Make Coffee You Love!

  • Video Roundup: 3/15/2019

    Happy Friday!

    We're back with another Friday video roundup!

    Fist up we have another Roast of the Month coffee tasting!

    Next, John took a look at the Rancilio Classe 7!

    And last, but certainly not least, Clementine gave us some tips on brewing some delicious Klingon coffee! K'plah!

    Join us next time for more awesome videos!

  • SCG Crew Interviews: Allie

    Hey coffee fans! This week we're chatting with another one of our fabulous crew members! Allie worked in our Bellevue retail location before coming to our HQ to work on our commercial and home consulting teams! We hope you enjoy getting to know her!

    What’s your life story?

    I grew up in Louisiana in a town right off the interstate in between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It was a town of about 10,000 people, where the best food and coffee are served at the local gas station (I know). I graduated high school early and moved to Tennessee to pursue my degree. While in college, a friend introduced me to specialty coffee. I already loved my morning cup of drip, but tasting my first Chemex changed the game. I quickly fell in love with the community, the culture, and the ability to connect with people over a beverage. After graduating college, I decided to follow my heart (and my taste buds) and move to Seattle to find out what the real coffee scene was about. 

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I started working at Starbucks in 2015. I loved the rush of caffeine and adrenaline from working on the bar in the morning. I moved around a lot, so I've actually worked in several Starbucks in various responsibility positions. When I decided to move to Seattle, I was chosen to work for the Starbucks Reserve Roastery (which was the only one in the world at the time).  Working for the Roastery taught me a lot about specialty coffee, espresso, and roasting. I quickly made it a habit to go on coffee crawls every chance I got so that I could learn about how others pulled their espresso and what made it unique. When I stumbled upon Seattle Coffee Gear, I was hooked immediately. A whole new way to experience coffee: equipment!

    What has it been like transitioning from SCG retail?

    Working in SCG retail gave me great hands on experience with our most popular equipment and allowed me to have a real understanding of what people are looking for in their machines. I can pretty much narrow down the machine you are going to purchase with a few well answered questions. 

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    Coffee = connection. It brings people together from all over the world, from all places in life, at any time of day. It's amazing how many wonderful and passionate people I have met at a coffee bar.  Pouring beautiful latte art or dialing in an espresso to an exact note allow me express myself in a really fulfilling way. 

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    Black coffee. Most mornings I start off with an espresso and a hand brew chaser. 

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee!

    I love to travel. I try to go somewhere new every year (if I'm lucky). So far the best place I've ever been is Salzburg, Austria. 

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe

    A ton of work goes into making an excellent cup of coffee.  I have a lot of respect for the product and the way its made. Choosing the right equipment (and using it well) makes all the difference in the drinks you sell!
  • Superauto Milk

    If you've shopped around for an espresso machine before you're probably encountered the great super vs. semi-auto debate. You probably also know that superautos grind whole coffee beans and brew consistent shots. One thing that can be a bit of a mystery though is milk systems. With options like cappuccinotores, panarellos, and carafes there's a lot to learn when it comes to superauto milk!

    Setting Expectations

    One thing that is key to your decision making at the top is expectations. The first thing that can be a tough latte to swallow is temperatures. Superauto machines always struggle to produce milk at a hot enough temperature for some coffee drinkers. This has to do with the relatively narrow band of temperature that's acceptable for milk steaming, as well as the tech at play in automatic systems. This is one reason to potentially consider a panarello system, but more on that in a bit.

    The other issue is microfoam quality. There is no automatic frothing system that exists that can fully recreate a professional's work. Because it takes minute adjustments to maintain a good froth and incorporate foam, superautos have a tough time nailing it. The good news is that these machines are getting closer! Examples like the Saeco Xelsis can even produce milk for latte art with a bit of practice.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Panarello Wands

    So with the understanding that temp and texture are tough to recreate, what are the options out there? Let's start with panarellos.

    Panarellos (like the ones on the Saeco X-Small, pictured above), look quite a but like manual steam wands. The biggest difference is in material and shape. Panarellos often combine metal materials like stainless steel with plastic, making them more cost effective than fully manual steam wands. They also are designed to froth milk with less careful pitcher adjustments. Where a steam wand is simply a tube with a tip at the end to release steam, panarellos guide and restrict steam flow more carefully, and add a bit of air to the steam. This means they are less powerful and capable than a manual wand, but easier to use. Some panarellos even have built in temperature sensing to ensure that milk is frothed to the perfect temp. In action, this means that you'll physically hold a container of milk up to the wand while it does its thing. Generally you won't need to make any adjustments though, and the wand will take care of the rest. The benefits here are in more direct temperature control, while you give up some texture quality and ease of use.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Cappuccinotores and Siphons

    So what about cappuccinotores?

    These nifty attachments fit onto panarello wands and other systems to make the frothing process fully automatic. This brings a standard panarello wand in line with other milk siphon systems that don't utilize carafes. With these systems, milk is sucked up into the machine, then heated and textured, then poured into the cup. Systems like this are incredibly easy to use, you just drop a pipe end into your milk and the machine does the rest. The biggest issue with these systems are temperature control and cleanup. Because these machines literally suck in the milk from the container, keeping them clean is key. Removing and rinsing the pipe regularly is important, as well as using a cleaning solution to get inside of the machine. Most superautos with pipe systems will have an automated cleaning procedure that you can run with some cleaner as well. A great example of a machine with a siphon system like this is the Miele CM6.

     

    Types Of Steam Systems - Carafes

    The last type of milk system we'll cover today is the carafe. Technically, carafe based systems are a subset of siphons. Generally carafes simply act as a container to easily store the milk you'll use in a siphon system. This is the case with the optional carafe that comes standard with the Miele CM6350 or as an add on to the 6150, as well as the Xelsis from Saeco. It's worth mentioning carafes though because of how much simpler they make the process. The Xelsis' hygiesteam system works with a carafe to alleviate the cleaning issues we mentioned above, and even just cutting out the step of pouring milk into a container to be siphoned from is a time saver. On some machines, like the Incanto Carafe, you actually just plug the carafe into the espresso machine instead of using a siphon. These systems are considered high end, so the biggest downside you'll face is price. Additionally, as with any siphon system, temperature can be lower than desired for some!

    With new systems like Phillips' Latte GO on the horizon, superauto steaming continues to change and evolve!

     

  • Video Roundup: 3/8/2019

    Happy Friday!

    Welcome to yet another video roundup. We've had some fun this week over on our YouTube, so let's jump in!

    First, Allie gave us some descaling tips on the Breville Barista Express!

    Next up, Gail gave us a look at the Atom 75.

    Finally, Clementine explored the Rooibos Espresso Latte in a new Coffee Collaboration!

    That's all for now! Go enjoy some coffee you love!

  • 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!

  • SCG Crew Bio: Bryan

    This week we're catching up with Bryan for another SCG Crew Bio! Bryan is one of the amazing folks on our commercial operations team. He's the person who will help to make sure you get the most out of your commercial coffee purchase!

     

    What’s your life story?

    I grew up in a tiny agricultural town in eastern Washington no one had ever heard of, but that is now known for its unique varietals of hops. Seattle had been where I wanted to live as long as I can remember. As soon as I got my drivers license I would make the long trip to the "big city" (not so big back then in hindsight) to experience the culture, the people, the music and all the Emerald City had to offer. Exploring coffee shops, 24 hour diners, all age music venues, thrift stores, record shops and the like. After high school I moved to Seattle for school and have been here ever since.  

    What’s your background with coffee? Be specific if you can!

    I first fell in love with coffee, and coffee shops, at the now defunct Bauhaus Coffee on Melrose and Pine in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle. Its moody atmosphere mirrored that of the city. Tall ceilings, walls lined with shelves full of books, looking as much like a medieval library as a coffee shop. Regulars crowded around tables, The Smiths likely blaring over the stereo, rain dripping from coats as they sipped coffee beverages being prepared on a La Marzocco. My first peak of a machine I would grow to know and love. I worked as a barista at Seattle's Uptown Espresso for three years in between working in the automotive industry and as a bicycle mechanic. Ultimately I would find my place in the coffee industry combining my technical skills and love of coffee as a Coffee Equipment Technician. I spent five years in the field managing technical services for Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Seattle and throughout Washington State before making the transition to my current roll at Seattle Coffee Gear.

