Coffee

What more can we say about our favorite beverage? It turns out, plenty! This category contains a world of writing about the coffee we love.
  • Roast of the Month: Camber's Dialed In

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's time for a new Roast of the Month, featuring our newest collaboration! We like to work with some of our roasting partners to put out delicious roasts perfect for our customers. This month we're introducing Dialed In Espresso from Camber Coffee! This is a tasty roast perfect for dialing in your new espresso machine and grinder. Let's get brewing!

    Flavor Profile

    Dialed in features notes of cherry, baking spice, and plum. The cherry and plum notes create a rich sweetness that gives you just enough fruity touches. This is what drew us to positioning this roast as an espresso. That sweet set of notes creates a great consistency, flavor profile, and mouthfeel of a more syrupy, rich brew method like espresso. The baking spice note provides some great balance that evens out the sweeter flavors. This balance is key to delivering a really approachable espresso.

    Dialed in also ultimately features a lighter body, more consistent with third wave roasting than Italian roasts you might be used to. This makes it the perfect way to dip your toe into specialty coffee if you normally drink LavAzza or Bristot. We love our Italian favorites as well, but a lighter espresso offers very unique flavors that are with experiencing!

    Brewing

    We worked with Camber to develop a roast that is perfect for newer users. While we think Dialed in is a coffee for everyone, we named it what we did to signal how approachable it is to dial in. This means that we think it's the perfect way to break in your new grinder and espresso machine as you learn the nuances of how to get the perfect shot.

    Dialed in is also an excellent brew for superautomatics. Many brighter flavors can get lost in a superauto, but this roast holds up extremely well in a Philips, Miele, or other superauto.

    Get brewing with Dialed In! Available soon here.

  • Differentiating Drip Brewers

    Drip coffee brewers may not all look the same, but telling them apart features wise can be a bit of a challenge. With so many brewers offering wild stylistic differences but still boiling down to only having a couple of buttons, it can be tough to know what to look for. We’re here to help!

    The Basics

    The core of a good drip brewer is temperature stability. Brewing great coffee requires water that is ~200 degrees fahrenheit, with about 5 degrees of give on either side. This means any drip brewer needs a heating element capable of maintaining temperature in this narrow band throughout the brewing process. Cheap drip brewers tend to skimp out on this. They might burn the coffee by overheating it so that consistent temperature isn’t applied, or just fail to maintain hot enough temperature to brew with. 

    So for this reason, the first thing you should ensure is that your prospective drip brewer has a heating element that provides the right water temp. This can be achieved with less expensive brewers like those from Bonavita, which offer value and quality performance. The other basic part of differentiating these brewers is whether they use a glass carafe with a warming plate or a stainless steel option. This is entirely a preference issue. Glass carafes have less heat retention, which is offset by the warming plate, but extended use of a plate can scorch the coffee. By contrast, stainless steel carafes can impart a taste difference that bothers some palates.

    Control and Options

    Once you’ve secured a set of options that you know will be temp stable, the real fun begins. The big differentiator at this point is control options. What you’re looking for is going to be based on preferences largely. One important thing to look for is blooming. In pour over brewing, the bloom is the first step in brewing. You pour a smaller amount of water to saturate the grounds, which releases acids, aromas, and flavors. Great drip brewers do this as well, usually with options to disable the bloom based on preference.

    Otherwise, what you’re looking for is largely up to you! Do you want a machine that will simply make a great pot of coffee when you turn it on? A Ratio or Technivorm brewer might be perfect for you. If you’re looking for the ability to tweak your brew, you might be more interested in something like a Breville Precision Brewer

    The Precision Brewer has numerous settings that allow you to customize your coffee. You can alter the temperature, bloom time, amount, and other settings. You can even set it up to brew iced coffee, or use a pour over dripper. While this range of options might be overwhelming for some users, the control here is unparalleled.

