192 Espressos – More Data From Seattle Coffee 2012

Last year I consumed 192 espressos in Seattle area coffee shops. I detailed who was pulling the best shots in the post 192 Espressos – The Best of Seattle Coffee 2012. In that post, I described my biases and the metrics I used to calculate my rankings. I thought I was finished with this project, but I had a good amount of data that I could use to answer more questions on the Seattle coffee scene.

  1. What neighborhood has the best espresso?
  2. Are single origin espressos higher or lower quality than blends?
  3. Does price predict quality?
  4. What day of the week am I most likely to get great espresso?

Espresso By Neighborhood

In 2012, the neighborhood of Ballard stepped up as a challenger to Capitol Hill for espresso supremacy. My gut tells me that this is still a few years away. What did the data say? For these tables I only included neighborhoods with 5 or more visits.

NeighborhoodVisitsAverage Quality
Central District213.86
Pioneer Square123.33
Capitol Hill163.25

Before we say Ballard is better than Capitol Hill, we need to deal with neighborhood borders and minor neighborhoods. I am going to update the data with 3 rules.

  1. Roll the Central District (Tougo and Cortona Cafe) into Capitol Hill.
  2. The north Ballard neighborhood of Sunset Hill (Caffe Fiore) should be included in Ballard numbers.
  3. Pioneer Square will be merged into Downtown.

NeighborhoodVisitsAverage Quality
Capitol Hill373.59

With the new rules, Capitol Hill is better than Ballard. But it is only better when you include the bordering Central District. The University topped all, but that was all from Trabant. Had I ventured to other University places in 2012, that number would have been lower.

Caffe Fiore in Sunset Hill (aka North Ballard)

Espresso: Single Origins vs Blends

Last year I was certain that I was going through Single Origin fatigue, but the data actually shows the opposite.

Blends: 3.30 (132), Single Origins 3.73 (60)

When I split the year in the half, I found that although my average blend rating remained 3.30, my average Single Origin dropped from 3.84 to 3.44. This data point is probably only interesting to me, but it shows that for me there was a slight level of Single Origin fatigue. It also shows that even with the fatigue, the average SO beat the blends.

Does Price Predict Quality?

I also wanted to know if espresso price was a predictor of quality, so I tracked the post-sales tax price of every espresso purchased in 2012. Price is a touchy topic. Many in specialty coffee believe that higher pricing signals higher quality. Whereas some consumers are price sensitive and may not see every price increase as justified. Before I dive into the data, I want to disclose two possible biases.

  1. I might demand more from higher priced espresso and thus rate it stricter.
  2. I might use the higher prices as a signal of higher quality and thus rate it less strict.

Although I’d like to think I rated each espresso fairly, the purpose of 192 Espressos was to collect so many data points that biases would be minimized.

QualityNumberAverage Price
4 - 4.5722.33
3 - 3.5692.37
2 - 2.5362.40
1 - 1.572.52

From my sample data, I found a slight inverse correlation between price and quality. The highest priced espresso got the lowest ratings. The differences were small, but the conclusion I reached is that higher prices are not a predictor of greater quality.

What Day of the Week is Best for Espresso?

I’m not sure this data means much, but I have it so why not share it?

DayVisitsAverage Quality

Friday had the best espresso and Saturday had the worst. Monday also scored high.

Putting It All Together

I am most likely to get a great espresso on Fridays or Mondays. I more likely to enjoy a Single Origin than a blend and I can’t use price as a predictor of quality. And although I expect this gap to narrow in the next few years, I can still expect to get a better espresso in Capitol Hill than Ballard – assuming you consider the Central District part of Capitol Hill.

192 Espressos – The Best of Seattle Coffee 2012

I really dislike the Top Coffee Shop lists. They are cheap content usually written by people with minimal coffee knowledge. Hello Seattle Weekly! Rarely do I see a list where the author declares the metrics used to get their rankings or their own personal biases. At the start of 2012, I decided I would try and quantify the best coffee places in Seattle.

Metrics and Biases

I created a spreadsheet and entered every single espresso I consumed in the Seattle area. All 192 espressos. I captured the date, place, my rating, and drink notes when important. I also tracked post-tax price to see if price can be a predictor of quality (it can’t).

