Interview with Seattle Rising Star Roaster Drew Fitchette of Elm Coffee

by Sean Kenniff
December 2015

Sean Kenniff: How did you get into coffee roasting?
Drew Fitchette:
Four years before I even began roasting beans, I was working with Guatemalan coffee farms in sourcing for the Seattle area. It was a lot of quality and relationship development stuff that I think has paid off, and it shows in what we do at Elm Coffee Roasters. I started roasting with Stumptown Coffee Roasters, after I got to where I wanted to be with them, I wanted to branch out and do my own thing. Right now our menu is very Guatemala-heavy, and we’re keen on focusing on single origins.

SK: What do you think is the most important part of the coffee roasting process?
Environment is definitely important. Any roaster can put out good coffee with good machinery. But if temperture or gas pressure is in flux, it's hard to be consistent. At Elm, we have a huge HVAC system to keep the roasting environment consistent. It keeps the space at 70 degrees, which is a good roasting environment.

SK: What brand of roaster do you use here?
It's a Probat.

SK: How do you describe you roasting style?
Everything is washed processed, no natural or honey processed. We don’t do anything post farmer fermenting and drying the beans on the patio. We try to mess with it as little as possible. Our brand is clean, mimimalist, simple, thoughtful, and intentional. Our coffees taste clean and straightforward. We roast light, getting the most sweetness and acidity while still being drinkable. Wash processed coffees allow you to taste terroir and the quality of what the farmer has done.

SK: What is your favorite coffee you’ve roasted and brewed so far?
Favorite coffee so far? Colombian Miranda. It’s a truly stellar coffee and 100 percent Caturra varietal. It’s fruity, sweet, dense, with high acidity. There’s so much there to develop flavor wise
milk chocolate, raspberry all types of red fruit.

SK: What's your production like at this point?
We roast three days a week, eight hour days. We're roasting 6,700 pounds per week. I do most of the roasting with help from one barista. Brendan [Mullaly, my buisiness partner,] does wholesale and manages the books. Right now, we have five or six wholesale accounts, 10 or 12 total on off.

SK: What’s your five year plan?
We’re opening another shop sooner than I thought. We expect it to be up and running within a year. It makes sense to have two or three locations to increase revenue and buying power. We’ve been doing a lot of sampling this year, and next year we plan to buy more beans. We’re taking a trip to Colombia, and then Kenya. We also have a huge vegan following here in Seattle, so we’re beginning to produce our own hazelnut milk.