    While the process of differentiating drip brewers is more simple than with espresso machines, it’s still worth doing some research. With that in mind, ensuring temperature stability, blooming, and that you get the right style carafe for you is the most important thing!

  • Differentiating Superautomatic Espresso Machines

    Superautomatic espresso machines are a wonderfully convenient way to get your morning cup of coffee without the hassle of manually grinding and brewing. These machines give you the option of exploring a world of whole bean coffee with combined grinder and espresso brew units. We love these machines, but at first glance understanding their differences can be difficult. While there are elements of brewing quality that can be different from machine to machine, it’s hard to say which machine makes the “best” espresso. So much of this is down to personal preference, as each machine offers quite similar methods of grinding and brewing.

    The best advice we can give for espresso taste is to try coffee out of the machine you’re looking at before purchase. That will allow you to determine whether or not you enjoy the coffee over other machines. With that in mind, there are other parts of a superauto that can make a difference in your purchasing decision.

    Interface and Design

    One of the biggest factors in picking a superauto is interface. From the affordable Philips Carina’s simple touch buttons to the glossy, smartphone-esque touchscreen on the Saeco Xelsis, interface can change the experience of using a machine. Much of this is reflected in the cost of a superauto. Fancy touchscreens with wide control options and guided cleaning programs general cost more than simpler button based machines. 

    Further design elements to consider are things like top vs. front loading water tanks and water filtration. It can be a real frustration to have to pull your machine out from under a cabinet to fill the water tank. General dimensions are important as well, and of course, you have to make sure you like the way a prospective machine looks. These boxes are designed to stay on your counter, after all.

    Milk Steaming

    For many espresso fans, milk is as important as the ‘spro! Having a well textured latte or foamy cappuccino is the whole point in getting an espresso machine for many users. That’s why milk systems are so important in superauto shopping. We’ve talked about milk systems at length here at SCG, but this is another area where cost scales with complexity. You’ll find panarello wands on more affordable machines. By contrast, you'll see automated pipe and carafe based milk systems on more expensive options. 

    Here’s the secret about milk steaming systems: While a simple panarello may take an extra minute or two of work to use, they do give you more control. This means that if you’re picky about milk temperature and texture, a machine with a manual panarello want might be a boon for you even though it’s the more affordable option.

     

    Which is the ultimate key here. Expensive machines usually have a good reason for being pricier, but how those features impact the value proposition for you will vary. We’re excited to say, with such a wide market you will assuredly find the superautomato espresso machine for you! 

  • Differentiating Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

    Let’s be honest, Semi-automatic espresso machines can get pretty similar in the looks department. While coffee nerds like us spot the subtle differences in design on some of the higher end machines, it can be hard to know what sets machines apart from one another. Let’s look at the differences that can arise on the inside and the outside!

    Internals

    As you might guess, one of the most important points of comparison on these boxy coffee machines is what’s on the inside. That metric is pretty wide-reaching! The biggest thing most people consider on the inside of a machine is the boiler. While not something you’ll see the difference in when looking at the machine, boiler design is one of the most important things for an espresso machine. First there’s design, from heat exchangers to multi-boilers, there are many kinds of boilers. We won’t get into every specific about these designs, but there are lots of resources to help you determine the cost to value ratio in the boiler department.

    Next up is boiler material. Copper, stainless steel, lined aluminum, there are many materials that manufacturers use for boilers. Since this is a direct example of material cost, the differences in pricing make a lot of sense fairly intuitively. One thing to keep in mind is that any reputable espresso machine manufacturer is going to use food safe components in their boiler designs. You’re not going to find boilers that seep harmful material into drinks on Seattle Coffee Gear!

    Other internal components are things like pumps and thermostats, control boards, tubing and water lines, and case frame. These elements range from simple material considerations to more technical items like PID Controllers vs. traditional thermostats. Generally, when something has a unique or notable component, it’ll be called out in the item’s description. In this way, you can rely on guidance from the retailer to understand what makes the machine tick.

