Monthly Archives: May 2013
You know it's summer when Brandi is breaking out the barbecue! We've had a wonderfully unseasonable warm front here in Seattle, and although we know that nature is teasing us and that we have a few months of rainy gray days until summer shows up for a couple of weeks in late September, we're pretending it's going to stick around.
Watch her whip up this delicious steak rub, grill on the 'cue and then find out what one of SCG's lovely carnivores thinks of the concoction.
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup finely ground coffee -- we chose Middle Fork's Tough as Nails blend to give it maximum oomph!
Combine all ingredients together and mix until well incorporated. Thoroughly coat your steaks ... you can either throw them right on the grill or let them hang out with the rub on them for awhile if you want a more powerful flavor. Cook to your desired temperature and enjoy!
Let's be honest, I am not engaged in an epic battle with Breville ... it is not even a minor skirmish; in fact, I don't have a problem with Breville at all. Here’s what I truly love about all Breville espresso machines: They are easy to use and they make you feel like a rock star right out of the gate. Breville machines give me warm fuzzy feelings along with a good shot of espresso. The espresso shots are not going to be life changing (like that one time you found a small café and the barista’s skill blew your mind and now you can't remember where it was or if it was just a caffeinated waking dream). But! They are always going to be really good espresso shots every time. No wasted espresso, no wasted effort.
So while I did 'borrow' the instruction booklet from Rachel in Customer Service, I already felt as if I knew my way around the Breville Barista Express automatic espresso machine. I quickly whipped up a few shots of Velton's Bonsai Blend espresso to sip and then a caramel latte to check the frothing potential with my imaginary froth-o-meter. (Kaylie and I are going to invent this device in order to empirically rate microfoam.) Somewhere in the middle of espresso prep it occurred to me how much easier programmable semi-autos are to operate.
Besides ease of use, a few changes were made from the previous model (the well-loved BES860XL) that make the 870 worth consideration: a dedicated hot water spigot, PID temperature control within a few degrees and a smoother pathway from hopper to grinder. These factors alone are not enough to convince the truly reluctant among us, though.
My essential battle with the Breville Barista Express boils down to the integrated grinder. Are you for it, or are you against it? The SCAA recently declared it Best In Show: Coffee or Tea Preparation & Serving Equipment (Consumer). However, when I hear Best In Show, I think of the movie and then I giggle.
If you see the benefit of saving money with an integrated grinder, saving counter space by having an all-in-one appliance and saving time with programmable dosing then you, my friend, are not sitting with us over here in Camp Reluctant.
If you see the integrated grinder and immediately flashback to the ill-fated combination dual tape deck + record player purchase you made in college, then you are going to need a few more facts before hopping on the Breville Barista Express bandwagon.
- Fact: Upgraded stainless steel conical burrs are easily accessed for cleaning and can be removed for replacement.
- Fact: The grinder can be adjusted for different espresso bean blends within a certain range.
- Fact: A better bean hopper configuration allows whole beans to travel smoothly to the grinder.
- Bonus: I like the removable bean hopper to empty, fill or re-fill without having to awkwardly scoop beans (or vacuum them up!)
- Super Duper Bonus: Currently includes a new dosing tool called The Razor which sounds menacing but really confirms you have the right amount of coffee tamped into the portafilter.
Overall, I am less hesitant about this machine after reviewing these facts. Also, this is not truly a new model, it's one that Breville has improved upon over time. Ready to jump head first into the all-in-one pool? This model makes it a pretty safe dive into the deep end. Although I thought I would enjoy a Breville Infuser BES840XL paired with a Breville Smart Grinder more, I am now reluctantly considering the Breville Barista Express BES870XL for my next home espresso machine. In my case, reluctance is just another word for lazy and Breville makes espresso machines that are so easy to use, I can't ignore them!
When we heard that Breville was going to soup up one of their more popular -- and unique -- espresso machines, the Barista Express, we were a little bit excited. Some of the things we didn't dig about its predecessor were going to be addressed, such as improved temperature control, an improved grinder and the addition of a hot water spigot. They even threw in some cool new toys (a Razor, anyone?), an improved hopper for easier bean feeding and the ability to tweak your brew temperature with a simple PID interface.
Enough talk -- let's show it off, eh? Watch Gail talk about the features of the new Barista Express BES870XL, give us a tour of all the goodies it comes with and then demonstrate making a latte.
Watch as Bunny brewed these up using a coffee press, to allow the folks to taste some of the differences between the Premium House, Qualita Oro, Qualita Rossa, Crema e Gusto, Tierra Intenso and Caffe Espresso blends.
