Monthly Archives: February 2019

  • Technivorm: Now featuring colors!

    Technivorm is a storied drip brewing brand that offers tank-like durability and proven performance. Coffee from a Technivorm is strong, unique, and bold. We thought we'd take a look at the features of different Technivorm models, while also ogling those sweet new colors!

    Bold Design, Classic Performance

    The KBG741 is our staff pick among the Technivorm lineup. This brewer features a simple design and is very easy to operate. All you need is coffee and water! The biggest selling point here is the consistent temperature offered by this brewer. In 5 minutes this machine brews HOT coffee. This consistent temp is extremely important for proper extraction too. The copper boiler inside the 741 brews at 200 degrees Fahrenheit consistently, with the carafe keeping the coffee at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. There is also a thermal carafe version with the KBT741 model number for those that prefer stainless steel carafes.

    Each machine in the Technivorm line shares a similar aesthetic. Based on the original industrial design of the original 60s Technivorm, you'll either love or hate its look. Either way, it's impossible to argue that the new colors don't spruce up an already bold appearance. While the thermal carafe version doesn't feature the color range, these bright coats of paint are real eye pleasers!

    The Rest of the Class

    The 741 is the flagship machine in Technivorm's line, and is the only model featuring the full range of colors. Other machines by Technivorm offer different carafe styles, higher volume, and different looks, but all function largely the same. The biggest thing that people tend to dislike about this line is the lack of programmability. These machines don't offer any ability to change temps, water volume, pre-infusion, etc. Technivorms brew how they brew. Luckily, they brew very well.

    Check out the Technivorm KBG741 on Seattle Coffee Gear today!

     

  • Coffee History in Mexico!

    This week we're taking a look at the history of Mexican coffee!

    Mexico is a fascinating nation with a rich coffee heritage, but how did coffee arrive there?

    Origin and Spread

    Coffee was first produced in Veracruz, a state in Eastern Mexico. This occurred late in the 18th century and became a popular crop of the region. Over time, coffee production in Mexico developed and became more and more affordable. By the end of the 19th century much of the production in the country had been moved to Chiapas. Over time Chiapas developed into the primary producing region in Mexico. To this day, most of the country's coffee is produced there!

    Coffee production really took off in the mid 20th century. Due to the low cost of Mexican coffee, it became hugely popular all over the Americas. In the 1980s, coffee production spread across the country. Before the end of the decade, plantations existed in twelve Mexican states occupying 500,000 hectares of land. During this time, coffee became the primary source of income for over two million people in the country. Employment rose around the industry as well in processing, logistics, and exporting of coffee.

    Mexican Coffee Crisis

    In the early 1960s, the International Coffee Agreement was developed to maintain a stable global coffee network. This act help to regulate pricing and quotas to ensure fair trade of coffee around the world. In 1989, the agreement was dismantled, creating problems for overproducing countries like Mexico. While programs like Fair/Direct Trade have developed to protect coffee farmers, these are more recent developments. During the 1990s, coffee prices in Mexico fell drastically. This led to large numbers of coffee farmers forgoing fertilizers and weeding. Because of these cost cutting measures, quality also began to decline, causing price to drop further. By the mid 2000s coffee production had seen an immense decrease and was no longer one of Mexico's most important imports.

    Since then, however, prospects have improved. Thanks to Fair and Direct Trade initiatives and a new generation of quality coffee producers, Mexican coffee is finding its way. We certainly hope that continues, as recent crops have resulted in some delectable roasts!

     

  • Video Roundup: 2/22/2019

    Welcome to another fabulous video roundup at Seattle Coffee Gear!

    We're back with a week of great video content!

    First up, Gail gave us a fresh look at the Rhino Coffee Gear line of accessories:

    Next up Gail also gave us a Crew Review of the Technivorm Moccamaster!

    Last but certainly not least, the newest Coffee Collaboration from Clementine!

    We hope you enjoy! Check back next week for more great video content!

  • What Is Coffee Rust?

    One of the biggest threats to coffee around the world is coffee rust. This disease threatens every major coffee producing country in the world. So what is coffee rust? What does it do to coffee plants?

