It’s hard to point visitors to any one “best of” spot here in Coffee City, but Vivace, Victrola, and Zoka have traditionally topped plenty of lists. A panel of coffee experts and editors at The Daily Meal, though, gave a relative newcomer its nod as the city’s best. Milstead & Co. in Fremont was the top-ranked Seattle spot on the site’s list of America’s Best Coffee Shops, ranking as #12 overall. Ultimo Coffee in Philly came in at #1, while Portland-based Stumptown, which has branches in Seattle and other cities as well, was ranked #7, though it was counted as a “national” business. Victrola was #17, and Zoka #30.
Andrew Milstead, an award-winning barista who once told the Times his first espresso at Vivace was a “life-altering experience,” had his business marked as a place to watch by the coffee-noscenti even before it opened in 2011. He told Fremont Universe he hoped the cafe would be “a playground for the coffee enthusiast and neophyte alike.” An excellent Seattle Met profile recently outlined what makes Milstead’s business so well-regarded nationally and even internationally, saying that “In a city that boasts dozens of worthy destinations, Milstead’s cafe is the ultimate draw for coffee pilgrims.” The short version: Beyond top-notch baristas and equipment, it’s one of fewer than two dozen “multiroaster” cafes in the United States, shops that “stock a variety of specialty coffees from carefully chosen top roasting partners.” Milstead swaps out beans several times a day, which reporter Jordan Michelman said was probably more than any shop in North America, comparing Milstead’s model to “a bartender who never sticks to the same base bourbon, or a band that plays a different set every night.”
Daily Meal editors had this to say about the rating: “(Milstead) is among our top picks because it pulls off the multi-roaster model (using roasts from both local and high-end roasters) extremely well – and that’s a huge challenge for a coffee shop of its size to pull off well. It’s that dedication to the perfect roast that propelled Milstead to the top, especially in such a saturated coffee scene like Seattle. That, and our panelists who travel for coffee noted it as the coffee shop to go to in Seattle.”
The panel included Daily Meal editors, “prominent coffee bloggers,” coffee shop owners, coffee educators, and award-winning baristas, including the most recent U.S. Barista champion, Katie Carguello. Votes were based on “quality of coffee, quality of food, customer service, atmosphere, and “unique” factor.” One of the panel members had blogged about Milstead in January, cheering a “potent” espresso that “sang of grapefruit, honey, charred oak, a little apple juice and some nutmeg,” and an AeroPress featuring ”notes of wheat, blueberry, vanilla french toast, fresh pear and a little black tea and cocoa.” A Yelper put it more simply: “I’ve never had a bad cup of coffee here.”