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  • DeLonghi Dinamica ECAM35020B Superautomatic Espresso Machine Review

    DeLonghi has been producing superautos for some time now, and while they offer some innovative machines, they haven't had a breakthrough like some of their competitors. Over time, these machines have become more and more refined, improving on performance and reliability, but the Dinamica ECAM35020B feels like a leap forward. Check out our full review to learn why!

    Appearance and Usability

    One thing to note at the top is that while the case is very plastic, it also maintains a pretty unified look. The sleek black plastic with chrome accents gives it a muted, but pleasant, appearance. It definitely stands up to other machines at its price point without necessarily wowing either. One huge plus on this machine is the footprint. This is a machine that should fit on most countertops, and under most cabinets. With a front loading water tank, you'll also be able to refill it frequently. This is important, because the tank is, admittedly, a bit on the small side.

    Otherwise, you're looking at some pretty standard case design. The brew unit is pretty easily accessible behind the water tank, and the drip tray is convenient and easy to clean. If we have one complaint it's that it's still a bit of a chore to slide the machine out to fill the bean hopper, but this is a less frequent need than filling the water tank, and there's not much you can do to avoid putting the hopper where it is.

    The face of the machine is simple, but functional and attractive enough. While the interface may take some getting used to, it is to the point and functional. Programming and user profiles are great value adds, but there is something to be said for the simplicity of pushing a single button and getting a consistent shot. That simplicity and consistency is the name of the game here. The panarello wand is also easy to use, and once you understand how to get it to switch between steam and water it is very functional. The rinse button on the face is a nice to have as well for cleaning out the brew unit on demand.

    Performance

    With functional, if simple, case and interface design, the most important thing is performance. Overall we can say pretty happily that the Dinamica does a great job in this area. With some dialing in, the shots this machine can produce are quite good, and quite hot. This is good news for anyone disappointed with temps from semi-autos in general. With hot water from the panarello and easy single and double shot buttons, brewing espresso and americanos is a breeze. If you're a drip fan, the Dinamica also offers an intriguing coffee function. Usually, the "coffee" button on a superauto just provides an extra long shot. While you're still getting espresso, you're getting it watered down enough to be less strong. The Dinamica handles its coffee setting a little differently.

    The coffee button cases the machine to grind less than it would for a shot, and then pulse water through the coffee instead of applying sustained pressure. The result is a cup of coffee that isn't quite a pourover and isn't quite a long espresso shot, and you really can taste the difference. While we don't think it tastes like what you'll get out of a drip brewer, it's a closer approximation than what most superautos can provide. This means that your drip loving family member can get something close to what a drip pod machine can do without needing a second machine.

    The panarello has the issues you'd expect from this type of wand. It doesn't produce loads of foam, and doesn't produce particularly fine microfoam. That means it's hard to pour latter art or make a cappuccino with this machine. That said, it makes fine foam for a normal latte and because it's manual you can control how hot you want the milk. This is a boon for latte drinkers, as many superautos spit out milk that you might find too cool.

    Lastly, the over ice button is a neat little tool. It alters the brew temp, and volume of both the grind and water to go best with brewing over ice. It's a great feature for fans of iced lattes and americanos.

    Conclusion

    In the end the Dinamica is a strong option at its price point. While it lacks some bells and whistles, it gets it right where it counts and provides some nice add ons you might not expect. One to take a good look at for your next superauto. You can shop the DeLonghi Dinamica on Seattle Coffee Gear here.

  • Cleaning Your Grinder For Standalones and Superautos

    Cleaning a standalone grinder is the sort of task that seems like it should be pretty simple, because it's a simple machine, right? Turns out, there's a load of good reasons as to why you should clean your grinder. While methods of doing it vary in complexity, it doesn't hurt to have a cheat sheet handy. So let's dive in!

    Why Clean Your Grinder?

    It may seem like there's not much to clean on a grinder, as they are, in theory, simple devices. The fact is, coffee oil builds up on grinders too, and can gum up the burrs and motors of yours. This can, most importantly, adversely affect taste. The flavor of your coffee comes through best when nothing gets between it and your brewing process. As such, oil buildup that comes out in your grounds can lead to a stale or altered flavor. Not the best for your carefully crafted pourover or espresso! On top of that, grinders can seize if enough oil builds up on them. This can lead to expensive repairs and a lack of coffee! So what's the answer?

    Cleaning a Standalone Grinder:

    Standalone grinders range in difficulty to clean. The easiest way to make sure they are running in top shape is to run some Grindz through the grinder on a regular basis. Exactly how regular is going to depend largely on use. If you use your grinder daily, cleaning with Grindz every couple of months is a good start.

