Spella Caffè

Overall Rating: 8.250

Address: 520 SW 5th Ave.
Cross Street(s): Btwn SW Washington & SW Adler Sts.
City, State ZIP: Portland, OR 97204
Phone: 503.752.0264
Hours: M-F 7:30am-3:30pm
Type of Establishment: Espresso Bar
Cafe Rating: 8.00
Barista: 9
Savvy: 8
Ambiance: 6
Presentation: 9
Consistency: N/A
Espresso Machine: Rancilio
Coffee Rating: 8.50
Aroma: 8
Body: 8
Brightness: 8
Crema: 9
Flavor: 9
Taster's Correction: 0.5
Size: M
Primary Taste: Pungent
Coffee Beans: Spella Caffè
Cup Manufacturer: Nuova Point
Price: $2.00
Last Update: 06/01/2015
First Reviewed: 06/01/2015
Notes: Kiosk; Coffee Sales; Outdoor Seating

Like many Northwest espresso operations of any history, Chicago native Andrea Spella (and wife Amanda) began his business as an espresso cart. Colocated among one of many Portland area food cart ghettos, Andrea roasted his own beans in SE Portland once per week and served a decidedly Roman style espresso from his humble cart. Citing frequent busted pipes and the weather sensitivity of his business in the food cart ghetto, he moved out in 2010 to open up this thumbnail-sized downtown storefront that's barely more than a kiosk. (Three or four standing customers can simultaneously fit inside, tops.) There are also three red-painted café tables and chairs on the sidewalk out front. There are tile floors, an old marble service counter top, and a layout that feels very much like a tiny bakery. Two people operate this cubbyhole with the barista behind the unique three-group, hand-pumped, piston-driven lever Rancilio at the back (as is common in Napoli). But don't let the modest size and prices fool you. The NY Times claimed theirs as the best espresso in town in a 2009 travel article, and despite the many roasters and coffeeshops that have since blossomed in the area, I was surprised at how good the espresso is here. There's an amazing attention to detail. Espresso from their own Minas Gerais, Brazil-based espresso blend comes with a textured, layered crema from a very careful and deliberate shot pull. It has a complex, rich, mellow, and broad flavor of blended spices, pungency, and limited sweetness. While a more medium roast, it can seem a bit more on the darker, roasted end of the spectrum for many of the modern cafés in Portland, but they do this extremely well in the way that Heart Roasters pulls of light roasting well. But unlike a lot of the cloying attention-screamers of many a single origin shot, this has a refined elegance. Served in multi-colored Nuova Point cups. Just wow.