Monthly Archives: January 2014
One of the hidden secrets of many espresso machines is that they come with an accessible test mode section. What is great about test mode is that it is an excellent resource for troubleshooting your machine. For instance, test mode can allow you to determine if components like your water pump, grinder or brew unit motor aren’t working because they are broken or because something in the machine has been misplaced and is keeping them from working.
One espresso maker that has this functionality is the Saeco Intuita. Luckily, as its name suggests, getting into the test mode section on this machine is more intuitive than it is on other espresso machines and only requires a few simple steps. Once you are in test mode, there are five different levels to explore, which allow you to test everything from the lights on the machine to the grinder. You can even test the machine’s sensors to make sure they are working properly, which is a great way to help pinpoint what is causing an alarm in regular mode.
In this video, Brendan shows us how to access test mode on the Intuita, guides through each of the different levels and explains how to use each one to diagnose any problems you are having with your machine.
SCG Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Intuita
It’s hard not to love the Crossland CC1. This compact machine is easy to use, makes consistently good shots and has a large water reservoir. However, just like every other espresso machine, the Crossland CC1 needs a little TLC every once in a while to keep it in good running order. One of the best places to start is with descaling, which will help keep mineral deposits from clogging up your machine.
What makes descaling the CC1 a little different than other machines is that it is really simple! The machine has a thermoblock that runs the steam wand, and on the brew side it has a boiler. This setup allows us to have water (instead of steam) come out of the steam wand, so the descaling solution will go through the boiler, through the thermoblock and out through the steam wand, ensuring that all parts of the machine get cleaned out.
To clean the Crossland CC1, we used our favorite descaler, Dezcal, which is a citric acid based product, mixed with 32 oz. of warm water. This mix is non-toxic, so while any leftovers in your machine might make your espresso taste funny, it won’t harm you. However, don’t be alarmed if you are using this solution to descale your espresso machine and the water comes out greenish-blue. It is normal for the water to come out this color if you have a lot of minerals built up in your machine, which the Dezcal is helping remove. If the water comes out fairly clear, it means your water is mostly mineral free. For more details on how to descale your CC1 and pick up a few extra tips, follow along as Gail completes the process in just one hour.
SCG How-to Guides: Descaling the Crossland CC1
The fact that the Saeco Talea Touch does nearly everything for you (except fold your laundry) makes it one of our more popular espresso machines. Not only does this machine’s technology allow for easy brewing, but it also enables you to access the Test Mode section, so you can give it a “check up” and explore the cause of any issues that may be occurring.
One of the greatest benefits of Test Mode is that it allows you to freely operate the functionality of your machine. For instance, you can do things like check to see if your grinder is working without brewing a shot of coffee, monitor if your brew unit motor is running right or even see if your pump is in good shape. While this mode is useful, the Test Mode for the Talea Touch is one of the more challenging to get into. You must know a special code, as well as how use it, which are both cryptic enough to warrant the use of a secret decoder to finger them out. This is also the case for both the new and the refurbished Saeco Talea Touch Plus, which requires you go through the same process to access the Test Mode.
Luckily, we have something even better – our parts and tech expert, Brendan, who told us the secret code and how and when to enter it. Once we were in, he also showed us how to navigate through the system and play with the options, which are much easier to use.
SCG Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Talea Touch
One of the older teahouses in the Seattle area, Teahouse Kuan Yin in Wallingford has been around for 24 years (the shop opened it’s doors in 1990). The shop’s longevity has made it into sort of a landmark and has also attracted many loyal customers. However, the store’s visitors are not just limited to tea connoisseurs, as its cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make teahouse Kuan Yin an inviting place to everyone, from tea newbies to coffee drinkers.
One of the first things you will notice when you enter the shop is the strong smell of spices and tea. The smell is not unpleasant, and is reminiscent of a spice shop or an Eastern marketplace. The teahouse is decorated in an Asian theme, with rice-paper panels to one side of the building, and woodcarvings, pottery, scrolls of calligraphy and local art mounted on the walls. There is also an impressive amount of pretty tea ware and accessories around the shop that customers can buy. The store’s relative quietness (only light music is played in the background) and abundance of tables and comfy leather chairs make this a great place to study, work or curl up with some tea and just relax. In fact, during my visit, I saw several people quietly typing away on their computers.
Let’s not forget about the tea. Teahouse Kuan Yin has a wide selection of teas, which are displayed in tins, containers and on shelving through the store. One of the members of the staff estimated that there are about 110 or more in their catalog, all of which are available for purchase at the store, or to be brewed hot or iced. I decided to sample their famous Kashmiri Pink Chai, which is made from green tea, almonds, spices, milk and sugar simmered together. The tea gets its pinkish-brown color, and its name, from the tea turning pink during the brewing process from oxidation.
