Make Coffee You Love!

  • Video Roundup: 9/21/2018

    Happy Friday coffee fans!

    We're light on video count this week but still high on content! We've got a couple of lengthier pieces for you to sink your teeth into.

    First up, join Gail and our friend Velton from Velton's Coffee Roasting for some thoughts on what makes a good espresso roast:

    Next, yours truly had a chance to sit down with Velton for a chat about how he manages his roaster!

    That's all for now, but stay tuned for next week, we have all kinds of great videos on the way from Gail and Co.!

  • Roaster Spotlight: Velton's Coffee Roasting Company—Part 2

    As noted last week, we had the great opportunity to sit down with Velton of Velton's Coffee Roasting Company to chat about roasting and coffee in general! Check out the full text of the interview below, or the video version above!

    Full Interview

    Seattle Coffee Gear: We’re here with Velton from Velton’s Coffee Roasting, how’s it going today sir?

    Velton: It’s good!

    SCG: Awesome, so you were kind enough to sit down with us and go through some questions about your process and about Velton’s! So my first question is what led you to get into roasting the first place

    Velton: I’d been in coffee quite a while, I’d been a barista for 10, 11 years or so, and where I was working at the time, I was managing Bauhaus Books and Coffee down on Capitol Hill in Seattle. They had opened Top Pot, and when they opened the second Top Pot they decided to get into roasting. They had enough of their own accounts at that point. I had told them a few years prior that if they did get into roasting that that was the next step that I wanted to take in coffee, and that I was very curious about it. To their credit when they opened the second Top Pot and put the roastery in they made me the head roaster. I didn’t know what I was doing for a while but we figured it out! That was around 2001.

    SCG: That’s a common theme I’ve heard. I know people who I work with and friends who are amateur roasters, everyone who really wants to get into roasting, but nobody really knows what they’re doing when they get started because it’s a complicated thing!

    Velton: It’s complicated and one roaster can supply a lot of coffee shops, so there just aren’t as many positions in roasteries as there are in coffee shops.

    SCG: Exactly. So in terms of how you run Velton’s, what do you look for when you’re purchasing green coffee?

    Velton: So we’ve got a few blends, we have to make sure we can maintain those. So there’s that. Then we always have about 8 different single origin offerings at a time. We try to keep a well-rounded offering of those. Some that are more approachable for folks, some that we feel will work well as espresso, some that are a little more wild that might still work for espresso but aren’t for everyone. So when we’re running low on some of those I’m trying to replace them with something similar. And always, of course, coffee is agricultural. So there’s different harvest seasons around the globe, so we’re always trying to buy what’s in season, as much as possible.

    SCG: So on that note, having some variety is maybe more important to you than specializing in a specific roast type, level, or origin?

    Velton: Definitely. I’m trying to have a little something for everyone. We always want to have a couple that are a little more wild, maybe bright. We also want something that’s very approachable, just nice filter cups of coffee. Something that, there’s a lot of coffees that taste great on a cupping table, but you might not want to drink a full pot of it. So we want one of those for someone if that’s what they’re looking for. So yea, variety is the goal.

    SCG: Do you have, regardless of whether you’re selecting coffee to roast, a process that you find, whether it’s washed, natural, or honey, that’s your favorite?

    Velton: It’s probably washed, that’s generally going to be my favorite, but there are exceptions to that. I definitely really enjoy naturals, and I think natural processing has gotten so much better. I like naturals a lot as espresso. As filter I might like four to six ounces, but it’s rare that I’m going to sit down and drink a pot of a natural. Again there have been exceptions, there have been outstanding ones that have come along.

    SCG: We kind of talk about the notion that the first time you have a natural your response is “how does anyone drink anything other than this? This is incredible!” Then you drink a hundred naturals and think “well that washed was really good though, maybe I do like the balance, and I do like that it’s a little bit easier to drink multiple cups.” Then eventually you hit a point where you think “well they’re both great, different times for different coffee.”

    Velton: I feel like that’s where I’m at. I like them all, as long as they do it well and the green was great to begin with, yea.

    SCG: Do you have any tips for ways to help develop your palate? That’s a question we get a lot.

    Velton: I think being conscious while you’re tasting the coffee. Even if you like cream and sugar, get in the habit of taking a few sips while it’s black. Let it cool a little bit, you’ll start to get more flavor as it cools. I think if you’re conscious about it while you’re drinking the coffee, and what you’re tasting. And it’s fine to cheat and look at the bag and see what they’re telling you you should be tasting. Then you just slowly build a vocabulary in your head that your palate starts to tie into.

