Monthly Archives: November 2013
In the world of gourmet coffee, the holy trinity might very well be freshly roasted - freshly ground - freshly brewed. Okay, so it's all about being fresh, and committing to that will mean truly delicious java on a consistent basis. But we also get that sometimes our lives are busier than we might like and convenience has to reign supreme over handcrafted quality.
Jura understands this quandary and, instead of passing judgement, they've devised an Automatic Coffee Center that will hopefully bridge the gap between convenience and quality: The ENA Micro 1. Instead of using a capsule to produce a single cup of coffee on the go, you can select your favorite coffee and grind the beans freshly prior to brewing, all at the touch of a button. With an updated brew chamber and pressure system, you'll be able to craft delectable drip coffee one cup at a time!
Watch as Chris takes us through a refreshed tour of this popular machine, including its features and specs, then brews us a cup of coffee. The ENA Micro 1 is the machine for drip brewed coffee and/or Americano lovers everywhere! And, if you occasionally have a milk drinker over for a cuppa, you can always meet their needs by picking up a Jura Automatic Milk Frother on the side.
Jura ENA Micro 1 - Video Review
If there's any way you're going to make it through the trytophan-infused fare of the day, it's via the magical meditative combo of coffee and drawing cartoon turkeys. So while you're expressing yourself artistically, how about jazzing up your coffee with some seasonally-inspired syrup and sauce?
Today's recipe features our favorite body lotion (er, Monin Caramel sauce) and Maple Spice syrup, which join forces to accent the espresso with sweet and creamy notes. Watch as Brandi crafts it on her new favorite easy-to-use superautomatic espresso machine, the Saeco Minuto.
Recipe: Caramel Maple Latte
In your serving cup, combine the sauce and syrup together, then add the espresso and stir well until thoroughly blended. Pour the steamed milk to taste -- we used about 6 ounces, but you could use more or less depending on how sweet you like your coffee drinks.
While we've reviewed other Nuova Simonelli commercial-class coffee grinders like the MDX and Eureka, we had never had the opportunity to spend quality time with the oft-mentioned Mythos. So when we visited Nuova Simonelli's US headquarters in Ferndale, WA, we couldn't wait to get our paws on one -- let alone three!
Currently, the Mythos has a couple of variations that will soon evolve into three distinct models: The Basic, the Plus and the ClimaPro. The Basic is a straightforward dosing grinder that has an expansive bean hopper, programmable dosing functionality and the Mythos' unique vertically-aligned burr set. The Plus has everything the Basic does, but adds a mechanical tamper to the mix. Finally, the ClimaPro features a smaller profile and a heating element in the dosing chute, which maintains a consistent temperature and, therefore, grind consistency amidst ambient temperature changes.
Watch as Brandon guides us through these three grinders, showing us how they work and compare with each other. He also talks about which type of business would benefit more from each of these styles of Mythos grinders, so you'll be able to select the right model for your coffee-oriented business.
If you'd like to learn more about these specific models or pre-order a model, please contact Brandon and he can work with you to do so.
Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Mythos Grinders
Located on NW Market Street in Ballard, Floating Leaves Tea is one of the few teahouses in the greater Seattle area that focuses on selling only true teas. The shop’s owner, Shiuwen, hails from Taiwan, and primarily sells Taiwanese, Chinese and Japanese teas. Most of the teas in the shop are seasonal, single-estate teas that Shiuwen sources herself on her yearly trip to Taiwan. In total, Floating Leaves Tea sells about 40 different kinds of tea, which are comprised of a lot of oolong, puerh, a few green teas and one or two white teas.
Shiuwen says that while selection of 40 different teas may sound small compared to shops that sell nearly a hundred different kinds of teas, she is intentionally selective about the teas she has in her shop. She works hard to find the best teas for her shop, only selling what she feels truly passionate about. It just so happens that she's passionate about oolongs!