    Externals

    External elements are very important to machine differentiation and the easiest piece of the puzzle to notice with the naked eye. The most obvious part of this is visual design. Is the machine appealing to look at? Because with the size of many espresso machines you’ll have to leave it out on your counter. 

    Also of importance is control design and feel. Many high end Italian machines have very similar knobs and levers for controlling the machine. With that said, how those controls actually feel to use are a different story. We’ve handle many fancy looking machines that have levers and knobs made of cheap plastic. On the flip side, there are some gorgeous machines out there with wood knobs and lever touch points that are a dream to use. None of that matters though if the controls don’t have good movement. A brew lever that’s too stiff or a knob that feels cheap to turn are not fun to deal with. It’s important to note that many machines do have a break in period before their controls feel their best. For this reason it’s best to get a demo on a machine that’s seen some use if you can!

    Finally, there’s case material. This is a pretty simple element, but whether the case is plastic, steel, or some other material really matters for longevity and machine quality.

    So there you have it! There are many points of comparison on espresso machines even if many look like big coffee boxes. The key takeaway here is that you really should look at the inside of the machine as much as at its casing to understand what sets two machines apart.

  • Simplifying Your Morning Cup

    Hey Coffee Fans!

    With school starting and many parents helping their children to access a virtual classroom, we thought it would be a good time to look at ways to simplify your morning cup of coffee! 

    There are a few techniques that can help you cut down your time to coffee in the morning, no matter what brew method you choose. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite ways to do this!

    Workflow

    We’ve talked at length about workflow in the past, and it’s important here as well. Making sure you have access to your coffee, grinder, and brewing equipment is the key to a quick cup of Joe. This means setting up a dedicated workspace for brewing your coffee if you can. You should also identify the passive elements of your brewing that can take the longest. Do you brew pour over? Makes sure you start heating your water as a first step. Drip fan? Consider placing your filter in the basket the night before. 

    Another great way to speed up your brewing process is to portion coffee ahead of time. Taking 10 minutes to prep pre-weighed coffee is a great way to save a few extra minutes while you prepare your brew! You can also fill your drip brewer’s water tank the night before to cut that step from the drip brewing process.

    Method

    To really hone in on brewing faster coffee, you might want to take a look at your brewing process. Slow, hands on methods like pour over are not the quickest option. You might want to consider switching to something like drip or press brewing, two “set it and forget it” methods. In the case of drip brewing, all you have to do is load up the water and grounds and push a button. Five minutes later, you’ll have delicious coffee!

    Similarly to drip brewing, for a coffee press you just load in coffee and water and set it to steep, ready to press later. You can even take your press around with you to have your coffee the second it’s finished steeping.

    Of course, for rapid morning coffee there’s nothing faster than a superautomatic espresso machine. Superautos give you delicious coffee with just a few button presses. What’s more, you can even make lattes and cappuccinos in a super automatic with a milk steaming system. Many of the best superautomatic espresso machines even steam milk automatically!

    We hope these methods and ideas help you get your coffee just a tad bit quicker this school season. Stay safe!

  • Using Your Summer Leftovers

    We’ve all been there, sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach when it comes to coffee. Who wants to miss out on that natural Ethiopian? Do you really want to wait until next year for your favorite seasonal blend to come back? And maybe there’s something experimental and awesome you just have to try. But here you are, with loads of coffee that is losing its freshness. So what’s the solution? We’ve got a couple in mind!

    Batch Brewing

    The first way to use that leftover coffee is to brew it! Batch brewing means brewing a large batch of coffee at once. While there are some delicious and easy to use ways to brew a large amount of hot coffee at once, you probably don’t need a commercial drip brewer for everyday use. Considering that, cold coffee batch brewing is the way to go!

