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So lets review the basics. 

When you order any hot coffee at Portola Coffee Lab,

We grab a tin with a pre-weighed dose of coffee (to a tenth of a gram) and place it into our Marco Uber grinder.

We grind the coffee and immediately place it into the brewing apparatus – be it the V-60, Trifecta, or siphon.

We then proceed to brew that individual cup of coffee just for you – which is anywhere from a 3 to 8 minute process – the Trifecta being the shortest and the siphon being the longest overall.  Your mind is then blown by the freshness and flavor quality of the coffee!

We never go to a dispenser to fill your cup.

You simply cannot have the ultimate in quickness/convenience AND absolute quality.

We do not want you in and out in 60 seconds. Gone in 60 is a phrase for car chases and Nicolas Cage, not our coffee.

So after emphasizing that we brew coffee fresh, it raises the question:

Why did you choose to use the brew methods that you currently use?

I love that question, and I am actually going to take 2 posts to answer it so we don’t feel rushed.

First up, the Hario V-60 cone dripper.  This is not your grandfather’s Melitta.  As a matter of fact, I never liked single-cup dripped coffee until I experienced the Hario.  The Hario did what others failed to do – brew a flavor-intense, fully extracted, non-bitter cup of coffee.

How does it do this? The Hario’s pointed cone design slowed the passing of water over the grounds (without having to grind excessively fine or double-filter), which increased the amount and quality of extraction.  You end up with lots of “origin flavors” (resulting from where the coffee was grown) along with great body in the cup.  It is a method that really utilizes the idea of “movement” while brewing.  It is a paper filtered drip method so you do not get any sediment in the cup.  Pour-over bars seem common when talking about 3rd wave coffee, but not all cones are created equal and we think this cone definitely stands above the rest.

Next up is the Bunn Trifecta.

This is a single-cup, “profile” brewed machine.  It is commonly compared to the now debunked, Clover machine. Some think that this was Bunn’s answer to the Clover but the fact of matter is the Trifecta and Clover went into development at the same time.  The Clover was rushed to market quicker while the Trifecta underwent a lengthier R&D period.   Which paid off.

What I love about the Trifecta is the ability to tweak the brew profile to the “Nth” degree for each individual coffee.  My baristas and I have the ability to affect 10 variables in the brew process to enhance the flavors coming off each coffee we offer.

We create a custom profile for our Brazil, which is different from our Guatemala, which is different from our El Salvador, and so on and so forth.

With the Trifecta, there is no such thing as a “broad brush” approach to brewing coffee.  No one size fits all.  No government issue brew profile. Each coffee takes work and skill to make it taste amazing in this machine.  We typically spend hours dialing in the Trifecta whenever we add a new coffee to our lineup.

Do these 10 variables matter?  Without question!

I was astonished by how much the brew variables changed the resulting cup flavor.  It creates both a nuanced and full-bodied cup, creating a flavor quality superior to other full immersion brew methods such as the French Press – (in my opinion). At the end of the brew cycle, the Trifecta applies 12 pounds of air pressure to the brew liquid and presses it through an extremely fine metal mesh filter.  Some coffee solids make their way into the cup, which gives it a heavier mouthfeel, but not enough to interfere with the cups flavor clarity.  What happens with some brew methods that allow a higher degree of coffee solids in the cup is those coffee solids combine with the flavor oils to form what are called “Brew Colloids” – which essentially hinder the detection of the most delicate and subtle flavors in the coffee.  The design of the Trifecta avoids this shortcoming.

With all of the calibration at our fingertips, and the ability to repeat the processes countless times with just a push of a button… This machine has become the clearest example of our brewing standards.   And it looks like it is from the future.

It uses technology to put us more in touch with coffee rather than neuter it and make it into a new version of a vending machine.

I will take time in the next blog post to go through more of the methods we have here and give my personal opinion as to why we chose them, but in the mean time feel free to look around this blog to learn more about each method.   Even before we opened, we were writing this blog as a resource to help people understand a bit more as to why we are doing what we are doing and why we chose the equipment we chose.

Our Roaster 

The Slayer


BUNN Trifectas

Iced Coffee Methods

Till then, support good coffee.

Jeff Duggan.

Portola Coffee Lab is different and I can assure you that everything you see in our shop, minus Clinard and Truman’s bow ties, is done for a reason.

If you walk into 99% of all coffee serving locations (Starbucks, Peet’s, Duncan Donuts, etc) you will see some form of coffee storage. Like a coffee urn, thermal dispenser, or coffee pot.

“Is it easier to brew large amounts of coffee and then serve it over time?”


“So why not brew, store, and serve like everyone else?”

Because freshness matters. It matters a lot.

