Monthly Archives: January 2021

  • Video Roundup: 1/29/21

    Hey Coffee Fans!

    We've got another week of video content for you today, so let's jump in!

    First up, Jake's got some technical tips on how to reset the high limit switches on your Rocket Espresso Appartamento.

    Next, we've got a look at the Ilsa Mokapot line!

    And finally, Allie's got an updated look at the Crossland CC1:

    That's all for now folks! We'll see you next week.

  • Stovetop Espresso Tips

    One of the brew methods we don’t talk about that often is stovetop espresso! Using classic percolation techniques along with some physics, stovetop espresso is a fun way to get your caffeine fix! Here are some quick tips to getting the best espresso you can out of your brewer.

    Prepare it Properly

    One good first step for your stovetop is to wash it in soap and hot water, then brew a few pots with some old beans. This will break it in and clean out any leftover oils from the machining process. After you’ve done this, wash it again with hot water and soap, and you’ll start getting some excellent espresso.

    Keep it Clean

    Making stovetop espresso can be a messy process. Oil buildup can happen on any equipment that contacts coffee, so keeping your mokapot or other stovetop brewer clean is important. Regular washing of your brewer is important. We recommend doing so after every brew. On top of this, it’s worth descaling with a descaler or vinegar every few months depending on how frequently you use your stovetop brewer. If you really use your mokapot a lot you can also clean it every week or so with a little bit of Cafiza cleaning powder.

    Check the Gasket

    One of the most common issues we see with stovetop brewers is degradation of the rubber gasket around the piece that detaches. It’s important that this gasket provide the proper seal or the pressure buildup in the lower half of the brewer can be too low. If you’ve had your brewer for many years and the gasket is wearing out, consider replacing it. Keep in mind though, a new gasket will take some time to break-in, so you may need to run some water through it a few times and be patient as it settles.

    Get the Grind Right

    Like with EVERY brew method, your grind is one of the most important parts of the brewing process! Stovetop espresso doesn’t get its name for nothing. You’ll want to use a grind fine enough for use in an espresso machine to really get it right. This might require a grinder with finer grinding than what you have available.

    Espresso grinders are generally pretty specialized, so your slow brew coffee grinder is likely not up to the task. You’ll want something like a Eureka Mignon Notte or other grinder designed for espresso specifically to get the proper grind.

    Stay Consistent

    When you want to adjust the flavor of your mokapot, be sure to do it by changing one variable at a time. Adjusting your grind will help you compensate for a sour or bitter taste, but if you change your grind AND your stove setting you’re introducing another variable. For this reason, it’s key that you keep your grind constant when making temperature adjustments, and your temp stable when making grind adjustments.

    This is true for your water also, if you switch to a different kind of water, or even a different kind of kettle, it’s good to keep everything else stable to understand how it’s affecting flavor.

    With these tips in mind, you should be able to get some pretty tasty stovetop espresso, and get it consistently!

  • ICYMI: New Gear!

    It’s 2021 and in the rush of the holidays we launched some new gear! We wanted to stop and make sure you’ve got the low-down on all of this new equipment, so let’s take a look!

    Solis Scala

    Solis isn’t an all new brand, but we relaunched the Scala and Barista gear late last year. The Barista Perfetta got a lot of attention, but equally exciting is the Scala grinder! This grinder can be a touch confusing because it’s really designed for slow brewing, not espresso. As such, we recommend it as a perfect pair for a new pour over set up or drip brewer.

    In the slow brew space, the Scala makes a few concessions on case material and looks to provide an incredibly solid grind for a very affordable price point. At first glance you might dismiss it, but we really think it’s the sweet spot for price and performance in its price range. With a great grind, good range from coarse to fine drip, and a timer, this is a grinder that definitely punches above its weight.

    Breville Dynamic Duo

    This one’s not so much a new product as a new way to get started or upgrade. Breville offers some great all-in-ones in the Barista Express and Barista Pro, but the issue here is that you can’t independently upgrade your grinder and machine. That’s fine for a user brand-new to espresso, but when you are ready to move up to a new setup, the Dynamic Duo is now waiting for you.

    This bundle includes a Dual Boiler espresso machine and Smart Grinder Pro. The Smart Grinder Pro is a great grinder for its price point, offering a grind fine enough for espresso, easy to use features, and simple maintenance. On the machine front, the Dual Boiler is one of Breville’s finest offerings. Filling the void between entry-level machines and higher end prosumer models, the Dual Boiler is likely the perfect machine for a huge number of users out there. Now you can get this great bundle at an equally great price!

