Portland is arguably one of good coffee's best towns: you'll have a hard time wandering too far for too long without crashing into great espresso or drip coffee, whether it's in your bone marrow shooter or infused into your bacon ice cream. And now that there's a Stumptown Coffee outlet in nearly every gas station in America (we kid—but they are adding Los Angeles locations to their Seattle, Portland, and New York outlets imminently), we thought it was high time to round up some of the other luminaries in this mega-roasting, mega-slurping coffee town.
When longtime barista competitor Billy Wilson opened the first location of BARISTA in the Pearl district, naming one's cafe what he named it seemed pretty bold, maybe even cheeky. But what it connotes, a very definite pride in quality and seriousness about the craft of coffee, is exactly what BARISTA represents. Now expanded to two additional locations, the first shop still remains a favorite, chock full of talent and a constant array of quality beans from the best roasters in the nation. Perhaps you'd like a siphon brew of something served by someone very intense? They've got it!
Coava Brew Bar
Stylish, austere Coava has been serving quality roasted small batch coffees since 2010 in their industrially austere Southeast Portland space. Sharing space with a bamboo woodworking showroom, the cavernous space is full of bulky industrial touches (perch your macchiato here on this drill press!) while remaining airy and serene. Gracious baristas serve coffee with a quiet, but not standoffish, touch, and you're welcome to linger in one of the many uncomfortable seats and use the internet.
Heart Roasters have made themselves known for bringing a truly Scandinavian roasting style (delicate, light) to Portland in a predictably stylish environment. Their Southeast roastery cafe is a bustling, small shop that showcases their thoughtfully selected line of coffees nicely. For those looking closer to downtown, keep an eye out for the local roaster's second location on SW 12th and Alder any day now.
Water Avenue Coffee
This casual cafe is part of the American Barista & Coffee School family, meaning that part of Water Avenue's space is set aside for training and coffee exploration—an appropriately geeky subset of any roastery in this intensely caffeinated town. It's a welcome addition to the industrial riverfront landscape, and their coffees, lightly roasted and well curated, are great, too.
Sterling Coffee Roasters
This mini-cafe presence of mini-roaster Sterling brings a foo-foo touch to casually presented beans (see: the Blue Bottle aesthetic) in the Alphabet District. Though their self-roasted cafes are, oddly, dated with month-plus expirations rather than "roasted on" dates, the attention to detail is high and the charm meter is off the spectrum. Try a shot of "Blendo Stupendo" espresso while seated at one of the six or seven white-tablecloth-draped to-stay seats, and tell us you're not won over.
We love the Southeast Portland location of this esteemed cafe—the saying used to go, "They brew Stumptown coffee better than Stumptown does!"&mash;for its sprawlingly layered space, chill baristas, and great quality. Whereas the original Albina Press location is more cozy-coffee-shop-ish, this spot near Mount Tabor has a je ne sais quoi that keeps us coming back even more, with high standards of drink preparation well worth the trip.
Albina Press: 5012 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland, OR 97215 (map) 503-974-6584
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs, and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop.