Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coffeehouse Christmas List

Many coffeehouses are closed on Christmas check below or call ahead. Peace and Good Cheer!

Open for Christmas!
Anna Bananna's Coffee, 1214 NW 21st and 8716 N. Lombard: 7:30am-Midnight
Caffe Brioso, 3907 NE Martin Luther King Blvd., 7am-7pm
Coffeehouse-Five, 740 N. Killingsworth: 8am-1pm
Red and Black Cafe, 400 SE 12th Ave.: 10am-7pm
The Red E Cafe, 1006 N. Killingsworth: 8am-3pm
Speedboat Coffee, 5115 SE Foster Rd.: 9am-1pm
Stumptown Coffee Roasters, all locations, 7am-4pm

Closed on Christmas and Beyond
Baker and Spice, 6330 SW Capitol Hwy: Closed through the weekend
Cellar Door Coffee, 2001 SE 11th: Closed through Saturday
Ladybug Organic Coffee, 8438 N. Lombard: Closed through Jan. 1st

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Coffeehouse Hours in the PDX 2009

Just because it's Thanksgiving, doesn't mean you don't need your coffee. Your first choice if you are staying in town is to swing by Coffeehouse Northwest between the hours of 8am and noon. Coffeehouse Northwest will be serving all espresso drinks plus homemade eggnog for free! All your generous tips will go to Sisters of the Road.

Below are a few special Thanksgiving hours listings from your favorite neighborhood coffeehouses:

Albina Press, NE Albina and SE Hawthorne, 7am - 2pm
BARISTA, 539 NW 13th in the Pearl: 8am - 2pm
Crema Bakery and Cafe, 2728 SE Ankeny St., 7am - 6pm
Little Red Bike Cafe, 4823 N. Lombard : 8am - 2pm w/ Thanksgiving food specials!
Lyrik Cafe, 2035 NE 39th: 8am - Noon
Posies Cafe, 8208 N. Denver Ave., 6:30am - 2pm
Random Order Coffeehouse and Bakery, 1800 NE Alberta, 6:30am - 1pm
Red E Coffee, 1006 NE Killingsworth: 6am - 3pm
Ristretto Roasters, 3808 N. Williams Ave., 6:30am - Noon
Speedboat Coffee, 5115 SE Foster Rd., 8am - Noon
Stumptown, Belmont and Division, 7am - 4pm
Sweetpea Baking, 1205 SE Stark St., 9am - Noon w/fresh pumpkin pies for purchase!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

At The Cupping Table: Ristretto Roasters

Back in the heat of August, I think it was, Ristretto Roasters set out the blue dishes and little white bowls at their N. Williams location for a cupping of three of their roasts.

(I took many photos of the event and then promptly lost my data cable so I was unable to upload the photos for this blog post until now.)

Ristretto Roasters is led by Din Johnson who has put together a great team of baristas some of who were on hand to take me and many other devoted Ristretto fans through the steps of a professional cupping.

And I say "professional" because also on hand were some of the farmers and coffee experts from South America who joined us in the sniffing and slurping. These guys are the ones growing the beans Ristretto uses and they were a lot of fun to hang out with. They handed out shirts to lucky cuppers and showed us all up when it came to the slurp.

When we arrived we were all given a sheet of paper to write down our aroma and tasting notes on the three roasts on the table. There was a Guatamalen, Brazilian and Ethiopian roast if I remember correctly.

All three were very different from each other from the first dry sniff (grounds only), to the last slurp.

What has always amazed me is how a single coffee can travel over many different aromas and flavors by going through a hot water pour, agitation and finally a cooling off period. Each step brings out different pieces of the coffee's personality that some people would comment that while they thought they knew which coffee they would enjoy most based on the dry sniff, but once they slurped the cooling coffee, their opinion totally changed.

In the end it was the Guatamalen roast that was the crowd favorite. Nobody much cared for the Ethiopian, but that may have had something to do with our biased South American guests.

