Author Archives: Brenna
Oftentimes when we find an espresso machine or coffee maker that allows us to make a cup of coffee exactly the way we like it, we use the machine until it no longer works for us. Only then do we then consider upgrading to a different model. However, that is not to say we won’t improve upon the machine while it’s still in our hot little hands when given the chance. Not only does this make the coffee the machine produces better, but it also might allow us to hang on to the espresso machine a little while longer. Luckily, we were afforded this opportunity with a few of our tried and true espresso makers and were able to create a Saeco Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrade that will work on machines like the Via Venezia and Aroma.
We were really excited that we here at Seattle Coffee Gear were able to develop an upgrade (that’s right you won’t find them anywhere else) for some of our favorite Saeco machines. The nice thing about this upgrade is that since the Aroma and Via Venezia already come with a pressurized portafilter, adding a non-pressurized portafilter increases the functionality of this machine. With the pressurized portafilter that comes with these machines you have the ability to use pre-ground in your machine, as the portafilter will compensate for the grind not being perfect. This will be your easy-peasy approach with no tamping necessary. In addition, with the non-pressurized portafilter you now also have the ability to get in touch with the barista side of your coffee experience and play around with the grind and flavors of coffee, which can be the most enjoyable part of espresso.
What is even better is we didn’t just create one non-pressurized portafilter upgrade for these machines; we created two. In addition to the standard Saeco Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrade, we also created a Bottomless Portafilter Upgrade for Saeco Machines as well. The bottomless portafilter is truly a great teaching tool, as you see your shot as it comes out of the portafilter. If you have done everything correctly, you will see your coffee first start to dispense around the edges of the portafilter, then form into a cone in the middle. On the other hand, if your coffee starts coming out on the side, or does anything else, that means you have fractures or channeling in your puck. All is not lost if this happens, part of the learning process is trying again and seeing if you can adjust your technique to get a better shot the next time around.
To use these Saeco Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrades on your machine, all you have to do is pop out the basket from your pressurized portafilter and put into one of the non-pressurized portafilters and you are good to go. Keep in mind that when you use these non-pressurized portafilters you have to be really in tune with the grind of the coffee. As such, you will want to a get good grinder and 53 mm tamper to complete your setup, which you can do fairly inexpensively. Ultimately, adding a non-pressurized portafilter to your Saeco setup is a great option if you are interested in upgrading to a fancier semi-auto and want to see what you are getting into. Or, perhaps you are enjoying your Aroma or Via Venezia but want to start trying to make the same drinks your favorite barista has been making at your local coffee stand. Speaking of brewing like a pro, check out as Gail shows off her barista skills while she and Brendan explore all the options these non-pressurized portafilters provide.
It’s that time again! Yep, Dori and Sarah are back to teach you how make another one of those delicious and fancy drinks you find in your local cafe. In this week’s installment they'll show how to make a cappuccino. One of the more common drinks, people often confuse cappuccinos with lattes. It is easy to see why, as they are pretty similar since they are both milk-based drinks with espresso. However, with a cappuccino, there is a third component included in the recipe that is not in a latte – foam!
Thus, a cappuccino is a third part foam, a third part milk and a third part espresso. Luckily this is pretty easy to remember, even for the math adverse like myself. Typically a cappuccino will have more foam and less milk than a latte and the entire drink will only be about six oz., so not that giant drink you may love and adore from some chain stores. In addition, some places will actually steam the a cappuccino a little cooler than some other drinks, so it is more like a drink you can chug. The reason for this is because is your milk is steamed at a cooler temperature, you can get more of the natural sweetness out of the milk and your drink will be sweeter. However, if you heat your milk past 140 degrees Fahrenheit the milk starts to get bitter.
How to Make a Cappuccino
1) Clear the extra water out of the steam wand.
2) Follow our seven steps for frothing milk for a cappuccino when preparing your milk.
3) As you froth your milk, keep in mind that you should be expanding it quite a bit and incorporating in as much air as you can.
4) When you’re done frothing, tap the bottom of the pitcher on a table and swirl the milk around to get a nice, rich foam. We usually try to work in the little mound that forms on top of our milk to ensure our milk is creamy through out. However, if you like to keep the mound so you can eat the foam with a spoon, that’s perfectly fine too!