     

    With a Toddy Cold Brewer you can brew quite a lot of cold brew concentrate at once. From there you can refrigerate it for up to two weeks and have delicious cold brew every day. You could also batch cold brew lots of coffee and bottle it for your friends! One of the ways that you can really squeeze every last bean out of a bagged roast is to blend singles and blends yourself before brewing. Look for coffees with notes that will compliment each other, like chocolatey Colombians and rich berry tasting Ethiopian coffee. 

     

    Blending coffee like this is a fun way to experiment, and you may find you like it even with the freshest of the fresh roasts! For some ideas for preserving that coffee, read on!

    Coffee Preservation

    If you don’t want to brew it all at once, there’s always preserving it. While your mileage may vary with the existing freshness of the coffee, an airtight container can do wonders for freshness. Coffee stored like this can taste close to how it does right after opening it for months, giving you more time to enjoy it. 

     

    You can also freeze coffee to get a little more freshness. While this may not do much for coffee already at the end of its life, setting some aside to freeze from a fresh bag is a great idea. One thing to note, however, is that some drinkers might taste a difference in flavor with a frozen coffee, but not everyone will.

     

    Let us know if you have any tips for using your coffee leftovers!

  • Hot-Blooming Cold Brew

    If you’re here at the Seattle Coffee Gear blog we’re betting you know a thing or two about cold brewed coffee. This method of brewing has become incredibly popular over the last decade or so, and with good reason. Cold brewing coffee leads to fantastic extraction of flavor notes by slowly brewing coffee with the simplicity of overnight saturation. Did you know that you can tease even more flavors out of your cold brew with a neat trick? Follow along to find out!

    The Bloom

    If you’re a pour over drinker you’re familiar with the bloom. This is the part of the pour over process where you add water to your grounds, often around 1:1, to start the extraction and release gas from the grounds. You’ll see the grounds bubble as those gasses are released. This is an important step that is one of the reasons brewing pour over results in more distinct, smooth flavors than an old drip brewer.

    Cold brewed coffee already eliminates a lot of the bitterness that can come with coffee by nature of its slow-brew process. To get an even smoother, more complex flavor, you can bloom your cold brew coffee as well!

    How-To

    To do this, you’ll need to heat up some water to brew temp. For the very best flavor, you’ll want filtered water heated to 195-205 degrees fahrenheit. Once you have this water heated, add the hot water to your coffee grounds at a ratio of 1:1. You’ll want to let the coffee bloom for around a minute, which will release those gasses and flavors mentioned above. From there, simply add the rest of your room-temp or cold water and set your cold brew to saturate overnight!

    The resulting coffee will be smoother and more flavorful than your typical batch cold brewing. This technique works especially well for naturals and honeys that have a stronger flavor. If you think about this, it makes sense that brews that work best as pour over will also perform better using this method. It should be noted that this method of hot blooming your cold brew can add a very minimal amount of acidity to your coffee, but it’s something most coffee drinkers won’t even notice. It’s just something to keep in mind if you specifically need to keep your acids as low as possible.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, Hot blooming your grounds before you set your cold brew to steep can add flavor and depth to your caffeine concentrate. Give it a try and see how you like it, and let us know how it goes!

  • Roast of the Month: Brandywine Costa Rica Las Lajas

    It’s that time once again for Roast of the Month! This month we have a unique and delicious Costa Rican Black Honey roast from the ever excellent Brandywine Coffee Roasters! 

    Region and Process

    Costa Rican coffee is always a treat because the flavors present are usually quite diverse. Typically coffee regions tend to have a unifying theme when it comes to flavor. Colombian coffee with its rich chocolate flavors and Ethiopian coffee featuring those strong berry notes. In the case of Costa Rican coffee, you tend to get a wide range of notes that are hard to push into a particular bucket. While that may mean it’s harder to pick out a perfect coffee from the region, for adventurous coffee drinkers it’s a great thing. Thankfully roasters like Brandywine also offer quite accurate and detailed tasting notes as well, which helps.