    SCG: Do you have a favorite brew method for coffee?

    Velton: I would say my very favorite is pourover. I just feel like I get the clearest description of the coffee that way. But I totally love espresso. So my go-to is pourover when I really want to learn about a coffee, but I do love to see what it’ll do as espresso as well. It’s hard for me to find an espresso I don’t like.

    SCG: That’s generally how we approach coffee in house too, and how we recommend it to people. If there’s a really complex roast we always recommend it as a pourover because it’s the only way you’re going to get everything out of it.

    Velton: Yea, and usually the flavor descriptors are designed for that.

    SCG: Do you have any tips for somebody who maybe is an amateur roaster trying to turn it into a business?

    Velton: Definitely just keep tasting your roasts all the time. Try to trust your palate. If it’s your roastery, there’s so many ways you can roast a coffee and have it turn out well, but make sure you like what you’re doing and you’re not trying to roast just for your customers.

    SCG: This is one of my favorite questions. I don’t know how valuable it is, but it’s really interesting to me so I always ask it. Do you find that your environment has shaped the way that you roast? Or do you think that as a roasting culture develops it tends to guide the culture in coffee shops in a region.

    Velton: A little bit of both. I think they feed off each other. I’m not really sure.

    SCG: It’s a tough question, we’ve talked about it with folks in the past and I notice, being from the Midwest, from Detroit, the culture in coffee shops there is vastly different than what we find in the Pacific Northwest. While I haven’t spent a lot of time in coffee shops on the East Coast I know in New York it’s a very different vibe with roasters and with shops. I wonder how much local culture is influencing that, or if when you get into the specific parts of coffee culture there’s influence from roasters touching local coffee shops.

    Velton: I think in the Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest, we’ve had a pretty ingrained coffee culture. Maybe to a degree longer or greater than most elsewhere, but it was more dark roast oriented for a long time. A lot of the roasters that popped up over time have kind of modeled themselves that way and it’s taken a little longer. But I don’t feel it’s that way anymore. We have enough of a third-wave coffee culture in Seattle that the roasters that pop up now don’t feel like they’ve got to feed into the dark roast culture if they don’t want to. So it’s changing. It took us a little longer to change here maybe than elsewhere.

    SCG: That makes a lot of sense. This is probably a question that ties in with what you were saying about offering something for everybody. Do you ever find yourself chasing something with your roasts? Or do you generally let the coffee speak for itself and let it inform the way that you’re roasting?

    Velton: Again both. It’s kind of a two-way street where I have ideas up front about what I think this coffee will taste like so I roast based on that. Then I'll taste it and maybe take it in a different direction based on what I’m tasting. I definitely influence the coffee based on my expectations but then the taste will influence how I roast it right back. So they work together.

    SCG: My last question, and this is a hard question to answer, but do you have a favorite roast that you’ve done before?

    Velton: Favorite roast? No [laughs]. Every year there’s a couple of coffees that stand out to me. Sometimes they were ones that I didn’t expect them to be. More often than not if we buy a $30/lb geisha, and they’re hard to move so we don’t often to that, but quite often it’ll be the best coffee we’ve had for the year. Then other times you’ll get a $3/lb Peru that just blew everybody’s doors off. It was just so well balanced and had a little bit of everything going on. So every year we get a couple that stand out, but I wouldn’t say there’s one over the last ten years that’s the one.

    SCG: That’s a great answer! I appreciate your time!

    Velton: Thanks!

  • Video Roundup: 9/14/2018

    Happy Friday!

    It's back to our regularly scheduled blog programming this week with a roundup of videos for the week!

    First, we stopped by Velton's Coffee Roasting to pick the main man's brain on how long coffee lasts!

    Next, Gail gave us a review of the exciting new Porta Via from Rocket Espresso!

    Finally, we took a look at the Marco Mix commercial boiler with John!

    Thanks for joining us this week, have a great weekend!

  • Roaster Profile: Velton's Coffee Roasting Company

    Velton's Coffee was one of Seattle Coffee Gear's first roasting partners. In light of this, we couldn't wait to sit down with them for another edition of our Roaster Profile series. This week we'll look at the history of Velton's roasting, with an interview with Velton himself to follow next week!

    Pacific Northwest Born and Raised

    Velton's Roasting is owned and operated by Velton himself in Everett, Washington. This industrious roaster starting working in coffee in Seattle Washington in 1989. Velton quickly developed a passion and desire to learn about everything coffee, from cupping to running a bar, and eventually to roasting.

    Since getting into the industry, Velton has been able to explore roles in coffee from the Pacific Northwest to Hawaii. Eventually, he found himself going from a desire to learn about roasting to making it a profession.

