Civilian Coffee

July 31st, 2011

Hey folks,


Those of you interested in following my coffee adventures should hop on over to my new site:

More specific to coffee, roasting, and cafes, this new site should provide a great new platform to inform and educate.

Thanks for reading,


Water Avenue Open Sundays

March 27th, 2011

Being the first time that Water Avenue Coffee Company is open on a Sunday, I just had to swing by.  To set the tone, it’s a cloudy and somewhat rainy day.  As I drove past the shop looking for a parking space, I saw Billy standing outside, so after parking I went to say “Hi,” before heading inside.  After chatting a moment he informed me they were about to get a cupping started, being a coffee geek I of course jumped at the chance.


Following Billy into the shop, I was greeted by Marjake (I’m sure I slaughtered the spelling but it’s pronounced close to Mar-shake-ah), and ordered a macchiato while I waited for the cupping.  It wasn’t long till I realized the cupping was literally a minute away, so I put a hold on the macchiato until later.  Brandon, one of Water Ave’s roasters was running the cupping of two different roasts of each a Columbia and El Salvador.  Water already being poured, we jumped right into it.


The Columbia was smooth and buttery with a bit of sugar and slight acidic bite.  The first of the two taste of Rolos candy and home fries, while the second was similar with a more buttery mouth feel and less acidity.  Both roasts were quite good, and would have made a tasty morning cup, but to me it was mostly a matter of preference.  Talk of a strange bag of green left Brandon wanting to test some more before making conclusions.


Moving on to the El Salvador, with chatter about barbeque sauce, turkey, and molasses on the nose we finally wet those grounds.  Once the grounds were wet, baked beans was added to the list of aromas.  Finally getting to the taste, both roasts were surprisingly light on the tongue, with an air of brightness no one could quite put their finger on.  That acidity lingered well through each taste in the first roast, compared to the second, but neither was so strong as to call out specific notes.  The second roast did have a slight tomato quality, contributing to the barbeque sauce comments earlier.


During my time there , there were as many customers as sun breaks.  Not too surprising considering  it was their first Sunday open.  It will take a while for people to learn their new hours, then it’ll be hopping for sure.  I’ll apologize too for the lack of photos for this post.  Between the clouds, and a burnt out lamp above the cupping table, there wasn’t enough light for quality photos with the film I had on hand.

Final Stop San Francisco

March 20th, 2011

It has been a while, but in an effort to sum up the last stop on my trip, here we go.  The first day in San Francisco started with a search for coffee roasted by the Graffeo Brothers .  An old fashioned roaster I learned about from Tom in Ohio.  The shop I visited was run by an older Asian couple who seemed surprised that anyone even visited their shop.  The coffee was decent, but I couldn’t decern anything particular about the roaster.  After that I headed down toward the South of Market area to search out coffee roastsers.













The first was Blue Bottle’s café at the Mint Plaza for a tasty machiatto and a few photos.  It was populated by people that looked as if they worked at Wieden and Kennedy here in Portland.  Then searching out Ritual’s roastery, I discovered they have no café attached to it.  So after calling them, I made my way up toward the San Francisco Museum of Art to await a response.  Before heading in, I stopped at the brewery nearby, Thirsty Bear, for a pint and some food.  Being this side of the Rockies, yup, a stout on nitro.  I almost expected to receive the papers on my food’s background too.

Then the SFMOMA turned out to be having a free day!  Hurray!  The wine exhibit was interesting, as is looked at the vineyard and wine bottle designs as artwork.  They even had dirt from the Dundee Hills.  Just getting into photography myself, that exhibit was my favorite.  It looked at photography as a form of voyeurism, with war, candid shots, and documentary style photos.  Afterward I walked around the nearby park and grabbed some sushi before heading out.

What is a trip to San Francisco without a detour up to Napa?  So on day two, I made my way up there.  On the way I stopped by Blue Bottle’s roaster in Oakland, knowing they had an attached café.  Sadly though, I missed their roasters by less than an hour.  The whole area it was in felt like Portland’s Pearl District, but more as if it had been built that way intentionally, but the coffee was good and I got a few shots of Evan.  Then, up to Napa.  Driving around was nice, enjoying the scenery, but I didn’t do too much with the wine.  I didn’t even write down the names of the vineyards I went to.  After some wine and food, I just headed by to town, not too exciting, but I did happen across a roaster up that way with decent beans.


