Year In Portland Coffee



One of the hallmarks of third-wave coffee has been the forefronting of the barista as artisan. Stumptown’s original selling point against Starbucks was that it French pressed each cup squeezed out of those big thermoses on the counter. But as of Valentine’s Day, the drip coffee you drink at every Stumptown comes from a Fetco machine; it would have switched to Clover machines years ago had Starbucks not bought the entire company as part of its own third-wave push. Meanwhile, Ristretto Roasters picked up a Space Age-looking Steampunk siphon machine for its Couch Street location, and the owner of Portland’s Clive Coffee has made a new push-button machine called the Ratio Eight (see here) that’s meant to automate pourover coffee while maintaining optimal temperature—a hallmark also of the new Blossom One machines that debuted at Seattle’s coffee expo in April. Philadelphia-based Bkon debuted a vacuum infusion system at the same event that brews both tea and “third-wave coffee” using a database of up to 200 stored recipes. Grim Depression-style “Clovertowns” full of ex-baristas are perhaps just one step away, as is Skynet.


The biggest change since Stumptown was (mostly) sold? Distribution. Stumptown’s cold-brew stubbies have been a familiar sight on national grocery shelves since 2011. But since the beginning of 2014, the roastery has been selling coffee in the dairy section, premixed with milk and sugar in twee old-time cartons. It’s essentially an indie spin on the Starbucks Frappuccino. They’ve got company, however: San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee is doing the exact same thing with chicory added, bumping uglies with Stumptown’s milky brew on Whole Foods shelves since March.


Water Avenue Coffee has become Portland’s most dedicated experimental roastery, popping up routinely in oddball spots. Until this spring, it was running a pop-up cart cafe inside Enso Urban Winery, before moving to the Grand Marketplace antique and vintage bazaar. Water Avenue’s green coffee beans, meanwhile, popped up inside pinot noir barrels; late 2013’s batch of pinot barrel-aged El Manzano coffee (now sold out) will be followed by another batch of beans aged in chardonnay barrels. Water Avenue also makes a special roast for the Turkish-style coffee served at John Gorham’s new Mediterranean Exploration Company (see page 16), former Portland Mercury writer Chris Onstad is making a Water Avenue coffee cola, and Whole Foods is selling Water Avenue coffee-rubbed beef.


The sudden popularity of home single-serve coffee brewing seems to have inspired the same reaction in two different sets of locals. Kickstarter-funded project iGreenPod set out last year to make a nature-friendly, compostable single-serve coffee container compatible with K-cup machines and filled with Portland coffee. But after meeting its funding goals and receiving a Springboard Innovation prize in April, the company let its business license lapse the same month. (Founder Shawn Altman says the company is still active.) Also in April, Portland’s OG roaster Boyd’s Coffee launched its own line of eco-friendly K-cup-compatible single-serve coffee for its organic Red Wagon brand, using mesh bottoms instead of rigid sides, which Boyd’s says will lessen the wastefulness of single-cup brews.

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