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Bridging Barbecue and Coffee: My Journey with Franklin BBQ and Fidalgo Coffee

Bridging barbecue and coffee: my journey with franklin bbq and fidalgo coffee 1

Fidalgo Coffee/2024

Bridging barbecue and coffee: my journey with franklin bbq and fidalgo coffee 3

Maltby Café/1988

This all relates to our Sunset Blend coffee from Fidalgo Coffee Roasters.

Cooking is not just my passion; it was also my first career choice. My friends and family know that I’m a seriously good home cook—it was once my career and now one of my hobbies. At 21 years old, I founded and was the chef at The Maltby Cafe, where those giant cinnamon rolls—my dough-proofing mistake—turned into a local craze.

I read every food book I can get my hands on, including Franklin BBQ by Aaron Franklin. I’ve been following him on YouTube to up my game with my backyard offset smoker. His approach to food and beverage mirrors mine: use the best raw ingredients and cook it the way it tastes best. While reading the book, I discovered that Aaron is a huge espresso drinker—not just for the taste but also out of necessity during his all-night brisket cooks.

In specialty coffee roasting, I’ve heard others in the industry negatively describe overly dark coffee as “BBQ.” About 30 years ago, my industry started to push back against larger brands that roasted mid-quality coffee very darkly. The roast flavor dominated, so why would they buy the highest-grade coffees only to obscure their unique characteristics with a dark roast? They are not buying the lowest grade, in my opinion, but rather coffee that’s good enough, then dark roasting it. However, the new wave roasters, mostly out of Portland around Y2K, introduced high-quality green coffees and roasted them to what we insiders would call a “cupping roast.” With the lighter roast, some people pucker over the acidity. The roastery I worked at in the ’90s would only roast Kona and Jamaica Blue Mountain at those light levels, shouting to that roasting room, “Don’t burn the Kona!” Today, I’m here to make a defense for quality medium and dark-roasted coffee done right, like we do at Fidalgo.

Aaron Franklin insists on using only USDA prime beef for his BBQ, and despite its high cost, his focus on quality ingredients and BBQ technique has led to incredible success. I agree, and this is how we operate at Fidalgo.

We buy the best stuff on earth: top-grade (specialty Arabica) coffee, fresh in-season, new crop. These are the top sorted coffees from origins mostly in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, and Ethiopia, both washed and pulp natural. We’ve had the same coffee buyer for the past 20 years, and it’s truly remarkable to witness that expertise. For instance, we offer a light-roasted specialty Guatemala Huehuetenango as our Koma Kulshan and our Ethiopia heirloom washed single origin is lightly roasted because we want to taste the Meyer lemon in that coffee. Our popular house blends use those same exotic coffees, and we take them to their fully developed place as medium and dark roasted coffees. Some might say we could save money by using lower-priced coffees, especially for the darker roasts. But our customers know that something special is going on, and it’s closely tied to the quality of the raw ingredients, which is evident in every cup.

For example, I recently hosted a family visiting from Los Angeles who ordered our coffee online at our roastery in Burlington (WA). I made them all a cup of our Sunset Blend, a classic dark roast. I used a 13:1 water-to-coffee ratio with water at 202°F, and they were all amazed by its smooth, delicious flavor. This blend is one of our dual hemisphere coffees, meaning we use coffee that’s a fresh crop, switching it out every six months between northern or southern hemisphere crops. Right now, Sunset is a blend from a coffee farm co-op from Huila, Colombia. I really like Colombian coffee, and this one hits all of my sweet spots. It’s that good.

I can’t wait to visit Franklin BBQ—it’s a long way from Seattle, but I’ll be in Dallas in two weeks for a trade show. It might just be worth the side trip.


Bridging barbecue and coffee: my journey with franklin bbq and fidalgo coffee 5

Darryl Miller | President & CEO
Fidalgo Coffee Roasters 

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856 North Hill Blvd
Burlington, Washington 98233
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856 North Hill Blvd
Burlington, WA 98233

[email protected]




[email protected]


856 North Hill Blvd
Burlington, WA 98233

[email protected]

Open 10am-3pm PST

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