    Velton's Coffee Roasting Company

    Velton's philosophy is to try to offer a range of coffee rather than get tunnel vision on a specific roast level or origin. This results in a rich array of roasts that will sure please any coffee drinker. Between light, sweet single origins and darks singles and blends, Velton really does have a coffee for everyone.

    We love Velton because we're able to get candid, down to earth answers to questions without needing to read between lines. This openness and friendly style of communication makes it easy to enjoy partnering with this experienced, ever evolving roaster. Check out our range of Velton's roasts in our catalog, and check back next week for our full interview with the man himself!

  • SCG Expert Review: Saeco Incanto Plus

    The Saeco Incanto Plus is a Seattle Coffee Gear Exclusive version of the basic Incanto machine. While we like all of Saeco's superauto range, we offer the Incanto Plus exclusively because we believe in the upgrades it offers. Read on to find out why!

    A Solid Platform

    So what makes this machine tick? The Incanto Plus is a sub $1,000 superauto, which puts it on the lower end of the pricing spectrum. In many cases, this may mean you're sacrificing shot quality for value. While the Incanto may not be the best shot you can get, it's surprisingly solid at this price point. The internals feature a stainless steel-lined aluminum boiler with a thermoblock design. The machine is a little slow to heat up when compared to pricier models, and does not feature an auto on, so you will want to remember to heat it up first thing in the morning. Otherwise, the recovery time is pretty reasonable, especially in this price range, and the shots taste good, especially good when compared against other lower cost espresso options.

    This strong brew performance carries over to milk steaming as well. While you won't be pouring any latte art with this machine, it does a perfectly fine job of texturing milk that is tasty in a latte or cappuccino. Given that this is one of the hardest things for superautomatics to perfect, it's very impressive that the Incanto does such an admirable job. What's more, the Incanto produces very hot drinks, something all superautos tend to struggle with. The base Incanto does require a bit of human work with its panarello steam wand, but the Plus includes a free Cappucinatore attachment. This attachment provides automatic steaming and texturing of the sort on higher end machines. It's one of the things that makes the Incanto Plus so... Well, plus!

    Controls and Cleaning

    The controls on the Incanto do leave a little bit to be desired. This is, unfortunately, one of the common casualties of lower priced machines. While a vibrant touchscreen with slick dials and sliders would feel better to use, the Incanto's no-frills buttons make sense. Unfortunately, this machine doesn't offer the degree of drink customization of something like a Miele. That said, it's easy to get to options like a cappucino, latte, or simple espresso shot. One thing that is mildly frustrating is that the icons on the screen aren't always clear. This can lead to a need to check the manual to figure out what the machine is asking you to do.

    One area where the Incanto shines, however, is in it's ease of cleaning. The entire machine can be disassembled and cleaned with ease. The drip tray has a simple indicator to indicate when it's full, and the screen will alert you to empty the grounds. On top of all of this, the brew unit is plastic, easily removable, and easy to rinse and clean. Most of the parts and accessories are dishwasher safe as well. Finally, with Saeco's AquaClean filters (sold separately), you'll be able to avoid regular descaling. A huge bonus for an already easy to maintain machine.

    Build Quality and Case Design

    One thing the base Incanto is, is very plastic. This isn't a terrible thing, but the black plastic case does leave something to be desired. The Incanto Plus, however, features a stainless steel face that looks great on a countertop. This is the same face found on the more expensive Incanto Carafe.

    The fact that the beans and water are top-loading comes with some pros, as well as definite cons. the top loading hopper and tank make for easy, quick refills, but also could create issues when it's placed under kitchen cabinets. The doors on top of the machine need several inches of additional clearance above the 14 inch body to be able to open fully. While the machine is light enough to pull out for refills, this can be a pain. Aside from these issues, the footprint of the machine is a satisfying 9 inches wide and 18 inches deep, meaning it will slot in nicely in most kitchens.

    The Verdict

    We know it may seem obvious that we like an SCG exclusive machine, but it's because we like it that we offer it exclusively, not the other way around. While this machine may not stand up to a comparison with a multi-thousand dollar competitor, it is one of the best superautos in its price range. It's no-frills design is mitigated by solid, consistent performance, easy maintenance, and some sweet upgrades from the base Incanto. Check it out here.

     

     

  • Video Roundup: 8/27-9/7

    Hey coffee fans! It's been a couple of weeks since our last video roundup. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming this week!

    But first, let's take a look at what we missed!

    First up, Gail gave us a Crew Review of the new Eureka Perfetto.

