Seattle's Pike Place Market gets a makeover

One morning in August I was working the espresso shop when two women from Toronto came in. They were very excited to tell me about how they had found out about Ghost Alley. They had read an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail. I had no idea we had been mentioned and quickly found it online. 

Here is the write up: 

Ghost Alley Espresso



Skip the visit to the original Starbucks – sure, the logo looks different, but it serves the same mediocre coffee as all of them, I promise. Instead, for a truly unique and delicious experience, grab your morning java in Ghost Alley – right across from the famous (and always revolting) gum wall. The baristas actually care about each drink they create, and I've never had anything I didn't absolutely love. The place is tiny and the drinks are smooth and rich – and unlike anything you'd find in a chain. Don't expect a window filled with baked goods or sugary treats: The only thing they do is beverages. After a honey latte, you'll understand why.  Toronto Globe and Mail

The next morning another couple from Toronto came in equally as excited to be at the shop. In true Canadian style, they had gone out of their way to clip the article and bring it with them as a gift. Hat's off Canada, thanks for the mention and the kindness!



This is the first summer that Counterbalance Roasters  roasted all the coffee offered at the shop. Mercedes has been roasting with her husband, Rafael, on Queen Anne hill - behind his violin shop. They formed Counterbalance Roasters this past May. 

Counterbalance Roasters takes it name from the top of Queen Anne hill. The counterbalance was a tram system, balanced by weights, that would take passengers to the top of the hill. The original tram still sits under  Queen Anne Avenue. 


Mercedes, the owner of Ghost Alley Espresso, is a skilled home cook who relies on intuition & smell when cooking. Her experience cooking, in business and in the coffee world direct Counterbalance Roasters offerings. She carefully chooses the green beans, creates the roasting profiles and lovingly fills each retail bag offered by Counterbalance Roasters.

Rafael is a world renowned luthier and has been a part of the Queen Anne community for 30 years. His skills; restoring fine instruments, creating varnishes, and responding to the individual needs of his customers lend themselves to the art of roasting coffee. He is patient when roasting and eager to work with green beans from unique locations.

Rafael's son, Alex, also roasts coffee for Counterbalance Roasters. A jazz musician and recent college graduate, Alex is a natural at roasting coffee. He is especially good at well balanced medium roasts. 

Together the three roast in a tiny converted machine room behind the violin shop. They use a Diedrich 2.5 roaster. Green beans come from many origins and two are purchased directly from farms in Central America. 



Holidays in the Market

The Pike Place Market during December is a wonderful place to shop. Every Christmas my father would go through the craft line looking for presents. My brother and I have continued that tradition. On the craft line this year there are many things I have my eyes on; jewelry (Sabando Designs has a silver necklace in the shape of the molecule of caffeine), cutting boards, pottery, scarves & handmade bags from several designers. These are all things for my own wish list!

For family & friends a Market basket filled with goodies is a great gift. Filled with food items, dried flowers, flour sack towels, and coffee (of course) a Market basket is a unique gift. 

Here are some things going in my baskets this year;

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Creativity & Mixology

Start with great ingredients and the result is a delicious drink. A bartender is skilled at this. We as baristas at Ghost Alley Espresso use the same skills behind our modbar. If you read our reviews you will see a theme; creative drinks made with excellent ingredients. It's exciting to be in the Pike Place Market because our customers are often adventurous and willing to try new things. 

Some of our most creative drinks mix tea with espresso. For example, the Sweet Lydia. Named after the character in Breaking Bad, the Lydia is a chamomile tea & white chocolate latte with two shots of espresso. 

If you are really adventurous let us choose your mocha. The Mystery Mocha on our menu is made with a barista's choice of ingredients. These could include salts, like ghost pepper sea salt or spices, like cardamom or ginger. We have several chocolates and syrups to choose from as well. 

When it comes to the classics we like to keep it simple. We serve a short dry cappuccino. We offer dine in service for smaller drinks like a doppio with sparkling water. 

A bartender can often guess your drink as soon you walk up to the bar. We, as baristas, have the same ability. And if you need suggestions just ask. 

When in season we may pair fruit with espresso; a fresh fig mocha. 

Ghost Busters ON HALLOWEEN

Halloween 2015. Starting at 5:00 PM several members of the Pacific Northwest Ghostbusters team will be visiting Ghost Alley Espresso. These guys attend events throughout the Northwest and we are lucky to have them down at our shop this weekend. They will be posing for pictures. Any donations will be given to the Wounded Warrior Project. 

