Monthly Archives: July 2020

  • Video Roundup: 7/31/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's time for another video round up over here at SCG. We have a mix of videos this week we hope you'll love. Let's jump right in!

    First up, we have a review of the new and upgraded Capresso Infinity Plus:

    Next up, we've got some Rancilio Silvia tips and tricks with Allie!

    And finally, a commercial crew review of The handy dandy PuqPress Q2:

    That's all for now friends! We'll be back with more videos next week! Happy sipping!

  • Pour Over or Press?

    Espresso and drip coffee both require machines that might not be easy to accommodate in a small kitchen, or travel with. For those looking for a brewing solution that fits some tighter spaces, pour over and press brewing is quite attractive! Let’s take a look at each style so you can get an idea for what might fit your taste buds more.

    Water

    Whether you end up going for press or pour over, hot water is a must. We recommend picking up a variable temperature kettle like this Bonavita kettle or this Fellow EKG. One of the most important parts of any brew method is accurate, consistent temperatures, and both of these kettles will provide that!

    If you’re traveling and don’t want to bring a whole kettle with you, you can get by with boiling water left off boil for 20-30 seconds. 

    Pour Over

    Pour over brewing is simple and effective, but takes a little practice to get right. When considering it as a brewing option with a smaller footprint, keep your scale in mind. Because of how pour over is made, you really need a scale to measure weight as you brew. This can take up additional space, but there are plenty of scale options that are compact enough to slide into a bag for travel. We love the Hario V60 Drip Scale for its slim profile and usability.

    You’ll also need a dripper, which doesn’t take up much cupboard space, but can be difficult to pack for travel if that’s your goal. The Hario V60 is a gold standard dripper, but this collapsible dripper from GSI Outdoor is perfect for travel. You’ll need appropriate filters for your dripper as well, which can add a bit more complication for travel.

    Space questions aside, pour over offers fantastic flavor. It’s the brew method we use here at SCG to try new coffees, and the perfect way to take in every note from a roast.

    Press

    Coffee presses generally offer a bolder, stronger flavor than pour over. For some, press coffee is the only way to go. Depending on your press, it can be a little bit difficult to get a totally grit free cup. With that in mind, the Aeropress Go is a fantastic press that uses a paper filter to strain the grounds. Aeropress is one of our most popular presses, and a fantastic option for coffee on the go or at home. The Go in particular collapses into a simple cup to travel with.

    Other presses can still offer excellent results as well and brew in larger quantities, but might be harder to travel with. Classic like this Bodum Brazil or this Espro P7 are fantastic options that are simple to use and delicious. These larger options are a little on the large side, so they might be hard to travel with.

    Final Thoughts

    One last thing to keep in mind is a grinder. Luckily a simple brew grinder like the Baratza Encore or the Oxo Brew can handle press or pour over brewing.

    The best thing you can do is try both brew methods. For those who like a little variety, the space and cost is gentle enough with pour over and press brewing that you might even find room for both!

  • Coffee Testing

    One thing we don’t talk too much about is the way we taste test new coffees, and how that might help you experience a new roast. 

    As you’ve almost assuredly noticed, coffee tasting notes aren’t always perfect. There’s usually some nuance in there, which we’ve talked about in the past. As such, we don’t just look at the notes and decide whether or not to bring on a roast. We actually try everything we bring on to make sure we like it.

    Given that, you might wonder why sometimes your brew is different from what we describe on product pages. So much of this comes down to brew method and personal palate, but what are the ideal ways to try a new roast?

    Brew

    For brewed coffee instead of espresso, we recommend a pour over. This allows you to start with a small sample of coffee instead of a whole pot’s worth. You’ll also get the most definition in the coffee’s notes, which is important for the initial tasting. 

    For a recipe, we always stick to a 1:16 standard ratio of coffee to water. It’s good practice to use around 20 grams of coffee and 320 grams of water. We then brew with three pours, using around 106 grams of water in each, starting with a 30 second bloom. Spreading the pours out evenly like this can help to balance and settle the tasting notes, even if an ascending pour ultimately leads to better flavor.

    Once you’ve tried a pour over of your new roast, you’ll be able to understand the way the flavor will come out in a drip brewer or press. I’ll also give you the best baseline for understanding those flavors.

    Espresso

    We often receive roasts not explicitly marked for espresso that seem well suited for the brew method. For these roasts, we still taste them as a pour over as described above. After that, we’ll try dialing them in for espresso.

    Dialing in a shot can be very challenging depending on the roast. Many coffees just aren’t suited for the brew method. Some trickier single origins (or even blends!) really need a long pull rather than the standard 20-30 seconds you usually start with. By developing your palate and practicing with different espresso blends you should be able to use pour over brewing to understand a coffee’s flavor. Developing this understanding can make it much easier to dial in a shot, because you know what you’re looking for. 