Unlike wine, coffee is best drunk fresh…period!

I have visited a number of shops in existence that work hard to roast coffee on site in small batches so that they can have the freshest beans possible, but then don’t take that freshness ideal into the brewing of the coffee. While we also go to great lengths to roast in small batches on site to offer the freshest beans possible, when it comes to selling brewed cups of coffee, the job does not stop there.

If you brew coffee and let it sit, it will not taste as good.

Just let brewed coffee sit for a period of time and you will understand what I mean. There are chemical changes occurring in brewed coffee that are detrimental to coffee flavor when not consumed fresh.

Why? Why does coffee start to taste bad when left to sit?

(WARNING…I am going to offer more science than most people deal with on a day-to-day basis, pace yourself.)

After coffee is brewed, hydrolysis of chlorogenic quinic lactone occurs. This results in the formation of quinic acid in the brew – which is a major contributor to perceived bitterness in coffee. This occurs whenever coffee is maintained at a high temperature of 75 Centigrade or higher – like with any coffee dispenser.

To say that storing coffee in a dispenser of any type does not matter is scientifically and factually incorrect.

I often refrain from taking rigid stances on many subjects

(i.e. mac versus windows, if bigfoot exists, if bigfoot uses mac or windows)

But this is one I cannot avoid.

Freshness absolutely matters and from an objective and professional perspective, I cannot be convinced otherwise.

There is a degradation in taste quality whenever coffee is pre-brewed, stored in dispensers and subsequently dispensed over time – even relatively short periods.

So back to the question:

“Is it easier to brew large amounts of coffee and then serve it over time?”

Yes, it is easier to funnel coffee into cups from a storage dispenser.

But we didn’t open Portola Coffee Lab to make easy coffee, we opened it to make great coffee at uncompromising standards.

Jeff Duggan

Jeff Duggan. Owner/Roastmaster

We are not fast coffee.

We brew to order.

We roast to flavor.

Our raw coffee is not cheap, and it is even hard to get.

We don’t have flavored syrups.

Our espresso is made with the Slayer Espresso machine that utilizes pressure profiling.

We do everything thing in our power to get the most enjoyment and natural flavor out of the coffee we serve no matter what it takes.

Our coffee shop may not be for everyone – that’s ok.

Although this style of coffee shop is popular and highly sought out in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and increasingly in LA, there was no way to know how my incarnation of “slow food”, brewed-on-demand coffee would fair here in beloved Orange County.  Would Orange County be ready to treat coffee with the same respect they do wine?  We didn’t know.

Obviously I had confidence that my fellow Orange County citizens would love Portola Coffee Lab since I made that leap of faith and opened shop in May 2011.  It has been four months and It still makes me feel thankful, warm and fuzzy inside to see such a positive response to our efforts daily and I go home happy when people go out of their way to tell me and my wife just how much they love Portola.  In so many ways Orange County WAS ready for this, and we see that playing out in our shop.

Now that we have been open for a few months, I have had many opportunities to interact with our customers on many levels.  Whether it is a casual conversation at the register or table, or during the many tasting and cupping events we have hosted at our shop free of charge.  And there has been one question that has permeated most of these conversations in one way or another.  “Why?”

When I first decided to commit 100% to this business model, I knew we must provide our customers with the knowledge to answer the question of “why?”

  • Why do we offer the brew methods that we do?
  • Why is it important to brew-to-order rather than brew into thermal dispensers?
  • What is pressure profiling for espresso and what does that do to the flavor quality of the espresso?

And the list goes on.

These questions come from the fact that our customers are truly interested in all aspects of coffee – and I absolutely love it!  We are the first coffee shop of our kind that Orange County has ever seen… and being the first in anything is both exciting and scary.  And most of that excitement and fright comes from the daunting and fulfilling task of education and owning up to why we do things the way we do. Challenging?…sure.  Fun?….you betcha!

It has been falsely inferred by some that because of one reason or another that we view ourselves as “the end of all coffee in OC.”

That isn’t true at all, and would be silly.

People who say that are silly.

Portola Coffee Lab is a different style of coffeehouse.  We do things our way for a reason.  Yet I want nothing more than to co-exist with my coffee competitors in Orange County.

From a purely logistical perspective, we can’t be “the end of all coffee in OC.”  It would be impossible to service every single coffee drinker in O.C. everyday, however rewarding that would be.

So rather than argue for people to drink only our coffee while disregarding all other coffee shops in Orange County…I simply want to explain why we are doing coffee the way we are.  Or as I like to put it “the meaning behind our madness.”

I want to answer “why?” and leave the rest up to the customer.

There is a reason for every aspect of our shop and I look forward to explaining in the next couple blog posts what is different about our shop and how we do things.

