Make Coffee You Love!

  • Coffee Grinder Basics - A Refresher

    It’s a new year and you may have gotten some new coffee gear over the holidays to go with it! One thing we often hear from new coffee drinkers is that they didn’t know they’d need a new grinder. That’s why we want to run through some quick grinder basics today to help you understand your new grinder or why you might need one! Let’s get started.

    Why Do I Need a Burr Grinder?

    Your first question might be why you even need a dedicated coffee grinder in the first place. Maybe you’ve got a spice or blade grinder and you’re wondering why that won’t work for coffee too. The answer is simple: consistency. To get the proper extraction, no matter your brew method, you’ll need consistent grounds. This allows the hot water to bond with the coffee correctly, and produce the flavor you’re looking for. What level of grind you need is dependent on your brew method, but consistency is key for every method.

    Blade grinders have a tendency to chop up beans into uneven chunks. This is a problem because it means you won’t have a consistent grind across your output. Burrs are metal plates that interlock either in a conical shape or as flat plates. They are engineered specifically to spin in such a way that their surface evenly grinds down coffee beans consistently and evenly. You’ll want a grinder specifically for coffee because the oils in coffee could taint your spices, and vice versa! 

    Are All Grinders Created Equal?

    If you’ve looked at the price range on coffee grinders you probably already know the answer to this question. A great coffee grinder can cost anywhere from under $100 all the way up to thousands of dollars. So what’s with the spread? Well, there are tons and tons of different factors that determine the cost of a coffee grinder, but let’s start with brew vs. espresso grinding. 

    One thing you may have noticed is that espresso grinders tend to cost more than “brew” grinders (grinders for slow brew coffee methods like pour over and drip). This is partly because the precision burrs needed to produce the ultra-fine powdery consistency needed for espresso cost more to engineer. It really is the case that you need that precision grind for high-end espresso, and your shots will not come out correct if you try to use a $100 burr grinder.

    With that said, that $100 burr grinder will likely be even better at producing a consistent pour over grind than the more expensive espresso grinder. This is because higher end espresso grinders don’t often have the consistency down at coarser grind levels. All of this is important to keep in mind when considering what kind of grinder to get.

    Then there’s features. A Solis Scala is a great place to start with brew grinding, as it features a simple timer and great performance for slow brew coffee. On the other hand, the Eureka Mignon Brew Pro features a touch screen interface, slick black design, and precision grind adjust. In this case, both grinders can provide some great grounds for drip brewing, but the Brew Pro absolutely gives you what you pay for. A similar dichotomy exists between a grinder like the Eureka Mignon Notte and the Rocket Espresso Fausto Touch. Both offer great performance for espresso grinding, but one pairs a higher price with more advanced features and design.

    More features like weighted dosing, lighted grind chutes, deeper programming, etc. can add more functionality, but the price of the product will rise in turn.

    How Should I Maintain My Grinder?

    So you have your new Baratza Encore (or other grinder) and you want to make sure you keep it in great shape, so what’s next? 

    First of all, you’ll want to wipe down your hopper with a dry cloth between filling, and do the same for your catch bin if using one. It doesn’t hurt to wash these each with dish soap and warm water every few fillings or so as well.

    Another tool for keeping your grinder clean is Urnex’ Grindz. Grindz is a cleaner you run through your grinder every month or two to clean out the grind chamber, burrs, and chute. We absolutely recommend it for keeping yours in top condition! As always though, the most important thing with maintaining any coffee equipment is to follow the guidelines in the manual. In some cases, manufacturers do recommend disassembling and hand cleaning parts of the inside of the grinder, but you should be sure to follow your manual for guidance on that. 

    We hope this helps you get started with your grinder!

  • Tasting Notes and Coffee Flavor

    If you just started your specialty coffee journey with some new gear you might have a few questions. One common one we get is whether coffee includes additives based on the flavors mentioned on the bag. Let’s take a look at flavor notes!

    Are there Additives?

    The simple answer is: no. Except in very rare, clear circumstances, when you buy a bag of specially roasted coffee there are no flavor additives whatsoever. The tasting notes on the bag are there as a representation of what the roaster tastes from the coffee.

    The exception to this rule is rare, but very occasionally, you’ll find coffee with chicory or chocolate added. This comes from an old tradition of using limited additives to get more out of less coffee. Today, the very occasional use of additives like this is for taste. When this is the case, the coffee will very clearly state that there’s an additive. At the time of this article, We offer one coffee with chicory - Coast Roast’s New Orleans Blend - and it is clearly marked as such. We do not carry any other coffees with additives.

