Make Coffee You Love!

  • Things to Look For When Shopping For Grinders

    Timers, dosing, auto-stop, catch bins, burr types, oh my! There’s so many features and specs on brew grinders despite their relatively simple purpose. But what features really matter? We’re here to help with that so that you can make a more informed decision when it comes to purchasing your next coffee grinder! We should note, today we’re talking about slow brew grinders for drip, pour over, press, etc. We’ll talk more about espresso grinders in a later post.

    Internals

    The inside of your brew grinder doesn’t need to be too complex. You’ll want your grinder to have burrs, if that wasn’t obvious, but the kind isn’t incredibly important for brew grinding. Conical burrs can offer a better grind path with less retention for coarse grinding, and are generally what you’ll find in most brew grinders anyway. That said, flat burrs are just fine as well. Material is also not particularly important for a home brew grinder. Burrs in a home grinder should last over a decade regardless of material.

    One thing to watch out for is a grinder designed for brew grinding specifically. These grinders will often have a grind path that works better for the grind levels used in slow brewing rather than a finer espresso grind. This, however, will also have a very minor impact on the overall performance of the grinder.

    External

    The first thing you might think about with the outside of the grinder is case material. While a solid, metal case is certainly nice to have, plastic casing is quite standard and absolutely not a marker of a cheap grinder. Instead, a better focus is on the control interfaces for the grinder, and on how that will affect your workflow. Does the grinder feature a timer? Digital display? Where’s the on/off switch? How is the grind adjusted? All of these things will affect how you use the grinder, but there’s not necessarily a right answer to what is “best.”

    Instead, you’ll want to think about how these things will fit into the way you brew. Do you dose only the beans you need? If so, you could set a timer to grind it all while you prep your filters. Or maybe you grind just enough for a single cup so a manual push button wouldn’t be so bad. Keep in mind that timers almost never allow for a truly consistent volume for brew grinding due to the coarser grind and larger volumes compared to espresso. This is especially true when working with a dial timer that you can’t leave in a precise spot. Weight based grinders can also be quick finicky, but if you can get them dialed in they can be a boon for your morning grinding prep.

    Stepped or stepless grind adjust also matters, with a stepless adjust giving you a lot of precision to dial in a pour over grind, or a stepped grinder allowing you to easily adjust your settings for different brew methods. Which one works best is down to your preferences!

    The Biggest Factor

    Bigger than all of the feature factors is the question of performance. Does the grinder you’ve picked out offer consistent, quality grinds. This is hard to measure based on features, so if you can find video of the grinder and its grinds, that’s the best way to understand this. 

    If this performance is in place, and the grinder has features that you feel will benefit your workflow, you may have found the perfect one for you!

     

  • Introducing the Seattle Coffee Gear Podcast!

    We've been working on something we're really excited about, a brand new podcast!

    For over ten years(!!) we've been providing informative and educational coffee content through video and blogs. Now we're extending our content to podcasts!

    We'll be chatting about all things coffee, from educational content, to news, and more! The show is helmed by yours truly, and features many of the SCG personalities you've come to know from our YouTube. Once we can get back into the studio for in-person recording we'll also be interviewing friends from across the coffee industry.

    You can check out our first episode below, or on your podcast platform of choice. If you like to add podcasts to your podcatcher manually you can access the rss feed here: https://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:933234082/sounds.rss

    Finally, if you have any questions for the podcast you can send them to questions@seattlecoffeegear.com

    We hope you enjoy the show as much as we enjoy making it!

  • Episode 1 - Brew Methods

    This episode on the Seattle Coffee Gear Podcast:

     

    Allie and Pat chat brew methods! We run down some very common, and less so, ways to make a delicious cup of coffee. Full of information for those new to coffee, even veterans of home-coffee brewing might learn something!

    Be sure to check out Seattlecoffeegear.com for all of your coffee needs, and head over to our Blog and YouTube channel for a wealth of educational coffee content!

    You can find the Seattle Coffee Gear Podcast on your podcast platform of choice, or by subscribing to the rss feed here: https://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:933234082/sounds.rss

  • Video Roundup: 2/26/2021

    Hey Coffee Fans! It’s time for another edition of Video Roundup!

    This week we’ve got some tips and tricks for you, starting with some Scala ideas from Jake!

    Next up, Allie’s got some tips for the Philips Carina:

    And finally we’ve got Ariel with a delicious tutorial on how to make an Espresso Tiramisu Martini!

    That’s all for now! Have a great weekend!

  • Coffee Farm Elevation

    Have you ever wondered why certain roasters list the elevation that a coffee was grown at on the bag? As you probably know, climate changes at different elevations. This has a huge effect on coffee, so we wanted to talk a little bit about how!

    Slower Can Be Better

    The basics of coffee plant elevation are pretty simple, to most enthusiasts, coffee grown at higher elevations is better and more sought after. Why that is is a bit more complicated. The easiest way to understand this is that coffee plants grow slower at higher elevations. Slower development means more time for the bean inside the coffee cherry to mature. This leads to complex flavors that tend to be those that appeal to more experienced coffee drinkers.

