Archive for November, 2005

A date with the GS3

Well, here are the results of my one-night stand with a La Marzocco GS3 prototype.

The set-up.

Tamping hard.

Espresso porn.


A short latte to finish it off.


Whew. So how about that weekend?

I worked my longest shift ever today. Nurses will roll their eyes, so will truckers, but I pulled a 10+ hour shift today. Mind you, there was an hour “break” where I was chauffered over to the Elysian Room for the La Marzocco GS3 machine evaluation put on by Mark Prince of Coffeegeek fame. That, and I worked yesterday as well as volunteered for a couple of hours with Brad and Mark at a formal function benefiting the Starlight Starbright Foundation by pulling shots and building drinks for the attendees on none other than the GS3.

So now I’m wondering where the hell did my weekend go?

But it was fun. I got to test drive the GS3 multiple times, and, well, (here’s the boasting)… I’m probably the first non-A-list coffee insider to pull more than just a few shots on it. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating. But seriously, as we were telling people at the function last night, there are only 10 of these prototypes in existence. Here’s a photo of it (image stolen from Chris Tacy’s blog):

It’s an incredible piece of machinery. Essentially, it’s a one group GB5 shrunk to a home machine that you don’t have to plumb in and you can plug into your 110V outlet. Few problems came up with the general usability of the machine, from a barista point of view (I’m still too unfamiliar with most technical issues). They were focused around the stock acorn steam tip. Some people love them, but it seems like most people were having troubles getting quality milk, especially people used to less powerful home equipment. Some skilled baristi have claimed to not be able to pour art working with the acorn tip.

I want one.

I also want to make a comment about how incredible it is too work at a place where your coworkers and management are awesome. The crew today were really supportive and helfpul in my unexpectedly long shift. I don’t know if I would have made it without a bunch of people there today. Yay!

Well, I’m off to read some geology. It’s been a long two days…

My Bloody Valentine

Alright, so there hasn’t been much coffee news for me recently, except I’m planning on attending an evaluation of the new La Marzocco GS3 consumer machine on Sunday. Should be quite the coffeegeek gathering. I’ll be late, due to work, but I hope to get in some shots on this beautiful model. Jason (coffeeactivist), from Calgary, is driving out here for it. Now that’s determination/obsession, but at least he was going to be making the trip anyways out to Portland. Hopefully I’ll snag a digital camera to get some photos in of the whole thing, plus some latte art photos from my weekend shifts.

Anyways, the brunt of this post was supposed to be about my rediscovery of My Bloody Valentine. See, I had heard all this stuff about this band from the late 80s/early 90s, and was told I would enjoy them by a few people who knew of my M83 addiction. I was slightly sceptical due to their age, and when I acquired their landmark “shoegazing” album Loveless, I was let down. It seemed one-dimensional, with some guy who decided to let his filters run wild on his guitar (or something like that… my guitar tech knowledge = zero). Well, that was back in September. I started listening to Loveless again as of last night, and I can’t stop listening to it (well, I paused this morning to listen to the Go! Team). It’s absolutely mindblowing. I think the parallels to M83 are exaggerated however. Listen to this album (even if it takes you awhile to get into it, like me). It’s not considered a classic for nothing.

Now back to listening to Loveless.

Party! Die! *

I decided the other day that I have been destroying my coffee at home in my french press. I never really gave it any thought until I tried a coffee pressed at Wicked with some beans I picked up at Fantastico in Victoria, Terra Nova AA from Zambia. At Wicked, which was the first place I tried it, I was getting some intense citrus notes, mostly grapefruit. At home? Nada. Nothing. It tasted like everything else I’ve tried at home. So I figured out the problem. I was using water that was way too hot for the coffee (at Wicked, or the presses at Elysian, water is drawn from the Fetco tap). Plus, I was using plain old tap water. Solution? I bought a Brita filter and I’ve started to do my hand grinding after I boil the water. Already, I’m noticing a huge difference. The coffee I’m drinking has an astonishingly wider flavor spectrum and is finally tasting world class – as it should.

Last night, I saw Stars live, as mentioned in my last post. The show was incredible. Stars is a seven piece band, and they put on quite the performance in the sold out Commodore. They just finished a whirlwind tour opening for the brilliant Death Cab for Cutie across North America, and the Vancouver show was just Stars (with some rather mediocre opening local bands…). Torq Campbell, the male lead, explained, to the cheers of the audience, how it felt so much better to play a show for 1100 people who paid to see just them, not 15, like at the Death Cab shows. I spent most of the show just taking in the music, smiling and having a good time. I think I’m in love with the female lead, Amy Millan.

