To understand Herkimer Coffee, one must know that the coffee roots of Seattle run deep with an old world espresso experience which has become the foundation of today’s coffee drinkers in the city. Thus, Herkimer refers to themselves as “a new world microroaster with an old-world aesthetic” meaning new world procurement through direct relationship buying, but old world affinity when it comes to espresso. Herkimer loves the process of espresso - the organic chemistry combined with controlled physics yields their favorite coffee experience. What they can do with smaller lots of unique and quality coffee today differs from the traditional Italian blends, roasts and methods to varying degree. What they try to do is meld the two: high complexity, juicy sweet acidity, loads of spice, all balanced within big viscosity. What they’ve left out is the astringency or bitterness that many still associate with espresso extraction. They also strive to provide high quality, unique origin coffees for all types of brew methods and the means to achieve great results with them, regardless of your favorite method.
This new world method of sourcing that many of the small roasters are using today is to establish relationships with individual producers directly with sustainability in mind. What that means to Herkimer is an ongoing relationship between roaster and producer year after year where their needs are within the producer’s means to meet. They then create a benchmark price that is based on real world costs rather than Commodities Futures fluctuations and grow together. The price can often be double or triple what the institutional brand pays but you get what you pay for in terms of quality, complexity and quality of life. If a producer has a larger financial need looming for equipment, labor, etc they will assist by paying more for a season or two to help them meet their needs. Each year they revisit needs from both sides prior to contracting which is usually done in the country of origin face to face.
Herkimer has come a long way since their start in 2003 in the Phinney Ridge/Greenwood neighborhood of North Seattle. Their pursuit of creating a sustainable quality experience in a comfortable and welcoming environment has grown their own footprint in the city to 3 cafés with their newest location just North of the South Lake Union area on Dexter and Aloha streets. All their production is currently roasted on a Probat L25 located inside of their café on Phinney Ridge with a modest training lab and cupping table located in the same space. Their wholesale production provides coffee to about 45 local cafés and restaurants with another 25 cafés and restaurants within a 1-2 day shipping radius. They have learned the effects of expansive growth to a small coffee company and know that this is not the model in which They will follow. They aim to stay close to home, focus on coffee and the devices necessary to make it taste good, and surrounding ourselves with others who share this same passion for coffee. Luckily, my local shop will feature Herkimer Coffee throughout the year. I was able to try their Benigno Mejia Honduras on several occasions last year and was very impressed, but this year I was blown away with their Kochere Ethiopia. Let’s dig in.
Roaster: Herkimer Coffee Roasters
Origin: Yirgacheffe, Borena, Kochere, Ethiopia
Process: Fully washed and dried on raised solar beds
Elevation: 1,800 - 2,000m
V60 no stir | 34g © to 453g (w) | 3:25 total time | 202 degrees
Cooling more the presentation is growing softer yet deeper and still quite complex. I want to say I can note strawberry, blueberry, and pepper still with widening floral notes.
The aromas that initially were fruity and floral have now really landed on herbal tea and floral notes.
Cooling further settles into the honey, herbal, and floral tea. Undeniably good.
Balanced, floral, herbal, honey tea.
Woodneck | 35g © to 475g (w) | 4:40 total time | 201 degrees
Soft introduction to the cup. Sweet, balanced, rose water notes but not overly floral yet. Will love to watch this open up. Slight herbal notes creeping in along with those tea notes. Not a spicy cup but I am picking up notes that remind me of cinnamon. Soft citrus acidity along the way.
As it cools more juiciness comes out but it still remains pretty soft. Not getting the big flavors I was in the v60. Lemongrass starts to come out as I continue to sip with sweet honey cleaning up the finish.
More floral notes begin to inch out of the cup, but everything stays pretty reserved. I can only describe it as beautiful, like walking through a garden on a cool and sunny spring day. It’s dainty, it’s poetic, it’s really just simplistic and beautiful.
Honey seems to meet the cup again, along with slight notes of mint that are rather peculiar, evocative, and reveling at the same time.
Soft, tea-like, herbal, beautiful.
Bonmac | 24.5g © to 343g (w) | 3:20 total time | 200 degrees
Light floral introduction to the cup with some herbal tea notes following close behind. Lemongrass notes light lemon acidity detected, with kisses of honey following the floral notes as the open up.
As it cools it really starts to become something special. Sweet and lingering, fragrant and delicately floral - more of that honey sweetness starts to solidify in the cup and harder to draw out are soft apple
notes. Parts of it remind of licking the cake batter off the mixing beater, others take me to a botanical garden. Either way, the taste is succulent and lingering and softly transfixing.
It ends on caramel, apple, and floral notes amidst a lightly herbal elixir bed with a tea-like finishing.
Gino Dripper | 40g © to 552g (w) | 3:45 total time | 203 degrees
Amazing. Similar beauty as noted in the v60 but a little out of proportion initially. Gorgeous floral highs, lemon acidity, herbal center with some nice fruity pebble sweetness, but where the change happens is this chocolate stout finish. I feel like I’m one of those old cartoon characters with my eyes popping out of my head every time I take a drink.
Cooling further it is incredibly poetic - soft and sweeping floral tones with notes of honey seeming to drip along my tongue like drops of rain in the spring. Wonderfully fragrant - lemongrass and berry seem to play on an herbal tea noted bed like a game of tag, with a growing complexity as it cools even more. There is still a really stunning and round juiciness as each sip swirls around the mouth in the end, and in it nearly all the flavors collide like a crescendo to a symphony.
The final notes are honey, herbal tea, and floral widenings.
Aeropress (Inverted) | 18g © to 230g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:20 total time | 205 degrees
A little more bland initially. As it cools those flavors come out - nice sweetness, lemon notes like lemon mirangue pie, floral finishing, just not really a fan of the added weight. It does add a really cool dimension to that lemon note, and the floral notes take on a little shape, but overall (atleast for me) I think it’s more attractive in other devices.
Chemex | 44g © to 660g (w) | 5:10 total time | 205 degrees
Again, presented similarly as in other methods. Balanced floral highs, lemon acidity, herbal center with fruity pebble sweetness. Soft, juicy, complex, and in this cup it has some nice chocolate mousse in finish. It has that classic profile, yet refined and really exceptionally executed in the Chemex.
Sweet, floral, herbal, honey.
This is one of the most enjoyable Yirgacheffe offerings I’ve had. I found myself at the bottom of the mug on more than one occasion wondering where the rest of the coffee had gone. This was a great offering to dive into and enjoy the complexity of flavor, but also had such a sweet, soft, and just delicious profile that it could easily be chugged without much thought put into it. A comfortable body and acidity level makes this a very approachable cup as we enter these warmer months. The additional hand sorting of this coffee on the farm to be free of defects shines in every method I put it in, and I can see why Herkimer came back to this coffee for a second year. I hope they continue, because I would love to continue trying it with them. A perfect Yirgacheffe.
Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.