    One important fact to note is that we don’t carry any coffees with tobacco or alcohol as an additive, and it is in no way a practice to add tobacco to coffee. There are coffee varietals like “Pink Bourbon” that can be confusing, but this is just a name for the varietal of plant, not an indication of any added alcohol. This is true of tasting notes as well.

    Why Can’t I Taste the Notes?

    Coffee notes are very subjective. Typically, notes are determined through tasting sessions with roaster staff. Using a method of immersion brewing, roasters taste the coffee in a method that brings out the coffee flavor the most. With that in mind, what tastes like raspberry to one palate may taste like chocolate to another. This makes it difficult to really nail down tasting notes.

    On top of this, brew method is key to getting flavors out of coffee. Pour over tends to bring out notes close to what’s on the bag, but not always. Some roasts taste the most like what you read via espresso or press brewing as well. Generally we try to recommend brew methods on the coffee’s page, but it’s important to know that it really does change the flavor of the coffee.

    How Should I Pick Out Coffee?

    While tasting notes are a fun and interesting way to select coffee, what we really recommend is sampling coffees from several different regions and roasters. Roasters all have unique styles for how their coffee is roasted, and regions have different flavor profiles as well. By sampling different regions and roasters you’ll come to appreciate your own palate. From there, all you can do is keep on tasting.

    There’s nothing wrong with finding a coffee blend you like and sticking with it. With that said, if you view coffee as a journey and a hobby, developing your palate is a fun way to get more out of our favorite bean!

    Check out our coffee selection, and our recently launched gift subscription options!

     

     

  • Video Roundup: 1/15/2021

    It's time for another Video Roundup!

    We've got three fresh videos for you this week, we hope you'll join us!

    First, we've got a Crew Tasting with Jake and Pat for our Roast of the Month!

    Next up, Ariel gave us some insight into the SCA coffee flavor wheel:

    And last but not least, John's got a Crew Review of the Eureka Helios 65:

    That's all for now, join us next week for more videos!

  • Roast of the Month: Spyhouse Women Producers Coffee

    Hey Coffee Lovers!

    We took a break in our regular Roast of the Month programming, but we’re here for our first entry of 2021! This month we’re featuring the delicious Women’s Producers Coffee from Spyhouse Coffee Roasters. Check out our video chat about this coffee below and read on for the article!

    Highlighting Women Producers

    It’s reported that as much as 70 percent of the work done on coffee farms is done by women. Unfortunately, this disproportionate amount of labor has resulted in only 5-20 percent of coffee producers being owned by women.

    Spyhouse Coffee Roasters has begun offering a year-round roast that features different producer groups with prominent women-owned producers and leadership. 

    The current roast uses coffee from Fundación Agraria y Ambiental Para el Desarrollo Sostentible (FUDAM). FUDAM is a 300 member association of growers that carries an organic and Rainforest Alliance certification. With most members residing in the small town of La Unión in Nariño, the farms in the association are unique for Colombia. Most of the growers reside at high altitude, and the farms themselves are at a lower altitude. This is in contrast to the low lying towns where most growers in Colombia reside, with farms at higher altitudes.

    FUDAM’s leader, Raquel Lasso, established a subgroup specifically for women producers called Manos de Mujeres. The group is focused on gender-equality in leadership and payment, and works on projects that empower women in the coffee community. This roast features Manos de Mujeres coffee.

    The Coffee

    Women Producers Coffee is a unique Colombian that features notes of marmalade, red grape, and fudge brownie. The marmalade and brownie flavors may sound overwhelming, but they’re pleasantly balanced. Instead of an ultra-rich chocolate flavor, which you might expect from a Colombian coffee, this roast is very smooth and balanced. The red grape note is present, but quite muted in a pour over, but it provides a pleasant branch of sweetness off of the more rich notes. With a medium body, this coffee is a smooth sipper that you could easily enjoy every day.

    As far as brew methods are concerned, this roast is quite adaptable. Due to its true medium nature, we really like it as a drip brew and in a superauto. These methods produce delightful notes, particularly when effectively dialed into your grinder. Women Producers Coffee makes a good press brew as well, and might be a great choice for your semi-automatic espresso. We recommend it to semi-auto fans who are ready for something a tad trickier than a basic espresso roast, but not quite as hard to dial in as a traditional single origin.

    No matter how you brew it, Women Producers Coffee is a delicious roast with a great story. Grab a bag today!

