We're starting brunch service on October 11 and decided it was probably a good idea to get trained on how to make espresso before launching. Rumor is, Seattleites take their coffee very seriously, and we should probably know what we're doing.
We chose to serve Victrola Coffee for several reasons. One of which is that Victrola is awesome. What was once a small start-up cafe on Capitol Hill has since grown to an awesome artisan coffee roaster and retailer. If you've ever browsed their website or blog, or been to their retail shops, you've seen how dedicated they are to sourcing from the best producers and developing an interested (and amazing) product.
Secondly, we're on a corner with three coffeehouses (Starbucks, Storyville, and Caffee Ladro). All delightful, but we don't want to serve the same thing. We are the only venue on Queen Anne to serve Victrola Coffee.
Victrola took time to invest in us, as a reseller of their coffee, by teaching us the art behind making an espresso. Enter Byron, business account manager. A former coffee roaster himself, Byron's job is making sure reseller and wholesale accounts are "happy," meaning he's spending his entire week ensuring everyone has what they need to make sure Victrola Coffee is appropriately represented. He dedicated two hours to teaching us about how coffee is harvested, how Victrola roasts coffee, and how to make espresso.
Byron taught us how to calibrate the grinder and espresso machine to pull the perfect shot, which includes not only weight but time. "That's why we only have one person pulling shots at a time." The grinder is calibrated to each individual's signature pull; the components of which are the grind (fine to course), the weight, and the pressure in tamping. "Each shot should pull between 25 and 27 seconds, and you want to see the first drips by seven seconds." Byron allowed each of us to adjust the grinder to meet our own needs until we're able to find the "sweet spot."
Byron then taught us how to steam milk and pour latte art. He suggested using whole milk unless otherwise specified, as it produces the best foam and taste. Byron taught us a "simple" heart; however, we each produced different results. (Byron to Max: "There's never an art where you just pour the milk back and forth." Max: "Not yet!")
After learning how to make espresso, we donned sexy hair nets for a tour of the roasting facility on East Pike. Green coffee arrives in burlap bags and Victrola holds about three months supply at their facility.
Victrola uses two different roasting machines to roast their coffee. The larger machine is running 10-12 hours a day, producing 100 pounds of coffee every 15 minutes. The smaller roaster is for their single-origin roasts. "We have a lot more control over smaller batches," Byron said. Victrola never roasts coffee before it's ordered to always produce the freshest product.
Wired up on caffeine, we stopped in at Taylor Shellfish to manhandle some geoduck and munch on some raw oysters. Overall, a good day.