    Rancilio Silvia Pro

    The Silvia has been a longstanding stalwart of the ~$1,000 price range for espresso machines for a long time. This is because this machine can be a great one to learn on, and with some practice, creates nearly cafe quality shots. There have been calls for Rancilio to offer a more prosumer version of the Silvia for a while, and those calls have finally been answered!

    The Silvia Pro ups the ante by including a second boiler for simultaneous brewing and steaming. It also includes built-in PID control with a shot timer, which corrects one of the trickier parts of the base Silvia (temperature stability). Finally, auto-on programming is a real highlight and fan favorite! The Silvia Pro is an example of a true upgrade in pretty much every way that doesn’t lose the parts of the base Silvia that have made it such a beloved machine.

    Fellow Ode

    The Fellow Ode is a huge shift in the brew grinding paradigm. Fellow always brings some pretty radical, intense design sensibility to their products, and the Ode is no different. This is a grinder designed exclusively for single dosing slow brew grinds. What this means is that it doesn’t have a traditional hopper, instead, you only pour in the amount of beans you’re using for your brew. Incredible features like a magnetized catch bin, a knock arm, big, chunky grind setting wheel, and auto-stop grinding give this grinder a premium feel backed up by strong innovations in grinder tech. 

    While the Ode is one the pricier side for brew grinders, it really is one of the best ways to grind for your pour over or other slow brewed coffee method.

     

    And there you have it! Check out these fine new products and get your year started right with some fresh coffee!

     

  • Video Roundup: 1/22/2021

    Hello out there!

    It's Friday, and that means another Video Roundup! Let's dive right in:

    First up Allie's got a refresh of our review for the good ol' Breville Dual Boiler:

    Next up, we've got a look at some of the new accessories from Solis:

    And finally Ariel gave us some interesting tips for making and using alternative milks:

    That's all for this week, join us next week for more videos!

  • Coffee Grinder Basics - A Refresher

    It’s a new year and you may have gotten some new coffee gear over the holidays to go with it! One thing we often hear from new coffee drinkers is that they didn’t know they’d need a new grinder. That’s why we want to run through some quick grinder basics today to help you understand your new grinder or why you might need one! Let’s get started.

    Why Do I Need a Burr Grinder?

    Your first question might be why you even need a dedicated coffee grinder in the first place. Maybe you’ve got a spice or blade grinder and you’re wondering why that won’t work for coffee too. The answer is simple: consistency. To get the proper extraction, no matter your brew method, you’ll need consistent grounds. This allows the hot water to bond with the coffee correctly, and produce the flavor you’re looking for. What level of grind you need is dependent on your brew method, but consistency is key for every method.

    Blade grinders have a tendency to chop up beans into uneven chunks. This is a problem because it means you won’t have a consistent grind across your output. Burrs are metal plates that interlock either in a conical shape or as flat plates. They are engineered specifically to spin in such a way that their surface evenly grinds down coffee beans consistently and evenly. You’ll want a grinder specifically for coffee because the oils in coffee could taint your spices, and vice versa! 

    Are All Grinders Created Equal?

    If you’ve looked at the price range on coffee grinders you probably already know the answer to this question. A great coffee grinder can cost anywhere from under $100 all the way up to thousands of dollars. So what’s with the spread? Well, there are tons and tons of different factors that determine the cost of a coffee grinder, but let’s start with brew vs. espresso grinding. 

    One thing you may have noticed is that espresso grinders tend to cost more than “brew” grinders (grinders for slow brew coffee methods like pour over and drip). This is partly because the precision burrs needed to produce the ultra-fine powdery consistency needed for espresso cost more to engineer. It really is the case that you need that precision grind for high-end espresso, and your shots will not come out correct if you try to use a $100 burr grinder.

    With that said, that $100 burr grinder will likely be even better at producing a consistent pour over grind than the more expensive espresso grinder. This is because higher end espresso grinders don’t often have the consistency down at coarser grind levels. All of this is important to keep in mind when considering what kind of grinder to get.

    Then there’s features. A Solis Scala is a great place to start with brew grinding, as it features a simple timer and great performance for slow brew coffee. On the other hand, the Eureka Mignon Brew Pro features a touch screen interface, slick black design, and precision grind adjust. In this case, both grinders can provide some great grounds for drip brewing, but the Brew Pro absolutely gives you what you pay for. A similar dichotomy exists between a grinder like the Eureka Mignon Notte and the Rocket Espresso Fausto Touch. Both offer great performance for espresso grinding, but one pairs a higher price with more advanced features and design.

    More features like weighted dosing, lighted grind chutes, deeper programming, etc. can add more functionality, but the price of the product will rise in turn.

    How Should I Maintain My Grinder?

    So you have your new Baratza Encore (or other grinder) and you want to make sure you keep it in great shape, so what’s next? 

