Archive for February, 2006

Crema dynamics

This is something I have been thinking about for awhile, when switching between the two big Intelligentsia espresso blends, Black Cat and Kid O: the crema behavior of each is considerably different. It is most evident when making cappuccinos. The combination of that level of microfoam and the different espressos results in a different “product”.

What’s seemingly happening is that a Black Cat cappuccino comes out more bubbly with a more flat finish to the top and it is much more difficult to pour art. The Kid O cappa, with near identical milk (I am fairly consistent), will have a glossy finish and it is easier to pour art in it. And this is from the same milk? Yes, yes it is.

They both taste great.

But it is kind of disheartening when you just can’t get a great pour from a Black Cat cappa. I want that glossy, sexy look like the picture I posted of the Ritual cappa from San Francisco. It must be a possibility.

It makes you wonder what’s behind all of the chemical interactions in the crema and it’s chemical differences or different physical properties that are contributing to the variances… but it is late, so I am going to sleep before tomorrow’s opening shift.

Cheers to all!


A Jaunt Through San Francisco

I’ve spent the last few days whirling around San Francisco, California, with a short stop in Seattle. I definitely got my money’s worth out of the Monday-Friday trip. Here’s the Bay Bridge (I think).


First up was the stop in Seattle after getting my morning caffeine at the Elysian Room in Vancouver. I got cheaper flights by flying Seattle – Oakland, so I bussed down to Seattle and had a few hours to check out a bit of the coffee scene. My first Seattle coffee was at Schomer’s Vivace – an espresso. It was very nice, pulled ristretto as they do at Vivace. I then set up over at the other end of the bar where I chatted with 2004 USBC Champ Bronwen Serna. She was all too kind to chat with me as she washed some dishes. My next drink was a macchiato, with the espresso pulled by Bronwen. Very nice. I decided to move on, with a recommendation of hitting up Caffe Vita, two blocks away from Vivace. I did, and I was pleasantly surprised by the espresso I got served there. Two doubles were in order. Vita has a big glass window in the back corner where you can look out over their huge roastworks. This photo is the bar at Vivace from behind.

In juxtaposition to this, we have Victrola. I spent most of my afternoon there talking with Tonx, Chad and Kyle Glanville. It was a roast day there, so they were busy filling up their tiny Diedrich and marking off various sheets and moving around big buckets of coffee. The Victrola vibe was as I imagined… a more upscale Fantastico. The folks there were really friendly, tolerating my presence for a couple hours. My espresso there was my favorite. But time was fading fast, and I had to make it to Sea-Tac to fly to the Bay area. A bar shot at Victrola follows.

San Francisco

I started out in San Francisco the hard way – drinking espresso. After meeting Jon at the Oakland airport, we headed to his place in the Presidio of San Francisco (where the Golden Gate bridge comes across). After a bit of a tour, we looked at our watches and said, “Why not go to Organica? They’re open until midnight…” I was game to Jon’s surprise. So we went. Post-midnight, we explored the Haight Ashbury neighborhood and I bookmarked some places I wanted to see.

The next day brought morning espresso at Organica (where I poured the shot on the Mirage), shopping at Amoeba records, espresso at Ritual in the Mission, burritos in the Mission, espresso at Blue Bottle and finally heading home to hang out with Paola. Good times were had. Here’s the Transamerica Tower as seen from Columbus St in North Beach.

All three San Francisco shops have good things going for them. Ritual is the busiest, overrun by hordes of Wi-Fi seekers drinking espresso. The staff in there are eccentric and awesome… I met Jeremy (cover photo of the December 2005 Barista Magazine) and Eileen, the co-owners of Ritual as well as Gabe and Jen (I believe it was Jen who was serving me drinks…) I quite liked it there. This is a cappuccino as poured by Jen (I think).

Blue Bottle is literally a hole in the wall. There’s an overhead door entrance to a custom furniture place and that’s where they set up shop. It’s off the beaten path too, up the Hayes Valley from Civic Center. Good espresso though. We didn’t spend much time there worrying that a storm might be approaching.

Organica was where most of my time was spent. I chatted with Eton and his girlfriend about espresso, the coffee world and tea. Eton even brought out the WBC 2004 DVD which I watched on one of his computers. His concept is something I have not come across in any other shop: offer a wide selection of espresso blends simultaneously. During my stay he had DOMA’s Ruby’s Organic, Barefoot’s Redwood, Zoka’s Paladino, and the fourth seemed to switch depending on batches and opinions. Their new Mirage is pulling great shots, and the art is pretty sweet. Eton exhibits a pure and genuine desire to provide the best. I tried espresso from all 4 grinders and had piccolo lattes, cappas, and macchiatos. The second time I was in I was handed Eton’s signature drink. Good stuff all around. This one is me, watching that shot of Paladino work it’s magic.

Another major time consumer in San Francisco was my quest. I was trying to find a sweatshirt by one of my favorite clothing companies, Gama-Go. I had a list of the stores in the city that carried them, and I think I went to nearly all. The first one, Villains, in the Haight, had the hoody, but in XL. The thing is, is that each piece released by them is limited edition, if you sell out, you sell out, and Gama-Go had sold out. But that didn’t mean that some place in town didn’t have it. So, to make a long story short, I found it, in my size, and on sale, at Kinokuni-ya Bookstore in Japantown. It’s a Japanese bookstore (hard to guess, eh?) that just so happened to sell Gama-Go. I was very excited. Paula and Jon can attest to that.

Other major highlights were beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore and the Palermo Deli in North Beach, Jon’s school, the San Francisco Art Institute, Escape from New York Pizza and Amoeba Music (holy record selection) in the Haight, Cancun Taqueria in the Mission for their ridiculously large burritos for ridiculously small prices, the random Latino who purchased alcohol for us in the Mission (wine to him was apparently Bacardi White and El Presidente, a Mexican brandy). Photo is us, consuming said “white wine”, blended only with the finest Coca-Cola…

Not so highlight-able were being ID-ed at a jazz club in the Mission and being sent an email from Toronado (probably the best beer bar in the US) that I would be refused alcohol without ID. Why can’t the US be normal, and have the drinking age at 19 or 18…

Anyways, it was an awesome trip, leaving me utterly exhausted this morning when I opened up the cafe. I only wish it was longer.

In San Francisco until tomorrow

Well, I’m here, but only until tomorrow afternoon… here’s a pic until further posting can occur…

Spring is coming…

It was a beautiful day today. The wind was a bit chilly, but I was still able to get out for a ride in a long sleeve jersey and shorts. Not bad for February 2nd. This is a pic from Locarno Beach on the south side of Burrard Inlet, looking out over North and West Vancouver.

Coffee news is good. After watching the Advanced Barista Techniques with Extreme Pour Latte Art, I left thinking I could easily pick all of that up with a bit of practice. The techniques for me weren’t advanced (though compared to your random barista, they would seem so)… but some of the pours that Deferio made were pretty sweet. I’m working on my multi art, though I might just stop and practice getting consistent with the standard rosetta (I want big Victrola leaves!).

Here’s a couple of multi-art attempts. In my books, they’re alright, and I know the basics of what I did wrong. Keep in mind these are some of my first attempts…

I am going to be in the States for a few days starting the 13th. I’ve got a few hours in Seattle before catching a flight to Oakland to visit my good friend Jon in San Francisco. The price on the flight was very good, and I’ll still be able to drink espresso at Victrola and Vivace (I get in at 12:30PM and my flight from Sea-Tac is at 7:20).

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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