Bard Coffee

The label on a bag of Bard Coffee's High Tide Espresso blend: medium roast, a blend of Central America and East Africa coffees, tasting notes of sweet red berries, orange-like citrus with a creamy body and a dark chocolate finish.As part of my current US trip, I paid a visit to Portland, Maine, partly to check out the local coffee scene and partly because it made a cool addition to my overall journey. What I found was a thriving coffee scene which I’ll cover in the next few months, starting today with the lovely Bard Coffee.

Bard Coffee occupies an amazing location next to Tommy’s Park, a lovely green space right in the heart of downtown Portland. For once got my timing right and arrived two weeks after Bard had reopened following a major refurbishment. Normally, it’s the other way around, with me arriving just before a refurbishment or, better still, in the middle of one!

Bard roasts all its own coffee, with a good selection available at any time. On espresso, there’s the seasonal High Tide blend or the decaf Lo-Fi blend, while on bulk brew there are two coffees of the day, a light- and dark-roasted single-origin. Finally, you can have any of five single-origins, plus decaf, through the Kalita Wave filter, with one of the single-origins available through the Chemex. This last one is chosen to highlight the difference between the Chemex and Kalita brew methods.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • This lovely building stands on the corner of a leafy square in the heart of downtown Portland.
  • This leafy square to be precise (as seen from inside Bard).
  • Talking of which, if you haven't worked it out already, the sign should tell you where you are.
  • Bard Coffee, seen from the other side of Middle Street.
  • The door from the street is shared with Bertini...
  • ... and leads you through two set of doors into an entrance lobby (view from inside Bard).
  • The doors to Bard are on the right as you come in (to the left in this picture)...
  • ... and conveniently pitch you up where you need to be: right at the counter.
  • The counter stretches away to your left, with a row of tables opposite it.
  • These form about half the seating and are ideal for laptop users.
  • An alternative view of the tables, as seen from the far end of the counter.
  • A closer view of the tables, with the Coffee Spot laptop in the corner.
  • Another alternative view of the tables.
  • The other seating is to your right as you come in.
  • It's another bright, airy space.
  • Other than a central communal table, all the seating is formed by bars around the three walls.
  • The best ones are on the bar by the window, which looks out onto Middle Street...
  • ... where you can gaze at the lovely Canal Bank Building across the street.
  • Back inside there are lots of lights for the rare, gloomy day in Portland.
  • I was, as you have probably guessed, very taken by the lights.
  • I liked the simplicity of these ones...
  • ... while these fellows remind me of spiders for some reason.
  • If you're sitting at one of the tables, by the way, look up. It's quite glorious.
  • There are some nice touches, such as these flowers on one of the bars...
  • ... while the pictures on the walls are all from coffee farms that Bard deals with.
  • Back at the counter, it's time to get down to business.
  • If you've come for takeaway, once you've ordered, this is the place to go.
  • You order, by the way, down here, past the espresso machine.
  • A panoramic view of the counter, till to right of centre.
  • Espresso is to the right...
  • ... and hand-poured filter to the left...
  • ... while behind the counter is the bulk brew, with a choice of a regular or dark roast bean.
  • If coffee's not your thing, there are seasonal offerings...
  • ... while Bard takes as much care over its tea as it does over its coffee.
  • Finally, there is a (much depleted in the afternoon) selection of cakes and some soft drinks.
  • I went for a cortado, which came in a glass on this lovely saucer.
  • The milk was beautifully steamed, holding the latte art right to the bottom of the glass.
  • If you like the coffee, you should check out the retail shelf beyond the counter.
  • There you will find a selection of coffee equipment and Bard's own beans.
  • Lots of beans, in fact, starting with the espresso & decaf blends, the only ones Bard does.
  • The rest is single-origin, starting with beans from Honduras and Cameroon...
  • ... before moving to beans from Colombia, Costa Rica and Burundi...
  • ... and finishing off with another from Honduras.
  • Five of the single-origins, plus the decaf blend, are available through the Kalita Wave filters, while one of them is available through the Chemex (for two).
  • I'll leave you with a Kalita Wave brewing demonstration from Andrea. First, zero the scales.
  • Then weigh your coffee beans out...
  • ... and grind them in the EK-43.
  • Then put the ground coffee into the filter basket and we're ready to go.
  • The first pour wets the grounds and allows the coffee to bloom.
  • This is where the coffee gives off lots of gas.
  • Once it's settled down, we are ready for the main pour.
  • Bard employs a series of small pours...
  • ... allowing the coffee to rest in between each pour...
  • ... before topping it up again.
  • Then all we have to do is wait for the coffee to brew/filter through.
  • Almost done...
  • Just one last pour and we'll be ready to serve.
  • The final step is to rinse out of the filter so that it's ready for another brew.
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Bard Coffee occupies the corner of a lovely old building on Middle Street in downtown Portland, sharing an entrance with the adjacent clothing shop. This leads you through two sets of double doors into a small lobby. Ahead of you, a large window looks into one of Bard’s two seating areas, while the door to Bard is on your right (the clothing store’s to the left). After all this, you’ll be relieved to learn that you enter at the perfect spot, just in front of the Nuova Simonelli espresso machine at the end of the counter, which stretches away to your left.

