Back To School Coffee Orientation

Another academic year will be starting soon for Seattle college students. I am sure the colleges do a swell job providing information on classes and activities, my guess is they aren’t going to provide you with the caffeine guidance you’ll need to make it through to finals. Have no fear, Coffee Hero is here for your coffee orientation.

Seattle has some of the best coffee places in the world. There really is no need to go to Starbucks or Tullys. Those are backup coffee venues. Go there when you are visiting your parents or stuck in an airport. While you are here in Seattle, just go to the best.

Below is a guide to the best coffee spots for some of the main colleges in the Seattle area.

Trabant Coffee

University of Washington

Trabant Coffee – 1309 NE 45th Street

Herkimer Coffee – 5611 University Way NE

Seattle University

Stumptown Coffee – 1115 12th Ave

Watertown Coffee – 550 12th Ave

Seattle Pacific University

Muse Coffee – 1907 10th Ave W

Teacup – 2128 Queen Anne Ave (Not coffee, but a great tea place!)

Cornish College of the Arts

Tougo Coffee – 2113 Westlake Ave (closed on weekends)

Seattle Central Community College

Stumptown Coffee – 616 E Pine

Espresso Vivace – 321 Broadway E

Caffe Vita – 1005 E Pike

North Seattle and South Seattle Community Colleges

Nothing. Too late to change colleges? :)

Coffee Hero Unplugged

Over on my personal blog, I confessed that I have drastically cut back on my coffee intake in the past month. So if you haven’t seen in me in your coffee shop in a while, don’t take it personally. From the post 30 Days of Low Coffee Intake:

Over 30 days ago I was able to drop my coffee intake to no more than 1 serving per day. Some days I would have no coffee. This is an impressive feat for someone that has average 4-5 coffees per day for 20 years and has 2 coffee websites!

I’m keeping notes on how on how this is affecting me. At some point I will post an article on INeedCoffee detailing this experiment. In the meantime, don’t be shocked if I order the occasional decaf espresso. So far, Trabant Coffee has the best decaf espresso. It has a round full flavor with a peppery finish.

Does any one else have a favorite decaf espresso blend here in Seattle?

3 Brewers Seattle Coffee Fans Need To Try

Not only does Seattle have some of the best roasters, cafes and baristas in the world, we also some of the best equipment. Seattle is the home to three unique coffee brewing systems that most of the country does not have. If you live in Seattle or came here on a coffee vacation, here are 3 coffee brewers you need to try.

The Clover

Before Starbucks acquired the Clover, there were several independents that carried this $11,000 single cup coffee brewer. After Starbucks took over, many of these coffee shops got rid of their Clovers. Starbucks now has the technology to make an excellent cup of coffee, but they don’t because their roast profile is too fast. The Clover still needs great coffee to excel. Fortunately, Seattle still has three remaining Clover machines in the hands of independent coffee shops.

If want an excellent cup of Clover Coffee, avoid Starbucks. Visit Aster or Trabant.

  1. Aster Coffee Lounge (BALLARD) 5615 24th Ave NW –> NOVA and Stumptown Coffee.
  2. Trabant Coffee (UNIVERSITY) 1309 NE 45th Street –> 49th Parallel Coffee.
  3. Trabant Coffee (PIONEER SQUARE) 602 2nd Ave –> 49th Parallel Coffee.

The Slayer Espresso Machine

Seattle is home to a next generation espresso machine called the Slayer. I’ve had it a few times and although not every shot has been perfect, the flavors it pulls out of espresso have been amazing. Gizmodo describes what makes the Slayer special:

…it allows a barista to easily play with pressure to do some interesting thingslike start with a low pressure extraction, ramp up to full pressure, then back it down to get different textures or flavors…

Photo Slayer by Lay-Luh

You can try a Slayer Espresso at two places.

  1. Equal Exchange Espresso (BALLARD) – 1400 NW 56th St – Ballard Market
  2. Vovito Caffe & Gelato (BELLEVUE) – 700 11th Ave NE – The Bravern

Zoka Coffee had one in Kirkland that was removed. It may or may not surface at one of their Seattle locations.

The Trifecta

The Trifecta is the next generation of the single cup brewer. It is like a Clover with more controls. Some coffees do OK in the Trifecta and some really shine. Seattle Coffee Works is home to the only Trifecta in Seattle. If you order one, I encourage you to ask for their recommendation on which coffee to use. They are always tinkering with this machine and will certainly have a solid recommendation.

  1. Seattle Coffee Works (DOWNTOWN) – 107 Pike St


A Little $18,000 Espresso Machine Called Slayer – Gizmodo article

Zoka Kirkland – PopBites post on the Slayer status with Zoka.

