Author Archives: Kat

  • Compare: Glass vs. Thermal Carafe on Technivorm

    In addition to the wide array of coffee makers on the market that offer different functionality and technology, when selecting the model that's right for you, you also have to consider the carafe -- glass or thermal? Like most things, it's all about you, darling.

    The case for glass: You want to choose a grind-and-brew or programmable model that would come on and start brewing your coffee in the morning before you wake up. You'll also be drinking that full pot of coffee (or whatever amount you've selected) within the hour. Glass is ideal in these cases as you won't have to worry about pre-heating the carafe and you'll be drinking the coffee before it starts to taste more tar-like than java-like.

    The case for thermal: You're going to be making the coffee yourself and you want to be able to pour out a few cups throughout the day without risking a nasty aftertaste. You'll be around to take the time to pre-heat the carafe before the brewing starts and then to seal it up to keep the coffee up to temperature. Thermal is the best choice for this because it will stick around at the right temperature for a few hours without continuous heating. However, some folks are sensitive to the flavor that is produced using a stainless steel carafe, so if you're in that camp yet you want a thermal, make sure you're choosing a model with a glass lining (like the Bonavita, for example).

    Here at SCG, we use glass carafes in our break room because, quite simply, as soon as a pot is brewed, it's in our cups and the next pot is brewing away. We don't really have to worry about stagnant coffee sitting on a hot plate for hours on end, but we wanted to find out what kind of impact allowing the coffee to sit around for an hour had on its flavor. So we brewed up a batch of coffee in two Technivorms -- one using a thermal carafe, one using a glass -- then let them hang out for an hour before we held a taste test. Watch to find out what we learned!

     

  • How-To: Re-Calibrating the Baratza Encore

    When Baratza released their new Encore grinder, they made a point of talking about how the re-engineering of the burr set resulted in a lower cost burr grinder that could still go fine enough for traditional espresso machines. While the consistency isn't quite as good as its Virtuoso, Preciso or Vario counterparts, it does do a fairly solid job grinding for espresso -- as long as the 0-point is set accurately.

    The first demo model we tested worked just fine from the factory and we were able to use it with the Rancilio Silvia without issue; however, subsequent models -- and a few customer reports -- led us down the path of re-calibration. In this video, Gail shows how to take apart, re-calibrate and then put back together the Encore, including a demonstration of the grind quality before and after the adjustment.

  • Playing with Preinfusion on the Breville Dual Boiler

    It's fun to play with parameters! If you didn't learn that in the 2nd grade, life has probably been pretty rough for you -- but now is your time to shine.

    One of the elements you can control on the Breville Dual Boiler is both the pre-infusion pressure and the duration prior to shot extraction. Factory setting is 60% of the overall pump pressure for 7 seconds, but what happens when you change the pressure? Or if you keep the pressure the same and change the timing? Of course, all coffee will react differently to these settings, so we decided to experiment with Equator's Espresso Blend to see how making changes to this parameter affected the overall flavor of the shot.

    Watch Gail try different pressures and different pre-infusion times to determine if the factory settings are the best bet for Equator Espresso.

  • Compare: Convenience of Superautos vs. Capsule vs. Pod Espresso Machines

    If convenience is king in your household, your espresso machine selection will likely center on superautomatic, capsule or pod-friendly options such as those made by DeLonghi, Jura, Nespresso and Saeco.

    But which of these three machine styles produces a better shot? Does it matter? Of course it does! Watch as Gail demonstrates making an Americano on a pod-friendly semi-automatic, a capsule machine and a superautomatic. We compare flavor and discuss the relative convenience and ease of use.

  • Brew Tips: Switching Roasts and Grinds

    If you're experimenting with different styles of coffees -- roast styles, bean blends, etc. -- you'll need to adjust your grind to dial that specific coffee in for your machine. It's definitely not a set it and forget type of scenario, and there are general rules of thumb one might follow when switching between coffees that have a significantly different roast profile.

    Watch Gail provide tips and advice on things to keep in mind when dialing in different coffees.

  • Overview: Rotary vs. Vibratory Pumps

    In The Great Espresso Machine Wars of 2011, the bloodiest battle was that between the rotary and the vibratory pump. Seriously; things got real.

    You didn't hear about it? Well, it's really not something we like to rehash -- and there were definitely lessons in there for all of us. But even though we're not yet prepared to talk through it (too soon!), we don't mind taking a couple of pumps apart and asking one of our favorite engineers for his input on how these bad boys work.

    Watch as Gail and Bill Crossland go through the internals of a vibratory and rotary pump, discussing how they work, why you might select one over the other and what to expect from them. Then we measure the sound differential between the vibratory pump on the Rocket Espresso Premium Plus and the rotary pump on the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione to learn if the whole 'it's quieter!' argument really holds water. Finally, we pull shots to see if there is a noticeable, practical difference in flavor between the two styles of machines.

