Portland Roasting, The Cupping Room Cafe

A light bulb from the Cupping Room at Portland Roasting in Portland, Oregon, held in a light-fitting made from an upturned portafilter.Portland Roasting is the final Coffee Spot from my mammoth coast-to-coast trip across the USA last year. It was one of six Portland coffee shop/roasters that I visited, but the only one where the roastery was actually on the same site as the coffee shop (known as the Cupping Room Cafe). Portland Roasting is a well-established name in Portland, having been around for 20 years now. It occupies a relatively large two storey building on the corner of 7th Avenue and Oak Street just east of the Willamette River, opposite the city centre. The building houses not just the roaster and its two drum roasters, but it also provides a home to the company’s administration and marketing departments and the delightful Cupping Room Cafe.

Set in an area that is predominantly offices and workshops, it’s not somewhere you would naturally find yourself strolling through. However, Portland Roasting and The Cupping Room is worth making a short detour to visit. With two options on espresso, another on bulk-brew and two more single-origin pour-overs, the coffee alone is worth the trip. On top of that, if you get your timing right, there are roastery tours and public cuppings (Monday/Wednesday/Friday, 10:00 & 14:00).

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Portland Roasting, on the corner of 7th Avenue & Oak Street, Portland, Oregon.
  • You might think that this is the way in, and you'd be right, if you were going to the roastery.
  • However, if you've come for the Cupping Room Cafe, this provides a hint...
  • The Cupping Room Cafe has a separate entrance, down to the right along Oak Street.
  • There are a couple of tables out here on the edge of the pavement...
  • ... and another three against the wall, all under the friendly shade of the trees.
  • Inside, there are stairs leading intriguingly upwards... to offices. Off-limits, sadly.
  • Instead, off to the right, a ramp provides step-free access up to the cafe.
  • The view from the top of the ramp, with the cafe spreading out to the left.
  • The view down the length of the cafe...
  • ... and the view from the counter, looking towards the back. The doors lead to the roastery.
  • The counter is at the front, its back to the street.
  • There's not much seating in here: this bar is along the ramp to the right as you enter...
  • ... and has just three seats. Neat chairs though!
  • There are two tables at the back and two more neat chairs at the end the counter.
  • The chairs at the end of the counter.
  • Another view of the counter seating. You can guess my favourite spot, can't you?
  • There are two windows at the back which look into the roastery. This one to the left...
  • ... and the more interesting one to the right. Cupping, anyone?
  • There's also a (small) roaster in here.
  • A handy sign on the window lets you know what's going on inside.
  • There's neat statue at the top of the ramp...
  • ... and lots of interesting light-fittings. Spot-lights are dotted everywhere.
  • These are slightly less conventional...
  • ... while these were my favourites. Can you see what they are?
  • This might give you a better view.
  • Have you got it yet?
  • Last shot of the portafilter light-bulbs, I promise.
  • Hmmm.... What's this?
  • Neat display. I'd have loved to check it out if I'd had time. Maybe on my next visit.
  • There is also merchandising for sale...
  • ... and, of course, coffee.
  • Interesting: I've not seen this for a while.
  • Buy whatever amount you want: just fill up your bag and off you go (once you've paid!).
  • So, to business. The counter dominates the back of the room.
  • Right in the middle is this interesting section: brew-bar, display and food (below).
  • A tasty-looking but limited cake and sandwich selection.
  • The actual coffee menu is on the wall to the right, along with the retail shelves.
  • Choice of pour-over coffee...
  • ... which is helpfully displayed next to the tips jar on the counter.
  • Bulk-brew (left) and espresso (right).
  • So, what's it to be? Something from the espresso machine...
  • ... and its three grinders (house-blend, single-oriign and decaf)?
  • Pour-over for me, I think. I went for this one, the Guatemalan Cup of Excellence winner.
  • The pour-over set-up is really neat.
  • First step, in go the beans.
  • Next, first pour...
  • ... and leave to bloom.
  • Now we just have to top up...
  • ... ensuring that the water is poured steadily and evenly...
  • Almost done now.
  • And leave to filter.
  • Ready to serve.
  • And here we go. As is usually the case in America, the coffee is poured straight into a mug.
  • Nice pouring technique.
  • And here is it.
  • I was hungry, so I had this fromage blanc baguette with artichoke, red onion & red pepper.
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Portland Roasting faces 7th Avenue, but the Cupping Room has its own separate entrance down to the right, along the quiet Oak Street, where you can sit outside, shaded by the trees. A pair of two-person tables sit on the edge of the pavement, while three more shelter up against the wall. Alternatively, you can head inside to the lovely, spacious coffee shop.

From a small entry lobby, a shallow ramp takes you along the (short) left-hand wall to the back of the Cupping Room. Turning around to face the door/front, the counter’s ahead of you, stretching out to the left, occupying almost the full width of the room and one around third of its depth. As with many Portland places, the interior’s pleasingly uncluttered.

There’s a large space in front of the counter, opposite which, against the back wall, are two generously-sized, two-person square tables (with access to the only power outlets in the room). Two high bar-chairs occupy the far end of the counter, while three more line a bar, overlooking the ramp. The seating aside, there’s not much to the Cupping Room. A retail podium sits against the back wall near the top of the ramp, with more retail shelves along right-hand wall. Meanwhile, at the back, double-doors lead to the (off-limits, unless you’re on a tour) roastery and the cupping/training room. There are two windows in the back wall, one to either side of the door, allowing you to see what’s going on.

One of the things that struck me about Portland’s coffee shops is how bright they are. The Cupping Room is a rare exception. Not that it’s dark, but the only natural light comes from two half-height windows behind the counter. This is supplemented by multiple spot lights above the counter, angled to the back of the store and several more interesting light-fittings using old portafilter baskets. Dark wood predominates, including the floor, furniture and counter, all of which combines for a lovely, snug, relaxed atmosphere, supplemented by quiet background music.

Most of the action takes place on a worktop behind the counter, while the counter itself is a three-part affair, with two high, wide counter tops linked by a lower, central display area which doubles as a brew-bar, the cakes and sandwiches displayed below. In front of the brew bar are five bowls which contain dried coffee cherries, beans in parchment, (processed) green beans, roasted beans and, finally, ground coffee.

There’s a concise espresso menu offering a choice of house-blend, single-origin and decaf, all on separate grinders. There’s also the obligatory bulk-brew option. During my visit, there was an Ethiopian single-origin on espresso (this changes weekly), but I was drawn to the pour-over, with a choice of two single-origins (which change monthly). There was a Colombian and a Guatemalan Cup of Excellence, which I had as a Chemex. This was an incredibly smooth and well-balanced coffee. While the finer points of the tasting notes were, as usual, lost on me, all I’ll say is that I’d happily drink this all day, every day.

Although it was relatively late in the day, I was really hungry, so had a fromage blanc baguette with artichoke, red onion and red pepper. This was as good as it sounds, on really chewy bread with a decent crust.

http://portlandroasting.com +1 503-236-7378
Monday 07:30 – 17:00 Roaster Portland Roasting (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Bar, Counter, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 17:00 Food Cake, Sandwiches
Thursday 07:30 – 17:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:30 – 17:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday CLOSED Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power Limited
Chain No Visits 17th June 2015

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