    Black honey processing is a unique method of processing that is becoming more common, but is still not something we see every day. Honey processing is a type of processing where the skin of the coffee cherry is removed (as opposed to a natural process where it’s left on) but the some of the mucilage inside of the cherry is left on the bean to ferment (as opposed to a washed process where the whole cherry is removed). The result is flavors that mirror a natural process but with slightly less intensity. Black honey processing is a process by which the smallest amount of cherry is removed from the bean, which leads to more intense flavor than a typical honey process. 

    Brewing and Flavor Profile

    As with most of our Roast of the Months, we recommend brewing this one as a pour over. This is because it has diverse and complex enough flavors that the separation offered by pour over really does the job best. We brewed at a standard pour over grind with a V60, 200 degrees fahrenheit water, and a standard 1:16 ratio. The result is a dazzling cup that brings out the notes on the bag pretty exactly.

    The apple juice note is subtle but present in a sort of fleeting way. It’s met with those delicious sweet-tart kiwi notes and a softer melon flavor. Finally, the brown sugar note is what ties these three fruity flavors together. It sort of dances around the edges of the palate, offering a delicious bow for this present of a roast. Body wise, this coffee is well rounded and full without venturing into heavy, oily territory. It’s definitely a medium roast that trends lighter, but without the brighter characteristics you get from a light roast.

    This coffee does hold up in other brew methods as well, working especially as a drip brew. With a great brewer and the right grind, you can get a near perfect cup of drip coffee from the roast. 

    Like with every single origin, this roast will only be available for a limited time, so be sure to order a bag before it’s gone!

  • Coffee Regions: Ethiopia

    We’ve taken a look at some of the unique regions that coffee is produced in before, but we wanted to revisit them! Today we’re talking a bit about Ethiopian coffee. We’ll discuss the geographical concepts at play, and dig into the flavor profiles typical for coffees of the region. We’re excited to highlight these interesting concepts in other regions too! For now, let’s get started:

    Geography

    Ethiopia has a diverse range of climates and biomes. From the dusty, but vibrant eastern deserts to mountains, jungles, and forests, this is a large, beautiful country. It also means that it contains the ideal climate for growing coffee plants. Indeed, most consider this country to be the birthplace of coffee. It’s also one of the finest regions for coffee production in the world.

    In light of this, coffee accounts for most of the foreign income in the country. Most of it is produced in the Western part of the country, with some coffee coming from central Ethiopia as well. Because of all of this, coffee in the country is grown at varying elevations. Most coffee is grown in the 1,000-2,500 meter range, but there are outliers as well. With the excellent elevation and climate, Ethiopian coffee beans really are of extremely high quality.

    Processing

    Ethiopian coffee goes through all sorts of processes. Even within specific regions like Yirgacheffe or Limu you may find multiple processing methods. For the most part, the aforementioned regions feature washed coffee. However, it’s not uncommon at all to find a delicious natural Yirgacheffe coffee. By contrast, coffee from the Harrar region is primarily natural processed. This means you get interesting processing experiments as well. Honey processing, for example, is common in Ethiopia, but reserved for specific harvests.

    Their wet and natural processing is managed by highly skilled coffee processors whose attention to detail is fitting for the quality of beans that are grown there. 

    Flavor Profiles

    The easiest way to break down Ethiopian coffee flavor profiles is by region. Generally though, coffee from the country is recognized as some of the most enjoyable and flavorful available. Rich berry notes are some of the most recognizable elements of Ethiopian coffee. You’ll also find bright, almost tea-like roasts from the region, and more balanced affairs. Here are some examples of flavors you can expect from some of Ethiopia’s most prolific coffee growing regions:

    • Sidamo
      • Rich, full, lots of floral and citrus notes.
    • Yirgacheffe
      • Bright, herbal, floral, very light and delicate.
    • Harrar 
      • Intense, fruity, acidic, and rich. Lots of berry notes.
    • Limu
      • Floral, balanced, and a hint of spice.
    • Jimma
      • Bright, fruity, and tropical.

