Make Coffee You Love!

  • Latte Art 101

    Latte art is the sign of a truly skilled and experienced barista. To pour good latte art your barista has to start with the perfect shot, then add milk steamed to just the right degree, with a specific degree of microfoam. Just learning to pull the shot and steam the milk consistently can take baristas hundreds, if not thousands of drinks. The ability to consistently pour beautiful shapes with that milk means you’ve got a barista who’s trained hard to put a smile on your face. 

    Learning to pour latte art at home can be a fun challenge that we thought we’d dig into!

    The Steam

    Steaming your milk for latte art is one of the most important parts of the process. You’ll want to start steaming with the wand at the bottom of the pitcher, then slowly bring it up to being about half an inch from the top of the milk. Once your milk reaches around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to move the wand deeper and use the pressure against the side of the pitcher to create a counter clockwise spin. It should look a bit like water circling a drain. You’ll want to make sure you maintain this motion until the milk is at your desired temperature. You’re aiming for a velvety texture and no large bubbles. Don’t forget to wipe down and purge your steam wand when finished!

    The Pour

    The hardest part of the process is the pour! Before pouring, make sure there are no large bubbles in your milk. If there are, give it a hard tap on the counter to break them up. Next swirl your milk and make sure it stays bubble free. Pour the milk slowly, but steadily, with your cup held at an angle. You can start with your pitcher further from the drink as you pour, but as you reach the halfway point you’ll want to bring the pitcher in close. As the foam begins to become more visible, use gentle wrist movements to create your desired patterns.

    Check out some of our favorite videos from John showing some specific patterns and tips!

  • What Makes the Perfect Coffee Cup?

    One aspect of coffee making that we don’t talk about much is what you use to drink it. You’ve probably tried many coffee cups in your lifetime, but how much do you think about them? It turns out, there’s a lot that goes into designing the perfect cup for drinking coffee and tea from. Here are some thoughts on several aspects of coffee cup design from us here at SCG!

    Heat Retention

    One of the objectively necessary parts of a great coffee cup is heat retention. If the mug doesn’t help insulate your drink, then it’s an easy pass! There’s lots that goes into heat retention, material is key, but so is shape and design. Double-walled mugs often retain heat better than single walled, as they provide a layer of insulation. Ceramic and glass retain heat better than plastic as well. Finally, a mug with a wider body than mouth will help keep your coffee a bit hotter too!

    Handling

    If your coffee cup is hard to hold, that’s another easy way to tell something is amiss. It’s important to be able to grip the mug without burning your hand. Some mugs solve this problem by including insulated material around the mug. This can solve the problem, but often a good old fashioned handle is the easiest solution. From there it’s down to individual ergonomics for each person. Your hand size and shape are the only things that can determining if a mug will be pleasant for you to hold!

    Size, Shape, and Design

    These three elements are also key. You want a mug large enough to hold the amount of coffee you’ll drink in a sitting. At the same time, a mug that’s TOO big can be heavy, awkward, or hard to drink through before the coffee gets cold. Shape is important too, how will it fit in your cupboard? Will you be using it with cupholders? Is the rim of the mug too thick or thin for your mouth? Then there’s the heat retention and handling concerns outlined above. Finally, the shape of the curves on the inside of the mug can have an impact on your enjoyment as well. Some mugs have more square angles on the inside that trap liquid.

    Appearance

    For some, this is the most important aspect of any drinkware! If you don’t like the way a mug looks, it may not be a fit for your collection. This brings us to the most important point of all: Preference! You should use the drinkware you love, even if it doesn’t quite fit with the criteria we’ve laid out here.

     

    We do hope that we’ve given you a little bit more to think about the next time you’re shopping for a new mug!

  • Video Roundup: 4/27/2020

    Happy Monday Coffee Lovers!

    We've got another video roundup for you today featuring a load of quality coffee content. Let's dig right in!

    First up, our daring CEO Mike made his YouTube debut to share how he brews a delicious cup of decaf from home:

    Next, Allie gave us a look at how the Ratio Six stacks up against a Technivorm:

    Then I gave some thoughts on some of our newest coffees in a Coffee Roundup!

    Then, of course, you know her, you love her, it's Gail's second Good Morning Gail for 2020!

    And finally, we've got some coffee infused cocktail production with Ariel:

    We hope you've enjoyed this week's videos! We'll be back soon with more incredible coffee content!

  • Coffee Culture: Spain

    The history of coffee is closely tied to the movement of people and goods around Europe. Given this, it should come as no surprise that Spain has an incredible rich history and culture surrounding our favorite drink. Join us as we take a look at some of the ways coffee affects culture in Spain!

    A Coffee With Every Meal

    Most coffee served in Spain is grown in countries like Angola and Mozambique. The Spanish tend to prefer darker, full flavored roasts, not dissimilar to Italian and French roasting. Coffee is, as you might have guessed, a major part of daily life in Spain. Many Spaniards start their day with a cafe con leche, a drink consisting of a 1:1 ratio of coffee and scalded milk. Spanish coffee drinkers will often have multiple cups of coffee at different times throughout the day. Other popular styles include a small, very dark espresso called a cafe solo. 