     

    Is this a new issue? What is it?

    Is coffee rust a new disease for our favorite plant? Well, sort of. The first reports of coffee rust came from English explorers in East Africa as far back as 1861. As such, this isn't necessarily a new disease, and it was quickly reported in other parts of the world as well. But what is coffee rust? Why do we call it that? It turns out that the name makes a lot of sense!

    Most Coffee Rust is a fungus called Hemileia Vastatrix. Another strain of the fungus, H. Coffeicola, is exclusively found in West and Central Africa. Both of these fungi create a distinct yellow-brown ring of lesions on the leaves of the plant. The appearance of these lesions are what gives coffee rust its name. It makes the leaves look like they are rusting. What sort of damage can this disease do?

    Because Coffee Rust is a fungus, it can quickly spread and destroy vast swaths of plants. The easily spreading disease can be devastating to individual harvests and the long-term health of a plantation. So what can be done to stop this disease?

    Spread and Management

    It is nearly impossible to save a crop once the Rust has developed. This means that the safest means of managing a Rusted crop is to quarantine it. This means ensuring that local farmers know not to remove any plants from the area, first and foremost. It is believed that the spread of this disease is carried out on the wind. This means that the only true barriers to the spores are large open areas like oceans. This is why it's extremely important for plant importers to check their plants for lesions before accepting the plant. Crops of infected plants are generally killed with herbicide to prevent their spread. It is also common practice to kill surrounding plants as well, so that the spores have nothing to cling to. The hope is that the colonies of fungus will die off before they can be carried to another plantation.

    There are some fungicides that can help prevent Coffee Rust. Application during wet seasons can help prevent spores from taking hold. Higher, cooler plants and those in shade are also less susceptible to the disease. Unfortunately rising global temperatures will likely eliminate this advantage. Some resistant strands of Robusta coffees have been developed, but these are often viewed as lower quality for consumption.

    Because this is such a global issue, many researchers are seeking ways to stem the tide of this disease. While continued climate change puts more plantations at risk, hope exists in developing technology to identify and eliminate spores before it's too late!

  • SCG Crew Interviews: John!

    From giving us the skinny on the newest commercial machines to helping new café owners on the phone, John's a pro! We asked him a few questions about his past, present, and future in coffee. Read on to learn more about this SCG video host and commercial consultant!

    Hey John! Thanks for answering a few questions. Can you tell us a little bit about your history? Have you always lived in Seattle?

    I have been a Washingtonian since birth and grew up in the boonies outside of Sultan, WA. Most people knew where I lived as the place they drove by on their way to the mountains. I lived in California for a brief moment before deciding that private school was too expensive and I moved back to Washington. My wife and I met at our church in 2014 and got married in 2016. We somehow wound up with 3 adopted black cats, it was not our plan to do so!

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I was a home barista at the start and knew nothing about the difference between drip coffee and espresso. I had a series of very cheap home espresso machines that promptly broke because I failed to take care of them. After my home endeavors, I began visiting specialty coffee shops and learning about what makes coffee good or bad. I started going to local coffee competitions to observe and eventually made friends with a few folks in the industry. I started with Caffe Ladro in Seattle as a barista and over a few years worked from there to trainer and then to manager. Along the way, I led cuppings, trained dozens of baristas, and absorbed all the coffee knowledge I could. I practiced my latte art diligently and ended up in a few of the local competitions where I met coffee people in the first place. Now I get to educate people from a different perspective and help coffee shops of all different shapes and sizes figure out this crazy and awesome industry we are all a part of!

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    My favorite thing about the coffee industry is the diversity of coffee itself and what it is to different people. Not everyone wants to wait 10 minutes for a carefully prepared cup of coffee that will blow their mind! Some people just need a caffeine fix to get their day started. I have been on both sides of that spectrum and appreciate coffee for both of those things. I think relegating coffee to just one thing that you think it is isn't doing it justice, and that goes for both ends of the spectrum. 

