Monthly Archives: February 2014
When it comes to suffering home espresso machines, our repair technicians have seen it all. From clogged brew screens to burnt out heating elements, there are a variety of ways people unintentionally use and abuse their machines. The unfortunate part is, many of these issues could have been prevented, had the owners known about them and completed some simple espresso machine maintenance. Just following a few easy steps could have saved the owners a lot of money and time away from their precious machine. Of course, just as many homeowners don’t expect some of the worst disasters (such as burst plumbing or leaking roofs) to happen to them, many espresso machine owners hope that they will be able to avoid common problems as well.
The reality is that even if you have a top of the line machine, wear and tear from frequent use will require that you give it a little extra TLC from time to time. Usually this involves giving the machine a weekly cleaning and doing an annual tune-up. If you don’t follow these tips, it is likely that eventually you will encounter a few problems. Costly repairs or replacements are not myths, and they can happen to you.
Still not convinced? Check out what happened to the heating element and boiler inside a Nuova Simonelli Oscar when the steam wand wasn’t removed from the milk frothing pitcher when the machine was turned off and properly cleaned.
All of the brown clumpy stuff coating the walls of this boiler is milk that got sucked inside it due to the steam wand not being removed from the milk frothing pitcher and opened up after each use; it baked and rotted! The two brown strands hanging off of the white and metal valve are also strands of milk, and should not be there.
As you can see, the boiler on the left overheated, blackened and even cracked due to the milk buildup inside. The boiler on the right is what a normal, or “healthy,” boiler should look like – nice and clean.
The heating element for this machine, on the left, has also gotten burnt out, blackened and corroded. Again, the heating element on the right is how one should look.
Unfortunately, once a boiler has gotten to this stage it has reached the point of no return and must be replaced in order to get your machine up and running again. In some instances you may even be out of luck and have to get an entirely new machine.
However, there are a few easy tips you can follow to avoid winding up in this situation. If you have a heat exchanger machine like the Oscar above, make sure to open the steam valve on your machine every time you turn it off and it cools down. If you don’t, a vacuum is created and the left over milk in the steam wand is sucked up into the boiler. On the other hand, if you have a single boiler machine, such as the Rancilio Silvia, the best way to avoid this problem is to run water out of your steam wand after each use so you don’t create a vacuum in the boiler.
The next time you consider saving flushing out your steam wand for “later,” remember these images and cautionary tale. Clean your steam wand after each use and do a more thorough cleaning of the machine once a week. If a wet cloth isn’t strong enough to cut through the grime, try using a liquid or powder espresso machine cleaner. If your machine has any removable parts, you should take them off for cleaning as well. For instance, if your machine has a panarello, you should remove it and soak it in a solution like Rinza. This will rid it off any milk that has built up inside the panarello as it can get sucked into the boiler. If you follow these simple steps, your espresso machine will likely run well and continue to produce tasty drink for years to come. If you are kind to your espresso machine, it will be kind to you.
If you are as big of a fan of ‘90s music as we are, you might have learned from Sheryl Crow that “a change would do you good.” Clearly, the manufactures at DeLonghi have taken this advice to heart with the creation of the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Exclusive. This espresso machine is upgrading and replacing the DeLonghi Gran Dama 6700. While the 6700 is a great machine, and well loved by many of our customers, DeLonghi has made a few tweaks to the machine’s design to make it even better.
One of the newest, and coolest, features of the PrimaDonna Exclusive ESAM 6900 is the one touch chocolate system. As part of this unique function, DeLonghi has included a new separate carafe that has a spin drive built into it that allows you to mix up and heat hot chocolate. Not only does this keep something as sugary as hot chocolate separate from your milk, but also allows you easily create drinks like mochas and chocolate for the kids.