  • Carina Drink Guide

    Are you the happy owner of a new Philips 1220 Carina? Maybe you’re considering picking one of these machines up? Either way, the Carina can do more than just make the drinks you see on the buttons. With just a little extra effort your new superautomatic is practically a cafe on your countertop. Let’s take a look at a few drink basics and ideas for the Carina!

    The Basics

    The Carina features 4 main menu buttons for making drinks. Let’s quickly run through them just to make sure you understand what you’re getting with each button press!

    Espresso

    A classic single or double shot of espresso This is one of the basic building blocks of many of the drinks you can make with the Carina.

    Coffee

    The “coffee” from superautomatics like the Carina differs a bit from a standard drip brew. Because these machines don’t have the room inside to fit a drip brewer, what you’re getting here is a “lungo” or “long shot.” Water is still being pushed through a puck of ground coffee like an espresso, but it uses more water to dilute the shot. The result is something closer to drip coffee, but still quite distinct.

    Hot Water

    The hot water dispenser on your Carina can be used for tea or to make an Americano. Americanos differ from the coffee option mentioned above. For the coffee button, more water is pushed through the espresso. With an Americano you are adding hot water to a shot after the shot has been pulled.

    Steam

    This button activates the steam wand. With the Panarello wand you can steam milk for lattes and cappuccinos. For a cappuccino, run the steam wand closer to the surface of the milk to incorporate more air into the milk. This creates the dry foam you want for this drink. For a latte, focus on generating a smaller amount of foam and heating up the milk from deeper in after you create that initial layer of foam.

    More Drink Ideas

    So we’ve gone over the ways to make an espresso shot, long coffee, americano, and basic latte or cappuccino. Let’s look at what that opens up!

    Alternative Milks

    Are you a fan of a soy capp? Maybe an oat milk latte? While alternative milks are tricky in a Carina, you can use them to make tasty drinks. If you have some leftover eggnog you could even try your hand at the eggnog latte! Just be careful, as that can be quite the mess. For advanced users - you can get some extra control out of the panarello wand by removing the outer sleeve and using the rubber tip.

    Syrups

    The biggest tool in the home barista’s arsenal is keeping some tasty syrups on hand. Want that vanilla latte, mocha, or hazelnut capp? With a few pumps of your syrup flavors before you brew your espresso you’ll be in business. The fun part about selecting your own syrups is getting to keep extra unique flavors on hand too, so keep an eye out for all kinds of fruity, floral additions they might not have at the drive-through. 

    Toppings

    A sprinkle of cinnamon, chocolate, or other topping can add a little flair and extra flavor to your latte or cappuccino. These extra flavorings look nice, but can taste great too!

    Putting It All Together

    When you realize all of the combinations available to you, that simple 4 button interface becomes a lot more expansive. With the right ingredients, you can make your own double vanilla eggnog latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon from the comfort of your home!

     

  • Video Roundup: 1/8/2021

    Happy New Year!

    It's our first Video Roundup for 2021 and we have some very special content to share for it.

    First up, check out our Budget Grinder Shootout with me, Pat.

    You may have noticed our beautiful new studio space! We're so excited to bring you more videos in this new studio. Next up we have a Rancilio Silvia Pro vs. Breville Dual Boiler Crew Comparison with Allie:

    And finally, Ariel brewed up a delicious and exciting Flaming Spanish Coffee!

    And that's all for this week! We'll have more fresh new videos for you next week!

  • New Machine Maintenance Tips

    Did you receive or purchase some sweet new coffee gear over the holidays? One key to keeping it in top shape is to keep it well maintained! Today we’re looking at a few common bits of maintenance you should perform on your new coffee equipment. For the most accurate info on maintaining your new gear, refer to the owner’s manual!

    Grinder Maintenance

    Your grinder should be cleaned once every week or two (depending on use) with Grindz cleaner if it’s used daily. For less frequently used grinders, once a month should be fine. We also recommend wiping down or washing your hopper with dish soap in between refills if you leave coffee in the hopper.

    Every 3-6 months you should open up your grinder to clean the burrs, though on some grinders this doesn’t require removing the full burr set. It’s also important to regularly clean catch bins for brew grinders!

    Pour Over Equipment

    Descaling your kettles and carafes is worth doing one to two times per year. It’s also important to keep your scale clean! Drippers and carafes should also be cleaned regularly with dish detergent and warm water to remove coffee oils.

    Drip Brewers

    You should descale and clean your drip brewer every 3-6 months to keep your coffee fresh. This can be done with a vinegar solution or a product like Cleancaf. You should also clean your carafe regularly with similar cleaning products a little more regularly than you clean the entire brewer. Finally, make sure you rinse, wash, and dry your filter basket with regularity to avoid molding!

