Nothing watered-down about Water Avenue Coffee

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As a regular coffee drinker and blogger of Portland’s independent coffee scene, I tend to be open to many different roasters around town and usually have a different bag of beans in my cupboard every week or so. But I recently began to develop some favoritism for Water Avenue’s “El Toro” espresso blend — silky, with hints of dark chocolate but no bitterness, just rich coffee-ness. It’s just how I like my espresso but is a flavor that sometimes is a little hard to consistently find.

It took me awhile to actually try Water Avenue Coffee. Sure, I saw the beans for sale at my local Whole Foods store, but I like to actually try a new coffee at the roaster itself or preferred café.

Notes on Water Avenue

The first time I ventured into the coffee shop/roastery, I was chaperoning a third-grade field trip to research Portland’s bridges along the Eastside Esplanade. While the class stopped under the I-5 bridge to eat sandwiches amidst the pigeons and nearby homeless encampment, another mom and I ran a couple blocks to the bright yellow industrial building with the large “Water Avenue Coffee” sign for a cup of coffee to warm our bones.

Location: Located on, of course, Water Avenue (1028 SE Water Avenue to be exact) in a renovated warehouse that now rents to creatives and yogis, Water Avenue Coffee is an inviting destination in the up-and-coming Eastside industrial neighborhood.

Coffee: That first Americano warmed, woke up and did all the right things for a field trip chaperone walking under the bridges with 33 third-graders. I’ve been back three times since and Water Avenue Coffee continues to never disappoint. As I said, I’m a fan of the El Toro, which a very nice barista recommended, and this year I began to buy the beans at the more conveniently located grocery store. My coffee-drinking other half agrees that Water Avenue’s got a good blend going and is currently our favorite at-home coffee.

Cool stuff:Water Avenue is the real deal. From the outside, they may appear to be a hot, indie coffee roaster with bearded and eye-glassed baristas who look like extras from Portlandia, but Water Avenue Coffee actually has an authentic, down-to-earth vibe, eclectic clientele (from grandparents to truck drivers) and clutter behind the counter. And the coffee’s just damn good, whether espresso, pour-over or cold-pressed.

Not so cool: As I’ve said about others before, location, location. While the digs are cool, if you don’t work in that area or happen to make a detour from MLK or get off I-5 at the Water Avenue exit, Water Avenue Coffee is not the most convenient place to get to. But it is worth a trip, if you’re in the neighborhood, for the coffee.

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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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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.