    In any case, it’s always exciting to pick up a new coffee and work out all of its subtle notes. We highly encourage you to experiment with these different tasting methods to get the most out of your coffee too!

  • Roast of the Month: Colombia Finca El Cedro

    It’s time once again for our Roast of the Month! This month we’re featuring Colombia Finca El Cedro from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters! We always love a unique Colombian single origin, and this one is no exception. Let’s get into brewing and tasting this delicious roast!

    Spice Forward

    We definitely think this one works in a variety of brew methods. Regardless of how you brew, this roast is very interesting because it really fits a “spice forward” profile. This is unique among Colombian coffees, which usually favor strong chocolate notes. In the case of this roast, the more chocolatey flavors are quite subtle, with much more spice coming out in the flavor profile. When we say spice here, we really mean a baker’s spice kind of thing. Notes cinnamon and nutmeg are what we taste, along with some of those sweeter notes from the fruitier flavors.

    The raspberry note on this one comes across as quite subtle, barely presenting unless you brew as a pour over. More prevalent are the brown sugar and apricot notes. When combined with that spice flavor you get a delicious fruit pie-like taste. We get the sort of pie notes that you might encounter in a Fall apple pie. 

    One interesting element to this roast is just how bloom time really affects the flavor here. Let’s talk about brew methods to get into that a little bit more!

    Brewing and Blooming

    When we refer to bloom time, we’re talking about the bloom step of brewing as pour over. This is the stage where acids are released from the coffee with a short pour at the start of the pour over process. By extending the bloom time on this roast, you can really affect the flavor. A longer bloom will bring out more of those spice notes, versus a shorter bloom time, which highlights a bit more of the sweetness. We’ve experimented with bloom times ranging from 20 seconds to a full minute!

    If you’re not brewing pour over, you’ll still get a great cup of coffee out of this roast. Drip brewing leads to a more balanced cup, which still highlights the spice notes we keep mentioning. As an espresso, you’re going to get more of that sweetness, which is usually the case with this richer brew method.

    No matter how you brew, Colombia Finca El Cedro is a delicious coffee that you won’t want to miss! Grab a bag today!

  • Coffee History: Japan

    It’s time for another look at coffee history, this time, in Japan! So much wonderful coffee gear comes from this island nation, so we wanted to take a look at how the drink has had an influence on the culture there! Let’s jump in.

    Coffee Arrives in Japan

    Like many goods, coffee first arrived in Japan in the 18th century, sometime around 1700. Our favorite bean found its way to Japan via Dutch traders, some of the first foreigners to make contact with the Japanese. For most of these early years, coffee was a luxury brewed at home by the wealthy, rather than at coffee shops like in most places. It wasn’t adopted widely in the country until the Meiji Era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912. Even during this time, its popularity was brief and limited.

    In 1888 the first coffee shop opened in Japan, and it closed just a few years later. It’s hard to pinpoint why the beverage had trouble catching on. A factor that may have been related is cost and difficulty in importing beans, especially already roasted ones.

    Coffee During the 20th Century

    During World War II, coffee was seen as a Western influence. This was true of many Western items, and was a function of the government’s stranglehold on the populace during their Imperialistic attempts at expansion. As a result of this, coffee was banned in Japan and didn’t have much presence in the country until well after the war was finished.

    Coffee began its resurgence in Japan in the 1960s, and grew immensely in popularity over the rest of the century. According to Rochelle and Viet Hong (Coffee In Japan: 100 Years of Mornings), imports grew from just 15,000 tonnes in 1960 to over 440,000 tonnes today. Part of this rise can be attributed to the ways in which Western culture became a fascination in Japan in the latter half of the 20th century. That, coupled with coffee’s marketing as an on the go beverage made it a convenient thing to enjoy on the way to work or school. This worked well in Japan’s busy, always in motion economy. 

    Modern Coffee Consumption

    In modern Japan, coffee occupies an interesting place in culture. It is still viewed as a Western beverage, and is treated like many elements of Western Culture. Much like American fast food and theme parks, coffee is viewed as a novelty. While still a largely on the go drink, it’s also one that’s enjoyed as a solitary one by most people. Unlike the United States, where coffee is often a social activity, this is largely reserved for tea in Japan. The exception comes from young people, who view coffee as a disruptive drink, and often enjoy it in groups as a counter-culture activity.

    We couldn’t talk about modern coffee in Japan without mentioning how much Japan has influenced Western coffee culture. Manufacturers like Hario have created some of the finest equipment for pour over in the world. Coffee may come to Japan from the West, but Japan has certainly made its mark on the way the world drinks coffee too!

  • Brewing in Style!

