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Eat & Drink

April 16 2015

An Interview with George Giannakos of Revolver Coffee

How did you become interested in the science of Coffee?

It was something that was pretty none existent at first but started to grow gradually. When I first started making coffee, I viewed it far more as a mysterious art form and craft than I did science. It was fun at first to view coffee making like this, but when you don’t measure and (attempt to) control all the various variables you can get really lost. This is what first got me interested into taking a more scientific approach and as time has gone and I’ve learned more and worked more, I take the scientific perspective first, utilizing anything that can help make the cup better or more consistent. For us, that means measure extraction levels, weighing out all of our coffee portions and water, using timers and proper ratios, and having solid systems that are designed to be repeatable – not just by a single person, but also within all of the Revolver team from person to person.  
 

It’s been quite a successful three years since you have opened Revolver. Are you surprised about how well coffee does here in the neighbourhood?  

Gastown is a very vibrant neighbourhood and home to so many amazing restaurants, boutiques and tech start ups, so it’s not surprising that coffee does well in this neighbourhood.  But with that said, nothing is ever a sure thing and we are very thankful and humbled by the reception we’ve received from all the neighbouring businesses and people in the area, as well as everyone who comes to us as a destination. From the day we opened the doors it’s been wonderful. 
 

How do you define artisan coffee and what sets it apart from other coffee?

I think that artisan coffee means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I usually see it on random coffee bags in supermarkets or places discount stores so it’s not a word I personally use to describe coffee – but the kind of coffee program that we run at Revolver is one that respects both the coffee and the customer experience, and combines them in a way that makes sense in that context. To us that means serving coffees that have identifiable origins – not just the country or city but the region and the farm if possible, working with roasters that believe in highlighting the inherent qualities of any given coffee, and hiring employees who believe even something as “simple as coffee” is special. What sets our coffee program aside from others is that we focus strictly on coffee, not all the different things we can add to it.  
 

Why is it impossible to replicate artisan coffee “at home”?

I don’t think it’s impossible to replicate at home – you can make amazing coffee at home!  What makes it very difficult in the minds of many is that it actually requires some training and knowledge as well as proper equipment, which can cost a lot more than most people are willing to spend on their home set up.  The other thing to take into account – and this is especially true with espresso – is that someone who works in a coffee shop will make hundreds of drinks a day, while a home enthusiast will likely make a few. So someone working in a coffee shop will gain about 10 to 20 to 50 times the experience in the same amount of time.  All that being said though, you CAN make amazing coffee (maybe the best you’ve ever had) for a few hundred bucks, compared to the multi-thousand dollar set up that a lot of professional cafes would have.  And if you’re reading this and want to do it but don’t know where to start, come see me at Archive and we’ll get you well on your way.  
 

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Revolver has a look and feel that is very unique from other coffee shops. What is it that makes Revolver so unique?

We spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of time pin pointing every bit of the experience that we wanted to create, both for the customer and the employees.  For the look, we worked with a very talented group of people on the design and branding of the store who did a great job of implementing the mash up of ideas and themes we wanted. Regarding the feel of the shop, I like to think we have created that feeling you are referencing by having fun at work and breaking a lot of the rules. We play music loud when it’s busy, lots of Zeppelin, Rush, and Pink Floyd.  We serve all our drinks in glassware, as opposed to ceramic with saucers and spoons. We serve a whole bunch of coffees a lot of people have never seen before and make every single cup to order, every time, on a long bar like brew bar. It all adds up for a fun and busy environment.  
 

We hear you have visited many acclaimed cafes around the world. Tell us about the best cup of coffee you ever had.

The best part about working in the coffee industry is that you get to be trying new coffees constantly, and in Revolver’s case because we work with multiple roasters, so we really get to try a lot of stuff from all around North America. Equipment and farming techniques are advancing so fast that every year I’ve worked in coffee it’s been better than the last, and a cup of coffee is based so heavily on the context you are drinking it in. With that being said, some of the most memorable cups I’ve had in no specific order: an espresso at Intelligentsia in Silverlake, five years ago; a macchiato at Vivace in Seattle, also five years ago; and Ethiopian Aricha #34 from JJ Bean here in Vancouver. One important thing to acknowledge is that as we taste more and more coffee our palates mature. If I were to have a coffee I remember loving years ago, I may completely disregard it today – so hopefully the best is yet to come!  
 

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We’re big fans of the new expanded room. Can you tell us more about the concept and name?

The expanded room, “Archive”, has two main purposes: the first is more seating for Revolver, as this was badly needed. When the opportunity for Archive’s space next door became available it was a pretty easy decision. The second thing that Archive provides is room to showcase our retail products, which in this case is coffee home brew equipment. There is so much really great coffee brewing equipment, yet it is always extremely hard to find. We wanted to create an environment where you can not only find anything coffee related (brewers, grinders, filters, coffee, etc.) but also where you can ask someone who works in coffee questions without feeling rushed or in the way like you might in a busy cafe. For this reason we have a staff member on hand at all times to help with any questions someone may have.

The name “Archive” came up when we were throwing around names like “Library” and “Study” but we didn’t want something that implied a quiet setting. When the name “Archive” was said, we all liked it pretty much immediately, and it’s also a level in Goldeneye 64 in which there are two distinctly different ‘levels’ or ‘rooms’. It’s also is a fun word to say and we feel compliments the word “Revolver” well. There is also the literal carry over of ‘Archive’ in the sense that we have archived most of the brew methods one could use at home. 

Tell us more about the state-of-the-art coffee merchandise you carry at Archive.

A lot of it comes out of Japan and the U.S.A. and is made out of glass and various metals so it helps that it all looks nice too. Ultimately, the idea was to create a one-stop-shop for all things coffee so while you get your coffee at Revolver you can pick up some filters for your pour over, or upgrade your grinder, or just learn about something you never knew existed.
 

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We couldn’t help but notice the awesome Revolver x Ken Diamond Coasters at Archive. Do you have any plans to collaborate with other local businesses?

Thanks! It was great to collaborate with Ken on the coasters and it was an idea we had visited with him actually before we opened. Things ended up getting pretty hectic as they always do when you are opening up a new business and it got put on the back burner, but here we are two years later with them made! I think it’s really cool when two businesses collaborate to combine their special powers to put out something fresh. There are some light collaboration plans either in the works or future possibilities but until they materialize we’ll keep them as a surprise!
 

What are some upcoming plans for Revolver and Archive?

There is a lot of potential for the two spaces. The ability to do public and private tasting events and things like that are now very doable, and we’re very excited for what we’ll be able to do here. To keep in the loop follow our tweet feed, or sign up for our newsletter on our website