Make Coffee You Love!

  • Coffee Culture: Thailand

    Last week saw the return of one of our favorite features: Coffee Collaboration! Our new host, Clementine, shared a recipe for making Thai Iced Coffee. Check it out here! We love the video so much that it led to a deeper look at Thai coffee culture. We wanted to share that with you in the return of our Coffee Culture blog series!

    Producer/Consumer

    Thailand's coffee culture is interesting because it's also a major producer! In many cases, because roasting coffee is an expensive endeavor, drinking coffee isn't a part of the lives of the people producing it. Thailand primarily produces robusta beans, which are generally considered lower quality than their Arabica counterparts. This means that much of the coffee produced in Thailand goes towards producing blends and instant coffee. With that said, a push is being made to plant and harvest more Arabica beans. Either way, coffee production remains a rich, historical trade in many Asian countries, and Thailand is not different!

    It is exciting, then, that the Thai people love this drink so much too! Coffee shops gained popularity in the 20th century as places to share news and talk politics. Because of the scarcity of televisions and other communication equipment, news traveled by word of mouth up until wider access to the Internet in Thailand. The popularity of these hangouts culturally also led to a love of consuming coffee as well! That's something that remains true to this day. Whether ordering out of a cart or café, coffee lovers in Thailand drink this beverage all day, every day. In this way, coffee consumption in the country is quite similar to the way it's consumed in the West. The main differences come from the way it's roasted and brewed!

     

    But how do they brew?

    Kafae Boran (or ancient coffee) is an interesting, unique roasting and brewing method developed in Thailand during WWII. Developed to answer the problem of scarcity, this method involved dark roasting robusta beans with grains, spice, and sugars. Sometimes even soy beans were used in the roast's production! From there, the coffee is brewed with a cotton filter and steeping in boiling water, in a manner similar to tea. Finally, sweetened or condensed milk is generally added to taste. Kafae Boran remained the dominate method of coffee roasting and brewing for decades in Thailand, but was joined by instant coffee. Near the end of the 20th century Starbucks began operating in the country. This led to wider availability of more kinds of culture. Despite this, Kafae Boran remains popular.

    One brew method that has found success in America is oliang. The word translates to "black cold," which when applied in this context refers to iced coffee! The Kafae Boran brew method is typically used, with ice being added brewing. From there condensed (gopi) or fresh (yoklo) milk can added. Thai restaurants will frequently add both to create the sweet "Thai Iced Coffee" you might be familiar with. Many street vendors even serve this cool treat in a bag with a straw instead of in a cup!

    We hope you've enjoyed this look at how coffee is enjoyed in this wonderful country. We'll have more coffee culture for you soon!

  • Video Roundup: 1/18/2019

    Happy Friday!

    It's time for another video roundup here at SCG!

    First up, we took a look at the Technivorm Moccamaster with Gail!

    Next, we did a comparison of the Izzo Alex PID and the Rocket Giotto R!


    Finally, we relaunched Coffee Collaboration with a fabulous new host, Clementine!

    Thanks for joining us! We'll be back next week!

  • Piecewise Coffee Co. - Bio

    An introduction to Stanton and Piecewise Coffee!

    Over the past few months, we've had the pleasure of working with Stanton and Lindsey Scoma on starting their brand new coffee shop! They are looking forward to improving their community of Cayce, South Carolina through coffee! Stanton came to us for advice, and ultimately the purchase of, the equipment in their new shop. We thought it'd be a great opportunity to take a closer look on what it's like to build out and open a coffee shop! Over the coming months we'll talk to Stanton about topics like choosing a machine, building a drink menu, building out the space, and loads more. This week we thought we'd provide an introduction to the Scomas, so read on to learn more about this passionate, hard-working family!

    What’s your history with coffee?

    I’m a chemical engineer by trade, so processes, procedures, and extraction are in my blood. I love the taste of a good cup of coffee and early in 2015 I started realizing there is a true system + method to what gives you amazing taste. The taste that helps us all feel like we can truly seize the day. My wife bought me a ChemEx for Valentine’s Day, I “stole” my twin brother’s burr grinder and the rest is history!

    My wife’s history is somewhere between a long dependence for an early morning cup of joe and anything special I can make for her. She inherently knows when it’s disgusting and when it’s perfection. She’s a sucker for the smell and always thinks it tastes better with a dash of cream + dessert.

    What led you to want to open a coffee shop?

    Like we said earlier, we are true dreamers at heart. Our brains are constantly thinking of all the wonderful things we could be a part of. We would drive by a run-down gas station and talk about how a cute coffee shop could give the area and community a facelift. A coffee shop isn’t just a business, it is a place where community is given the opportunity to gather together. It is a business you don’t just open for yourself, you open it for others. We love the concept!

    Changes in my job lead us to move to a different part of our town. After the move my wife saw a building that left her wondering if this was an opportunity to do something awesome in our area. We started digging and it turned out the building owners were friends of ours who were also searching for someone to do something special in the space. Well, stars started aligning at that point and it’s hard to turn away when they do. Between the amazing building owners, changes in the season of life and my growing love for the industry, we decided we were all in! Opening a coffee shop was in our future.

