sterling
Image: Karen Brooks

The Sterling Coffee Roasters crew, from left: Adam McGovern, Aric Miller, and Parker Hill

Sterling Coffee Roasters defied the gods of coffee-ology with heavenly espresso flights and micro-roasted beans spilling giddily from a 50-square-foot cart designed to look like a London bar. Now, a community of baristas, coffee nerds, and passionate loyalists (and their dogs) gathers daily in the shadows of Trader Joe’s on NW Glisan Street to drink in one of best expressions of Portland life.

If you haven’t been, now is the moment—at least for this iteration. Sterling, having lost its lease, will serve its last sidewalk lattes on Sunday, June 10. Then a new chapter begins one day later around the corner, at 417 NW 21st St.

Adam McGovern and Aric Miller, pioneers of Portland’s micro-roasting mind-set, are always brewing up something of interest. On Monday, June 11, get ready for the world’s first 200-square-foot coffee shop by day/wine haven by night. The wired-in baristas are entering a unique collaboration with M Bar, a neighborhood cult classic with a bring-your-own-food, cash-on-the-barrelhead, booze-by-candlelight mentality. Even the sign will change: Sterling Coffee Roasters by day; M Bar by night.

McGovern and Miller are transforming M Bar with Sterling’s signature look: fancy English striped wallpaper, candlelit sconces, old cocktail books, and nattily dressed baristas. Sterling’s signature drinks will carry over: espresso flights served in single-malt scotch glasses, fine lattes, fantastic mochas. Sit-down space and side-walk seats, though limited, means porcelain cups and the city’s best cappuccinos, now limited to the duo’s respected Coffeehouse Northwest (1951 W Burnside St).

But no more roasting on-site. Sterling’s fine beans, available at both locations, should only get better with another just-launched project: Coffee Roasters United, a new Portland-based coffee union. The idea is for small roasters to pool money and get in the game to bid for the best beans, typically scooped up by bigger players like Stumptown Coffee Roasters who have farm connections and bulk-buying power.

“This is a logical next step for Portland’s coffee scene,” says McGovern. “Small shops share the same problem: wholesale coffee is too expensive for roasters and for retailers. CRU will make top-quality, exclusive coffee affordable to its members and their customers.”

The first union-purchased coffee is already here, available only at Sterling, Case Study, The Red E, Clive Coffee, and Seven Virtues. McGovern acts as the union’s director and organizer—an unpaid position. No dues are required. “We’re making a virtue out of a saturated market. Everyone wins.”

Get a final taste of Sterling’s street-side cart at 2120 NW Glisan St by Sunday, June 10.

And beginning June 11:
Sterling Coffee Roasters
417 NW 21st Ave
Open 7 am-4:30 pm Mon-Fri; 8 am-4:30 Sat-Sun