*(Title of this post is a reference to local dance punk band, You Say Party! We Say Die!)

Evolving Taste

I was thinking about this earlier today: I don’t like milk drinks much anymore.

It’s true. I cannot stomach a latte over 6 oz. That’s my tolerance. I have no idea how some people can deal with a daily 20 oz sweetened latte. Ugh. I’ll just take my espresso, thank you very much.

Non-coffee news: I’m now on track to enter into a Geology honours degree here at UBC. No more marine biology. I’m still keeping the water aspect alive though. Likely my field of study will be in environmental/hydrogeology.

I got my tickets for my first non-UBC concert in Vancouver today too. I’ll be seeing Stars play at the Commodore. I am so excited. My accompaniment for the evening? Why, a friend from work, Ava Drake. Should be a good time.

An Island Getaway

I made the jump over to Vancouver Island on Thursday, just for a break from the hectic pace of Vancouver. It was primarily a vist to Pearson, my wonderful “high school”. There I saw people I hadn’t seen in six months and I got to chat with a whole bunch of them. It was a good time, and I’ll be back in December.

During my trip I did make it out to 2% Jazz and Caffe Fantastico, arguably the best coffee shops in central Victoria (I know you’re out there somewhere Geir… but I can’t afford to get to Broadwalk). I have a bit of history at 2%, it being the first true third wave espresso bar I had ever been to. Plus, when I was running the “cafe” at Pearson, Sam paid Scott and I a visit on our last ever cafe.

So, anyways, I had this vision of 2% as being one of the few “ideal” coffee shops I had come across. Cool people, great music/atmosphere and awe inspiring espresso. Having been exposed to a greater number of shops with this level of coffee in Vancouver, I was worried maybe my view of 2% would have been an inflated one. I was wrong. It was just as good as I left it six months ago, and now Sam is opening a roastery in three weeks. This place is still one of my favorite places to be… and I say places, as in anywhere in the world (which, my experience with is pretty narrow…)

But, why is a bar like that so appealing to me? What are the differences?

First of all, it seems as if the Georgia Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca act as barriers from the rest of the coffee world. They do their own thing out there. Sam freely admits this. I like that, as it seems as if they are more free to run with their own vision without having to pander to a broader and much more competitive market as found in Vancouver. (I am including Fantastico in this analysis of the Victoria scene too.) One thing that is remarkable about these two shops is their espresso blend. Their blends are quite vibrant, more acidic and fruity than most of the top blends found here. I like that, and this is what caused problems for me when I was in search of a Calgary based espresso blend that fit my tastes – I was adjusted to the Victoria profile. Now, I know there are blends that are similar to the Victorian blends. Vivace’s Vita was incredible, but I have not had that down at their shops, but instead at 2% one afternoon last year.

Another thing about Victoria, is the two shops are rather different in atmosphere than anything I have ever come across in a shop anywhere else. 2% has loud funk/hip hop/house music playing all the time, with limited seating (there are say, eight seats), and it’s in the same building as a long term care facility. Fantastico has a bit more seating, a roaster, a very political bent, beaten up couches from a long time ago and indie music. I don’t know if these places would do well in Vancouver unless they were really well placed in a proper neighborhood. People would go elsewhere. Or maybe they wouldn’t. The whole atmosphere and the incredibly coffee they’re getting are what’s bringing back everybody from the punks to the secretaries at the local offices to the construction guys from down the road.

It’s cool stuff, the way people choose where to buy this drink.


Here’s some latte art from my shift today. The crema’s not so dark due to the dilution happening in a 16 oz drink. It’s not nearly my best either, but it’s representative of recent work.

On tap

49th Parallel El Salvador La MontaƱa
Excellent coffee for everyday drinking. Well expressed acidity and classic El Salvador profile.

Bulleit Bourbon
By far the best bourbon available in BC for the price. $35 for a bottle gets you the highest rye content bourbon on the market. Lots of spice and typical bourbon corn sweetness. Excellent on its own, but also makes a mean Old Fashioned. Better than Knob Creek in my books and pretty close to Woodford Reserve.

The Phonograph

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