I was interested in what a green tea based chai would taste like, since all of the other chais I’ve had have been brewed with black tea. Using almonds in chai was new to me as well, which, I learned from the store’s blog, is a northern Indian variant in making chai. The generously large cup of chai I received did indeed have a pink tone, and a smooth, almost floral flavor. The tea was much more mild than others I have tasted, and the spiciness that is often present in chai barely came through. Despite being different than what I am accustomed to, the chai was tasty and would be a good option for people who don’t usually like spicy flavors.
The food menu is almost as varied as the teahouse’s tea selection and contains pastries, cakes, breads, samosas, soups and even curries. The ham and cheese stuffed pastries and samosas looked inviting, but I limited my splurging to tea, and went with a simple snicker doodle cookie. The cookie was perfectly baked, with just the right amount of moistness, and tasted delicious! Overall, I really enjoyed the environment and offerings at Teahouse Kuan Yin. The teahouse is definitely a place I would take friends to grab a snack and chat or revisit on my own to try to learn more about the shop’s history, and drink more tea of course.
When we found a recipe for a mocha that contained not one, but three of our favorite ingredients (chocolate, cinnamon and chilies) we had to try it. The cinnamon and hot chilies definitely provide this mocha with some extra heat, so it is sure to keep you warm on cold winter nights.
The cool thing about this recipe is that, unlike the other mocha recipes we've done, you don't need an espresso machine to make it. We did use a machine to pull the shots for the three cups of espresso required for the recipe but, since the milk is being heated on the stove, you could just as easily produce the espresso using a stovetop or other brew methods that don’t have a steam function. It’s like “making a mocha the way your grandmother used to,” but with a little more of a kick when it comes to the taste. To learn how to make this recipe yourself, watch Brandi flex her cooking muscles and whip up this tasty drink.
Brewin' with Brandi: Spicy Mocha Recipe
- 4 cups whole milk
- 3 small dried red chilies
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 3 cups of espresso
- 1 ½ cups of sugar
- 1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup whipping cream
- Start by combining the milk, cinnamon sticks and chilies in a large sauce pan.
- Turn the stove to high and heat until the mixture reaches a simmering point. Make sure to stir constantly to avoid scorching.
- Once the milk mixture reaches a simmer, remove from heat and cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
- After steeping, stir in the powdered sugar, 1 ½ cups of white sugar, 3 cups of espresso and 1 cup of cocoa powder (reserve ¼ cup for later).
- Return mixture to the burner and bring to a simmer again.
- While the mocha mixture is simmering, mix the heaving whipping cream and remaining ¼ cup of cocoa powder, and whisk until stiff to create a whipped cream topping. Set aside.
- Once the mocha mixture has reached a simmer, remove the cinnamon sticks and the chilies.
- Ladle the mocha into cups and top with a dollop or two of the whipped cream blend. Enjoy!
When it comes to semi-automatic espresso machines, Rocket’s are the cream of the crop. Not only are they beautifully designed with their shiny stainless steel housing, but they also have state of the art mechanics as well, making them excellent for espresso production.
If you’re lucky enough to have purchased a Rocket Espresso machine, you likely rushed home so you could proudly display it on our your counter in all its glory. So, now you’ve got the machine all set up, plugged in, filled with tasty filtered or reverse osmosis (RO) water and you are good to go. But wait – what’s that flashing green light on the front of the machine? You’ve just filled the water tank, so why is the machine telling you that it is empty?
Never fear, your machine is not broken! This is a common question our customer service team receives about all Rocket machines, and luckily it is easy to fix. The problem is your Rocket is too smart for its own good and thinks the water reservoir is empty when the machine’s sensor doesn’t detect any minerals in the tank. In this video, Teri walks us through what causes this error and explains an easy solution.
SCG Tech Tips: Water Sensing on Rocket Espresso Machines
It’s two weeks into the new year and we’re off to a good start. We’ve recovered from the holidays and are gearing up for the rest of the year (which includes setting up new SCG classes and events). Although the winter months are a busy time for us, that doesn’t mean we don’t have fun too! Some of us got to travel to warmer (and in some cases, colder) climes, while others stayed in town and enjoyed the generally mild weather.
One of the exciting things that those of us who stayed in town got to do was host an event for the lovely ladies on Visit Bellevue Washington’s sales and marketing team. The team got in touch with us because they thought it would be fun to learn how to make a drink or two (and make sure they were fully caffeinated) before heading off to their holiday party. So Rachel fired up our Nuova Simonelli Musica, which happens to be the same type of espresso machine that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson owns, and showed them how to make peppermint mochas. Afterwards, we enjoyed chatting with the gals for a bit as they explored our store and bought a few goodies for their friends and family.