Day three, I ventured down south to San Jose, this day ended with an interesting mountain drive.  It started with heading to Santa Clara to visit Barefoot Coffee’s café, a sort of strip-mall affair.  After a wonderful chat with Marie, and some very delicious coffee, she directed me toward their roastery in San Jose.  Excited to pay them a visit, I went straight there.  So quickly in fact that Marie had not yet called to let them know I was coming.  They still put up with my shenanigans and showed me around.  I was eventually passed off to Rachel, who had recently been hired to get their Roll-up Bar cafe up and rolling.  By now it should be running, so swing by, she was doing a great job while I was there.  The espresso machine is even modified with bike parts, very steam-punk.



Their roastery can be tough to find, since the building just looks like a couple of apartments in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  With two roasters, Hiver and Kelly, and two machines, they had a great setup.  Sadly, Kelly would soon be moving to bigger and better things.  But there’s always time for a foosball game.













Then into the city itself for a visit to Red Berry, a small café near the city hall, which tries to carry and rotate a number of roasters.  Sort of like Barista here in Portland, it was good.  After that I headed to the TECH museum, which was technically a disappointment, just felt like OMSI and geared more toward kids.  Then after a quick bite to eat, the drive!  The drive back to Pacifica started by planning to drive west to the beach, then up highway 1.  Along the way it got dark and I figured I wouldn’t see anything anyway, but would keep going.  Well, I missed the turn and ended up taking the road along the top of the hills, not the coast.  Lots of turns and bends, ups and downs, and no lights.  It was quite the white-knuckle drive at night.


My final day was back in the heart of the city, sort of.  It began with paying a visit to Ritual’s roastery, finally!  I was greeted by Joel, their master roaster, and discovered that Alex had not actually let anyone else know someone would be coming for a visit.  So that was a little awkward, but they let me in anyway.  I amused myself with taking photos and bugging Ryan (Another roaster) about the Probat they were refurbishing.  It would more than double their capacity per batch, meaning no more 10+ hours of roasting each day.  After they seemed tired of me, I headed out to explore the Castro for a while, and to later swing by their café for a cupping.


The cupping was a great one, open to the public every Friday, and many of their staff were there (Ryan, Joel, Alex, and their green buyer who’s name I cannot remember), plus four or five other people.  One of those others was Kat, a big coffee enthusiast trying to break into the industry but getting to know the business and people first.  After the cupping, I was feeling pretty done, so headed back to Pacifica and hung-out till the next morning when I flew back home to good old Portland.

That’s how I do over three weeks wandering around the country.  My next task will be to try and write a post specifically summarizing the roasters I visited, hopefully before too long.  Perhaps to answer the question, why are coffee roasters always so happy?

More than cows and corn

January 29th, 2011

Columbus, Ohio

Day 1 – Aaren had taken the Friday off so we would have more time to hang-out, which was wonderful since I don’t know how else I would have gotten around the city without renting a car.  We went to Stauf’s Coffee in the Grandview Heights area.  The coffee was not great, from a spoiled Portlander point of view, but we learned that one of their roasters works in the shop on Saturdays.  From there we went to the Columbus Museum of Art.

Followed by lunch at the North Market in downtown Columbus, we got chocolates for later and found a beer I thought she would like.  That night we went to Villa Nova, an “Italian” restaurant which Aaren and her mom always see packed and have been wanting to try out.  There was a 30 minute wait, which for a Friday night didn’t seem too bad, so we went to the bar to wait.  When asking what porters or stouts the bar had, their reply was that “We don’t have any imports.”  Not quite what I meant.  Aaren’s Midori sour was also questionable.  Once we finally got a seat and ordered pizza, boy were we unhappy.  It was quite possibly the worst either of us ever had, we managed to choke down about ¼ of it, before asking for a box and getting out.

Day 2 – Started early at Stauf’s and a wonderful talk with Tom Griesemer which lasted almost two hours.  I’m sure Aaren was bored to tears with us geeking out on coffee.  From there we stopped for lunch, then made the trek to the Short North.  The Short North is near OSU, and her work, it is very much a hipster part of town with a lot of antique stores and vintage closing.  We did stumble upon one coffee roaster by the name of Imperio.  They roast a few miles across the city, and did a very nice job with a Columbian pour-over I had.  We browsed three or four art galleries and a couple vintage shops before deciding it was too cold to continue.  Being the afternoon, we checked in on the film which had not been developed yet, then just hungout until dinner when we went to The Elevator.  Which, had some amazing beers, including a bourbon barrel aged porter that made the meal.  After the sampler and a pint, I was doing pretty well.

