Water Avenue Coffee Grows Into Stylish New Roasting Digs

One of Portland’s most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee, expands into new roasting space

Barista Magazine has always enjoyed a great relationship with Bruce and Matt Milletto, dating back to when Ken and I first got enmeshed in the Pacific Northwest’s coffee scene in 2002. We’ve loved seeing their consulting firm, Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup, grow ever more successful over the years, and maintain and build on its status as one of the very best in the specialty-coffee industry worldwide. When they launched the American Barista & Coffee School in 2002, we loved seeing how the space in Portland, Oregon’s historic Eastside neighborhood became a destination for would-be and existing cafe owners from around the globe to learn and train. And when the Millettos opened their own coffee-roasting company, Water Avenue, in 2009, it was almost a given that they would excel in this area, too. After all, they’re experts on retailing already.

You can tell by the way I’m waxing poetic about them that I consider Matt and Bruce great personal friends as well as industry peers. Much of my respect for them, however, comes from what I have seen of how they navigate their multi-faceted businesses, clearing the inevitable bumps in the road with small-business-owner smarts, an appreciation for what they see and admire in the work of their contemporaries, and a lot of good old fashioned elbow grease.

One of Portland's most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee expands into new roasting space
Matt stands in front of Water Avenue Coffee’s new 4,000-square-foot roasting facility in Southeast Portland, which is almost complete.

So I was thrilled when Matt and Bruce told me about the sweet space they’ve secured with a long-term lease  and remodeled a few blocks east from their original home base on Water Avenue. Up on Southeast 8th Avenue, Matt and Bruce and Water Avenue Coffee have taken over a stunning piece of property last used by the uber-hip Portland outfitter, Poler, for their newly expanded roastery. Since it opened, Water Ave. has been roasting out of its expansive retail space, and it’s worked great ”that is, until they found themselves looking at a wholesale operation that just won’t stop growing (not that they want it to).

One of Portland's most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee expands into new roasting space
This 30 kilo Proaster is one of two brand new roasters the Millettos have installed into the new space. The other is a 10-kilo.

This is a summer of change for Water Ave. and the Millettos: Now that they’ve just about completed construction on the new roasting space by building out offices, a training space, ample green storage, a gorgeous bathroom, and of course, loads of space for the two Proasters (a 10-kilo and a 30), Matt and Bruce are setting their sights on refabbing the original cafe space to include even more seating (and they place is so popular that you’d better believe they need it).

Matt gave me a tour of the new roasting space yesterday. Check back for more photos in coming weeks as it gets closer and closer to being fully moved into and functional. And congratulations, Matt, Bruce, and the Water Ave. family: This is one impressive leap.

One of Portland's most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee expands into new roasting space
The space is L-shaped. Here Matt walks from one of the entrances (and one of two, count ’em, TWO, loading docks) past what will be green storage. The 2 Proasters are located at the corner of the L, and then production will take place on the other side. Office space and a separate training room has been built onto the right side, and as an entire upstairs area.
One of Portland's most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee expands into new roasting space
Matt looks at the space that will be used for training, an expansive counter area plus viewing windows to the roasters. The staircase leads to the upstairs office space.
One of Portland's most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee expands into new roasting space
Upstairs office space: There’s room for at least 5 employees here, plus Matt.
One of Portland's most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee expands into new roasting space
View from the upstairs windows down on the roasting area. The roastery gets amazing light from the many windows and this loading dock.
One of Portland's most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee expands into new roasting space
Production area. The windows from the training center are pictured at left.
One of Portland's most beloved specialty-coffee roasters, Water Avenue Coffee expands into new roasting space
Matt outside of one of the other entrances.
About Sarah 918 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.