Make Coffee You Love!
How Does It Compare?
The Breville Dual Boiler and Breville Oracle are two crowd favorites in the Breville line-up. Both feature double boilers to control brew and steam temperature and have programmable features. The Dual Boiler, however, features a traditional steam wand while the Oracle is equipped with a panarello-style steam wand that limits your ability to texturize milk the traditional way. If you were looking to perfect your technique on a traditional-style wand, the Dual Boiler’s your machine. We typically view the Oracle as a hybrid between a semi-automatic and superautomatic (it auto-tamps and auto-steams with the panarello), so if you’re looking to perfect your barista skills, we’d recommend you check out the Dual Boiler.
Breville excels at providing people the perfect opportunity to improve their barista skills while still enjoying easy and convenient features. The Breville Dual Boiler has two programmable buttons to set your ideal volume for one or two shots. Or, if you want to have control on the fly, you can manually start and stop the flow of espresso with the manual button. While we’re talking about convenience, the Dual Boiler also has a digital interface that allows you to easily program settings such as brew temperature or pre-infusion length. So while experienced baristas have the option to take control over the brew, there is also an opportunity for beginners to easily customize their preferences.
Inside the machine, the Dual Boiler features stainless steel boilers and Italian pumps to create lattes seamlessly. It creates the ideal maximum extraction pressure during brewing and a nice low pressure during pre-infusion. The electronic PID, that you can set using the LCD display, keeps both boiler temperatures within a few degrees for consistent extraction. It also features a heated group head to maintain the stability of your espresso shot. Together, these features create a delicious and consistent shot that you can enjoy with or without milk.
Speaking of milk, the Breville Dual boiler features a traditional steam wand that allows you total control over the aeration. The 360º swivel steam arm gets at any angle to help you properly incorporate air with your milk. It’s also equipped with a three-hole tip that shoots hot steam into different directions to create evenly heated milk. If you’re looking to improve your frothing technique, the Dual Boiler’s steam wand sets you up to evenly achieve the right milk texture.
The Dual Boiler also has a dedicated hot water spout for those Americano fans. We appreciate the separated functionalities because it can take awhile to draw hot water through traditional steam wands. You’ll be pulling hot water from the steam boiler, which you can set between 265ºF – 285ºF so that water is hot, hot, hot! Be careful, especially if you use the hot water spout for drinks like hot chocolate for the kids.
Breville’s brushed stainless steel casing continues through their product line-up and we’re definitely OK with that. The soft, brushed steel makes the Breville look like a million bucks with an affordable price tag. With Breville’s line-up, the price is reflective of the advanced features and functionality. For example, the Dual Boiler is packed with, not one, but two powerful boilers and a programmable interface, so that makes us happy with its price point.
Breville included other handy features that generally people don’t realize they want—or need, frankly. The Dual Boiler is a hefty machine, weighing in at nearly 30 pounds, so accessing the back is nearly impossible—or is it? Like the Breville Oracle, the Dual Boiler comes with a hidden drop-down swivel foot under the drip tray. Once you engage the foot, it’ll easily roll around on your counter to remove the water tank. If you just need to fill up the reservoir, Breville’s thought of that too with a lid at the front of the machine to pour water into. You can even see when the water is low through a small window in the front of the machine. It’s the small, user-friendly features like this that continue to make Breville a go-to for new and experienced espresso machine owners.
The Breville Dual Boiler features something for beginners and experienced baristas alike. With both programmable and manual options, you can control the length of your brew or bask in the convenience by getting an espresso at the touch of a button. And since this is a double boiler machine, you can brew and steam at the same time—simply press the pre-programmed espresso button and you can concentrate on texturizing your milk. In the line-up of Breville products, the Dual Boiler is an advanced machine packed with features that will impress new and veteran home brewers.
Start Here: Welcome to Gear Guide!
If you’re ready to bring home an espresso machine but don’t know where to start, then you’re in the right place. We’ve created a simple buyer’s guide to espresso machines to help you make the coffee you love at home. This series is designed to help you choose which espresso machine that is right for you. We’ll start here with this simple question:
How Committed Are You?
Are you just friends or are you in a serious relationship with your espresso? We know, it sounds silly, but understanding your level of commitment is the first step to finding the right espresso machine for you. Think about your morning routine: Are you usually rushing out the door or do you cook a balanced breakfast? How you’ll be using your machine—basically, your relationship with it—is the best way to determine what you should take home.
Take a superautomatic espresso machine. This type of machine is for people who are rushing out the door. Most require little to no barista skills and typically operate at the touch of a button. It’s like having your own personal barista right in your kitchen. Depending on the model, some machines offer basic drink options such as espresso or Americanos while more advanced options offer a range of menu items, customized temperature or milk texture and more. Superautomatics have a variety of milk frothing options like a panarello-style steam wand, traditional steam wand or carafe, so you can choose which option is right for you. For instance, one-touch superautomatics whip up lattes right into your cup thanks to integrating milk systems like an attached carafe.
On the other side, we have the semi-automatic machine for the chefs out there. With semi-automatics, you should be willing to get involved and grow with it—to a degree. There are several entry-level semi-automatic machines that offer beginners assistance with features like the pressurized portafilter, that helps you pull a consistent shot every time or a panarello steam wand for thick, rich milk with little skill involved.
If you’re ready to expand your barista skills, the higher level semi-automatics let you control just about every aspect of your espresso shot and milk. High-level machines typically feature a traditional steam wand and non-pressurized portafilters, which require a level of skill, technique and preparation. For instance, on a non-pressurized portafilter, you’ll need a consistent grind, which requires a quality grinder and the senses (taste, sight, etc.) to dial in your grind. That means you have more control over how fine-tuned your espresso is! For those latte and cappuccino drinkers out there, you’ll appreciate the flexibility of a traditional steam wand. You can texture milk to be dense, dry foam or paint-like for latte art. Then sometimes there are advanced features like PIDs to regulate the boiler temperature or the ability to set the pre-infusion time.