The rating for the drink was between 1 to 5. It was based solely off the quality of the espresso. I could care less about the hours, WIFI signal or seating. A rating of 1 would be undrinkable swill worthy of a spit take. A rating of 5 would be perfect and worthy of a memory. I go into more detail on this rating system in Espresso as a Lottery Ticket.

In addition to only caring about espresso, I am biased against dark over-roasted coffee. When Brazilian coffee is roasted too dark, it develops a nauseating ashy quality. It may be fine in a 20 ounce mocha, but it is vile swill as a straight espresso. I also don’t always like the very light roasted single origin coffees, as they can tend to be too bright or sour.

I live in Ballard and tend to avoid the East side since they started tolling the 520.

This means my data set doesn’t represent every coffee roaster. It does represent every local roaster that I deem to make a quality espresso, be it blend or single origin. Now you know my biases.

Caffe Delia espresso on July 18, 2012. Roasted by Velton’s Coffee.

The Best Espresso in Seattle 2012

For places I visited 5 or more times, here are the best espresso places in Seattle. Note that places with more than one location have been averaged together.

PlaceVisitsAverage Rating (1-5)
Trabant Coffee174.00
Tougo Coffee203.93
Caffe Ladro73.71
Seattle / Ballard Coffee Works363.57
Victrola Coffee113.50
Aster Coffee233.46
Milstead & Co133.35

Here are the best coffee places I visited between 1 and 4 times.

PlaceVisitsAverage Rating (1-5)
Urban Coffee Lounge14.50
Broadcast Coffee24.25
Caffe Delia44.13
Bluebeard Coffee44.00
Anchored Ship14.00
Cloud City14.00

This chart lists the 8 best espressos for 2012. They are in date order. If I had to pick the single best espresso for 2012, it would go to Neptune Coffee on March 19th.

1/1/2012Trabant UniversityEpic: El Salvador La Guachoca + Guatemala Pulcal
2/1/2012Victrola - PikeStreamline
2/15/2012Milstead & CoSO Ethiopia Doyo (Intelli)
3/19/2012Neptune CoffeeNespro: Brazil Natural + El Salvador (7 days old)
6/20/2012Tougo CoffeeSO eth jimma by Velton
7/18/2012Caffe DeliaVelton Bonsai
8/9/2010Tougo CoffeeKuma: El Salv (3 days)
12/29/2012Bluebeard CoffeeNarrows Blend

The 3 Best Coffee Roasters in Seattle

RoasterEspressosAverage Rating (1-5)
Kuma Coffee94.06
Velton's Coffee153.90
Caffe Ladro 73.71

The 8 Worst Espressos in Seattle 2012

Here were the worst espressos of the year. East Madison, Enlighten and Whistle Stop are now out of business. Guess others disliked them as well?

1/26/2012Cafe Javasti Wedgwoodworst shot of the year
2/18/2012East Madison CoffeeDancing Goats in paper cup
2/29/2012Caffe Fiore (Sunset Hill)bitter
4/28/2012Enlighten Cafeoverpulled, watery
6/16/2012Burien Presspaper cup, over-pulled, harsh
7/25/2012Victrola - PikeSO Ethopia (2 days)
8/18/2012Peets CoffeeEspresso Forte
11/21/2012Whistle Stopvile

Last Words

Collecting and analyzing this data was a lot of work. I don’t plan to do it in 2013. For those of you in Seattle, who were your favorites this year?

More Data Analysis: 192 Espressos – More Data From Seattle Coffee 2012

Coffee and Gluten: Say It Isn’t So

Today I read a very sad sentence. From the Perfect Health Diet post Around the Web; PaleoFX Edition:

Warning: Dr Clark says that coffee is bad for people with gluten sensitivity, due to cross-reactive antibodies.

Say it isn’t so. This is the video of Dr. Clark explaining how people with gluten issues, like myself, could also have issues with the protein in coffee.

From the video:

Ten percent of coffee is a protein that cross-reacts with gluten antibodies.

I like coffee. I like coffee a lot. Some might say that INeedCoffee. It would really suck if the protein in coffee was negatively impacting my health. There are strong similarities between the headaches I get after gluten exposure and my late night sinus headaches.

The Protein

The important take away I got from the video was that the problem was with the protein, not the caffeine. I would assume this means the problem exists with decaf coffee as well. Why is that important? Two reasons come to mind.