Ristretto puts on quite an impressive cupping with great care given to the coffee and they really let the participants feel out the coffees for themselves and share what they liked and didn't like.

While it could be easy for coffee professionals to simply dictate to the cupping newbie what they should taste and smell, I think it's important to listen to all the participants' opinons. We are the ones buying the coffee, and we may not be coffee experts, but we know what we like.

I've heard some people in the coffee business dismiss the public cupping because for some roasters the subtle differences in a coffee just don't come across an untrained palate. Or that there is just too much information to distill in such a short time with a coffee that there really is no point.

But even if we bumble our way through a cupping or two, I think a lot can be learned and appreciated in a public cupping.

Ristretto will be holding more cuppings in the future so look out for those. Kudos to Din and the staff at Ristretto for putting on a great show.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I ♥ PDX Coffee

Heart Coffee and Roasting

2211 E. Burnside
7AM-7PM Everyday

Heart Coffee and Roasting has just opened up shop on E. Burnside and they are ready to show you that the fun has only just begun here in Coffee City, USA.

First off, Heart Coffee seems to have no fear of letting the world in on their passion. Most of the time the roasting is a private affair where the victories and defeats of man vs. machine are hidden from view of the consumer.

Taking center stage is the largest and most expensive-looking roasters I've ever seen. More like a Damian Hurst work-of-art-in-progress than coffee-producing machine, having the roaster out in the middle of the cafe is a bold move.

The dangers of micro-roasting are many. I've heard that the difference of even a few seconds in the roaster can make a huge difference to a batch of beans. Sometimes that difference is only perceptible to the most refined palates. But even still, we'll see if roasting to a crowd will make a difference in the cup over time.

Heart Coffee is one of the more fascinatingly decorated coffeehouses looking like a biology classroom with sleek updates.

There are diagrams of animal innards along with the detailed drawing of a human heart. Everything is cut open and ready for examination at Heart Coffee.

Equipped with a custom espresso machine and a vac-pot station, Heart Coffee currently has five roasts up for your tasting. Kenya Muthewathi, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe grade 2, and El Borbollo’n for single origin espresso; Ethiopia Mordecofe for drip; and Ethiopia Mordecofe and Guatemala Finca Villaure for siphon brewing (aka, vac-pot).

But, that is what they have today. Tomorrow it could change. A fantastic continuation of what Portland is quickly becoming known for, Heart is roasting, brewing and selling coffee with quick turnover. This gives them great control over their product and visitors to their shop will get the freshest brew available.

The Guatemalan is a big stand-out for me. It dances around your mouth giving off tones of cocoa and citrus in the front and cooling to black and blueberry flavors. For a coffee lover these coffees are amazing to taste.

Paired up with this sparkling new coffee is one of the best, and hardly seen baked goods in town. Random Order Coffeehouse and Bakery is supplying Heart Coffee with their top-notch muffins and pies, filled with mostly local fruits. Hopefully this signals a movement toward seeing more Random Order goods in coffeehouses all across town.

So, needless to say Heart Coffee is a must-see for any Portland coffee drinker. Taste the local goodness today, and, well, probably read about it in the New York Times later.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Coffee for the Greater Good...of Business

I've often wondered what it is that people say to loan officers when they want to start a coffee business in Portland but don't have enough capital to go it alone.

"Yes I know there is a lot of coffee in Portland, but my business will be different..."

"What Portland really needs and wants is just good quality coffee..."

"What!? How many other coffee businesses are there in Portland?"

But regardless, another coffeehouse, roaster, retail brand, or coffee service company keeps popping up.

Hence, Citizen Coffee. Citizen Coffee currently only services the Ecotrust building in the Pearl District, but I imagine their ambitions are greater.

Citizen Coffee's website purports to be "the only Portland coffee venue that features Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers direct-relationship coffee beans."