    We would always say the most important part of your coffee equipment is performance. You should always be striving to get a better cup of coffee. With that in mind, some of us are style conscious too! Slick machines that also perform are a great way to add a little engineered art to your kitchen. Here’s some of our favorite machines from a looks perspective

    Rocket Espresso Appartamento Nera

    The Appartamento was already a gorgeous machine before the Nera, but the Nera really kicks things up a notch more. The signature cut out side panels on the Appartamento give it a unique look even among stainless steel Italian machines. Beyond that, the tactile controls and gorgeous lines on this machine make it a wonderful addition to your countertop. What’s more, the stainless steel finish will add some shine to your mornings. The Appartamento Nera features black sides, allowing for an even more inviting color combinations through the cutouts. No matter what panel color you go with, it looks great with the Rocket Espresso Appartamento Nera.

    Saeco Xelsis

    The Saeco Xelsis is a superautomatic espresso machine that really does brew in style. Many superautos are just big “coffee boxes.” Machines with simple case designs that elevate function over form. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - the challenge for superautos is space limitation. With a grinder, brewing unit, water tank, and steaming system all built in, a boxy design is better for workflow. Then there’s the Xelsis. We love the way the Xelsis uses its curved front plate to house the water tank. The design of the interface and the Chrome accents also give the Xelsis a smart look. Finally, the Xelsis features a bright, vibrant touch screen that looks and feels lovely to use.

    Ratio Six Coffee Brewer

    For some delicious and beautiful drip coffee, look no further than the Ratio Six. This strikingly modern drip brewer is a sight to behold on the countertop. It’s big and beautiful and features smooth lines, a shiny finish, and striking features. We love the way it puts form and function together with its filter basket. Almost looking like a second pot, the filter basket sits above the pot, integrating it with the rest of the machine visually. With the rubber gasket at the bottom, it also seals to the pot to maintain higher temperatures as coffee drips into the carafe. This machine is definitely on the higher end of cost for drip brewers, but it certainly stuns in terms of appearance.

    We'll continue to share some stylish brewers, grinders, presses, drinkware, and more in the future!

  • Our New Arrivals!

    It’s time to take a look at some of the newest items we’ve added to our catalog here at Seattle Coffee Gear! With everything from grinders and scales to a brand new superauto, we have plenty to talk about. Let’s jump in!

    Jura Ena 8

    The Jura Ena 8 is the newest superautomatic espresso machine from this excellent manufacturer. The Ena 8 offers a small footprint and loads of drink options that make it the perfect superauto for someone who wants some style with their espresso machine. With a unique cylindrical water tank and bold design elements, the Ena 8 excels in that looks department. As for the drinks, this machine’s vibrant interface is intuitive and easy to use without sacrificing a depth of options. 10 build in recipes will be an excellent place to start, and one touch lattes will save you time when you’re in a hurry. To top it all off, Jura’s smart water filtration system keeps everything running clean and smooth and extends the time between descalings. Shop the Ena 8 here!

    All Black Eureka Mignon Filtro

    Eureka’s Mignon Filtro isn’t all new to the lineup, but its all black casing and hopper is. This excellent brew grinder is now available in a slick black finish that looks stunning alongside your favorite drip brewer. The new smoked black hopper adds an extra layer of style onto an already beautiful coffee grinder that we really can’t say enough about. Check out this update look here!

    Capresso Infinity Plus Coffee Grinder

    Looking for an affordable brew grinder? The Capresso Infinity Plus is a great option to get your first taste of fresh burr-ground coffee. With its affordable price point and simple operation, there’s a lot to love with this grinder. Using the original Capresso Infinity as a base, this new version features an updated hopper, clearer markings for adjustments, and a timer. All of this together makes it an excellent way to get started with brewing coffee from home. Just keep in mind that this is not a grinder we recommend for espresso, as it can only grind for pressurized baskets. Give the Capresso Infinity Plus a look here.

    Oxo Precision Scale and Timer

    We always love a new item from Oxo. This stylish little scale is a great way to dose and weigh your morning pour over. With a built in timer, you can even time your pour perfectly for that delicious recipe you have saved. An optional silicone sleeve keeps your vessel in place, and insulates the scale from heat. Finally, the Oxo’s big, bright display is easy to read even in lower lighting conditions. We do only recommend this scale for brewing, as it’s 0.1g accuracy is not quite fine enough for espresso shots. Shop this handy scale here.

    Stay tuned for more Summer additions to the catalog!

  • Pour Over Workflow

    Hey coffee fans!

    We’ve talked about organization and utilizing your brewing space in the past. Today we want to touch on some specifics about optimizing your pour over workflow for that kind of brewing. Coming up with a solid workflow saves time and can make the brewing process more enjoyable. As we work from home, it’s really easy to see the benefits of a larger space, but either way, there’s tips you can use to improve your workflow wherever no matter how much room you have to work with. We’re going to go through a good workflow step-by-step. We’re assuming you just want to make a good pour over in the morning, so this article is omitting some hobbyist concepts like flow rate control and sifting fines.