    For deeper cleaning, many grinders are easily disassembled. From there you can get in and scrub the burrs and motor components as needed to get out any oil residue. This is the kind of cleaning you might want to do annually, depending on use. It should be noted that some grinders are very difficult to take apart, and doing so could void your warranty. Always check that warranty before disassembly, and use a guide to help you if possible.

    Cleaning a Superauto Grinder:

    For years the standing rule for superautos is to avoid oily beans because you simply can't clean them. While we'd still recommend sticking to drier beans, we can finally recommend a cleaning product for your superauto's grinder! Supergrindz is an exciting new cleaner from Urnex that finally allows you to clean out your superauto grinder! This cleaner does a great job and with monthly usage can help extend the life of your superauto. It's easy to use, simply drop remove any beans from the hopper, brew a couple of large cups of coffee, add the directed amount into the grinder and brew some more, then add coffee and grind until you are no longer getting yellow residue in the waste bin. The result is a squeaky clean, and happy, superauto grinder.

     

  • Video Roundup: 9/6/2019

    It's Friday!

    You know what that means, a new video roundup. Let's check out what we brewed up this week.

     

    First up, it's Allie, with a review of the new Acaia Pearl Model S smart coffee scale:

    Next, Gail took a look at the stunning Rocket Espresso Giotto Evoluzione R:

    And of course, it wouldn't be a video roundup with a new Coffee Collaboration from Clementine:

    Hope you enjoy, we'll see you next week!

  • Rocket Espresso Appartamento Review - 2019

    Hello out there!

    It's been a while since we took the time to look at the Rocket Espresso Appartamento here on the blog. With Gail's excellent recent crew review over on YouTube, we figured there's no time like the present!

    Look and Feel

    The Appartamento is one of the most stylish machines on the market. The stainless steel casing, side cutouts, and E-61 brew head all make for a stunning looking machine. A hot water spout rounds out the machine's external design. Rocket Espresso Machines have a great history of embracing the visual design of Italian espresso machines while also leaving their distinct mark on the machines as well. In addition to the Rocket Espresso logo on the steam valve, for the Appartamento it's those case cutouts on the side. The insert panels come in copper and white from the factory, and we also offer black panels ourselves. these color options mean you can match the machine with your kitchen even if stainless isn't your main look.

    And oh how you'll be able to fit it in. The Appartamento's name comes from its size. This is a machine designed to fit in any kitchen, even tiny apartments. What's impressive about this is that it still offers the power and style of larger machines, and looks great in larger kitchens as well.

    As for feel, the mechanical nature of the Appartamento's controls mean that you'll always feel in control of the brewing and steaming processes. From satisfying tactile motions like flipping on the brew lever or turning on the steam, to the chunky power switch and solid build of the components, this is machine is a joy to use. The anti-burn steam wand also helps you to keep the steam wand free of milk, and it's double-wall design should protect from serious burns as well.

    But let's talk more about what's under the hood.

    Internals and Power

    The Appartamento features a heated E61 brew group head, 1.8 liter heat exchanger boiler, and a three way solenoid valve. But what do these things mean?

    For starters, the group head keeps the portafilter and brewing unit hot. This means you won't lose temperature as water is pushed through the group and into the portafilter. So long as the portafilter is kept hot by leaving it in the group, you won't lose temp as the coffee is brewed either. All of this means that you'll get exceptional shots every time you pull the brew lever. The heat exchanger boiler provides plenty of heat and water for brewing, and its design allows you to brew and steam simultaneously. This is a huge feature for home espresso machines, and cuts down on drink prep time. Finally, the three way solenoid valve safely controls water flow through the group head, keeping water hot and preventing messy spray when finishing the brew process.

    These components all combine to offer a really great package in a small form factor. We have always loved the Appartamento, and still do.

    Conclusion

    There really aren't many better options for your first semi-professional espresso machine. The value contained in the Appartamento is impressive. This is a powerful, smart, stylish, and long lasting machine that you'll likely use for many years. Give the Appartamento a look on Seattle Coffee Gear here.

  • What Puts the Pro In Izzo Pro Machines?

    Earlier this year we launched Izzo's fantastic line of semi-automatic espresso machines. In the time since then we've updated the terminology around these machines, and some of you took notice! Today we're going to dig in to the "why" behind the "Pro" names for these machines. This should also explain why you might see them differ in price from other Izzos you see in the wild!

    Stunning in Stainless

    The primary reason for calling these machines "pros" is what's on the inside! Every Izzo is built to last, with some incredible workmanship and features. What sets SCG Izzos apart though, is the boilers. Most semi-auto espresso machines feature boilers made of copper, brass, or some other material. While these aren't bad materials for a boiler, better is possible. In particular, stainless steel makes for extremely resilient, reliable, and long lasting machines. By combining the fantastic design and materials of the rest of Izzo's machines with stainless steel boilers, you really are getting a generational machine.