    The Spanish Coffee that you might be familiar with could be a Cafe Carajillo. This coffee drink involved a small, dark espresso mixed with hard spirits like brandy or whiskey. Mixing alcohol and coffee is a standard practice in Spain, even in the mornings.

    Spanish Coffee Shops

    Coffee houses in Spain are often slightly more formal than we’re used to in the U.S. While not always true, many cafes have beautiful flooring and architecture, with patrons dressed up to match. All of this plus a slightly reserved atmosphere may be a culture shock for Americans visiting traditional coffee houses in Spain. 

    But formal coffee isn’t always the way. Jovial Spanish meal times are almost always accompanied by fresh coffee. In this way, enjoying this great, truly global beverage is a joyous experience, often accompanied by delicious food, family, and friends. Not so different from the rest of the world!

     

  • Why Isn't Every Coffee Superauto Recommended?

    If you’ve tuned in for some of our videos or checked out our blogs on superautos you may have noticed something. We talk a lot about how we don’t recommend oily beans for superautos. One question we get a lot is, why? Why can’t you enjoy an oily French Roast in your new Carina or Miele? The answer can be described pretty simply, but we wanted to give a detailed explanation to help you get the most out of your machine. 

    Grinders and Oil

    If you’ve made it this far, you probably know that all coffee beans have some amount of oil on them. The degree to which the oil is released and sticks to the bean is largely dependent on the roasting process, but can also be influenced by the beans themselves. In any case, some roasts literally glisten with oil. Others are, by comparison, quite dry. 

    When you run any beans through your grinder, it can cause oil build up. This is just a fact of life when it comes to grinding coffee. With most grinders, you can open them up and give them a cleaning. Usually this involves removing the hopper and unscrewing the burrs, which can be time consuming, but isn’t hard with a standalone grinder. 

    Without regular cleaning like this, particularly oily beans can cause thick buildup on the burrs. Because burrs operate so close together, this oil buildup can cause sticking. Between that and the kind of buildup it has on the rotor, your grinder can completely seize. Again, this is something you can fix with a standalone grinder.

    Superauto Grinders

    The issue with superauto grinders is that they don’t open up for cleaning. Because of the way they are designed, superautos have to have each of their parts carefully engineered and positioned to work. That means there’s no way to open up the burrs and scrub them. This may seem like a major flaw, but if you just avoid the oiliest of beans your grinder will run for years and years!

    One potential option is Urnex’ recent innovation in grinder cleaning - SuperGrindz. This cleaning powder is designed specifically for cleaning buildup from superauto grinders. For anyone who absolutely must have a French roast in their superauto, it’s a good option. We still urge caution though, and you should make sure you use SuperGrindz as directed on the packaging. We say all this because grinder damage due to oil buildup is often NOT covered under warranties, as it is considered user damage. 

    The best bet is still to avoid those oily beans altogether!

     

  • Video Roundup 4/20/20

    Hey Coffee Lovers!

    We've got some VERY exciting videos for you this week, and for the time being we'll be coming to you on Mondays! Moving our video roundup day is temporary, but we wanted to help you start your week with some fresh coffee tips.

    So without further adieu...

    Gail gave us a look at her brewing setup from her RV!

    Then Allie showed us her process for dialing in Olympia's Big Truck Espresso:

    Next we've got a look at the brand new Rocket Espresso Appartamento Nera!

    Then Allie and I sat down to for a video chat to talk about our delicious Roast of the Month:

    And we're VERY excited to share a limited return of Good Morning Gail!

    That's all we have for you this week, we'll be back with more next Monday!

  • Roast of the Month: Victrola Burundi Mpanga

    It’s a tale of twin processes this month for SCG’s Roast of the Month! We’re excited to share Victrola’s Burundi Mpanga single origins. One of these roasts is a washed process, and the other is a honey process. We hope our customers will give each one a try to better understand how process effects flavor!

    Both of these coffees are from the same producer from Nyangwe Hill’s prestigious coffee farms. From there, the coffee is processed differently, allowing the end customer to experience the different flavor profiles the processes impart. To best evaluate them side by side, we recommend brewing as a pour over. From there though, let your imagination run wild! There’s so much joy to be had in exploring the ways to get the most out of each coffee.

    Mpanga Washed

    Washed process coffee is fully cleaned of the cherry before drying and shipping. This means no trace of the cherry is allowed to ferment and impart flavors after harvesting. 

    For this roast, the result is mild, sweet flavors that are clean and balanced. Expect notes of soft fruit, brown sugar, and raisin. We find this one to be delicious and easy to drink, as well as versatile. While we recommend trying them side by side as pour overs, this roast works particularly well as a drip or press brew too.

    Mpanga Honey

    For a quick refresher on honey process coffee: A honey process splits the difference between washing all of the mucilage off of the bean and allowing the whole cherry to ferment on the bean like in a natural. Honey process coffee is hulled, but the mucilage isn’t fully washed off, allowing for a honey like wrap to develop on the bean. 