Portola Coffee Lab is not a traditional coffee shop and may not be for everyone, but … everyone is welcome.

-Jeff Duggan

Heels hurt but look great, that dress keeps flipping up but it’s flattering, and that jacket is cool but has an illogical number of zippers.

Fashion is beauty, but not always functional.

Look at the current trends for this spring [fashionising]::



 Cat-Eyed sunglasses

So this season we potentially have  a chance to see people with small heels, pointy glasses, and wearing outfits that essentially have the shirts attached to the pants.

As good looking as jumpsuits are, I can only imagine they would make restroom visits difficult.

Fashion is great when it is beautiful, and it is timeless when it is beautiful and functional.  It is why a good pair of jeans will always be in everyone’s closet.

It is why Portola’s coffee mugs are at the top of coffee fashion.

75% of taste is based on smell.  So when you base most of your gustatory enjoyment on the way something hits your nose… It makes sense to have coffee cups that help your nose smell some coffee.  Enter Offero Coffee Mugs. 

Its soft edges and sloped rim are beautiful to look at.  It shows off the steaming cup of coffee in a way that makes the whole thing look like its in constant motion.

But more importantly is how it shows off the other features of coffee. Just like how a decent pair of Madison Harding ‘Casey’ espadrilles 

can show off the wearer’s legs and beach-loving attitude [holly in heels], this cup can finally show off the gentle aroma of the liquid in the cup.  Normally tasters place their hand over the edge of a cup to help hold in the smell, but now this sloped rim does that for you.  It is basically a built-in artificial hand to shield the aroma, and it is cheaper than hiring someone else to do the same job for you (and less awkward).

So when you are wondering if you should be buying a pair of Michael Kors ‘Xaria’

or if you should  try on a pair of Corso Como’s ‘Palmoar’ platforms 

don’t forget that good looking things can be functional as well.

Fashion, shopping and coffee…. What are you doing may 12th?

Check out Locale Magazine’s fashion show at the OC Mart Mix.  We’ll be there.  What’s your excuse?

click image for facebook event.  Make sure to do what this flyer says and RSVP.  

  • The NFL draft
  • Portola Coffee Lab is almost open
  • Osama Bin Laden is finally taken care of!

There are so many awesome things going on right now, and it is feeling like summer here in Southern California.

Best way to enjoy all this? Iced Coffee.

Most times when you have iced coffee, it will probably taste bitter, like the Taliban feels right now.  But we can help with that. (the coffee not the extremest)

There are two main ways to make GOOD iced coffee.

pour-over and cold brew.


With pour-over, you are brewing the coffee hot, but having it drip directly over ice.
This sounds similar to just brewing coffee and then pouring it over ice, but no my friend it is not.  It is all in the timing.

When you brew hot coffee and let it sit – even for a bit – Quinic acid begins to build up. This plain and simply makes coffee bitter.  In order to avoid it, you want to “flash cool” the coffee so that the heat immediately drops to below room temperature as soon as it passes through the grounds.

So if you brew directly onto ice, the hot coffee doesn’t have a chance to develop that bitterness.

Easiest way to enjoy this method is by using the purpose-built Hario V60 Fretta. The Fretta makes iced coffee that is best described as rich and more nuanced than cold brewed.  This is due primarily from good acids extracted by the initial contact with hot water.

We have it, we use it, we love the coffee that comes out of it.


With cold brew, hot water never touches the stuff!

Some of the most popular cold brew apparatuses are the Toddy systems. 

We personally have a Kyoto-style coffee maker… And man oh man does it look cool. (iced coffee pun).

Basic idea behind cold brewed iced coffee is that the cold water is left to sit with the coffee grounds for an extended period of time or set to slowly drip through the grounds at a snail’s pace – usually any time over 8 hours. During that time, the water and coffee mix to make a coffee extract which is best described as richer, sometimes sweeter, and less acidic (less nuanced) than the Fretta method. That results in something that goes great over ice.  Cold brew coffee is one smooth son of a b… Shut your mouth… Hey I am just talking about iced coffee.

Summer is here, Navy Seals are keeping us safe… Lets ice some coffee and God Bless America.

It is 2011. Where are the flying cars? Where are the robots? Where are the robots driving flying cars?

This is what Newport Beach should look like by now.


According to the timelines that existed in movies that were made from 1970-1999, we are right in the heart of what would be considered “the future.

Most importantly we are only 3 years away from the year that Back to the Future 2took place. In their neon-version of the future, we had:

  • flying cars,
  • dust-resistant paper,
  • and wall-mounted flat tv’s.

The only things we seem to have gotten right are the tv’s. [] So since we are in the future, it is about time we start acting like it. It is time to ask the question: “How can we take all of the knowledge we have about coffee and technology and use it to make the best cup of brewed coffee possible?”

