Cellar Door Coffee Roasters is one of those places that has been on my radar for quite some time, ever since I wandered by on a sunny autumn day (yes, we do have sun in Portland once in a while). After watching the first day of the Northwest Regional Barista Championships in Tacoma, I decided to make visiting the café a higher priority. Cellar Door had two baristas competing at the contest, a sure sign that the café’s baristas care about their craft.
Cellar Door Coffee, located on the busy SE 11th Avenue between Hawthorne and Division, has been in its current location for about three years. Jeremy Adams and Andrea Pastor, the owners, founded the company in 2007, roasting small batches of coffee in their garage and selling it at farmers markets. As their direct-to-customer business increased, the operation outgrew its original location.
Today the café takes up the lower floor of an old (Victorian?) house that has been remodeled. It is not large, but the space is comfortable. There are a handful of tables in front of the bar, a few seats along the front window and a back area that has some soft chairs and a few toys for kids. A small roaster sits by the front door that Adams uses to roast coffee samples for cupping. Large trucks occasionally roll by and give the café a gentle shake.
When I asked about the espresso on grind, Thomas Suprenant, one of the baristas on duty, rattled off a description of the Puddletown Blend so quickly that I couldn’t catch all of what he said. You could tell that he was enthusiastic about sharing his coffee knowledge, and he did not seem bothered when I asked him to repeat the description.
Cellar Door’s signature espresso blend is a mix of three different coffees: a coffee from Finca Colombia in the Antigua region of Guatemala, a Fair-Trade organic coffee from Peru and a washed Ethiopia Sidama from the Dara Shilicho cooperative. The taste was a balance of sweet, acid and bitter that is what you would expect in an espresso.
In addition to the small roaster upstairs, Cellar Door also has a 12-kilo (25-lb) capacity Diedrich roaster down in the basement. Thomas took me to see it. Walking down the narrow stairs, I found myself thinking “They took a roaster down these? Are you kidding?”
What makes it more remarkable is that Jeremy and Andrea had to figure out how to move it in by themselves. Here’s the story, in Jeremy’s words:
“We called around looking for someone who would move it. It weighs about 800 pounds and it’s top-heavy, so it’s not a simple move. We called piano movers, and they didn’t want to try. I called gun safe movers, thinking they would be interested. They’re used to moving top-heavy objects. They were interested until they heard how much it cost. They’d say: ‘It’s worth $25,000? I’m not touching it.’ After calling around for a while, I realized we were just going to have to do it ourselves.”
So that’s what they did, with a little help.
“The neighborhood pitched in to help us. Someone let us use some straps, one of the neighbors helped with his forklift. It was a challenge but we just did it. Hopefully we’ll never have to move it again.”
As you might have guessed, Jeremy is by nature a do-it-yourselfer, and the placement of the roaster was just one of his many projects scattered around the café. In addition to the roaster project, Jeremy has built a custom pour-over stand for the coffee bar, put an extra temperature control on the espresso machine, built a special lift for coffee bags in the basement and put a customized smoke remover on the exhaust system of the roaster. The electrostatic smoke remover uses much less energy than the typical afterburner that many coffee roasters use (you can read more about it here) and fits into the café’s goal of being more environmentally friendly (Cellar Door has committed to using renewable energy, participating in PGE’s Green Power program).
Visiting Cellar Door was enjoyable. The coffee was good, the baristas were friendly and enthusiastic and it was clear that the owners had a strong Portland DIY spirit. I’d go back. If you go, be sure to ask the baristas for a recommendation. They’ll take good care of you.
Address: 2001 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97202 (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday 6:30am-6pm
Coffee: Cellar Door
Free Wi-Fi? Yes
Recommend it? Yes, they care about results