    Water

    One way to speed up your pour over process is to get your water going first. We recommend using an electric kettle with precise temperature adjustment and setting it up right next to your scale and grinder. Ideally, it’ll also be near a source of water. You’ll want to use filtered water for the best taste, so keeping a dedicated pitcher at your station is a help if you have the space. Start your brewing process by filling your kettle and setting the temperature. Then, while it heats, you can prep your coffee.

    Choosing and Weighing Coffee

    If you like to keep multiple coffee options around, we recommend using a dedicated container for each roast. Something like an Airscape will keep your coffee fresher for longer, so you will have more time to drink multiple roasts at a time. If you’re a single roast person, we still recommend keeping your coffee in the bag rather than in the hopper. This is because it is easier to dose for pour over if you weigh your coffee as whole beans rather than try to get a timed grinder to spit out a consistent dose. 

    We like to use the lid of our grinder hoppers to weigh coffee. Placing the lid on the scale and then pouring out the proper amount of beans, plus half a gram or so extra to account for retention as needed. From there, you can just turn on the grinder until it fully grinds everything, then dump all of the grounds into your filter.

    Filter and Dripper

    Whether you’re brewing into a carafe or a mug, your next step is to wet your filter and place it in the dripper. If you have a place to dump your water (like a sink), you can use a bit of the water that should be heating in your kettle to do this. Ideally, you’ll want to heat your carafe or mug too, so a little bit of water through the filter and into the vessel can help make that happen. Assuming you have everything set, you should now have your wetted filter, heated mug or carafe, ground coffee, and hot water. When you get this all down you can have everything ready right as your water comes up to temp.

    The Pour

    For the pour itself, you’ll eventually find the perfect bloom amounts, times, and pour amounts to dial in your favorite flavor. We generally find that you get the best flavor with ascending volumes over three pours. Meaning your first pour (bloom) will be the smallest, with your third pour being the longest. If you want to brew at peak efficiency and quality, using a scale with a built in timer is a huge boon. This is because you can get just the right bloom time. In most cases, you can also count off the bloom if you don’t have a scale like this handy. Either way, you should now have a delicious cup of coffee!

    Cleanup

    Cleanup is pretty simple, just wipe down your area and toss your filter. If you have the option, putting a dedicated small waste bin near your pour over setup can make this easier. In any case, after a quick cleanup you’ll be ready to brew for the next day! We do recommend washing your dripper regularly as well as descaling your kettle every 3-6 months, depending on use. It just keeps everything as fresh and clean as possible. You can use coffee pot cleaners and descalers for best results.

  • A Note on Tasting Notes

    Tasting notes can be a confusing thing. When you look at a bag of coffee and see that it lists things like chocolate, raspberries, and brown sugar, it’s easy to interpret that as actual added flavors or ingredients. This isn’t actually the case! Tasting notes are actually note added flavors, but to understand why they list what they do, you’ll have to get into the head of a roaster.

    Full of Flavors

    Coffee is a lot like wine in that it is full of different flavors. Every aspect of coffee production imparts some kind of flavor. The type of coffee plant, the soil, the elevation, the humidity and light amount, processing, roasting… All of it! It’s really why coffee is so exciting in the first place. There’s just so much that goes into every single cup. For roasters, explaining what coffee might be right for the right drinker can be tough. That’s why tasting notes exist.

    After roasting a batch, roasters will do what’s called “cupping.” Coffee cupping is a type of tasting where you use immersion brewing to allow coffee to steep right in the vessel it will be served from, similar to brewing tea. Then, tasters use special spoons to taste spoonfuls of the coffee.The tasters will then take notes on the kinds of flavors they get from the coffee. Again, this isn’t actual, added flavor, but an interpretation of what the coffee tastes like when brewed at its strongest. These notes form the basis of what ends up on the bag, though they may try the coffee in other brew methods before finalizing the notes.

    A Dash of Excitement

    One key element of tasting coffee is building a realistic profile of what the flavor of the coffee is like through the tasting notes. On the other hand, you can pull out flavors like chocolate and berries from lots of coffees. To help differentiate, often roasters will really dig to try to find the hint of flavor that makes a coffee unique. To an unrefined palate, two coffees might taste the same. Someone well versed in coffee tasting may find unique little elements to show how they differ.

    What this means is that you may need some practice before tasting some more interesting and subtle notes. That’s OK! The important thing is to keep trying, and keep developing that palate. The best way to understand flavor profiles of most coffees is as a pour over. So if you’re really interested in understanding the intricacies of different flavors of coffee, putting together a pour over setup is a good first step!

    Hopefully this sheds some light on those tasty coffee notes!

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