I have an unapologetic coffee crush on Water Avenue Coffee Company of Portland, Oregon. The first time I had their coffee was in the autumn of 2015, right after Coffee Fest. The cafe was chic, the barista was friendly, and the coffee was nothing less than exceptional. I started with a single origin espresso, then I tried their espresso blend on drip. After that I had a latte, and then a pour-over. Then I bought a t-shirt. In a blurry state of over-caffeination, I bought a bag of beans before I left. Upon recommendation of the knowledgeable barista, I chose the El Salvador, Santa Barbara, washed Bourbon. In about three days I had Chemexed the entire bag. It was a perfect coffee for the time of year; it tasted like brown sugar, cinnamon and baked apple pie. One of my favorite coffees ever.
On a recent trip to Portland, giddy with glee, I stepped foot in the hallowed café again. A feeling of ease washed over me when I saw the same barista pulling shots and no one in line. After telling her I’d like a shot and a brew, I figured out why she was looking at me with raised eyebrows… I had forgotten that I was wearing my Water Avenue t-shirt. I was that guy. And I was proud. Since I was on a time crunch to beat the traffic back to Seattle, I finished my beverages and asked for a recommendation on whole bean coffee before I left. And as I walked out the door, I took a big breath of Water Avenue air into my lungs and held it tight to absorb all the inspiration I could.
The coffee I took home was no surprise to me: El Salvador, Las Delicias, Natural Pacamara. Water Avenue is exceptional at roasting Central American coffees. By not going too light they stay clear of sourness while pulling all the sweetness from what the bean has to offer. Furthermore, a natural process is wild with fruity sweetness and if you know anything about Pacamaras, you’ll know that this big bean boasts big flavors. This was one coffee I wouldn’t be sharing.
Of course I brewed this El Sal in a Chemex; but I also tried it in an AeroPress. And, not being an AeroPress master, I actually discovered that the AeroPress made the sweetness pop more – but this isn’t to say that AeroPress brings out more sweetness than Chemex, it is just the way I brewed it, perhaps an AeroPress is a little more forgiving on the brewer with reference to grind and pouring technique. With that said, the recipe I used was from the third place finisher in the 2014 US AeroPress Championship, Andrew Bettis of Copacetic Coffee and Velo Coffee Roasters in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I chose this recipe for one reason; it was simple. 17 grams of coffee to 225g of water. Pour 204 degree water for 30 seconds; steep for 50 seconds; stir for 10 seconds; press slowly for 40 seconds.
This is going to be my go-to recipe for a while because it made this Natural El Salvador come to life in the cup. Think grapes. The fragrance of the dry grounds and the wet aroma was like ripe concord grapes – the kind that grow like giant purple ping-pong balls on the vine. Up front is a tangy fruity acidity that gives way to a sweet brown sugary roastiness and is followed by more grape flavor. The finish is more like an overripe fruit flavor or grape compote if such a thing exists. Maybe more like sticky pie filling. Just like the name of the farm from which its divine cherries hail, this coffee is without a doubt, delicious. Although I have a few other coffee crushes, Water Avenue was my first and I will always look to them for inspiration in my own roasts and pure enjoyment when drinking coffee.