Bakesale for Japan April 2nd @ Ristretto Roasters & Barista

March 28th, 2011

This Satuday in Portland 10am-2pm!

Giovanna Zivny, Elizabeth Nathan and others have organized Portland’s Bakesale for Japan next Saturday, April 2nd from 10am-2pm at two of Portland’s favorite coffee shops — Ristretto Roasters (Williams) and Barista (Pearl).

Home and professional bakers are grabbing their whisks and cranking up their ovens to raise money for Peace Winds Japan, a partner of Mercy Corps.

This is a nationwide effort (Bakesale for Japan currently has generated 17+ bake sales stretching from San Francisco to NYC) that originated with Oakland chef Samin Nosrat. She raised $23K for Haiti last year with just three bake sale locations. Portland’s Bakesale for Japan has a matching donation lined up from Intel.

If you’d like to bake (amateurs and professionals welcome) or volunteer for Bakesale for Japan contact

Here is the amazing list of Portland folks signed up so far to contribute tasty baked goods: Little T American Baker, Alder Pastry & Dessert, Woodlawn Coffee and Pastry, Fleur de Lis Bakery and Cafe, Alma Chocolate, Kir Jensen (The Sugar Cube), Kristen Murray (Paley’s Place), Kim Boyce (Golden Oven), Bakery Bar, Suzette, Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery, Petunia’s Pies & Pastries, Confectionery, Little Branch Jam, and Bees & Beans.

Portland’s Bakesale for Japan
10am-2pm Saturday, April 2nd @

Ristretto Roasters (N Williams location)
3808 N Williams Ave
Barista (Pearl location)
539 NW 13th Ave

Nossa Familia Coffee — Stop by the North Portland Cafe

October 30th, 2009
No other local coffee company sources solely farm-direct AND family-direct coffee.

No other local coffee company sources solely farm-direct AND family-direct coffee.

Augusto Carvalho Dias Carneiro co-owner of Nossa Familia Coffee — which was founded in 2006 and is the only family-traded coffee in Portland — grew up in Rio de Janeiro but spent holidays on his family’s farm eight hours west of Brazil’s capital. According to Augusto that’s where most of his childhood memories are. Some of the fondest include early morning horseback rides with his grandpa and his grandpa’s friends through the coffee fields.

These days Augusto who’s lived in Portland since 1996 still likes to ride around his family’s sixth generation Brazilian farm. He just has different transportation now — his bicycle. Augusto is a cycle enthusiast and has made a couple trips to the farm with fellow mountain biking friends. (The last time I saw Augusto he was setting up a coffee booth at a cycle event at the Washington County Fairplex in Hillsboro the same weekend as the Home Orchard Society’s All About Fruit Show.) Of course anytime Augusto returns home now — usually once or twice a year — there’s plenty of work to be done.

Although Nossa doesn’t roast its own bean (another Portland roasting company roasts for them) Augusto hopes to in the near future. Nossa currently imports about five percent of the farm’s Brazilian coffee — about 80,000 pounds a year — so there’s plenty of room for growth in more ways than one.

In the summer of 2009 Nossa Familia opened a café at the non-profit Ethos Music Center on North Killingsworth that serves Nossa Familia Coffee, tea and snacks. In addition to the café you can find Nossa Familia Coffee at all New Seasons Markets, People’s Food Co-op, Food Front Cooperative Grocery, the Hollywood and Lents Farmers Markets and other locations around town.

Nossa Familia Cafe at Ethos
2 North Killingsworth St.
Monday-Friday 8am-6pm
Saturday 10am-3pm

Ristretto Style: Spella Caffe

August 19th, 2009
Andrea Spella is holding my key to happiness -- a Spella Caffe cappuccino.

Andrea Spella is holding my key to happiness -- a Spella Caffe cappuccino.

There are a lot of great Portland food and drink carts and Spella Caffé, open since fall of 2006, is one of the best. The reason: Andrea Spella. Andrea is part Italian and part Polish and drinks about 10 to 15 shots of espresso a day. He claims it helps him sleep and adds with a smile, “I guess I’m just wired differently.”

I guess so. In the past few weeks I’ve been so nervous about my impending book due date that I’ve sadly had to cut out my afternoon cup of coffee. In the past couple years I’ve looked forward to my afternoon cup almost as much as my morning cup but when your heart is aflutter with nerves too much coffee just adds to the stress. Anyway, 10-to-15-shots-a-day Andrea obviously doesn’t feel my pain. I met with him in late April and learned all about why he loves coffee and why we Portlanders love his coffee.

