Counter balance Roasters

Queen Anne Hill Seattle

News & Updates

Edgar & Mercedes

Edgar & Mercedes

November 17, 2017 --- We have just returned from Nicaragua. The trip was part vacation / part work. Starting on the Caribbean side, at Corn Island, we spent four days relaxing in the sun. It is very hot and humid at this time of year. We then picked up a rental car in Managua and headed up to Matagalpa. We met with Gold Mountain Coffee Growers and visited several small farms including Edgar's. We use his beans in our espresso roast for Ghost Alley Espresso. Visiting the small farms gave us a broader appreciation for roasting coffee and the finished cup. Every bean is hand picked through the harvest season, then hand washed, dried and packed. The amount of labor involved is incredible. Throughout Matagalpa, alongside busy highways, there were huge plots with coffee spread out to dry, people slowly raking all the coffee in the sun. Coffee starts with love, with nature - nurturing the plants and watching them closely, and harvesting each bean by hand. 

Coffee was first planted in Nicaragua by a German couple. We stayed on the very first farm, Selva Negra.


In the 1850s when gold was discovered in California, many American and European passengers made their way to California crossing the Isthmus of Central America through Nicaragua. On one of those trips, a German couple (Ludwig Elster and Katharina Braun) from the region named Black Forest (Selva Negra in Spanish) in Germany chose to stay in Nicaragua rather than continue to San Francisco. Instead of looking for gold they planted the first coffee beans in this region. Coffee came to be of very good quality, so soon many other Europeans and Americans showed up to do the same. - wikipedia

October 3, 2017 --- Ghost Alley Espresso, located in the Pike Place Market and next to the gum wall, introduces a new Halloween Blend. It is roasted by the owner of the coffee shop, Mercedes Carrabba, at her roaster on Queen Anne Hill; Counterbalance Roasters. Now when you think coffee you may not think Halloween but this incredible and odd combination of beans will definitely add a bit of “spirit" to your October. It is a blend of whiskey barrel aged Peruvian beans, dark roasted Malawi beans & medium roasted Brazilian beans. The whiskey barrel is from local Woodinville Whiskey. The green beans are aged in the barrel before being roasted. Each addition to the blend is roasted separately and in very different styles. It is small batch Seattle coffee at it’s finest celebrating one of most beautiful months in the northwest. The whiskey lends an aroma to the blend but is muted in the cup. When you add milk and a bit of sugar the whiskey comes forward creating a unique Halloween treat. 

September 2, 2017 --- The Central and South American beans have arrived! The most recent crop from Costa Rica is exceptional. We are anticipating a large shipment from Nicaragua and from Peru later this month. 

August 14, 2017 --- Rafael and Mercedes head to Nicaragua in November for coffee fun. In the meantime they are busy roasting coffee. Now that the weather has changed and there is a bit of moisture in the air the small batches are coming out beautifully. 

Coming in this month: Tanzania Peaberry is back!! Arrives today. All the Central and South American beans are starting to arrive ; an incredible lot from Costa Rica, this year several small farms got to together for the harvest. The beans have quite a few very sweet peaberrys in the mix. Peru arrives August 21 and we can't wait!

June 24, 2017 --- South American and Central American harvests are currently arriving in the northwest. We are anticipating the arrival of green beans from Panama, Peru, Colombia and Nicaragua. Our main offerings for the rest of 2017 will come from these countries.

We are very excited about the Nicaraguan beans that should be here in September. We found them through Gold Mountain Coffee Growers who work directly with small farmers in Nicaragua. Here is some information about the farm, the beans and Gold Mountain Coffee Growers

Don Edgar's farm sits at the top of the mountain range between Matagalpa and Jinotega. It first attracted our attention because of its brilliant yellow catuai, which creates a blanket of yellow when ripe.

When we asked Don Edgar if he would be willing to process his yellow catuai and red caturra as natural process coffees, he took the challenge on head-first. We quickly learned that even when processed as washed coffee, his beans exude apricot and other fruit cupping notes.

Don Edgar and his family have faced challenges in recent years. His daughter was in a motorcycle accident, and Edgar had to sell a heard of cattle to pay her medical bills. When we met him he and his family were still getting over that hurdle, and the increased earnings from processing the family's coffee as specialty has helped them during this challenging time.

Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, LLC, is a social enterprise that, in addition to its own farm (Finca Idealista), works directly with coffee producers, including Edgar, to connect them with roasters abroad. It obtains higher prices for producers while carrying out sustainable development projects in communities, including free computing classes for girls, medical assistance such as an operation for a young girl so she could walk for the first time, microcredit, running water in schools, books in schools, and educational supplies.

June 8, 2017 --- We have several Single Origin coffees available now. Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, Tanzania Peaberry, Colombia and Sulawesi. Each is roasted to different degrees.

The Peru is the lightest of the roasts, full or aroma. It has cherry and molasses notes. You can smell those notes before they even hit your mouth.

The Tanzanian Peaberry is a very earthy flavor. It is roasted just into a medium and has a nutty finish.

The Costa Rica is our darkest roast and is a well balanced cup of coffee or espresso. It was a wine finish, like the bottom of a really expensive Syrah.

The Brazil we roast to two degrees, medium or dark. The medium is suitable as a Single Origin espresso and tastes and smells like chocolate and butter. As it gets darker there is more acid and it is better suited for a drip coffee; very bold.

The Sulawesi has peach and dark chocolate notes. It is roasted into the second crack but not very dark. It has a full body, lots of aroma and is an incredible cold brew.

The Colombian is a fresh and light coffee, roasted to a medium degree. It is best also as a drip producing a milder coffee with good body. 

April 24, 2017 --- SCA Coffee EXPO 2017 just finished here in Seattle. What a whirlwind of energy that was. 

April 22, 2017 --- We have an incredible Brazilian bean that we are working with right now. From JC Farms, this small Brazilian lot was originally purchased by Middle Fork Roasters who kindly sold a part of it to Mercedes. It has rich, chocolate and nutmeg notes. Roasted either to medium or dark the sweetness of the bean is prominent. Mercedes has been mixing it with a Peruvian bean for espresso at Ghost Alley Espresso.