Make Coffee You Love!

  • Super or Semi?

    Superautomatic and semi-automatic machines have similar names but ultimately work quite differently. If you're a regular reader you already know the difference between them. For the uninitiated, a superauto handles everything from grinding the beans to steaming your milk. All you have to do is press a few buttons and maybe hold a pitcher, otherwise the machines does it all. On the flip-side, semi-automatics are a little more hands on. While they don't requires you to manually pump water in (we'd call a machine like that a manual machine) they do require you to grind and tamp the beans yourself. They also require you to steam milk yourself for lattes or cappuccinos.

    So which one's for you? If you're new to espresso, you may jump to assume that a superauto is the right option. While that's absolutely the right call for any users, there's reasons to take a closer look.

    Superautos

    The superauto customer is someone who simply wants good coffee quick. Maybe you like a range of drinks, maybe you're laser focused on getting the best latte or americano. In either case, if your concern is convenience, superautos are the way to go. These are machines that don't require finesse to operate and can brew coffee just a few minutes after being plugged in. There are considerations, of course, you won't want to use especially oily beans, for example. Superautos also can struggle to produce very hot drinks due to the nature of their design.

    In any case though, if you are more concerned with quick coffee than learning the ins and outs of espresso, these machines are for you.

    Semi-automatics

    Semi-automatics definitely require more work than a superauto. While there are grinder/machine combos, you'll probably need to buy a separate grinder at some point if you get into semi-autos. These machines also have a real learning curve. Dialing in a tricky single origin to taste good on your semi-auto can be very challenging. It can also be tough to learn to steam milk at first, as there is technique involved. The thing you do get out of semi-autos though, is control.

    Controlling the brewing process with a semi-auto gives you a lot of options. You can really pull specific notes out of lighter roasts, or get extra hot milk. You can make your cappuccinos as dry as you'd like, or, with machines that have PID controllers, control brew temperature. All of this definitely results in a more hobbyist angle. With all of that said, after some practice, making drinks on a semi-automatic machine gets much quicker. Before you know it you'll be brewing with speed and confidence.

    Of course, none of that matters is if you're mostly looking for a quick caffeine fix, or a simpler drink. It's also important to note that superautomatic technology has come a long way. While it's still hard to replicate the work of an experienced barista on expensive machines, they're getting close. You can get incredible good coffee from a superauto, it all comes down to your desire to tweak and control the process!

  • A Look At Braun Coffee Brewers!

    This month we added Braun's SCA rated drip coffee brewers to SCG. These brewers are yet another great option for fans of a classic pot of drip coffee. But what makes them special? Well first, there's that SCA certification. SCA stands for "Specialty Coffee Association." This is a large body that handles a lot of awareness and outreach around specialty coffee. One of the things they do is certify drip brewers capable of producing high quality coffee. This is largely done through maintaining consistent brew temperatures. All of the Braun machines that we now carry also have this SCA certification!

    Let's get into the brewers!

    KF9150

    The KF9150 offers handy features like dedicated over ice brewing and auto-on for your morning coffee fix. It also provides the ability to directly control things like water temperature and brew size. What's more, this brewer even offers a hot water spot. This isn't always the case with drip brewers, and the spout gives you the ability to use the machine for hot chocolate or tea. We love that about it! If there are any caveats, it's that this brewer is a little on the busy side in terms of looks. With that said, smart design features like a removable water tank more than make up for the crowded control panel.

    KF9170SI

    The 9170SI takes a lot of the features of the 9150 and adds a slightly more adaptable frame to the whole package. It retains things like the hot water spout, brewing options, removeable water tanks, and general programmability and combines them with a sleeker look. The 9170SI also includes a goldtone mesh filter, giving you more options for brewing. The only issue here, like with the 9150, is that the number of options can be intimidating at first.

    KF9070

    The KF9070 is still on the way to our site, but it delivers performance and consistency just like its larger siblings. The difference here is removal of the hot water spout and some progamming features for a simpler design and lower price point.

    Whatever machine fits your kitchen best, we're excited to welcome Braun to the SCG family!