    Semi-Automatic Espresso

    Semi-automatic espresso machines should be backflushed anywhere from weekly to monthly depending on use. You can use a product like Cafiza to backflush, and you should follow your user’s manual for guidance on frequency.

    Semi-automatics also need to be descaled once every year or so, again, your user’s manual will help you decide when. The important thing to note is that some machines, such as those with E61 groupheads, should only be descaled by a professional. For this reason it’s important to closely follow guidelines from the manufacturer when descaling.

    Superautomatic Espresso

    Sueprautomatic machines have pretty well outlined cleaning guidelines which differ from machine to machine. Most superautos even tell you when they need cleaning and descaling on their interfaces. Many also have proprietary cleaning products that are the best fit for their processes. Finally, if your machine uses a water filter, it’s important to follow your manual’s guidelines on when to change it and what to replace it with.

    One extra thing you can do for your superauto is use SuperGrindz every month or two to keep the grinder clean. This can help reduce coffee oil buildup and prolong the life of your machine.

    We hope these quick tips will help you yo keep your new gear in tip top shape!

  • Budget Grinder Shootout

    Happy 2021! 

    We wanted to kick off the new year with a look at four fantastic budget grinders that are perfect for new users. Check out the video below to see these grinders in action, hosted by yours truly! (And check out our new studio!)

    Let’s recap the breakdown:

    Bodum Bistro

    The Bistro is a grinder with a lot of range and some great usability features. First, it can definitely handle everything from a shot of espresso with a pressurized basket to a press. The grounds are not as consistent as we’d like at either extreme, but fine for both applications and everything in between. 

    With a layout of grind times and recipes built into the hopper lid, you’ll be able to get started quick with this grinder. We also liked the grippy rubber material on the catch bin as well as the rubber gasket that prevents mess. Unfortunately, due to static buildup, the catch bin can get messy in a hurry.

    Otherwise, we had good retention results, but the general plasticy nature of the dials and buttons here leave something to be desired.

    Capresso Infinity

    The Infinity offers quite simple controls in its timer dial that grinds until it stops. The timer doesn’t match up to seconds, which can be confusing at first. We generally just found it easier to single dose (pour in only the beans you need) or just manually hold the dial in place to grind and then rotate it closed when finished.

    The Infinity offers decent consistency and a little less range than the Bistro. With that said we generally liked the quality of the grounds more and enjoyed the lack of mess and low retention. The casing on the Infinity also feels more solid than the other grinders in this lineup.

    Solis Scala

    The Solis Scala is a really nice sweet spot on this list. It offers a pretty solid range that can definitely run from pressurized espresso shots up to presses. It also provides an impressive degree of consistency across its range. Its timer/push button activation is intuitive and it offers some solid retention and limited static.

    The catch bin is a little small and the plastic lid might take a little bit of getting used to. This grinder also feels a little plasticy all around, but it’s not quite “cheap” feeling either.

    Overall, the Scala is a highlight of this list when you combine performance, price, and usability.

    Baratza Encore

    The classic on this list, the Encore is definitely a great option that will last you many years. While we actually think the Scala stands toe-to-toe with the Encore in terms of performance, there’s no denying that Baratza’s grinder offers great range and consistency. We also love the simplicity of this machine.

    Static here is minimal, but the Encore does usually end up retaining half a gram of coffee or so. Not terrible, but it could be better. Otherwise, this is a great grinder that is also easy to get parts for, meaning you can keep it running for a very long time with a little bit of elbow grease.

    So there you have it! Unfortunately as usual we can’t just point to one of these grinders as the king of the entry level. But hopefully this comparison has helped you understand what makes them tick just a little bit more.

  • How to Spend Your Holiday Cash!

    Now that we’re in the last week of the year, we’re guessing some of you have received some holiday cash! Maybe you’re looking for some great ways to spend it on some fresh coffee gear. We’re here to help! Here’s a few ideas for how to spend that extra money on ways to upgrade your setup at a few different spending levels.

    $50

    If you have ~$50 extra, there’s plenty you can pick from to upgrade your coffee setup. If you’re a pour over fan, consider picking up a new dripper like the Espro Bloom! This nifty newer dripper offers an interesting twist on standard brewing with its unique shape and mesh auxiliary filter. If you need a little extra to get into free shipping territory, a bag of coffee is the perfect pickup!