  1. During my 2 week test with no coffee in September 2011, I drank decaf coffee.
  2. To test for a sensitivity to a protein requires a 30 day elimination. Like I did for casein and gluten independently.

This means I need to redo my coffee detox test. Only this time it needs to go a full 30 days and I can’t drink any decaf. The goods news is that I can drink all the tea I want. Dr. Clark responded to a question regarding tea in the comments of the video.

Green Teas is not? a cross reactor…caffeine is not the cross reacting compound. It’s the protein in Coffee…

Espresso vs Brewed Coffee

Did you know that the nutritional outcome of coffee varies based upon how it is brewed? That is what I learned back in 2009. I shared what I found the article Black Coffee and Espresso – Not Calorie Free.

Digging further into the data I noticed that brewed coffee has 0.3g of protein. Protein has 4 calories per gram. This would give the brewed coffee 1.2 calories. That is some conservative rounding. Espresso is listed with no protein.

I went back to the CalorieKing website and it now reads that espresso has less than 0.1 gram of protein. Brewed coffee has 0.3 grams per 8 oz. Why is this relevant? Over the past few years I have become almost exclusively an espresso drinker. When I do have brewed coffee, I feel worse. I always assumed it was because brewed coffee has more caffeine. However, when I think back to when I had brewed coffee it was always just tastes at Coffee Cuppings or samples from brewing demos. I almost never would sit down with a full mug of regular coffee. If I did, I often would get headaches. Interesting.

Time For Another Test

Only a test will tell me the answer. I’m going to start scaling back on my coffee again in preparation for a full 30 Days Without Coffee experiment. This is going to be my toughest experiment yet.

The Best and Worst in Seattle Espresso: 2011 Edition

This year I drank a lot of espresso. The Coffee Club of Seattle visited 113 different coffee places in 2011. Some of the places we visited multiple times. And that doesn’t count the places I went just by myself.

The 5 Best Espressos of the Year

  1. Victrola Coffee (February 5) -Sumatra Lintong-Triple Picked SO Espresso. 15th Ave.
  2. Cortona Cafe (May 24) – Espresso blend by Herkimer Coffee.
  3. Caffe Vita (October 28) – Caffe Del Sol by Caffe Vita. Pike.
  4. Victrola Coffee (August 5) – El Salvador SO Espresso by Victrola. Pike.
  5. Tougo Coffee (July 21) – Malabar espresso by Oslo Coffee.

streetbean espresso

The Worst Espresso of the Year

(tie) Katy’s Corner Cafe and The Good Coffee Company Espresso Blend #90

The 3 Best Decaf Espressos

For a few weeks this summer I did an #unplugged project where I sampled many decaf espresso options around Seattle.

  1. Espresso Vivace
  2. Equal Exchange
  3. Stumptown Coffee

Highlight of the Year

The 2011 Northwest Coffee Festival and the week of events leading up to it. Wonderful event. I look forward to attending next year.

What I Learned During My Coffee Detox

The last time I did a serious coffee detox was in 1997. I was long overdue. I got down to a single espresso by August 22nd. In the end, I went 14 days without coffee. During this time, I did still drank tea. I returned to coffee on Saturday. Here is what I learned during the coffee detox.

First some background. I began tracking my headaches and coffee intake on March 24th. Below is a chart showing my daily coffee intake. The red line is a 3 day moving average.

Sinus Headaches

I think I have enough data for me to know the relationship between my intake of coffee and my late night sinus headaches. I want to specify the “me” aspect in this post. What I learned applies to “me” and maybe not others. If you research this topic online you will see caffeine listed as both a possible cause and a potential cure for sinus headaches. As a fan of coffee, I wanted to discover exactly what role coffee was playing in my sinus headaches.

Throughout the past 6 months I consumed varying degrees of coffee from high to low to none. For me there is no clear connection between coffee intake and headache frequency. However, I still have some questions regarding headache intensity. I suspect that headache intensity *may* decrease the earlier in the day that the coffee is consumed. It isn’t that caffeine makes the headache more intense, it is probably more likely that less caffeine results in deeper sleep, which has the side benefit of reducing headache intensity. I will be constructing a new test soon that explores this possibility.