5) Don’t forget, if you like a cappuccino with more foam ask for a dry cappuccino the next time you are at your favorite café. You can also achieve this effect at home by letting your drink sit for a minute or two after you have made it and the milk will separate. If you want a creamy cappuccino, start drinking right away.
Watch as Dori and Sarah show you how to make a cappuccino in just a few minutes! While it may seem like they are just making it look easy, once you have your technique down you’ll be making this drink in a snap as well!
We love a product that can do double duty (or, in this case, triple duty)!
The Primula coffee and tea products do just that, allowing you to brew everything from cold brew coffee to fruit infused iced tea. They even have a bottle that lets you make cold brew on-the-go! So, let's take these products one by one, shall we?
First up, the Primula Cold Brew Glass Carafe System. Simply add 16 tablespoons of ground coffee to the mesh filter, screw the insert into the carafe, add water and let brew in your refrigerator overnight. Easy peasy, yes? You can also store it the refrigerator for up to 14 days, so you'll never be far from a chilly caffeine jolt!
Then you have the Primula Flavor It 3-In-1 Beverage System, which has inserts for: Brewing tea, infusing your beverage with fruits or herbs and a core you keep in your freezer for a quick cool down (minus the dilution of ice). But who needs tea when you can make sangria? Yeah, we went there. Oh, and you can use the same inserts from this little guy with the cold brew carafe.
Last, but not least, is the Cold Brew Bottle. It allows you to make cold brew on your way to work...'nough said!
If you want to learn more, you should watch the video below. Heck, you should watch the video below regardless. Sarah and Teri have a grand old time with the Primula product line!
Interested in one of the summer’s hottest (or should we say coolest?) gadgets? If you’re in to cold brew coffee or even coffee in general, there’s a good chance you have heard of the Toddy Cold Brew System. The Toddy was originally created 50 years ago by Todd Simpson, after a Peruvian process for producing coffee concentrate inspired the chemical engineering graduate to make his own system for brewing cold (and hot!) coffee with less acid to be easier on the stomach. The rest is history and the Toddy has been popular ever since. In fact, ever since we opened our first store around eight years ago, people always came in asking for the Toddy. This brewer has gotten even trendier in the last year or so, and we are lucky enough to have it now gracing our shelves.
It seems we got the Toddy at just the right time, since we don’t know if we would have survived this scorcher of a summer without it. Several of our crewmembers haven’t been able to start their day without heading to the refrigerator for a fresh cup made on the Toddy Cold Brew System. It’s easy to see why everyone has fallen in love with the Toddy, even though it may not be the fanciest looking piece of equipment we carry, since it is incredibly easy to use and requires minimal prep-work.
Besides being easy to use, the Toddy Bold Brew System does also create some very smooth and tasty coffee. If you can’t get enough of this cold brew or want to serve it in your cafe, there is an even larger Commercial Toddy Cold Brew System that will produce 2.5 gallons of goodness. Now, that is a lot of coffee concentrate! The nice thing about this commercial brewer is that even though you are making more coffee, the process is relatively similar to that of the home sized brewer and takes the same amount of time. In addition, if coffee isn’t your bag, you aren’t out of luck as you can also cold brew tea on both models of the Toddy!
While it was hard for us to find many downsides to the Toddy, we do wish the removable handle were a bit sturdier, as all the weight from the coffee made it feel a little unstable at times. Likewise, we would also like to see the home model of the Toddy come with a lid for the brewer in the future, like on the commercial model, as this would make us worry less about our previous coffee getting disturbed during the steeping process.
Overall, the few issues we found were fairly minor and are made up by the days of coffee the Toddy can provide a solo sipper and all the fun recipe ideas that come with the brewer. Perhaps there will some experimenting in our future. In the meantime, you can pick some brew tips from Brendan and Gail as they review the Toddy and come up with a few recipes on the fly.
Crew Review: Toddy Cold Brew System
Here at SCG we love trying new things, and are always on the lookout for new coffee and tea to sample or new products to experiment with. As such, we couldn’t believe our excitement when we got our hands on Mokito coffee. This coffee has been produced in Lombardy, Italy since 1931, but it can be a bit challenging to get a hold of outside of the country. In fact, as far as we know, we are the only ones in the United States that currently sell Mokito blends.
