Espresso or Pourover? (answer: both!)

Saturday morning, after an hour spent chasing kids around OMSI, we stopped by Coava coffee. Writing a blog about coffee, I feel it is my duty to stop by Portland’s best cafés as often as possible (it’s a tough gig). My wife had not been to Coava’s industrial-styled shop before, so it was also an opportunity for her to share my world for a few minutes. We used the stop to further our coffee knowledge.

The café was full of people, and there were two recognizable faces behind the bar—Devin Chapman, 2010 Northwest Regional Brewer’s Cup champion, and Sam Purvis, 2010 Northwest Regional Barista champion (I do not personally know either of them—but they are celebrities in this small part of the coffee world). It was somewhat ironic that Chapman was running the espresso machine and Purvis was in charge of the pourovers, since each had earned their titles on the other method. Both are highly-skilled professionals, though, so I wasn’t worried about getting a quality cup of coffee.

Shayna ordered a pourover of the Costa Rica Finca Zarcero, and I ordered the espresso version of the same coffee. While I tried to keep the kids corralled, she listened attentively as Purvis described the mechanics of a good pourover.

My espresso came up quickly, and I drank it while it was still fresh. As an espresso, the Zarcero brought a burst of citrus. The acidity walloped my mouth, and the silkiness of the syrupy crema lingered, long after the drink was gone.

After a little pleading, Shayna let me try her coffee so that I could compare it to the espresso. It would have been wise to start with the pourover or to eat something to “reset” my taste buds after their encounter with the bold flavors of the espresso, but it was still possible to compare the two.

As you can imagine, the two versions came out very different. As a brewed coffee, the flavors were much more subtle. It had a very light mouth feel, and although it was still citrusy, the flavors packed less of a punch. Shayna described the coffee as “different from any other coffee” she had ever tried (in a good way, I think).

Trying the same coffee prepared in two different ways is a fun way to learn more about coffee and expand your own tastes. Doing it at Coava makes it even better, though you have to be careful. If you stop there too often, you might get spoiled by the quality of the coffee and the baristas (I think it’s a risk worth taking). Then again, if you are in Portland, can you really justify not being spoiled by the city’s coffee scene?