Sustainable Harvest tries to close the middleman gap between coffee farmers and roasters. It's a noble endeavor with the assumed benefit of better financial structures for the farmer and roaster. But Sustainable Harvest is themselves a for-profit company that itself would benefit from large brokered transactions from an increasing list of farms and roaster-businesses.

Back in Portland though, the same folks that bring you all those lovely Laughing Planet restaurants are the ones who now bring you Citizen Coffee. All of Citizen Coffee's pastries are baked at the Laughing Planet in the Ecotrust building or at the Laughing Planet's commissary.

Oddly enough though you can't find Citizen Coffee at any Laughing Planet location. They are still serving Portland Roasting coffee. I've been told that is only temporary and soon all Laughing Planets will serve their Citizen Coffee brand.

I also assume that eventually the roasting will be done in Portland, possibly by Laughing Planet themselves. Right now all the Citizen Coffee beans are roasted by Dillanos Coffee Roasters up in Sumner, WA.

Laughing Planet has created a fantastic brand for themselves which is the best asset a business can have. The brand is recognizable, respected and trusted among Portlanders. From the Citizen Coffee website, it seems they are continuing their reach with a great brand of coffee that is trying to stand apart from the rest of the coffee pack.

If I was an investor, Laughing Planet would seem like a good place to park my money for the time being. They have a good sense of what it takes to be a successful food company in Portland and I imagine Citizen Coffee is only one item on their long list of possible ventures for the future.

I can't say much for the actual coffee in the cup. I've only tried it once and it was served at an extremely hot temperature. As it cooled though, it seemed full-bodied and pleasant, nothing too outstanding to mention. But I will say that the Cosmic muffin I tried was pretty incredible.

The Cosmic muffin is a vegan, fruit-juice sweetened bran muffin with what looked like apricot pieces scattered throughout. All the baked goods look pretty good actually and I will probably be back soon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Neighborhoodie Coffeehouses: The Clearing Cafe

A lot can be said about the big-name coffeehouses in Portland. The Goliaths like Stumptown, BARISTA, and The Albina Press always sneak their way into The New York Times or national foodie blogs.

I think what makes Portland such an interesting place to live and drink coffee is that those big names can saddle up next to the smallest of the small coffeehouses and everyone can be successful.

So begins my small series on finding the "neighborhoodiest" of all neighborhood coffeehouses. The "neighborhoodie" coffeehouses are those that don't even rely on much advertisement or perhaps don't even have a website or blog. They do just fine with their surrounding homes or businesses and have carved out a specific niche market.

These businesses may not grab headlines but they are a necessary part of their hyper-local community. And what's Portland if not a patchwork of small communities sewn together to create most colorful and wonderful place to live?

The Clearing Cafe

2772 NW Thurman St.
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 841-6240

Monday - Thursday 6:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Friday 6:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Saturday:7:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Sunday:8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Located at the foot of a busy Forest Park trailhead, The Clearing Cafe is a small coffee space in the quite, colloquially known, "Nob Hill" neighborhood. (Technically it is the Northwest District neighborhood.)

This spot serves up Ristretto Roasters coffee, toasts Kettleman's bagels, and treats its customers to pastries from Nuvrei. In addition, there are some wholly nutritious "Essential Bowls" that will surely bring you back from the brink after hitting the Forest Park trails.

What I especially love about neighborhood locations are the little details that you won't find anywhere else. At The Clearing Cafe you can enjoy a drink called the Honey Cardamom Latte. This great, warming drink is kind of like a chai with a shot of espresso. The coffee takes a backseat to the cardamom and the honey smooths everything out making for a great sipping drink on rainy day.

If you're not spending your time working or visiting with friends, The Clearing Cafe has an interesting selection of books to pass the time. Most notably, I found a small, well-curated pile of poetry. A nice little find considering nowhere else will you find Robert Frost at the ready.

There are many nice little finds scattered all through the city and while The Clearing Cafe is not a flashy destination spot for tourist, it is certainly a must-see for any Portlander.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Portland Coffee is for the Birds

So what's up with Portland coffeehouses and their bird logos?

