Seattle is famed for its prominent coffee culture, with many of the city’s inhabitants being hardened coffee enthusiasts.
In fact, the people of Seattle consume more coffee than in any other American city. With so much choice, it’s difficult to know just who the best coffee roasters are.
In no particular order, we’ve put together a list of our seven favorite coffee roasters roasting the best coffee beans in Seattle. We provide you with a little background on each roaster along with what they have to offer this year.
Elm Coffee Roasters is a specialty coffee roasters and cafe located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. The company was founded in 2013 by Brendan Mullally and Drew Fitchette. Mullally, the company’s owner and manager, is a Seattle native, but has lived in New York for 7 years.
There, he’s accumulated considerable experience in the coffee industry, and developed his passion for the trade. Drew Fitchette acts as Elm’s head coffee roaster and buyer, and has previously worked with Stumptown Coffee in Seattle, and Onyx, a coffee importer from Bellingham.
Elm was founded with the desire to bring to Seattle light-roasted specialty coffee, a style of roasting that the founders saw as underrepresented in Seattle of 2013.
While Elm focuses on importing and roasting the best quality coffee possible, customer service is also of the highest importance to them. Since Seattle isn’t exactly known for the warmest customer service, Elm tries to break that pattern by creating a warm, friendly, and welcoming environment at their cafes. You can visit them at 240 2nd Ave S and 230 9th Ave N.
Despite its New York name (the founder’s family originates from Herkimer, NY), Herkimer Coffee is a Seattle-based coffee roasters, retailer, and wholesaler.
Established in 2003, Herkimer is a veteran of Seattle’s third-wave coffee scene. The company is spearheaded by founder and owner Mike Prins, and Head Roaster Scott Richardson.
They believe in sustainable sourcing, quality roasting, and dedication to high standards in all their business operations.
Most of Herkimer’s coffee is sourced directly from farmers and co-ops around the world, thus fostering healthy and mutually-beneficial trade relationships. These enable the importation of only the best quality green coffee, which Herkimer roasts meticulously.
They have three locations in Seattle, including the flagship cafe, retail store, and roastery. There, at 7320 Greenwood Ave N, roasting takes place on a large Probat machine, fully visible from the seating area.
Victrola Coffee Roasters was founded in 2000, making it a well-established player in Seattle’s specialty coffee industry. That said, their mission has always been about more than just coffee.
Taking their name from a 1920’s home phonograph, Victrola takes inspiration from the Roaring Twenties in the design of their cafes, as well as in the frequent Jazz and other shows they host. This community-oriented approach proved successful, and today Victrola operates four cafes around Seattle.
After roasting out of the back of their first cafe for a couple of years, Victrola moved their roasting facility to their second location, at 310 E Pike Street.
There, patrons can watch the roasting process, or attend free public cuppings with coffee experts (although these might be temporarily suspended – call ahead).
Slate Coffee Roasters is a family-owned, Seattle-based coffee roasters, wholesaler, and cafe chain. Slate was founded in 2011, and today they run four locations around Seattle.
Slate’s management is made up of Chelsey Walker-Watson overseeing retail, her brother Keenan Walker importing and roasting green coffee, and their mother Lisanne Walker assisting with production and supervising operations.
In their roasting, Slate has always practiced something they call exposure roasting. This is a form of very light roasting, which Slate believe helps accentuate each roast’s unique regional and varietal flavor nuances.
When they started out they were the only roaster in Seattle doing light roasts, and they are probably still the lightest roaster in Seattle today.
Lighthouse Roasters is a specialty coffee roasters and boutique cafe from Seattle. Founded back in 1993, Lighthouse is one of the oldest specialty coffee roasters in Seattle and beyond.
The owner and Head Roaster, Ed Leebrick, is something of a legend in the coffee industry. He’s trained some of the leading roasters in Seattle and Portland, like the founders of Stumptown Coffee and Blue Beard, among others.
Lighthouse roasts their coffee on a large, vintage, cast-iron roaster, which is on full display in the cafe (at 400 N 43rd Street). Embracing their Fremont neighborhood’s love of art, Lighthouse often holds art exhibitions.
Friendly, welcoming, and warm, the Lighthouse cafe is a place where excellent service and art meet premium, hand-roasted coffee.
Caffe Ladro, which means Coffee Thief in Italian, is a roastery and cafe chain based in Seattle. Founded in 1994, Caffe Ladro is one of Seattle’s oldest specialty coffee roasters.
They opened their first location right next door to Starbucks, with the full intention (being true to their name) of whisking their patrons away. Thanks to Ladro’s excellent coffee and friendly atmosphere they were successful, and today Caffe Ladro is a Seattle coffee institution, with 16 locations in and around the city.
Sustainability and responsibility have always been important to Caffe Ladro. In 2000, they were the largest US coffee chain serving only Fair Trade coffee.
In 2011 they started roasting their own coffee, and 70% of their imports are sourced directly from producers whom owner Jack Kelly has met personally. Thus they ensure not only the quality of their coffee, but also its positive impact on coffee farmers and their communities.
Founded in 1988, Espresso Vivace is one of the longest-running specialty coffee roasters in the country. However, it didn’t start as a coffee roasters, but as a coffee cart, opened by engineer David Schomer and his wife Geneva Sullivan, a mainframe technician.
The two then opened a coffee stand, and subsequently a roastery and flagship cafe, at 532 Broadway Ave E. Today, they operate three locations around Seattle.
Espresso Vivace founder David Schomer has decades of experience with coffee, and he’s considered a pioneer and a specialist in the field. He has innovated some of the techniques and practices that are used in coffee importation, storage, and roasting, and he is also credited with popularizing latte art in America.
In 1996, he published Espresso Coffee, which is considered a coffee bible. While he and Sullivan divorced in 2008, they are still partners in business, with her managing the finance and operations side of the company.
Espresso Vivace’s roasting, which takes place on-site, has been in the Northern Italian style – a medium roast – since 1992. They serve rich and flavorful espresso drinks (no drip coffee), made in a classical style, with meticulously hand-roasted beans.