So advanced, it looks like James Cameron Designed It.


BUNN Trifecta.

  • The BUNN Trifecta brews coffee one cup at a time.
  • It uses precise temperature controls to and timing for water saturation.
  • It uses air agitation to evenly saturate all of the grounds.
  • And, it maintains the integrity of the grounds by using air pressure to press out the brewed coffee (like an invisible coffee press).

Since most of this is done with air, it is like watching coffee being brewed with telekinesis! Every aspect of this process is adjustable. From the saturation timing, to the temperature, to how quickly or slowly the coffee is pressed out into the cup bellow. The closest competitor to the BUNN that is worthy of note is a machine called the Clover. But the Trifecta lets you control three times more of the brewing variables than you can with the Clover. That results in a machine that truly lets you bring out the flavor of each individual coffee bean. And since the clover is now owned by Starbucks… there is really no reason to consider using it. The BUNN Trifectas are a solid-looking group of futuristic coffee machinery that feel right at home on our bar next to the sexy Slayer Espresso Machine and Steam-Punk Inspired Halogen Siphon Bar.

The Real Deal McFly

They are gun-metal grey, with a front-facing glass brew chamber, and a portafilter-like handle protruding at the center. It makes sense why we put them between the Slayer and the Siphons, because they look like a Slayer/Coffee Siphon love-child. The Trifecta is using everything our current society has at our disposal to make the best cup of brewed coffee out there. The result is a chance to have drinks that are profiled perfectly for the types of coffee you order. That is a sign of progress. And with this machine now being used, we are just years away from walking up to a piece of technology and simply telling it what you want to eat or drink… just like the technology in Star Trek the Next Generation. [embracing the nerd] [video Star Trek technology in action] Welcome to the future of coffee. Robots welcome.

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Some siphon brewers, not our bar... but same idea.

Seeing a coffee siphon for the first time gives the feeling of a chemistry set from a Jules Verne version of the future. Especially when it comes to the three Halogen-Heated coffee siphons sitting on our bar. With glowing heat sources causing water to bubble up and brew, you half expect the baristas to be wearing safety goggles like a scientist from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

So why is a siphon bar so cool? Two things.

Nostalgia and Taste.


One of the reasons that the sight of a coffee siphon (AKA siphon brew or vac pot) is so retro looking is because this method of brewing coffee is actually quite old.


Madame Vassieuxs "Glass Balloon" design (

The person credited with “inventing” the modern siphon coffee maker is a woman named Madam Vassieux. Her design was the first to be produced/sold on a large scale. Though a smaller scale version of this type of coffee maker can be dated all the way back to Berlin in the 1830’s []. This form of coffee maker is knocking on the door of 200 years old! That’s older than your parents’ computer.

Which is why it gives you the feeling of being back in time.

Second Part to Why Siphons are Amazing…


In that early age of coffee, the baristas of the day had a very difficult task ahead of them: finding a way of brewing at the proper temperature and also filtering out the grounds.

That is where the vacuum coffee maker came in. It brewed at the proper brewing temperature (a bit under boiling) and then used cloth or metal to filter out the used coffee grounds.

In 2011, temperature and filtration aren’t concerns for coffee consumers anymore.

But the consumers of the 1800’s lived in the age of burnt coffee that tasted/felt like mud. So to them, a brewing method that made consistently great coffee was the iphone of their century.

The basic science behind this coffee maker is as follows:

  • There are two glass containers.
  • The bottom container holds the water.
  • A heat source is applied to that bottom section, causing the air and water to heat and expand.
  • Once hot enough, the steam and hot air push the hot water into the top section of glass to brew with the coffee.
  • After a short while, the heat source is removed and that causes the bottom section to cool.
  • When the air cools, a vacuum is created and sucks the brewed coffee through a filter back into the bottom section.
  • The top glass is removed along with the used grounds and oils left over from brewing.
  • Coffee is served. And minds are blown!

On the spectrum of coffee flavor, there is heavy and oil-driven taste at one end of the spectrum, and a perfectly clean cup at the other end of the spectrum.

Take that oil off the top.

Siphon brewing is on the far end of the clean side of the spectrum. All the oils stay in the top chamber of the siphon brewer, anis what remains is a light clean cup that showcases even the most delicate of flavors.


To confidently operate a siphon bar one needs more training that a marriage and family therapist. And installing it costs more than my first car (not saying much). But it still makes one ask:

why get one?

Is it just because this steam-powered coffee contraption looks cool and produces coffee that that tastes amazing only to the few people that can tell the difference?

Yup. That is exactly right.

Because if we don’t who will?


What Would Jules Verne Do?

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