Send me an email ( with the names of the above coffeehouses and be entered to win a coffee gift certificate!

Contest closes at midnight on Monday, August 24th.


Thanks to all who participated in the contest, the answers are:

Posies Cafe
Happy Sparrow Cafe and
Half and Half

The winner received a $5 gift certificate to one of the above coffeehouses. How sweet is that?

Also, I thought of another bird logo, a little late to make it into the contest, but here it is:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

At The Cupping Table: Coffeehouse-Five

Readers of this blog are most likely aware that Portland Coffeehouse Journal does the Twitter thing. I've been really encouraged by the number of followers I've garnered in such a short time.

But sometimes, for whatever reason, people stop following me. And while I try not to take it personally, it makes me reevaluate the message that I'm sending through the Twitter-tubes and try to see if it's worth reading.

So when I woke up one morning I noticed that my followers had diminished slightly in the last couple of days. Maybe there's just not enough exciting Portland coffee news out there, I thought.

But really, I can't blame Portland for not being an interesting Tweeter. Determined to get back on track I started making a game plan to visit a bunch of new shops, write a list of new blog post ideas, start some rumors, update links on the blog, etc. (Just kidding about the rumors)

And then this came across my Twitter feed:

Surprisingly, I have never participated in a cupping before. I feel a little ashamed to admit that since I am such a coffee fan and live in such a coffee-fueled city. But there it is.

I've seen cuppings occur at Extracto Coffeehouse and Ristretto Roasters, but never had the time to really go through one beginning to end.

So I biked over to Coffeehouse-Five to give it a go.

Coffeehouse-Five is a relatively newer coffeehouse on the corner of Killingsworth and Albina, across from Portland Community College.

Originally they served Seattle's Caffe Vita coffee but have switched over to local micro-roaster Coava Coffee.

Sam Purvis of Coffeehouse-Five took us through the cupping process explaining the rules like there is no talking or reacting to the coffees as you sniff and slurp. You don't want to influence the other tasters with your reactions!

Sam ground up five different single origins from Coava but kept their identities hidden from us tasters.

He did let us know that the boldness of each coffee increased from left to right as we sniffed and tasted so that an exceptionally strong coffee did not overpower the next, lighter roast.

First we all did a "dry sniff" which includes agitating the grounds in the cups and then taking a big whiff making sure to keep your mouth open when you breathe it in.

This will help bring the scents to the back of the nasal passages and help your brain identify what you are smelling as food and help pick out subtle notes and aromas.

It seemed weird at first but you really need to get your face close to the coffee and then bam! A whole new world of coffee flavors will come springing out of those cups!

After the dry sniff, hot water is poured over the cups and we begin the next round of sniffing. It is really amazing what a difference there is between the dry grounds and the grounds being brewed.

We waited the appropriate amount of time and then Sam led us in a demonstration of how to break the crust that has formed from the wet grounds on top of the cup.

More sniffing and then finally the grounds are gently skimmed from the top of the cup and we are ready to start slurping! Tasting coffee appropriately requires taking in a lot of air as you take in the liquid. So in order to get the most aeration you need to slurp loudly and quickly.

This takes practice as my slurps were nowhere near as loud as the professionals at the table.

We go through a few rounds of this as coffee will take on more of its personality as it cools.

It was a fun and eye-opening experience and I can't wait to try it again with other roasters. Sam let me know that Coffeehouse-Five hopes to open up their cupping table to any local roaster in Portland. All coffees are welcome to stop by and open up their bags of beans to be experienced by the public.

As of now, Coava will be available for sniffing and slurping every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm in Coffeehouse-Five. Be a coffee agnostic no longer. Make a point to stop by Coffeehouse-Five and practice the ritual of cupping.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The New Kids on Your Block

Oh boy, what a year for new coffeehouses. Halfway through 2009 and already there are enough small businesses out there to revitalize half a dozen neighborhoods.

