Monthly Archives: March 2020

  • What's Sets Grinders Apart?

    Hello!

    We talk a lot about needing different grinders for different things, but why is that? Why is it that certain grinders are only for espresso, and others do best with brew? Why do espresso grinders tend to cost so much? What makes a burr grinders so important in the first place? We’re going to answer some of those questions today to help you understand grinders a little bit better!

    Why Burr Grinders?

    You may be used to using blade grinders for grinding your coffee. Blade grinders use a spinning blade to chop up coffee beans into chunks, and eventually into grounds. The problem here is consistency. Coffee is brewed with hot water passing through the grounds, causing elements of the coffee grounds to bond with the water as it moves through. This means that proper “extraction” of the coffee requires several key things. One of those things is proper consistency of your ground coffee. Having roughly equivalent chunks at the proper degree of fineness is really important to proper brewing, regardless of method used.

    Burr grinders swap the imprecise, inconsistent blades of a blade grinder for carefully engineered plates (or cones) that produce a consistent motion for grinding the coffee. These grinders have controls that allow you to set how far apart the burrs sit, which allows you to control the fineness of the grounds that come out. Finally, burr grinders typically use simple gravity to control the flow of beans. The beans feed from a hopper at the top into the grinding chamber, then the grounds pass through a chute into some form of catch (or portafilter for espresso). The result is perfectly ground, consistent coffee, when using a quality grinder.

    Drip Vs. Espresso

    As you may already know, espresso requires a finer grind than drip. This is because the grounds themselves help provide the pressure against the water passing through them. The finer the grind, the greater pressure against the water. While it’s entirely possible to go too fine, you need a finer grind than what many burr grinders designed for drip coffee can produce. To achieve this degree of fineness, espresso grinders often have specialized burrs that are more expensive to produce than drip grinders. They may also have more expensive internal elements like motors and bean paths as well. 

    There’s also the control factor. Stepped grinders have set “steps” that they click between for different degrees of fineness. Stepless grinders have dials that work more like a free turning screw, allowing you to even lock the burrs together at their tightest setting. Control type doesn’t factor into cost too much, but it is important to know that there are advantages to each type of control. Stepped grinders are easier to use and have very clear reference points, perfect for brewing drip coffee. Stepless grinders allow for more precise control and can work well across a range of brew types, but are harder to use.

    All of this is on a scale, as well. The Breville Smart Grinder, for example, is capable of grinding coarse enough for drip coffee and fine enough for espresso. However, the consistency and quality of grounds at both ends of the spectrum won’t necessarily match a Eureka Mignon Specialita for espresso and a Baratza Encore for drip. The Smart Grinder is affordable and versatile though, so it may be the preferred option for some users.

    What’s with the cost?

    If a Smart Grinder is under $300, and a Eureka Mignon is under $1,000, why do some grinders cost so very much? There are a lot of factors. One of the main ones is burr size. Larger burrs tend to produce more consistency in grinding. To support larger burrs the entire grinder has to be engineered for them. This increases the cost of the whole grinder. Some high end grinders also use things like gear reduction to carefully control the speed of the grind and balance power and speed to grind fast but consistently. All of this carries a premium price tag.

    Then there’s the extras. Things like weight based dosing, timers, screens, digital buttons, touch controls, etc. can all increase the cost of a grinder. In some cases most of the cost differences between grinders boil down to these extras. 

    Hopefully this clears up some of your questions about grinders, and makes picking out your first or next one easier!

     

  • Video Roundup: 3/27/20

    Hello out there!

    It's another week and another video roundup from us. As you might expect, we'll be making some creative changes to some of our video formats in the coming weeks. We hope you enjoy this week's videos, and look forward to some fun stuff coming soon!

     

    First up, John showed us how to pour a latte art favorite: the swan!

    Next, we got a crew comparison between two classic espresso machines from Allie!

    That's all for now! We know it's a light week, but we'll have so much more to share in the weeks ahead. Happy Friday everyone!

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Grinders

    Hello! 

    If you’ve been keeping up with us recently you know we’ve been releasing our set of 2020 buying guides here on the SCG Blog. This week we’re providing a general look at buying your first coffee grinder, whether you’re pulling shots or brewing pour over. Let’s get started!

    Your First Espresso Grinder

    We covered buying an espresso grinder as part of our overall espresso buying guide. There we recommended the Rancilio Rocky and the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. These are excellent grinders that are very affordable for an espresso grinder. The reason you tend to pay more for an espresso grinder is because of the need for very fine, very consistent coffee. This generally requires premium burrsets, motors, and controls. 