    In practice, this gives this roast more unique and striking notes than its counterpart. Victrola lists notes of Maple syrup, cherry cola, and graham cracker. You’ll get plenty of sweetness that hits different parts of the palate differently, and a bright acidity that pulls the notes together. A great pour over, this roast also results in a sweet and delicious espresso!

    Again, we can’t recommend trying both of these roast side by side enough!

     

  • Video Roundup: 4/10/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's Friday, which means it's time for another video roundup here at SCG!

    Let's dig in:

    First up, we got a taste of John's morning routine straight from the source!

    Next up, it's Ariels morning routine!

    And finally, a look at some great ways to improve your latte art with John:

    That's all for now! Join us next week for more videos!

  • Coffee Culture at Home!

    This may seem like a silly post, as we talk about brewing coffee from home all the time! But something that we don’t often talk about is what living with the equipment we provide can be like. It’s easy to recommend equipment we love, but we wanted to share a little bit of what brewing from home really looks like once you’ve got your equipment home!

    Pour Over

    Brewing pour over is rewarding, but also a bit intense! You’ll need room for a scale, kettle, and grinder. To streamline pour over brewing we think keeping your water source close to your kettle is key! When it comes to grinding, there’s a couple of different ways you can manage your beans. If you keep multiple kinds of coffee stocked, you’ll be weighing your grounds each time you brew and then pouring them into the bean hopper. This can be time consuming but ensures the least amount of waste! If you have one coffee that you like you can fill your grinder with it and then do your best to grind just what you need each time. Every grinder is different, so some might make this easier with timed or weighted dosing. 

     

    On top of all of this, you’ll need to warm your cup with hot water, set your dripper, and wet your filter. The whole process can take anywhere from five to ten minutes, but the end result is worth it! It also doesn’t require expensive equipment. Many of these concepts also apply to drip and press brewing, but in these cases you can walk away as the coffee brews, instead of needing to tend to it like a pour over, though the flavor profile will also change!

    Semi-Automatic Espresso

    Brewing with a semi-auto is a bit more complicated up front but can ultimately be a bit easier once you’ve got it down. You’ll need to dial in your grinder, which can be a bit tricky depending on your coffee of choice. You’ll want to arrange your machine and grinder together so you can move your portafilter back and forth easily, as well as have easy water access for your machine. 

     

    The actual brewing process is quick when you’re used to it, and with a machine like the Rocket Appartamento you can steam milk and brew at once. You’ll want a couple of towels on hand to clean out your portafilter after you knock the puck, and to wipe down your steam wand (after you purge it of course!). Aside from that, regular backflushing and descaling are key bits of maintenance!

    Superautomatic Espresso

    Superauto machines like the Philips Carina change a lot of this dynamic! All you have to do for prep is making sure you have a ready source of beans and water. The biggest hassle with a superauto is needing to refill the water tank, aside from that, it’s super easy to brew with these machines (Pun intended)! You’ll have some regular cleanup like wiping down and watching drip tray elements and the brew group that are very important, but otherwise maintenance just extends to replacing water filters and regular descaling. All in all these machines are quite easy to live with and maintain. 

    The only real downside to superautos is that they don’t give you quite the same degree of control that a semi-auto machine does. Many users will want the fine tuning you can achieve with a semi-auto, but if you just want good coffee without the extra work, these machines are the perfect option. 

     

    We hope this is a helpful window into what it’s like to have these machines on your countertop!

     

  • Coffee History: The French Press

    The History of the French Press isn’t as French as you might think! We decided it’d be fun to take a look at the history of this beloved brew method. Let’d dive in!

    Beginnings

    The first coffee presses likely did originate in France. These very basic, rudimentary presses followed similar principals as today’s coffee presses. They were likely homemade as well. These proto-coffee presses usually involved using a metal screen or some cheese cloth with a metal rod acting as the plunger. You’d simple press the whole thing down into an appropriately sized vessel after steeping to separate the grounds and the liquid. While simple and perhaps more clumsy and messy than today’s presses, they did the job. 

    We say that it’s likely these presses originated in France because of the French obsession with coffee in the 19th century. They were generally on the forefront of developing new ways to brew and enjoy coffee. For the next step in the French Press story, we head to one of their neighbors.

    The Milanese Not Quite French Press

    The first patented coffee press was developed by Milanese designer Attilio Calmani in 1929. Over the course of the next 30 years this press saw design modifications and updates. Many of these updates were developed by Faliero Bondanini, who later patented the design in 1958. This is how we finally got the name “French Press.” The reason for this is the factory that Bondanini built his presses in was located in France. They originally produced cabinets!

    His brand, Melior, was aided in its rise to popularity by being featured in the 1965 film the Ipcress File, which starred Michael Caine.

    The 1960s to Today

    After the success of the Melior French Press, British and European countries began to take notice. Of particular note was Danish kitchenware company Bodum, who you’re probably familiar with. They took the press worldwide, and developed it into the cylindrical design you’re familiar with now. 

    From the past to the future, the French Press is a bonafide legend!

     

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