Of course, some features and functionalities are found on both superautomatic and semi-automatic such as a panarello-style steam wand. That’s why we ask people to focus on their commitment level. Are you ready to learn how to dial in your grind? Do you want your machine to remember your drink preferences? Figuring out how committed you’ll be using your machine is the first step, now it’s time to think about coffee.
How Do You Like Your Coffee?
Tall, dark and…smokey? If you love Italian or French roast blends, then you’ll want to stay away from superautomatic machines. The reason being is the oils coating the coffee beans will clog the superautomatic’s grinder over time, creating a mess and may require extra maintenance. We always recommend avoiding an oily bean on a superautomatic to keep it in tip-top shape. That does mean, however, that you could enjoy a dark roast on a semi-automatic! You’ll want to make sure you clean the grinder a little more frequently with a grinder cleaner, but otherwise, a semi-automatic will have less trouble with dark roast. Also, we strongly discourage using grinder cleaners on a superautomatic because it could potentially damage the grinder or brew group.
Looking for a unique flavor to try as an espresso? If you love single origins, go ahead and try it out on a semi-automatic! You can change the temperature, grind, tamp—you get the idea. With more control over brewing, you’re able to dial in and find your perfect shot. Since single origins’ flavors benefit from hotter water than a blend, it’s harder to pull a shot on a superautomatic than a semi-automatic. Of course, a blend will be easier to perfect on either type of machine since it’s designed to have a balanced flavor.
Are you ready to commit to your espresso? Again, think about your morning routine and ask yourself how often you’ll use your machine. What sort of drinks will you be making on it? If you have a specific coffee roast preference, then that could also influence your decision. Have you made a decision? Good! In this next couple of posts, we’ll split off into several topics.
If you've decided you're interested in a semi-automatic then proceed here: Gear Guide: Expanding Your Skills With Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
Or if convenience rules, check out: Gear Guide: Convenience Rules With Superautomatic Espresso Machines
How Does It Compare?
Hand-built in Italy, the craftsmanship and attention to detail have made Rocket Espresso some of the most desired espresso machines. Their line-up includes a list of impressive features, including the legendary E61 brew head, and is constructed with commercial-grade materials. When you’re trying to decide on one machine, though, that’s where it can get tricky. Rocket’s contemporary, clean design resonated throughout the line-up and the deciding factor comes down to the features and details. In this Crew Comparison, we mixed it up to dive deeper into certain features. We’ll discuss the differences between a heat exchanger and double boiler and how a PID and pressure profiling affect coffee.
Rocket equips their espresso machines with either a heat exchanger or double boiler system. While there is a bit of misconception that double boilers are superior, each system offers something unique. Take the double boiler, such as the Rocket Espresso R58. We used to categorize the double boiler at the top since you could set the appropriate temperature for each boiler. And, let’s face it, it’s much easier controlling two separate boilers. However, we’ve discovered that two isn’t always better than one. While the boilers are working, minerals are slowly leaching and creating what is affectionately called “dead” water. In short, the idea is that this water isn’t fresh.
That’s where the heat exchanger excels. A heat exchanger works by pulling fresh, cool water from the reservoir through a tube that runs the length of the steam boiler—this creates the ideal brew temperature. To keep the temperature consistent, Rocket designed the system with the legendary E61 brew head to maintain heat as the water leaves the brew chambers and hits your coffee. Of course, that means the E61 is correcting an issue, so there’s question over consistency. We recommend pulling a shot evenly heat and to also purge water sitting in the tube. Two of the machines that feature heat exchangers is the new Rocket Espresso Appartamento and the Rocket Espresso Evoluzione.
PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) is a temperature controller on the boiler(s). Thermostats and pressurestats are used to control the boiler heat and many machines are pre-programmed by the manufacturer. Enter the PID. The PID allows users to set the temperature that they want within a few degrees. It monitors the temperature and controls how often the boiler turns on or off. This regulate temperature and create less fluctuation. So, what does this mean for your brew? The consistent temperature evenly extracts grounds and enhances the quality of your coffee.
On the Rocket Espresso Premium Plus with PID, the PID setting is hidden under the drip tray to maintain that clean cut style. But it’s there, continuously monitoring the boiler and maintaining it at steam temperature. Other models like the R58 have an external PID monitor that can be plugged in or stored away. Bonus, the R58’s PID controls the steam and brew boilers, which mean you can set the ideal temperature for each.
What is pressure profiling? Pressure profiling is, put simply, the ability to change your extraction pressure. Common practice says the ideal pressure for the perfect espresso extraction is 9 bars, but recently coffee geeks have been playing with varying pressure to extract different flavors. The Rocket Espresso R60V features pressure profiling and our resident coffee geek, Joe took over the studio and presented an easy breakdown in this video. He started a low but long pre-infusion at two bars, then ramped it up to nine bars (classic pressure) and then slowed it down to six bars to extract more. Joe also did a modern pressure profile with pre-infusion at four bars and finished strong at nine bars. Of course, each profile will be unique to the coffee, so it’ll take some experimenting to find that sweet spot.
Of course, there are other considerations you’ll make before you purchase a Rocket. The Appartamento is the smallest in the lineup and easily fits on a small counter, but if you’ve got space, the larger R58 is packed with dual features for the ultimate control. Or if you’re looking for a more stylish look, you could choose between the Giotto or Cellini in the Premium Plus or Evoluzione. Other models offer plumbable versions, so you would never have to refill your water tank again. We’ve glanced at the Rocket lineup, learned some of the key differences and now we want to hear which model you’d like to take home! Drop us a comment below and let us know.
How Does It Compare?