    Next up, another crew review! This time for the DeLonghi Magnifica:

    Then we took a look at the Marco Beverages Jet Brewer with John!

    We then got a review of the Saeco Gran Baristo Avanti from Gail!

    Finally, John gave us some great tips on programming the Rocket R9 commercial machine.

    Thanks for joining us! We'll see you for more videos this week!

     

  • Choosing a Superuatomatic

    You've probably seen us talk about superauto vs. semi-auto espresso machines. Some of you might even wonder what the difference is at all! This week we're diving into what makes superautomatic espresso machines tick and what to look for when purchasing.

    What's a Superauto?

    A superautomatic espresso machine simplifies the process of brewing espresso. other espresso machines require you to grind, tamp, and pull shots of espresso manually. While many enjoy the process of dialing in a new roast and tweaking it's flavor, you may not. With a superauto you can get a solid espresso or milk drink in the morning without the time sink of a standard machine. You do sacrifice something on drink quality, however. Semi-auto machines (and manual pump driven machines) give you finer control over strength and quality. For most though, superautos are a great alternative without the hassle of a complicated manual process.

    So what is actually in a superauto? Most of these machines feature a bean hopper, grinder, brew unit, and milk steaming system. Beans go in the hopper, which feed to a grinder that automatically grinds coffee for espresso. This coffee is pressurized automatically in the brew unit and a shot is pulled. All of this happens at the touch of a button. Additionally, with another press or two you can have milk steamed for your latte or cappuccino as well!

    How Do I Choose?

    Choosing the right superauto for your kitchen can be daunting, but we're here to help. One of the biggest deciding factors for you will likely be price. superautos can be expensive, but you don't have to break the bank to get the right machine. Let's break down the things that are most important when picking out a superauto:

    Shot Quality

    Shot quality is an extremely important factor when purchasing a superauto. After all, you bought the machine to make coffee, so it had better be good! It's hard to gauge shot quality from the box, but generally user reviews and professional critiques can help you to get an idea of shot quality. It's worth noting that we avoid carrying any machines that we think pull downright poor shots, regardless of the price.

    Milk System

    Nearly as important as a good shot is decent milk quality. This may not be a consideration for you if you don't have interest in milk drinks, but it will be important to most. There are two main types of milk systems in superautos, carafes and tubes. With a tube system, you'll drop the end of a tube into a pitcher of milk. The machine will then pull the milk into the steaming unit and dispense steamed milk into your drink. The other option is a carafe system, which includes a carafe that you can store in the refrigerator that connects to the machine. Both systems can work great, and really come down to preference.

    In addition to the format of the milk system, quality is also a consideration. Perhaps the biggest weakness of superautos is how difficult it is to get quality steamed milk from an automatic system. While they are getting close, nothing beats a hand steamed pitcher of milk. this is another area where a look at the product page may not be of help, but you will want to look into others' opinions of milk quality when selecting a machine.

    Temperature

    Both for shots and milk, temperature is worth calling out. While many superautos can produce decent milk texture and shot quality, temperature is an area that many of these machines struggle with. It's hard to know exact measurements from product specs, but it's an important question to ask a sales person or look for in user reviews.

    Controls

    Superautos feature a range of controls. Some machines feature physical buttons with indicator lights and knobs. Others have vibrant touch screen interfaces that guide you through selecting your beverage. This is one of the areas where you can save some money if you're willing to compromise. In many cases, a touchscreen interface will increase the cost by quite a lot. For many, though, this ease of use will be worth the extra investment. You'll want to consider this after narrowing your focus based on shot/milk quality.

    Odds and Ends

    There are other bells and whistles to consider when looking at superautos as well. Recovery time, or the time between shots, could be a consideration if you serve a full house. cleaning options, tank type, and hopper/tank size are a consideration as well. Larger tanks mean less refills but can also be harder to remove or add cost. Many of these options come down to preference. Finally, proper cleaning and maintenance are important as well, so look into how that is done before making a final decision!

     

  • Roast of the Month: Olympia Kenya Kiandu

    Kenya Kiandu

    This month's roast of the month comes to us from the folks at Olympia Coffee Roasting! Kenya Kiandu is an intensely delicious single origin. While this is a washed process, it features strong flavor notes that you might normally associate with a natural. This is in part because of the unique washing process, wherein coffee is allowed to ferment for a day between cherry removal and washing. The result is a delicious explosion of berry, floral, and rich notes. You'll be able to pick out the strawberry and caramel notes even without a refined palate. On top of this, strong floral aromatics will delight your tastebuds as well as your nostrils!

