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.
  • 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:

  • 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!

  • Iced Coffee Vs. Cold Brew

    It’s that time of year where we pull out our cold brewers and ice cube trays for some cool coffee treats. Staying caffeinated and cool isn’t so hard, but you might be wondering what the real difference is between iced coffee and cold brew. We’ve got your back, with an explanation of each method right here!

    Iced Coffee

    Iced Coffee is as simple as it sounds. You start with brewed coffee and simply add ice. The trick is in the way you add the ice without diluting the coffee too much, because simply brewing over ice will lead to lukewarm coffee as the ice melts. On the other hand, using cool water with a pour over or press won’t cause the coffee to bond with the water effectively unless allowed to steep (see the cold brew section!). There are a few ways you can mitigate this, and they offer varying flavors. 

    First, you can just brew coffee over ice. The trick here is adjusting your water to coffee ratio to account for the melting ice in the coffee. This also means that your flavor profile will differ a bit because you’re really brewing a concentrate that is being instantly diluted. Some machines, like the Breville Precision Brewer, have brew settings that help with this.

    The other option is to brew coffee in a glass carafe, then remove it from heat and let it sit until it reaches room temperature. This can feel counterintuitive, but when removed from heat, coffee can cool quickly enough that you won’t lose its freshness in the process. Then you simply pour the lukewarm coffee over ice, and it will melt slower than if you brew over the ice. 

    Both methods can lead to tasty iced coffee, so it’s worth experimenting with both, and with different coffee ratios and recipes to find what works for you!

    Cold Brew

    Over the past decade, cold brew has risen to prominence as a fantastic way to drink cold coffee. And there’s a reason for that! As noted above, cooler water takes longer to bond with coffee molecules. You can achieve this with colder water by giving it a longer steep time. There are some fantastic brewers that help you do this, such as the Toddy Cold Brew System. Systems like this use a filter and valve to allow coffee to steep for a long time (such as overnight) and then be drained from the brewer. The result is ready to drink cold brew, or cold brew concentrate that can be diluted with water, depending on the ratio of water to coffee used. Some simple, grab n’ go options that brew for portability are brew bottles like those that Primula offers. 

    Other cold brewing methods include brewers like the Bruer Slow Drip Cold Brewer.This brewer emulates the slow drip cold brewing method that’s popular in Japan. By modulating flow rate, you can get different flavors as the cold water slowly drips through the grounds.

     

    No matter what kind of cold coffee method you use, the principles of each are simple. Iced Coffee refers to hot brewed coffee cooled down to room temp and then poured over ice. Cold brew methods refer to coffee that is actually brewed slowly with room temperature water. Both offer unique flavor profiles and are delicious with a splash of milk or cream. Give both methods a try this cold coffee season!

  • Coffee or Espresso?

    For some people, choosing between drip coffee and espresso is the hardest part of the coffee journey. While the equipment to make drip coffee is usually less expensive, do you lose something with it? What is it about espresso that makes me willing to spend so much to brew it? Which method is quicker for a morning cup of coffee? There are a lot of factors to consider here!

    Cost

    The first thing to think about is cost. To get the best cup of coffee possible you’ll need to be willing to spend some money, but you don’t have to break the bank. One misconception is that espresso costs prohibitively more than drip coffee. While it’s true that high end drip brewers stop around the spot that solid, true espresso machines and grinder packages start, it’s still a matter of perspective. Furthermore, there are superautomatic espresso machines like the Philips Carina that cost similarly to a decent grinder and drip machine combo. 

    With that said, getting started with something like pour over is especially affordable, so it never hurts to pick up a less expensive, entry level grinder and a dripper while you decide.

    Technique

    The technique needed for the perfect pot of drip isn’t quite as intense as what you need for a great espresso. Brewing espresso can be challenging at first, because it relies so much on having the right grind. Technical elements like shot timing, milk steaming, and tamping can be hard to understand at first. Especially when compared to the simple measuring and push button operation of many drip brewers.