    How did you find Seattle Coffee Gear?

    The first time I heard about Seattle Coffee Gear was through watching their product review videos for commercial espresso machine reviews. We were interested in specific features, but not a specific model and wanted to learn more about the best machine for our shop. The videos were such a useful resource in making our choice!

    What’s the thing you’re most excited about in terms of building out the shop?

    It would be seeing all the disjointed planning efforts coming together into something real and tangible. The dream comes to life slowly in these small step-by-step iterations. Seeing your invested time, research and decision making finally come to fruition is the sweet reward. You are finally purchasing equipment, choosing furniture color, printing branding on merchandise, and engaging with customers on social media. As exciting as it is to decide on building the shop, it pales watching it become a breathing entity.

    What do you think the biggest challenge will be?

    While we are excited to share the coffee shop with the community, we wonder if the community will be as excited to see the coffee shop come to them. Success can be measured in so many different ways and you hope one of the ways leads to the business sustaining itself. Most business start slow and enduring until you see success will probably be our biggest challenge. No one buys into your vision like you, but if you do something great it is worth the fight. Our inclination is that the community will adopt us, but it still falls into the great unknown until the doors to the coffee shop are open.

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

    My favorite brew method goes back to how I got started with specialty coffee and that’s with a simple ChemEx and burr grinder. I drink my coffee barefoot (aka black). My wife’s favorite brew method is to ask me to make it for her lol. We have a local grocery store who has a good coffee selection and each week we pick up a different roaster or origin. Keeping the brew method the same and changing the beans makes it easier to pick up on all the fun differences in flavor.

     We'll have so much more to share from Piecewise Coffee Co. coming soon!

  • Roast of the Month

    Hey coffee fans!

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

     

    What’s with that name?

     

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

     

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

     

    We love this roast and can’t wait for you to give it a try! Check it out here.
  • Video Roundup: Holiday Edition!

    It's time for our last video roundup of the year! This week we're taking a look back at all of our holiday content to share some you'll enjoy!

    First, here's a look back at our favorite espresso machines of 2018!

    Next, Gail gave us some great gift ideas, here's one of many videos in our "Gifts Under" series!

    Speaking of Gail, here's a little SCG Holiday Special featuring some holiday treats!

    Last but not least, we tried to make an eggnog latte!

  • Behind the Scenes at SCG!

    We've been busy as can be over the last few months. Holidays are always an intense time for retail, and balancing that with offering fun and educational content has been a real trick this year! Here's some insight into what some of our teams have been up to!

    Creative Crew

    For our part, the creative content team has spent as much time as possible cooking up fun video and blog content for everyone. We've also worked hard to provide a useable, attractive shopping experience on the site as well! From our site's holiday page, to Instagram, to video posts, we've all been busy! On top of this, Gail has been working away with our store buildout team to prep for our new brick and mortar location in the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood WA!

    We can't wait to get back to bringing you more educational, creative, and informative content in 2019. All of your favorite SCG personalities will be on hand to ring in the new year.

    Sales Teams

    From our phone/web sales team to the folks in each of our retail stores, we love our sales teams! It's important to us to do more than sell coffee and equipment. The key is selling you the RIGHT equipment. If we can save you time and money on your quest for the perfect coffee you'll love, we want to. Our sales teams in retail and online do their best to do that, and we think they do a great job. For the holidays, they've seen one of our busiest seasons yet! Between promotions and the ability to offer insightful opinions on equipment, we've had a great time bringing you great products. So the next time you shop with us, give us a call or a chat to get an extra personal touch!

    Customer Service

    Our CS team is full of superstars! It's not hard to imagine that customer service is one of the hardest hit parts of any retailer during the holidays. From suggestions for content down to help with machine issues, our CS team has been extremely busy. That doesn't stop them from offering incredibly friendly, helpful service every step of the way. We love this team to the moon and back!

    Shipping and Repair

    Our shipping and repair teams are often the unsung heroes of the holiday rush. Our warehouses are always at their busiest this time of year, and it's a testament to the folks that work in them that we're able to keep up! Beyond orders, our repair team always receives loads of last minute requests to make sure that customers' existing machines are in holiday shape. These people always knock it out of the park, and we're so thankful for their hard work!

    But our teams don't stop there. From our commercial crew, to our accounting team, to our refurbishment department, we have so many people to be thankful for this holiday season. On top of all of that, we wouldn't have any of these wonderful people here if it weren't for folks like you! So thank you for spending some of your time with us this year, we can't wait to see what 2019 brings!

  • Guide to Holiday Roasts: Part 3

    Welcome to the final part in our holiday roasts series! Check our Part 1 and Part 2, and enjoy your holidays!

    Bluebeard Coffee Roasters - Snowbeard

    Bluebeard's Snowbeard features sweet, fruity and berry notes thanks to the natural-processed beans in the roast. Washed beans bring more traditional holiday notes of gingerbread and light spices as well. This is a warming, delicious roast that we love in a variety of brew methods. Try it today to wow the coffee lovers in your home!