    So why not just grow coffee in Minnesota or here in the cascade range? Because freezing still will kill the plant. You need a magical combination of a tight temperature band from 60-70 degrees F, a frost free environment, plenty of sunshine, lots of rain, and proper drainage for coffee to thrive. This all factors into altitude when you start putting all of the pieces together. 

    Coffee grown on a mountainside in a region well suited for the plants gets ample sunshine, ~80 inches of rain, great drainage to focus sugars in the bean, and the perfect temperature. This isn’t achievable in colder mountain ranges!

    Flavor Profiles

    But what flavors do high altitudes bring out in coffee? They tend to be notes like fruit, berry, and spice notes. Floral tones also become more common at higher altitudes. It’s not impossible to get a very fruit forward coffee from a lower elevation, but higher altitudes definitely help those flavors develop. These flavors also tend to be more intense due to the density of beans grown at higher altitude. 

    Because of all of this, most specialty coffee enthusiasts will prefer a higher altitude coffee, but they are also often more expensive. Working high up in mountain ranges is more difficult than in lower laying valleys. On top of this, the logistics of transporting and processing beans from a high altitude are tougher. Not to mention the fact that there’s just less real estate in the world with the perfect combination of altitude and climate. 

    It’s also not fair to say that all high altitude coffee is objectively “better.” It’s important to us at Seattle Coffee Gear to always keep in mind that personal preference is key. If you love mild, earthy notes, keeping an eye out for lower altitude coffee (usually under 900 meters). 

    The key takeaway here is that understanding elevation is another tool to help you learn what creates the flavor in your favorite coffees, so keep an eye out for this bit of info the next time you open up a bag of your favorite beans!

     

  • Replace It or Fix It?

    Do you have an aging machine at home? Perhaps you saw a great deal on a piece of coffee gear that needs some fixing up? We get questions about repairing older machines frequently, so we wanted to provide some insight on whether it’s time to replace that old espresso machine or whether that listing is really as good as it seems. Let’s get into it!

    Repairs and Tuneups

    If you have a 5-10 year old machine there’s every possibility that a quick repair or tuneup will get it working as good as new. This largely depends on what kind of machine it is and what it looks like internally. For many drip brewers, repairs are pretty difficult. If you have a drip brewer with a bad heating element it’s likely that it should just be replaced. On the other hand, if you need a new showerhead or spray arm, that could be an easy fix depending on the manufacturer.

    For espresso machines, it’s a little more complicated. With more complex internals and many moving parts, repairs can be less cut and dry. It’s easy to do maintenance things like replace a brew gasket, change the shower screen, or get a new portafilter basket. The problems start to arise when you get into bigger showstoppers. For instance, if your machine won’t heat up it could be a number of reasons. The control board that sends a signal to the heating element could be damaged, the boiler itself could be damaged, some wiring could be loose, there could be failed tubing, or it could be as simple as the on switch coming loose. The problem here is that it’s very difficult to diagnose the issue. If you need some screws tightened it could be a quick fix. If you need a new boiler it’s likely not worth repairing.

    With all of this in mind, some semi-automatic brands lend themselves better to long term repair and maintenance. Machines from manufacturers like Rancilio and Rocket Espresso have very long lifetimes and use parts that are generally readily available for decades to come. Some manufacturers rely on more custom parts that they stop producing when the machine is no longer being made.

    Is That Deal Worth It?

    When it comes to purchasing used machines, we tend to be very careful about recommending this route. You may be able to find a used machine for a low cost, but it’s important to consider why it’s so cheap. 

    One thing to check is whether it comes from a brand known for long term parts availability. It’s also worth checking local repair shops to see if they repair the machine, and what their rates are for tune ups. 

    Another consideration is whether you can tell what kind of maintenance schedule the machine has been on. Generally a well maintained machine will last longer without needing repairs over a poorly maintained one. Unfortunately with online used sales it can be hard to determine whether or not the machine has seen regular cleaning and maintenance.

    Mostly though, if it seems like it’s too good to be true, it likely is. Generally it’s a better option to go for a more affordable new entry level machine that is currently supported, then upgrade down the road. This way you’ll also get warranties and have some peace of mind about your purchase.

    We hope this provides a bit of insight into whether you should start ordering tools or a new machine instead!

  • Video Roundup 2/19/21

    Hey coffee lovers!

    It’s time for another Video Roundup! Let’s get rolling!

    First up we’ve got some Solis Perfetta Tips and Tricks with Jake!

    Next, there’s part 2 of Ariel’s series explaining the SCA Coffee Tasting Wheel:

    And finally, we’ve got a sneak peek of the new Philips 4300 Superautomatic Espresso Machine!

    That’s all for now! Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Why You Should Clean and Maintain Your Machine

    For some, regular cleaning and maintenance is a no brainer, for others it’s a necessary chore. Unfortunately, some users don’t understand the danger in not cleaning and maintaining their machines properly. If that sounds like you or someone you know, read on to learn what can happen if you don’t keep your machine in good condition.