Spella Caffe’s signature classic Italian roast coffee is roasted in small 11 pound batches and pulled ristretto style with an old school piston machine as opposed to a modern pressurized pump espresso machine. There’s no walking away from the machine or even talking much with customers while a Spella espresso is in full swing. The end result is a nicely extracted cup of coffee with a beautiful crema.

In addition to expertly prepared coffee the cart serves from-scratch chai, hand shaken iced drinks (Andrea doesn’t like blenders), small batch Stella Gelato made in Eugene, and all sorts of tasty baked goods — authentic biscotti, quickbreads and cookies — prepared by a loyal customer and librarian at downtown’s Central Library.

Over the years Spella Caffe has acquired quite a following so it’s rare to step up to the window without at least a short wait. Two of Andrea’s favorite regulars are Little Red Bike Café owners Evan Dohrmann and Ali Jepson who rode their tandem bike to the cart for a celebratory shot of espresso minutes after they were married (for the third time) at the Multnomah County Circuit Court in 2008.

Spella Cafe
901 SW Alder St.
Mon.-Fri. 9am-4pm.

Biked Beans: Courier Coffee

May 22nd, 2009
Courier Coffee owner Joel Domreis (left) and Alex Geddes

Courier Coffee owner Joel Domreis (left) and Alex Geddes

I recently met up with Courier Coffee owner Joel Domreis and employee Alex Geddes at their small backyard roastery and talked coffee, and of course drank coffee, for a couple hours. Alex had roasted some Bolivian Cenaproc Cooperative coffee that morning and he brewed us a pot in one of their new Hario vacuum pots. This was my first experience with siphon brewed/vacuum pot brewed coffee, even though I’ve heard a lot about it, and it was delicious and really fun to watch. The standout for me was that there was no silty residue in the cup and the coffee was hyper full of flavor. I don’t think I’d ever own a vacuum pot though. I have a hard enough time not breaking the glass in my French press. These are works of art.

Most of my interviews for the book so far have been about an hour long but the really good ones often seem to spill over. There were a lot of beans to be spilled in this case…

Where 10,000 pounds of Courier Coffee is roasted annually

Where 10,000 pounds of Courier Coffee is roasted annually

28 year old Domreis started his bike delivered Courier Coffee three and a half years ago and for a year and a half he ran the show. Now he has one full-time (Alex Geddes) and one part-time (Matt Sperry) employee to roast beans with and peddle around town with. A typical day for these guys starts at 4am and ends after the sun has set and all the coffee for the next day has been roasted. Deliveries are made from as far southeast as Southeast 92nd and Johnson Creek Blvd. to as far north as St. Johns. And even though Courier only has about 30 accounts (coffeeshops, restaurants, bars and offices) they deliver daily to many of them in order to ensure super fresh, super tasty bean. Some of their most valued clients include Half & Half, Little Red Bike Cafe, Sel Gris, Olea, Two Tarts Bakery, Eastmoreland Market & Kitchen and Dove Vivi.

Domreis talked me through their roasting process, showed me their burlap sack stacked coffee storage area and discussed the merits of slow growth in particular to his business. Understandable since every new account adds many miles literally and figuratively to their work week. That’s not the only reason Domreis is reticent. Courier has a certain ethic and culture that clients need to jive with. If you don’t want to discuss things like first and second crack, or if you want all your coffee ground and delivered a couple times a month Courier doesn’t want you.

Joel Domreis of Courier Coffee hopes to open a Courier Coffeeshop one day soon

Joel Domreis of Courier Coffee hopes to open a Courier Coffeeshop one day soon

Map of Portland's coffeeshops and Courier's Hario vacuum pots

Map of Portland's coffeeshops and Courier's Hario vacuum pots

You can buy bags of Courier Coffee beans at Half & Half, Little Red Bike Cafe, Eastmoreland Market & Kitchen and Two Tarts. You can also have Courier Coffee delivered to your door step or pick it up at the roastery — just call ahead first.

Courier Coffee
SE 40th and Hawthorne — call for directions
Joel Domreis — 503.545.6444

Don’t feed the baristas: United States Barista Championship

March 9th, 2009
Albina Press owner Kevin Fuller early on working his cappucino magic

Albina Press owner Kevin Fuller early on working his cappucino magic

It was hard to decide what to blog about this time. Since the last time I blogged five days ago I’ve been out to Dave’s Killer Bread (met Dave), Bob’s Red Mill (brushed shoulders with Bob), Ken’s Artisan Bakery (talked with Ken), to the United States Barista Championship in Portland, to Seattle to meet with my editor and visit friends over the weekend, and to the Farmer-Chef Connection in Oregon City today. The volume has been a little mad — all of the interviews, facility tours, networking with chefs and farmers — but I’ve promised myself that in a week or so I’ll clear two to three days and create a hermitage. I’ll write and nothing but.

