Sunday, December 8, 2013
Portland's coffee aficionados gained their ultimate java mecca today with the official opening of the Speckled Ax. The coffee shop is the first retail outlet opened by Matt Bolinder, who is the Matt behind Matt's Wood Roasted Organic Coffee. Matt, pictured above with Bethany Moran, has been wood roasting blends and single source varietals in Maine since 2007.
He's a coffee purest (go ahead, I dare you to ask him for a dark roast) and a coffee perfectionist. This is reflected in the shop's name, which is a reference to a story in Benjamin Franklin's autobiography that deals with the idea of moral perfection and how challenging it can be to achieve such a state.
Even with a steady stream of customers today (despite a total lack of signage on the street), the shop was producing coffee that was pretty darn near perfect. (Those of us who braved the drizzle to art walk Friday night were some of the first to sample the shop's coffee and we got to do so for free.)
In the photo above, Matt and Bethany are producing individual pour-over coffees. These sell for $2.50 for a 10 oz. and $3 for a 16 oz. and avoid the flavor problems that can result when coffee sits for an extended period of time on a hot plate.
For an even smoother flavor experience, customers can opt for a siphon coffee produce in one of the siphons shown above. These brewing devices - reminiscent of chemistry beakers - take a few minutes to brew, as the hot plate creates pressure by turning the water into vapor. Then the coffee grounds are mixed into the condensed water vapor and the mixture is sucked through a filter and back into the bottom chamber.
Matt says this coffee making method enjoys more popularity in Japan and Korea. Noting the time it takes to brew a cup by this method, Matt joked that "this is the anti K-Cup."
Siphon coffees sell for $5.50 for a 20 oz. cup.
Because both the pour over and the siphon coffees take extra time to brew and serve, the shop plans to offer what it calls fast coffee (and the rest of us call coffee) until 11 a.m. each day. Brewed the regular way, these cups sell for $2.25 for a 10 oz. and $2.50 for a 16 oz.
Coffee varieties on offer today included Burundi Gatare Lot 8, Columbia Huila El Murador, Kenya Kainamui Peaberry and Tanzania Lunjui Peaberry.
Right now the shop is open Monday through Saturday from 6 am. to 4 p.m. However, Matt said these hours will be adjusted in the future and he intends to stay open later on Friday and Saturday nights. Down the road, the shop will have what Matt called a Coffee Lab in the back room, where he'll offer demos, classes and community cupping events.
You can find the Speckled Ax - and its perfection-seeking coffee - at 567 Congress St., next to India Palace and Pom's Thai Taste & Noodle House.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod