Reviews

Our coffee experts have a lot of opinions, and we want to share them with you. For insight and recommendations on a world of coffee equipment, your search starts here!
  • Roast of the Month: TOCA Pink Moon

    This month's roast of the month comes to us from the lovely TOCA coffee roasters!

    Pink Moon is a lovely blend of flavors that combines floral and fruit notes with a twist of citrus at the end. A spring roast, TOCA suggests that the floral and fruity notes inspire renewal and invigoration, and we can't help but agree! Pink Moon features Ethiopian and Guatemalan beans, two origins known for unique and recognizable flavor profiles. While the washed processing of these two coffees keeps stronger berry notes in check, there's loads here to savor. For starters, there's the more floral notes, which TOCA lists as black tea. We taste this as a nice overtone that runs through the whole sip, never quite fading. Instead, tropical fruit and citrus notes layer in on top of the tea flavors. The result is a great balance of sweet, floral, and bitter.

    Often when we say balance, we mean that the flavors of a roast sort of mix together to balance each other out. While this doesn't mean the flavors are lost in the mix, Pink Moon is an especially great example of balance actually making each flavor easier to pick out. This means that Pink Moon provides a set of noticeable, tasty notes without washing out any of the complexity. This is a great roast to try as a pourover first to get an understanding of everything at play flavor wise. From there we recommend sticking to drip and press brewing, though with just the right finesse this could also be a great espresso.

    Grab a bag today!

  • Roast of the Month: Counter Culture Kabeywa Natural

    Counter Culture’s Kabeywa Natural is a stunning study in processes and flavor profile and one you should not miss.

    A Study In Process

    Kabeywa Natural is one of two Kabeywa coffees offered by Counter Culture this month. The other option is a washed coffee with less powerful tasting notes. We liked the natural because of its juicy flavors. Speaking of flavors, this is a coffee that blends a distinct grape flavor with more vague, but present, nutty and floral notes. The result is a sweet profile that doesn't overwhelm, but also presents itself strongly. This coffee's body is well balanced and isn't too rich or too thin. We really love this one as a pourover, but as with any great coffee, experimentation is always a good thing.

    One of the more interesting elements of this roast is its origin combined with its process. While we don't see that much Ugandan coffee in the first place, it comes in now and then. What is exciting is how delicious this roast is from a natural process. Ugandan coffee has long had quality issues in its natural processing, resulting in unpopular harvests for specialty roasters. This means that most high quality Ugandan coffee is washed. With Kabeywa natural, Counter Culture has found a truly delicious sun-dried natural process crop. Grown at high elevations, this harvest emphasizes quality through meticulous processing and harvesting. Hand picked and carefully prepared for processing, this is a roast that speaks to what experienced, engaged producers are capable of. Counter Culture went so far as to suggest that this could be the best harvest in this producer's four year relationship with them. We think you'll love it too, and it's a great introduction to a region that is only going to get more prevalent over time.

    Order a bag here, and don't wait, because this roast is only available for a limited time.

  • Roast of the Month: Bluebeard Colombia Rigo Belarcazar

    This month we're celebrating the delicious Colombia Rigo Belarcazar from Bluebeard Coffee!

    A Unique Colombian Profile

    When we think Colombia we naturally think coffee. So much of the current wave of coffee roasting owes itself to Colombian beans. It's for this reason that most enthusiasts have a clear picture of what a Colombian tastes like. We look for rich, deep chocolate flavors, a full body, and a "classic" feel. These notes with that profile are foundational to many coffee drinker's picture of what coffee "should" taste like. With all that in mind, Rigo Belarcazar breaks this mold in some pretty exciting ways.

    This is a roast that maintains that huge, satisfying body found in most Colombians and puts a twist on it. Instead of coffee, you instantly get an almost natural process blast of raspberry. This note doesn't overpower, but it is clear and above any typical Colombian notes. We love that, because it also maintains the profile of a washed coffee. It's clean, concise, and separable from the other notes involved.

    There is also a satisfying citrus twinge on the back end that offers a nice twist. It's represented in the notes as mandarin, which feels accurate. The real thing that sealed the deal for us was the sugary notes. While Bluebeard has separated cinnamon and brown sugar as two separate notes in their cupping, we'd say it's more like an overall cinnamon and sugar taste. This note lingers after the sip, leaving a delightful sugary flavor across your palate.

