Near the end of July, I visited Ristretto’s new café, at the corner of Northeast Couch and 6th. At the time, the café was still under construction and the workers were frenetically working to finish the build-out. You couldn’t really tell what the café was going to look like. I finally made it back to see the café, and all I can say is, wow.
With shapely steel and bamboo tables, Ristretto Couch is another example of Accelerated Development’s faculty for design, elevating the industrial look to an art form. I didn’t think anything could trump Ristretto’s Nicolai space, but Couch comes close. (Apparently, I’m not the only one who was impressed. New York Magazine’s Grub Street blog included Ristretto on its list of 58 Extraordinary Shops Around America.)
It is not just beauty that makes the new café enjoyable. The coffee is good too. The barista pulled a very nice shot of espresso (Beaumont Blend)—sweet, smooth, almondy* and chocolaty.
The customized Steampunk is another reason to check out the cafe. A technological curiosity, the Steampunk is kind of like a vacuum pot, kind of like a Clover, and kind of like a French press. Mostly, it’s just kind of unique. It is a fully automatic brewer that can be programmed to mimic all kinds of brew methods.
The barista can control many different brewing parameters, including water temperature, agitation (frequency, strength), and brew time.
Ristretto is the only café in the Northwest to have one so far, so if you are interested in trying coffee brewed this way, Couch is the place to get it. (I tried the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe on the Steampunk. It was a bit more roasty than some of Ristretto’s coffees I have tried. It opened up as it cooled, with some sweetness and a mild acidity coming through.)
New for Ristretto, the Couch shop sells several beers and wines, as well as some food options beyond the typical morning pastry fare. The tapas plate, with bread and olive oil, Marcona almonds, and green olives was tasty (though at $10, a bit pricy to be a regular habit). You can add prosciutto from Olympic provisions for a heartier meal.
The café is roomy enough that both workflow and customer flow should be smooth, as long as people don’t stop too long to gawk at the Steampunk. Overall, Ristretto Couch is a great addition to the PDX coffee scene.
Address: 555 NE Couch Street, Portland, OR 97232 (map)
Hours: Monday-Saturday 6:30am-8pm
Recommendations? A shot of Beaumont Blend
Recommendation #2: Check out the W.C. (seriously)
*My spell checker didn’t like almondy, but I didn’t like almond-y, so I’m going with it.