Japan trip update (& Thanksgiving week hours)

November 14th, 2017

The Portland Japan connection is old. Sapporo after all is our sister city, and the reason why we have so many cherry trees along the waterfront. Of course we are connected now to many other cities everywhere. Especially connected since one side of my family is Japanese.

I am currently in Sanjo, Niigata, Japan, at my wife’s parents house. On day three of our stay Courier’s laptop had a fatal encounter with coffee and my daughter. We did what anyone would and immediately flipped it upside down, and powered it off. Later we completely removed all of the internals after two days, cleaned them with alcohol, and let dry. no-luck, after hours of cleaning and drying, and learning about checking for damage a little heartbreaking. So we bought a new laptop in Tokyo, but work had to wait until we ordered a hard drive enclosure so we could salvage our data and migrate it to the new macbook pro. Now everything is exactly where we left off, and we can work again.

We first came straight to Niigata for a few days before heading back to Tokyo, where we did a series of events making coffee. Always weird making coffee in a new place. The bigger obstacles have been soap residue on the dishes, and having to explain that they must be rinsed again. Sometimes the complication is that the water is cold only, and so it takes extra effort to get soap off. Water in Tokyo is good, but slightly harder than Portland, yet not terrible like vancouver washington in terms of hardness. Another little learning thing is brewing coffee into different size glass for serving. We like glass because people can see the coffee being made. Mostly we were just winging it, and getting used to different grinders, having to evaluate the quality of grind as well as variation in size just by looking.

Most of the coffee that we have had out has been from convenient stores, cold brew from grocery stores, and .. Starbucks. We have had coffee from modern chain stores, just looking for new things. We have not been able to make coffee a destination, because trying to get around with a small child who insists on being carried is hard.

Highlights so far include riding a ton of escalators, dancing to the cool sounds on the train. and lets see. Our daughter sneezed food all over a business mans suit on the train, (we were cracking up) he took it very well. Later we sat next to a young woman asleep on the train and Ryoku (daughter) said really loud “Nay Nay!” which means sleeping in Japanese. The woman was only partially asleep and woke, with Ryoku pointing at her and super close.

Our first coffee event was really about India, at Rokujigen Kissaten. Rokujigen is the location of Haruki Murakami’s Jazz Kissaten, and now Rokujigen is the third generation shop owned by Mr. Nakamura. Nakamura does many things, but one of them is a researcher of the writer- Murakami. He purchased the shop to preserve it not only because of Murakami, but the building itself has a lot of history, and is one of the oldest kissaten in Japan. Along one small wall are only Murakami books in different translations and languages. the hours are very flexible. This was our second time making coffee at Nakamura’s kissaten, but this time from behind the bar. And we got to speak a little about Portland, as we were invited because of a strange tie in with India to Portland’s coffee scene.

We also got to stay in a very old and classic Ryokan (hotel) located in Ogikubo. Very cheap, clean, and classic Japanese hotel in a very lovely neighborhood. My favorite part was getting to use an old beer vending machine for the first time, located off the lobby.

Its kind of cold in Niigata and having kerosene heaters in the rooms is a novelty. Being here makes me realize how easy it is to get awesome coffee in Portland, but also how superior Japanese 7-11 coffee is to Starbucks. anyway thats the update. looking forward to visiting friends, and visiting hardwarestores until i return.


bike maintenance- what happens this month- time change

November 6th, 2017

Our front hub Dynamo, or generator hub, has been wonderful. On the work bike having the lights on even in daytime feels safer. At night the road is very well lit. We are still using the Supernova front and rear. I thought we were well taken care of by our older Planet Bike Headlights, but the Supernova makes it so we can distinguish puddles from potholes.