    Basic Cleaning

    Basic cleaning is a no brainer. If you don’t regularly backflush your espresso machine, rinse and wash your coffee pot, or run your superauto’s cleaning sequence, you could see mold develop. While not necessarily deadly, it’s gross! We see this most commonly in the drip trays and waste bins of superautos, where moisture can combine with coffee grounds to stick to plastic. The easy remedy is to take an extra moment to rinse and wipe down your waste bin and drip tray after emptying.

    It’s also important to avoid the use of oily beans in your superauto, as this can cause your grinder’s motor to clog and seize. On a standalone grinder, you should open it up every 3-6 months (depending on use) to clean out the burrs.

    Finally, there’s the dreaded milk steamer clog. On semi-autos, keeping milk gunk from clogging your steam wand is as easy as remembering to purge after each use. You should also disassemble and clean the wand from time to time to prevent limescale buildup. In superauto milk systems be sure to follow the cleaning guidelines in your manual. Failing to maintain your milk system can lead to very disgusting buildup of coagulated milk gunk. Nobody wants that!

    Descaling

    Descaling is a very important part of maintaining your machine, but for a different reason. As water passes through your machine, it leaves trace amounts of minerals behind. This causes limescale buildup that can be a lot more nasty than it sounds. We don’t want to make you look at it here, but just search for some images of limescale buildup on espresso machines, but maybe take a deep breath first. While that kind of buildup is perhaps not as impactful as mold or dairy gunk, it still affects the taste of your coffee.

    By using filtered water and regularly descaling, you really will notice a taste difference. You aren’t getting harsh mineral flavors, and instead are getting every bit of flavor from the beans in particular. Just make sure you follow manufacturer guidelines for descaling as some machines require a professional to do it effectively. E61 machines, for example, have group heads that can be damaged beyond repair if you don’t have a technician handle the descaling for you. As noted, if you use filtered water, either from a pitcher or preferably from an in tank filter, you extend the time between needed descalings!

    Taste

    The biggest takeaway here should be this: Clean coffee equipment brews better coffee. We are constantly finding the best ways to extract precise flavors from our coffee, so you definitely don’t want a dirty machine imparting a bad taste. Keep your equipment clean and it will keep you happy with delicious brews over and over again!

  • Roast of the Month: Tony's 50th Anniversary Blend

    It’s that time once again: Roast of the Month! This month we’re celebrating Tony’s Coffee’s impressive achievements with their 50th Anniversary blend! Oh, it’s a great tasting roast too, if that needs saying!

    The Story

    Tony’s has a long history of providing high quality coffee that tastes great and is easy to work with. Their Sugar Bee espresso (formerly Ganesha) is one of our absolute favorites, and many of our customers and fans agree. 2021 marks Tony’s 50th anniversary, that’s a long time for a specialty coffee roaster! Of course, they needed a roast to celebrate such a milestone year. If that weren’t enough, Tony’s has also won Roast Magazine’s Roaster of the Year award for 2021. We’re celebrating right alongside this phenomenal roaster by making their celebratory 50th Anniversary blend our Roast of the Month. With all of that in mind, we’d never pick a roast that doesn’t also taste great!

    The Coffee

    This 50th anniversary blend features fully washed beans from Ethiopia and Central America. The roast level is in the light-medium range, but we think it leans a little more towards medium. Tony’s lists classic tasting notes of citrus, milk chocolate, and caramel. We definitely concur that this is what you can expect with this coffee in the best way. It’s appropriate that a coffee celebrating the storied history of this prolific roaster also gets at such classically coffee flavors.

    This is also a versatile roast, working in a variety of brew methods. If you brew this one as a pour over you can expect more of those citrus notes and the sweeter parts of the milk chocolate. This roast also produces a balanced and full bodied drip brew, a delicious way to brew it. You’ll get that stiffer body and a heavy chocolate in a press, but this machine also works great as espresso. An easy to dial in roast for semi-automatic machines and the perfect pair for your semi-auto, this coffee is truly great no matter how you brew it.

    Tony’s 50th Anniversary blend is also organic, and fair trade, so you can feel good about drinking it too. This roaster roasts with 100% green power and has committed to carbon neutrality as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations. 

    Finally, we can’t forget to note that the beautiful art on the bag for this coffee was created by Jess Bonin, a local Bellingham, WA artist!

    Great Coffee, Great Story

    From its classic, tasty notes to the wonderful story behind Tony’s 50th Anniversary Blend, it was an easy choice for our February Roast of the Month. Whether you drink pour over, drip, press, espresso, or really any brewing style, we think you’ll love this one as much as we do. Don’t miss it, grab a bag today!

     

  • Video Roundup: 2/12/2021

    Hey Coffee Fans!

     

    It’s Friday, and you know what that means, we’ve got another look at our videos from our YouTube channel this week! Let’s jump in. 

    First we’ve got some Carina maintenance tips from Jake:

    Next up, we’ve got a comparison between the Breville Barista Pro and Express!

    And finally, Jake and I sat down to talk about our Roast of the Month for February, Tony’s 50th Anniversary Blend!

    That’s all for this week, we’ll see you soon!

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