Once these roasts traveled safely into our stores, we had to sample them! To make it a fair comparison, we decided to brew all the roasts across the same brew method. This time around, our brew method of choice was the Bodum Brazil French press. We loaded 45 grams of each flavor, ground to a French press grind, into our presses and added 23 oz. of 200-degree water. Then came the best part, actually drinking the coffee! Here are our thoughts on each Mokito Coffee:
- Bianco: Best brewed as drip coffee, half of our taste testers feel in love with the Bianco blend. We found the blend to have hints of nutty flavors (although one taster thought the brew also had a slightly vegetable taste), and it was very clean and smooth.
- Verde: The mildest of all three of the blends, we thought the Verde blend would be a great option for people just getting into coffee or for people who don’t like starting the day off with strong coffee. We also thought this coffee had a slightly green hue, but the name could have biased us. During later testing we found this roast tasted the best when brewed as drip coffee.
- Rosso: Definitely the strongest blend, Rosso preforms really well as an espresso. We thought this blend had a smokey flavor, similar to toasted or roasted almonds. We also picked up a few hints of chocolate.
If you are a fan of Italian coffee, we highly recommend giving Mokito coffee a try. Overall, we found all three Mokito blends to be very smooth, and its flavor and aroma are very comparable to other well-known Italian brands, like Lavazza. For more tasting notes, watch as some of our crew sample this wonderful coffee.
Taste Test: Mokito Coffee
A Tembleque is a Puerto Rican style coconut dessert that is often served during the holidays. The dessert is like a cross between Jello and pudding, and is sweet, but not cloying. White and smooth, when a tembleque is served in a glass and topped with cinnamon it almost looks like a latte. Being the creative people that we are, we thought why not try to transform this popular dessert in to something you could drink as well. We spent some time playing around in the kitchen, and the result was an Iced Tembleque Latte!
Smooth and refreshing, with a tropical feel, this iced latte turned out even better than we expected. Not to mention it is perfect if you want to cool off on a hot summer day. However, just because summer is almost over doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this drink. We still have several weeks of warm weather ahead of us, and you can make this drink hot as well. You’ll feel like you are in paradise all year long! In addition, an Iced Tembleque Latte is incredibly easy to make, as it only requires a few ingredients. Watch as Brandi and Kaylie try it out, soda shop style.
Brewin' with Brandi: Iced Tembleque Latte
- One shot of espresso
- ½ cup of milk
- 1 ½ oz. of Monin coconut syrup
- Ground cinnamon
- Pour the shot of espresso over ice in a glass.
- Add the milk in to the glass.
- Stir in the coconut syrup.
- Top the drink with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, and add an umbrella for decoration if you’d like.
Last week we gave you some tips on how to perfectly froth your milk for creating a latte or a cappuccino. Now we are going to expand on those skills a bit and show you how to make a latte and a mocha. Once again we used our trusty Nuova Simonelli Musica Espresso Machine with its super-charged frothing power to create these drinks.
How to Make a Latte
1) When making a latte you can use as much milk as you want. Generally you want to use more milk for a latte than you would use for making a cappuccino, about 8 oz. is a good amount.
2) Once you have your milk, follow the same tips we used for frothing milk for a latte in our video last week.
3) Since you are only making a little bit foam for your latte, make sure you submerge your steam arm fairly quickly to ensure you are just heating the milk and not creating bubbles.
4) When your milk is hot, tap the pitcher and swirl the milk around the pitcher to get it mixed in. This time around you will be able to see the milk texture underneath, as the milk is not nearly as thick as when we were frothing it for a cappuccino. However, you can still create a rich milk by making sure any foam you have created is well-incorporated in to the milk. If you let it separate out too much, you’ll get that lighter milk texture and have thick foam on the top.
5) Pour your frothed milk into a cup containing a shot (or two or three!) of espresso and you have created a latte.
How to Make a Mocha
1) Creating a mocha is very similar to creating a latte, as it is basically a latte with chocolate. As such, follow steps 1-4 in the latte recipe above to prepare the milk for your mocha.
2) Before you add milk to your cup, mix your espresso shot with chocolate syrup (you can use any type of chocolate to create a mocha – white, dark, sugar-free, whatever you prefer). Stir the espresso and shot together with a spoon to make sure they are well combined. This makes creating the drink easier, especially if you want to attempt latte art, which we’ll save for another post.