We’re all about making great coffee you love at home and that includes the infamous drip brewer—they don’t have to be so infamous! The Bonavita 8-Cup Coffee Maker and OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker brew at the ideal temperature (197.6 to 204.8 degrees F) earning their spot as an SCAA certified product, AKA these drip brewers deliver excellent coffee. To add some perspective, the SCAA (Speciality Coffee Association of America) has decades of knowledge, research and experience developing standards for coffee makers, so you can be sure you’re getting the best coffee at home.
Drip coffee has never been easier than with these machines. The Bonavita 8-Cup sticks to the basics with simple manual controls, while the OXO Barista Brain—as the name implies—features programmable settings for advanced convenience. For those convenience seekers, the OXO Barista Brain features auto-on for instant morning coffee—need we say more? Let’s dive into the brews and brains of these two SCAA-approved drip brewers.
The Bonavita 8-Cup Coffee Maker (model BV1900TS) brews up a flavorful cup of coffee thanks to the U-shaped filter basket. The U-shaped design works to fully saturate grounds and when we pulled the basket out to check, we saw even water distribution from the sides to the center. The OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker differs with a cone-shaped filter, so we saw more saturation in the middle. As we know, drip coffee makers, including the hybrid drip and pour over automatics like the Chemex Ottomatic, can have a tough time evenly extracting coffee, so we were more than pleased with the Bonavita 8-Cup’s performance.
These brewers are named for their cup size, but in the coffee world, cup size is a tricky animal. When we talk about cups, we’re using the US coffee cup standard of 6-ounces. In the baking world, 8 ounces equals a cup (and, to be thorough, a European cup of coffee is 4.25 ounces). Bonavita and OXO, however, use 5-ounces for a cup of coffee. That’s why we’ll provide ounce measurements on our website. The Bonavita 8-Cup has a 40-ounce reservoir and the OXO Barista Brain has a 45-ounce reservoir. So if size matters, you’ll have one more cup of joe with the OXO.
The OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup earned its name! The programmable auto-on feature is—going out on a limb, here—the highlight of any home brewer’s morning. It’s also not a hassle to program; to set the auto-on time, simply press and hold, then use the dial to spin to the time of your choice. You can also set the clock and change the number of cups you brew between 2 to 4 or 5 to 9 cups. Since the OXO Barista Brain comes with a stainless steel thermal carafe, there isn’t a heating element. But it’s not missed, the thermal carafe will keep your coffee toasty for about an hour.
Another brainy feature on the OXO Barista Brian is the pause and pour. Remove the carafe and the brewing process stops so you can pour yourself a glass midway—yes, please. Although, we did notice that there was a considerable amount of dripping coffee after removing the carafe. When you’re done pouring, make sure to place it back within 60 seconds to resume brewing or you’ll start the process all over. And, while this isn’t super brainy, we’ll add that OXO added a silicone mixing tube that channels the coffee from the carafe opening down to the bottom of the pot to thoroughly mix the brew.
The Bonavita 8-Cup Coffee Maker, while built with basic controls, features something the OXO doesn’t have: pre-infusion! What we love about pre-infusion is it’ll create more consistent and even flavor extraction, thus giving you that bright, flavorful cup of coffee you deserve in the morning. See, drip coffee doesn’t have to be terrible. The pre-infusion needs to be manually started and then it will go into the brewing process. That’s to be expected since the Bonavita 8-Cup doesn’t feature an auto-on function. In all honesty, it’s not difficult to start, but it’s more involved than pressing the pot on and letting it brew. If you have 30 seconds in the morning—come on, we know you do—we think you’ll be able to use this feature.
The Bonavita 8-Cup Coffee Maker’s brushed stainless steel casing sports matte black accents, creating a timeless looking coffee maker. And we enjoy the matching stainless steel lined thermal carafe, which will keep your coffee warm for about an hour. Bonavita no longer offers the glass-lined carafe’s and we haven't noticed any difference in the quality of the coffee. The only beef we’ve heard about the carafe is that it doesn’t pour out all the coffee. Fortunately, coffee friends, we tested it out for you and it only left 0.75 ounces in the carafe. Our solution was to tilt the carafe about 45 degrees over the cup to get the majority of coffee out.
The OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker has similar looks to the Bonavita with stainless steel casing and a glossy black body. However, the design feels robotic with the clear reservoir and sleek shape. The OXO’s digital display adds modern flair with convenient technology we see on products today. The best feature for the caffeine-deprived is the pause and pour—that’s luxury at its finest. As we mentioned, the only downside is that it’ll drip a little, but with no heating element to burn the coffee, clean up is a breeze.
If you’re looking for impressive drip coffee, then look no further than the Bonavita 8-Cup Coffee Maker or the OXO Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker. Both are SCAA-approved, which means they’re guaranteed to deliver hot and flavorful coffee. If you’re looking for more features and convenience, however, then we’d recommend checking out the OXO Barista Brain to fuel your mornings. The Bonavita 8-Cup is simple to use and features pre-infusion for those who want a little extra control. What do you think—if you had to pick between two SCAA brewers, which would you take home? Let us know in the comments!
How Does It Compare?
First glance, we almost mistook the Breville Duo-Temp Pro for the Breville Infuser. These two entry-level machines feature the Breville touch with tons of user-friendly features and accessories to make home brewing convenient and, may we add, fun! However, the Duo-Temp Pro is equipped with one dial to flipped between brewing and steaming whereas the Infuser has two programmable buttons. While programmability is a bonus, we reap the benefits of the Duo-Temps Pro affordable price point while still being chock-full of advanced features, the same technology we see in the Infuser.
Others at this price point are the Saeco Via Venezia; however, some of the Duo-Temp Pro features and functionality outshine the Via Venezia. The Duo-Temp Pro comes with both a pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters allowing beginners a chance to grow into their machine. The Duo-Temp Pro also automatically purges water from the Thermocoil boiler to bring it from steam temperature back down to brewing—an incredibly convenient feature on a single boiler. Let’s dive right into the Duo-Temp Pro’s espresso.