DeLonghi has also upgraded the programmability of the machine. The PrimaDonna has a new profile system, that allows you to create six profiles where you can customize everything from the length of your shot to the strength of your shot, and even the amount of milk you want in your drink. There is also an auto-start option for each profile, so you can have different start times for drinks on weekdays and weekends. All of this is accessible on a large, color display that is easy to see and navigate.
In addition to the new features, the machine still includes many of the functions users have always enjoyed; such as the long coffee feature as well as options for creating one touch lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos. The variety of drinks you can make on this machine and the number of customizable profiles makes it a great option for large households or people who like having a lot of choices. To learn more about the new DeLonghi PrimaDonna Exclusive, watch as Gail and Brendan walk us through the features and teach us a few tips.
Crew Review: DeLonghi PrimaDonna Exclusive
True to its name, the Saeco Xsmall is the brand’s smallest superautomatic espresso machine on the market. As result, this machine takes up very little space on your counter but still comes at an affordable price with a lot of basic functionality. The machine’s streamlined design also makes everyday maintenance, like filling the water reservoir, emptying the dregs box or even cleaning the brew group (yes, it’s removable!) a breeze.
Another one of our favorite features on the Xsmall is the troubleshooting-related, test mode section on the machine. In fact, when one of our superautos starts acting up, one of the first things we do is access their respective test mode sections. Why is this helpful? Test mode allows you to operate the functions of your espresso machine freely, outside of the software of the machine. This means you can run your grinder, pump or brew unit motor to see if they are working properly without having to brew a shot and wasting your favorite coffee beans. To make the troubleshooting process easier, these different components are broken down into four test mode levels on your machine (for instance there are different levels for checking the machine’s sensors, brew unit, water flow, grinder and boiler) so you can test everything related to one area individually.
While test mode is extremely useful, getting into it on the Xsmall can be a little challenging. In this video, our parts guru Brendan teaches us how to access it and navigate the four different testing levels on the machine.
SCG Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Xsmall
My tea tasting travels recently led me back to the city of Ballard, to explore Miro Tea, which has set out to revolutionize the tea drinking experience in our coffee soaked city. Considered to be one of the trendy and up-and-coming parts of town, Ballard is home to many tasty restaurants and cute cafes. In fact, the maker of the delicious chocolate covered espresso beans we carry, Hot Cakes, is located just down the street.
Luckily, Miro Tea’s cozy atmosphere allows the shop to fit right in. In keeping with the area’s hipster vibe, the entire store is made out of recycled materials. The piece de resistance is the tea tasting bar. This beautiful lacquered table is made out of a tree stump that provides the space with a Northwest feel. The wall behind the bar is covered in bamboo, which is fitting since the name “Miro” has Buddhist origins. However, the best part about the tasting bar is the tea! There are always four teas available at the bar to sample, and they are changed out every day so that people in the neighborhood can try something different.
While I was in the shop, I got a chance to chat with Miro’s assistant manager, Emi Horiuchi, who has been with the company for about four years, to learn a little bit about the company’s history and mission. According to Emi, Miro Tea’s founder, Jeannie Liu, opened the café in August 2007, with the idea of creating a tea bar that was different from the old fashioned-style tea houses. Thus, Jeannie created a modern yet casual environment, where customer’s don’t have to worry about being told “you’re doing it wrong,” when it comes to selecting, brewing and drinking their tea. Emi also explained that they try to be fairly approachable, and one of her favorite aspects about working in the store is that she “get[s] to offer people things that they like, rather than telling them what they should like.”
When it comes to finding something they like, customers shouldn’t have any trouble. At Miro Tea there is a giant menu at the counter that features about 200 blended and non-blended loose leaf teas and herbals. This selection of teas changes depending on the season and what is in stock, as Jeannie travels all over the world to try and buy different teas. You can also purchase tea beverages such as tea lattes (tea brewed with steamed milk), chai and iced tea fusions (iced tea hand shaken with seasonal fruits, herbs and fresh squeezed juices). If you do happen to get stuck trying to decide on a tea, just ask the knowledgeable staff who are happy to offer their recommendations.
