Food & Drink

6 Small-Batch Coffee Roasters We Love

Small-batch coffee roasters take an artisanal approach to Seattle’s favorite beverage

By Chelsea Lin January 25, 2016

A cup of coffee and a cookie on a table.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Seattle magazine.

In this coffee mecca, where you can’t throw a bag of Pike Place Roast without hitting a Starbucks, we’ve moved well beyond the third wave. The growing trend among Seattle’s coffee cognoscenti is roasting in small batches. What does that mean for your morning cup? Lighter, brighter roasts that preserve more of the bean’s natural, fruity flavor; farm-to-Chemex relationships with the growers; and a sense of community built around caffeine. Here are a few of our favorite micro roasters.

Conduit Coffee Company

When Jesse Nelson founded Conduit Coffee Company in 2012, he was a one-man show: roasting beans on “Kushli,” the name he gave his Diedrich roaster (an Idaho-made piece of equipment that’s a favorite amongst small roasters); pedaling his product (seriously, by bike) to vendors; and selling bags of it at the Fremont Sunday Market. Now, thanks to an increase in weekly and monthly coffee subscriptions and more wholesale clients (you can find it yourself at Preserve and Gather), he’s been able to enlist a full fleet of bicyclists to deliver his goods. Nelson’s signature flavor can be found in the Locofocus blend of Brazilian and Salvadoran beans “stitched together,” as he says, by a washed Mexico Chiapas. Single-origin roasts from Guatemala and Costa Rica are born from his recently developed direct-trade relationships. Stop by Conduit’s roastery, a former motorcycle shop, on Tuesdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for the weekly open house; cuppings take place at 2 p.m. $14 to $16 for 16 ounces. Westlake, 2501 Westlake Ave. N; 206.456.6536;

Elm Coffee Roasters
The new darling of Pioneer Square’s bustling coffee scene (perhaps even surpassing Zeitgeist), this modern café and roastery, which has been open for about a year, is packed from morning to evening. Patrons sip bright, citrusy Guatemala Francisco Giron or the chocolaty Nine Swans Seasonal Blend from handle-less ceramic mugs; the remainder of each drip order is given alongside the mug, in a little glass beaker to refill as needed. Helmed by coffee-industry vets Brendan Mullally and Drew Fitchette, Elm specializes in light roasts, a fact that’s echoed in the aesthetics of the natural wood finishes of the café space, which overlooks the roasting room housing a Probat roaster, a brand favored by Peet’s and Starbucks. Many of the beans are sourced through direct trade, thanks to Fitchette’s previous work (and relationships he built) as a coffee importer in Guatemala. Try “One of Everything,” an actual menu item consisting of an espresso, a macchiato and a regular-size brewed coffee—$5 for the best buzz in town. You also can have a cup at The London Plane, Métier and Damn the Weather. $18 to $20 for 12 ounces. Pioneer Square, 240 Second Ave. S; 206.445.7808;

Fundamental Coffee Company
Although the trend leans toward lightly roasted beans, Scott McMartin unapologetically roasts darker, in the tradition of Starbucks, where he spent nearly 20 years. The results are deeply flavorful and familiar—the Humbucker Blend, in particular, makes a solid morning French press—but a notch above what you’ll find at bigger specialty coffee chains. Know, too, that these beans are sourced well: McMartin’s previous job of buying and blending for Starbucks has taken him all over the world in his quest for the perfect cup. Stop by Fundamental’s cavernous SoDo warehouse space (very much not a café, but a roasting facility) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Fridays to sample coffee and buy beans. $13 to $19 for 12 ounces. SoDo, 4660 Ohio Ave. S;  

Scott McMartin of Fundamental Coffee Company prefers a flavorful, darker roast; photo: Angela Ciccu

Pollard Coffee
You may know the name Robin Pollard as the former executive director of the Washington State Wine Commission, or from her newer venture, Pollard Vineyard in eastern Washington. It turns out her winemaking chops transfer just as well to the arena of coffee roasting. Pollard roasts single-origin beans and unique blends on demand for online orders, or you can email her with a custom order; her Diedrich roaster never roasts batches larger than 5 pounds. Her coffee can also be found at Vashon Island’s Giraffe gift shop or tasted in the espresso bar of Vashon Thriftway. “Just like wine, the fun of roasting and blending is that you can meld the different qualities of the beans together and end up with a coffee that exudes the best of both,” Pollard says. “But unlike wine, you don’t have to wait one to three years to taste the final product.” Although she roasts from light to dark, we like the Patch Blend: Pollard’s way of using up what’s in stock and in season. Customers can let her know what kind of coffee they prefer so it’s roasted to taste. $16 for 16 ounces. Vashon Island; online, wholesale and retail,

What do you do with a math degree? Open a coffee shop that gives a nod to numbers nerds, of course. Matt Greenfield started QED as a small-scale wholesale roaster in 2012; the name is from a Latin term often placed at the end of a mathematical proof. After his stints at Dillanos Coffee Roasters and local coffee shops Trabant and Caffè Fiore, Greenfield opened the 12-seat Mount Baker café in May, sourcing beans from a small, Seattle-based importer called Mercanta. QED’s espresso, The Integral Blend (another math joke), features components that change frequently, although its assertive character remains a consistent match for milk in cappuccinos and lattes. Also find QED beans at Makeda Coffee in Greenwood. $14 to $16 for 16 ounces. Mount Baker, 1418 31st Ave. S; 206.399.2269;

Velton’s Coffee Roasting Company

Former Bauhaus barista turned roaster Velton Ross has been operating his low-profile roastery since 2007, and has gained a cult following as one of the early micro roasters on the scene. His Diedrich roaster puts out small batches—less than 25 pounds at a time—of about a dozen different blends and single-origins, ranging in flavor from brightly acidic notes to hints of caramel and molasses. And though Velton’s has no storefront, you can find bags of its beans at Seattle Coffee Gear, Caffè Delia, Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co., Convoy Coffee and in the homes of some of the city’s most revered baristas. Ross’ Twilight Blend is a popular pick for fans of dark roasts, a full-bodied gateway bean to the world of micro roasting. $16 to $20 for 16 ounces. Everett, wholesale only; 206.250.6130;


Follow Us