    We love this roast in a variety of brew methods. In fact, this is the perfect coffee to try in different methods to see how it stacks up and how those methods affect it. If you are going this route, give it a try as a pourover first. This will give you a great baseline of what to expect. Grab a bag of this exceptional coffee right here!

     

  • Roast of the Month: Intelligentsia Illumination Blend

    It's time once again for Roast of the Month! We like to celebrate a coffee each month that brings something especially unique, enjoyable, flavorful, or special in some other way. We're excited to highlight Intelligentsia this month with their new Illumination Blend!

     

    Satisfying and a Little More Than Simple

    We often feature single origins here, but we really like to bring you a blend when we can! So many roasters have a "signature" or "seasonal" blend that we don't get that many wholly new ones in. This month we really grew a soft spot for this one from Intelligentsia, so we wanted to make sure you give it your attention!

    A lot of blends focus on getting classic coffee flavors going right at the top. This isn't a bad thing, we happen to like "classic," but seldom does the blend arrive that evokes the more diverse flavors of a single origin. This blend of Ethiopian and Peruvian beans is one of those rare exceptions! While it does offer balance and richness alongside just enough of a chocolate note, this blend goes a bit further.

    The first thing you might be surprised by is the tarter cranberry note. This forward tart note then blends with a satisfying sweet citrus flavor. This mix of tastes gives this roast a delicious profile on its own, and mixes with the rich sweetness of molasses for a truly satisfying mix of notes. All of this flavors combine with a little bit of bitterness and chocolate to round out the roast and give it some balance.

    Brew Methods

    This is also one of those roasts that works in a wide variety of brew methods. A pourover will separate and amplify the brighter, sweeter notes and blend them with that tart cranberry nicely. A drip brew will provide more balance and bring out the "coffee" notes a bit more, with a press intensifying the richer notes. Finally, an espresso will lend a rich, syrupy quality that highlights the sweeter bits.

    No matter the brew method, we're sure you'll find this roast to be a treat! Check it out here today.

  • Roast of the Month: Tony's Ethiopia Deri Kochoha

     

    It's time once again for Roast of the Month! This month we're featuring an incredibly delicious Ethiopia from Tony's Coffee. Tony's offers consistently good coffee, so we've been excited to see how they handle this roast!

    This natural Ethiopia comes from the Deri Kochoha processing station. Roasts from this station were really exciting last year, so we're happy to see Tony's deliver a delicious finish to these beans!

    The Deri Kochoha processing station processes coffee from approximately 600 farmers. This diversity in producers really affects the beans that leave the station. It means that from year to year, this processor develops wildly different exports. The coffee is dried on raised tables in a natural process, leading to the intense berry notes in this roast.

    Rich, Sweet, Smooth

    And intense they are! The flavors on display here are strawberry, cocoa, and peach. We think Tony's nailed these notes, with the strawberry really taking the lead. If you're familiar with naturals, you'll be familiar with the strongest flavors here. Like the all of the best naturals, this Tony's opens up into rich chocolatey notes that fold into the strawberry flavors wonderfully. What really sets this coffee apart is how it finished. A soft stonefruit note finishes the flavor palate, leaving you with a pleasant, fruity, but mild aftertaste. It's a great invitation to take another sip!

    This is a delicious roast for pourover brew methods, which bring out the brighter, berry notes deliciously. After you get the full range of flavors out of the pourover, this is a roast that some will love as an espresso. It's tricky to dial in single origins, even more so when you're working with a natural that has stronger flavors. That said, the results can be phenomenal!

    However you decide to brew Ethiopia Deri Kochoha, we're sure you'll love this excellent roast from Tony's. Grab a bag right here today!

  • SCG Expert Review: Barista Pro All-In-One Espresso Machine

    The Barista Express has been the gold standard for new home baristas for years now. By combining a quality espresso grinder with solid brewing and steaming, Breville build a winner in the Express. It has always been an easy machine to recommend as a first purchase, or upgrade from a cheaper, less powerful brewer. So how does the new Barista Pro stack up? Is it just a higher price tag with a fancier face? The short answer is no, the long answer is a lot more interesting.

     

    Visual Design

    The Barista Pro features a completely redesigned case that maintains a similar footprint as the Express, but with a totally different look. Most recognizable is the addition of a backlit screen, somewhat similar to the Barista Touch. This screen provides information about grind fineness, amount, and timers. Keeping all of this on one screen makes dialing in the machine a little friendlier. Rather than track numbers in different places, you can review everything about the grind settings at a glance. The screen also offers a shot timer, a huge boon for any machine. Measuring shot time is key to pulling a good shot, so having this information visible on the main display is a great feature.