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    I am an espresso drinker! I love the preparation, dialing it in, drinking it, the whole process. This started mainly because I did not have the patience to wait 5 minutes for my Chemex to finish so I could critique it and make adjustments. I initially liked the instant gratification a grind adjustment makes, but I grew to also enjoy the practice it takes to have consistent results all the time. 

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee!

    I'm a musician and enjoy all things music! I like to play music with others, go to shows, listen to music, etc... I mainly play with my church's Sunday morning team, but my wife and I are looking to get a house with a dedicated practice space. Drums are not meant for Condos!

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe?

    I want people to know that while it is not an easy thing to do well, the joy you get from hearing someone talk about how much they love your cafe is worth it. The relationships you get to build with your customers, as well as the experiences you get to create for them, make it all worth it!

    What’s your favorite item we sell on the SCG website?

    That's a tough question! I'd say one of our pitcher rinsers. I would put one in my home if my wife would let me! They make a world of difference in your bar flow and allow to increase your speed of service way more than you would think. 
  • Video Roundup: 2/15/2019

    Hey coffee fans!

    We hope you're staying warm out there if you're experiencing cold weather! This week we have some fun videos to share with you!

    First up, your's truly joined forces with Clementine and Allie to check out our February Roast of the Month!

    Next, we got part two of our workshop tour with Gail!

    Finally, Clementine brewed up some Turkish coffee in another Coffee Collaboration!

    Thanks for joining us, stay tuned for more soon!

  • Piecewise Coffee Co. - Building a Drink Menu

    If you haven't been keeping up with our friends at Piecewise Coffee Co. be sure to check out their Bio and Selecting Equipment posts! Today we asked Stanton and Lindsey a little bit about how to build a drink menu for a coffee shop!

    First off, from a “chicken or the egg” perspective, did you decide on a general menu before selecting equipment? Or did you decide on what equipment to purchase and then build your menu around that gear?

    The answer I wish we could give was to knock out the menu first, but it was too tempting not to get caught up reading equipment descriptions and watching product reviews. Choosing the equipment was exciting, while locking in a menu was more-so work. However, we learned it is very difficult to build a shop without first thinking about the menu. Without it you can find yourself fighting to make the layout functional. We were fortunate to stumble upon a podcast by the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) covering café startups and it helped give us a big picture focus on how equipment and menu influence each other.

    Our menu doesn’t incorporate much onsite food preparation and a big reason was an attempt to make the startup cost more manageable. Eliminating equipment needs is an obvious answer to keeping cost low, but far costlier was the additional need for architectural designs and engineered systems. Take for example biscuits, we wanted to offer some as a secondary option to our other breakfast items and we started pricing out small ovens. Well the oven led to a ventilation hood which led to additional building penetrations for air flow which all lead to an increase in the size of the HVAC units. Our commitment level to that menu item changed quickly with those additional costs. Learning about things like insurance cost increases for using an onsite grease fryer or the sizing and placement of grease traps were part of the learning process for us. 

    It’s inevitable that menu and equipment decisions will impact each other but starting with the menu first can help keep changes to a minimum. 

     

    What kind of market research did you do for your area to make decisions about what kind of drinks to carry?

    We visited a lot of local restaurants and coffee shops. We felt like anything within an hour’s drive was fair game for learning what products were already successful in our market. Asking waiters or baristas what the more popular products were was very helpful as was just asking for favorites from family, friends, coworkers or anyone who was interested in what we were doing with the shop. Learning their favorites made it more personal while still reaching out to our customer base. Our goal with this research was to help develop a perspective outside of our own for the drinks people want to see in any coffee shop. Generally, people were very open to share what they liked and didn’t, which was encouraging. 

    How much did your vision for a coffee focused shop affect menu choice? The assumption would be a lot, but I’d like to get at the “coffee identity” factor and how it relates to your menu.

    With our goal to offer high quality in every drink, the shop’s menu won’t be overly extensive. We didn’t want to spread ourselves to thin starting off with a lot of options. Something about tons of choices, just didn’t seem like, “us,” right now.  We aren’t minimalists in nature, but we do love to cut waste enough to truly enjoy what is in front of us. We live our lives that way and believe the same for our coffee shop and its offerings. With that in mind, we’ll offer the best of the basics, focusing on amazing taste every single time.

