Thanks to Liz Crain for including us in the Food Lover’s Guide to Portland p. 142.
Not a day goes by without a customer asking “how much coffee should I use?” at the Stumptown Annex. This inquiry usually leads to more questions. Which brew method will be used? How many cups of coffee are you making, and what size are those cups? These are all valid questions which we’ll discuss at length in other articles. At the Annex, more than any other drink, we typically hand brew an eight ounce cup of pour over coffee. With this as a reference point, we normally give our response to the original question in a measure of weight: say, 21 grams. Most customers usually roll their eyes and want a unit of measure that coincides with a number of scoops. This gets a bit tricky. The mass of something, what we commonly call weight, is far more accurate than most ways we measure volume. You are already measuring your coffee so you might as well do it in way that is accurate, consistent and easy. Then again, this is America! We don’t use scales, and we already have seven sets of measuring spoons strung about our kitchen drawers.
If you’re going to do something you might as well do it correctly, right? Well, things are usually more complicated and there are other factors to consider. First, I will go out on a limb and state, the vast majority of Americans measure things in the kitchen volumetrically. We tend to be familiar with terms like cups, tablespoons and teaspoons. So, on Monday morning while Fido, your little ones, or even you are doing the pee dance and you are desperate for a cup of the brown stuff to snap you into the reality of your day, you resort to what is familiar: the tablespoon. Three heaping scoops, some hot water and a pour later you are sipping on a sour cup tasting nothing like yesterday’s brew. At this point, you’ve tossed Fido out the door, narrowly avoided a wet footy-pajama incident and are now desperately scrambling for the loo; awake, but gastronomically unsatisfied with the morning’s brew. If you have experienced anything similar to this, especially your cup tasting different from day to day, then you may want to become more familiar with terms like grams, tare and weight.
Not all coffee beans are created equal. There are many varietals that come in different shapes and sizes. One bean may be small and dense, while others are large and porous. Any combination of these characteristics may be found in different coffees. To illustrate some differences from one bean to the next, I measured the rough volume of one pound of Stumptown French Roast and compared it to the volume of one pound of the Ethiopia Duromina. I filled a standard Stumptown bag with a pound each of the coffees and measured the length, width and height with my trusty ruler. The French Roast occupied about 200 more cubic centimeters. The bag was four centimeters taller. In this case, the Ethiopia Duromina beans are noticeably smaller in size and probably denser. This means when you scoop out your beans in the morning you may be using different amounts of coffee per cup which affects the taste of your coffee. A single gram above or below the ideal will result in a sour or bitter cup. When mornings can be full of any number of tribulations, it would be nice to have a decent cup of coffee from day to day! This can easily be achieved with the addition of a scale to your kitchen.
There is no guessing with a scale. If you pour your beans into a cup sitting atop a zeroed-out scale and it reads 21 grams, then you have exactly that much coffee. Recently, I tested my skills with a tablespoon measure. I figured decades of experience in the kitchen would mean I would be pretty accurate with my scooping, but this was not the case. I, very scientifically, weighed three heaping scoops of whole beans. My method was to dig deep into the bag with the tablespoon, and give it a small gentle side-to-side shuffle to avoid any kamikaze beans from pelting the table when moving from bag to scale. With the French Roast, five of the measures weighed anywhere from 16.9 to 19.8 grams. The Ethiopia Duromina measurements ranged from 23.8 to 25.8 grams. This was a bit alarming. I was not able to hit the target weight of 21 grams. With these numbers, I should expect five cups of coffee which all taste different and none that taste great. Generally speaking, I could expect some of these cups to be watery, sour and grassy tasting, while others would be muddled, bitter and dirty tasting. Measuring coffee by volume with a scoop is not accurate or consistent.
If you have taken the time to purchase nice beans at a local specialty coffee roaster, then you are likely paying a pretty penny for a lovingly cultivated and crafted product. It shows you care about the products you consume and, I would wager, you know and enjoy the taste of a well brewed cup of coffee. However, every time you fumble around for the tablespoon in the morning, you are gambling on the quality of your brew and the odds are you will end up with a poor tasting cup of coffee.
Asking how much coffee one should use for a cup is a valid, somewhat complex and common question. We can continue to make guesstimations with volume, or get a scale and make it a simple accurate step in your brewing process. You are already performing the act of measuring your coffee for brewing. For many, it might entail a face squishing, tongue out, one-eyed guess (my general facade when getting just the right heaping scoop of beans). Or, you could pour some beans into a cup sitting atop a scale and stop pouring at the desired weight. In the latter case, you start your morning ritual with a better chance of achieving a great tasting cup every day. But wait there’s more! Scales are great for baking, which tends to need accuracy when measuring and assembling the ingredients. Unlike cooking, baking is a fairly scientific dance of precisely mixed dry and wet components, in conjunction with carefully measured alkalis and acids. Any slight deviations in measurements can mean the outcome of a sunken loaf, or exploding muffin mess all over the bottom of your oven. Moreover, if you have little ones, at some point they will come home with an assignment that requires the use of a scale. For ten dollars and up you can obtain a device that will start you on the path to a consistently great cup of coffee, the best muffins on the block all year round and, without a doubt, an honors student apprenticing with Stephen Hawking.
