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Oh. La. Caffeinated. La.
It's like drinking velvet. Just how it feels is different, while you're scooping it. Softer than any coffee you've ever scooped. Better than coffee you get in chi-chi restaurants in LA. (Hint, hint, Din and Nancy.)

Okay, so, we were all a bit ticked off at Nancy Rommelmann for leaving LA a few years back, but at least she and her husband Din Johnson have made it worthwhile, opening a coffee place in Portland called Ristretto Roasters. Oh, ho-hum who cares, right? Well, you would, if you were drinking their coffee, which I just bossy-girled her into selling me mail order (and which she's now selling to bossy girls and non bossy girls and boys alike). They'll have their official web site up soon, but if you want, you can order it now, via Nancy, here.

Again, this is not just ordinary coffee, and I'm not just recommending it because I love Nancy. Most stunningly, what this coffee is missing (I ordered four pounds of Sumantra Mandheling for Gregg and me) is the bitter coffee taste. I just thought that was a normal part of drinking coffee, even though I buy organic, fresh-roasted blah blah blah in LA. This's like drinking butter. I can't recommend it enough.

Here's more from their Ristretto site:

Launched in September 2005, Ristretto Roasters is an artisanal coffee roasting company marketing super-premium, small-batch roasted coffee to restaurants; to the public via mail order, and in its flagship coffee roastery and café, at 3520 NE 42nd Ave., in the heart of Portland’s Beaumont/Alameda neighborhood.

“But isn’t another coffee place in Portland like bringing coal to Newcastle?” asked an editor at the Oregonian, to which a reasonable response might be, yes, and at how many of these places does the coffee indeed taste like charcoal?

Ristretto (Italian for “restricted,” and a term used for the first sweet burst of espresso) Roasters founder and coffee roaster Din Johnson handcrafts every batch of beans, roasting them on-site in a vintage Probat roaster. Johnson sources his beans from five continents, often from the farmers themselves, and is committed to bringing out the best of the individual characteristics of each type of bean—the dark chocolate and intense blueberry of an Ethiopia Harrar; the earthy pungency of a Sumatra Mandheling; the soft chocolate tones and light apricot high notes of a Guatemala Antigua Sereno.

“It’s so much like making wine,” commented a vintner from the Willamette Valley, when he learned of the many types of beans, the balance of sweetness, fruit and body that go into Ristretto Roasters’ espresso blend.

While the American renaissance that began in the Northwest two decades ago has introduced the country to some great coffee, it’s simultaneously spawned a lot of over-roasted, over-flavored, and/or stale product. While consumers often associate black, glossy beans with richness and flavor, these beans have essentially had the flavors roasted out of them, the oils on the exterior of the bean ensuring only that it with spoil faster.

All Ristretto Roasters coffees are medium-roasted, allowing the consumer to experience the flavors of the coffee (rather than merely the roast). This can take some persuading, as customers come into the café convinced they only like the deepest, darkest roast. As all Ristretto Roasters coffees are available individually brewed by the cup, it is a pleasure to watch someone previously committed to the blunt burn of, say, a French roast, have his first taste of Java Kayumas Estate, a thick, sweet, syrupy coffee with low acidity and a unique herbal character, an experience that goes something like…


And to watch the light bulb go on, when he realizes how complex coffee can be, and that there are many Ristretto Roasters coffees to experience, and that there will be others next week.

Johnson roasts coffee every day, and no roasted coffee is kept more than seven days. The café also features a traditional espresso bar, homemade baked goods, mid-century furnishings, a rotating roster of modern art, and free WiFi.

I don't recommend just anything. In fact, I mostly refuse to recommend anything. Trust me: If you order this, you will be thanking Din in your head every day as you drink it. I am right now.

Posted by aalkon at January 18, 2006 8:31 AM

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Coffee shouldn't be bitter. If it is, it's usually because the beans are inferior or the coffee is under-roasted, or it's been sitting on a commercial burner for more than a few minutes. Sumatra is one of the best varieties, IMO, but it needs to be sufficiently roasted, and it sounds like your friends understand that. The biggest line of BS ever perpetrated on the public was "Columbian's the richest kind." Feh. Coffees from the Pacific (your Kona's, Sumatra's) are the smoothest and most full-bodied. If you ever get a chance to try a Kona Peaberry or a New Guinea Peaberry, do it. You won't be sorry.

Can you tell I'm a bit obsessive about my coffee? :-)

Posted by: deja pseu at January 18, 2006 7:32 AM

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