  • Keep Your Coffee Hot This Winter

    Winter is well and truly here, and we thought it'd be a good time to talk about heat. Hot, clean water is possible the most important part of the brewing process after getting good, fresh ground coffee. It's no wonder then that heat is often the sticking point for a lot of coffee drinkers! We often hear about how coffee out of superautos isn't hot enough, or how warming plates won't stay on long enough. We figured now would be a great time to talk about some ways to keep your coffee hot, and help set expectations.

    Drip Brewing

    One of the biggest questions with brewing drip coffee is whether glass or stainless carafes are better for heat. The truth is, they just work differently. Stainless steel carafes insulate your coffee to keep it warm vs. being heated by a plate underneath for a glass carafe. Either way, your coffee won't stay hot for more than an hour or two. You can help this by running hot water into the carafe to heat it prior to brewing. This will heat the carafe so that the coffee doesn't bleed as much temperature into it during brewing. Either way, you should expect to need to brew more coffee after an hour or two. If you find it hard to drink a whole pot in that time, just consider brewing less coffee!

    If you're trying to serve coffee for a group at an office or event, consider a batch brewer. Nothing keeps drip coffee hot for hours and hours like an airpot!

    Pour Over

    For pour over, there's a trick that will really help you with heat retention, and that's leaving your dripper and filter over your server. By only removing these for pouring the coffee, your server will retain more heat. This means you can brew a couple of cups worth and it'll stay warm. Other tips include pre-heating the server by pouring hot water into it, pre-heating your cup the same way, and transferring the coffee to an insulated thermos right after brewing.

    Espresso

    A big one for espresso is keeping your portafilter hot. Special brew groups like E-61s will do this automatically. In any case though, you should keep your portafilter in the machine at all times to aid with this heat. If you have a machine that doesn't heat the portafilter, run a shot's worth of water through it before pulling your espresso. This will heat the portafilter and help with even extraction and heat during brewing. Keeping your cup warm helps here too.

    For superautos, heat is just an issue that comes with the territory. These are machines with lots of moving parts packed into tight spaces. Unfortunately, their need to flash heat water quickly to maintain convenience means they just don't always produce drinks as hot as you'd like. Our best recommendation for superautos is to try steaming your milk prior to brewing, as this heats the water more and generally increases the temperature to the machine. We also recommend consuming your drink shortly after brewing to enjoy it at its hottest! If you still find that your superauto isn't as hot as you'd like, it might be time to consider switching it up to a semi-auto.

    That's all for now, we hope you enjoy some (hot) coffee you love this Winter!

  • Introducing: AeroPress Go!

    The AeroPress is one of the most iconic coffee makers of the past decade. A favorite of travelers, explorers, and fans of good coffee everywhere, it's a wonderful device. If you're not familiar, the AeroPress combines aspects of filter brewing, presses, and espresso to create a delicious cup of coffee. What's so ingenious here is how simple it is. To brew you just add coffee and hot water to a brew chamber, let steep, then press the brewed coffee through a filter and into your cup! Lots of tricks like inverting the press, using different ratios, and playing around with grind size are possible. The result is a high quality, easy to use device that you can use just about anywhere. All you need is ground coffee and hot water!

    One of the best aspects of the AeroPress is how portable it is. While plenty of users love it enough to make it their home coffee machine, its portability takes it a step further. This is because, as mentioned above, all you need to use it is some ground coffee and hot water. This makes it a great option for everything from office work and hotel stays to camping and holiday travel. This year though, Aerobie is launching a special new version of the AeroPress that doubles down on portability.

    The AeroPress Go is slim, simple, and stylish. It packs the full AeroPress brewing kit into a tight package that fits in its own storage container. This container even works as a cup! This means you can easily carry the whole brewer and its tools with you wherever you go. We love it for all of the travel options mentioned above. What's more, it's roughly the same price as the original Aeropress. The only substantive difference between the two models is the size. The AeroPress go is a touch smaller, which may put off users who want to brew larger volumes beyond a single cup at a time. With that said, it's very easy to brew a concentrate in the Go, so you can still brew enough coffee for your friends, just make sure to add a bit of water!

    Even better - the Go works with the same filters as the original AeroPress (even the Fellow Prismo  attachment is compatible). This is an exciting product to kick off 2020 with, and we're excited to be able to offer it. Pick one up right here, and take your brewing on the Go!

