How To Order Coffee On The West Coast

…and end up with what you want.

In Portland

  • “Espresso”: double shot, pulled extra ristretto (coffee syrup) “Single” will get you odd looks… and a tiny smudge.
  • “Macchiato”: double shot with a decent amount of fresh-steamed milk (1:1ish)
  • “Cappuccino”: double shot with a good amount of milk (3:1)

In the Bay Area

  • “Espresso”: Must be specified single or double. Usually pulled ristretto, not always
  • “Espresso Macchiato”: Must be specified single or double. (Ordering just a “macchiato” gets you odd looks.) Just a touch of milk. What “noisette” gets you in a Paris cafe
  • “Cappuccino”: Single or double. Just a little bigger than what “macchiato” gets you in Portland.

In San Diego

  • “Espresso”: Single, unless you say double. Often pulled extra-long unless you as for “ristetto”
  • “Macchiato”: Will get you odd looks. Many won’t know what it is. If they do, it ends up close to a Portland macchiato (1:1ish), but single long shot unless otherwise specified.
  • “Cappuccino”: single long, good amount of milk (3:1)

It’s Kinda What Happens

Anil Dash (parenthesis mine): “…It’s a time for the nascent space of…” (insert new, exciting, subtly-world-changing technology space here) “as pioneered by…” (inset 3 exciting startups here) “…and others, to reach that inevitable point in a young tech space’s development where things develop into a shitshow flamewar that nobody comes out of unscathed.”

In The Beginning

I am living in the basement. We work here, and the floors are swept clean, and the desks are clean, and the computers hum away mechanically. Only the walls are tinged with life.

Coding. Creating context from bare metal. Electrons, it’s all it is. Only it’s everything, too.

Today was one of the most exciting days of my life. Building a scheme to understand how to comprehend text. Clause by clause, word by word, morpheme by morpheme. Not just the building blocks of language. Oh no, Mr. Chomsky. The building blocks of understanding. Primal roots. Jane Goodall stuff. Rooting back to the core, the heart, the reptilian. Ungh. Oong. Uh. Cave man good. Yes! More please…

Flying In

PDX -> SFO this morning. Sparking the memory machine:

2004 or 2005. Flying to City from SD for solo weekend adventure, blowoff job-stress, write, indulge. Hotel des Artes. Chinatown garlic smell. Coffee shop hop. A peregrination. Cafe to burrito to cafe. Working at each stop. Novelty of laptop. Writing the 1950s. Dad and Gregory. Sunny day after last class at Sacred Heart friday, two of them getting into trouble all the way home. Dinner at Rue St Jaques. Cassoulet. Sit at the bar. Half bottle of Napa cab. Fog evening, Fur coats get out of cabs and come in out of the fog, i greet them, one-seat front door bar. Stumble home in the dark, through fog and fog smell and with fog shivers “coldest winter I ever spent”. It’s August in San Francisco and I’m free.

Favorite Places Portland: Coava

Coava is:

  • An open space. Warehouse space: High ceilings, elbow room at the tables, room between the tables combine to give you the feeling you’re setting up shop in your own lopped-off private-space. Laptop and phone and caff and you.
  • A shared space. Bamboo Revolutions next door uses a portion of the warehouse space as a show room. There’s a shared buzz: Cafe visitors check out the woodwork, custom furniture buyers are introduced to a great cup of coffee. It’s a collaboration that might not even be possible in California. Oregon’s relatively fast and loose regulatory environment seems to encourage these kinds of symbiotic relationships.
  • Roll-up garage door. For those summer mornings, July – September, the feeling of being an open-air cafe with that wonderful fresh PNW air flowing through.
  • Sidewalk seats. Just three tables + chairs they put out on the sidewalk. No fence around them, no signs saying No Dog, nobody freaking out because the tables are too close together or too close to traffic or whatever other things Californians think about in that litigious environment.
  • Friendly kids behind the counter. But not faux-friendly. Or self-absorbed. Or fiddling with their phones. And this place is as cool as it gets, but nobody acts like you ought to feel privileged to walk through the front door. It’s a fine line… and they nail it. Like a lot of places in Portland. *
  • Some of the best baristas in the world. Seriously. This applies to the whole city: I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: There are more baristas who can make a great macchiato in Portland than there are in the entire rest of the country.
  • Some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. Seriously. The lighter roast, maximum flavor, Scandi-style meme isn’t new anymore, but it’s a winner. Coava coffees have notes on both the nose and the mouth that I’ve never come close to experiencing in coffee before. On the roaster/terroir continuum, I’d definitely say they’re leaning towards the roaster… and you know what? That’s a good thing. There are other roasters in town that are closer to the terroir side. Water Ave comes to mind. You know what? That’s a good thing too. It all adds up to a town spilling over with amazing coffee.
  • – A great place to have a coffee, connect the Chromebook, feel alive, feel vital, feel part of the pulse of Cascadia’s Third City.

231. Coffee at Coava

* A note about Portland service: I notice from yelp that a lot of people seem put-off by Portland service. For me, it’s nearly perfect. 98% of the time, I don’t want my boots licked or a “Good morning sir!” or someone reciting a corporate script. I just want to get on with it. And the 2% of the time I do want all that panache (Genoa, Paley’s Place, other high-end dining spots)? I find you usually get it.

Never Let On

“It didn’t take me long to make up my mind that these liars warn’t no kings nor dukes at all, but just low-down humbugs and frauds. But I never said nothing, never let on; kept it to myself; it’s the best way; then you don’t have no quarrels, and don’t get into no trouble. If they wanted us to call them kings and dukes, I hadn’t no objections, ’long as it would keep peace in the family; and it warn’t no use to tell Jim, so I didn’t tell him. If I never learnt nothing else out of pap, I learnt that the best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their own way.”

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter 19
by Mark Twain
a.k.a. Samuel Clemens
(emphasis mine)

Underwater Infrasound

“In pre-industrial times, the low frequency range of 15 to 300 Hz in which most of the baleen whales sing was the quietest part of the sound spectrum, nestled between the subsonic ramblings of earthquakes and the higher pitched rattle of wind, waves and rain.”

Bob Holmes.
“Noises Off.”
New Scientist.
1 March 1997: 30–33.