    We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Ethiopian coffee and we can’t wait for you to try some for yourself!

  • 2020 Rocket Espresso Home Machine Lineup

    Rocket Espresso’s home machine lineup is an excellent way to bring cafe quality drinks to your kitchen. Hand built in Milan, Italy, these machines bring authenticity and sophistication alongside their powerful performance. With the addition of the stunning R58 Cinquantotto, Rocket Espresso’s lineup of machines just got an upgrade. We thought we’d provide an updated look at this fantastic collection of espresso machines!

    Rocket Espresso Appartamento

    Rocket Espresso’s Appartamento is a fantastic entry into the prosumer espresso machine space. We often get questions about performance in machines under $1,000. Users sometimes purchase a machine like this and assume they will get the same kind of performance from them as you might from a commercial machine. The Appartamento is an option that gets you closer to that kind of performance without the cost of a professional machine.

     

    Featuring standard Rocket Espresso features like a heated E-61 group head, beautiful and solid case design and construction, a fast heat exchanger boiler, and commercial-like steam want, the Appartamento is a powerful option. On top of this, this machine’s cut out side panels and colored inserts give it a unique, striking look. The compact design of this machine compared to other Italian espresso machines makes it suitable for more counter tops as well. For an added dose of style, check out the Appartamento Nera.

    Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato & Giotto

    Rocket Espresso’s Mozzafiato and Giotto machines offer an upgrade in performance and capabilities over the Appartamento while maintaining the same design ethos and Italian espresso aesthetics.These machines feature similar design elements on the inside, and represent an upgrade due to the addition of PID controlled temperatures. The result is more stable temps under heavy load than the Appartamento offers.

     

    Both of these machines are available with a rotary or vibratory pump. Rotary pumps allow these machines to be plumbed in directly to water lines for the busiest users. The main differences between the Giotto and the Mozzafiato are the side panels, with the Giotto featuring sharp, slanted panels that provide a little extra visual flair. THe Mozzafiato features an integrated cup rail that is part of its flat side panels.

    Rocket Espresso Porta Via

    The Porta Via is Rocket Espresso’s travel machine. While this may sound counter intuitive, it’s actually a clever offering that folds into itself to create a simple to transport case. With a little bit of setup, this is the perfect machine to bring on your weekend road trip or to a cabin getaway.

     

    While it definitely doesn’t fit everyone’s needs, the Porta Via fills a unique niche that will make it the perfect option for some on the go espresso drinkers!

    Rocket Espresso R58 Cinquantotto

    The Cinquantotto is a new update to the classic R58. This machine features all of the design standards of a Rocket Espresso machine with some overhauled elements that take home espresso brewing to the next level. The Cinquantotto’s dual boilers make for an outstanding brewing platform that is nearly impossible to outrun for a home user. This means you’ll always have the perfect temps for steaming and brewing. The Cinquantotto also features a touchscreen controlled PID that allows precise temperature control, auto-on time programming, and more with a vibrant, easy to read interface. 

     

    The Cinquantotto is also plumbable and features the stylish, polished case design of other rocket espresso machines. If you’re looking for some of the highest performance on the home machine market, the R58 Cinquantotto is a compelling offer.

    Rocket Espresso R9 One Group

    The R9 One Group is a complex, hobbyist machine. This is one built for the most dedicated home brewer and features nearly unparalleled control over the brewing process. By using the machine’s brew handle you can recreate the pressure application of a wide range of machines. This lets you mimic brew pressure to recreate the kind of drink you’d get from almost any machine on the market. While the brew paddle reacts slightly slower to adjustments than with something like the La Marzocco GS/3, with the R9 One you can actually store those pressure profiles. By doing this, you can recall past pressure recipes to try your favorites over and over again.

    For a visual look at these machines, join Allie for her overview of Rocket Espresso's machine lineup:

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