Can coffee cure a sinus headache? Absolutely. But so can patience. One of the reasons I did not go 30 Days is because on the mornings when I had sinus headaches they would persist for much longer when I didn’t have coffee. Instead of knocking out a headache in 30 minutes with an espresso, I would suffer for hours sometimes without coffee. Tea did little to speed up recovery.

Season and Location

It is much easier to forgo espresso in the summer. Once the temperature drops in Seattle and the sun disappears, it is time for coffee. I should have started my detox earlier in the year. Next year I will.

Welcome back old buddy!

Cortisol and Stubborn Fat Loss

Besides eliminating dairy, another thing elite fitness professionals state is that coffee spikes your cortisol levels and prevents stubborn fat loss. Maybe that is true and maybe I need a longer test to prove the merit of that wisdom, but I experienced no body composition changes throughout the detox or reduction period. Again I am already lean, your mileage may vary. So either I have no adrenal fatigue or I have so much that I need a much longer detox period. My caffeine intake has been on a downward trend for a decade now and my energy level is much better now.


I have always had problems taking naps. No matter how tired I get, I can’t seem to fall asleep during the day. I fall asleep super fast at night, but napping has always been a challenge. Well, during the coffee detox I was able to easily nap. Probably the best thing to come out of this experiment was figuring this out. I had been experimenting with white noise generators with poor results.

Coffee as a Stressor?

I think we all understand how day in and day out coffee consumption can be a stressor. That is why we do these detox protocols. I did a very slow gradual detox so I would experience no physical withdrawal symptoms. Not that the pain is intense, I just find it distracting. However, I learned that about 10 days into the detox my mood started to turn for the worse. Lack of coffee was stressing me out. That first espresso has a calming effect that I missed.

Future Strategies

Soon I’m going to start my next test. I’ll still track my coffee intake, but I’m also going to track when I had my last coffee. Combined with a sleep quality score – my goal is to dial in an optimal range for coffee consumption that gives me both great sleep at night and a great mood during the day. My guess is the optimal range will look very similar to the nutritional and fitness waves I described in the post The Paleo/HIT Cyclical Approach to Fitness and Nutrition. Coffee intake will be inversely correlated with hours of sunlight (more espresso in the winter) combined with random variations during any given week including a “fasting” day with no intake.

PS – Every time I post something about headaches, I get a wave of comments giving advice for ideas that I’ve already addressed numerous times in other posts. My headaches are sinus. They are not related to caffeine withdrawal. I have no symptoms that would make one think this was a medical emergency. At the point I give up, I will seek a health professional. But I still have a few more ideas and every test I do tells me more about myself. Although the idea of taking control of ones’ health frightens many, I enjoy the process.

High Intensity Exercise is the Espresso of Weight Training

When it comes to coffee, my favorite drink for years has been espresso. No milk, no sugar. To me and others, espresso represents coffee at its ultimate potential. When I’m hosting an event for the Coffee Club of Seattle, I will occasionally get a comment that my drink selection was too small and that had I gotten something other than espresso, I’d still be sipping on and enjoying my beverage. I correct my critics by stating that I am still enjoying the beverage, as the memory persists.

My love for espresso has helped me really appreciate High Intensity Training. Less can be absolutely be more. Going to the gym every 5th day and engaging in an all-out brutally tough, albeit safe workout, is now yielding me greater results than I was getting with High Volume training. When my daily coffee drink switched from french press to espresso, my caffeine intake dropped and my appreciation for the beverage increased. I began sleeping better, even though my flavor stimulus was greater.


In the book The New High Intensity Training, author Ellington Darden states that HIT training has lost popularity in the past 25 years. I believe it. As far as I can see, I am the only person at my Glitter Gym doing HIT. In fact, I can’t recall a single person doing HIT at any of my previous gyms. That isn’t concerning to me, since I look for results and am uninterested in what is popular at the moment.

When I visit coffee shops across Seattle, I also noticed that the espresso is a minority drink. Most patrons want to stretch out the experience by adding water, milk or some form of frozen sugar sludge. Back at the Glitter Gym, I see patrons stretching out the experience by adding more sets, working out more days and choosing ridiculous exercises that favor injury over muscle growth. They remind me of the guy that repeatedly hits the crosswalk button until the light changes.