    The Smart Grinder Pro and Rancilio Rocky aren’t quite as easy to dial in for espresso as a Eureka Mignon might be, but they are excellent grinders for the price. They’ll have you pulling unpressurized shots from your new machine with just a bit of practice. Learning on a grinder like this is especially good for new users, because it’ll help you understand how pulling shots works!

    Filter Brewing

    One of the nice things about the above listed grinders is that they’re also great for non-espresso brewing as well. So we recommend them if you’re looking to brew with a range of different methods. With that said, having to switch the settings back and forth all the time can be a pain, so it’s worth having a separate brew grinder if you can. If you’re not planning on brewing espresso at all then you can even save a bit with these recommendations.

    For filter brewing like drip and pour over it’s hard to recommend anything other than the spectacular Baratza Encore. This is a world class brew grinder perfect for a wide range of non-espresso applications. If you are looking for stepless control for more fine adjustments, Eureka’s Filtro and Brew Bro also offer very compelling options. All of these grinders will provide excellent grounds for filter brewing for years and years.

    Alternate Brew Methods

    There’s a world of other weird and wonderful ways to brew coffee out there, from press to vacuum and mokapot. For these varied types of brewing we recommend many of the above grinders in various configurations. If you love press coffee, something like the Baratza Encore will be the perfect match. If you want to brew a mokapot but have the option of switching to pour over brewing, the Smart Grinder Pro we mentioned is a great step between ultra-fine capable grinders and something that can go courser.

    In the end, grinder selection has more to do with how it’s specialized rather than how expensive it is. Pricier grinders are certainly pretty and full of bells, whistles, and performance for more demanding brew types like espresso. However, to get started you just need the right tool for the job!

    That’s all for now, we’ll be back with one more buying guide, featuring some alternative brewing methods, next week!

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • Brewing at Home for Maximum Efficiency

    Hello out there!

    2020 is certainly a weird and wild year, and we know it has many folks working from home. Our deepest condolences and most sincere thoughts go out to all of those affected by the outbreak. With all of that in mind, building an efficient coffee setup at home is key. We decided to break down some of our favorite brew methods and how long they take to go from whole beans to delicious coffee.

    Pour Over

    Pour over is definitely the slowest brew method we’re looking at today. From measuring, grinding, heating water, wetting filters, blooming, and pouring, a lot of work goes into the perfect pour over. While we think it’s totally worth it to get some of the tastiest coffee around, it’s not the most efficient way to brew. Pour over takes around 5-8 minutes to prepare for most home brewers, but can take as much as 10 minutes to get right if you’re not used to the process. It’s the perfect way to start your morning if you can find some time to spare though!

    Drip Brewing

    Drip brewing (and similarly, using a press) is one of the most hands off methods possible. While it can still take 3-5 minutes to set up your drip brewer, you can step away and get back to your other tasks while you wait for the coffee to brew. This may make it the ultimate option for your morning cup of coffee, as you’ll also get more than one cup out of a pot. Also the best choice if you’re brewing for someone else as well!

    Semi-Automatic Espresso

    Semi-Auto brewing is a mixed bag in terms of effort. An experienced home barista can pull a tasty shot in just a few minutes. The time from grinding to pulling to even steaming milk is quick, but takes practice to master. We recommend practicing and dialing in your grinder when you have more time on your hands. By properly dialing in and familiarizing yourself with your equipment, you can whip up a delicious mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up from your semi-auto machine in 5 minutes or less.

    Superautomatic Espresso

    Superautos are the pinnacle of convenience for espresso machines. Given how fast an easy it is to brew with a superauto, it’ll barely impact your routine. Pulling shots just takes a button press with a Carina or Xelsis. What’s more, depending on what kind of milk system your machine has you may even be able to automatically froth milk for lattes and cappuccinos. By combining all of these features, you’ll be able to get the same kinds of drinks you normally grab on your afternoon break in just minutes from your kitchen. The only downside is that superautos don’t produce drip coffee, but most *do* offer a lungo option, which is a long espresso shot that gets closer to the flavor of a drip brew.

    So there you have it! Four fantastic brewing methods that will fit your schedule throughout the day. Stay safe out there and enjoy your coffee!

     

  • Video Roundup: 3/20/20

    Hey coffee fans,

    Things are certainly strange in the world right now, and we want to offer our deepest condolences to everyone affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. All we can do right now is our best to deliver you some quality coffee content and a place to shop for gear and beans, so we're keeping on for now! Today that means a look at some of our video content for the week:

     

    First, we got some tips and tricks to get the most out of your Rocket R60V with Allie.

     

    Next, Allie and Ariel teamed up to taste some Spyhouse Coffee!

     

    And finally, Allie showed how to dial in some Coava coffee beans for a delicious espresso:

     

    That's all for now, stay safe out there and enjoy some coffee this weekend!

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Drip Coffee

    We’ve looked at pour over, superautos, and semi-autos in our buying guides posts so far, but there’s a couple of stones still left unturned. Today we’re going to offer some advice for buying a machine perfect for one of the simplest, but most approachable kinds of coffee brewing: Drip! Drip coffee is easy to get started with, but with so many brewers out there it can be hard to get a grasp of what will provide the best bang for your buck. We’re here to help!

    Grinders

    First thing’s first, you need a way to grind your beans! While you could use pre-ground coffee, using freshly ground beans is the best way to get the most out of your brewer. In fact, having coffee that’s been freshly ground is arguably the most important part of the process alongside temperature stability. 

    With that in mind, it’s hard to recommend any grinder as highly for first time drip brewers as the Baratza Encore. This grinder is well priced, consistent, easy to use, and will last quite some time. Baratza is one of the best grinder producers that we know, and it shows in this no-frills knockout of a product. If your budget has a bit more headroom we can also wholeheartedly recommend the Eureka Filtro. The filtro offers just a bit more performance and reliability due to its larger burrs, which are specifically designed for drip brewing. The Filtro also features stepless grind adjust, which gives you more precise control over grind size.

    But what about upgrading? You may want something that provides a little bit more in the bells and whistles department in the future. On the Baratza front, the Vario-W features more micro adjustments than the Encore, with the addition of weight based dosing. As you explore the coffee world you’ll find that weight is a better way to dose your coffee than volume, and the Vario-W helps with that.  Eureka also offers an excellent grinder upgrade in the form of the Brew Pro. The Brew Pro features the same powerful burrs as the Filtro mentioned above. It also adds timed grinding via a vibrant touch screen. The perfect upgrade if you become accustomed to the precision stepless adjust of the filtro.

    Brewers

    It’s time for the main event! Selecting a brewer is actually a bit easier than you’d think. The two most important pieces of a drip brewer are temperature consistency and the ability to evenly wet grounds. Bonuses like pre-infusion are nice to get the absolute most flavor out of your coffee. For all of this and a palatable price, check out the Bonavita Connoisseur. This brewer offers exceptional temperature stability, has a wide angle showerhead for the water, and even does simple pre-infusion. It’s the perfect option to start with, and comes at an excellent price too. 

    But what about an upgrade? Eventually you might want more control than the Connoisseur offers. There’s arguably no better upgrade option you’ll find than the Breville Precision Brewer. This brewer offers an incredible degree of control over your coffee. Including options for brewing over ice, using a pour over attachment, specific gold cup brewing settings, and tons of options for setting custom recipes, the Precision Brewer should be the last machine you’ll ever need. 

    Thanks for joining us for this look at getting started with your drip brewing shopping list!

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • Introducing Spyhouse Coffee Roasters!

    It’s time once again to welcome another new partner to the SCG lineup of outstanding coffee roasters. Today we’re excited to introduce Spyhouse Coffee Roasting! Spyhouse Coffee Roasting comes to us from the chilly climes of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Spyhouse describes themselves as focused on building partnerships. Partnerships with distributors, producers, and customers. These partnerships paired with a finely honed skill for roasting has resulted in excellent, reliable coffee.

    The Blends

    Spyhouse Coffee’s house blend is Orion. Featuring notes of chocolate and sweet fruit, this is a simple but enjoyable roast that is perfect as an espresso or drip blend. A roaster’s house blend really should tie their coffee program together. We’re happy to say that Orion absolutely does so for Spyhouse. This is a tasty, adaptable, and easy to brew blend that does everything a house blend should do!

    Bold and the Beautiful offers a richer, darker blend of beans that is especially excellent as a strong drip brew. With notes of baker’s chocolate, black walnut, and creme brulee, this roast isn’t heavy on smoky flavors, but they’re present. Like a refined and extra flavorful cup of diner coffee, Bold and the Beautiful is perfect for anyone looking for a heavier coffee to have as a morning drip brew.

    Surprising Decaf

    We’ll be honest, good decaf can be tough to come by. Thankfully, Spyhouse Coffee’s Colombia Decaf Organic is quite good! With far more depth than what we typically see in a decaf, this is a satisfying coffee for the late afternoon or caffeine avoidant! We recommend it in a drip brew or a pour over, but either way we’re sure fans of decaf will enjoy.

    And none of this gets into Spyhouse Coffee’s full range of single origins. We have a few to choose from now, and we’ll be evaluating more to rotate in! 