UPDATE March 2014: Thought I’d provide a few updates to this post since a few years have passed.

  1. Aster Coffee Lounge has been renamed Toast Ballard. They still have the Clover.
  2. Seattle Coffee Works got rid of their Trifecta. Tony’s Coffee has a mini cafe in East Ballard that has one. I’ve had this a few times since the original post and it hasn’t really impressed me. So I wouldn’t really say you need to try this.

My 3 Favorites – Disloyalty Card Round #2

Today I completed my second Disloyalty Card. In Round #1, my 3 favorites were Urban Coffee Lounge, Makeda and Tougo. Here are my 3 favorites from Round #2.

  1. Trabant Coffee – I think the Epic Espresso Blend is back to its former glory.
  2. Urban Coffee Lounge – I love this place. They pulled another amazing Single Origin espresso for me. Make the journey to Juanita. It is worth it.
  3. Aster Coffee Lounge – Black Cat Espresso = Yummy!

Will I go for Round #3? Maybe. I’ll save those thoughts for another post.

The Best Coffee in Downtown Seattle (2010)

I recently got an email from someone planning on visiting Seattle this summer.

We are planning our first trip to Seattle this weekend and obviously a trip to a couple coffee shops is in order. We’re wondering if you could recommend a couple of your favourites in the downtown area? If you could only visit, say three shops – which ones would you go to?

In no particular order, here are the three best coffee shops in downtown Seattle.

Seattle Coffee Works

As you emerge from Pike Place Market, look for the 14 foot sign of the man drinking coffee. They roast right on location and have some of the best espresso blends in the city. In the right part of the cafe, they have a “Slow Bar”. This is where you can have a coffee made in a slower brewing method, such as Chemex or Vac-Pot. Seattle Coffee Works is a must visit for any Seattle tourist.

Stella Caffe

If you want a true Italian style espresso, this is the place to go. Stella proudly uses robusta coffee in their espresso blend. If you hear someone say that robusta is by nature inferior to arabica, that is nonsense. Robusta adds crema and mouth-feel to espresso. Although not required, it adds a flavor dimension that I really enjoy. Stella has one of the best and certainly the most unique espresso blend in the city.

Trabant Coffee

Trabant uses coffee roasted by 49th Parallel Roasters in BC. If you’ve never had the Epic Espresso Blend, you need to check it out. Trabant also has a Clover Coffee machine. This means you can avoid the Starbucks at 1st and Pike and actually drink great coffee in the Clover.

Word to the Tourists

Yes Starbucks has a long history in the Pike Place Market and with Seattle, but the quality of the coffee is no different than what you can get in your hometown. If you are a Starbucks fan, I encourage you to visit the Roy Street Coffee and Tea concept store in Capitol Hill. It is Starbucks at their best. It is still not as good as Seattle Coffee Works, Stella or Trabant, but they are better than the two Pike Market tourist locations (Original and Heritage).

UPDATE (MARCH 2011): Stella Cafe is now gone. It has been replaced by a bar. Other cafes serve Stella coffee, but I can’t recommend any of them. Your best bet for them is now mail order.


Seattle Coffee Works – 107 Pike Street

Stella Caffe – 1224 1st Avenue

Trabant Coffee – 602 2nd Avenue

Starbucks Coffee College – Article where I discuss the Roy Street Coffee and Tea location.

Seattle – The blogger who emailed me posted on her trip to Seattle where she visited the 3 coffee shops I recommended.

Seattle’s Disloyalty Card

Seattle now has something called a Disloyalty Card, which is idea to promote the independent coffee shop. The idea started in London and the way it works is you visit the ten coffee shops on the card. At each place, order and drink and receive a stamp. When the card is completed (10 stamps), you can redeem it for a free drink at the place you choose.

I love the idea of getting coffee fans outside their comfort zone and trying new places. This is exactly what the Coffee Club of Seattle has been promoting for almost four years now. In a given month we may visit 3-5 independent coffee shops around the Seattle metro area.

The 10 Coffee Shops on the Seattle Disloyalty Card

Coffee ShopNeighborhoodRoaster
Aster Coffee LoungeBallardIntelligentsia / Stumptown
Equal Exchange EspressoBallardEqual Exchange (Oregon)
Fonte Coffee RoastersDowntownFonte
Herkimer CoffeePhinney, UniversityHerkimer
Makeda CoffeeGreenwood7 Roasters
Neptune CoffeeGreenwoodNeptune
Porchlight CoffeeCapitol HillHerkimer
Tougo CoffeeCentral, Lake UnionStumptown
Trabant CoffeeUniversity, Pioneer Square49th Parallel (BC)
Urban Coffee LoungeKirklandStumptown

You should be able to pick up your Disloyalty Card from any of those locations. I’m already half way done with my first card!


