Monthly Archives: June 2020

  • Iced Coffee Vs. Cold Brew

    It’s that time of year where we pull out our cold brewers and ice cube trays for some cool coffee treats. Staying caffeinated and cool isn’t so hard, but you might be wondering what the real difference is between iced coffee and cold brew. We’ve got your back, with an explanation of each method right here!

    Iced Coffee

    Iced Coffee is as simple as it sounds. You start with brewed coffee and simply add ice. The trick is in the way you add the ice without diluting the coffee too much, because simply brewing over ice will lead to lukewarm coffee as the ice melts. On the other hand, using cool water with a pour over or press won’t cause the coffee to bond with the water effectively unless allowed to steep (see the cold brew section!). There are a few ways you can mitigate this, and they offer varying flavors. 

    First, you can just brew coffee over ice. The trick here is adjusting your water to coffee ratio to account for the melting ice in the coffee. This also means that your flavor profile will differ a bit because you’re really brewing a concentrate that is being instantly diluted. Some machines, like the Breville Precision Brewer, have brew settings that help with this.

    The other option is to brew coffee in a glass carafe, then remove it from heat and let it sit until it reaches room temperature. This can feel counterintuitive, but when removed from heat, coffee can cool quickly enough that you won’t lose its freshness in the process. Then you simply pour the lukewarm coffee over ice, and it will melt slower than if you brew over the ice. 

    Both methods can lead to tasty iced coffee, so it’s worth experimenting with both, and with different coffee ratios and recipes to find what works for you!

    Cold Brew

    Over the past decade, cold brew has risen to prominence as a fantastic way to drink cold coffee. And there’s a reason for that! As noted above, cooler water takes longer to bond with coffee molecules. You can achieve this with colder water by giving it a longer steep time. There are some fantastic brewers that help you do this, such as the Toddy Cold Brew System. Systems like this use a filter and valve to allow coffee to steep for a long time (such as overnight) and then be drained from the brewer. The result is ready to drink cold brew, or cold brew concentrate that can be diluted with water, depending on the ratio of water to coffee used. Some simple, grab n’ go options that brew for portability are brew bottles like those that Primula offers. 

    Other cold brewing methods include brewers like the Bruer Slow Drip Cold Brewer.This brewer emulates the slow drip cold brewing method that’s popular in Japan. By modulating flow rate, you can get different flavors as the cold water slowly drips through the grounds.

     

    No matter what kind of cold coffee method you use, the principles of each are simple. Iced Coffee refers to hot brewed coffee cooled down to room temp and then poured over ice. Cold brew methods refer to coffee that is actually brewed slowly with room temperature water. Both offer unique flavor profiles and are delicious with a splash of milk or cream. Give both methods a try this cold coffee season!

  • Video Roundup: 6/26/20

    It's time for another video roundup here at SCG!

    We'll kick things off this week with Allie's Crew Review of the versatile Varia Multi-Brewer:

    Next up, Allie and I sat down to chat about coffee process and how it affects flavor:

    And finally, Ariel gave us a backyard Crew Review of Capresso's Froth Select Milk Frother!

    Enjoy these videos and have a wonderful weekend, we'll see you next week!

  • Introducing: Rocket Espresso R58 Cinquantotto!

    The Rocket Espresso R58 espresso machine is the ultimate home device for whipping up incredible espresso and milk drinks. With its dual  PID controlled boilers and stainless steel, hand built case, this machine is at the pinnacle of home performance. If you hadn’t heard yet, Rocket Espresso’s new R58 offering adds even more to this incredible package.

    What’s the Same?

    The new Cinquantotto version of the R58 still has the defining features of the original R58. It still has two PID controlled boilers. These boilers ensure you’ll always have water at the perfect temp for brewing and steaming. The Cinquantotto also maintains the stainless steel case, which is brilliantly shiny and solid as a tank. You can still plumb this machine with its commercial quality rotary pump. Finally, every R58 Cinquantotto is still built by hand in Milan, Italy. With that out of the way, what are the changes?

    What’s New?

    The most noticeable new feature is the Cinquantotto’s beautiful touchscreen PID controller. Bright and colorful, this screen gives you easy control over boiler temps and even includes new functionality. Thanks to the new interface, the R58 Cinquantotto can be set to turn on automatically so it’s up to temp when you’re ready to brew. It’s still detachable too, for when you don’t want a screen intruding on that classic look. The next thing you might spot is this machine’s all new shot timer. Small but functional, the mirror finish on this timer allows it to blend into the beautiful casing when not in use. That means you get accurate shot timing without compromising the appearance of the machine. Speaking of appearance, redesigned cup rails and legs give the new R58 Cinquantotto a distinctive look that goes beyond what other Italian espresso machines have to offer.

    All of this means that the Rocket Espresso R58 Cinquantotto espresso machine remains one of the best home espresso machines on the market. Between its build quality, performance, and sensibilities, this machine is a fantastic option for anyone looking to elevate their espresso game into the stratosphere. Check it out now on Seattle Coffee Gear.

  • Video Roundup 6/19/20

    Hey there coffee fans!