  • Video Roundup: 1/10/2019

    Welcome to yet another video roundup!

    We've got cold weather and lots of snow in the forecast here in Seattle! Perfect weather to stay indoors and check out some fun SCG videos. So without further adieu...

    Our first video this week comes courtesy of Gail, and it's a look at our new Bonavita kettles!

    Next up, it's a look at La Marzocco's Strada and some tips on how to program it:

    After that, Gail provided some Rocket Espresso R58 tips and tricks!

    And last but not least, Allie offered up another look at the ristretto shot:

    That's all for now! We'll be back an braving the cold next week, we'll see you then!

  • All About Portafilters

    We've talked plenty about the differences between baskets in the past. This means you probably already know that a pressurized basket helps mitigate grind quality in espresso brewing. One thing that can be far more noticeable on first glance though is portafilter type! It's not always clear what a "standard" portafilter is, what about sizing? Materials? Spouts?

    It's confusing!

    But we're here to help. Read on for some portafilter basics that'll put you in the know.

    Spouts

    Spouts are one of the most notable features of a portafilter. The spouts on a portafilter are designed to direct the flow of coffee into your container. Single spout portafilters are generally used when brewing for one, whereas with a double spout you can brew into two glasses at once. But that's not all that having a double spouted filter can help with. One of the keys to ensuring even extraction with espresso is producing an even tamp. Keeping the grounds level in your portafilter is important, as then water flows through the puck evenly as well. A double spouted portafilter can help you identify an even tamp. If you brew into two shot glasses from a double spouted filter and they contain equal amounts, voila! You know you've achieved an even tamp. For even more accuracy, enter the bottomless portafilter.

    You've probably seen gorgeous shots of perfectly colored espresso pulling directly from the portafiler's screen. This is possible with the use of a bottomless portafilter. These filters remove the spouts, and metal bottom entirely. Instead, without a basket inserted these portafilters look like a ring. Using a bottomless portafilter can help you see exactly where your tamp may be uneven. If the espresso meets in the middle into a single stream, you know you have that perfect tamp. Plus, it looks pretty!

    Material

    Material is a factor in portafilter design, but may not be as imperative as you think. The biggest and most important thing imparted by material is durability. A good portafilter should last you years, so whether its all stainless or chrome-plated brass, a durable metal is important. Some lower end machines may come with plastic lined filters that could chip and wear over time. Stainless, on the other hand, won't nick or scratch easily. Chrome-plated brass tends to fall somewhere in the middle, offering longevity and strength but at a greater risk of scuffing than stainless. Material can also impact ergonomics, as heavier metals might cause more strain if you're constantly operating the machine.

    There's also the importance of heat conduction. If the bottom of your filter is less warm than the top, it means the water passing through it could lose temp as it passes through the grounds. This is a granular detail, but hobbyists will want to control for every variable. For E61 groupheads, which actively heat the portafilter, this means that a stainless steel filter will stay hot as long as the machine is on. With that in mind, for machines that rely on water flow to heat the portafilter, chrome-plated brass is a more heat conducive material.

    Size and Ergonomics

    There isn't a huge difference between portafilter sizes. It's true that 58mm filters tend to have slightly more even pressure distribution through the puck. This is because a thinner, taller filter will see a greater pressure difference from the top of the puck to the bottom. However, this is such a granular detail that it has little bearing on actual brewing. Instead, size has more to do with ergonomics and part availability. It's much easier to find 58mm portafilters of different materials and styles that are interchangeable than with 54mms. Since 58mm filters are generally "industry standard" in commercial coffee, you can usually find them after-market. This means you'll be able to find options with different spouts, materials, and handles.

    You'll also be able to utilize a wider range of accessories and grinders easily with a 58mm filter. Most espresso grinders with portafilter hooks are generally designed with 58mm in mind, and will offer a better fit.

    All of this, of course, its a moot point without a stand out machine. While it's fun to drill into the specifics of portafilter design, the most important parts of your coffee set up will always be machine and grinder!

  • Video Roundup: 1/3/2020

    It's 2020 y'all!