Unfortunately our cargo bike frame (made by the Center for Appropriate transport, Eugene, OR) broke for the third time. This last time we thought it was over- downtube broken again. Bob of City Bikes (BANTAM cycles) came to the rescue and braised in a new tube in under four hours. rad. To sum our history we cracked the downtube above the BB in a year, broke the mount for the cargo bed, and now broke the downtube near the top tube. 12 years and on our third rear hub (Phil wood sucked, shimano Nexus redline totally a drag, literally, White Industries win), and the second front hub (Shimano Deore wasnt that bad to us, it held for ten years).

Actually Bob laced my rear Phil hub on my fast bike- the Surly 1×1- just last week. Phil bearings are good- just not the freewheel (which i was told needs to be serviced every month in dirty conditions, we dont do that). Bob suggested we re use my old spokes which has never happened to me before. I like running it till its dead so we said yes. when i got the wheel back it looked weird. Took a day to figure that the reason why the lacing looked funny wasnt the lacing- it was the fact that Bob had cleaned the hub and the lacing really stood out.

Currently its 1:23am and we are roasting coffee. Im heading to Tokyo in eleven hours and, thankfully i just gained another hour of roasting thanks to Daylight savings time. I am very anxious about leaving but luckily we have an amazing group at Courier. Alex Geddes will be roasting while im away, and since we have both been together in one way or another for seven years at Courier, well, it will the same- maybe better. i

the gentle softness behind making drinks

October 17th, 2017

or how staring at your phone is like someone watching a television while at work. Watching your server paying more attention to something else than to you.

Professionally when i get a phone call (unless its a work call), I go outside so as not to disturb others. Reading a book, Playing magic the Gathering, working on your laptop… well- I think that working is noble, and Magic the Gathering (or having the guts to play it) is awesome.. really i cant fault any customer.. but often it is wrong for the workers to be on their phone while being in the spotlight. spotlight?

A drink should be attentive to the conditions. should the cup be warmed to what level depending on humidity and temperature in the room. should we focus so much on latte art that the cup fills just above the rim and is impossible to easily carry and or lift to your mouth. does your server even have the faintest idea of nuances between drinks other than size. should customer service matter. yes.

recently someone told me that a 5 oz latte and cappuccino are the same drink- of course they are not. When we opened 7 years ago i think we were under this myth as well. not only are there differences in drinks, there are regional differences as well to be aware of. try and order a 5 oz latte and a 5 oz cappucino next time from your server and see what happens.

We will not say that we do it better, or consistently, but customers know. when you get served an iced americano is it cold? luke warm? does the crema or espresso float, or mix. and would your server care. yes hopefully. do you want it hot on top and chilled below. personally i would like it cold, but the crema still floating on the surface. id like the espresso poured on top of the water with ice, and a spoon to gently stir the water below to chill from the bottom up but keep the cream of the espresso on top.

actually ordering a 5 oz latte and a 5 oz cappuccino would be a good trick for your server. also interesting in Portland would be (or any city) if prices are different.

there are differences.

smoke and face masks

September 5th, 2017

wildfire smoke was a light snow at 4am, so we decided to bike to work, as normal. Wore a light mask, the cheap kind you find at most Japanese convenience stores, and the breathing was better. Masks are great at keeping particles out, but not firesmoke, however we have a great nose here.

Loaned Justin my eye protection for his 20 mile delivery route, and Japanese mask. Later i got our North 5500-30s mask- typical for paint and sanding with n100 filtration (the best you can do before chemical filtering for fire smoke), and it was awesome. With the N100 filters the air was easy, and smelled ok. while the light paper masks improved things a little the full rubber seal of the North mask is 20 times better. we have some other very serious disposable masks made by 3M, with an air out valve, made with white fluffy material, but they are very hot, and of course not as good as the rubber seal.

At the roastery we installed serious air filters on all of our windows, the kind meant for cigarette smoke and chemicals, and then had our large fan drawing air through the space. This protected the coffee from soot and particles, and helped considerably at the start of the day, but its still lightly smoky inside the room now, probably from going in and out all day, and also the seals.