    We love Kenya Kaindu in a variety of filter methods, but as usual we recommend a pourover to get the most complex notes. Get this delicious roast while you can!

  • Coffee History: Colombia!

    Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world. It's no surprise then that the nation has a rich history with coffee. Join us as we explore the introduction and development of the coffee industry in this wonderful country!

    landscape photo of seashore at sunset

    European Influence

    Coffee isn't native to Colombia. The plant was originally brought over by missionaries from Europe in the 16th century. This led to backlash initially. Most natives resisted the encouragement to grow the bean because of how long it takes for coffee plants to produce their first crops. Because of the 5 year wait, many farmers questioned how they would make a living while their plants matured.

    Eventually, priests were able to convince farmers to grow coffee instead of traditional penance. Before long, coffee was thriving domestically. Between colonist love for the beverage and popularity among natives, coffee had been cemented as a cornerstone of Colombia's agricultural landscape.

    From Domestic Treat to Global Trade

    As the world's economy inched towards globalization, Colombia began to trade coffee with it's neighbors. In 1835 Colombia began exporting coffee to the United States. At this point Colombia was exporting 2500 bags of beans to the U.S. 50 years later, that grew to nearly 200,000. Since then, Colombia's coffee exports have topped 10,000,000. This put Colombia squarely in second place in terms of coffee production in the world.

    While Vietnam is now the number 2 producer, Colombia remains squarely in third. Part of Colombia's success is due to marketing in the late 1950s that included the character of Juan Valdez. This character, appearing with his donkey, created a strong association with certain brands and Colombian coffee. This brand association persisted through the 20th century and solidified Colombia as an exporter of quality coffee.

    person holding beans in dark room

    Characteristics of Colombian Coffee

    Colombian coffee is grown at high altitudes. It often shares farmland with rubber and banana trees. This combination of factors, plus the volcanic activity in the nation, creates excellent soil for coffee plants. The coffee grown in Central Colombia tends to be balanced and rich with a heavy body. This crop tends to be great for medium and medium-dark roasts. By contrast, coffee grown in the Eastern region of Bogota is usually less acidic, but heavier and richer. This tends to create full, rich dark roasts.

    With all of this in mind, Colombian coffee works great in a variety of contexts. The complexity and richness leads to unique and interesting single origins. On the other hand, the versatility and base level of quality in Colombian coffee makes it perfectly suited for blends as well.

    We hope this spotlight on Colombia has added some context to your favorite cup of joe! Join us next time for more coffee history!

     

  • Milk Drinks Galore!

    Last week we looked at a few different brew methods that might fit your tastes. This week we're following up with a few ways to enjoy one of our favorite methods, espresso! Plenty of people around the world love to drink espresso straight (and we do too), but it also makes a great pair with milk! Whether you're a whole milk drinker or prefer substitutes like soy and almond milk, espresso makes a great companion. The rich, chocolatey flavor notes of a good shot of espresso really shine with the creamy consistency of a milk beverage. So let's take a look at a few options!

    Latte

    The latte is one of the most iconic and classic milk drinks you can order. starting with a shot of espresso, a latte is simply steamed milk poured over the shot, with a little bit of foam on top! Latte's can be made with a variety of syrups and additives for a truly customizable, tasty treat. Many baristas will even create some latte art using the foam! Can also be enjoyed iced for a tasty Summer treat.

    The Cappuccino

    Cappuccinos are similar to lattes, but with more foam. Steaming milk for a cappuccino involves incorporating more air into the milk, thus making the beverage foamier overall. You may be surprised when you pick up a cappuccino from your local coffee shop if you're used to ordering them at a chain. A proper cappuccino will be much drier than a latte. As such, the cup will be much, much lighter in weight!

    Caffé Macchiato

    Your daily trips to chain coffee shops may have given you a false impression of what these little drinks really are. While some coffee shops simply call flavored lattes macchiatos, in reality, the real drink is a little different. A macchiato is a double shot of espresso topped with a dollop of foam. This tasty drink gets its name from the Italian word for "marked" or "stained." Caffé Macchiato literally translates to stained coffee. 

    Flat White

    A flat white is a similar drink to a latte. The main difference is the amount of microfoam and milk, which is lower than in a latte. This higher coffee to milk ratio leads to a richer, more espresso driven flavor. Instead of the espresso acting as a syrup for the milk, the milk just compliments the espresso flavor. Not as well suited for flavored syrups as a latte, this is a great beverage for espresso lovers wanting just a little extra creaminess.

    That should be enough to get you started ordering like a pro at your local roaster!

     

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