Upon my arrival in the shop, Shiuwen used a pretty blue and white gaiwan to brew me up a Baozhong Competition Style oolong. This lightly oxidized tea was refreshing and had a floral aroma and taste, which Shiuwen accurately described as 'tasting like spring.' As we continued to chat, Shiuwen brewed a second oolong called Taiwan Wuyi. It was a roasted oolong, featuring a smoky scent and a heartier, roasted nutty flavor that, Shiuwen explained, made it great for drinking in the cooler fall and winter months.
You don’t have to talk to Shiuwen long to tell that when it comes to oolongs (and tea in general), she really knows her stuff. Curious about how she became so knowledgeable about tea, I asked Shiuwen how she got into the tea business. Shiuwen explained that, growing up in Taiwan, tea is a huge part of the culture and was readily available. Although Shiuwen drank tea often as a teenager, the extent of her tea knowledge at the time was 'tea is good.' This is largely because tea is often brewed for you in Taiwan, so you don’t get to watch the brewing process.
In fact, Shiuwen didn’t really learn how to brew tea herself until she moved to America. One morning, she decided to make the tea for her and her former husband’s morning tea ritual. Not happy with the result, Shiuwen became curious about how to correctly brew tea and began visiting tea shops and asking the owners (as well as friends) for advice on brewing tea. Once she became comfortable with the process, she began serving tea regularly at parties. One day, one of her friends asked where they could buy the tea she was serving, and the idea for the business was born.
Shiuwen started the business by hosting tastings at her apartment, and then branched into doing tastings at events like art openings. Shiuwen opened her first shop in 2005, and then moved to her current location in 2008. Inspired by teashops and tasting rooms of Shiuwen’s native Taiwan, Floating Leaves Tea is a quaint little shop, with shelves full of ornate and beautiful tea ware and, of course, tea. Shiuwen adds that she wanted to 'open a space where East and West meet, that was quiet, had a peaceful feeling and served good tea.'
Shiuwen’s ultimate goal is to be a 'bridge between the culture in Taiwan and the culture in America.' Luckily, her frequent visits to Taiwan to source teas for Floating Leaves Tea provide Shiuwen with the perfect opportunity to achieve this goal. While in Taiwan, Shiuwen is able to learn from and build relationships with tea farmers, tea roasters and tea wholesalers who have been in the industry for years. Shiuwen then strives to bring the knowledge and concepts she learns from these tea producers back to America and share them with her customers. Better yet, each year a few lucky customers get to travel with Shiuwen on this incredible journey, which allows them to visit three or four tea farms, and dine with and learn from the farmers themselves.
In addition, Shiuwen offers drop-in tea tastings on Thursdays through Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. so people can sample and compare a couple of different teas to determine what they would like to buy. She also has more formal tea classes and even a tea club where people can learn about oolongs and puerh teas at a more advanced level. However, Shiuwen is not only interested in teaching advanced learners, but likes working with beginners as well. She says it is great when people reach out and contact her about setting up classes, and she is more than willing to host them as long as there will be at least two people attending. If you can’t attend class in person, Shiuwen has an abundance of helpful information on her site about how oolongs are processed, or even on how to roast tea yourself.
Shiuwen will also happily serve up a cup of tea to customers who wander in from the cold and chat with them about tea. Since Floating Leaves Tea is a niche shop, it draws in a lot of repeat customers, which Shiuwen loves connecting with. It is evident by the way Shiuwen’s eyes light up when she talks about her customers that this is the aspect of her business that she enjoys the most. In fact, she says that many of them have become good friends, who often come over to her house to visit. If you’re interested in learning a lot about tea and making a new friend (or two), this is definitely the teashop for you.
When you're dropping a couple thousand bucks on an espresso machine, your choices generally involve models with a more luxe approach to style and design, replete with commercial-grade components and sophisticated functionality. But beneath the heavy use of polished stainless steel and chrome-plated brass, these prosumer-class espresso machines feature different technical specifications that speak to the specific manufacturer's method of getting to the same goal: You, making excellent espresso-based drinks for everyone you know.
