Caffé Appassionato: An Elegant Seattle Café With Tradition
What does a black baby grand piano, a Seattle fisherman, and Seattle Pacific University student have in common? Answer: They can all be found at Caffé Appassionato in Magnolia.
In one of the most beautiful cafes in Seattle, tucked just off Salmon Bay and the Lake Washington Ship Canal, you will find talented baristas and seasoned coffee roasters hard at work.
Since 1991, Caffé Appassionato has been serving local fishermen, students, and neighborhood locals starting at 6am on weekdays in a European-styled café fully equipped with a baby grand piano and a front seat view of their roasting operation.
You’ll Want to Stay Awhile at This Seattle Coffee Shop
With the welcoming staff, natural lighting, and open air patio, this is the kind of place where you’d like to stay awhile. And many often do.
“Caffé Appassionato has the ability to take you out of the hectic city and place you in an elegant Italian caffé. You’ll find yourself relaxing, reading the paper, and watching the spinning motion of the roaster. You can even take your cup of coffee outside in the courtyard patio and enjoy the sunshine peeking through the trellis vines,” said Rebekah Villeneuve, Caffé Appassionato's social media coordinator.
She’s not kidding. This place is easy on the eyes and provides the coffee that will make your taste-buds dance.
“The coffee at Caffé Appassionato is carefully composed into bold, full-bodied blends. Customers can choose to enjoy coffee brewed through the Clever, French press, auto-drip or as espresso,” added Villeneuve. The cafe offers a wide selection of juices, baked goods, and other snacks to go – or stay.
A Darker Roast Profile
Caffé Appassionato is known for its darker French roasts and blends – a trait their sticking in a period where many local roasters are “flash roasting” – or roasting their beans lighter and lighter.
Personally, I like both dark and “lighter” coffees and like the fact that the whole spectrum can be found in this city by artists (roasters) who can perfect each.
I stopped in and chatted with one of Caffé Appassionato's head roasters, Andy Clawson. (The other head roaster is Molly McKeon). These two roasters are busy. Some weeks, they’re roasting up to 50,000 lbs of coffee a week! While that might not be their average, it should give you an idea of just how popular this Seattle coffee is with their loyal customers.
Andy has studied and perfected the French Roast – a craft, he mentioned, as a dying art because of the recent push towards lighter roasts. (We'll cover more of that in a later post).
So, what inspires Andy's roast?
“It's gonna sound weird but the bulk of my roast day is spent thinking of my wife. She is not in the coffee industry but her tastes are so distinct and she is so clear about what she wants in a cup of coffee that I find myself aiming to please her pallet with every batch I roast…it's worked for me so far…she loves what I bring home! Also, I love the journey of the bean from source to cup.
I like to imagine, for instance, an open floor covered in washed beans sunning in the jungles of Costa Rica as the farmers and hands smoke, chew leaves and tell wild tales of their home towns and families…I think about a lot in a roast day,” Andy said.
So what can people expect in his roast?
“People can expect an honest, passionate, and expressive cup of coffee, alive in flavor from the first aroma to the last aftertaste. Goodness all the way!” Andy continued.
Tradition Honored With Darker Coffee
Over the last several years there has been a trend for coffee roasters to roast their coffee a little lighter. The process, is to be able to highlight many of the flavonoids that can be obtained with lighter roasts (coffee has about a thousand different flavonoids).
“In terms of style, the French Roast is a bold, punchy, and I would even go so far as to say elegant method of coffee roasting. It has a flavor that is best described as smokey. The longer roasting at higher temperatures really gets the beans sweating those flavorful oils,” Andy said.
“This process also burns off much of the moisture of the bean through steam, hence the signature “smoke” flavor. I like to think of a good French Roast as that friend we all have who, though brash, impulsive and extreme in personality, possesses an honesty, fortitude and passion you can depend on when you’re in need.”
Seattle Coffee Roaster Focused on Taste
Cool Beans! Roaster Andy Clawson cools a freshly roasted batch of coffee. (The music I added myself).
As soon as you walk through the doors of Caffé Appassionato, you can see Andy working through the glass partition – focused, pulling levers, looking at timers, pushing buttons, and jotting things down (Please check out the video).
I ask him about his coffee profiles that he roasts for Caffé Appassionato and the strong demand for darker roasts, which he mentions is actually a bit complicated to roast.
“It's difficult to product an excellent French roast,” he tells me. “Well, the demand for darker, more complex flavor profiles is simple; folks nowadays are becoming wise to the forces (human and otherwise) in their lives that cannot or choose not to express personality. I believe the average coffee lover wants to experience their coffee in all its complexity and be trusted to choose for themselves whether or not it's what they're looking for in a cup.”
“Bottom line, people are more empowered in declaring their tastes these days and rather then shy away from that empowerment we choose to meet it face to face with dynamic profiles and blends we're proud of,” he added.
Two Head Coffee Roasters
Caffé Appassionato is one of the few Seattle coffee roasters with two head roasters. Though slightly unusual in the industry, Caffé Appassionato found it to be a strength. They found the partnership between the two a sustainable and solid strategy in producing their wonderful blend of coffee.
“My co-roaster Molly and I are on equal ground all the way when it comes to roasting. We regularly check every roast of the one against the same roast of the other and if there is even a slight discrepancy neither of us is shy about noting it and then we work as a team to prevent that discrepancy happening again.This allows for the consistency of quality to be maintained with no burn out and it empowers both Molly and myself to own every roast. We not only take pride in our individual work but we are proud of each other’s roasting. Another more practical benefit to our collaborative roasting practice is that we can take vacations and sick days!” Andy said.
You’re Always Welcome at Caffé Appassionato
As a customer you know when things are working and things not. It’s easy to tell that Caffé Appassionato has a synergy that makes them successful. It also translates to a “welcoming vibe” that is qualitative but nevertheless important for customers.
“What I love most about where I work is the people I work side by side with in the back of the house. Molly, Kevin, Bruce, Kurt, Rowdy, and Tyler are like a feisty gang of pirate comedians. They're all great people, hard workers, and they know their jobs. They make my job great!” Andy added.
That my friends is a destoner, which removes stones, pebbles, or other debris from the coffee being roasted.
So, where can you find Caffé Appassionato coffee?
Caffé Appassionato coffee can be found in Wallingford, Shoreline, Seattle Waterfront, and Fishermen’s Terminal Caffé locations, as well as QFC, Thriftway and Metropolitan Market, according to Rebekah. In addition, their coffee can also be ordered on through their website, Amazon, and/or AmazonFresh.
There is no doubt, I will be back here. In the mean time, I'd recommend checking them out stopping by their cafe and stay awhile.
For More information:
4001 21st Avenue West
Seattle, WA 98199
Visit their website here.
Hours 6am-6pm M-F and 7a-4p Saturday/Sunday