Currently I am working from the storage room, with two doors between me and the outside world. Our green coffee storage room is also positively pressurized with both air conditioning and humidity control. The air is great here, and its cool.

While i did not see a single biker this morning wearing a mask or even a bandanna, i think they are still very needed. I got lightheaded biking this morning, and heard reports that others felt the same while riding. dont be afraid to look nerdy- goggles and mask really help.

7 year anniversary

August 13th, 2017

August marks our coffee shops 7 year anniversary, and maybe 11 or 12 for Courier Coffee Roasters. We remember at ten years the Half & Half cafe had already become legend at 923 SW Oak, and the memories of Portland’s first Taco del Mar had all but been forgotten. Rocco’s Pizza was always awesome, and in the first years we could run out between orders to pick up vinyl from Jackpot on 9th and Burnside.The block where the Zoobombers gathered, where the Sprockettes drank coffee.

When Courier opened we charged an astronomical two dollars for a pourover coffee. The building tenants wrote us hate messages and destroyed what little furniture we had in some weird misunderstanding. Our front door was a very popular spot to shoot up, sleep, and sometimes while we were still inside closing or opening. But it was the best of times as well.

Somewhere we read that originally the building housed electricians? or a supply house, or a school for journeyman?

Its been awesome.

On other fronts- the roastery is now a proud owner of one of those huge 42 inch warehouse fans! We got a “Master” belt drive van for decreased vibration and extended motor life. And our basement is so full of coffee its increasingly difficult to move. Downtown we have already started Shaved Ice Saturdays- the ice we are getting is amazing, and our blades are sharp. We are increasingly learning the importance and way to treat ice at different temperatures. Handmade everything of course. Wages for everyone increased very sharply last month. We still dont know how to work with increasing cost, but we are outpacing Portlands minimum wage by a bit. No one can have it both ways we guess, and of course its amazing to be able to drink coffee all the time at work.

Thank you for being with us. best!

4th july 7am-noonish open

July 4th, 2017

closing early. come by for coffee.

June 25th, 2017

Japanese shaved ice (Kakigori) will take off for real June 15th at the shop. Follow @ssshavedice on Instagram for the times and details as it gets close.

For a little background the shaved ice project starts with Sakiko, part owner of Courier. Her and i met at the coffee bar, later we got married at the coffee bar by David (funny guy who works in the morning), and so we became partners. Sakiko is an editor and writer in Japan, who came to Portland before Portland was known in Tokyo. One of Sakikos interests is Kakigori (shaved ice).

So we brought a manual Kakigori machine (Kakigoriki) back from Tokyo as a checked piece of luggage. Carrying a 56 pound machine on the train along with other luggage is tough. jumping in and out of trains, using the escalator. We ended up buying a little cart to make it easy, but traveling with a Kakigoriki is not, entirely, easy. Neither is, bringing this machine to Courier whenever we do shaved ice, or carrying it up the ladder to stow away. Thankfully we have a car, otherwise the machine, the crates, the 16 month old daughter- well, we have not talked about bike trailers yet.

Japanese shaved ice probably differs by style and the type of the machine from say, Hawaiian, or Vietnamese. The blade is very sharp high carbon tool steel which is meant to cut ribbons from crystal clear ice. This should produce almost “snowball making snow,” if the ice is too cold then it will produce powder- which won’t take any liquid if you pour condensed milk on top. Flavors commonly almost always include sweetened condensed milk as the sugary part. But if you want to really know, then you should come try it at Courier on the days we make.

a month ago when the power went out the blocks of ice in our freezer saved all of our other product. we moved these to the refrigerators and kept the temperature in the safe zone for food products.