And because you know we have a deep, abiding love for a grudge match, we're pitting two more pieces of coffee gear against each other, for fun and profit! In the left corner, we have the Livia G4 Auto with PID by Pasquini and, in the right, we have a Nuova Simonelli Musica. While these are two Italian heat exchange espresso machines with commercial-class build quality, they have some pretty big functional differences.
First, the Livia G4 is available in a few configurations (semi-auto, semi-auto with PID and auto with PID) while the Musica is a simple, straightforward heat exchange with no temperature control options. Next, the Musica has proprietary brew head temperature regulation that produces some of the best no fuss, no muss espresso shots we've ever had, yet the Livia G4's unique internal technical design (on the auto, its heat exchange is controlled by a PID and a thermoblock at the brew head maintains a consistent brew temp) means that you can play with how different brew temperatures affect your coffee. Finally, the Livia's steam functionality, while strong, is a little more tame than what the Musica produces, giving it an edge to folks that are learning how to steam and texture milk.
Want to learn more about these two espresso machines? Watch as Teri gives us functional overview, then shows us how they compare, performance-wise.
SCG Compares: Pasquini Livia G4 v. Nuova Simonelli Musica Espresso Machines
Every time we walk into a recently built or remodeled kitchen, we're immediately struck by the drab uniformity of brushed stainless steel. We definitely think it has a place when it comes to certain large appliances like your stove or refrigerator, but if you have the opportunity to give your kitchen a little pop of color or deep accent, why not go for it?
Breville was picking up what we're laying down because, after years of brushed stainless finishes on their popular suite of products, they've introduced a little variety into the mix. Enter Black Sesame and Cranberry versions of the Barista Express, Infuser and Smart Grinder. Functioning in the exact same way as their silvery counterparts, these gem-like versions will give your kitchen a possibly much-needed counterpoint. In addition to their gleaming, painted metal finishes, they also sport a polished stainless steel front that gives them even more pop -- and eye candy!
If you've been interested in their machines but have wished for some style variety, then perhaps these new, limitedly-available hues will fit your bill. Watch as Gail shows them off.
Crew Review: Breville Colors
If you own a small business and you're looking to upgrade your office's coffee experience -- plus pretty much secure your receipt of a World's Best Boss mug from your trusty crew -- the Jura Impressa XJ9 is the only way to go! With all of the sophisticated features of the Impressa J9 one-touch, the XJ9 has been adapted for an office environment by expanding the capacities of its bean hopper, water reservoir, drip tray and dregs box.
Aside from the more generous volumes, it pretty much performs as the J9 does -- programmable drink buttons, an intuitive full color TFT navigation screen and one-touch cappuccino functionality. Watch as Chris guides us through its features and specs, then demonstrates how easy it is to make a delicious cappuccino!
Crew Review: Jura Impressa XJ9 One-Touch for Offices
We would all love to be more organized, prepared, planned during the holiday season, but sometimes the festivities get the better of us and all of our good intentions go out the window. One of our favorite seasonal drinks to enjoy is mulled wine -- the warmth of the rich red wine paired with the delicious mulling spices of clove, cinnamon and allspice is a difficult libation to beat. But it does take some planning: Most spiced wine recipes recommend warming your wine and spices on low heat for a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors to meld.
If you need to whip something up a bit more quickly, our chai-infused version is a great way to produce this lovely seasonal flavor in a pinch. Watch Brandi whip it up, using Monin's Chai Tea Concentrate.
Chai Spiced Wine Recipe
Each time we provide an overview of a new coffee grinder like the Mazzer Major, we feel the need to also get down to the nitty gritty and show you how to take it apart, care for it, look for signs of wear & tear, then put it back together again.