Day 3 – After a late “breakfast,” starting late partially due to the fact we were up so early the day before, we went to Aaren’s favorite park for photographic fun.  Have I mentioned that Aaren was letting me play with her slick camera?  It’s a film SLR she got a few years ago, the photos with it came out great!

Day 4 – On Monday, Aaren had to work, so I spent the morning sleeping in and packing.  Once she was done with work we finally fetched my photos, and hunted for a souvenir for me to take from Ohio.  Not what we originally were looking for, Aaren came up with a fantastic little thing for me to take.  We also went to see the corn, the giant corn.  That night we had some much better pizza and hung-out watching a movie, since the next morning would be very early with my flight at 6:00am.

Travel day to New Orleans

Up at 4:30am to give Aaren time to get ready for work, we stumbled our way to the airport, made our goodbyes and off I went to Chicago, and then to New Orleans.  My flight finally landed after 10:00am in NOLA, and was to the hostel and checked in by Noon.  After a short rest, I ventured out to Magazine street touring antique shops, and getting food.

Last half of Chicago

January 29th, 2011

Day 3 – The third day “in” Chicago was spent exploring and photographing Woodstock, Tyson’s town.  It is what they call an “Exurb,” just outside of being a suburb but close enough to commute if you need to.  Woodstock was also the town where the movie Groundhog Day was filmed.  Food list:

Starbucks: Yea, it’s the best thing there, I had a capp.

La Petite Creperie: A crepe and coffee, it wasn’t bad.  They occasionally have live jazz in their up-stairs dining room.

Day 4 – Finally met Naomi and had a tough time with the whole “I’m a friend of a friend of yours from school that you haven’t spoken to since then and I don’t know his last name.”  I still had a great conversation with her.  The afternoon was then spent wandering the Art Institute of Chicago’s museum.  Later, I went to see the Chicago Symphonietta, a branch of the symphony designed to great more opportunities for minority performers.  This was their Martin Luther King Jr. Day performance, and the final season for the conductor.  Because of the encores, the performance ran a bit late, leaving me not wanting to run for the train.  So, I went back to the hostel by Cafe Cito and got a bed for the night.  Food list:

Intelligentsia: Macchiato, and tasty drip.

Café Cito: Cubano sandwhich, very tasty.

Exechequer: Salad and beer before the symphony, it wasn’t bad.

Day 5 – Ventured up north to the Lincolnwood district.  Great coffee at Metropolis, toured the neighborhoods taking photos and visited their roasting facility.  Sadly, by the end I discovered, my film was loaded wrong and not a single picture was actually taken.  I have just a few from a second roll at Metropolis.  Food list:

Intelligentsia: Macchiato.

Einstein Bagels: Yeah, a bagel, it sounded good.

I honestly forget what I had for dinner.

Day 6 – Slept in, hung out, stayed warm, felt like I was getting a cold.  This proved true.  Food list:

Cereal and coffee.

Pirro’s: Ordered a great deep dish pizza, I’d say it was better than the Lou Malnati’s.

Travel day to Columbus

Flew to Columbus.  Thanks Tyson for driving me into the airport, that made things much less complicated.  Aaren’s folks picked me up from the airport, which saved a bunch of time and I think gave them a chance to get to know the “random guy” that would be staying with her.  Once Aaren got home from work we went out to eat at The Pub at the nearby mall, it felt like a McMennimen’s.  Food list:

A smoothie from some smoothie stand at O’Hare.

Jimmy John’s: Sandwich with ham, avocado, sprouts, and some other stuff.

The Pub: Bangers and Mash, and an ok stout.  It taste mostly like Guinness, pretty watery tasting.

First days in Chicago

January 16th, 2011

Day 1 – My time in Chicago started with a visit to Intelligentsia on Randolph, and had a shot of Black Cat, and a Macchiato with Honey Badger.  Asking for Naomi, I learned that she changed shops and met Jason who told me which shop she was now at.  The fact that a Portland coffee geek was visiting seemed really cool to them.