    First of all, you’ll want to wipe down your hopper with a dry cloth between filling, and do the same for your catch bin if using one. It doesn’t hurt to wash these each with dish soap and warm water every few fillings or so as well.

    Another tool for keeping your grinder clean is Urnex’ Grindz. Grindz is a cleaner you run through your grinder every month or two to clean out the grind chamber, burrs, and chute. We absolutely recommend it for keeping yours in top condition! As always though, the most important thing with maintaining any coffee equipment is to follow the guidelines in the manual. In some cases, manufacturers do recommend disassembling and hand cleaning parts of the inside of the grinder, but you should be sure to follow your manual for guidance on that. 

    We hope this helps you get started with your grinder!

  • Tasting Notes and Coffee Flavor

    If you just started your specialty coffee journey with some new gear you might have a few questions. One common one we get is whether coffee includes additives based on the flavors mentioned on the bag. Let’s take a look at flavor notes!

    Are there Additives?

    The simple answer is: no. Except in very rare, clear circumstances, when you buy a bag of specially roasted coffee there are no flavor additives whatsoever. The tasting notes on the bag are there as a representation of what the roaster tastes from the coffee.

    The exception to this rule is rare, but very occasionally, you’ll find coffee with chicory or chocolate added. This comes from an old tradition of using limited additives to get more out of less coffee. Today, the very occasional use of additives like this is for taste. When this is the case, the coffee will very clearly state that there’s an additive. At the time of this article, We offer one coffee with chicory - Coast Roast’s New Orleans Blend - and it is clearly marked as such. We do not carry any other coffees with additives.

    One important fact to note is that we don’t carry any coffees with tobacco or alcohol as an additive, and it is in no way a practice to add tobacco to coffee. There are coffee varietals like “Pink Bourbon” that can be confusing, but this is just a name for the varietal of plant, not an indication of any added alcohol. This is true of tasting notes as well.

    Why Can’t I Taste the Notes?

    Coffee notes are very subjective. Typically, notes are determined through tasting sessions with roaster staff. Using a method of immersion brewing, roasters taste the coffee in a method that brings out the coffee flavor the most. With that in mind, what tastes like raspberry to one palate may taste like chocolate to another. This makes it difficult to really nail down tasting notes.

    On top of this, brew method is key to getting flavors out of coffee. Pour over tends to bring out notes close to what’s on the bag, but not always. Some roasts taste the most like what you read via espresso or press brewing as well. Generally we try to recommend brew methods on the coffee’s page, but it’s important to know that it really does change the flavor of the coffee.

    How Should I Pick Out Coffee?

    While tasting notes are a fun and interesting way to select coffee, what we really recommend is sampling coffees from several different regions and roasters. Roasters all have unique styles for how their coffee is roasted, and regions have different flavor profiles as well. By sampling different regions and roasters you’ll come to appreciate your own palate. From there, all you can do is keep on tasting.

    There’s nothing wrong with finding a coffee blend you like and sticking with it. With that said, if you view coffee as a journey and a hobby, developing your palate is a fun way to get more out of our favorite bean!

    Check out our coffee selection, and our recently launched gift subscription options!

     

     

  • Video Roundup: 1/15/2021

    It's time for another Video Roundup!

    We've got three fresh videos for you this week, we hope you'll join us!

    First, we've got a Crew Tasting with Jake and Pat for our Roast of the Month!

    Next up, Ariel gave us some insight into the SCA coffee flavor wheel:

    And last but not least, John's got a Crew Review of the Eureka Helios 65:

    That's all for now, join us next week for more videos!

  • Roast of the Month: Spyhouse Women Producers Coffee

    Hey Coffee Lovers!

    We took a break in our regular Roast of the Month programming, but we’re here for our first entry of 2021! This month we’re featuring the delicious Women’s Producers Coffee from Spyhouse Coffee Roasters. Check out our video chat about this coffee below and read on for the article!

    Highlighting Women Producers

    It’s reported that as much as 70 percent of the work done on coffee farms is done by women. Unfortunately, this disproportionate amount of labor has resulted in only 5-20 percent of coffee producers being owned by women.

    Spyhouse Coffee Roasters has begun offering a year-round roast that features different producer groups with prominent women-owned producers and leadership. 

    The current roast uses coffee from Fundación Agraria y Ambiental Para el Desarrollo Sostentible (FUDAM). FUDAM is a 300 member association of growers that carries an organic and Rainforest Alliance certification. With most members residing in the small town of La Unión in Nariño, the farms in the association are unique for Colombia. Most of the growers reside at high altitude, and the farms themselves are at a lower altitude. This is in contrast to the low lying towns where most growers in Colombia reside, with farms at higher altitudes.

