All Mark Hellweg wanted was a good espresso. When he tried to buy coffee equipment for his brother’s wakeboarding ecommerce business, though, he couldn’t believe how hard it was to find good information and the best products online. “It was a classic moment,” he says, “like, I can do better than that.”
With the online retailing experience he’d gained helping run his brother’s business, he built a website and started Clive Coffee in 2008. “I started just offering the best coffee and espresso tools I could find,” he says. One early product was the Technivorm Moccamaster, a Dutch coffee maker designed in the 1960s. At the time, Hellweg says, the machine was the only one on the market that could control brewing time and temperature, essential for quality control. The Moccamaster’s 1500 watts and copper heating element allow it to brew forty ounces in five minutes. “That’s a crucial element of the coffee,” Hellweg says, “not brewing too long, so it doesn’t taste bitter.”
The influential magazine Cooks Illustrated agreed, and Clive Coffee was well positioned to take advantage of the boost in sales following their hearty recommendation of the Moccamaster. Catching that wave, Hellweg says, helped launch his business, which opened a popup shop at its southeast Portland warehouse in 2010 and a full retail location in summer 2012.
Recently, Clive has added some locally made custom products and accessories to its store, like Robert Melvin’s ergonomically designed espresso tamper and Pigeon Toe Ceramics’ mugs. Hellweg teamed with woodworker Delaney Kelly of Carthaugh Craft & Design to create the Clive Stand, a pourover stand handmade from Oregon Walnut. The design is inspired, Hellweg says, by Japanese and midcentury furniture. Kelly also makes wooden side panels and other accent pieces for the espresso machines Clive carries, with more products in the works. “There’s a lot of talent in this city,” Hellweg says of his decision to work with local craftspeople. “There’s definitely a Portland aesthetic. We like that interplay between organic, natural materials and then industrial, clean lines. When you talk to another company about doing a tamper or a cup, people just get it.”