    Otherwise, the visual design and controls are on par with that of the express. This machine is simple to operate with intuitive controls for pulling shots, adjusting the grinder, and steaming milk or adding hot water. All of this combines for a design package that is a step up from the Barista Express. That said, if these visual improvements were all this machine offered it'd be a hard sell given the price difference. Thankfully, there's a lot more under the hood in this new model.

    Brewing and Steaming Performance

    Breville has always had a knack for fitting powerful heating systems into affordable machines. The Barista line has always been a great example of this, but their new machines push this concept even further. First introduced in the Bambino, the Barista Pro features Breville's new ThermoJet heating system. The Bambino already impressed with its heatup and steam times, but getting this enhanced heating element in a more prosumer machine is exciting. From lightning fast heatup times to a near non-existent delay going from brew to steam, this heating system does work.

    When dialing in, we were able to pull several shots in a row with the Pro heating up. As far as making lattes, the milk steaming both switched on faster, and steamed milk faster than the Express by a considerable margin.

    Another interesting upgrade on this machine is the hot water spout. This spout functions like you'd expect, but it's angled to allow you to make Americanos without moving your cup. Some of this depends on your cup size and design, and it is surprising to see the hot water come out at an angle at first. While this isn't nearly the overhaul that the heating element and look got, it's worth mentioning for even easier Americanos!

    Verdict

    Overall it's extremely easy to recommend the Barista Pro. It's true that its price pushes into competition with machines like the Silvia and CC1, but those machines don't also have a built in grinder. There is certainly an argument for being able to upgrade these devices independently, and both of the aforementioned machines are viable options, but if you're new to espresso or looking to upgrade from the Express, the Pro is a no brainer.

    You do still run into the combo machine issue of sludge in the drip tray, and stepping up into dual boiler machines will provide even faster steam and heatup times. With all that said, we're huge fans of the Barista Pro here, and you should absolutely add it to the list of machines to research before you make your next purchase.

    Check out the Barista Pro on Seattle Coffee Gear here!

  • Roast of the Month: SCG Rainier Morning Blend!

    Hey Coffee fans!

    It's time for another Roast of the Month! This month we're featuring a roast so good we put our name on the bag! SCG Rainier Morning Blend is our roasting collaboration with our friends at Brandywine. After such a wonderful experience working with the roaster for our Holiday Blend last year, we set out to collaborate again on a year round offering!

    Cozy Mountain Flavors

    Rainier Morning Blend features a tasty mixture of Colombian and Ethiopian beans. This mix creates a combination of two of our favorite flavors: Cherry and chocolate! Colombians feature strong, rich chocolate notes. It's part of why this origin is such a standby in coffee culture. Colombians offer that classic "coffee" taste of rich chocolate notes tempered by a hint of bitterness and acidity. In Rainier Morning Blend these chocolate notes are pronounced, and get at how important they are in coffee in general! On the flip-side, the Ethiopian beans bring you the sweetness of one of our Cascadian favorites: Rainier cherries!

    Other tasting notes on this roast include hazelnut and plum, both rounding out a satisfying, easy drinking flavor profile. To get to these notes we worked with Brandywine by suggesting potential notes. We offered suggestions like chocolate, apples, berries, and of course, those Rainier Cherries. From there, Brandywine did the heavy lifting. After sending us a few samples we settled on this delicious recipe! This roast is an excellent "every day" blend for drip brewers and your home espresso machine. It also comes recommended as a great pick for your favorite superauto!

    Another thing we were thrilled to work with the folks at Brandywine on was the art! If you've seen Brandywine's beautiful collection of roasts before, you know the artwork is always unique and always fabulous! For Rainier Morning Blend we wanted to feature 3 PNW musts: Rainier, pine trees, and one of our favorite local sea creatures, the orca whale! The result was a fun piece that's just as flavorful as the beans inside the bag!

    We can't wait for you to try Rainier Morning Blend, so grab a bag today!

  • Roast of the Month: Burka Gudina Ethiopia from Spotted Cow!

     

     

    Complex, approachable, and delicious!