    This means that you can expect many, many years out of an Izzo Pro from Seattle Coffee Gear. By combining this longevity with the professional styling of the base Izzo models, this really is as close to professional equipment as you can get below professional pricing.

    So there you have it, we are excited to be able to offer Izzo Pro models exclusively at Seattle Coffee Gear. This means that when you're ready to buy what may be the last espresso machine you'll need to, we're your source!

    Check out our line up of Izzo Pro machines right here.

  • Pressurized Vs. Unpressurized - What's the Difference?

    A classic question for new espresso machine customers is what's the difference between an unpressurized and pressurized portafilter basket. The answer is actually pretty simple, but to understand the whole story we need to start with the basics. First of all, the portafilter is what holds the coffee when brewing espresso. It's what you grind, distribute, and tamp in. Water is then pushed through the "puck" of coffee contained in the portafilter to brew the espresso. With all of this in mind, we know that we need pressure to make this happen. That pressure is created when the pumped water meets the finely ground coffee. All of this is why espresso requires very fine coffee, so that there is the perfect amount of resistance as water is pressed through.

    The basket is the insert that holds the coffee in the portafilter. Removed from the portafilter, it looks like a metal cup with holes in the bottom. These holes are what ultimately lets the brewed coffee through into your cup. So where does the pressurized vs. unpressurized terminology come in?

    The basics

    Unpressurized baskets are what you find in higher end machines, and always how professional espresso is brewed. These are baskets that function entirely as mentioned above. In an unpressurized basket, nearly all of the resistance is created by the coffee, not by the basket. When everything is dialed in, this creates the best result, because you're making the coffee and the pump do all the work.

    Pressurized baskets are a little bit different. These baskets use one of a few different methods to artificially add resistance. In some cases, a small chamber with offset holes acts as that resistance. Others designs use a smaller set of holes centered in the middle of the basket to slow extraction. In any case, the result is artificial resistance that slows down the brewing process, giving more time for the coffee to extract.

    So why would you want one over the other?

    As noted above, unpressurized portafilters naturally provide the best extraction, creating the best espresso. With that said, this also takes a very fine grind that is carefully dialed in. This means that you have to spend time on getting everything just right, and have an espresso specific grinder. Unpressurized baskets create less perfect espresso, but are less finicky and can handle a coarser grind. It's up to you to determine where the sweet spot is for you!

  • Video Roundup: 8/16/2019

    It's that time once again!

    Time for another video roundup! We've been cooking up some great stuff this week and can't wait to share.

    First up, Gail took a look at the new Eureka Crono brew grinder:

    Next up, Allie, Nicole, and Clementine tried out or August Roast of the Month!

    Then, Gail gave us a wonderful new 2019 review of the legendary Rocket Appartamento:

    And, as always, last but far from least, Clementine Made A Honey Cappuccino!

    That's all for now, see you soon!

     

  • Roast of the Month: TOCA Pink Moon

    This month's roast of the month comes to us from the lovely TOCA coffee roasters!

    Pink Moon is a lovely blend of flavors that combines floral and fruit notes with a twist of citrus at the end. A spring roast, TOCA suggests that the floral and fruity notes inspire renewal and invigoration, and we can't help but agree! Pink Moon features Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans, two origins known for unique and recognizable flavor profiles. While the washed processing of these two coffees keeps stronger berry notes in check, there's loads here to savor. For starters, there's the more floral notes, which TOCA lists as black tea. We taste this as a nice overtone that runs through the whole sip, never quite fading. Instead, tropical fruit and citrus notes layer in on top of the tea flavors. The result is a great balance of sweet, floral, and bitter.

    Often when we say balance, we mean that the flavors of a roast sort of mix together to balance each other out. While this doesn't mean the flavors are lost in the mix, Pink Moon is an especially great example of balance actually making each flavor easier to pick out. This means that Pink Moon provides a set of noticeable, tasty notes without washing out any of the complexity. This is a great roast to try as a pourover first to get an understanding of everything at play flavor wise. From there we recommend sticking to drip and press brewing, though with just the right finesse this could also be a great espresso.

    Grab a bag today!

  • Video Roundup - 8/9/2019

    Welcome one and all to another video roundup!

     

    This week has been fun, tasty, and full of content!

    First up, Clementine, Allie, and I tasted some delicious Methodical coffee.

    Next, Gail checked out the new Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato Timer Eveoluzione R (what a mouthful)!

    And last but certainly not least, yet another sweet Coffee Collaboration with Clementine.

     

    That's all for this week, we hope to see you back next week for more coffee content!