    FUDAM’s leader, Raquel Lasso, established a subgroup specifically for women producers called Manos de Mujeres. The group is focused on gender-equality in leadership and payment, and works on projects that empower women in the coffee community. This roast features Manos de Mujeres coffee.

    The Coffee

    Women Producers Coffee is a unique Colombian that features notes of marmalade, red grape, and fudge brownie. The marmalade and brownie flavors may sound overwhelming, but they’re pleasantly balanced. Instead of an ultra-rich chocolate flavor, which you might expect from a Colombian coffee, this roast is very smooth and balanced. The red grape note is present, but quite muted in a pour over, but it provides a pleasant branch of sweetness off of the more rich notes. With a medium body, this coffee is a smooth sipper that you could easily enjoy every day.

    As far as brew methods are concerned, this roast is quite adaptable. Due to its true medium nature, we really like it as a drip brew and in a superauto. These methods produce delightful notes, particularly when effectively dialed into your grinder. Women Producers Coffee makes a good press brew as well, and might be a great choice for your semi-automatic espresso. We recommend it to semi-auto fans who are ready for something a tad trickier than a basic espresso roast, but not quite as hard to dial in as a traditional single origin.

    No matter how you brew it, Women Producers Coffee is a delicious roast with a great story. Grab a bag today!

  • Carina Drink Guide

    Are you the happy owner of a new Philips 1220 Carina? Maybe you’re considering picking one of these machines up? Either way, the Carina can do more than just make the drinks you see on the buttons. With just a little extra effort your new superautomatic is practically a cafe on your countertop. Let’s take a look at a few drink basics and ideas for the Carina!

    The Basics

    The Carina features 4 main menu buttons for making drinks. Let’s quickly run through them just to make sure you understand what you’re getting with each button press!

    Espresso

    A classic single or double shot of espresso This is one of the basic building blocks of many of the drinks you can make with the Carina.

    Coffee

    The “coffee” from superautomatics like the Carina differs a bit from a standard drip brew. Because these machines don’t have the room inside to fit a drip brewer, what you’re getting here is a “lungo” or “long shot.” Water is still being pushed through a puck of ground coffee like an espresso, but it uses more water to dilute the shot. The result is something closer to drip coffee, but still quite distinct.

    Hot Water

    The hot water dispenser on your Carina can be used for tea or to make an Americano. Americanos differ from the coffee option mentioned above. For the coffee button, more water is pushed through the espresso. With an Americano you are adding hot water to a shot after the shot has been pulled.

    Steam

    This button activates the steam wand. With the Panarello wand you can steam milk for lattes and cappuccinos. For a cappuccino, run the steam wand closer to the surface of the milk to incorporate more air into the milk. This creates the dry foam you want for this drink. For a latte, focus on generating a smaller amount of foam and heating up the milk from deeper in after you create that initial layer of foam.

    More Drink Ideas

    So we’ve gone over the ways to make an espresso shot, long coffee, americano, and basic latte or cappuccino. Let’s look at what that opens up!

    Alternative Milks

    Are you a fan of a soy capp? Maybe an oat milk latte? While alternative milks are tricky in a Carina, you can use them to make tasty drinks. If you have some leftover eggnog you could even try your hand at the eggnog latte! Just be careful, as that can be quite the mess. For advanced users - you can get some extra control out of the panarello wand by removing the outer sleeve and using the rubber tip.

    Syrups

    The biggest tool in the home barista’s arsenal is keeping some tasty syrups on hand. Want that vanilla latte, mocha, or hazelnut capp? With a few pumps of your syrup flavors before you brew your espresso you’ll be in business. The fun part about selecting your own syrups is getting to keep extra unique flavors on hand too, so keep an eye out for all kinds of fruity, floral additions they might not have at the drive-through. 

    Toppings

    A sprinkle of cinnamon, chocolate, or other topping can add a little flair and extra flavor to your latte or cappuccino. These extra flavorings look nice, but can taste great too!

    Putting It All Together

    When you realize all of the combinations available to you, that simple 4 button interface becomes a lot more expansive. With the right ingredients, you can make your own double vanilla eggnog latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon from the comfort of your home!

     

  • Video Roundup: 1/8/2021

    Happy New Year!

    It's our first Video Roundup for 2021 and we have some very special content to share for it.

    First up, check out our Budget Grinder Shootout with me, Pat.

    You may have noticed our beautiful new studio space! We're so excited to bring you more videos in this new studio. Next up we have a Rancilio Silvia Pro vs. Breville Dual Boiler Crew Comparison with Allie:

    And finally, Ariel brewed up a delicious and exciting Flaming Spanish Coffee!

    And that's all for this week! We'll have more fresh new videos for you next week!

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