Central Oregon’s craft coffee scene is buzzier than ever, from award-winning micro-roasters to hipster specialty cafes. But the latest addition to the java culture is something we haven’t seen anywhere else — not even in New York or San Francisco.
Riff, located inside The Box Factory in Bend, is the first-ever space devoted to cold brewed coffee, a technique that yields lower acidity and a smoother flavor than your average Joe.
When it opens in mid-November, the 3,700 square foot, gray-tiled taproom will feature a custom-built, sculptural tap pouring 16 unique Riff offerings, from Paint the Town, an Ethiopian brew bursting with hints of blueberry, to Rift Lift, a palate-tickling, sparkling cold brew.
There’ll also be CBD-infused cold brew, cold brew craft cocktails, chocolate cold brew, cold brew concentrate shots and beer collaborations. You’ll even be able to enjoy cold brewed coffees with varying levels of caffeine and heated nitro cold brewed coffee poured from a tap. That’s probably a global first.
“The world thinks of coffee in a one-dimensional way when it’s really quite multi-faceted,” explains Riff’s Paul Evers, during a recent tour of Riff’s production facility in Redmond. “We want to show people the wide range of flavors and experiences they can have with coffee.”
Evers knows a thing or two about beverage experiences. He’s the co-founder of Bend’s Crux Fermentation Project and began collaborating on the Riff concept back in 2016 with his four partners, including Nate Armbrust, former director of cold brew product development and brewing operations at Stumptown. Armbrust is credited with inventing nitro cold brew.
They’re hoping people understand the metaphor behind the taproom’s bright mural of a coffee tree, its fruit growing in citrus, stone-fruit and berry hues, covering the entire wall behind the bar.
“Coffee has become so serious and it’s always associated with dark colors, like black and brown,” Evers said. “But if you look at the coffee flavor wheel, it’s actually as broad as wine and chocolate. Cold brewed coffee makes those flavors more immediate, and we want to share that with people.”
Riff works with Thornton Family Coffee Roasters of Beaverton to source organic coffee directly from growers. These carefully selected beans are ground, transferred to stainless-steel tanks and steeped in cool water for approximately 15 hours. What you end up with, Evers says, is coffee that has extracted all the desirable compounds, while leaving behind those that are acidic and bitter.
All those enticing flavors and aromas will pair beautifully with food, and taproom chef Jackson “Rooster” Higdon, formerly of Crux Fermentation Project, has a menu planned that includes salads, sandwiches, grain bowls and build-your-own cheese and charcuterie boards. There may be a few surprises, too.
Because of the variety of flavors expressed in cold brew coffee, the possibilities for pairings seem endless, and that makes Higdon particularly excited. “Cold brewed coffee is not just for a chocolate dessert or an ingredient to add earthiness to your barbecue sauce anymore,” he said via email.
Nibble and sip while standing at the curved bar, seated on a cozy sofa in the loft or by the Murphy stage. Just hold on — this could be coffee’s fourth wave.