For now it’s coffee. I just drank some so I have the fuel to write about it. It turns out that I saw two of the USBC — United States Barista Championship — finalists in action this year. I showed up mid-day last Thursday and got to see Devin Pedde (5th place) of LA’s Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea and later Mike Marquard (6th place) of Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis. Intelligentsia rocked the USBC house just like Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars with four out of six awards including first place — USBC champion Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia Chicago.

I’m sad that no Northwest baristas made it to the crema but hope that Portland baristas don’t need an award to know just how amazing they are.

Some standouts from my first day of USBC:

Devin Pedde infused Earl Grey tea, dried persimmon, cherries and brown sugar into water in an ornate Belgian vacuum coffee brewer and spooned that into cups to mimic and tease out the flavor profile of the espresso that he topped it with.

Mike Marquard lit tobacco leaves next to shots of espresso with whipped chocolate and covered that with glass domes in order to “smoke” the shots and give an olfactory hint to the coffee flavor to come.

Kevin Fuller of Portland’s home team — owner of Albina Press — whisked Stumptown espresso with homemade caramel, topped it off with cold pressed grapefruit oil steamed milk, and served that with sidecars of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Graham crackers were involved too but I must have been clearing my throat when he said how.

Each barista had 15 minutes to set-up, and 15 minutes to prepare espressos, cappucinos and a signature coffee drink for each of the four steely eyed sensory judges. Hooked up to microphones they described their techniques, their coffee, their coffee shop/roastery as the technical judges swarmed around them taking notes and watching their every move. Not to mention the hand-held and mounted TV cameras and the two huge screen TVs televising it all in real time. I think the event was live-streamed — maybe it was broadcasted on TV as well.

Fuller serving it up

Fuller serving it up

I had a great time sitting in the audience drinking free coffee, listening to the baristas’ music (each chose 15 minutes of music to coincide with their slot) while watching the action. And I was very happy that the flood lights weren’t aimed at me. No matter what kind of false security I’ve been known to gain from superhero servings of coffee and espresso I would never put myself through that. Conversing with an emcee is the stuff nightmares are made of.

No noise complaints: United States Barista Championship

February 27th, 2009
Don't you love me?

Don't you love me?

Last night I went to my first ever barista throwdown — PDX Tamp Your Face off! I didn’t know what to expect but a local vegan baker gave me the word and I was there. It took place at Blend Coffee Lounge just a few blocks from my house so a neighbor and I walked over at around 8pm.

I don’t know if you know but a really big coffee competition is brewing in Portland next week — the United States Barista Competition. It’s at the Convention Center Thursday through Sunday — March 5-8 — and is free and open to the public. I’m definitely going to head over for some of the action. The winner from the USBC, which is held in a different city every year — Minneapolis last year — goes on to compete in the World Barista Championship in Atlanta in April. Those are the big beans.

So what about last night? I thought I’d take some photos but it was too crowded. Blend isn’t a big coffee shop — or excuse me lounge — and it was pretty much 10-deep all around the coffee bar. Every once in a while I could see some girls moving around and smiling behind it. I assume that they were pulling espressos, frothing milk, tamping coffee, but honestly I couldn’t see much. There were a bunch of pizza boxes in one corner — mostly eaten, and a lot of folks drinking tall boys and holding up cell phones to take photos. I saw a few people sipping espresso from little paper cups but we didn’t stick around long enough to get one.

It felt like a basement show without a band. And our shoes didn’t stick to the floor. The baristas were the band — kind of quiet, although they did have some highly functional percussion. I think if we’d elbowed our way to the front it would’ve been much more entertaining but that’s shitty so we didn’t. My friend put it nicely — “We could stand around and listen to other people’s conversations for a while…” We did check out the collection of beans on display from all sorts of local roasters before we left. There were some there that neither of us had heard of, along with several that we had. There were also some roasters that made a trek for the event — one from out in the Gorge.

Since the USBC competition is in Portland this year, local baristas are ramping up, along with local roasters, with these after-hours espresso slinging gatherings where they can practice for the people. I guess the first throwdown was at one of my favorite Portland spots — Little Red Bike Cafe.

I’d go to another but I’d be sure to show up early and wear my Inspector Gadget arm so I could get some of that perfectly pulled coffee.

Oh and there were also some silk screened chocolates from a guy named Dane. That’s right, silk screened.