Below is a quick run-down of the new spots in PDX. Chances are one of these is probably just around the block from you, so be friendly, go meet a new coffeehouse today.

The Red E Cafe - Serving Coava Coffee
1006 N. Killingsworth Street, Portland OR 97217
6AM - 8PM everyday

You know when a really good TV show spins off another TV show? Or when band members of a successful band break off to create their own sound? Well sometimes it happens in coffee too. Introducing Keith Miller and Mindy Farley, onetime employees of the esteemed Albina Press, now running their own shop. Between the two of them they have tons of coffee and coffeehouse experience and it shows. The Red E Cafe is simple, functional and only open a month or so, it already has it's own set of regular customers from the neighborhood.

What is most exciting about Red E is the new coffee being slung here.

Another Albina Press ex-pat Matt Higgins, has been roasting his own beans under the name Coava Coffee. And aside from the occasional BARISTA rotation, Red E is the only place you'll be able to get this great coffee.

Higgins puts a lot of thought, elbow grease and love into his roasts and each cup is full of personality without being overbearing in flavor.

Cartola Coffee - Serving Stumptown Roasters
2723 NE 7th Avenue, Portland, OR. 97212
Mon-Fri. 7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Sat-Sun. 7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Downright Parisian, Cartola is a sweet little spot in Irvington. Like Red E, this place is brightening up the 7th and Knott neighborhood. It certainly matches the sleek little condo that went up down the block last year, but don't write it off as gentrification. This place has heart.

It was opened up by the hardworking team of Simone de Souza and Kit Ciorba.The shots pulled here are very solid. They manage to tease out the subtle notes of Stumptown's Hairbender more than most places.

You will find a great cup of coffee and originally, you could find goods from Pearl Bakery, the only place on the east side carrying Pearl Bakery items. However they have recently switched to that master of the coffeehouse pastry, Nuvrie.

Posies Cafe - Serving Ristretto Roasters
8208 N. Denver Ave., Portland OR 97217
Mon – Thur: 7am – 9pm
Fri: 7am – 10pm
Sat: 8am – 10pm
Sun: 8am – 6pm

Posies Cafe opened earlier this spring in the Kenton neighborhood. This cafe is the best example so far of micro-local. Jessie Burke envisioned using only the most local vendors, suppliers and employees to create this destination spot for cafe-lovers of all sizes.

Serving Florio pastries, located in the North Portland area, and Ristretto Roasters, also in the North Portland area, Posies sets the bar high for other businesses wanting to be thought of as "local." For instance, all the chairs in the place were sourced from about 4 or 5 doors down the block at the antique shop. That's local.

Acme Coffee - Serving Ristretto Roasters
1431 SE 40th Ave Portland, OR 97214
Monday-Friday 7am-7pm.
Saturday 8am-7pm and Sunday 10am-4pm

Sometimes don't you want to just chuck your desk job and do something that really excites you? Ken Sellen and Jason Gooder did just that, and the result is Acme Coffee. Located off Hawthorne, this place is hard to put into words.

It's a little cluttered on the outside, with antiques and signs decorating the porch of this old house. But step inside and you'll find a finely decorated and warm living room. There is a cherry tree located out back where the neighbors stop by with their ladder to have their fill of free fruit. Friendly is kind of an understatement when describing Acme Coffee.

Like Posies, Acme Coffee is serving Ristretto Roasters, extending Ristretto's reach into the SE Portland area. You can enjoy the always classy Nuvrie baked goods, but for now, you'll have to have cash, as Acme has yet to hook up their card swiping service.

Happy Sparrow Cafe - Serving Batdorf and Bronson
3001 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214
M-F 7am - 2pm, Sa 9am-3pm

Ever get tired of the same ol' doughnut or scone business you see around Portland? Me too. Welcome to the Happy Sparrow Cafe, where you can get a selection of warm, freshly baked buns with a variety of fillings.