    Maybe instead you’ve been neglecting part of the pour over process. If you’re still “eye-balling” your pours, the Hario V60 Drip Scale can be yours for right around that $50 mark. Finally, some new mugs or drinkware is always a great pickup for the new year!

    $100

    If you’ve got some cash in the $100 range, you’ve got some great room to really upgrade a pour over setup. Many users make do with a non variable kettle that just boils water. While you can count off the time for the water to get down to coffee temps, for that $100 in extra cash you could also pick up a Bonavita Variable Temp Kettle. This kettle is a great deal and easy to use to really improve your pour over.

    Maybe you’ve actually been getting by with an old blade or spice grinder. If that’s the case, it’s definitely time for an upgrade. Luckily the new Solis Scala is a great grinder for pour over and drip, and under that $100 price point!

    $250+

    Maybe you’ve got a more sizable bit of holiday money to work with. In the $250 range you’ve got lots of fun options for upgrades, including a new drip brewer! The Solis Scala mentioned above pairs great with a Bonavita Connoisseur. These two together come out to right around $250 before tax.

    You could also spend up just a bit more to pick up a Breville Precision Brewer, one of the finest drip brewers on the market. Finally, if you want to try a range of brewing styles, you could grab the Varia Multi-Brewer, a scale, and a few bags of coffee to go with them!

    Maybe you received one bigger gift card with how strange this year is, or maybe you’ve got a few that you’re using for day-to-day expenses and you’re looking on a larger ticket item to buy with that extra cash. If this is the case, the Philips 1220 Carina is a great way to overhaul your coffee setup. This superautomatice espresso machine is the all in one device you need to craft delicious cafe coffee drinks.

    We hope this post has given you some ideas to spend that gift card cash on coffee equipment you’ll love!

     

     

  • Coffee Selection Tips for Your New Gear!

    It’s possible that you’ve just received a shiny new piece of coffee gear this holiday season. But what’s sweet equipment without a great roast to go with it? Let’s take a look at some things to look for when shopping for the perfect coffee for your new kit!

    Drip Coffee

    Let’s start with drip coffee. It could be that you’ve just picked up or received your first serious drip brewer. Sure, you’ve probably made a pot or two before, but maybe not on a high quality coffee maker!

    Drip coffee is great because it tends to bring out tasty flavors in a wide range of roasts. This means that you’ll get the “truest” flavors on more balanced roasts, as drip brewing tends to work better with more balanced flavor profiles. This isn’t to say that a super fruity natural will be bad as a drip brew, but you may not get milder notes then you would with a pour over. 

    Because of this, classic coffee flavors are a great place to start. Chocolatey blends and roasts with just enough fruitiness are the perfect way to break in your new drip brewer. That said, don’t hesitate to try out that exciting single origin you’ve been eyeing!

    Many of these concepts apply to press brewing as well, though with that style you’ll often get bolder, stronger flavors from rich or earthy roasts.

    Pour Over

    Pour over gives you the ability to really dial in flavors in a similar manner to espresso, but without the same intensity. This means that you can really pick roasts based on the notes you’re excited about.

    Your pour over kit will help you unlock the more intense fruit notes on naturals. It’ll still also give you those richer chocolate notes. To really get a great grasp of how delicate pour over flavors can get, give a tasty looking light floral roast a try. Some coffees actually take on a tea-like profile that is definitely to die for, and the only brew method that really works for these roasts is pour over, so it’s worth giving a try!

    There aren’t really any roasts that don’t work as pour over, though you may find that you prefer roastier diner style coffees in a press or drip.

    Espresso

    Espresso is the trickiest brew method to understand and develop a sense for. Whether you’re brewing with pressurized baskets, unpressurized baskets, or a superautomatic machine, you’ll probably want to start with a standard espresso blend. 

    Because this is such a precise brew method, starting with a blend that’s specifically roasted for espresso will make dialing in your grinder a little easier. Once you have a sense for how to get a good shot out of simpler blends, you can move on to more temperamental roasts. If you’ve got unpressurized baskets to use, you can get a good shot out of most coffees. If you’re using pressurized baskets or a superauto you may have a hard time getting something especially tasty out of a more delicate single origin. This is because these roasts often need a pretty precise grind and shot pull to build the proper complexity. This can be a challenge to nail with a pressurized basket or superauto.

    Also, don’t forget that you should avoid oily beans in a superauto! For a whole host of beans we think work great in these machines check out our Superauto Recommended coffee category!

    We hope this gives you some good things to look out for as you break in your new coffee equipment!

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