    Anchorhead Coffee - Winter Warmer

    Winter Warmer is a wild roast from Anchorhead. Notes like "Sugarplum Fairy dreams" and "reindeer musk" are hilarious and silly, but this roast delivers on taste too. Featuring beans from Ethiopia and South America, this roast really brings the sweet notes. Everyone here loved it, and we're sure you will too. To top it all off, the bag is super fun!

    Batdorf and Bronson - Holiday Blend

    Batdorf's Holiday Blend is as classic as it gets. This simple roast features notes of dark chocolate and cherry liqueur. With a full body and those warm, sweet notes, we highly recommend this as a great one to share with friends and family. You can brew this roast a variety of ways, but we LOVED it as a drip brew especially!

    Intelligentsia Coffee - Celebration Blend

    For as iconic as oranges are as a holiday treat, it's surprising that we don't see more of this note in these holiday roasts. It's not totally absent from other coffees this season, but we still love the sneaky tangerine notes in this delicious blend for Intelligentsia. Other berry and spice notes combine with that tangerine to make a fruity, full flavored coffee that is perfect for this season.

    Brandywine Coffee Roasters - Seattle Coffee Gear Holiday Blend

    Last but not least! We couldn't not give a shout out to our collaboration with Brandywine Coffee Roasters. They helped us help them to do the roasting on a coffee that we're proud to put our name on. Rich jammy, cider notes meet the aforementioned orange flavors for a tasty, easy drinking brew. We can't help but love the wonderful artwork that Brandywine designed for the bag too!

  • Review: Miele 6000 Line

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

    Multiple Models

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

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

    Coffee Quality

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

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

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

    Case Design

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

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

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

    Menus and Programmability

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

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

    Milk System

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

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

    Verdict

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

  • Guide to Holiday Roasts - Part 2

    We took a look at some holiday roasts in part one of this feature, and we're back with several more! Check out these toasty brews for some tastes of the season!

    Espresso Republic - Cabin Fever Blend

    Espresso Republic offers an excellent holiday espresso roast in Cabin Fever. Listing tasting notes like root beer, molasses, and anise, this is definitely a unique roast. We love the holiday spice flavors present in this one for sure. The root beer notes listed come from a sweet nip at the front of the palate. This combined with the rich body and molasses notes, plus the aforementioned spice creates a very tasty brew! As we said, this is an espresso roast, so you'll want to enjoy it as such!

    Huckleberry Roasters - Sister Winter

    Sister Winter is a very simple roast, but perfect if you like a variety of brew methods. Press, pourover, and drip all offer a different take on these classic flavors. We even recommend this roast for superauto espresso machines! Chocolate and berry notes meet a toasty, pastry like aroma for a real crowd pleaser!

    Toby's Estate - Miracle on N. 6th St.

    Miracle on N. 6th St. is another one full of spice notes, but with a citrus twist. Celebrate the holiday citrus tradition with this roast, which features a blend of washed and natural process beans. We loved this one in a variety of brew methods too! Toby's lists notes of orange, cinnamon, and malbec, which we agree combine to create a satisfying holiday treat.

    49th Parallel Coffee - Holiday Edition

    49th lists fruity flavors like juice and apricot alongside a nutty roasted almond note. These flavors combine for a tasty mix of classic holiday flavors. We really love that this one offers that almond note, as the mild apricot flavors really combine in a mellow, but satisfying way. This one is definitely not designed for espresso, and we specifically recommend it as a filter brew. Great for a morning cup or a late night coffee beside the fire!

    Victrola Coffee Roasters - Holiday Blend

    Alongside cozy and cute bag art, this roast really satisfies. Victrola's tasting notes are chocolate, toasted pecan, walnut, and carrot cake. We love how varied and complex this blend is! The sweeter notes combine with the rich, nutty notes for a full bodied and delicious holiday roast. This roast uses natural process beans alongside washed process, so you'll notice hints of sweetness from the naturals and the nuttier notes coming from the washed beans. Recommended for filter brewing!

    Reverie Coffee Roasters - Christmas Cheer

    This one features delicious hot cocoa, baking spice, and roasted nut notes. These are really legendary holiday flavors and they combine for a predictable, but delicious blend here. We actually got peanut brittle notes from this one that we really loved! Definitely a richer blend, we recommend this one in a variety of different brew methods. And excellent all arounder that guests will love!

    Stay tuned, because we have ONE MORE holiday roast feature headed your way soon!

  • Video Roundup: 12/14/2018

    Hey everyone!

    We're back with another week of great videos. Check em out!

    First up, Gail gave us a look at some great gift ideas under $100!

    Then Gail tried some delicious Monin syrups paired with some of our favorite holiday roasts!

    Next, we shared some insight on several of our favorite 2018 stocking stuffers!

    Finally, we asked our staff to make an eggnog latte! It was a load of fun, check out the results below!

    We had a load of fun this week and we hope you will too! See you next week!

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