    What’s your favorite thing about the coffee industry?

    My favorite things about the coffee industry are the people, the passion and the machines that allow them to create the unique beverages and experiences coffee drinkers around the globe enjoy every day.

    What’s your favorite way to brew/drink coffee?

    l like to start the morning with an espresso and a cup of filtered coffee (drip or pour over), followed up by an americano or cold brew in the afternoon depending on the season.

    What do you like to do for fun? Outside of coffee?

    l am an avid cyclist, enjoying riding for fun as well as sport. I enjoy bicycle camping around the beautiful northwest and racing cyclocross in fall. Getting outside and enjoying nature is always a blessing (added perk, nothing tastes better than a cup of coffee in the great outdoors). I also still enjoy working on machines outside of coffee equipment. I restore and build interesting cars and bicycles. You'll often find me with a wrench in my hand or on/in some sort of machine with wheels.

    What’s one thing you want everyone who shops at SCG to know about running/opening a cafe?

    You can't do it alone! Opening and running a cafe is a large on taking that requires a wide range of skills and a lot of work. Don't try to do everything yourself. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, rather stand on the shoulders of those that came before you. Knowing when and where to seek help in your business endeavors will save you a lot of hassles, a lot of time and a lot of money. The coffee industry is one you should enjoying being a part of, and there is a wealth of knowledge you can tap into.  

    What’s your favorite item we sell on the SCG website?

    The La Marzocco Linea. There is so much coffee history wrapped up in this machine that has been produced since 1990! Today you can certainly buy a "better", more expensive or flashier espresso machine. But the Linea, "the Volvo 240 of espresso machines", set the bar for quality in the industry and still performs today. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the classics. 

  • Technivorm: Now featuring colors!

    Technivorm is a storied drip brewing brand that offers tank-like durability and proven performance. Coffee from a Technivorm is strong, unique, and bold. We thought we'd take a look at the features of different Technivorm models, while also ogling those sweet new colors!

    Bold Design, Classic Performance

    The KBG741 is our staff pick among the Technivorm lineup. This brewer features a simple design and is very easy to operate. All you need is coffee and water! The biggest selling point here is the consistent temperature offered by this brewer. In 5 minutes this machine brews HOT coffee. This consistent temp is extremely important for proper extraction too. The copper boiler inside the 741 brews at 200 degrees Fahrenheit consistently, with the carafe keeping the coffee at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. There is also a thermal carafe version with the KBT741 model number for those that prefer stainless steel carafes.

    Each machine in the Technivorm line shares a similar aesthetic. Based on the original industrial design of the original 60s Technivorm, you'll either love or hate its look. Either way, it's impossible to argue that the new colors don't spruce up an already bold appearance. While the thermal carafe version doesn't feature the color range, these bright coats of paint are real eye pleasers!

    The Rest of the Class

    The 741 is the flagship machine in Technivorm's line, and is the only model featuring the full range of colors. Other machines by Technivorm offer different carafe styles, higher volume, and different looks, but all function largely the same. The biggest thing that people tend to dislike about this line is the lack of programmability. These machines don't offer any ability to change temps, water volume, pre-infusion, etc. Technivorms brew how they brew. Luckily, they brew very well.

    Check out the Technivorm KBG741 on Seattle Coffee Gear today!

     

  • Coffee History in Mexico!

    This week we're taking a look at the history of Mexican coffee!

    Mexico is a fascinating nation with a rich coffee heritage, but how did coffee arrive there?

    Origin and Spread

    Coffee was first produced in Veracruz, a state in Eastern Mexico. This occurred late in the 18th century and became a popular crop of the region. Over time, coffee production in Mexico developed and became more and more affordable. By the end of the 19th century much of the production in the country had been moved to Chiapas. Over time Chiapas developed into the primary producing region in Mexico. To this day, most of the country's coffee is produced there!

    Coffee production really took off in the mid 20th century. Due to the low cost of Mexican coffee, it became hugely popular all over the Americas. In the 1980s, coffee production spread across the country. Before the end of the decade, plantations existed in twelve Mexican states occupying 500,000 hectares of land. During this time, coffee became the primary source of income for over two million people in the country. Employment rose around the industry as well in processing, logistics, and exporting of coffee.

    Mexican Coffee Crisis

    In the early 1960s, the International Coffee Agreement was developed to maintain a stable global coffee network. This act help to regulate pricing and quotas to ensure fair trade of coffee around the world. In 1989, the agreement was dismantled, creating problems for overproducing countries like Mexico. While programs like Fair/Direct Trade have developed to protect coffee farmers, these are more recent developments. During the 1990s, coffee prices in Mexico fell drastically. This led to large numbers of coffee farmers forgoing fertilizers and weeding. Because of these cost cutting measures, quality also began to decline, causing price to drop further. By the mid 2000s coffee production had seen an immense decrease and was no longer one of Mexico's most important imports.

    Since then, however, prospects have improved. Thanks to Fair and Direct Trade initiatives and a new generation of quality coffee producers, Mexican coffee is finding its way. We certainly hope that continues, as recent crops have resulted in some delectable roasts!

     

  • Video Roundup: 2/22/2019

    Welcome to another fabulous video roundup at Seattle Coffee Gear!

    We're back with a week of great video content!

    First up, Gail gave us a fresh look at the Rhino Coffee Gear line of accessories:

    Next up Gail also gave us a Crew Review of the Technivorm Moccamaster!

    Last but certainly not least, the newest Coffee Collaboration from Clementine!

    We hope you enjoy! Check back next week for more great video content!

  • What Is Coffee Rust?

    One of the biggest threats to coffee around the world is coffee rust. This disease threatens every major coffee producing country in the world. So what is coffee rust? What does it do to coffee plants?

     

    Is this a new issue? What is it?

    Is coffee rust a new disease for our favorite plant? Well, sort of. The first reports of coffee rust came from English explorers in East Africa as far back as 1861. As such, this isn't necessarily a new disease, and it was quickly reported in other parts of the world as well. But what is coffee rust? Why do we call it that? It turns out that the name makes a lot of sense!

    Most Coffee Rust is a fungus called Hemileia Vastatrix. Another strain of the fungus, H. Coffeicola, is exclusively found in West and Central Africa. Both of these fungi create a distinct yellow-brown ring of lesions on the leaves of the plant. The appearance of these lesions are what gives coffee rust its name. It makes the leaves look like they are rusting. What sort of damage can this disease do?

    Because Coffee Rust is a fungus, it can quickly spread and destroy vast swaths of plants. The easily spreading disease can be devastating to individual harvests and the long-term health of a plantation. So what can be done to stop this disease?

    Spread and Management

    It is nearly impossible to save a crop once the Rust has developed. This means that the safest means of managing a Rusted crop is to quarantine it. This means ensuring that local farmers know not to remove any plants from the area, first and foremost. It is believed that the spread of this disease is carried out on the wind. This means that the only true barriers to the spores are large open areas like oceans. This is why it's extremely important for plant importers to check their plants for lesions before accepting the plant. Crops of infected plants are generally killed with herbicide to prevent their spread. It is also common practice to kill surrounding plants as well, so that the spores have nothing to cling to. The hope is that the colonies of fungus will die off before they can be carried to another plantation.

    There are some fungicides that can help prevent Coffee Rust. Application during wet seasons can help prevent spores from taking hold. Higher, cooler plants and those in shade are also less susceptible to the disease. Unfortunately rising global temperatures will likely eliminate this advantage. Some resistant strands of Robusta coffees have been developed, but these are often viewed as lower quality for consumption.

    Because this is such a global issue, many researchers are seeking ways to stem the tide of this disease. While continued climate change puts more plantations at risk, hope exists in developing technology to identify and eliminate spores before it's too late!

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