The positioning of the counter/entrance neatly splits Bard into two spaces. To your right, there’s a square seating area, facing onto Middle Street. A long, communal table occupies the centre, while a bar, with multiple power outlets, runs along both walls and the windows at the far end. The windows, which run the entire width of the store opposite the counter, stretch pretty much from floor to ceiling, making it a very bright space.

The bulk of Bard lies to your left. A rectangular space, about twice as deep as the first seating area and slightly wider, it’s split equally between the counter and the remaining seating. Turning left as you enter, with your back to the first seating area, the counter runs away ahead of you, taking up almost all the right-hand side, with space beyond for some retail shelves. Opposite the counter, a long bench-seat runs the full length of the left-hand wall, a row of eight, large two-person tables in front of it. Although a larger space, the layout means that you can seat far more people in the first area than back here.

Just like the first seating area, it’s a bright space. Four tall windows puncture the wall behind the counter, plus there’s a large window to the entrance lobby, which lets in plenty of light, all of which is supplemented by light from the front part of the store. For those (rare) gloomy Portland days, there are also plenty of electric lights.

Bard’s already pretty spacious, but the high ceilings, which are even higher in the seating areas, give it an immense sense of space. The décor’s rounded off with a lovely wooden floor and subtle green-grey walls.

The coffee’s every bit as good as the surroundings. I tried the house-blend (Costa Rica + Burundi) as a cortado, served in a small glass, with superbly-steamed milk. Described by the barista as bright and fruity, I doubt I’d have liked it much as an espresso, but in milk it was very well balanced. It was still pretty bright and fruity, but the milk had taken the edge off any excessive sharpness and it was a welcome change from the sweet cortados/flat whites I normally enjoy.

Bard mostly roasts single-origins, the house espresso and decaf being its only blends. In particular, Bard champions direct links with farmers, the Honduras Bertilio, for example, being unique to Bard. Although there’s two single-origins on bulk-brew, I recommend the brew-bar at the far end of the counter, with its own EK-43, three Kalita wave filters and a Chemex (for two). During my visit, the Colombia Las Margaritas was on both Chemex and Kalita, highlighting the difference between the two methods.

185 MIDDLE STREET • PORTLAND • ME 04101 • USA +1 207 899 4788
Monday 06:00 – 19:00 Roaster Bard Coffee (espresso +filter)
Tuesday 06:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Bar
Wednesday 06:00 – 19:00 Food Cake
Thursday 06:00 – 19:00 Service Counter
Friday 06:00 – 19:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 4th June 2015, 3rd August 2019
25th January 2020

You can see what my friend and fellow coffee-blogger, Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato made of Bard when she visited in the summer of 2017.

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