Sterling Coffee owner Aric Miller and his talented crew are purists and perfectionists: whatever you order, you can be sure you’ll get top quality. But that’s all you need here where baristas are known to toss a just-made cappuccino if the ristretto or foam isn’t to their standards. They really don’t like to serve espresso and even cappuccinos in to-go cups, feeling it messes with the flavor, and does not honor the ritual and experience of the beverage; I totally agree. Philosophy aside, the staff is warm and friendly and will make you whatever drink you want, whether for stay or takeaway. Their current location is 518 NW 21st Avenue.
How particular is the owner? Get this, he has been known to mix his own milk. Yes, that’s right. Instead of the standard dairy most Portland coffeehouses use, they discovered that mixing a higher-end organic brand with Sunshine Dairy milk yielded the results he craves. That’s the level of passion that sets much of the Portland coffee scene apart from its peers, and Aric Miller and crew are on their own level. Their little shop offers a variety of brewing methods along with choices from both small-batch roasts. These are available for purchase in the shop, online, and in their coffee drinks.
Although the brewing method offerings change from time to time, customers have had the opportunity to choose a quick drip from one of the vacuum pots, order an individual French press, a pour-over, or their own Moka pot. Sterling Coffee was also one of the first cafés in Portland to offer an incredibly complex mocha and hot chocolate, using very specific high-end chocolatiers to compliment the coffee beans, finished with a dusting of fleur de sel and powdered chocolate.
As Aric talks, flavors become clear. His descriptions highlight their roasting abilities and sense of humor: Perla Guatemala “tastes like tootsie rolls & honey”, and about their signature, Blendo Stupendo, “As luck would have it, so do we: a blend to make a perfect cup of coffee. Every month as we introduce our two new featured coffees we’ll also take the time to find what we think is the best combination of them. If you don’t know which of our coffees you’d like or you simply want some Sterling coffee, Blendo Stupendo is just the thing for you.”
The great Gourmand Curnonsky once wrote, “In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection.” Sterling nails this.