The espresso on the Breville Duo-Temp Pro is impressive. The combination of our trusty grinder—the Rancilio Rocky right now—and the automatic pre-infusion time, it doesn’t take long to pull a wonderful shot. The pre-infusion is completely controlled by the Duo-Temp Pro since the only controls are the one dial that flips between brew or steam/hot water and the “Select” button for steam or hot water. That’s it. While it may feel limited, the fewer controls allow beginners to focus on honing their skills. Fewer controls, though, doesn't mean fewer features. The pre-infusion is just the cherry on top.
As we touched on briefly, the Duo-Temp Pro has an automatic purge, which is huge for a machine of this caliber. Since this is a single boiler machine, you can’t brew and steam at the same time, so naturally, we always steam first. After steaming, flip the switch back to neutral and you’ll hear the auto-purge remove the hot water and then flush in cool water from the reservoir. In a matter of seconds, you’re ready to brew! Bonus for the Duo-Temp Pro: It’s equipped with an internal PID that helps regulate the temperature.
The simple controls and automatic features create a user-friendly experience perfect for beginners, so without fail Breville paired it with the appropriate accessories. Generally, we see machines at this price point with only a pressurized option, however, the Duo-Temp Pro has both pressurized and non-pressurized baskets for the 54mm portafilter. The non-pressurized basket is an opportunity for beginners to hone their skills and advance into the professional’s field. Breville also included accessories such as their patented RAZOR Dose Trimming Tool, cleaning accessories and the magnetic tamper, which is stuck alongside the brew head out of the way.
The Breville Duo-Temp Pro features a traditional steam wand, which will take more practice to learn but offers more rewards than a panarello-style steam wand. Because the Duo-Temp Pro uses a thermocoil heater, the steam wand produces heat on the fly and it’ll take a while to get up to speed—hey, that offers beginners plenty of time to get their technique down. We decided to use the Duo-Temp Pro to froth milk for latte art to test its capabilities (and ours). The Duo-Temp Pro has a one-hole steam tip, which does present some challenges heating the milk. If you leave it pointed in one direction and don’t angle it correctly, you’ll likely to unevenly heat the milk. The key here is to become familiar with the steam wand and find that sweet spot to spin the milk to incorporate any microfoam with the warm milk.
So, how did it go? Because it takes a while to get to full steam power, we had plenty of time to find that sweet spot and we were able to get beautiful latte-art milk on the Duo-Temp Pro. One thing we noted was from startup it took the thermocoil about 25 seconds before we saw steam. If you turned the dial to steam to remove condensation and then to neutral it would auto-purge and for a moment, we thought that was it. Fortunately, it only took a few seconds for the steam power to kick back in and work it’s way up to full steam.
Clad in a brushed stainless steel casing, we couldn’t be happier with the outfitting on the Breville Duo-Temp Pro. The user-friendly controls are clean, evenly spaced and the buttons are backlit when the machine’s on, creating a seamless interface. Commercial-grade stainless steel portafilter and steam wand further accentuate the Breville’s fresh style and, of course, make delicious coffee. Bonus to the Duo-Temp Pro, it is BPA free for all the parts that come in contact with water and coffee.
The brushed casing and compact size allow the Duo-Temp Pro to easily fit into any home brewer’s kitchen. At only 10.25 inches wide, its slim profile can easily squeeze on the smallest counters and fit a couple mugs on the cup warmer. Even though it’s a compact unit, the spacious 61-ounce water tank can easily handle multiple lattes. We were worried at first that the auto-purge would drain the reservoir but we went from the reservoir’s maximum capacity down to the minimum with four lattes and an espresso shot. Perhaps the only downside to the auto-purge is it’s a bit noisy doing it.
The Breville Duo-Temp Pro is an excellent entry-level semi-automatic. Its simple controls are balanced with advanced features, such as auto-purge, and offer beginners plenty of opportunities to hone their skills. The Duo-Temp Pro can produce several milk-based drinks and perhaps the only misgivings we could see people experiencing is the steam power. Since it’s a thermocoil, it takes a time to kick in but, hey, that’ll allow beginners some time to find the right angles to texture their milk. Practice makes perfect and the Duo-Temp Pro is the right machine for practicing.
When you purchase fresh coffee beans, you’ll probably notice a roast date labeled on the bag and you might wonder: “How long do coffee beans last?” “Do coffee beans expire?” At Seattle Coffee Gear, we receive these questions a lot and it's a tough one to answer. We adhere to roaster guidelines for freshness and that right there is the keyword: freshness. Not expiration in the way most people understand it like a sour glass of milk. We could quickly agree that those foul smelling notes mean the milk has expired, but open coffee roasted six months ago and there probably won’t be that telltale reek. However, your nose may detect something is different. Coffee is volatile and the coffee industry only agrees on one fact: coffee changes.
To answer the question, “How long do coffee beans last?” Let’s be frank: Until it stops tasting good. Let’s break down what “good” coffee is.
In the coffee community, freshness is generally agreed upon by the roast date. The closer it is to the roast date, the fresher the beans. The moment coffee is roasted it begins to stale thanks to oxidation, not time. Of course, the more time oxygen has to work on the beans, the more it’ll stale. However, roasters haven’t agreed upon what “stale” means for coffee. As James Hoffman puts it in The World Atlas of Coffee; “The specialty coffee industry has failed to make a real impact because there is no strong agreement on how quickly coffee goes stale, and at what point it will have passed its best-before date.” Our practice at Seattle Coffee Gear is to follow the individual roaster’s guidelines, which are between two and four weeks then we’ll pull the coffee off the shelf.