Come by and meet the Ghostbusters, have your picture taken and grab a coffee on Halloween. Market Ghost Tours run all day starting at 3:00 PM with tours until 7:00 PM. 



Freewheel Cargo

Every Tuesday a bright blue cargo box shows up just outside of the espresso shop, pulled by bicycle. In the box are all sorts of wonderful things; pastries, newspapers, juices and Middle Fork Roaster's coffee beans. Our beans are delivered by bicycle! 

Freewheel Cargo is located on Capitol Hill and delivers goods throughout Seattle almost every day of the week. The founders are committed to carbon free delivery and supporting small businesses in the Puget Sound. 

We look forward to our deliveries each week and we are a little jealous that our delivery riders get to spend their days trekking around the city with the aroma of fresh roasted Middle Fork coffee wafting behind them. 

Eater & the modbar

We have used the modbar in Ghost Alley Espresso since November 2014. It has completely changed the way we make espresso. The machine allows us to mimic any espresso machine in the world with its unique pressure profiling. Over the summer we pulled a single origin Brazilian bean with a very simple profile; 8 seconds of pre-infusion, 26 seconds for the pull. Now we are back to using a full city roast and the machine is set to pull like a Piston Lever machine. The modbar allows us to extract each different roast in a custom way.

We have also noticed a big change in customer interaction. Our customers can see their drinks prepared which encourages conversation and education. Putting in the modbar was one of the best decisions for my shop. This article at discusses how the machine was designed and showcases the inventors.



We are saying farewell to our lovely espresso machine, the Unic Twin Rumba. It has served us well for the last two years. It has held up under high volume and strong handed cranks of the portafilters.

But like all good things  - they become even better things with a little faith. And that is exactly what we have for our new machine, the ModBar, an under the counter espresso machine. With our new machine we have the ability to fully use our counter space and increase our customer interaction. We will also be the first coffee shop installing one in Seattle.  Check out the photos here and visit this website to see why this is so exciting:

The ModBar will be installed in the next few weeks at Ghost Alley Espresso. Fortunately it will be an easy install and we will not have to structurally change our counter.

Please come by in November to check out this revolutionary espresso machine. And, if you know anyone that needs a seriously awesome commercial machine our faithful Twin Rumba is for sale. 

The Hangover Cure*

We tested our own version of this drink on some of the Market workers over the summer. While we can not state this is an actual cure* we did find this helped after a late night and a few too many.   

*Not a medical claim, not for tea drinkers.

A Van Diemen is a drink that purportedly helps a hangover. It consists of Ovaltine, chocolate, castor sugar, pineapple, water and full-cream milk. The milk fat helps with nausea, the water hydrates, the sugar revs you up. Not sure what the pineapple does.


The "Hangover Cure" is a 16 oz iced quad Ovaltine mocha with sea salt. 

We take a heaping scoop of Ovaltine chocolate malt, add dark chocolate, grind sea salt into the drink, pour four shots of espresso in and add cold milk and ice. For the full effect  - make it a breve and get all that good fat delivered to your belly right away. 

If that doesn't do the trick, perhaps compliment our rich chocolate drink with a fresh pineapple from one of the Market fruit stands? 


Three days in Seattle

Located in the number one tourist location in Washington we often get asked "what  should I do while I am here in Seattle?" There are so many things to see and do. It's an incredible city. Of course the first thing we recommend is having a latte, grabbing a map, and sitting in the Alley. At our shop we have maps and brochures for attractions we recommend. 

  • The Seattle Coffee Crawl put on by Seattle by Foot. The tour takes you throughout downtown Seattle visiting coffee shops and sampling drinks and some food. It is not only a great way to start a trip but it gives you a great overview of the city. 
  • The Aquarium. It is impressive.
  • The Space Needle. The secret, book your lunch there. The cost of lunch includes admission to the sky deck. 
  • Take a trolley. Get a pass for the Emerald City Trolley. Get the pass that takes you to Fremont, Ballard and Queen Anne. Each neighborhood is worth exploring. 
  • Do a Market Ghost Tour. The tours have been a part of the community for decades and they offer a unique perspective on the Market, filling you with stories of the people and places that have created the Market as an international destination. 

It is often that people say they have only three days in Seattle. Our last recommendation is stay longer!