    We missed you for last week's video roundup because of our wonderful Roast of the Month. That means this week we have a double whammy of video goodness for you! Let's dive in.

    First up, Allie and I chatted last week about roast levels and how they affect flavor:

    Next, we've got a look at the Jura Smart Connect app with Jake, his very first video!

    Then we checked out some Barista Pro setup steps with Allie:

    Next up, Allie took a look at the new white Barista Encore:

    Then Allie and I sat down together (virtually) to taste our Roast of the Month for June.

    And finally, it's a sneak peak of the new Fellow Ode grinder!

    That's what we've got for now, we'll be back next week with more video content, have a great weekend!

  • Coffee or Espresso?

    For some people, choosing between drip coffee and espresso is the hardest part of the coffee journey. While the equipment to make drip coffee is usually less expensive, do you lose something with it? What is it about espresso that makes me willing to spend so much to brew it? Which method is quicker for a morning cup of coffee? There are a lot of factors to consider here!

    Cost

    The first thing to think about is cost. To get the best cup of coffee possible you’ll need to be willing to spend some money, but you don’t have to break the bank. One misconception is that espresso costs prohibitively more than drip coffee. While it’s true that high end drip brewers stop around the spot that solid, true espresso machines and grinder packages start, it’s still a matter of perspective. Furthermore, there are superautomatic espresso machines like the Philips Carina that cost similarly to a decent grinder and drip machine combo. 

    With that said, getting started with something like pour over is especially affordable, so it never hurts to pick up a less expensive, entry level grinder and a dripper while you decide.

    Technique

    The technique needed for the perfect pot of drip isn’t quite as intense as what you need for a great espresso. Brewing espresso can be challenging at first, because it relies so much on having the right grind. Technical elements like shot timing, milk steaming, and tamping can be hard to understand at first. Especially when compared to the simple measuring and push button operation of many drip brewers.

    However, brewing espresso really can feel like a skill. You’ll be proud of the first latte you serve a friend with just the right texture, incredible flavor, and a nice piece of latte art on top. It’s hard to say the same for drip brewing, but not everyone wants to make their morning coffee a hobby. Once you do develop that skill, brewing up a shot of espresso and steaming some milk could go even faster than preparing a pot of drip!

    Taste

    This is really the big one. Espresso and drip coffee just taste totally different! Drip coffee offers balance and tends to emphasize nutty notes, as well as notes of cocoa or dark chocolate. If you go with pour over instead, you’ll get a wider, sweeter range of flavors. Espresso, on the other hand, is quite intense. The dark, syrupy consistency of this pressurized brew method adds to a very rich, sweeter profile. While you may have had sour or bitter tasting espresso in the past, this is actually an indication of a bad grind. Well-made espresso should be smooth and rich, if a bit intense. 

    You can certainly add milk or cream to a drip coffee to alter the flavor, but espresso is a whole other world! With syrups and steaming you can tune your morning cup to be the perfect one for you. For some, this may mean a simple latte or cappuccino, for others it might mean some fruity syrup with just a touch of warm milk! Further, with an espresso machine you’ve got all the tools to whip up an Americano, which is the middle ground between coffee and espresso. In a home with different coffee tastes on a budget, this might mean a new espresso machine is the best way to please everyone.

    While there are many more factors involved in choosing the right machine for you, we hope this narrows down why you might want one that brews in a specific way!

     

  • Roast of the Month: Brandywine's Colombia El Progreso

    It’s time for another Roast of the Month here at Seattle Coffee Gear!

    This month we’re featuring one of our favorite roasters, Brandywine, and their Colombia El Progreso roast. This roast features notes of brown sugar, apple, blackberry tart, and a hint of ginger. 

    Profile

    One of the reasons we found this roast so interesting is that it doesn’t taste like most washed Colombians. Typically coffees from this region have a chocolatey, rich profile with a bit of an earthy note. In the case of El Progreso, we get a much more balanced roast with some tart, some sweet, and a bit of sparkling acidity that Brandywine identifies as ginger. 

    And that ginger comparison is a great way to message the flavor. While it’s not a pervasive note, what you get is a bit of a sparkling taste over your tongue. Another good comparison is having an iced coffee with a splash of tonic water. Either way, it’s not that this is a particularly acidic coffee, but the way that acid manifests is quite a treat. 

    The rest of this roast’s profile offers a bed of gentle sweetness from that brown sugar and apple note, and a satisfying balance of tartness. All of the above combine with a medium body for an inviting, unique sipping experience that offers more acute flavor than what we usually expect from a washed coffee!

    Brewing

    To get the most out of that ginger note, as well as the tart blackberry note, you’ll want to brew this one as a pour over. In this brew method you’ll really taste the separation of flavors across the spectrum. You’ll also get the full effect of the sparkliness in the ginger not beyond just the flavor. This is still a very drinkable roast as a pour over, so don’t worry about too much overwhelming your palate.

    In a drip brew, you’ll get a more balanced grouping of these flavors. You may not notice the sparkly ginger as much, but you won’t lose it entirely. The tart and sweet notes will be less pronounced, but present enough to enjoy. This roast can work as a good press or espresso as well, but you’ll want to grind very carefully for espresso. Without taking the time to dial it in (as well as considering longer shot times and other unconventional strategies) it won’t be as enjoyable in an espresso. With the right grind and shot settings, this one could make for a great cortado or Americano. 

    Try a bag of Colombia El Progreso today!

  • Weird and Wacky Coffee Machines

    There have been a lot of strange and wonderful coffee machines over the years. From visual flair to interesting combos, we’re taking a look at some wacky coffee designs. All of the images we’re featuring today were captured at La Marzocco’s private Seattle machine collection.

    All-In-One Breakfast Stop

    Olimpic’s “Toast Cafe” was the perfect machine for you if you wanted your morning espresso and your breakfast in one spot. With an old fashioned manual toaster on the right side, you’d toast your bread with one hand and pull a shot of espresso with the other hand! This little wonder even included a timer for toasting the perfect morning slice and a steam wand for steaming up a latte to go with it. We’re not sure how well this machine performed either task, but it sure brings a whole new meaning to the term “all-in-one”

    Watch the Magic

    This classic European commercial espresso machine includes a window so the customer can watch their shot be pulled. This machine fits the trend of making the cafe a place of wonder as much as a place to grab a cup of coffee. Customers would pay for their beverage and get the full show of a beautiful shot of espresso making its way from the group head, through the puck, and into their cup. This machine used a manual pump with a heated boiler, so there really was a lot of finesse on the part of the barista to get the best possible caffeinated treat.

     

    Radical Designs

    This machine (and the one at the top of this post) was designed with a bit of extra flair. Eye catching and striking, these are examples of the kind of art that coffee shops would (and do) go to to draw in the customer. What on earth could a drink from such a strange looking machine taste like? It turns out, it tastes a lot like any other commercial espresso, but the visual appeal of the machine is enough to add a few extra points. The two machines like this that we feature here were designed with inspiration from sailboats and automobiles, two natural coffee companions!

     

    Oodles and Oodles of Espresso!

    This machine is a real head scratcher on first glance. It’s a manual espresso machine that would have been found in a very busy cafe, but perhaps not for the reason you’d expect. It’s true that it has a dozen brew groups, but it’s not so it can brew a dozen coffees at once! Because of the way older boilers and brew groups were designed, there was a recovery time associated with cooling down the group head. High volume machines like this solve that problem by featuring so many group heads. By moving from group to group, baristas could ensure that there was always one at the perfect temperature to pull a tasty shot. Perfect for a busy cafe needing to move extra fast!

     

    There’s a world of wild machines out there, and we’re always on the lookout for more!

  • Video Roundup: 6/5/20

    Hello Coffee fans!

    It's been another week here at Seattle Coffee Gear and we've got some videos to share!

    Allie and I sat down to talk about some things to keep in mind about choosing an espresso machine:

    Next up, we've got a look at the E61 Tune Up Kit from Allie:

    And finally, a good ol' Crew Comparison between the Eureka Notte and Baratza Sette 30 AP:

    That's all for now, we'll see you next week!

  • Machines to Tinker With!

    Hey coffee fans!

    We talk a lot about “entry-level” machines, and “prosumer” machines here at Seattle Coffee Gear, but there’s another kind of machine we don’t get into as much. While it’s hard to put a label on them, we’re talking about machines like the Rancilio Silvia and the Crossland CC1. These are machines that require a little extra TLC to get the most out of.

    That’s not to say that they aren’t good starter machines or ones that will last you many years. We love 'em’ and you can brew some cafe quality drinks on them too. You’ll just need to spend a little bit of extra time learning to get the most out of them. In some ways, learning on a machine like this is perfect! You’ll be able to understand everything there is to know about how to brew the perfect espresso and steam great milk.

    Brewing

    To get the absolute perfect espresso you need temperature consistent water and consistent pressures. Add in finely ground, dialed in coffee, and you’re good to go! Important to note with machines like the CC1 and Silvia is they only come with unpressurized portafilters. We’ve talked about this before, but the quick version is it means you’ll need a perfect grind to get a perfect shot. For that reason, you’ll want to pair one of these machines with a dedicated espresso grinder. The upshot is that you’ll be learning to brew espresso on the same kinds of portafilters you’d eventually be wanting to use anyway!

    Steaming

    Milk steaming on these machines can take a bit longer than what you might get from something like a Rocket Espresso machine. That said - with patience and practice you can get incredible micro-foam off of a CC1, Silvia, or similar machine. Part of that is because their steam systems remove barriers between the user and the equipment. With simple dials and switches, you’re in complete control of the steaming process. This can be less true of more user friendly, entry level machines, which can rely on less tactile interface to seem less intimidating. 

    Maintenance

    Maintaining these machines means you’ll need to backflush them and descale them like most other espresso machines. You’ll also probably find that you might want to take an even more hands-on approach to maintenance. Disassembling the brew head to change gaskets, opening up the machine to learn about the boiler components, etc. While you need to be very careful to avoid voiding your warranty, these machines can take some extra tuning and TLC on the inside to really shine.

    If you’re willing to really practice, tinker, and exercise patients, these kinds of machines can be extremely rewarding to own and use!

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