Afterward, I met up with Mary at the Cultural Center for a Chicago Greeter tour.  We went north and west along the river, heading south and around the loop, ducking into buildings for history lessons whenever possible.  We then made our way to the waterfront near the Field Museum, and then back north to the Cultural Center.  One of the coolest buildings was the Fine Arts Building along Michigan, which was 10 stories of art and music studios and stores, including piano teachers and a violin maker.  Then I went north across the river to Lou Malnati’s for a deep dish pizza.  To catch the train at Clyborne I then went up to the “hipster” part of town for a couple beers before heading west to the station.  The Local Option was identified as the “hipster” bar of the area, and spotted a black Gorrin Bros. cadet cap on a guy with skinny pants, so it was very much hipster.

Day 1 food list:

  • Intelligentsia – Black Cat espresso, and Honey Badger macchiato
  • Lou Malnati’s – Classic Chicago deep dish pizza
  • McGee’s – Mac ’n cheese with bacon, Great Lakes Brewing company Edmund Fitzgerald.
  • The Local Option – Oak aged imperial stout from Great Divide Brewing, it taste almost like a sour.

Day 2 – My second day I went looking for Naomi, David’s friend at Intelligentsia, but that shop was closed.  So I end up back at the same Intelli.  From there I went through Millennium Park toward the Field Museum, taking photos along the way and meeting a local photographer working on a project with the Cloud Gate (Bean).  The next few hours were spent viewing history at the museum.

From there I wandered south looking for a cool place to eat and stopped at Kroll’s.  At Kroll’s I had a Kroll’s Original Cheeseburger, with a buttered bun and raw onions.  It tasted like I remember McDonald’s hamburgers tasting, very strange.  The beers were quite good though, and thinking I had time for two caused me to miss the train back out to Tyson’s.  I then needed to wait an extra 90 minutes for the next one, once on the train I discovered my 10-ride pass was missing!  There went $40 in train tickets.  Luckily, James the conductor remembered me and asked “I remember you. You had a weekend pass right?” The tone suggested, “I remember you, and know you’re a tourist, just say yes and I’ll let it slide.”  Thanks James.

Day 2 food list:

  • Intelligentsia: Black Cat macchiato and scone.
  • Kroll’s: Original Cheeseburger with buttered bun, and started with North Coast’s Old Rasputin’s Russian Imperial Stout (It was magnificent), and The Poet, an oatmeal stout from New Holland Nrewing.

Sans Electrocution

July 11th, 2010

It works!

Did the wiring for my motor today.  It works!  Even has an on/off switch.  I’m sure I can make it look more professional, but it looks very DIY chic right now.

It’s a used Bodine in-line motor, I found it used on Ebay for about $80 with shipping.  While not the same, the specs are similar to those in a Diedrich IR-7.  The company’s spec page here.

Mr. Green Beans

July 10th, 2010

All you home roasters out there in Portland, a new shop has opened on Mississippi Avenue, catering just to us!  Mr. Green Beans at  3932 North Mississippi Avenue, Portland, OR 97227.  They just opened on July 10, so are still putting on the finishing touches to the shop, but it’s a good one.  Want to try a new brewing method?  They have a great variety.  Need a new roaster?  They’ve got  everything from popcorn poppers to Hot Top roasters.  Most importantly, they have green coffee!  A nice selection of origins, and varietals, by the 1/2 pound, full pound, or more.  Their pricing is similar to Sweet Maria’s, and there’s no shipping!

The owner, is knowledgeable and has a real DIY attitude, happy to answer any questions you could have about roasting.  So swing by, give roasting a try!

Of course, you can shop online too, check out their website.

The Motor

July 10th, 2010

The motor for the roaster arrived yesterday, and I have managed to find the wiring diagram.  The project for this weekend is to wire it up and make it spin, without electrocuting myself.  For those curious, I found a used one of these puppies on Ebay for $80 with shipping, not bad.

Click image for specs

The build

June 17th, 2010

Ok, no updates for a long, long time. However, plans have been coming together for my home-built roaster.  The goal is at least a 5lb batch capacity, and to actually create a faceplate similar to a commercial roaster (hopper, door, temperature probe, the works).

The roaster will be based on a Brinkman 4 burner propane BBQ. A friend does industrial pipe-fitting and is handling all the welding needs. His expertise has been invaluable so far, and we’ve only just started! Currently, he is beefing up the structure of the side shelf of the BBQ and designing a brace to take the weight.

Today, I began assembly of what will be the cooling tray and am continuing a search for a motor. The best bet so far appears to be a used motor that is 3 times what I really need.  The motor in a similarly sized Diedrich is easily $450, and I’d like to keep it under $200 if possible.