  • Piecewise Coffee Co. Shop - Installation and Setup

    It's been a while since we checked in with our friends from Piecewise Coffee Co., and they've been busy! Piecewise just had its grand opening, so we're excited to hear more from Stanton and Lindsey soon. For now, we got some insight into their installation and set up process!

    What’s the biggest task in getting machines set up and ready to run?

    That would definitely be ensuring the utility hooks up were correct. We worked with our electrician, plumber and installation company (VP Coffee in our instance) to have all the connections meeting the manufacture specifications. Now that all the utility lines are in, we will probably never think about them again, but it sure was an effort making sure they were good to go at the start.

    What kind of testing do you do regarding the setup of machines to ensure smooth operating?

    The installation company did all the testing for us for the initial install. They used calibrated weights, scales and volumetric containers to calibrate the espresso machine. Once the initial setup was completed, we pulled our first shot of espresso and started the dialing in process. It took a day or so to get a consistent quality shot to pull, but we continually tweaked settings for just over a week to get something we were really proud of! 

    Did any of your logistic plans change based on seeing the final setup?

    For the coffee gear, not really. We were really fortunate to work closely with SCG on the machine layout, thinking about the impact to workflow with the layout of piece of equipment. The end product has proven to be well thought out and meet the needs of our coffee shop. 

    Other than coffee, refrigeration is one of the only things we have seen a need for outside of what we originally planned. However, we created our under-counter space to have extra wiggle room so the space was there to be flexible. As we learn the ropes of operating, we plan to take advantage of this area. If we had to redo everything, having an increase counter height would make the under-counter area even more flexible for equipment on casters. 

    What kind of maintenance schedules do you have planned? How does maintaining an espresso machine differ from maintaining a traditional drip grinder form a practical perspective?

    The plan is to maintain regular quarterly services, as recommended by our installation company. We couldn't afford to have either the espresso machine or the batch brewer go out of service. Having this regular schedule gives us more confidence both pieces of equipment will function well over the long haul. 

    We also make sure to perform daily maintenance on the equipment. The daily cleaning procedures keep us familiar, aware and consistent in how to maintain our gear. 

    Can you talk a little bit about challenges associate with water/electricity?

    As far as the operation of equipment goes, we haven't had any issues with water impacting equipment. The electricity has been a little of a struggle. Due to building codes, a GFI outlet had to be installed on the batch brewer and bulk bean grinder outlet. This electrical circuit also happens to be on the same circuit as our small countertop oven. If the oven is running in tandem with the brewer it can trip the GFI. Super frustrating! Our electrician is working with us to plan a work around while still maintaining building codes. 

    Did you work with a technician to get things set up? If so, did they handle everything?

    Yes, our technician was from a local shop and was a certified La Marzocco tech. This was important for us since the espresso machine was purchased new and would need a proper installation to maintain the initial factory warranty. Our tech was very helpful in showing each step of the installation and providing some troubleshooting steps for common issues.

    What kind of support do you have now for long-term maintenance of your equipment?

    Our long-term maintenance will continue with the initial installation company. They also provide emergency support if the equipment decides to stop working all of a sudden. 

    What was the most exciting machine to fire up and use for the first time?

    By far it was the espresso machine! It's still a joy to come in each morning and run it through its paces for the day; however, seeing all the effort culminate with the installation was amazing. It was the icing on the cake after a lengthy build out process.

    What sort of training do you have planned for operating the machines?

    This is something we're still building. Our coffee quality manager has extensive coffee experience and has trained each barista first in distinguishing a quality espresso shot from a poor shot. From there he demonstrates how adjustments to the grinders, espresso machine and tamping can swing taste along the quality spectrum. Consistency among our baristas is most important. Long term plans include SCA training to ensure our baristas are getting the best training possible. 

    What’s the first drink you made on your new espresso machine?

    I think we just drank straight espresso shots for the first few days! 

    What other steps have to happen after setting up equipment in order to open?

    Getting a solid workflow on bar was pretty important, as was integrating our full menu into the rotation. We've been fortunate to have an extended soft opening to bring it all together slowly. The inventory process was also a huge learning curve. Find the balance between being comfortable with the stock of items on hand, having enough space, and maintaining product quality is still something we are learning.

    Are you satisfied with your equipment choices?

    Overall most definitely. The only change we would make would be a dual unit batch brewer. Having the single unit limits some of our catering options.

    Do you feel that things worked out in terms of plans versus reality?

    Time will tell, but overall things have worked fairly closely with our plans. We know there's still a long way to go before calling our coffee shop a success, but it's been a pleasure operating the shop and having most of the big picture items meet expectations from the planning stages. 

     

    We'll be back soon with more from the Piecewise Coffee Co. crew!

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