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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Coffee in Portland wasn’t quite what I expected. Here’s the Stumptown at the Ace, where we went for espresso after getting coffee (and book shopping) at Powell’s. In general, Stumptown was good, but rarely great. Variation between baristas was immense; some of the milk texturing was borderline unimpressive, and espresso pulls were all over the map. It’s … a little more cozy than the Stumptown at the Ace in New York, but still a bit sterile.

Here’s the one by Voodoo Donuts (more on that later), which had better ambiance, and some beer:

I mean, it’s good coffee, but they’ve over-franchised, and their staff is inconsistent, I think. Their best people had good pulls and good milk, but it’s not the type of place you can count on unless you can pick your barista. Granted, I feel that way about Espresso Neat in Darien, but I was expecting something more on par with the Seattle shops where every pull, pour, and drink was downright exceptional, and it just didn’t work out this way. All the Stumptown shops I was at pulled on La Marzocco Mistrals, which strike me as somewhat incongruous with their visual aesthetic; they might as well switch with the FB/80 or the GB/5. But who am I? Anyway, I came to Portland, coffee-wise, for Stumptown, and left with it at my least favorite. Bummer. Not on par with Seattle at all.

Up in the Pearl, Barista did a surprisingly fantastic job pulling beans from Counter Culture and pouring milk; the barista was a pro and was only working with a Linea (don’t recall for sure, but I think a two-group). Attention to detail was good here; they only pull guest coffees, their selection rotating a lot. It was very bohemian and funky, I liked the ambiance, though it’s not the type of place you go to sit and relax and read a book. Probably one of the best guest coffee shops (at least in terms of coffee) I’ve ever been to.

But, my favorite shop by far was Public Domain, drinking their Prometheus blend, as well as a single-origin Ethiopian. Every pull was exceptional, every pour perfect. Attention to detail was excellent, ambiance nice.

They also pull on a 2-group Cyncra and a 2-group Slayer (first one I’ve seen in the wild), which is awesome. Great shop, hit it if you’re in Portland.