WSU alumni want consumers to ‘drink differently’

Two young owners intent on crafting perfect cup of coffee



Grant Schoenlein, co-owner of Kamiak Coffee Company, smells the aroma of a coffee blend between South and Central American light-medium roast Monday at their warehouse in Moscow.

YASMEEN WAFAI, Evergreen assistant editor

Two former WSU students recently opened a coffee roasting company that aims to provide handcrafted, quality coffee from several countries around the world.

Kyle O’Malley and Grant Schoenlein met in college and flirted with the idea of starting a coffee company about five years ago. Instead, the two got caught up in pursuing other things and went into careers in finance.

However, the former college roommates decided they wanted to pursue that idea they once had, and Kamiak Coffee Company was born.

“Our main goal is just to roast incredible coffee,” Schoenlein said.

The business partners moved into a warehouse space in Moscow in June and began operations in October. O’Malley said they fell in love with the Palouse and wanted to show young alumni that success is possible in the area.

Although they are based in North Idaho, O’Malley and Schoenlein consider their business a global company — they roast coffee imported from Brazil, Columbia, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

“The farmers around the world really do 90 percent of the work,” O’Malley said.

He said it takes about four to six weeks for the coffee beans to travel from their country of origin to the U.S., and they arrive in their warehouse within six months of being picked.

“You have to start with really fresh coffee to get a perfect cup,” O’Malley said.

Currently, the business is run solely by O’Malley and Schoenlein. The two do everything from roasting the coffee beans to putting labels on the packages.

One big stop on the journey to the perfect cup is a process called cupping, a method of smelling, brewing and tasting coffee after it has been roasted to test its flavor and quality.

O’Malley said cupping scales down brewing to its most consistent form and is his favorite part of the process.

While he and Schoenlein still drink coffee for a caffeine kick, he said they mostly care about and enjoy the experience of drinking it.

“To know what’s in the cup is a real art form,” O’Malley said.

The two said they educated themselves on the business and O’Malley learned a lot working for a specialty roaster as a teenager.

While a cafe is on the duo’s bucket list, O’Malley said they wanted to start small and focus on roasting. They also hope to make their space an atmosphere for coffee education where they can inform business owners, employees and consumers about the coffee they serve and drink.

“It’s a process,” O’Malley said, “but it’s been a fun one.”