The biggest criticism I’ve read about High Intensity Training is that some people will lose motivation if they only go to the gym 1 to 2 times per week for highly brief workouts. I’m only 7 months into my HIT journey, so I am far from an expert, but all I can say is that like espresso, the memory persists. I don’t dilute my espresso and I don’t dilute my workouts.

The economic forces in fitness are always geared towards more. More sets, more workouts, more gear and more supplements. What I’ve learned from my study into evolutionary health is that the economic patterns of nature are not geared towards more. Nature rewards efficiency. The “go big or go home” nonsense is energy foolish and may actually keep you from achieving your fitness goals.


I’m so tired of long winded descriptions used to describe the flavor of espresso. I’m even more tired when others expect me to vividly detail every flavor note in a 140 character Tweet. I have no desire to write a 5 minute review for a 30 second beverage experience. I love espresso, but it isn’t my job. Also, there are too many variations in espresso quality from day to day or barista to barista to extrapolate meaningful reviews.

I believe that more data is better than more verbiage. I’ve been served mediocre espresso from good coffee shops. I’ve also been served good espresso from mediocre shops. It happens. With more visits and more data, trends do emerge. Reading paragraphs of flavor adjectives tells me nothing about quality probability and trends. All it does is describe a single experience on a single day and on any given Saturday someone can be off their game.

Cloud City Coffee espresso

What is needed is more quick reviews. More data from more espresso fans. It will make it easier to spot trends and reward quality coffee places. This week I got the idea that I would review espressos using just a single word. No more. I’ll also give it a score between 1 and 5, which I describe in the article Espresso as a Lottery Ticket.

The reviews are being posted to the CoffeeHero Twitter feed using the hash tag #1wordreview. Here was a recent one.

Firehouse Coffee Ballard – espresso – “improving” 3/5 #1wordreview

Using one word will be a challenge and I’m sure at some point I’ll start inventing words. :) I do hope this takes off. I’d love to get real time data alerts of where the great shots are being pulled and where they aren’t.

Any Given Saturday

Today I went on a coffee crawl with Rose Tosti of the Seattle Weekly and Sebastian Simsch from Seattle Coffee Works. We visited seven different coffee places in Seattle. Looking at the list, I expected most would deliver excellent espresso. After all this is Seattle and the list was solid. But as Sebastian said espresso ain’t easy. Even the best can mess up. Where did we go?

  1. Seattle Coffee Works
  2. Le Reve Bakery
  3. Herkimer Coffee
  4. Makeda Coffee
  5. Lighthouse Coffee*
  6. Zoka Coffee
  7. Trabant Coffee

I rate espresso using a 5 point scale. A 5/5 is super rare. It is the kind of shot that you remember for months, sometimes years. It leaves you weak in the knees. For 2011, only Victrola’s Sumatra Lintong Single Origin espresso has earned a 5/5 for me. A 4/5 means excellent. A smile from ear to ear, but nothing filed into long term memory. Today there were no espressos that I would rank as a 4 or 5.

The best blend of the day.

Le Reve Bakery was the stand out blend (Big Truck Espresso from Olympia Roasting) and Seattle Coffee Works had the best single origin (El Salvador Villa Espana). The rest were all off their game. It happens.

Anyone that understands espresso and the multitude of variables that go into making an excellent shot knows that espresso ain’t easy. If today was my first day in Seattle and this was my only experience with the coffee scene, I’d be quite disappointed. Thankfully it wasn’t. Tomorrow I will visit two more places. The espresso hunt continues.

Photo Gallery for Coffee Crawl

* Full disclosure: I didn’t try the espresso at Lighthouse. I’d sooner run my tongue through an ashtray than ever drink that swill again. Simply seeing the gag reflex from one of my fellow coffee crawlers was enough for me.

Returning to the Vivace Dolce Blend

A year ago we learned that Espresso Vivace changed their legendary espresso blend. They removed the robusta component. From the post Espresso Vivace Dolce Now Without Robusta:

Last week I learned that Espresso Vivace has removed the robusta component of their Dolce espresso blend. This may not mean much to you, but to me this is like changing the Coke formula. You dont mess with perfection.

My initial review was not positive.