3) Pour in the milk with the espresso chocolate mixture, and enjoy.
Follow along with Dori and Sarah as they make a latte and a mocha. Make sure to check back in next week to discover what other coffee concoctions you can make with your newfound skills.
Brew Tips: How to Make a Latte or a Mocha
If you are in the market for a capsule espresso maker, the new Francis Francis Y5 for illy is the way to go. This is largely because the machine is both sophisticated and very convenient. With brushed and mirrored stainless steel casing, the machine will look very elegant on your countertop. The machine is also very slim, it probably is even smaller than a toaster, so you won’t have any trouble finding room for it on your counter. Yet despite its small size, the Y5 still has a water tank that is larger than most in its class, which is nice because that means you won’t be constantly refilling it. There is even a nice staging area on the top machine, which heats up as you use the machine so you can take the chill off your cups.
The Francis Francis Y5 truly is a no fuss, no muss machine. To brew a shot, all you have to do is pop your Iperespresso Capsule into the top of the machine, select whether you want a single or double shot, and the machine will do the rest for you. In less than a minute, you will have a full-bodied shot of espresso, with rich crema, waiting for you. If you like to get fancy and play around with the settings on your machine, you are able to do so on this machine as well. You can program the volume of both the single and double shots on your machine. To program the machine, simply hold the button for your single or double shot (whichever you are programming) while brewing and then make your adjustments. The Y5 will then remember these setting for the next time you brew, so you won’t have to worry about entering them in again. Best of all, when the machine is done brewing your shot it will automatically eject the espresso capsule from the brewing chamber in to the dredge box.
Ultimately, you really can’t go wrong with this machine. Even Brendan admitted that this is his favorite capsule machine, because it has such a nice look and is easy to use. Check out the sleek styling of the Francis Francis Y5 as Brendan and Dori brew up a shot.
Crew Review: Francis Francis Y5
Among our most frequently asked questions is “how do you create perfectly frothed milk?” This question is often closely followed by, “how do I then use that milk to create latte art?” or “how do I incorporate that milk into a shot to make a latte, cappuccino, etc.?” This comes as no surprise, since one of the trickiest parts of making a great drink is getting the milk frothed just right. You don’t want your milk to be too frothy, but not entirely flat either. In most cases the goal you are trying to achieve is creating just the right amount of microfoam. To further help you achieve caffeinated bliss; we’ve decided to tackle all of these questions in this series of brew tips, starting with how to froth milk. After all, creating perfectly frothed milk is the one of the key components for creating all the other drinks.
Getting your technique down, and then practicing a lot, is an important part of successfully frothing milk. However, the type of machine you are using as well as the type of steam wand the machine has, will also impact how your milk turns out. For instance, inexpensive espresso makers and machines like the Saeco Via Venezia, often have panarellos, which basically foam your milk for you. This is great if you are an espresso newbie who isn’t used to using a manual steam wand or just want to have foamy milk and aren’t picky about what type of foam you get. The plastic models usually have four or more holes on the top, which bring in a lot of air and will make your milk bubblier. If you don’t like bigger, airy foam with a lot of bubbles, you might want to upgrade to one of the stainless steel panarellos that typically only have one hole.
When it comes to frothing milk on a machine that has a traditional steam wand, like the Nuova Simonelli Musica, the rules about the number of holes in steam arm change. Wands with four holes will give you a lot of steam power and will heat the milk really quickly. These wands will also create really amazing microfoam. However, the quality of the microfoam you get is partially based on what type of machine you are brewing on as well as the tip. For instance, the Musica naturally has a lot more steam power, as opposed to a machine like the Breville Dual Boiler, which is a bit slower when it comes to steaming. That being said, neither machine is better than the other, it just depends on what you are looking to create. The Dual Boiler is nice in that it gives you a lot more time to work with, and produce a lot of, foam. On the other hand, it can be tricky to get a lot of foam on the Musica because it heats up so fast.
Once you’ve got what machines and wands you will be using for brewing, it all comes down to practice as we mentioned before. However, we realize this can be harder than it sounds, so here is our cheat sheet for how to froth milk for a latte or a cappuccino.
11 Steps for Frothing Milk for a Latte
1) Start with a very cold pitcher and milk. This will gives you more time to work with your milk. If it is already warm already it’s going to heat up faster, providing you with less time.