    We hope you’ll give Spyhouse Coffee a try, and if you do we’re sure you’ll find them just as tasty as we do. Order a bag today

  • Video Roundup: 3/13/2020

    Hello Coffee fans!

    It's Friday and time for another video roundup! We have a selection of awesome videos to share this week, so let's dig right in:

    Firs up, John took a look at both the Mazzer Super Jolly and the Eureka Zenith 65 E in an informative Commercial Crew Review:

    Next, Allie offered up some tips and tricks for getting the most out of the Rocket Espresso Giotto Timer Evoluzione R!

    And finally, Allie and I gave some thoughts on our delicious Roast of the Month, Tony's Ethiopia Banko Dhadhato:

    That's all for now! We hope you're staying safe out there and enjoying a warm cup of coffee this weekend.

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines - Part 2

    Last week we took a look at the best purchases for semi-automatics and grinders to get started brewing espresso at home. This week we wanted to offer up some ideas for those ready for an upgrade! Whether you're outgrowing your machine or it's getting a little long in the tooth, here are some ideas for where to go next.

    Grinder

    Upgrading your grinder depends a lot on what you already have. Because the quality of your espresso is so dependent on the consistency of your grind, this is a key part of your setup. We generally recommend a grinder upgrade before you upgrade your machine. A great grinder can elevate the quality of espresso you're getting from a weaker machine. On the other hand, a fancy machine won't produce great shots without a quality grinder.

    The biggest thing you should look for in stepping up your grinder is a stepless grind adjust (pun a little bit intended). Stepless adjust means that the distance between the burrs isn't on set steps that click from one to the next. Stepless adjustment works more like a screw, bringing the burrs closer together as you turn the dial. While consistency in grounds is the most important thing in an espresso grinder, this kind of adjuster gives you more control. It is, however, harder to dial in beans with a stepless adjust. This is why we recommend these kinds of grinders as an upgrade.

    With that in mind, one of the all around best home grinder lines is Eureka. We love their Mignon line, which offers fast, consistent, and quiet grinding. The best part here is that there are several options that you can pick from depending on your budget. From the simple and efficient Silenzio all the way up to the feature filled Specialita. All of the grinders in this line feature stepless adjustment.

    Machine

    There's one particular machine we love for anyone looking to upgrade, and that's the Rocket Espresso Appartamento. This is a stellar espresso machine that brings you a heated E61 brew group, pro style steam, and hands on brewing. All of these features strike at the sort of creature comforts that come with a commercial machine. While the Appartamento will take practice to pull the perfect shot, it has the power and reliability to be the last espresso machine you buy.

    If you're looking to go even bigger, the Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato and Giotto offer their own arguments, each providing incredible upgrades. Either way, these are machines that will last you decades. Finally, if you're looking to go really big, the Rocket Espresso R58 is a behemoth of a machine that will give the local coffee shop a run for its money. It's another machine that will last you a lifetime.

    We recommend all of these upgrades because of the power of their pumps, plumbing options, and PID controlled temps. Check out our reviews and other educational articles to get a better understanding of how each of these elements puts these machines over the top.

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • Roast of the Month: Tony's Ethiopia Banko Dhadhato

    This month we're celebrating a delicious roast from Tony's Coffee - Ethiopia Banko Dhadhato!

     

    This roast is bursting with loads of berry flavor that you have to taste to believe. There is so much huckleberry in a cup of this coffee that it's hard to believe it's not flavored! Banko Dhadhato comes to us from Yirgacheffe region, a location known for some of the most flavorful coffee in the world. Even by those standards, this roast surprised us. The beans are Heriloom varietal, which is a high quality bean, but still on it's face would not suggest such a complex set of notes. Between these factors and the natural process used for these beans, something magical was definitely the result.

    That's not to take any credit away from Tony's, of course. One pitfall when roasting a natural coffee is working out that sort of "funky" taste. Some naturals come off as tasting less of berry, and more as funky and off. This can be because of over or under roasting, but that's not a problem with Banko Dhadhato. Instead, you're left with a delicious brew that brings to mind beverages like a sweet berry tea. it's also more drinkable than most naturals in terms of intensity. Where you might normally get strong, overpowering cherry flavors, instead Banko Dhadhato is quite drinkable.

    Which leads us to brew method. This is a roast, like many we select for Roast of the Month, that we just adore as a pour over. By brewing it this way you'll be able to tease out some of the more complex, bright elements of the berry flavor. As a drip brew it comes out a little bit more flat, but is still enjoyable. This is one of those roasts that will be tough to dial in for espresso, but for expert brewers out there, it could provide an exquisite ristretto or latte.

    We hope you love it as much as we do, try this wonderful coffee for yourself before it leaves our shelves!

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