Of course, that is just their tea menu, which doesn’t even begin to cover the wide selection of food that is available at Miro Tea. You can choose from a variety of pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads. However, the most popular snack is the crepes, which come in both sweet and savory options. Emi claims Miro is most well-known for the Christy (fresh spinach and goat cheese, and topped with Spanish Serrano ham and an over easy fried egg) and the Harvest (roasted yellow squash, eggplant, zucchini, red onion, kale, green & red peppers with goat cheese & house made fire roasted tomato sauce) crepes, but all of them sound equally delicious.
After hearing about all of the scrumptious sounding teas and treats available, I decided to test them out for myself. I went with the Coconut Oolong, a Baozhong oolong flavored with coconut. This tea happens to be one of the shop’s more popular teas, along with the Chill (a peppermint and licorice herbal blend) and the Bourbon St Red (rooibos flavored with vanilla and bourbon). For a snack I tried the sweet Chocolate Haze crepe, which was filled with Nutella, banana toasted hazelnuts and topped with whipped cream. My tea arrived in a Bodum Bistro Mug that showed off the tea’s pretty, light yellow color. It tasted amazing – very light and sweet with slight nutty and coconut flavor. The crepe was much bigger than I expected, but was very tasty as well, which was evident in my ability to eat the entire thing in one sitting despite its size and richness.
Before I left, Emi added that Jeannie is into supporting the neighborhood; so opening the store was “all about building the community, and not about the money.” The goal was to have a tea shop where people could come in and relax and meet others. From the looks of things, it appears Jeannie and the folks at Miro Tea have certainly accomplished this goal. When I visited, the shop was full of people, who were either quietly typing away on their computers or hanging out with friends. There is even a corner filled with books and games that people can use to pass the time while they sip their tea. This shop, and neighborhood, is certainly my cup of tea and I will definitely be back for more.
Although it is still pretty cold outside, at least around these parts, this is the time of year where the sun starts to appear a little more frequently, making us long for the return of warm summer days. While we have a quite a few more months to go before that happens, we can at least get our taste buds (and our minds) in the spirit for warmer weather with a milky melon cooler.
While the recipe for this drink might sound a little unusual, it is surprisingly light and refreshing. Better yet, it is super easy to make since all it requires is cold milk, watermelon syrup and an automatic milk frother. We made our milky melon cooler on the Capresso FrothTec Automatic Milk Frother, but you can make this recipe with any standalone milk frother that has a cold froth setting, or even on a manual model like the Frieling Milk Frother.
Watch Brandi walk us through these few easy steps and then mix up a drink of your own. You’ll feel like you’re relaxing at the beach or having a picnic in the park in no time!
Brewin’ with Brandi: Milky Melon Cooler
- .7 oz. of Monin Watermelon Syrup
- 6-8 oz. of fresh milk
- 4 ice cubes
- Fill an automatic milk frother up to the max froth line with cold milk.
- Put the lid on the milk frother and select the cold frothing option.
- Once the milk starts frothing, open the lid and slowly pour in the watermelon syrup.
- Put the lid back on and allow it to froth until complete, about two minutes. The milk should have a nice silky texture.
- Pour over ice and serve.
- To pretty up your drink you can try decorating it with slice of watermelon and drizzle of syrup over the edge of the glass.
Do you love drinking cappuccinos and lattes in the morning but don’t enjoy all the work required to make them or cleaning up the mess afterward? Well, you’re in luck, since DeLonghi and Nespresso teamed up a while ago to create the DeLonghi Lattissima EN680, which allows you to brew cappuccinos, lungos and espresso at the push of a button.
