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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Coffee, and knowledge, at Cellar Door Coffee

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Cellars and coffee are not two words that normally go together, especially in a city as rain-sodden as Portland this spring. But Cellar Door Coffee, a three-year-old independent roaster in Southeast Portland, breaks any pre-conceptions of a dark, damp cellar with a really nice set of coffees and a warm, comfy coffeehouse that sits nice and high above SE 11th Street, well above the floodline.

Notes on Cellar Door Coffee…

Location: Cellar Door at 2001 SE 11th first caught my eye as I was heading south on 11th toward Powell to pick up my order of Trailhead Coffee from The Warehouse Cafe. The tall, vertical red coffee sign with light bulbs pulled me in on a part of the street with mainly Victorian houses and a few low-lying buildings.

Coffee: Cellar Door does something you don’t see or hear very much, even in a town as coffee crazy as Portland. They’ve trained (or maybe just hired) a group of really passionate baristas who make and serve your drink with a narrative about what you’re about to enjoy. Now, granted, I am not as interested in the kind of bean I’m tasting as the flavor of the coffee and the ambience of the locale. But, I have to say it’s refreshing and totally interesting at Cellar Door when the barista hands you your drink and says: “Today’s roast is single origin Brazilian with hints of cherry and chocolate.” Love that! And the roasts at Cellar Door are flavorful and made with obvious care. Cellar Door Coffee also has a healthy wholesale business and is sold at shops all around Portland. Check out their website for details.

Cool stuff: Very kid-friendly, comics for sale, art on the wall and a shiny read Diedrich coffee roaster. Owner-roasters Jeremy and Andrea, who met as apprentices at a sustainable farming and gardening program before becoming coffee entrepreneurs, have created a warm and welcoming space that is not only roasting great coffee, but is doing it in an eco-friendly way, too, reducing exhaust emissions. Cellar Door also frequently raises money for a host of worthy charitable endeavors, most recently earthquake victims in Haiti.

Not so cool: Don’t mistake the round, light-bulb decorated street sign for a Farrell’s ice cream parlor. No ice cream sundaes here. But they make an awesome Gibraltar — cappuccino in a rocks glass.

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Supporting Portland’s artisan economy this holiday season

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I had to run into the local Whole Foods store on NE 15th
and Fremont last week, and while it’s not a locally owned store, I
have to say, it was pretty impressive to see a whole shelf
dedicated almost exclusively to locally roasted coffee. There were
a number of my faves, like Ristretto, TrailheadCellar Door, and Portland
Roasting
. They even had Allan Brothers from down the I-5 corridor, a blast from my college days past.And  there were also some new names I’d love to try — like Lone Pine Coffee out of Bend and Water Avenue Coffee right here in Portland.

If you want to support Portland’s artisan economy, and particularly our burgeoning coffee roasting community, check it out this season. New Seasons has a similar, though not as comprehensive, offering.

In fact, two of our larger independent roasters made it into Charles Heying’s recently released book, “Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy,” which features a number of local artisan businesses, from coffee and chocolate to beer and bikes.

Trailhead Coffee and Warehouse Cafe focus on community

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A few months ago, a friend encouraged us to get involved with Know Thy Food, a local food-buying coop that brings Portlanders together with local farmers and food producers. We did, and soon after that, found out local Portland roaster Trailhead Coffee had joined the program. What better way to feel good about your part in the community than to buy local, and get some killer, locally roasted coffee beans at a great price?

What’s more, the folks at Know Thy Food (and Portland Green Parenting…the group behind Know Thy Food) opened the Warehouse Cafe in the Southeast Portland Brooklyn neighborhood, where locals can gather for food, coffee and community.

Notes on the Warehouse Cafe…

Where: Located at 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave., just a couple blocks up from the Aladdin Theater, the Warehouse Cafe is more than a cafe. They’ve turned an old strip-mall space into a multi-room community center with cafe, classroom and children’s consignment shop, with a warehouse behind it all for the food-buying piece of the operation.

Coffee: There are actually four different coffees available through the various parts of the endeavor. The Warehouse Cafe brews up Stumptown and Trailhead, and the crew at the cafe has been well-trained in the art of barista-ing. Know Thy Food sells Cafe Mam (from Eugene) and Trailhead beans in their weekly bulk-buying business. But, this post is going to focus on Trailhead, since it’s my new coffee crush.

I had heard some buzz about Trailhead on Twitter, where they won the YWCA’s Coffee for a Cause tasting contest in October. And I’d seen their handsome, wooden cargo bike/mobile coffee-stand at the Sunday Parkways car-free biking events. So, when I saw that I could buy a pound of Trailhead espresso every week through Know Thy Food, I jumped at the chance to taste their coffee, and we haven’t been disappointed. Trailhead is tangy with a pleasant-tasting bite, and it brews up nicely in our stovetop espresso maker. The folks at Trailhead describe their small-batch roasting method on their website, as well as the source of their beans — Cafe Feminino, a social program for women coffee producers in rural communities around the world. Love this! Trailhead is in a handful of cafes around town, stores like Whole Foods and New Seasons and delivers by bike through Portland Pedal Power. It doesn’t get more Portland than this.

Cool stuff: Lots of family/kid-friendly events and activities; strong sense of community; connecting local food producers with local foodies.

Not so cool: The cafe is, after all, a warehouse, so bring a jacket in the winter. Milwaukie is a busy street and kind of a pain to navigate for those of us who drive (hats off to all the food-buying friends who come by bike or live in the neighborhood).

Care for some coffee with your veggies?