PDX: Downtown Stumptown Ups Its Game
If there’s one thing we love, it’s innovation at a classic space. Over the last few weeks, Sprudge.com Portland HQ / Portland Visitation Road Team have noticed a couple of awesome new features at the flagship downtown Stumptown location, and well, it’s not enough that we’ve noticed them – we can in all honesty and good conscience vouch for their deliciousness and sincerely recommend you towards both.
First, around 6 weeks ago DT Stumptown rolled out an on-tap version of their Stumptown Cold Brew. It’s pulled from an actual beer tap, with a wooden tap handle, and served tall in a pint glass with ice. There’s sort of the perfect amount of diffusion happening in that pint glass – the ice cubes mingling beneath the indoor heating blast of Portland’s First Cold Week – making for quite the refreshing sip.
Second, if you’re one of those Portland “east-and-north of the river” types who cross a bridge like once every other month, DT Stumptown is newly offering a curated slow bar in the back of the space. It’s sort of like a miniature version of the Stumptown Annex, but with a few select menu options applied to specific brew methods, including Clever, V60 and Aeropress. A recent Aeropress service of their Ethiopia Yukro yielded a pleasant acidity with you-can-really-taste-it notes of peach truth. In Sprudge’s ongoing narrative of “what’s the best thing we’ve tasted in x amount of time”, that cup of Yukro is a clear contender.
DT Stumptown is at 128 Southwest 3rd Avenue, in frosty Portland, Oregon. Cold brew is available on tap every day, pour over bar open Fri-Sun through the holidays.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters was born in Portland in 1999. Whether Founder Duane Sorenson was merely seeking to simply produce a quality cup ‘o joe for the neighboring community or attempting to revolutionize the biz is the great unknown. What is known is that Sorenson and Stumptown have completed the latter. There is such a thing as the “Third Wave” in the coffee movement, and Stumptown shares top billing on that film’s marquee.
The culture at Stumptown is considerably different than perhaps any other coffee purveyor. Sorenson is famous for forming lasting relationships with bean farmers, visiting the farms in person and unafraid to pay high prices for that perfect dose of worthy coffee. And perks for employees are hardly the norm. In an era where a growing list of companies are pulling the plug on once-standard benefits such as 401k and health insurance, Stumptown has offered such quirky and unique perks as an on-staff massage therapist and a compilation album for the company’s barista/rock stars.
Keeping up with its trendsetting ways, Stumptown in recent months unleashed Cold Brew Stubbies. With the iced coffee genre on an upswing, the Stumptown version, encased in the retro-cool brown glass bottles, is exactly what longtime cultists have come to expect: high end, crisp, and unrelentingly hip. Stumptown operates out of Portland, Seattle and NYC, with a wholesale unit that can stretch the world.
Our grandfathers bemoan that once they could buy a cup of java for a nickel. Nostalgia being rose-colored, these great men never sipped on a Stumptown Coffee Roasters cup. Score one for the Gen-Xer’s.
From BevNET.com – “The fact that they chose a stubby — a little brown glass bottle that has been around forever — and turned it into something that feels modern, cool, and innovative impressed the panel a lot. Plus, they did a great job executing the vintage style label art. Both of these are very consistent with the Stumptown brand. The label is clean, readable and direct – you know exactly what it is. Plus, the silkscreen application gives the appearance of quality, which is what Stumptown is all about. Just from looking at it, it’s clear that the coffee inside the bottle isn’t going to disappoint.”
Nick Makanna is from the sunny southeastern side of San Francisco, a wonderland of Victorian houses and dilapidated brick and steel buildings. Growing up he witnessed the demolition and transformation of the spaces that he loved. Relics of an industrial past became apartment complexes and various other drab modern fixtures. For Makanna painting serves as a means of documentation, a way to illuminate the withering beauty and the mortality of industrial spaces. Throughout his large-scale and colorful works lies an outlook of revitalization and optimism in the face of decay. Yet there is also a sense of urgency in the enjoyment of these spaces before they slowly disappear. Makanna’s work speaks to the notion of progress and its relation to the nation’s architectural and industrial past, but also to the tenuous role of the painter and painting in contemporary American society.
Opening reception Sunday December 11th 4pm-6pm
Industrial Park, a musical collaboration between Makanna and Emma Barnett, will be playing a few original songs written for the reception at 5pm.
You can see more of his work here: nickmakanna.com
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
4525 SE Division Street
M-F: 6AM-9PM / S-S: 7AM-9PM
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