How long the coffee freshness lasts after roasting also depends on roaster’s processes like the packaging. There are different types of bags like the triple-ply foil that prevent fresh air from getting in while a valve allows carbon dioxide out. It’s a common packaging we see with our roasters and at your local grocery store. There are also packaging techniques that factor in coffee freshness such as nitrogen flushing. This process, used by Lavazza, helps preserve coffee beans by flushing away the oxygen and so temporarily eliminates it going stale. We say temporarily because as soon as you open the bag, oxygen finds its way in and begins to stale your coffee.
How To Tell If Coffee Is Bad
We know you were thinking about it. You’re probably sniffing your bag of beans trying to decide if it was bad or stale. Your nose is your best detector. “The human tongue can only really taste five flavors—sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami,” our Portland store manager, Joe, says. “The nose, however, is a magical input drive that can delineate between thousands and thousands of distinct compounds and the brain processes this information in the same place/way. Smell and taste are intimately linked.” So when your nose can’t smell the coffee, you can assume the flavor is gone.
Of course, what’s most important for coffee drinkers is flavor, and the freshest beans don’t guarantee the best flavor. In fact, we’ve brewed beans a month past their roast date and loved them. We’ve had those same beans right after roasting and preferred the aged beans. That’s why we think how long coffee beans last can be gauged by flavor. Each coffee’s flavor profile is different, but once the volatile aromatics break down, so does the flavor. Think of it in terms of cooking. The oils carry the flavor and so when the oils in coffee are gone, so is the flavor. “As they are volatile, these compounds slowly leach from the coffee so the older it is the less interesting it will taste,” writes Hoffman.
The best way to store and keep your coffee as fresh as possible—because inevitably, you will open your freshly roasted beans and start the cycle of oxidation—is to keep it in a cool, dry place. Oxygen and moisture are the enemies of coffee. Once water comes in contact with beans, it starts the brewing process and extracts the flavor. That’s why products like the AirScape Coffee Bean Canister are excellent to keep around since it uses a one-way valve to push out oxygen and air-tight lid to keep out the elements—hello, fresh coffee.
Freezing coffee, then, seems like a bad idea but it’s a trend we’ve seen in the coffee community. It’s not all misplaced either. Done properly, freezing coffee has its benefits. One benefit is using it for espresso to extract a richer, thicker body. If you freeze ground coffee, it’ll dissolve faster in hot water and produce a fuller flavor. However, once you take the coffee out of the freezer, you can’t let it thaw. Any moisture that condenses on the beans will start the extraction process on your coffee. A way around this is to measure the dosage for how much coffee you’ll need.
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?
In the coffee community, the word expired describes coffee differently than other foods like milk. There’s no defined expiration or best-by date for coffee. We can only guarantee that coffee is volatile substance and therefore will rapidly change. How long coffee beans last also depends on the type—sorry didn’t mean to throw you a curveball. Ground coffee, for example, has more surface area for oxygen to leach out the flavor compounds. If you wanted to keep your coffee fresher longer, we’d recommend leaving the beans whole and grinding them only when you’re ready.
Lastly, the best way to determine if your coffee is fresh, like we’ve discussed, is to follow your senses. If you no longer taste the notes you love, it’s safe to say your coffee expired and it’s time for a new bag. What’s really important is if you still enjoy your coffee regardless of the best-by date. Of course, at Seattle Coffee Gear, we make sure to adhere to roaster’s guidelines and pull coffee that’s past the freshness date provided. While we enjoy sipping our coffee sooner rather than later, we follow our senses and let the coffee speak for itself.
How Does It Compare?
We’ve been grinding with our Baratza Sette 270 for the last month—eagerly awaiting its arrival—and we asked ourselves, “What else we could compare to the Sette 270?” On this Crew Comparison, we decided to match it against the Eureka Mignon. In stores, we use the Mignon with our semi-automatic machines, such as the Rocket Appartamento, and we knew it would be a fierce contender against the Sette 270. Both feature time-based dosing with quality steel burrs that can grind beans from drip to espresso. When it comes down to deciding between the two, the nitty gritty details and the unique design will ultimately influence what you take home.
We’ll start the nitty gritty details with the burrs (pun intended). The compact Eureka Mignon is equipped with 50mm flat steel burrs that have been a constant companion for our store machines. It creates consistently fine grinds for espresso thanks to those steel burrs and even could make a consistent grind for our pour over samples. Needless to say, we’ve been impressed with the Mignon. If you’ve read our Crew Review on the Baratza Sette 270, it’s safe to say you probably know the phenomenal consistency, from espresso to pour over, of the Sette 270’s 40mm conical steel burrs. In fact, the Sette 270’s coarsest setting is the most consistent grind we’ve seen at that caliber. Side-by-side, the espresso grounds are nearly identical and well suited for a non-pressurized portafilter espresso machine, but the Mignon can go finer than the Sette 270.
Another reason the Mignon’s our go-to choice for in-store use is because of its simple controls. It features either a manual or timed dosing (although, we’ll tell you right now the timed controls are not as sophisticated as the Sette 270). The time dosage is on the right side of the machine and it’s just your typical twist timer like those old kitchen timers. You can time between 4 to 15 seconds or switch it to manual—how we have it in store—and dose until your container is full. The Sette 270 features three programmable buttons to set your timed dosage. The digital interface can be adjusted from 0 to 99 seconds and is incredibly user-friendly. It also features a manual button, which is activated when you press and hold the start/pause button.
One of the more user-friendly features on the Sette 270 is the grind adjustment. There is a stepped adjustment with 31 macro settings and a second set of stepless settings, which have the letters A-W as guides. The Mignon’s stepless grind adjustment offers limitless grinding options but once you lose it, you’ll need to dial in your grind all over again. Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate the amount of control with a stepless grinder, but it’s a blessing and a curse. For entry-level barista’s, the Sette 270’s professional grinding power with the programmable, user-friendly control is an easy go-to suggestion.