    We try to bring you a wide range of origins and roasters with Roast of the Month. With that said, sometimes a certain origin really nails it for a season, which is why we've been enjoying so many Ethiopians lately! At the very least, we are very excited to feature Spotted Cow, a roaster we've yet to bring you as a Roast of the Month! This single origin couldn't be a better introduction to this talented roaster!

    Burka Gudina starts as a solid Ethiopian with flavors you'd expect. On first sip, the predictable, yet delicious, berry notes of a natural from the region surface. These flavors combine with richer chocolate notes to give you that delicious "chocolate with a cherry on top" you get from a good natural. What really impresses us with this roast is how much deeper it goes. Sometimes complex coffee can really overwhelm the palate and be a lot to handle. Not so with this roast!

    Another rarity with more complex coffees is the heavy body. Often when there are a lot of unique notes, they come from brighter, lighter bodies. This usually comes down to roast level. This Spotted Cow is an example of a true medium that doesn't sacrifice richness. We also really love the bit of tamarind that the roaster notes, we really tasted it! That sweet/sour balance makes for a really interesting and approachable roast.

    We recommend checking this one out as a pourover first. While it does feature a heavier body, this brew method is still the best for nailing those more complex notes. Once you've tried that, experiment! Our suggested roast methods are just a guide, and we always encourage experimenting with coffee. We've yet to try this one as an espresso, but we'd love to hear how you like it!

    Grab a bag here!

  • Roast of the Month: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Yirgz from Victrola

    Hey coffee fans!

    It’s that time again for Roast of the Month! This month we’re featuring a delicious single origin from Victrola: Yirgacheffe Yirgz!

     

    What’s with that name?

     

    The Z in YIRGZ denotes that the coffee has zero defects. That designation comes from the extremely rigorous sorting and processing that the beans undergo after harvesting. Victrola notes that each 14kg batch is hand sorted for 12 minutes, which is 300% longer than is typical for the region. This coffee is sourced through Keffa, a coffee broker that puts as much dedication behind supporting quality of life for their producers as they do the quality of coffee. This results in excellent coffee made even more excellent by an inspired roaster!

     

    This roast offers a range of complex tasting notes. We got a strong citrus flavor at the front of the palate with a satisfying spice around the edges. Also notable is the floral aroma that will greet you as you prepare for your first sip. It’s a really nice, delicate scent that improves the experience of this coffee. As far as brew methods are concerned, we recommend trying this one out as a pourover first to get the complexities and more delicate flavors in this roast.

     

    We love this roast and can’t wait for you to give it a try! Check it out here.
  • SCG Expert Review: Miele 6000 Superautomatic Espresso Machines

    The Miele CM6000 Coffee System line offers an all-in-one coffee solution designed to be your one stop countertop stop for your morning coffee. But does it hold up to the task? This isn’t a new machine, but it is one of the more popular models, so we figured it was worth taking a look at whether it holds up in 2018. The short answer is yes, the long answer is... Well, you'll have to read on!

    Multiple Models

    The two models we'll be looking at are the 6150 and the 6350. Both of these superautomatics turn whole bean coffee into fresh espresso. The 6150 forgoes some of the bells and whistles. The 6350 adds a hot water spout, lighting, cup warmer, and a carafe to the machine, and therefor sits at a higher pricepoint than the 6150.

    Other than the differences mentioned above, the two systems operate very similarly, with a touch button interface and an informational screen. We'll highlight the benefits of the milk system and the water spout a little further down. First let's talk about coffee quality, a shared element between the two machines.

    Coffee Quality

    The coffee quality in the Miele line is excellent as far as superautos go. You'll never recreate the flavor of a carefully pulled shot from a semi-auto or manual machine on any superauto, but accepting that, the 6000 line does a great job. We really like espresso ready blends in this machine as a standard shot, and the "coffee" option is very good. We put coffee in quotes because this machine, like almost every other superauto, doesn't actually brew drip coffee. Instead, the machine is capable of a lungo style espresso drink that pulls more water through the beans. It did satisfy fans of drip coffee in our office though, even if it is definitely a different flavor profile than a standard filter brew.

    One thing we really like is the volume programmability of this machine. The process is a little convoluted, but you can set the machine to calibrate, which it does by brewing until you tell it to stop, and it will remember that volume. This means that if you have a large mug that you want to specifically have the machine brew for, you can program that and save it to a profile.

    The other unique option we liked was the machine's ability to brew a pot of it's lungo style coffee. You can set it to brew for different sized pots, and it's a nice option if serving a group. It does create tank refill issues, but we'll get into that in the next section.