    However, brewing espresso really can feel like a skill. You’ll be proud of the first latte you serve a friend with just the right texture, incredible flavor, and a nice piece of latte art on top. It’s hard to say the same for drip brewing, but not everyone wants to make their morning coffee a hobby. Once you do develop that skill, brewing up a shot of espresso and steaming some milk could go even faster than preparing a pot of drip!

    Taste

    This is really the big one. Espresso and drip coffee just taste totally different! Drip coffee offers balance and tends to emphasize nutty notes, as well as notes of cocoa or dark chocolate. If you go with pour over instead, you’ll get a wider, sweeter range of flavors. Espresso, on the other hand, is quite intense. The dark, syrupy consistency of this pressurized brew method adds to a very rich, sweeter profile. While you may have had sour or bitter tasting espresso in the past, this is actually an indication of a bad grind. Well-made espresso should be smooth and rich, if a bit intense. 

    You can certainly add milk or cream to a drip coffee to alter the flavor, but espresso is a whole other world! With syrups and steaming you can tune your morning cup to be the perfect one for you. For some, this may mean a simple latte or cappuccino, for others it might mean some fruity syrup with just a touch of warm milk! Further, with an espresso machine you’ve got all the tools to whip up an Americano, which is the middle ground between coffee and espresso. In a home with different coffee tastes on a budget, this might mean a new espresso machine is the best way to please everyone.

    While there are many more factors involved in choosing the right machine for you, we hope this narrows down why you might want one that brews in a specific way!

     

  • Roast of the Month: Brandywine's Colombia El Progreso

    It’s time for another Roast of the Month here at Seattle Coffee Gear!

    This month we’re featuring one of our favorite roasters, Brandywine, and their Colombia El Progreso roast. This roast features notes of brown sugar, apple, blackberry tart, and a hint of ginger. 

    Profile

    One of the reasons we found this roast so interesting is that it doesn’t taste like most washed Colombians. Typically coffees from this region have a chocolatey, rich profile with a bit of an earthy note. In the case of El Progreso, we get a much more balanced roast with some tart, some sweet, and a bit of sparkling acidity that Brandywine identifies as ginger. 

    And that ginger comparison is a great way to message the flavor. While it’s not a pervasive note, what you get is a bit of a sparkling taste over your tongue. Another good comparison is having an iced coffee with a splash of tonic water. Either way, it’s not that this is a particularly acidic coffee, but the way that acid manifests is quite a treat. 

    The rest of this roast’s profile offers a bed of gentle sweetness from that brown sugar and apple note, and a satisfying balance of tartness. All of the above combine with a medium body for an inviting, unique sipping experience that offers more acute flavor than what we usually expect from a washed coffee!

    Brewing

    To get the most out of that ginger note, as well as the tart blackberry note, you’ll want to brew this one as a pour over. In this brew method you’ll really taste the separation of flavors across the spectrum. You’ll also get the full effect of the sparkliness in the ginger not beyond just the flavor. This is still a very drinkable roast as a pour over, so don’t worry about too much overwhelming your palate.

    In a drip brew, you’ll get a more balanced grouping of these flavors. You may not notice the sparkly ginger as much, but you won’t lose it entirely. The tart and sweet notes will be less pronounced, but present enough to enjoy. This roast can work as a good press or espresso as well, but you’ll want to grind very carefully for espresso. Without taking the time to dial it in (as well as considering longer shot times and other unconventional strategies) it won’t be as enjoyable in an espresso. With the right grind and shot settings, this one could make for a great cortado or Americano. 

    Try a bag of Colombia El Progreso today!

  • Video Roundup: 5/29/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    This week we've got at home discussions, recipes, and a good old crew comparison for you. Let's take a look!

    First up, Allie and I sat down to chat about brew methods:

    Next, we've got a tasty looking recipe from Ariel!

    And finally, Allie did a comparison of the new Eureka Mignon Notte and the classic Rancilio Rocky.