  • Compare: Rancilio Silvia with PID vs. Nuova Simonelli Oscar

    While these two machines certainly have some core functional differences, they are often compared by folks because once you retrofit the Silvia with a PID, its price tag is very similar to that of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar. So, is one better than the other? As usual, it's all a matter of perspective.

    Watch Gail discuss the features and functionality of these machines, then demonstrate how they perform in terms of drink quality. She also talks about why you might choose one over the other, so if you're on the fence regarding these two models, this comparison video was made with you in mind. Cherish it.

  • Grinder Throwdown: Virtuoso vs. Smartgrinder vs. Rocky

    Looking for an entry-level espresso-grade grinder and not sure where to start? Well, we like a grudge match around here, so you may have seen the previous stand-offs between the Breville Smart Grinder vs the Rancilio Rocky and the Baratza Virtuoso vs Breville Smart Grinder. Those may have left you wondering: How do all three stack up against each other? Being the mind readers that we are at SCG, Kat and I used a Breville BES900XL and Velton’s Bonsai Blend to put these grinders through the paces.

    Let’s compare them side-by-side:

    Baratza Virtuoso Breville Smart Grinder Rancilio Rocky
    Burr Type Conical steel Conical steel Flat steel
    Burr Size 40mm 40mm 55mm
    Case Material Plastic Brushed stainless steel Stainless steel
    Height 13 inches 14 inches 14 inches
    Hopper Capacity 8 oz. 1 lb and hopper is removable! 8 oz.
    Weight 16 lbs 5.6 lbs 18 lbs
    Programmability None LCD screen lets you set grind (coarse to fine) volume (in cups and shots depending on fineness of grind) and dosage (weak to strong) None
    Timer or on/off switch Timer and manual Timer and manual setting Manual only
    Time to grind double shot 12 sec 22 sec 20-30 sec
    Dosing Only with timer, not by weight/volume Automatically adjusts with grind; from coarser (dose in cups) to fine (dose in shots) Doser avail for +$10, otherwise chute only
    Grind consistency (1-5 scale, 5=most consistent) 40 individual step settingsFinest setting: 3

    Coarsest setting: 1

    25 settingsFinest setting: 4

    Coarsest setting: 2

    55 settingsFinest setting: 5, like talc

    Coarsest setting: 3

    Shot performance (scale of 1-5, 5=strongest) 3: Overall, a solid shot, with the depth you’d expect from a fresh grind and proper dial-in. 4: A solid shot with great flavor and slightly more complex notes using the 2nd finest setting. 5: Shot has a great mouth feel, and you can taste more complexity and richness to the shot.
    Notes No frills, no fuss, easy to use, it’s a strong performer for espresso and other coffee applications. No electric panel makes trouble shooting a breeze as your grinder ages. The lightest of the pack, this grinder is extremely versatile and a great value. It’s all about the features and accessories: portafilter holders, ground coffee canister, removable hopper to switch out beans. Commercial quality for home use and it shows. Largest footprint of all grinders, a big commitment to your counter top, but with definite benefits in shot quality.

    The Rocky is a literal heavyweight coming in at 18 pounds and a hundred dollar heftier price tag, but there’s no doubt that the commercial quality burrs make a difference when it comes to tasting the complexity of your shot. I love the Virtuoso’s ease of use and inherent versatility, so it’s often my go-to for testing espresso, pour overs and french press. But like an ostrich, I am drawn to shiny objects and I wish it had more stainless in the casing. The Smart Grinder fulfills this need, and weighing in under six pounds means it doesn’t need to be a permanent fixture on your countertop – but it could be because it's great for households with multiple coffee drinkers with different bean preferences. What would you choose?

  • Brewin' with Brandi: Mocha Syrup

    Life is sweet when you've got Brandi around! Not only does she have a lovely demeanor, she also crafts deliciously naughty treats like this Mocha Syrup! Reminiscent of the chocolate chip pancakes from our youth, this syrup can also be used on ice cream or anything else that needs a healthy dose of rich mocha goodness!

     

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup strongly brewed drip coffee (we used Velton's Twilight Blend -- claro!)
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Directions

    In a small saucepan, whisk together the coffee, cocoa powder, sugar and salt, then bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir continuously as the syrup begins to thicken -- about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Serve warmed or chilled over pancakes, ice cream, whatever your imagination brings

  • Compare: Jura Superautomatic Espresso Machines

    Interested in a superautomatic machine but not sure how different manufacturers measure up? We're here to help!

    Watch Gail take on Jura's currently available (as of July 2012) line of superautomatic machines, describing their features and functionality and talking about why you might select one model over the other.

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