Coava Coffee leading in coffee innovation

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Carrie Brownstein sings their praises in interviews about Portland. Techies like Gizmodo geek out over them. One of their baristas just won the 2012 Northwest Regional Barista and Brewers Cup. And now, of course, the New York Times has joined in with a glowing review in last weekend’s Travel section.

No question: Coava Coffee has put itself, and Portland coffee, on the map through a number of innovations.

Notes on Coava Coffee…

Locations: Coava Coffee Roasters occupies a spacious corner at1300 SE Grand Avenue. Like many other craft roasters in town, Coava has an antique roaster parked in the middle of its shop and offers micro-roasted beans in brown paper bags (differentiating with a focus on single origin, rather than blends). They’re also among a handful of shops in Portland that have specialized in the pour-over coffee movement.

But where this roaster is even more different than the others is that they not only roast and pour a great cup of coffee, in 2010 Coava introduced the Kone, a revolutionary, reusable metal mesh filter designed for glass, drip coffeemakers like the Chemex. A few weeks back, I splurged and finally bought myself a Kone.

Check back soon for Part II of this post and my experience at home with the Kone. Keep reading for a brief review of my impressions of Coava, the café.

Coffee: I’ve had Coava-roasted coffee several times as espresso as well as pour-over coffee. Until recently, I have to say I favored their Americanos, which may just be because I like espresso best. But this winter, I dropped in for a pour-over cup, and it was truly a delicious experience. From the rum-chocolate-flavored Finca Zarcero drip coffee from Costa Rica chosen for my drink to the way the barista carefully explained the method behind this particular pour-over coffee, I thoroughly enjoyed my coffee and left excited to try it out at home with my new Kone filter.

Cool stuff: Aesthetically, Coava’s coffee shop is an incredible space with large windows, high ceilings and bamboo wood accents. The baristas are friendly and knowledgeable and more than willing to share their expertise while brewing a fine cup of coffee. The wooden coffee bar looks like an experiment in mid-century design adorned with glass coffee pots just waiting to be poured over.

Not so cool: The metal school chairs and stools make it a little tough to cozy up with a coffee and a book or your laptop. Many people do, but I tend to get my coffee to go or end up drinking while standing up.

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An almost DIY coffee experience at The Mississippi Coffee Company (and cart)

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If you live in Portland, like coffee and read Willamette Week, chances are you read WW’s “Drip City” feature on Portland’s coffee scene earlier this month, which highlighted the revival in simple, pour-over coffee (oddly labeled as “nerd coffee”) and the cafes that serve them.

Ironically, the same day I picked up a copy of WW, the electronic newsletter from Mr. Green Beans hit my inbox. While Willamette Week focused on some of the hot coffee hipsters making a name for themselves in the art of pour-over coffee, such as Water Avenue and Coava, Mr. Green Beans was announcing the launch of their Mississippi Coffee Company, which takes the pour-over concept to a completely different level — the pour-over coffee cart.

Notes on Mississippi Coffee Co…

Location: Mr. Green Beans, best known for selling Do-It-Yourself (DIY) supplies for roasting coffee, fermenting yogurt and making cheese, delivers an almost-DIY experience with their new coffee cart, just inside their storefront at out at 3932 N. Mississippi Ave. The Mississippi Coffee Co. is open daily 7am-7pm.

Coffee: We visited the coffee cart on a rare sunny and warm weekend day this April (yes, there was at least one of those days this month), and had a leisurely and tasty experience. First, our coffeemaker asked us which coffee apparatus we preferred for brewing our drink — the Hario V6 or Chemex for coffee that is brewed by pouring hot water directly over a filter and into a pot or cup; or the Aeropress for an “Americano”-style drink. We chose the Chemex and then got to choose the filter — stainless steel or the stiff paper kind from Chemex. Lastly, we had our choice of roasted beans, which were micro-roasted in the shop earlier by Mr. Green Beans himself. Mississippi Coffee Company also offers other small, independent roasts like one of my favorites, Trailhead Coffee. But this time around, we got the home-roasted Mr. Green Beans beans, and after a few minutes of brewing, got to enjoy our coffees and chat with the staff.

Cool stuff: Great Do-It-Yourself vibe — even if you’re not the one pouring the water, customers make individual choices that ultimately result in a cup of coffee made to order. While you wait, you can check out Mr. Green Beans’ coffee-roasting supplies and other DIY gear or inquire about classes. While we had our coffee the pour-over way, Mississippi Coffee Co. has also launched an “honor bar,” a small counter next to the cart with two pots of freshly brewed micro roasts and plenty of cream and sugar. If you bring your own cup, the coffee is just $1.

Not so cool: Up until now, the fake-Italian-looking building and piazza that Mr. Green Beans occupy has looked a little out of place and a bit lonely on Mississippi. But the bustling coffee cart promises to jazz up the sleepy little block, along with a new yogurt shop next door.

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