With a slimmer profile than their Xelsis and Exprelia models but with more water, coffee bean and puck capacity than the Syntia series, Saeco's Intelia line of machines offer a nice compromise, size-wise. They also feature a simple interface, a bit of programming and three different case styles. In this video, Gail shows off the Focus, SS and One-Touch models so you can see how they compare with each other.
Brandi breaks in our new kitchen studio with this lovely treat, which incorporates chocolate, butterscotch, coffee, marshmallows ... and chow mein noodles!
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
- 1 tablespoon finely ground coffee (we used Middle Fork's Tough as Nails)
- 1 cup miniature marshmallows
- 1 cup crispy chow mein noodles
- Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine coffee, marshmallows and noodles together, then pour in melted chocolate mixture.
- Stir until everything is well-coated in the chocolate.
- On a non-stick surface (such as a non-stick pan, wax or parchment paper), spoon out about a tablespoon of the mixture, piled up like little haystacks.
- Let them set in the refrigerator for about an hour, then serve.
While we love the gorgeous metallic finish on the Saeco Intelia SS, we're not super in love with the cappuccinatore functionality that comes as stock. So when Gail came to us with the idea that we could retrofit the machine with the panarello sleeve from the Syntia series of machines, we were excited!
Watch as she shows how easy it is to swap this out and then demonstrates how it performs.
We're definitely diggin' on the new Intelia line of machines from Saeco, especially on the metallic finish for the new SS model! It's some kind of gorgeous in the hue department, comes with cappuccinatore functionality and whips up delicious espresso shots. Watch Gail take us through its features and demonstrate its performance.
Whether you’re sipping on a delicious cup of Velton’s Single Origin Mexico Nayarita, or savoring Zoka’s Espresso Palladino, your beans have started their journey hundreds or thousands of miles away from you (at least if you live in Seattle). Roasters source beans for their signature blends or single origins in one of two ways: They either buy green (unroasted) beans from importers, or they visit farms around the world to purchase beans directly from coffee producers.
Coffee is one of the most highly valued products in world trade, however it’s also an incredibly labor intensive crop with a yield at the mercy of weather conditions and a price dictated by market forces. An abundance of coffee in the global market drives prices down, while smaller harvests can demand higher prices. It’s a tricky business since it can take up to four years for a coffee plant to yield fruit, making it difficult for producers to respond quickly to a fluctuating market. In 2001, a global oversupply of coffee depressed prices worldwide to an all time low of 45 US cents a pound, and overnight thousands of farmers were forced out of business. It was an intense reminder of how vulnerable these farmers are to price fluctuations at a global scale.
The Fair Trade program was established to set a floor price for green beans on the global market (a minimum of $1.40/lb for unwashed Arabica, or the market price if higher, plus 20 cent premium for community development) and promote sustainable practices for commodity producers around the world. The participants must adhere to a series of standards such as participation in a co-op and investment of at least 5 cents in quality or productivity investments, and in exchange they become Fair Trade certified (identified by a black and white logo of a man with outstretched arms). Fair Trade Certification is monitored by an independent company called FLO-CERT to ensure that producers are following the outlined guidelines. How does this impact you? As a consumer you can breathe a little easier knowing that farmers were paid a fair price for the beans in your hopper. It's important to note that Fair Trade has faced some criticism in recent years because it requires co-op participation (excluding some producers that want to remain independent) and some claim there is little evidence of community investment.
Direct trade takes a slightly different approach to sourcing, whereby roasters are traveling to and purchasing directly from coffee producers across the world. This gives roasters access to smaller growers that don’t want to participate in a co-op (and are thereby excluded from Fair Trade), and gives them more control over quality, consistency and visibility into immediate social and environmental concerns. While direct trade has become increasingly popular in recent years, there are no uniform standards that everyone adheres to. As a consumer, this means you are trusting your roaster to conduct business in an ethical manner. Some roasters like Intelligentsia and Counter Culture have established their own direct trade standards to promote visibility and accountability for their purchasing practices. Counter Culture even partners with Quality Certification Services, a 3rd party organization that verifies their own guiding principles. We are extremely fortunate to work with a number of roasters in the Seattle area who source directly; one of which, Caffe Ladro, recently traveled to Central America to source beans, visiting Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. By purchasing directly from producers, not only can they find the highest quality beans, but they can give back to the communities they work with in a tangible way. This year, Ladro will launch a program to donate $1 of each bag of Natamaya coffee to build a soccer field.
Since direct trade relationships have the potential to create long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with producers around the world, the business practice itself is sustainable and more transparent. That means that even those of us who are at the end of the line, enjoying delicious cups of coffee, can better understand where this product comes from and contribute to a positive community impact with every sip ... and who wouldn't dig that?