Of course it wouldn’t be a new year without resolutions – and one of ours is to provide you with more fun classes! This coming year we have a slew of events lined up, including classes on how to make a variety of coffee preps, coffee and tea tastings, maintenance classes (so you can keep all your gear in tip-top shape) and visits from some of our roasters and equipment vendors.
We are excited to get our classes going again, and will be resuming them this month at our Bellevue store. To kick things off we will be hosting two educational/tasting events where you can learn everything there is to know about the featured product and sample it as well!
Blooming Tea Tasting
Saturday, January 18th, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
You may have seen these display teas at parties or heard your friends talk about them. If not, now’s the time to learn! Blooming teas allow you to enjoy both tasty tea and a show, as these hand-sewn balls of tea transform into beautiful flowers when placed in hot water. Best of all, if you are one of the first few guests at the event, you will get a free tea ball to take home that you can use to impress your friends and family.
How to Make Excellent French Press Coffee
Saturday, January 25th, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
We’ll be brewing delicious French press coffee at the top of every hour for this event, and discussing everything you need to know about making perfect French press coffee. From what type of grind to use, to how long to let your coffee steep, we have you covered!
If you are in the area or plan on visiting soon, make sure to keep an eye on our calendar for more classes in the months to come. We would also love to hear your feedback on our classes. Is there something you want to learn about that we haven’t covered? Or a class you’d like to see featured again? Let us know and we’ll do our best to make it happen!
One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to clean up and de-clutter around the home, so why not start by performing some maintenance on your espresso machine? One of the easiest steps is to descale, which, depending on the mineral content of your water, should be done every one to three months. If you don’t descale your machine, mineral deposits can build up inside the machine and cause the water tubes to clog and/or reduce the brew temperature.
Since we’ve discussed how to descale a couple of different types of espresso machines in the past, we thought we’d focus on a perennial favorite - the Saeco Aroma, which has a stainless steel boiler. Not only does this durable little machine have a great reputation, but descaling it is also easy and painless. Just mix a descaling solution like Dezcal with 32 oz. of warm water, pour it into the machine’s water reservoir, pull the solution into the boiler by running water through the steam wand, and let the solution soak for a while. Then pull more solution into the boiler and let it soak in again, rinse and you are ready to go! However, it’s important to make sure to taste the water in your machine before you start brewing again to ensure there is no descaler left over in the machine, which will cause your espresso to taste a little funky.
The lesson of this story is - care of for your Aroma, and it will reward you with great tasting espresso for years to come. For complete step-by-step instructions on how to descale your little dude, watch Bunny take us through this simple process.
SCG How-To Guides: Descaling the Saeco Aroma
It's hard not to love Breville espresso machines, with their brushed stainless steel casing and smaller footprint. However, once you've decided this is the brand for you, how do you know which espresso maker to choose? While these machines might look pretty similar, they all are slightly different.
Perhaps we can help you narrow down the options. At the request of a viewer, we had Gail fire up the Breville Dual Boiler (BES900XL) and the Breville Infuser (BES840XL) and compare both machines side by side. The main difference between the machines is that the two boilers found inside the BES900XL allow you to brew your shot while simultaneously steaming your milk, and the built in PID lets you adjust the brew temperature for different roasts. While the BES840XL also has a PID to guarantee a stable temperature for shots. Since this machine has a thermocoil heating system, you also will not be able to steam and brew at the same time. However, the Infuser does have a considerably lower price than the Dual Boiler, which goes to show you can save money and still get a great espresso machine.
Of course this wouldn't be a true comparison without sampling the final product. Watch as Gail lays down some facts about the two machines and makes a cappuccino on each one.
Breville Compare: Dual Boiler vs. Infuser Espresso Machines
There's a lot to love about tea in general -- there's such a wide variety of styles and applications that it would seem nearly endless! We adore everything from a crisply brewed genmaicha to a bright earl gray over ice, herbal infusions when we have a sour belly or sore throat to fruit-infused tisanes that perk up creative cocktails. So when we brought in the blooming teas by Chai Diaries we were excited to experience yet another approach to brewing tea -- albeit one that is significantly more gorgeous!
Over the following weeks, we brewed up and tasted all of their blooming teas, watching them with rapt attention as they slowly unfurled inside our Adagio Glass Water Kettle. We loved that not only did they produce a delicious pot of tea, they offered a lovely show and point of discussion for our whole crew. We can imagine these Chai Diaries teas as a unique and tasty centerpiece to a very special tea party!
Watch as Bunny and Brandi show us the different varieties we offer, then brew a pot of Double Happiness, a delicate tea infused with jasmine and chrysanthemum.
Crew Review: Chai Diaries' Blooming Teas
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