    Do you think about food pairings when building the menu? Or was the thought to offer standby food options but build the drink menu independent of that?

    For us, the food and drink menu were built independent of each other. We knew the size of our shop limited space for food preparation so we built the drink menu and then developed relationships with high quality food establishments to help on the food side. Pairing between the two comes into play, but it is a little further down on the decision tree for us than may be at some other shops.

    How much does ingredient/coffee sourcing play into the development of your menu??

    Sourcing hasn’t impacted the menu development as of yet! We are working with local stores, which has made most of our development more convenient.

    How do you offset the desire to do something different with the need to offer a standard set of coffee drinks?

    It’s definitely a balance act between the vision for the shop and maintaining the shop’s economics. Our vision was so intertwined with serving the community that we started from the desire to know how best to serve the customers already surrounding us. This meant providing the standard coffee offerings based off the market research mentioned earlier. We then looked at how we could advance specialty coffee in the shop. We settled on some highlights with the pour over selection and building in coffee education events. Knowing every customer won’t want to know the growing region of a bean or the solid particle distribution in their espresso shot keeps us grounded to high standards on the more traditional drinks while focusing on stellar service. We believe quality speaks for itself in any form.

    Are you working with a specific roaster or seeking a wider range of roasts?

    The bulk of our coffee offerings will come from a single roaster who is local to our city. This is in large parts to the quality and diversity of the beans they offer. 

    How did you settle on your roaster?

    This was a big decision for us and a little intimidating at first. We started with several cold calls and email inquiries to regional and local roasters. Most were happy to answer questions we had and share about their range of products. Often they would send samples, and several allowed us to visit their roasteries. While the roaster’s bean quality was high on the list in making this choice, number one was having a relationship with the roasting company and knowing we could develop a good working relationship. You place a lot of trust into your roaster and knowing the people helped us feel settled in our choice. We are fortunate to have a great relationship with our roaster. 

    Are you looking to expand the menu in the future or specialize strongly in what you already have planned?

    While we are open to making menu changes to meet our customer’s needs well, the plan is to stay within our current style of offerings or at least stay very near them.

    How did you decide what you want to carry beyond coffee?

    Great question! We’re still working on that lol. A great part about opening the shop is knowing that every decision doesn’t have to be made before opening. This is one of those items for us that is still developing. We knew we wanted the food selection to be classic foods with a gourmet bent that would elevate the shop’s experience, almost without noticing. We believe we’ve done that with the partnership we have. The rest of what we’ll offer is still in process!

    How do you decide what to offer in terms of dairy and alternative milks?

    We wanted some variety in the alternative milk options but stayed close to the types commonly found in most shops (soy, almond, etc.). We’re big fans of the current oak milk products due to the great taste and ability to steam them like milk.

    One thing that always frustrated me when working in a coffee shop was general misconceptions about different coffee drinks from customers. Things like misunderstanding what a macchiato is, or not understanding the difference between a cappuccino and a latte, leading to customer complaints. Do you have any strategies for dealing with a customer that lacks coffee knowledge? How does that play into your drink menu?

    We see this as such an opportunity to help our customers learn more about the products they love and how they vary. It’s not possible to expect each customer to “order correctly” when so many shops vary the recipes for the standard range of drinks. This is one flaw of the coffee industry that gets translated into the customer’s error. The goal is to serve each customer and have them know they’re being served. This includes covering ordering miscues and helping to ensure they get exactly what they hoped for when they came into the shop. With the drink menu, we anticipate having a few pictorial descriptions around the shop to assist with ordering and help prevent unnecessary waste.

    Building some coffee drinks can be a challenge from a technique standpoint. How much does training and staff capabilities factor into building your menu?

    We are working to build the training program and want to really break it down to a series of small skills that build on each other. The barista trainings by the SCA are fantastic and we plan to utilize them with our baristas. With a comprehensive training program and several quality control measures, we don’t anticipate having to restrict the menu.

    Do you have any other recommendations for aspiring cafe owners on how to construct their menus?