As we mentioned above, these grinders easily turn whole beans into beautiful grounds from espresso to pour over. The range on the Eureka Mignon might actually be a little better, in our opinion, thanks to the stepless grind adjustment. However, going back and forth on the Mignon can be frustrating, so we’ve always got our store models dialed into one machine—then we barely touch it again. You could get a decent French press grind on the Mignon, but then you’ll be wildly spinning the dial back to espresso…need we say more?
The Baratza Sette 270 has 31 stepped settings and an additional stepless adjustment ring with guided labels for fine tuning the grind. With these guided markers, it makes it a lot easier to adjust for a range of brewing. We’re still not convinced it can make a coarse enough grind for French press, but we’ve tried it with AeroPress and it holds up well. AeroPress has more pressure, so we tend to grind between a pour-over and French press, which is why the Sette 270 performs well.
Both grinders live up to their clever name. The Eureka Mignon, which means “dainty” in French, is compact and features angled sides that can squeeze between kitchen appliances. The Baratza Sette 270 get its name from the unique seven shape—sette is seven in Italian—and features 270 grind settings if you use the guides. The Sette 270’s shape isn’t all glamour, the motor lays horizontally and allows beans to flow from the hopper directly into your portafilter, decreasing the chance of grounds sticking and going stale. We don’t see a lot of static on the Mignon’s chute, but grounds are notorious for sticking to every surface and Baratza’s solution takes out the middleman—the chute in this case—and creates a direct shot.
The Sette 270’s unique shape also makes it wider—it’s nearly three inches taller than the Mignon. Of course, that does free space below the burrs for different brewing methods. The Sette 270 features three adjustable arms—the third one is there to help stabilize—that hold anything from a V60 to a portafilter. The dainty Mignon has the advantage with its square shape to be able to integrate easily in the kitchen, but it only has a portafilter holder. Some of our retail store Mignon’s we’ve removed the portafilter holder, so we could use it for pour over. In the few seconds, you’ll be grinding, holding your brewer there isn’t the worst feature.
If you wanted to have an exact grind every time, the Sette 270 is the way to go. The three programmable options and intuitive digital display create a swift user experience. The Mignon, by no means, is hard to handle, but it’s turn-dial disappears on the side. You know what the say: Out of sight, out of mind. We generally use manual dosing, which is efficient for our in-store use, but some users might miss the digital display.
Could you go wrong with either of these machines? We don’t think so! The Baratza Sette 270 is a powerful machine featuring reimagined design and functionality. However, we adore the Eureka Mignon and have made it one of our go-to grinders in store. That said, between the two, the Sette 270 is better suited for entry-level baristas or brewers looking for convenience. The digital and programmable display create an effortless user experience and the stepped and marked stepless adjustments allow you to learn how to dial in your grind. Both of these grinders will easily make you a delicious cup of coffee and it all comes down to the nitty gritty details. What do you think? Drop us a comment below and let us know if you’d take the Sette 270 or the Mignon!
Stay tuned this summer for the release of the Baratza Sette 270! Before you know it, you’ll be grinding with one of these guys.
How Does It Compare?
If you’re ready to move away from your old blade grinder, the Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder is an excellent entry-level machine! The Infinity has features that won’t disappoint coffee lovers. The steel conical burrs, for instance, have stepped adjustments for beginner’s to learn how to perfect their grind for different brew methods. The Infinity’s affordable price places it in the same market as favorites like the Baratza Encore. Both are slated for new at-home baristas interested in brewing on a Chemex, Hario V60 or French press.
Built with steel conical burrs, the Capresso Infinity munches through beans with ease. It doesn’t grind quickly though and that’s actually a good thing. The lower RPM (rotations per minute) of the steel burrs creates less friction and heat build up. This means you’re less likely to burn your beans and retain the flavor profile. Not to mention the slower speed makes this grinder ridiculously quiet. The finer we adjusted the settings we noticed the pitch got higher, but it was still extremely quiet for an automatic grinder.
The stepped grind adjustment is perfect for people wanting to learn how to make great coffee at home. There are 16 settings with four categories that range from Extra Fine to Coarse. If you’ve been reading up on grind differences for brewing, it’ll be intuitive to guess what setting you’ll want to use. A little less intuitive is the timer to activate the grinder. The dial features settings from one to 10 that act more as a reference point than actual timed dosage. When you grind at Extra Fine, there is less coffee per second passing through the burrs than grinding on Coarse. We’d recommend dialing in your grind and using the timer as a personal reference for dosage. That does pose some extra work for beginners to become familiar with dosage, consistency and timing.
The Capresso Infinity is a quiet machine perfect for apartment living—the Crew has had neighbors complain about their noisy grinders in the wee hours of the morning. The Infinity will keep the peace. It’s small footprint also squeezes into that extra space on your apartment’s small countertop. Another bonus is that the 8.8-ounce bean hopper is compact and doesn’t stick out from the top of this machine, so it’s easy to clear low cabinets—a renter’s dream!
After grinding up a Chemex’s worth of coffee, it was easy to see that the grounds were sticking everywhere. There’s no anti-static coating on the container, which makes it a bit sticker to remove the grounds. We didn’t lose tons of coffee, but we’d recommend keeping a towel and brush on hand to clean up escapees. The Infinity includes a comically adorable brush—that we upgraded with our Pallo—and scooper to get you started. These are great beginner accessories that we recommend upgrading once you’re using your grinder daily.
This entry-level grinder is an excellent machine for home brewers looking to make rich and smooth pour over or French press at home. The wide range on the Capresso Infinity offers a lot of grind options, so you’ll be able to dial in and customize your consistency. The Extra Fine and Fine setting on the Infinity, though, don’t quite make the cut for an espresso machine like the Rancilio Silvia M. It doesn’t make consistent enough grounds, so we’ll just tell you now, this grinder isn’t a great match for non-pressurized portafilters. You could use the Infinity with a pressurized portafilter like on the DeLonghi Dedica.
The Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder is an affordable, entry-level machine. For home brewers emerging into the coffee sphere, the Infinity offers a lot of bang for its buck. Just remember this machine is better suited for Chemex, pour over or a drip coffee maker. If you’re starting your journey with espresso, then you’ll want to pair this grinder with a machine that uses pressurized portafilters. Its compact size will leave plenty of space for an entry-level espresso machine on your coffee bar.
How Does It Compare?
Crafted from brightly polished stainless steel, both the Rocket Appartamento and Nuova Simonelli Oscar II are beautiful machines we’re torn between—we can’t decide which one we love more! If you’re in the market for a powerful, semi-automatic espresso machine, you’re in the right place. Both machines are built by well-loved manufacturers in the coffee community, so whichever way you go, you’ll have plenty of fellow coffee lovers to show off too!
The main difference between the Oscar II and the Appartamento is control. The Oscar II features programmable shot time buttons, while the Appartamento offers mechanical control over the entire brew process. To that point, the Oscar II has no option to change the factory-set pre-infusion time, unlike the Appartamento’s manual pre-infusion brew lever. The Oscar II, however, is NSF certified! If you’re a small business looking for a fantastic machine, the Oscar II is suitable for a commercial environment and with the two programmable buttons anyone can make delicious espresso.
Operating these two heat exchangers feels completely different. The Rocket Appartamento features a manual operation reminiscent of classic lever espresso machines, but we’d call the Appartamento’s style contemporary. The Nuova Simonelli Oscar II is built with a set pre-infusion time without the option to customize and two programmable buttons—introducing the convenience of a superautomatic. The Oscar II’s programmed by time, not volume, so the consistency of your grind each time will affect the volume of your espresso. For instance, the finer the grind, the slower the flow. While there’s no manual extraction time on the Oscar II you can stop the flow of espresso at any time.
Side-by-side, the Appartamento was slimmer than the Oscar II. It may be small, but its espresso is anything short of spectacular. Designed with the legendary E61 brew head, the Appartamento produces consistently hot shots on par with the rest of the Rocket lineup. The 1.8-liter boiler is the same size as the Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione V2 and only 0.2-liters smaller than the Oscar II—so the Oscar II has the Appartamento beat there.
Pro Tip: We recommend pulling seven seconds of hot water to heat the brew head and portafilter, so they don’t cool your shot. Since these are heat exchangers, it’ll also purge warm and stagnant water that’s been sitting in the tube.
We’re pleased both machines included commercial-grade portafilters. The Appartamento comes with two heavy-duty, stainless steel portafilters, in single and double spout options with interchangeable single and double baskets. The Oscar II features breakaway spouts on their one double spout portafilter with a single or double shot basket (no second portafilter for the Oscar). Rocket included more heavy-duty accessories such as their sleek metal tamper whereas Nuova Simonelli dropped in a plastic guy—not a deal breaker, but we’re more appreciative of Rocket’s thoughtfulness.
Of course, if you’re considering the Oscar II, you know by now that Nuova Simonelli’s steam power is famous—Barista Championship famous. They’re the official espresso machine for the competition and the proof is in the microfoam. The four hole tip evenly heats milk in all directions while the steam pressure is nice and dry, perfect for incorporating air into the milk. With the Oscar II’s updated 360° rotating ball joint, it’s easy to texture milk at any angle and achieve the ideal foam whether you’re a latte or cappuccino lover. It is a traditional wand, so have a towel on hand to wipe away milk. We’d still call the OScar II an entry-level to a prosumer machine, but the spring-loaded lever makes it difficult to regulate steam pressure.
The Rocket Appartamento, like its other siblings, has an anti-burn traditional steam wand and dedicated hot water spout. Anti-burn doesn’t mean it’s cool to the touch—seriously, use caution—but it’ll help milk from sticking on. Don’t skip wiping down the wand! You’ll still want to purge and clean it like the Oscar II’s wand. We’ll also add that the steam pressure on the Appartamento is powerful and capable of creating beautiful latte art worthy microfoam, however, it’s a lot harder to control. Texturing milk takes practice and practice makes perfect, so don’t give up with either machine.
Mamma mia! Handcrafted in Italy, each Rocket is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind machine in every box. The Rocket Appartamento introduced big, beautiful and bold dots on the sides and we’re absolutely smitten with the new design! The SCG Crew is, of course, in a heated debate about which color is best—copper or white—and it’s safe to say there’s no ending that topic anytime soon. The colored cutouts correspond with the wide, stout feet on the Appartamento, which are noticeably bigger when you remove the drip tray like an adorable, large-footed puppy. Make no mistake, while the Appartamento’s sized for an apartment, it’s a fierce espresso machine. Its small footprint is packed with commercial-grade features.
The updated style of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II has left us starstruck! This famous machine is carved to reflect the light like the futuristic cyborg it reminds us of—Cylon, anyone? The stainless steel casing extends to the front and sides but is replaced in the brew head with a chrome-coated plastic. Still, the curves and edges complement this powerful heat exchanger. Even the less-desirable steam switch sticking out at the top can be overlooked by its new extended steam wand (though we’re still not a big fan).
We’re still torn between the Rocket Appartamento and Nuova Simonelli Oscar II, but it’s easier to decide once you know what you want. If you want 100% control, the Appartamento is your guy. If you love the convenience of a superautomatic, but want to have more control, then you want the Oscar II. Both have updated styles with polished stainless steel that shines like a beacon to your espresso. Their unique style and shape will also make it easy for you to decide on which is best. The Oscar II’s curved edges are nothing like the Appartamento’s boxy body. These two heat exchangers make it hard for a Crew to decide, but you know what, we like options here at Seattle Coffee Gear. We’re curious what you guys think about the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II and Rocket Appartamento—drop us a comment and tell us which one you’re leaning towards. Also, don’t forget to tell us if you like the Appartamento in copper or white—we’ve got a debate to settle.
How Does It Compare?