They are called Kolaches and when I stopped by they had a chicken and jalapeno bun, vegan bun, and sausage with Tillamook cheddar bun.

I actually can't wait for the cold, damp mornings of winter to come so I can warm up with a cup of coffee and some of these moist stuffed buns. Also available are flavored sparkling sodas, Vietnamese iced coffee and smoothies.

Elevated Coffee - Serving Stumptown Roasters
5261 NE MLK Blvd Portland OR 97211
6am-7pm everyday

Perking up the Vanport Square development on MLK, Elevated Coffee brings you Stumptown and local jazz. With its white baby grand piano in the corner and lots of local art decorating the main wall, Elevated is certainly trying to be a hub of community activity for the MLK area.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Portland Coffeehouse Journal: The Vegan Post

To be clear, I'm not vegan. Though I am a fan. I marvel at the will it takes to completely eschew all animal products from your life and strive to live "cruelty free."

Really, it would just be nice to lose some weight and learn how to incorporate kohlrabi into an everyday diet.

But let's say you're vegan and you love your espresso. What to do?

Aside from checking out this great photo tour of Portland's best soy lattes from preeminent local vegan blogger, Jess of Let's Get Sconed, please join me on a short tour of Portland's vegan and vegan-friendly coffeehouses.

Now, I've only found one completely vegan coffeehouse and that is Sweetpea Baking Co. While more "bakery" than "coffeehouse," they do serve espresso and always feature cute folks typing on laptops and perhaps nursing a brand new vegan tattoo from neighbor Scapegoat Tattoo, so they count as a coffeehouse in my book.

This place has absolutely no animal products to offer. As in, you will need to get your latte with rice, soy, almond or hemp milk. The prices are still reasonable and the milks are carefully handled to stand up to the steaming and mixing.

Sweetpea serves up Stumptown coffee and by far one of the best scones I've ever had, vegan or not. They also feature a weekend brunch that is killer. Get stuffed on the freshest breakfast items from a rotating menu. If you live in Portland, you must try this brunch at least once in your life.

Next up is Black Sheep Bakery, also mainly a bakery that sells their treats at farmer's markets and local grocery stores, but their two shop locations are a great place to stop in for fresh-baked muffins and bars.

Black Sheep does not discriminate against us omnivores and does offer moo milk with your coffee. As well, their 523 NE 19th location serves up vegan and non-vegan lunch and breakfast items.

I have to admit that I don't enjoy their baked goods as much as Sweetpea's. Too much molasses for my tastes. At each location they serve up Portland Roasting coffee, which, as I've said before, is not one of my favorite roasters.

I think with a little quality control and tweaking of their muffin recipes, Black Sheep could be a great shop. But it is not at the top of my list.

At the very bottom of my list is The Waypost on N. Williams. I only include it here because they had all vegan items in their display case and had mostly vegan lunch selections.

When I stopped in it was about 8am on a weekday and the only offerings were bagels and one or two vegan muffins. Both of these muffins were stuffed with vegan sausage.

I bought the vegan-sausage-stuffed-muffin. Was a little apprehensive about what it would taste like? Yes. How was it? Let's just say one bite was all I needed to stuff the muffin back in the bag and make a bee line to a different coffeehouse for a decent breakfast.

I think a vegan-sausage-stuffed-muffin could be an incredibly delicious treat, this one was not.

But a yucky muffin was not the only disappointing part of The Waypost. The barista was distracted, almost forgetting to even take my payment. And when he handed me my 12 oz. latte, there was only about 10 oz. of latte in the cup.

It's funny that we sometimes only spend about 3-5 minutes in a coffeehouse and in that time several things can go horribly wrong and turn us off of a place forever.

When you live in a city with so many coffee options, coffeehouses have to be on top of their game all the time in order to keep customers coming back.

