Make Coffee You Love!

  • Video Roundup: 9/25/20

    Happy Friday Coffee Lovers!

    We’ve got more fresh video content for this week, so let’s jump in!

    First up we’ve got a Crew Review of the DeLonghi Stilosa with Allie!

    Next up, it’s a Crew Comparison of the DeLonghi Dedica Deluxe and the Breville Bambino Pro with Jake.

    And last but not least, we’ve got a Crew Review of the new Silvia Rancilio Pro with John!

    That’s all for this week! We’ll have more videos coming soon!

  • 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!


    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.


    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!


    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.


    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!

  • Video Roundup: 9/11/20

    Hello coffee fans,

    We have three new videos for you this week, a fun one, an informative one, and one that's a little bittersweet. Let's jump in.

    First, Ariel continues her adventure through delicious drink recipes with an Iced Peppercorn Latte!

    Next up, Allie gave us a full rundown of everything you need to know about burrs:

    And finally, we have a bittersweet, but very special message from Gail:

    We're sad to see Gail go, but wish her all of the best in her further adventures.

    That's all for now coffee fans, stay safe, stay healthy, and we'll see you next week!

  • 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!

  • Video Roundup: 9/4/2020

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's another Friday, so time for another Video Roundup! We've got three very different videos for this week so we hope there's something for everyone!

    First up, Ariel made a Blueberry Basil Shakerato:

    Next we've got a sneak peek of the DeLonghi Stilosa:

    Finally, for our commercial readers, John gave a run down of the Rocket Commercial Brewhead Tune-Up Kit.

    That's all we've got for now! Enjoy the long weekend!

  • Brewing Espresso On a Budget

    Can you brew up a latte or americano with machines available for under $100? There are certainly options to do so, but the results you’ll find ten to be just a little bit mixed. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to go about pulling shots on a budget:

    DeLonghi Stilosa EC260

    The Stilosa is DeLonghi’s newest machine offering that seeks to bring real espresso in a small footprint and at a very low price. DeLonghi has long been a producer of affordable espresso machines that try to cut costs in the right places, and the Stilosa is perhaps their best example of that yet. With a stainless steel boiler, compact case, and simple controls, the Stilosa is a good place to start, but what are the drawbacks?

    For starters, there’s the look and feel of the case. This is the key area where DeLonghi has helped bring costs down. With mostly plastic casing, it might feel a bit cheap to some. This is easy to forgive given its $99 price point however. 

    The other issues with the Stilosa come from its portafilter. For starters, like many affordable machines, the Stilosa lacks the pressure regulation to make non-pressurized portafilter baskets a viable option. This means you’ll be working with pressurized baskets. While baskets like these can still pull a tasty shot, it can be tough to effectively dial in a really tricky single origin or light roast on a pressurized basket. 

    The other issue is the size of the basket. Because of the smaller basket size, it’s tough to brew more than standard Italian 7oz shots. This can be a frustration when trying to brew up your 20oz latte. 

    On the topic of milk steaming, it’s also worth noting that the Stilosa’s panarello wand makes steaming easier, but less precise. You might be able to get a tasty latte out of it, but steaming dry enough for a traditional cappuccino or steaming for latte art might be out of reach.

    Ilsa Stainless Steel Neapolitan Coffee Maker

    Stovetop coffee makers ride the line between espresso and something entirely different. They use steam pressure (or a unique gravity brewing technique in the case of the Ilsa) to brew a pressurized “cup” of coffee that is somewhere between a percolated coffee and an espresso. While the science behind the brew method is different, the result is coffee that bears quite a lot of similarity to espresso.

    The downside here of course is that it’s not espresso, and doesn’t come with a good way to steam milk. WIth that said, if you like the taste of stovetop coffee and prefer americanos (or pick up a separate milk frother), stovetop espresso can be a great option.

    The part of this equation that we’ve left out entirely is a grinder. While a basic brew grinder might get you close enough to espresso grounds to work with the Stilosa, you’ll really want a dedicated espresso grinder. The Eureka Mignon Notte is a great starting point in this department, but it is more expensive than either of these machines that we’ve outlined.

    So the answer then is that while you can get an acceptable espresso with a machine under $100, it comes with some caveats. 

  • Brew Ratios

    Most at-home coffee enthusiasts know that the gold standard brew ratio for a pot of coffee is 1:16 coffee to water. This means that if you use 10 grams of ground coffee you’ll want to use 160 grams of hot water for brewing. The reason for this has to do with extraction. Coffee to water ratio is one of the three key ingredients for brewing great coffee. The others, of course, are water temperature and grind size.

    With all of that in mind, are there times that you might want to stray from that 1:16 ratio? 

    Alternative Brew Ratios

    For drip and pour over coffee, 1:16 will create the gold standard cup of coffee that really exemplifies the roast that you’re using. It’ll be the best way to tease out the flavor notes on the bag and generally offers the flavor agreed upon as ideal. That said, everyone’s tastes are different. If you brew up a new bag and find that it tastes too strong, you can try a 1:17 ratio. This will “water down” the coffee, but it may create a flavor more conducive to your taste buds. 

    The reverse of this is true too. If you like your new roast but wish it were just a stronger flavor, by brewing at a 1:15 ratio you’ll find a stronger flavor. The issue is what flavors this will tend to bring out. A weaker ratio may water down some of the more delicate, gentle notes that make a coffee unique. By contrast, brewing a roast stronger may not intensify your favorite notes.

    Ratios for Different Brew Methods

    While all of the above applies to drip, pour over, and press brewing, espresso is a different world entirely. There’s certainly a lot of ways to express a brewer’s touch on pour over coffee, but espresso offers another level of experimentation. Generally, you’ll want to start with a 1:2 ratio of coffee to water for espresso. With that said, the variability of espresso flavors by slightly modifying parameters is quite pronounced. 

    The goal with espresso shots is to brew something smooth without any bitterness or sour notes. To do this, you have to careful balance grind level, shot time, and ratios. Many easy to dial in blends will work best at that 1:2 ratio with a 20-30 second shot time. The variable will be your grind size, which you’ll adjust to hit those parameters. But then there’s the trickier single origins.

    While that 1:2 ratio and 20-30 second pull time is a good baseline, we try coffees better suited to experimentation all the time. These usually come in the form of single origins. In some cases, a longer pull will draw out some of the sneakier flavor notes in a single origin. On the flip side, using more coffee and less water can drastically alter the profile of the shot.

    The important thing when experimenting with espresso is to make very small adjustments. Jumping to a 1:1 ratio will have a pretty significant impact on shot flavor. This may result in a better shot, or one especially suited to combining with milk. That said, we usually recommend experimenting with pull time and grind size before adjusting ratios. This is partly because there’s a limit to the amount of coffee you can make work in a portafilter on both sides of the equation. 


    Hopefully this look at brew ratios has given you some ideas for where you’d like to take your next espresso shot or pour over!

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