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

  • Whole Beans Vs. Pods

    You’ve heard us talk about how much we love superautomatic espresso machines. We’ve discussed the convenience, simplicity, and ease of maintenance that comes with these machines extensively. But you may think, “pod based machines offer all of this, right?” While technically true, there are lots of reasons to go for a superauto over pod based options, and we’re here to share them!

    Waste

    One of the biggest selling points of a whole bean brewing superautomatic is its lack of waste. Pod waste is an immense problem with pod based solutions. Whole bean coffee comes in simple paper packaging that is usually fully recyclable. What’s more, it’s recyclable without an expenditure of lots of energy.

    While some pods do tout compostability, they generally require high pressure industrial equipment to do so. In some cases, this still causes an environmental impact, and many users may not have access to composting options like this. While there are reusable pods available, you then must provide correctly ground coffee, which largely defeats the purpose in the first place. With their built-in grinders and ability to handle most whole beans, superautos definitely have a smaller waste footprint.

    Cost and Variety

    Another problem with pod based machines is only having access to what you can get in the pods. Blank, reusable pods exist, but then require more work to use. With standard pods, you get a limited set of options for what coffee you can use. Beyond that, pods are often more expensive than whole bean coffee. Using them for your daily cup can become quite pricey compared to a whole bean option.

    Superautos don’t encounter this issue. While we recommend avoiding oilier beans, otherwise the world of coffee is open to you. With thousands of roasts to choose from across a range of prices, variety is definitely better with a superauto.

    Flavor and Performance

    While this is the most widely varying element of the equation, you’ll generally always get better coffee from the freshly ground beans a superauto like a Philips or Miele uses. Pod based coffee can sit on a shelf for long periods and lacks that “freshly roasted, freshly ground” aspect that whole bean coffee has.

    While quality among superautos varies just like it does with pod based machines, in general, you’re going to like the coffee you get from your new superautomatic espresso machine more than a pod. Combined with all of the other elements we’ve mentioned, it’s clear why we encourage you to ditch your pods and go whole bean!

  • Roast of the Month: Kickapoo Spring Blend

    It’s that time once again for Seattle Coffee Gear’s Roast of the Month! This month we’re celebrating Kickapoo’s annual Spring Blend. We love this year’s offering on this always solid coffee and we think you will too. Join us as we give it a look!

    Origins and Producers

    This year’s Spring Blend features coffees from two of Kickapoo’s newest suppliers, one from Progresso, Peru, and one from Inza Valley Colombia. The Pillimue group is an independent farmer collective in Inza Valley, Colombia. This group focuses on traditional coffee development made difficult in other regions of the country due to the La Roya leaf fungus. Inza Valley has largely been safe from the fungus, and the Pillimue group has taken this advantage and ran with it to produce traditional Colombian coffee at a high level of quality.

    The Padilla family is a farming family in Progreso, Peru. Located in the Northern part of the country in the Andes, the conditions there are perfect for coffee production. This hard working family expertly tend this land and practice Minga, which means roughly “today for me, tomorrow for you.” Their quality coffee indicates what a positive impact this philosophy has on the practice.

    Brewing and Flavor Profile

    Spring blend features an approachable flavor profile that Kickapoo refers to as “layered and confectionary.” These are good descriptors, expanded upon through notes of milk chocolate, nougat, and cherry. These notes combine for a classic coffee flavor that is just rich enough for fans of something sweet without alienating someone who prefers a lighter roast. This is the perfect kind of coffee to hand to someone who is used to grocery store brands and chain coffee shops. It really gets across how good a classic cup can be.

    For brewing, we recommend starting with a good old fashioned drip brewer. Running this coffee through a Bonavita or Precision Brewer results in a delicious, classic morning cup of coffee. For a sweeter cup, try an espresso with some milk in a latte or macchiato. Finally, to get at that cherry note the best way to brew is a pour over. One of the reasons we like this blend so much is just how easily it works across these brew methods. This is exemplified by the roast’s flavor in a superauto or press along with the above mentioned brewers. Get a taste of this delicious seasonal roast now before we roll over into the Summer

     

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