This morning, Stumptown Coffee Roasters locations in Portland rolled out a new coffee program. Cafes on Division and Belmont in Southeast Portland now serve filter coffee, effectively saying goodbye to their longstanding French Press service.
On the face of it, this move might not seem like big news. But for coffee lovers in the Pacific Northwest – folks who grew up and developed their love of coffee alongside Stumptown's own precipitous growth – the change from French Press to Fetco is something of a quiet sea change. It should be viewed as a major moment in the progression of a dominant trend, which is to say, you've never been more likely to find fine coffee bars in North America serving by-the-cup selections of batch brew filter coffee.
It wasn't always this way. Back in 2001, Willamette Week writer Karen Foley visited the original Stumptown location on Division and wrote, “[Owner Duane] Sorenson, who honed his trade at Lighthouse Roasters in Seattle and Caffé Calabria in San Diego, is a guy with high standards. Not only does he roast every day, but he goes one step beyond and brews all of his coffee with a French press, arguably the best way to brew a rich coffee.”
In 2001, French Press coffee was an exciting alternative to automatic filter coffee made ubiquitous by companies like Starbucks. Over the last decade, French Press has fallen out of favor as the go-to for brewing large volumes of coffees in third-wave North American cafes. San Francisco's Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission District continues to brew their coffees in a French Press, but offer customers the option to order filter coffee at the cafe's slow bar.
“It's been a long time coming,” a barista at Stumptown's Division Cafe told us. The company's Director of Education Jonathan Seilaff was on hand to monitor and calibrate the Fetco brewers and Ditting grinders.
“We asked our Portland baristas if they wanted to make the change – and they unanimously said yes,” Mr. Sielaff told Sprudge. “We still love French Press, but we like it best fresh. We still brew French Press to order like our Chemex offerings.”
Stumptown cafes in the New York City and Los Angeles markets have served filter coffee over the last several months while Seattle and Portland have stuck with French Press. Stumptown plans to roll out Fetco filter coffee service at all Portland locations this week.
This decision is quiet, subtle, and the kind of thing your average coffee drinker might not ever notice. It's also enormously important. In 2014 no one in coffee is standing on tradition, or standing still, and the little moments are some of the biggest.