The Jura Z6 comes with all the convenience you crave from a superautomatic plus new features that we're excited to share. One of the newest features in the Z6 is Pulse Extraction Process (P.E.P.) that pulses during the brewing cycle for espresso and specialty coffees to strengthen the flavor and intensity. You’re probably wondering if it works. Superautomatic owners know that they sacrifice quality espresso for convenience. Enter the Z6’s solution: P.E.P. and we’re totally onboard with this new addition.
Jura also didn't neglect us latte lovers out there. The Z6's updated milk temperature and milk foam temperature system can now select the temperature up to 10 levels with level one being the coolest temperature. Previous models haven't come with a milk carafe and the Z6 is no different. However, Jura updated their cleaning system and it’s definitely one of our favorite hidden updates! The Z6 comes with a kit full of goodies, including a handy container for cleaning. Use this container with the cleaning solution to rinse out the milk hoses and you’re ready to store away—thank you, Jura!
Let’s dive more into the newly introduced P.E.P. system. The Pulse Extraction Process (P.E.P.) optimizes the extraction time to increase the strength of espresso or specialty coffees like ristretto. Check it out for yourself—listen to it pulse at 5:45. Jura’s well-known for the exceptional strong espresso thanks to their machines dosing more grams per shot. With the new P.E.P. brewing alongside their preprogrammed dosage, it has only benefited the strength and flavor of their coffee. You can also adjust the bean strength—the number of grams added per shot—and grind setting to dial in the perfect extraction time for your coffee. Our taste-tester, Gail, took the new P.E.P. for a spin and yeah, the coffee is definitely full of flavor! Bonus: The crema on our espresso was thick and beautiful.
We’re pleased the Jura Z6 features a front-facing digital screen with easy-to-use buttons to select our choice. Choose from over 12 preprogrammed drink options and set your top six favorite drinks in the main menu. If you want to get into the whole menu, on the top right corner there is a dial that you spin for more drinks—iPod, anyone? To customize your drink preferences and locate other options such as auto-on time, press the circle button of the dial to access advanced settings such as “Expert Mode." This is where you can also create your top six drinks that are saved to the home screen for easy access.
Equipped with an 81-ounce water tank and 9.9-ounce bean hopper, the Z6 has enough fuel to keep you fueled all morning long. The hopper features a tinted lid and rubber gasket for the freshest beans, which is great if you store beans in the hopper overnight—and hey, why wouldn’t you with the auto-on feature? The adjustable brew head slides up and down to maximize up clearance, which at the max is six inches tall. That’s enough space for a travel mug—unless you’re like us and your travel mug is more like the whole coffee pot. The brew head spouts also swing in and out (about two inches wide) to brew for a single or double portion.
We’ve heard the concern before from coffee lovers that they're hesitant about taking home a superautomatics because of the frothing capabilities. Jura Z6 dashed those doubts with the upgraded programmable milk temperature and milk foam temperature settings. You can finally customize the temperature of your cappuccino foam! The temperature scale for the milk is set from one to ten—about a 22-degree difference—so we recommend trying one temperature settings at a time. The Z6’s additional temperature controls make getting your ideal temperature on milk-based drinks achievable.
As we mentioned earlier, one of our favorite features is the updated maintenance options. Before, you could clean the milk system, but there was never a dedicated spot to insert the milk hose. The Z6 comes with a handy little kit filled with maintenance goodies such as a fitted container for cleaning. Once you’re in the “Clean the milk system” setting, it’ll walk you through how to properly assemble the cleaning system. Start the program and watch it as it makes your machine squeaky clean!
Our only complaint is that the Z6 doesn’t come with a carafe. The hose features a fitted in to insert into one of Jura’s carafe (sold separately). If you don’t own a Jura carafe, the hose is placed into a container of your choice. We get our milk by the gallon here at SCG so that small hose can’t reach the bottom of the jug. We also appreciate a complete set and the stainless steel Jura carafe looks really nice up against the Z6’s aluminum front.
The soft sheen of the aluminum casing makes the Jura Z6 stand out amongst superautomatics. The texture-rich front gives the Jura that expensive look you want in a smart one-touch superautomatic. Sure, the water tank and sides are plastic, but this machine’s sleek, futuristic style outshines the rest. The drip tray is also a heavy metal—perfect for standing up to ceramic mugs and cleaning—and under the Z6’s built-in light system, it sparkles. Yes, you read that right, the Z6 features a built-in light system under the brew head and in the water tank. You can turn it off and on, but when it’s on the reflection in the water give it that futuristic flair.
The Z6, unfortunately, is not designed to go under your cabinet. The power button is located in the far back next to the bypass doser and grinder setting. The Z6 has a large footprint and at 14.5 inches tall, it might be too snug under a cabinet anyway. Fortunately, the soft aluminum casing extends to the top and can stand alone on an open countertop. If you purchase the Z6, check out the manual and other printed goodies they send you home with. The futuristic space theme style on the machine is reflected in their beautiful printed goodies.
The Z6 features a front-facing screen that is navigated by the six side buttons or dial in the top right corner. The retro iPod-inspired dial makes navigating easy enough, but it can be frustrating if you spin the wheel to fast and miss your mark. Once you get a feel for the responsiveness of the dial, it’s easy to pick up. The digital screen features pictures and labels for each drink and action and is incredibly intuitive to make selections. When you’re not spinning the wheel, the menu defaults to your six favorite drinks, which you can select through the center dial.
The Jura Z6 improved P.E.P. brewing system and milk and milk foam temperature controls have made it easy for latte lovers to achieve that barista-quality espresso at home. And with its roomy water reservoir and bean hopper, it's easy for home brewers to make cup after cup. This one-touch superautomatic comes equipped with all the automatic maintenance tips you'll need to upkeep the Z6 and we're pleased with our updated milk cleaning system. The Jura Z6's upgrades have improved the overall quality of coffee and milk temperature and we're excited to use it more.