Gwilyn’s disloyalty card – The idea from London.

Local coffeehouses offer disloyalty card, encourage customers to shop around – Coffee City story detailing how the Seattle Disloyalty Card got started.

Trabant Coffee – Espresso Perfection

Trabant Coffee has two locations in Seattle. One is the University District, the other is on the edge of Pioneer Square. They use 49th Parallel’s Epic for their espresso blend. 49th Parallel is an extremely popular roaster in Vancouver. I believe Trabant is the only Seattle location that uses them.

I love the Epic Espresso Blend and think 49th Parallel describes the Epic Blend perfectly with one sentence:

Incredibly creamy and very sweet with a lingering syrupy finish.

If the people from the Juan Valdez Cafe are reading this post, I want you to take a look at the two espressos below. The first one is from Trabant Coffee. Notice the reddish copper color. Also note that the shot was not over-poured. The second photo is from the Juan Valdez Cafe. The Trabant espresso was delicious. The Juan Valdez Cafe espresso was vile. There is a clear lesson to be learned from the Trabant example.

Yummy espresso from Trabant Coffee.

Yucky espresso from Juan Valdez Cafe.


Trabant Coffee and Chai – Official site.

49th Parallel – Coffee list.

Ominous Signs: Juan Valdez Cafe, Seattle – Juan Valdez Cafe review.

Best Cup of Coffee Ever

Last evening I was invited to the grand opening of the second Trabant location in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. In a previous post I mention that Trabant is one of my favorites. The primary reason I left my house and ventured to the new location was the speculation that they would be serving Panama Esmeralda. This bean is a Best of Panama auction winner that sold for a record $130/pound. And that is the green (unroasted) price.

When you roast coffee, you lose 15-20% of it’s weight. For darker roasts you can lose more, but you would never roast this bean dark. Once roasted this bean goes for over $200 a pound. I’ve been roasting coffee for 10 years now and I typically spend $4-$5 a pound for green coffee. Every so often I might splurge and get Puerto Rican at $9 a pound. At $17 a pound, Kona is too rich for my blood. Jamaican Blue Mountain at $35 a pound? No thanks.

At the grand opening they did a coffee cupping and served tastes of five different beans in the Clover. I had been to a Trabant cupping before. The reason I was there was to try the Panama Esmeralda. And at about 90 minutes into the event, I did.

What can I say? The legends are true. This was the best cup of coffee I have ever had. The coffee had so many unique characteristics, many unique to Central American beans as well as some qualities that I’ve only tasted in East African beans. It was amazing. Imagine a jam band of rock superstars making the best song on the best sound system. That’s a perfect cup of coffee.

Legacy Comments


I’m torn between being envious of such a rich experience and clucking my tongue at the cost!

Reminds me of the $70 steak I had when my sister got her Master’s — I thought — AMAZING STEAK — and — TOO EXPENSIVE.

Amazing steak ultimately won, and I’d do it again.

So will you add the expensive beans to your buying habits? Or is this just a special occasion thing?


I will NOT be buying expensive beans. High end beans need to made in high end machines. Although my $10 press pot makes a very good cup of coffee, I’m not going to use it for premium beans.

This is why I like the Clover. It’s an $8000 machine the coffee house can buy (and maintain). When I desire something fancy, I can go in and get a $3-$5 mug of coffee.

Note: I think I read that the Panama went for $15 a mug out of the Clover in Vancouver. Considering what some people spend on wine or single-malts, it actually isn’t unreasonable at that price (for a special occasion).


that sounds right to me mas. i didn’t think of the equipment factor in really making the beans right.

very interesting thoughts all around. thanks for sharing them.

maybe sometime we (leah and i) can get north and get a coffee-tour from you. :-)


I’d love to give a coffee tour.

Coffee Cupping At Trabant

Yesterday I participated in a coffee cupping at Trabant. Trabant is located in Seattle’s University District. Since starting INeedCoffee back in 1999, I’ve received many coffee related invitations. What is interesting about the cupping invite was it came via this blog post here on CriticalMAS and not from INeedCoffee.

Photo by Flickr user Gaber

The blind cupping was comprised of 8 coffees. The first pass was dry fragrance, which consisted of just smelling the freshly ground coffee. The second pass was wet fragrance. On the third pass we sipped each coffee.

In my previous attempts at cupping, I’ve been OK at determining the region and country of the coffee. Last night I did extremely well. Of the 8 coffees, I guessed the correct region (Central America, South America, Asia, India, Africa) for 7 of the coffees. And I nailed 4 coffees down to the country level. Thats impressive considering I’m just a hobbyist that hasn’t even brewed a non-espresso drink in 15 months.