2) Blow out the extra water in the steam wand.
3) Adjust the angle of the steam wand to suite your preferences. We typically keep ours at a pretty high angle, but you can play around with it to see what works best for you.
4) Hold the tip of your frothing pitcher against the steam wand; this will give you more leverage when moving the pitcher around.
5) You will also want to angle your frothing pitcher to the side, which will help you get the milk swirling around in a circle.
6) Submerge the tip of the steam wand in the milk. Don’t be alarmed if you hear a high pitch squeal followed by slurping. While it is loud at first, this is exactly what you want to hear. As soon as you hear that squealing noise, make sure you bring the pitcher down so you hear that slurping noise as you start to incorporate air. This will help prevent you from getting too much foam, since for a latte you want to create a smaller amount of foam.
7) Submerge the rest of the wand in the milk after a few seconds.
8) Once you can feel the bottom of the frothing pitcher get nice and toasty, almost too hot to touch, remove the steam wand from the milk.
9) Always wipe down and blow out the steam wand when you are done to prevent the milk from getting sucked back into the boiler.
10) Mix milk in by slowly swirling the milk around the pitcher, to get a rich and creamy consistency. The milk will look a bit more porous before you begin this process, but once you start mixing it in it starts getting a really shiny texture and that’s exactly what you want.
11) Combine the milk with espresso and relax with your drink.
7 Steps for Frothing Milk for a Cappuccino
1) Just like with a latte, you will want to start with very cold milk and make sure to blow out the extra water in the steam wand.
2) Start with the tip of your steam wand submerged.
3) Once you start hearing that high pitched squealing noise, you will want to slowly bring the pitcher further and further down to incorporate more air.
4) As soon as you feel the pitcher and milk get hot is when you stop frothing.
5) Tap the bottom of a pitcher on a table and swirl the milk around the pitcher to mix it in. You will notice that the texture of the milk is a lot thicker.
6) If you are creating a drier cappuccino (or a cappuccino with more foam and less milk), you will want to let the milk settle a little bit after you have mixed it, and it will separate out.
7) Combine the milk with your shot of espresso and enjoy.
If you would like to see the process in action and follow along step-by-step, watch as our resident milk frothing expert Dori teaches Sarah how to perfect her pour. If you live in the greater Seattle area, you can also learn how to froth milk with Dori in person if you stop by for her Sunday milk frothing or latte art workshops in our Bellevue store.
Brew Tips: How to Froth Milk
Love tea? So do we! In these hot summer months, and particularly the “Dog Days of August” as some people like to call them, there is nothing better than a glass cold, smooth iced tea to cool you down. Luckily, with the Rishi Tea Simple Brew Teapots, making iced tea has never been easier!
To all of you who love coffee as well, this brewer might remind you of a French press. The construction is similar, as there is a filter attached to the brewer’s lid. However, unlike a French press, you don’t press the filter down. The purpose of filter is not to help extract the tea, but to prevent any tea particles from escaping into your cup. To make iced tea, fill the larger, 24 oz. Simple Brew Iced Teapot to the halfway mark with hot water, add your tea and let it steep for the desired length of time. After your tea has steeped, fill the other half of the teapot to cool down your tea. You might also want to refrigerate the tea and add ice to help cool it down even faster. Serve by pouring over a couple of ice cubes in a glass.
However, these teapots aren’t just for making iced tea, they will also brew a pretty tasty cup of hot tea. We love that these teapots because they are multifunctional as it allows you to use them all year long. The smaller, 13-15 oz. teapot is especially a good option for brewing hot tea, as it is more of personal-sized teapot that you can use to brew up one to two cups of tea. The process for brewing a hot cup of tea is similar to that of brewing a cold tea. All you have to do is spoon your loose leaf tea in to the bottom of the teapot, add hot water, let the tea steep for as long as you want and enjoy.
The smallest of these Rishi Simple Brew Teapots are also just big enough to allow a blooming tea ball to expand as it steeps. Thus, at your next tea party you can not only impress your guests with these classy looking teapots, but also entertain them as they watch their tea unfurl into a beautiful flower as it steeps. To discover more uses for these teapots, watch as Dori shows tea-newbie Brendan the ropes.
Crew Review: Rishi Tea Simple Brew Teapots
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