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April 9, 2006 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Where does one find the best whole-bean espresso in Seattle?

I recently picked up a good espresso machine and a well-reviewed burr grinder, just shy of taking the prosumer Rancilio hit. Since I am loathe to subject my newfound kit to Starbucks, I need a regular source of high-quality beans in Seattle. I have heard the name Espresso Vivace bandied about. Yea or nay?

(And, Kramdar help me, since I'm already headed down this inviolable path, bonus points if they also sell fresh beans for aftermarket roasting.)
posted by Danelope to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
I'll confirm that Vivace is VERY good. I actually have a friend there send it to me.
posted by krix at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2006

Why not try a few? Vivace should definitely be among them. Maybe try Zoka. Vita roasts their own. I've had some good espresso made from Pegasus roast beans.
posted by Good Brain at 1:41 PM on April 9, 2006

Are any of these beans avaialbe in stores in CA? I'd like to find a regular source of Fair-Trade organic espresso whole beans. I have access to Safeway, Trader Joes and Whole Foods (although I'd prefer not to pay their prices!). We do have a local roaster but their coffee is awful.
posted by fshgrl at 1:57 PM on April 9, 2006

Yes!!! Vivace, Vivace, Vivace, no question. I mean, some people will like Zoka, or Vita, but I think both for buying it as a finishe drink, as well as whole beans, Vivace rocks. And indeed- they even sell fresh beans for your own roasting! I couldn't understand who would want to do this, but apparently they sell them just for people like Danelope...

However, it is true that their greatest strength is in their skilled preparation of the shot itself: the scientific accuracy of their steaming and grinding processes is just so far above what anyone else does, their espresso is incomparable. But you don't get all that when you buy the beans, so you may wish to explore some of the better ranked places- Vivace, Zoka, and Vita are the three most well-regarded, I believe (for actual coffee, not espresso, I actually prefer Caffe D'Arte, but I haven't had "coffee" for years). I do think Vivace sells books that can guide you on tips for roasting and making your espresso perfectly, especially if you've invested in quality higher-end merchandise like a burr grinder, etc.
posted by hincandenza at 1:59 PM on April 9, 2006

fshgirl: Vivace does ship around the US, and a couple of pounds will keep in your freezer for a good month or so. They really are that good, that's why and others perpetually rave about them.
posted by hincandenza at 2:03 PM on April 9, 2006

fshgirl (and everyone else): you can also mailorder from Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company. The have a number of single bean roasts and blends, including pure Kona grown on their own estate. They also tell you exactly what beans are used in their blends- most places won't do that. It's a helpful jumping off place for recreating one's own special blend. I bet they would also ship green beans- I've bought green beans in their store on occaision. (I used to live with one of the coffee roasters of their sister store, Palo Alto Coffee Roasting.)
posted by oneirodynia at 2:55 PM on April 9, 2006

Lighthouse Roasters in Fremont.

Hands Down. The others mentioned are good. The others will be assimilated. it?
posted by vito90 at 4:09 PM on April 9, 2006

Vivace is good, but the atmosphere from the clientele is a bit snobby, and I get the same vibe from their baristas that I ordinarily only expect from indie record store employees. The owner is nice, though.

I second Lighthouse in Fremont, but my experience with them is somewhat limited.

Personally, I would just roast your own beans. I switched to doing that in the last few months, and there's no going back. It's cheap if you go with the hot air popper method, and the green beans themselves cost chicken feed. There is nothing complicated about it (which is why you'll laugh at roasters who take themselves too seriously) and no matter where you look, it's hard to compete with a cup of coffee that was roasted 10 minutes before you drank it.

The standard resource for home roasting is Sweet Marias.
posted by Hildago at 9:22 PM on April 9, 2006

I feel the same way about Vivace now as Hildago. My last few trips to Seattle, I've skipped Vivace for Victrola, which is also in Capitol Hill. They're extremely serious about all aspects of coffee, but are very laid back and personable.

OTOH, Vivace does sell green beans. Not sure about Victrola.

Never been to Lighthouse, though. Have to check it now.
posted by turbodog at 11:19 PM on April 9, 2006

Fair trade, organic and tasty. You can mail order from Groundwork in Los Ageles.
posted by jonah at 4:04 PM on April 11, 2006

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