Monthly Archives: July 2010
We'll never know how Marilyn Monroe's figure would have held up over time, but that's not the kind of Hourglass we're talking about here, baby! We're talking about the cold coffee brewing system that creates a smooth concentrate that you can use to make hot or cold coffee for up to two weeks afterward.
Or so they say! But can you, really? These are the big questions that only the crew at Seattle Coffee Gear are prepared to take on. We had Gail brew up a batch of the Hourglass coffee; she then tested it the next day for a baseline flavor assessment and then we followed it up 1 week and 2 weeks later to see how the flavor stood up.
Watch Gail as she takes one for science!
We can't help but hear Technotronic's Pump up the Jam whenever our eye falls on the Ascaso Duo Tronic, but we're pretty sure we're the only one who tortures themselves that way. Those without a disturbing relationship to late 80's/early 90's dance music would likely have no issue seeing this machine on their countertop in the morning, however.
It's a pretty cool machine, too -- a brew boiler, separate steam thermoblock and dual pumps means you can brew and steam at the same time. The Tronic also features programmable buttons, so you can set the water volume for your double and single shots. If you are a shot or Americano drinker only, you can turn off the thermoblock steam system, too, so you're not wasting energy on a feature you won't be using. A sturdy steel construction and low water cut off are nice features, as well.
The only item on our wishlist for this machine? A PID! You're still dealing with a thermostat with a 15 - 20 degree variance on the machine's brew boiler, so you will need to temperature surf before you pull your shots. But that's a small price to pay for the improved performance of simultaneous steam and brew -- a feature generally reserved for machines that are significantly more expensive. Sure, the thermoblock isn't going to give you the same kind of power as a traditional heat exchange or double boiler machine that has a big, beefy steam boiler, but the machine's price reflects that.
If you've been coveting this machine for awhile or are new to the market and looking for a good deal, this machine's price has been knocked down by a couple hundred bucks through August 31st. This is a great price for this kind of functionality.
So, as with all things, take a moment to assess your budget and your needs: Yes, the higher end machines will perform better shot/steam wise than this machine, but they are also twice the price. You can get great results with the Duo Tronic, it just takes a little more skill, participation and, perhaps, a little booty shakin' on your part, that's all.
Saeco's newest release in the US is the Syntia, a petite, scaled down version of their also recently released Xelsis. Like the Xelsis, it has a stainless steel casing (love!) a sleek, futuristic design (double love!) and some programmable options (ok, this love-fest is getting ridiculous!). It also has a bi-pass doser for pre-ground coffee, the standard removable brew group and it even utilizes the magic of magnets.
Sadly, it doesn't have the patented Saeco Brewing System (SBS) that varies the pressure to give more or less crema on your shot, but there's always a catch, right? If you have limited counterspace or cupboard clearance, this is definitely the superautomatic for you. Watch Gail take us through its features and demonstrate its functionality.
The Ascaso Dream UP is considered a 'versatile' espresso machine, meaning that -- like its predecessor -- the brew head has been designed for use with both ESE pods and ground coffee. However, the stock brew head definitely favors pods and you don't get as rich of a shot using grounds as you can off of other machines in this class.
When we did our review recently, we noticed that even though the new UP has a three-way solenoid valve, it didn't seem to perform that well, leaving really soupy grounds behind. So we decided to experiment with the machine by installing the Brew Head Upgrade kit to see if that improved the performance. It did!
Watch Gail show us the different screens, talk about how they perform and demonstrate a shot. We even spliced in footage from the original review (accompanied by super sessy muzak!) for easy side-by-side comparison.
We're huge fans of sangria and since we just added Monin's Blood Orange syrup to our repertoire, we had to try out this recipe and found it very tasty. It was originally for a single serving, but we know how you do and we kicked it up to a full pitcher. Perfect for summer weekend libations!
- 16 oz. chardonnay
- 2 oz. orange/citrus-flavored vodka
- 2 oz. Monin Cherry syrup
- 2 oz. Monin Blood Orange syrup
- 4 oz. orange juice
- Lemon lime soda
- In a large pitcher, combine wine, vodka, syrups and orange juice, stir well to mix. Add ice to fill.
- To serve, pour out in individual pint glasses and top with a splash of lemon lime soda -- perhaps garnish with an orange or a cherry.
- Toast the sunshine and drink on up!
Mmmmmmmocha. When coffee and cocoa beans hook up and get real with each other, they create one of the most enduring and appreciated flavor combos around. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't dig the espresso-infused chocolatey goodness of a well-crafted mocha -- and while it may be a little on the sweeter side than some of us can handle in the morning (Read: Gail), it's a nice mid-afternoon pick-me-up or a great option for an after dinner dessert.
There are many different ways in which you could whip up this drink, and we asked Gail to demonstrate two variations. First, she pulled the shots into the chocolate, mixed them together and then added steamed milk on top. Second, she made chocolate milk, steamed that up and then combined it with a separately pulled espresso shot. Watch her make choco-magic on the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione!
The newly re-engineered Izzo Alex II is a semi-automatic espresso machine out to make a name for itself: It's currently the only heat exchanger for home use that has a PID! Combine that with the convertible water source (which Izzo pioneered) and the no burn steam wands, and you can almost make up for the not-so-superb fit and finish elements that we don't love about it.
Watch Gail take us through its features, functionality and demonstrate making a latte -- all on her birthday!
In answer to the oft posed question 'can't I just use pre-ground coffee from __[insert your favorite store/roastery/cafe here]__?', we have held an aging test.
We're big on freshly grinding your coffee before each shot, as pre-ground starts to dry out (even in air-tight containers) within the first 24 hours. To show you how the shots degrade, we dialed in and ground a bunch of coffee, then pulled a shot the day of for baseline purposes. We then pulled shots 24, 48, 72 hours and 1 full week later to show how the shots measured up -- and to give our unequivocal vocal and facial feature responses to their flavor. Yowza!
Watch Gail as we go through the initial testing and then check in throughout the subsequent week.
Recently re-engineered to include a three-way solenoid/brew pressure release valve, Ascaso's Dream UP is just as aesthetically fetching as its ancestors and functions pretty much the same. It comes with a nice aluminum tamper (unlike the plastic style included with many other machines) and two different steam wand tips that you can choose from -- a panarello (which incorporates air and steam for you) or a three-hole traditional steam tip (which requires a little more skill and allows you to stretch the milk).
Gail talks to us about the features, demonstrates the different wand tips and makes us a latte -- with absolutely no latte art to speak of. :)
We recently wrote about crema -- what it is, what contributes to its formation, etc. -- and we thought we'd film Gail talking about it, as well, and test out a comparison test between an Americano with and without crema. Check it out!