite pastry.
And one can’t chat about local coffee without mentioning Sunrise Coffee (3130 E. Sunset Road, sunrisecoffeelv.com) and its offshoot Mothership Coffee Roasters (2708 N. Green Valley Parkway; 1028 Fremont St.; mothershipcoffee.com). The former, founded by Juanny Romero and Josh Walter in 2008, helped change the local game with a focus on roasting and blending organic fair trade beans from single-origin farms, and Sunrise and Mothership continue to help set a standard across the Valley. –BR
Make Mine Cold and Strong
Photo: Christopher DeVargas
Dark Moon Coffee
They go by Dark Moon, but their cold brew formula has been thrust into the light.
In September, Henderson roaster and coffee shop Dark Moon Coffee Roasters (11041 S. Eastern Ave. #115, darkmoon.coffee) launched its cold brew cans at Whole Foods Markets. The Lunar blend and single-origin Sumatra and Honduras blends are now available at stores throughout Southern Nevada, Southern California and Arizona.
Owner Kyle Porterfield says customers can expect the best-tasting cold brew regardless of where it’s enjoyed. That’s partly because Dark Moon does everything under one roof, from roasting the beans to brewing and canning. “We make everything in-house,” he says. “We just wanted to control the entire process.”
Cold brews at Madhouse Coffee on Desert Inn
This brew is “cold-chained,” a method that differs from the typical immersion method of making coffee. “A lot of places either use hot water or leftover coffee remnants from the day before. We brew everything with cold water. We keep the entire process cold when we’re storing and canning it,” he says. “Our process uses a misting technology, where it will spray all of the grounds of coffee over the course of three hours. And we’re able to get a very strong concentrate.”
A word to the wise: Sip slowly. “Cold brew’s higher caffeine content is due to using more coffee per ounce of liquid,” Porterfield explains. For example, a can of the Lunar blend contains 280 milligrams of caffeine, more than double the average cup of coffee. –Shannon Miller
WANT MORE? Is the 14-hour-infused, seemingly super-charged cold brew at Madhouse Coffee (8470 W. Desert Inn Road, madhouse.coffee) the reason this local institution is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? Is it the inspiration for the name? It’s strong stuff. (And by the way, the other location on Eastern Avenue is now under separate ownership.)
Four-year-old chill spot Coffee Religion (5191 W. Charleston Blvd. #185, coffeereligionlv.com) offers tranquil vibes and an 11-foot Buddha sculpture to go along with afternoon tea (complete with finger sandwiches!) and a diverse drink and food menu. But its nitro cold brew is intense in a smooth way, peacefully powerful. –Brock Radke
Little Avalon’s latte, Kyoto Matcha and Honey Bee
Little Avalon (9410 W. Sahara Ave. #130, littleavalonlv.com) came online in late 2022, and already, it has made a splash on the Valley’s coffee scene. Using beans from Santa Monica-based Amigo Coffee Roasters, baristas whip up artful creations with flavors, frothed milk and garnishments.
For the popular Honey Bee latte, honey gets drizzled into a ceramic cup with dustings of cinnamon and cardamom. Leaf designs are created with expertly timed flicks of the wrist while pouring steaming frothed milk into the espresso, topped with crushed rose petals—a delight to smell while sipping.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas
All I Avo Wanted, Matcha Latte and Rosemary Latte at Bungalow Coffee Co.
Coffee-based lattes also come in the form of the Lavender White Breeze, the Gingerbread Steamer or plain with no flavoring; just Amigo’s rich, balanced espresso. For matcha-based lattes, try the unsweetened Kyoto latte and the Paradise Matcha latte with white mocha, vanilla and a dusting of caffeine-packed green tea powder. –SM
WANT MORE?The vibrant green iced matcha and beautifully drawn froth designs on the flat whites at Downtown’s Bungalow Coffee Co. (201 E. Charleston Blvd. #180, bungalowcoffeeco.com) are just as lovely and alluring as the precise avocado toasts and delicate charcuterie boards.
And have you seen the swan art on a tiny cortado or hot matcha lavender latte at Savor Coffee (6811 S. Eastern Ave. #104-D, savorcoffeelv.com)? These decorative drinks are next-level, and they taste that way, too, thanks to house-made syrups. –BR
Pour it up
Plenty of purists have ditched the standard drip coffee makers at home in favor of the pour-over method, placing a filter and coffee grounds in a funnel over a container and pouring water through in timed intervals. It takes longer to brew a cup, but advocates say it’s the best way to extract flavor and yields more consistent results than drip machines or a French press.
The landmark coffee bar Sambalatte (three locations, sambalatte.com) was one of the first boutique spots in Las Vegas to popularize the pour over, and its well-versed crew of baristas continue to hone in on this option even as it has expanded into rainbow lattes and other adventurous pursuits.
Meanwhile, Downtown’s coffee scene has been helped along by PublicUs (1126 E. Fremont St., publicuslv.com), where a hearty bite and a conversation with a neighbor has been reinserted into the otherwise fast-paced coffee experience. That comfy feeling comes alongside a perfect pour over, which can inspire you to slow down and savor each sip. –BR
The Sweetest Things
Coffee Class’ Black Cherry Cream Cloud
When a standard cup of Joe just won’t cut it, give yourself some sugar. The brews at Dig It! Coffee (1300 S. Casino Center Blvd. #110, digitcoffeeco.com) could double as dessert, with drinks like the Peanut Butter Cup latte and the Caramel Cinnamon Dulce latte leading the sugary charge. Fans of excess will also love the Dirt Cup latte, packed with gummy worms, dark and white chocolate, cookie crumble and whipped cream.
At Coffee Class (8878 S. Eastern Ave. #102, thecoffeeclass.com), the Maple Blueberry and Brown Sugar Caramel Pecan lattes taste just as indulgent, while the Mexican Mocha, made with homemade chocolate sauce and ancho chili vanilla syrup, pulls ahead of the pack for its savory-sweet balance.
And the inventive streak continues at Founders Coffee (6410 S. Durango Drive #100; 3512 St. Rose Parkway; founderscoffeeco.com), where you can get a Mexican hot chocolate, a butterscotch and caramel brew and a churro latte, which sounds like a sugar rush waiting to happen. –AS
Classic Coffee Drinks and what they say about you
Need a new favorite? Take it back to basics and explore these foundational beverages.
LATTE It’s coffee with the volume turned down—espresso with lots of steamed milk and a layer of foam on top. You’ll love it if: You’re only at the café for the Wi-Fi and want to occupy a table for as long as possible.
MACCHIATOForget what Starbucks taught you. This is supposed to be one shot of espresso with one to two teaspoons of steamed milk. You’ll love it if: You’re a big fan of Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio. If not, just try drinking one now without thinking of him.
CAPPUCCINOItalian breakfast: equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk. You’ll love it if: You crave a little serenity in the morning instead of a caffeine power jolt.
AMERICANOStretch out that coffee without the creamy factor with an Americano, a shot of espresso with three ounces of hot water. You’ll love it if: You’re lactose intolerant and also kinda coffee intolerant.
BREVE You can breve almost any drink, adding indulgence by using steamed half-and-half instead of milk. You’ll love it if: You’re the type to add whipped cream to your pumpkin spice lattes.
CAFÉ AU LAIT Typically made with French press coffee, this drink is equal portions of coffee and steamed or scalded milk. You’ll love it if: You’re learning French in Duolingo and want to put it to immediate use.
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