Projects lately include digging through our 600 plus records at the roastery, trying to figure out their origins. We got a new Milwaukie corded drill and some rivets and have been refurbishing an old higgens toolbox. We are trying to refurbish our silca pumps- recently retapped the threads and have new leather. Piles of free firewood at the roastery from all our cut up palettes. and probably the most thrilling thing lately has been fixing the gate hinges for the backyard so that the latch always catches. we are very proud of this work as we accomplished it with zipties, a few beer caps, a bic pen tube, and brass compression nut.

the roastery is hot. its 80F now, but once we turn on the 1200F afterburning the room will hold at a 100F. its always summer at the roastery.

shop closed today due to power outage

May 23rd, 2017

there was a fire in an underground vault yesterday evening. we will be without power all today. hopefully enough ice in our fridges will keep them cold enough for the day.

May 15th, 2017

Last time we cut up the pallets. The next step was biking 300 pounds of pallette wood 5 miles deeper into southeast Portland. A normal 20 minute ride took one hour. We fell over three times on an uphill climb, once nearly missing a parked car. It was awesome. Distributed nice clean small cuts of wood to a community garden for their fire pit or building pleasure, then sections of partial cut palet with nails to my yard? for planting beds.

The coffee at Jackpot went super smooth- brewed all the coffee pourover style using gold plated filters from Zip. The first batch we attempted a different method- which while sludgy tasted great.

The last week we bled, and flushed the mineral oil from the cargo bikes rear Saint hydraulic brake line. super easy- nice and tight. except we ruined a half used set of pads. the oil was pretty dark. We pushed oil from the calipers up to the handlebars while keeping the line vertical. pushed some to flush out, and another to bottle up in the line. cleaned the ceramic pistons with some degreaser first and then a ton of rubbing alcohol before pressing them back in. lucky we have extra pads always for the saint pistons- although 50-60 dollars a pair, but the cargo bike needs those cooling fins on the pads for sure.

some may have noticed that we replaced our chairs downtown that were from IKEA (yellow)- with some vintage 1970′s chairs (orange). We are working very hard on those cheap yellow chairs with different disposable allen wrenches here at the shop. The issue with our orange chairs is that they are orange but the reason for the switch is because the yellow ones were falling apart.

May 1st, 2017

Installed a new Grove Gear wormgear reducer box on the SF-25 San Franciscan roaster, have not aligned the box properly yet to get a nice chainline. Last week our keystone worked itself loose and we scuffed up the paint a little re-setting the Martin 40 tooth sprockette, using an interesting tool steel spike like crowbar (oTc 7164). This was in order to line up the keyway. Too hasty installing the gearbox.

This week we cleaned out most of the 9-block pallets from inside the roastery. Since we cannot find a pallet person, or find a taker on craigslist for these things we had to cut them up for firewood. De-spelled the myth that pallette wood was soaked in chemicals by talking to a few folks, so its ok to use for a fire or woodstove. Must have been between 2-3 hundred pounds of wood we biked back home, turning a 20 minute ride into an hour. Cuts were made with an old Skillsaw which continued to cutout because the hot and ground wire kept connecting, our fix for this continued to get better.

The Shutter Precision dynamo hub on the cargo bike is working awesome. It is so sweet to have a rear and front light always on. We used a piece of chain from the roaster to hold the Supernova seatpost light firmly, and later some security screws for all. Very much thinking of making my next personal front hub a dynamo hub.

While we have the new coffee from Uganda, and two new Kenyan coffees we are still thinking about how best to roast them. Our espresso Guatemalan coffee continues to challenge us but lately its gotten a lot better- as it always does when there is less than a hundred pounds left (ASDEFLOR cooperative, Todos Santos Cuchumatan, Huehuetenango, Guatemala 2016 crop).

Brewing coffee for the line at Jackpot on Record Store Day went ok. Only was able to use one glass thermos, but the main challenge was pourover brewing such a huge amount. More than sure some of that coffee was made way too strong- but it got there- and it was the first preview of one of our two new Kenyan coffees. We brewed using gold plated steel Zip filters (Germany), into quart jars, grinding courser than normal and timing to 3 minute brews especially since we were using super super freshly roasted coffee. Decided wisely not to offer cream or sugar, but put the main effort into clear labeling of the farmer, and lot of coffee.