This hybrid is part of the Lattisima series, and features a removable 16.9 oz. milk reservoir (so you can keep your milk cold in the fridge) and has programmable milk froth dispenser for those cappuccinos and lattes. This espresso machine is sure to please non-milk drinkers too, since the coffee volume and water output are also programmable. Like other Nespresso products, the EN680 is a capsule machine so you have to fill it with capsules ordered from Nespresso. However, the machine does come with a sample pack of pods so you can try out the different flavors to see which ones you like the best.
The EN680’s small footprint makes it great for cramped counters, but the machine is large enough to offer an adjustable cup tray so you can make your coffee in different sized cups. You can even take your coffee with you on the go, as you can fit a small travel mug in this space, like a MiiR travel tumbler, but probably not anything larger.
To find out more, watch as Teri takes us on a tour of the specs and features of the DeLonghi Lattissima EN680, and then shows us how to make a hot, foamy cappuccino.
SCG Crew Review: DeLonghi Lattissima EN680
Valentine’s Day: a holiday to celebrate the one who is near and dear to your heart, the one that is always there when you get up in the morning, the one who motivates you throughout the day and the one who will help keep you from falling asleep when you have a late night project – coffee!!
What better day than Valentine’s Day to explore your passion for all things coffee? Of course, it might be nice to share your love of coffee with those who are important to you too. If you don’t know where to start or are having a hard time coming up with something to do, here are a couple of tips to help you out.
Bypass the Crowds
One of the things that people dread about Valentine’s Day is having to wait hours to get into their favorite restaurant (yes, it can happen even if you have a reservation). However, if you plan a coffee based date, you can skip the wait and spend the day as you please. Instead of doing dinner, try grabbing breakfast or brunch instead, that way you can start to your day by bonding over a cup of delicious coffee or espresso.
If you’re the type of person who likes to be on the move, you can also get your drinks (and snacks!) to go and take them to your favorite park or location in the city for a private picnic. In fact, many cities and towns have “secret” gardens or hideaways that only those in the know are aware of, which can be dug up with a little online research. Checking one of these places out is a great way to surprise your other half, and you will learn something new about your city.
Another option is to head out to your favorite café for dessert – after all, today is one of the few days where you have an excuse to eat copious amounts of chocolate and nothing goes better with chocolate than coffee. While drinking coffee at night may sound counter intuitive, there are an amazing number of coffee shops that are open late just for these types of occasions. Some cafes even sell drinks that are spiked with vodka or a variety of liquors so you can get your party started.
Brew Up a Heart Throb Latte
If you want to avoid going out all together today, you can always make your coffee or espresso at home. Surprise your sweetie with a latte in bed or brew up some tasty after dinner coffee. If you really want to go all out, try whipping up the “Heart Throb Latte,” a special drink that our Bellevue Store Manager, Rachel, created for Valentine’s Day. The recipe is actually pretty simple and the drink tastes just like a raspberry truffle – yum!
- ½ oz. Monin Dark Chocolate sauce
- 1 oz. Monin Raspberry syrup
- 2 espresso shots
- 6-8 oz. of your preferred steamed milk
Combine the sauce and syrup together in a cup and then pull the espresso shots directly into the cup and mix well. Add the steamed milk to taste. If you’ve gotten your latte art making skills perfected, now is the chance to show them off by creating a heart-shaped design on top of the drink.
Share the Love
Sharing is caring and our treat to you is to share our coffee knowledge thorough our classes. They may even be a good date for fellow coffee and tea aficionados; after all, sometimes the best gifts are free.
Have you always wanted to be able to create beautiful hearts in your lattes but have not been quite sure how to make them? Then make sure to sign up for our Latte Art class in March, where you will learn how to make hearts and other designs. Come next Valentine’s Day, you’ll be able to surprise your sweetie with heart in their morning latte.
