Across The Continent With a Coffee Roaster, Part 3 - Portland to Missoula

originally posted January 23, 2009 
Kaelin McCowan

…Well, here we are, part three of my road trip with my Deidrich roaster. I won’t give away too much in this post because I’ve written an article about my trip home from Portland for Barista Magazine‘s Feb/March issue. However, I was limited to 1500 words and there’s room for some more detail in these posts.

My day started Monday at 7am picking up coffee from Mercanta’s North American warehouse. This was my first coffee purchase and very exciting. It also signified that my trip home was finally underway. I was picking up coffees that I had chosen after blindly cupping more than 30 samples: One bag of Kenya Thangathi, one Kenyan Makwa, Brazil Rodomunho, and some El Salvador Finca Suiza and Finca Alaska peaberry. Thankfully, Albina Press’ North Portland location opens early, and I said goodbye to Portland after a couple great shots of Hairbender.


I would be entrusting espressomap.com to help me find good spots for coffee on my journey. The drive out of Portland took me up the scenic Columbia River Valley. Little did I know that I would be following in the tracks of Lewis and Clark for a large portion of my trip. How fitting then that the two explorers were on the logo of the first cafe I would briefly visit: Dog River Coffee Co., in Hood River, Oregon.

I had emailed Jon Lewis, who I had read about in Barista Magazine and arranged to meet him quickly at Grinders in Spokane. Jon and his wife and kids were waiting for me in the parking lot as I pulled in. It was just warm enough to enjoy our coffee outside beside a little fishpond that Jon’s two girls were very interested in exploring. We talked about Jon’s experience running Bumper Crop Coffee out of Coeur d’Alene and what I was hoping to accomplish with my roastery. It was a pleasure and inspiration meeting with him.

During this leg of the trip I was hoping to have my roaster checked out at Diedrich manufacturing an hour away in Sandpoint, ID, who had built my roaster some 10 years before. Unfortunately, after playing phone tag back and forth during the weeks leading up to this trip, the timing didn’t workout for an inspection. It was really too bad, because just meeting everyone, especially their expert tech Naomi, would have been worthwhile.

Before I knew it, I was passing through the mountain passes of northern Idaho. Luckily, the weather was cooperative and the snow hadn’t hit yet. I had forgotten somehow that the sun was still going down early and each day I was moving further and further East into darkness. There is nothing worse than driving for 12 hours, and the last 4 hours or more being in the dark.


I finally pulled into Missoula. I didn’t know too much about it, only that it was a university town of sorts and that Jon Lewis was moving here to join Cup of Excellence. Had I known sooner that COE was based here, I might have tried to set up a meeting with Suzie Spindler the director of COE. Unfortunately, Missoula suffers from the same blight as many smaller cities…the sprawl of big box stores and malls on it’s outskirts. I seemed to pass through miles and miles of it before getting into my motel. As I was to discover, Missoula has a really great city centre. I managed to find my way into a pizza place in town. Eager for a beer, and surrounded by patrons with 6 packs on their tables, I ordered one. “I’m sorry sir, unfortunately we don’t have a “cabaret” yet. We are hoping to get one, you are welcome to bring your own”. A cabaret? Briefly I pictured a burlesque act…then I thought, maybe the “Old West” isn’t dead… next up, I leave Montana for Rapid City, SD right next door to Mt. Rushmore….