    We hope you had a wonderful holiday and New Year, we sure did! Here's some of the videos we've got for you this week:

    First, it's a crew comparison from Nicole taking a look at a couple of different drip brewers:

    Next up, we've got some tips for cleaning the LaMarzocco Swift Espresso Grinder:

    Finally, Gail walked us through picking out a French Press to fit your budget!

    That's all for this week! Go make some coffee you crazy coffee drinkers!

  • Video Roundup: 12/27/2019

    Hello Coffee Fans!

    We're excited to ring in the new year and we've got one last week of videos to do it with, so lets jump in!

    First up it's Allie with a look at the Rocket Pro Upgrade Kit (an SCG exclusive!)

    Next up, John shared some milk pouring tips tailor made for to-go cups!

    And last but not least, we've got a video outlining the classic Ristretto.

    That's all for now! Have a wonderful New Year's and we'll see you in 2020!

  • 2019 Holiday Roasts Guide - Part 4

    It's time for our final holiday roasts guide for 2019!

    Check out parts one, two, and three if you haven't! Let's finish this list up.

    Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - Revelry

    Revelry is not a new name, but this year's version does bring some fresh notes. Fig, fruitcake, and honeysuckle should tell you that this is a sweet, fruity roast. Its bright notes a assisted by a generally lighter body that's still medium when viewed on the roasting spectrum. We think this is, like many other holiday roasts, a good beginner's coffee that adds just a little bit extra for those looking for it. Great for groups and easy to brew - you really can enjoy it however you like! Pick some up here.

     

     

    Ruby Colorful Coffees - Cheers Seasonal Blend

    Rich and warm are two words that perfectly describe Ruby's Cheers holiday blend. Cheers is an appropriate name too, because this is definitely one to cheer about! The notes of mulled wine, dried fruit, spice and sweet citrus go great together. All of those flavors work with its medium body to give just enough juiciness and plenty of flavor. Perfect for the season, we recommend this on as a drip/filter brew. Don't miss it! Grab a bag here.

     

     

    49th Parallel Holiday Blends

    49th has really spoiled us as usual with not one, but TWO holiday blends. Their Holiday Filter features notes of cherry strudel, redberry jam, and almonds. It's a flavorful cup perfect for drip and filter brew methods. On the other hand, their Holiday Espresso offers plum, pomegranate, and vanilla flavors. Both of these roasts are wonderful in their specific brew methods and give you a lot of flexibility this season. Great for those with a dedicated grinder for each brew method, and a delicious treat for entertaining friends and family! Get em' before they're gone.

     

     

    Anchorhead - Winter Warmer

    Winter Warmer is a proven classic for a reason. Despite some morbid bag art (who are we kidding, we love it), this is a tasty brew with some silly notes. While Anchorhead's listed flavors are a little coy, we can at least share that this coffee is rich, sweet, and loveable. Great as a filter brew, pour over, espresso, press, or really whatever type of brew method you like best. Share some holiday cheer and a whole lot of deliciousness this season with Winter Warmer! You can buy a bag of this annual favorite right here.

     

     

    Huckleberry Roasters - Sister Winter

    Last but certainly far from least, we've got Huckleberry's seasonal: Sister Winter! We're ending our list this year on one of the most classic tasting roasts we've got this season. Full of chocolate, berries, baked goods, and warmth, this is a coffee lover's coffee. A blend of natural and washed process beans, you'll get just the right medium body to enjoy with all that sweetness. Sister Winter won't overwhelm your palate though, tempering those sweet flavors with a tiny hint of bitterness and a warm undertone that keeps it an easy drinker. Buy a bag here!

     

    That's all for now! We hope you've enjoyed this look at our 2019 holiday roast lineup, and we'll see you in 2020 (or a little bit sooner)!

     

     

  • Video Roundup: 12/20/2019

    Welcome back to another video roundup!

    We're only a couple of weeks away from 2020, and we're pretty excited about it! Let's jump into our videos from this week:

    Kicking off our videos, Gail dropped in with her picks for the best grinders under $250.

    Next up, John took a look at how temperature can have an impact on the flavor of your espresso:

    Then, it's a classic Crew Comparison with Gail between the Miele CM6150 and the Philips 3200 LatteGo!

    Finally, we're so happy to share a look back at some of our favorite bloopers of 2019!

    That's all for now! We'll be back next week for our final roundup of 2019.

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