Most people use this day to shower their significant others, friends, family and even pets with affection, but don’t forget that machines need love too! After all, your espresso machine makes you tasty espresso drinks day after day, morning, noon and night with nary a complaint (well, it shouldn’t be complaining, and if it is, all the more reason to keep reading). However, just like any other relationship, the one with your espresso machine is improved with maintenance. So why not make a date to take your machine to one of our maintenance classes and give it a little extra TLC? At this event our Service Writer will teach you how to perform routine maintenance on your semi- or superautomatic machine, which will prolong it’s life and improve your espresso. Space is limited in all of these classes so, if you’re interested, make sure to get in touch with us and sign up.
Don’t Forget Your Friends
Doing something nice for someone doesn’t have to be reserved just for significant others. It’s great to also acknowledge those people who you see on a day-to-day basis or have known your whole life but don’t always have the opportunity to thank (or show your appreciation for all that they do for you). So pick up morning or afternoon coffee for your co-workers and neighbors, or even make it for them yourself. If you have friends or family members that live out of town, send them a letter, a gift card or even call them. While all of these things sound simple, just knowing that you care and took the time to think of them will brighten their day.
In case you’ve missed it, we frequently tout the importance of performing regular maintenance on your home espresso machines. This topic is so near and dear to our heart that we’ve even started offering classes on the subject at our Bellevue store. As we have become well versed on the matter, we are often asked how perform certain tasks, such as descaling, on specific machines. And since we want everyone to have a clean and properly functioning machine, we are happy to oblige! This time around we’re focusing on one of our favorite little semi-autos, the Saeco Via Venezia.
With its compact size, lower price point and easy to use pressurized portafilter, it is no wonder the Via Venezia is a well-loved machine. Plus, the machine is incredibly easy to take care of! The descaling process is similar to that of other Saeco semi-automatic espresso machines and involves pouring a mix of Dezcal and warm water into the water reservoir, pulling the mixture through the boiler and out the steam wand and then repeating the process with clean water to make sure there isn’t any descaling solution lingering in the machine.
Finally, keep in mind that how often you descale your machine shouldn’t be based on how many times a day you use the machine, but rather on timing. Even if you rarely use your machine you can still experience an attack of killer scale since there is water sitting in waterworks of the machine. A good rule of thumb is to descale about every 1-3 months, depending on how hard your water is.
Let Bunny be your guide as she shows us how to complete this process step-by-step.
SCG How-To Guides: Descaling the Saeco Via Venezia
If you haven’t noticed, we love science! Of course the best part is conducting fun experiments and playing around with toys like the Fluke temperature probe. This time around, we were interested in seeing how some of our drip coffee makers compare when it comes to how consistent and how hot they actually get while brewing.
In order to complete this experiment, we lined up the Breville YouBrew, Capresso CoffeeTEAM TS, Bonavita Coffee Maker, DeLonghi kMix and Technivorm Moccamaster Coffee Brewer and tested each machine one by one. For the sake of consistency, we stuck the temperature probe at the bottom of each machine’s filter holder, and prepared a single brew with just water, no coffee. We might have gotten a more accurate reading by placing the probe right where the water comes out of the coffee maker, but it was not possible to do so on all of the drip coffee makers, so we didn’t structure our test that way. However, our quasi-scientific research will still give you a good idea of how the machines differ and how hot they heat the water. To find out which is the hottest, watch as Gail puts these five drip brewers through their paces.
SCG Crew Tests: Comparing Brew Temperatures on Drip Coffee Makers
Turn ordinary milk into extraordinary milk with the Frieling milk frother! If you are looking for a quick and easy way to make creamy, foamy milk, this manual frother may be the device for you. To froth your milk, all you have to do is pour about half an inch of milk into the carafe, place the lid on top and then pump the handle up and down about 20 times. Made out of stainless steel, with a swanky mirrored finish, this little guy will not only froth your milk but also add some serious class to your beverage set.
We wanted to see this little beauty in action, so Bunny put it to the test and frothed up both warm and cold cow’s milk, as well as warm and cold vanilla soy milk. Check out the video for her assessment and to learn what drinks you can use the frother to make.
SCG Crew Review: Frieling Milk Frother
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