The 100% arabica version of Dolce tastes just like the robusta version, however it doesnt linger on the palate as much. My friend referred to the new blend as the younger brother. Now these are just the opinions of two espresso drinkers. We still love the taste, but missed the depth. Maybe we are wrong.

This week for the first time in 2010, I bought a 1/2 pound of the Dolce blend. In the past year, I have learned how to pull even better shots on my Rancilio Silvia. After watching the CoffeeGeek video on temperature surfing, my shots got a lot better. I also stopped doing the side tap after the tamp that David Schomer mentioned in his book.

Photo Espresso Hike #3 – Espresso Vivace by INeedCoffee / CoffeeHero

What happened? I got amazing shots. Every bit as good as the old days. Either Vivace has slipped the robusta back into the blend or my temperature/grind is dead perfect. I’m loving the Dolce blend again.

This summer I had two espressos at the cafe. Neither were as good as the ones I was pulling this week at home. Assuming they didn’t put back the robusta, the conclusion one must come to is that the blend is equally as good but more delicate. Getting the classic flavors now require more work, but they are there.

Possibly? Not a Chance

I went to this espresso place in Kingston, Washington on Saturday. May have been the worst espresso I’ve had in years. Seattle may be a world leader in coffee, but once you break outside city limits, things get ugly fast.

Coffee on Moving Day – The Load Out

This post was moved from Coffee Hero.

This week I moved to a new place. Because the move was less than 7 miles, I did it myself with a little help from a friend. The move took place over a few days. Nothing too difficult.

My fellow drinkers might be able to spot the dilemma. When should I move the coffee equipment? I’ll need the fuel from coffee to accomplish the move, but the coffee equipment can’t be in two spots at once.

Photo Level Espresso from Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine Tips

I decided to split the coffee equipment. The espresso machine would be setup at one location. The french press would be at the other. The problem is that I only have one grinder. Now what?

In prior moves, I’ve used the Jackson Browne song The Load Out as my model for when to move my espresso machine. In that song, he tells the roadies to pack his piano last.

But when that last guitar’s been packed away
You know that I still want to play
So just make sure you got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano

My piano is my espresso machine. This time I moved my piano (espresso machine) first. Of course the grinder must go with the espresso machine, which left me to pre-grind a stash of coffee for the press pot. Oh the horrors of pre-ground coffee. No wonder people dislike moving so much.

This move was fueled by a new espresso blend for me. Velton’s Coffee in Everett has an amazing espresso offering called the Bonsai Blend. It had notes of honey and lemon. It worked as both an espresso and even in the press pot using pre-ground beans.


Velton’s Coffee – Everett, Washington coffee roaster.

Jackson Browne – Official site.

Jet City Espresso – An Early Mentor

I lived in the Tampa Bay area from 1994-1998. It was during that time that I first became an espresso drinker. I give a lot of credit to Jet City Espresso, which resided in South Tampa. They are long gone, but I will always remember and be grateful for the many outstanding espresso drinks I had there. I learned a lot about coffee from Jet City.

The owner of the coffee house was originally from Seattle, which is why it was named Jet City Espresso. I even recall they used Seattles Best Coffee for their roaster. That was long before Starbucks acquired SBC.

Today I was digging through some old backup files looking for something completely unrelated when I stumbled upon this graphic. It was July 1996. I scanned in a newspaper ad they had published and then using Microsoft Paint (Windows 95!), I added some color.

UPDATE JUNE 2011: Jet City Espresso has returned to Tampa! 318 S. Edison Ave., Tampa, FL 33606 Jet City on Facebook.

Snowed In

The week before I left for my ThanksMAS vacation, I made sure to eat all the food in my refrigerator. I didn’t want any of it to go bad while I was in Ohio. The plan was to go grocery shopping when I returned. That was the plan. Mother Nature had another plan. Almost since I arrived back to Seattle, I’ve been snowed in.

ice fountain

It is a good thing I considered the possibility of a banking collapse in late September. I loaded up on frozen and canned food. Fortunately, the banking crisis didn’t come. What happened was as simple as a blizzard in a town that refuses to put salt on the roads.

No problem for me. I’ve got plenty of food supplies. I’ve made soups, pastas, curries and stir-frys. It should be noted that I have made three snow hikes for fresh espresso beans. I’m not a savage. :)