     

    Case Design

    While we do like the striking, industrial look of the Miele for the most part, it's case design isn't perfect. On the good side, while plastic, the case feels solid and high quality. In many ways, it's more impressive than the stainless steel covers that over machine feature, and we like that the machine is consistent aesthetically. The spout is great too, it can almost fully retract into the housing, allowing for larger mugs. It's a nice consideration. Also very good is the design of the drip tray and the grounds bin. The whole unit slides out as one, which is standard, but the grounds bin is very easy to remove and clean separately. This is nothing new for superautos, but we especially appreciate the drip tray design. A plastic part sits on top of the exceptionally large drip tray, and it provides a spout to empty the tray from. This means you won't spill water everywhere as you move the tray to the sink for emptying. It's a nice feature that we'd love to see on more machines, as messy drip trays are always a frustration. The fact that the machine senses a full drip tray and warns you with a message to remove it is nice too.

    With all of that said, it isn't perfect. The biggest issue we have with the case design is the bean hopper's location, and the water tank. We should point out that these are points of contention on almost every superauto, and it's definitely a design challenge for these types of machines. The bean hopper is accessed via a removable cover on the top of the machine. What we love about it is it's depth, we were able to empty an entire 12 oz bag of coffee into it, but its location makes accessing it under cabinets a hassle. The same thing can be said for the water tank. The tank is 62 oz, which is comparable to other superautos, but the need to pull it up and out from the side can make it a hassle to refill. There are absolutely more frustrating water tanks in this machine's price range, but we still wish the tank were a little easier to access. This is exacerbated if you make pots of coffee or use the hot water spout on the 6350 model, as the tank will empty even quicker. It's also worth noting that the water spout pours quite slowly, so you may be waiting longer than you'd like for your morning Americano.

    In the end though, these are relatively minor complaints, and they aren't more egregious than on other similar machines. One thing we're happy to rave about is the menu system.

    Menus and Programmability

    We mentioned above that we're fans of the volumetric programming, but our love for the Miele's interface doesn't stop there. While there is a learning curve to this machine, once you get used to using it you'll be whipping up drinks in no time. The amount of customization here is really fantastic, and the machine's "quick access" options are very smart. You can get a shot, lungo, or milk drink with one button tap, or dig into the menu for more options. We really like this freedom, and it all feels really satisfying to use when you get the hang of it. The menu also offers intuitive access to things like auto-on and auto-shutoff, huge features for superautos, controlling the light in the machine (also a big bonus) and cleaning functions.

    We generally couldn't enjoy the interface of the machine more, just make sure you have the manual handy and be prepared to spend a few mornings experimenting to get everything dialed in!

    Milk System

    The last big touchpoint of this machine is the milk system on these machines. In general, we really like the milk off of this machine. We particularly appreciate how dry the cappuccino foam gets. A truly dry cappuccino is hard to come by even in some coffee shops, so getting that foam consistency is really nice. The same can be said about the Miele's lattes, while we're not sure we'll be pouring latte art with the foam from this machine, it is tasty and has a great consistency when you drink it. The ability to use a range of container sizes is again nice if you want to brew a big milk drink in the morning. It is worth noting that the milk temperature is lower than you get with a steam wand. This is a common thing that is nearly impossible to solve in a superautomatic system in our experience.

    If we have any complaints about the milk system in the 6150 it's from a maintenance perspective. The machine does a decent job of rinsing the milk pipe, but because it sits in a rubber mount on the drip tray, it's important to also keep the mount clean. we didn't realize that some coffee had splashed on the mount at one point, and it resulted in a need to remove the pipe and clean it in the sink. Generally, we're also more comfortable hand cleaning the pipe more frequently, but this isn't strictly required. If you DO want to rinse the pipe, it is at least extremely easy to remove, rinse, and reattach, so it won't add more than 30 seconds to your coffee making. This is, of course, alleviated with the carafe system present on the 6350, which is a very easy to use tool. You simply plug the milk pipe into the top of the carafe, and then the machine auto rinses the pipe after steaming. The carafe can then be washed separately.

    Verdict

    Overall, we're big fans of the Miele coffee system. While there are ergonomic improvements we'd love to see in future updates, this is a machine that holds up. From solid coffee to excellent milk texture, we find that this machine delivers. Give the 6150 and 6350 a look if you're interested in a high end superauto!

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