Looking to offer another vegan choice in Portland is Back to Eden Bakery. Providing New Seasons Market Concordia with baked vegan goods, Back to Eden Bakery is about to open its doors on its first retail location at 2217 NE Alberta St. any day now. Here's hoping Back to Eden will be serving up some quality coffee along side their cakes and cookies.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the vegan-friendly coffeehouses in Portland. Seven Virtues Coffee in East Portland also has many vegan options. But this should be enough to get you started on your way to getting caffeinated without the cruel.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Coffee at Portland Pride 2009

On Sunday, June 14th the Gay Pride Parade made its way through downtown Portland. What does this have to do with local coffee? Well, the Mayor's Office invited all the local bike groups to be a part of their "float" and joining them was local coffee purveyors Trailhead Coffee Roasters and Courier Coffee Roasters.

Above is Joel of Courier Coffee Roasters giving his ride a little pride.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cafe Velo

Spring has arrived and while not technically a "coffeehouse," Cafe Velo is now operating every Saturday at the Portland Farmer's Market in the South Park Blocks.

Cafe Velo is a movable coffee operation that serves Stumptown coffee via French Press or brewed-to-order in Melitta porcelain coffee makers. They set out the bags of pre-ground coffee in the center of their counter and scoop the stuff into filtered Melitta drip cups. Then hot water is added, carefully stirred and in a couple of minutes you have a very fresh cup of coffee.

Today they featured six different Stumptown blends including the Ethiopia Wondo and Costa Rican Villalobos, which I tried today, all for $2.50 for a 12 oz cup. (No comments on the taste as I just came down with a cold taking my tastebuds out of commission.)

I love Cafe Velo because it gives the you the opportunity to try something new everytime you visit the market. Even if you don't intimately know what you are choosing, I certainly don't, it's
great to get out of your coffee comfort zone and try something new.

Coffee should be treated like wine. There are different varietals and nuances, tones and aromas that you can only pick up on after many cups of different beans. And Cafe Velo makes it easy to get started on being the coffee snob you always wanted to be.

More photos of Cafe Velo's bakfiets here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Albina Press' Competition Coffee

Kevin Fuller, owner of Albina Press, and Stumptown Coffee have made available their special "competition blend" beans for sale at the NE Albina Press location.

Today is the last day to purchase your own bag of the coffee Fuller will be competing with in this weekend's United States Barista Championship!

I picked up my bag yesterday evening.

It is a single-origin blend. Sounds like an oxymoron but Stumptown worked with their farm to cultivate two great beans to blend together in what Fuller describes as part grapefruit and part caramel. (Food GPS, scroll way down.)

I'm enjoying the blend this rainy morning and can't wait to see the 2009 champion barista crowned tomorrow at the Convention Center. Good luck to all the Portland baristas!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Coffeehouse Northwest and BARISTA, Part I of II

Since the early 1990s the coffeehouse has grown from a niche market into a huge industry that has seen espresso consumption shoot up in popularity.

However the differences in the product being sold have become small, completely ubiquitous lacking in satisfaction.

In Portland, people have come to appreciate the small differences that make one business stand apart from another, one coffee roast better than another, one barista much more talented than the rest. Even so, the landscape of espresso and coffeehouses has become more and more flat, and the competition for consumers' dollars more and more fierce.

Location and branding may be the last two options for a coffeehouse business to set themselves apart from the competition here in Portland. Even quality and knowledge of the beans has been taken for granted in this artisan coffee town.

In taking a close look at two Portland coffeehouses, however, there is a new era in coffee approaching. Portland will be able to watch the evolution of the coffeehouse move from a cookie-cutter beverage industry into an interactive and highly variable coffee experience.

Coffeehouse Northwest

Located on the pedestrian unfriendly strip of W. Burnside, Coffeehouse Northwest is almost frustratingly uncharacteristic.

There is little pretension and pretext, but the coffee just tastes better, the baristas just try harder, and the owner, Adam McGovern, just cares a little bit more about bringing an authentic coffee-tasting experience to every customer.