    Definitely get a subscription to a specialty coffee magazine or two. We’ve read about some fascinating and original drinks that may be inspiring.

    We'll be back soon with more from Stanton and Lindsey!

  • Roast of the Month: Burka Gudina Ethiopia from Spotted Cow!

     

     

    Complex, approachable, and delicious!

    We try to bring you a wide range of origins and roasters with Roast of the Month. With that said, sometimes a certain origin really nails it for a season, which is why we've been enjoying so many Ethiopians lately! At the very least, we are very excited to feature Spotted Cow, a roaster we've yet to bring you as a Roast of the Month! This single origin couldn't be a better introduction to this talented roaster!

    Burka Gudina starts as a solid Ethiopian with flavors you'd expect. On first sip, the predictable, yet delicious, berry notes of a natural from the region surface. These flavors combine with richer chocolate notes to give you that delicious "chocolate with a cherry on top" you get from a good natural. What really impresses us with this roast is how much deeper it goes. Sometimes complex coffee can really overwhelm the palate and be a lot to handle. Not so with this roast!

    Another rarity with more complex coffees is the heavy body. Often when there are a lot of unique notes, they come from brighter, lighter bodies. This usually comes down to roast level. This Spotted Cow is an example of a true medium that doesn't sacrifice richness. We also really love the bit of tamarind that the roaster notes, we really tasted it! That sweet/sour balance makes for a really interesting and approachable roast.

    We recommend checking this one out as a pourover first. While it does feature a heavier body, this brew method is still the best for nailing those more complex notes. Once you've tried that, experiment! Our suggested roast methods are just a guide, and we always encourage experimenting with coffee. We've yet to try this one as an espresso, but we'd love to hear how you like it!

    Grab a bag here!

  • The Crema Craze!

    One of the most frequent questions we get is this: How do I produce more crema on my espresso shots? We decided it would be a good idea to give an overview of what crema is, and explain why you might not want more!

    What is crema?

    Crema is the tan liquid that forms when you’re first pulling your espresso shot. As the shot pulls, the liquid gets darker, and you end up with a layer of this tan colored head on top of the drink. This gives it the look of a well poured stout beer. But where does it come from? In part, crema is created when water is pushed through the coffee at pressure. This emulsifies the oil in the coffee and forms tiny bubbles of air. Brighter liquid is also formed by C02 emissions during the extraction, though this isn’t quite the same thing as the crema from the fat in the coffee. That C02 is present in the bean after roasting, and naturally defuses through a process called “out-gassing.” Fun fact, the valve on your bags of coffee exists specifically to facilitate this out-gassing process.

    But what does it really taste like? Sour, it turns out! While certain roasts benefit from a layer of crema to balance out the flavors of the espresso, in other roasts limiting crema is actually preferable. In fact, some roasts don’t even produce any crema due to low fat content. So what factors actually influence this sour layer of bubbles?

     

    How to get more (or less) crema

    The first thing to note is processing. Natural/honey process roasts retain more of the bean’s fat content. As noted above, a fattier bean will result in more crema. This is part of why it can be hard to dial in a natural, and why espresso blends are so popular. Ultimately, climate also has a lot to do with the oil content of the beans as well, so the whole production process influences the fat levels in the roast. Another thing to consider is roast date. It’s tough to call out the ideal time to brew and espresso after roasting. However, you’ll definitely see more of the brighter liquid during the first 72 hours after roasting. Generally the coffee will take this long to de-gas as described above. This is why it’s usually advisable to wait a few days after roasting before attempting to dial in fresh beans.

    Another factor in crema formation is roast level. Darker roasts pull the oils in the coffee to the surface of the bean, this actually results in less crema. This is because there is less oil in the bean after grinding and transferring to a portafilter. Finally, equipment matters too. a pressurized portafilter will naturally result in higher pressures, which will create more crema. That said, it won’t be as rich as crema created through more natural, unpressurized means.

    In any case, it’s important to remember the point above: While crema looks nice, you should work to pull a good shot, not one that is loaded with crema. This will create a more sour shot, rather than a balanced one!

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