We found ourselves in search for a new coffee to review not too long ago when this memory sparked. We knew a former barista from this quaint little roaster in Wilmette, IL, Alchemy Coffee House (http://www.alchemycoffeehouse.com/). It is tucked away, this tiny little building, in the transition from residential Wilmette to the downtown area. Truth be told, they are more of a roaster than coffeehouse. That said, we have enjoyed their coffee in the past privately, so we thought we would share this story.
Alchemy Coffee House is as perfect a name for a roastery as can be. Most who imbibe our favorite bean brew know that there has to be something more, something magical that transforms a cherry pit into a drink that can charge the body and brain, let alone be an economic force.
The building itself is just as we remembered it. Not much to look at, and nothing has changed. Blink and you’ll miss it. Those buildings that don’t look like much may surprise you. That can definitely be said for the building that houses Alchemy Coffee House.
You are quietly reminded in every direction you look that you are in a coffee house. Not in an intrusive way. The deco is part of the charm. The cafe’ is tiny. When you walk in the door you’re immediately met by a refrigerator and bakery display case. The freshly baked products (on top at eye level) are only a few, merely something to compliment the coffee that you came to purchase. The scones are usually spot-on. Don’t pass on those.
You do get the sense that the business is focused on the roasting side of coffee and not on the cafe’ side. With only 10 seats; 4 at tables, the rest at a front facing counter, and no wi-fi, it’s not the most welcoming of layouts. When it’s busy, forget about trying to get through the door. The layout speaks to a focus on take out.
With that kind of focus on takeout, we tried to order beans through their website, to no avail. The website had not been updated in at least 9 months. Not a big deal on most pages, except for the coffee ordering page. As of this publishing, Alchemy Coffee House still has June 2013’s menu and order filling policy posted. That forced us to drive to Wilmette in hopes that beans were readily available, and freshly roasted.
Luckily for us, Alchemy Coffee House still had plenty of coffee available for sale. We arrived at roughly 10:30am and this was what was left for sale that day. We have had their Harrar before, and it was dynamite. One of the best we have tasted. With that in mind, we opted for the Malabar. We were informed it was the last pound left, and nothing left in stock.
When we went to pay, Bradley told us that it is a cash only business. This caught us off-guard, especially where they supposedly sell through their website, and caused a slight issue. Fifteen minutes later, a dash across the center of town on a subzero day, and an incurred bank fee, we had ourselves a pound of Malabar. At about $16.00 per pound, it was worth the icy dash.
The Malabar was roasted that very morning at Alchemy Coffee House. As you can see, the roast was very light. Bradley informed us that they use their lightest roast on this particular coffee. During this tasting, we understood why they chose this roast for this coffee.
The coffee had mild notes throughout the entire process, partly due to the bean, and highlighted by the roast. We smelled nuts, particularly toasted almonds, spice, and anise when we opened the bag. It really reminded all of us of autumn, a coffee that would pair well with a pie. When we ground the coffee just prior to brewing, the same scents remained but in a much stronger scope.
We tasted the Malabar from Alchemy Coffee House using a V60 pour over at 198 degrees, and 10 grams of coffee for every 6 ounces.
From the moment the water hit the grounds, BOOM.You could tell that the coffee had been roasted just that morning. The gases released were enormous. (As an aside, I privately tested the Malabar a week later, and it still released a tremendous amount of gas, but in a more normal range.)
It tasted crisp, clean and clear, with no lingering aftertaste. The flavors were mainly marigold and dandelion, with an occasional almond note. As noted by one of the panelists, “this coffee was so good I didn’t need to add anything to it”.
So here is the skinny…Make sure you have cash in hand. Go to Alchemy Coffee House, 416 Linden Ave, Wilmette, IL. Get the scones to go with, and then enjoy in the comfort of your own home. You won’t be disappointed.
Special thanks to Jon R. and Rick K. for joining us for this tasting.