For example, most coffeehouses in Portland use Stumptown's Hairbender roast with Sunshine Dairy's milk to make their drinks. However, McGovern discovered the superior taste of using Organic Valley milk mixed with Sunshine Dairy and uses it for all cappuccino drinks. Organic Valley is a more expensive milk, but the taste experience was valuable enough to make the switch.

Recently Coffeehouse Northwest made another investment to show they care about their customer's coffee experience.

At Coffeehouse Northwest you are now able to order espresso, french press, Eva Solo, Chemex, Melitta, or moka pot coffee. These are not roasts or brands of coffee, these are brewing methods of making coffee. (If you'd like to learn the differences between these methods, you can ask the baristas at Coffeehouse Northwest and they are more than happy explain the different styles.)

The hope is that there are enough people who also want to be able to make the distinction and once they do, they won't be able to go back to Albina Press or any other coffeehouse in Portland. I think the hope is that they not only will stand apart from the competition, but that they will lead the way in a whole new coffeehouse format.

Where coffeehouses have just one or two ways to enjoy coffee beans, Coffeehouse Northwest now has five.

Imagine walking into a coffeehouse at 7am and instead of hearing customers order "12 oz. latte" or "grande non-fat mocha" you hear "12 oz. Ethopian Eva Solo" or "tall Hairbender moka pot."

Some of these methods take up to four minutes of brew time before you can get your drink. The beans are specially ground for each method, water heated, coffee steeped and then served. And in many cases there are certain roasts that work best with each method, making your options for a morning beverage rise exponentially.

Sounds extremely fussy. Sounds like a gimmick to squeeze more dollars out customers. (a 12 oz. moka pot coffee costs $6) But anything you could say about this new business choice isn't something that wasn't already said about the proliferation of coffee culture across the United States in the early 1990s. And none of us would consider ourselves fussy just because it takes more than three words to describe our favorite drink.

McGovern says they are still working out a good flow to get these drinks prepared and equipment cleaned in a quick manner. There will be a slow education process to get people well-versed in the many options and delicate nuances of what they're doing behind the counter. But Coffeehouse Northwest has too big of a reputation, too much at stake, for anyone to ignore this development.

There is also a hope that this will expand the customer experience of each roast of coffee. Bringing out subtle differences in aroma and flavor and causing customers to want to possibly recreate the experience at home.

It is certainly a new approach to coffee unseen yet in the mainstream prepared coffee market.

(Part II: BARISTA, coming soon)

Friday, February 27, 2009

PDX: Tamp Your Face Off II

Here are some photos from last week's PDX: Tamp Your Face Off II event at Blend Coffee Lounge on N. Killingsworth.

Below, some of the competitors. First-time latte artist, Laurie; and competitors from 10 Speed Coffee Roasters, Doppio Coffee and Lounge, Backspace and Extracto Coffeehouse.

And the finished products. Yes, that is a latte in a half-can of Pabst. Ask for it at your next visit to Blend.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ristretto Roasters

This past summer, while biking down Vancouver Ave. to work, I knew that Ristretto would be opening its second location on Williams any day. It was a bright morning and all of a sudden I found myself being pulled east toward Williams to see if Ristretto was open yet and what do you know?

It was their first day of business. Well, it was day zero, really. They were giving away coffee for free. The coffeehouse equivalent of a "soft opening."

Do I have a coffee sixth sense or what?

Now PDX Coffeehouse Journal readers are well aware that I feel a diplomacy to all those coffeehouses out there, each offering it's own unique recipe to the city. Well, there is diplomacy no more.

Ristretto Roasters is my most favorite coffeehouse in Portland.

I've visited their Fremont location before, but it is really out of the way for me. But now, with quality coffee, nice space and a convenient location it takes the top spot on my coffeehouse hierarchy.

Does this mean I have eschewed all other coffees for this one location? Not really. There is no fun in that. I do still believe that all shops out there have something special to offer. I'm just going to be enjoying Ristretto's offerings a lot more now.