A lot of our day-to-day work involves helping people get the most from their coffee gear, and one big way that you can do that is by keeping it enviably clean. Especially if you are running a coffee-oriented business! Day in and day out, you're serving up delicious coffee to your adoring customers and you want to make sure that it's fresh and fully represents what you're all about, right? Taking care to regularly clean your grinder's bean hopper, burr set, grinder chute and doser chamber (if applicable) will go a long way to improving both the consistency and the flavor of your espresso.
In this comprehensive how-to video, Brandon guides us through how to perform regular care and maintenance on the Mazzer Major. Watch him take it apart, assess the internals, clean and then re-assemble this popular commercial coffee grinder. If you own or work for a business that uses a Mazzer Major in your operation -- and you're not performing similar maintenance on a regular basis -- might we recommend that today's the day you change that trend? Follow Brandon's guidance and you'll see how simple it is to do so.
Tech Tip: How to Clean the Mazzer Major Commercial Coffee Grinder
Where: The Fresh Pot, Portland, Oregon
We met you at the Coffee Fest Latte Art World Championship Open in Seattle last month. What’s it like competing?
Full disclosure: I only started competing this year. My first throwdown was last July. Competing is honestly kind of weird. It's not really a replication of how latte art works in the cafe environment, but it's so much fun. I love the chance to jam with other coffee people, talk (really enthusiastically) about great coffees and latte art techniques and espressos. Eighty percent of why I love competing is to hang out with coffee folks. The other twenty percent is, well, who wouldn't love a giant rock-paper-scissors tournament but with milk and espresso?
What was the first coffee drink you remember tasting?
The only coffee in my house as a kid was swill (sorry dad,) so I didn't really try coffee when I was young. I remember drinking sugary/milky drinks from Dutch Bros drive-throughs with my sister, but I didn't really start drinking coffee in earnest until I started working with it in 2010.
What do you drink now at home?
When I'm just brewing for myself, I usually use a Kalita Wave with whichever delectable coffee I happen to have at the time (I'm particularly fond of juicy or citrusy coffees). If I'm sharing with my roommate or friends, the Chemex is my standby. I also have an AeroPress and a French press on hand in case the mood should strike me.
What do you drink at work, if different?
Everything! I love espresso. You can't get more beautiful than the purity of a well extracted shot. But I also drink cappucinos, Americanos, pour overs, drip, you get the idea. Whatever fits my mood!
What’s cool about the Portland coffee scene?
In brief, the people. Portland has such a huge diversity of people in the coffee scene, from guys who've been slinging shots at Stumptown for a decade, to folks who've transplanted here from cities without good coffee for the sake of the coffee, to people who've been building relationships with coffee farmers, and everyone in between. Most people are really fun to hang out with, and obsessed with quality. I'm honored to be a part of such a brilliant community, honestly.
What are your thoughts on quality versus customer service skills?
As a friendly barista in Portland, a town (apparently) famed for bad customer service, I have encountered two very distinct attitudes: One, people assume that if someone is friendly, they don't know how to make fantastic coffee; and two, people will avoid somewhere they perceive as snobby, willingly sacrificing quality for friendlier service. I don't think it's too much to ask for baristas to be friendly and skilled! Even the most delicious espresso in the world isn't any fun if the barista isn't willing to talk to you about it, and even the friendliest cafe experience in the world is no fun unless the espresso is delicious. And really, I consider my customer service skills to be equally as valuable as my coffee skills. Knowing how to read people and give them exactly the level of service they need and expect is hard, and just as much of an art as extracting delicious espresso.
Do you ever judge people by the drink they order?
I try really hard not to, but when someone orders a decaf at 9am...
If you could teach people one thing about coffee (or latte art), what would it be?
It's worth it to invest some money in your coffee experiences -- both beans and gear! But don't necessarily assume that more expensive always equals better. Talk to your baristas, and your roaster if possible. Find out what's delicious, and get a good home brewing set up! It's worth every single penny.
The Fresh Pot in Portland, Oregon has three locations and if you're lucky you will run into Bethany at one of them. She's been pulling shots with them for a year and a half. Bethany can also be found competing in organized latte art competitions around the Northwest.