Make Coffee You Love!

  • The Importance of Timing and Weighing Your Shots

    Pulling the perfect shot of espresso is a learning experience. It's not easy to go from beginner to proficient at such a delicate process. We've talked in the past more generally about ways to improve your espresso game. Today we wanted to take a look at timing and weighing shots, two key components of brewing great espresso!

    Shot Weight

    Shot weight is important because, as with drip coffee, ratio is key. You need the right amount of water to pass through just the right amount of ground coffee. This ensures that the chemical process of coffee and water molecules bonding takes place. For drip coffee, using a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water is pretty standard. Due to espresso's more concentrated, syrupy nature and the pressure from brewing, 1:2 coffee to water is a good starting point. Using a scale to weigh your shot as it pulls is key here! While you can also use a shot pitcher that measures volume, a scale gives you more freedom. With it, you can brew to exact ratios and try different amounts of coffee and water.

    The important thing here is making sure your scale can accommodate you portafilter for weighing grounds AND be small enough to fit under the brewhead. Examples like the Acaia Lunar are small enough to fit under brew spouts and can be combined with plates to fit portafilters.

    Shot Timing

    In order to manage the perfect extraction, the amount of time a shot takes to pull is very important. Most of the time you'll be aiming for your shot to pull in 20-30 seconds. For more adventurous recipes you might use different timings. If your shot pulls very fast it could mean that you need a finer grind or a tighter tamp. Too long and you may need the opposite. In either case, without timing your shots you'll never know for sure.

    Poorly extracted shots can taste sour or bitter, just generally bad. If the timing is good and you use the right volume of coffee and water, you know that it's a problem with the bean! Many scales offer shot timers, but to truly measure down to the millisecond, try to find a brewer with one built in. Timers on machines will usually start automatically when the shot begins to pull. This ensures everything is synced up exactly. Check out this year's the Rocket Giotto for a great machine with built in timer.

    We hope this article drives home the important of adding a timer and scale to your espresso setup!

  • Video Roundup: 10/18/2019

    It's another Friday and we have LOADS of videos to share this week!

    Let's dive in:

    First up, Gail took a look at the new 3200 LatteGo from Philips.

    Next, we tasted our Roast of the Month!

    Then we got another crew review, this time of the NON LatteGo 3200:

    Allie dropped by the studio to offer some Izzo tips and tricks:

    And last but not least, another terrifying Coffee Collaboration with Clementine!

    That's all for now, get to watching!

  • Roast of the Month: Camber Guatemala Santa Isabel

    This month's Roast of the Month comes to us from Camber Coffee. Camber is a local roaster just north of Seattle in Bellingham Washington. We've been fans of Camber for a while, and we're really excited to be able to feature them!

    Origin

    Guatemala Santa Isabel was grown near the town of San Cristóbal Verapaz. This central Guatemalan town was at one time not renowned for its coffee. The producer of this particular coffee, Don Luis, worked with his son to develop the farm. By improving their cultivation techniques, they're fully developed their crop into a prize winning coffee. We loved Camber's take on this roast, especially given that it's from a region we don't see as many coffees from.

    The Coffee

    The coffee itself is a delicious washed roast that evolves as it cools and depending on the brew method. We've had this coffee as everything from a pourover to a vacuum siphon brew, and it's always interesting. Depending on brew method, you'll get sweeter cherry notes with more prevalence. On the other hand, our siphon brew highlighted the marzipan note that Camber lists. A classic drip brew should give you a nice balance that still offers some interesting taste.

    This adaptability and general great flavor was what really grabbed us about this camber. This is just a great coffee that you and other coffee drinkers you brew for will love too! Check out Camber's Guatemala Santa Isabel here today!

  • What Makes An Expensive Machine Better?

    It may seem odd that espresso machines have such a wide price range. Why is it that we recommend such expensive machines when $200 options exist? What makes a $2,000+ machine worth it? Loads of factors actually! Some may seem obvious, but others are not.

    Heating Elements

    Arguably the largest cost point of an espresso machine is its heating element. Espresso needs a tight temperature band right around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Producing consistently hot water like this can be a challenge. You have probably noticed that as soon as you pour boiling water, it drops by a few degrees. Water for espresso needs to get from the water tank, through a heater, then to the portafilter at 200 degrees. Cheap machines tend to fail to do this without telling you. The result is lower quality espresso.

    Another factor is heatup time. Some machines are designed to quickly heat small quantities of water for each shot. Machines with larger boilers take longer to heat up initially but hold more hot water for multiple shots. In both of these cases, water is heated quickly and efficiently, which isn't always true with cheaper brewers.

    Pumps

    Consistent hot water is one of the keys of brewing perfect espresso. Consistent pressure is the other big element. 9 BAR of pressure must be applied to the puck with the water in the portafilter. This pressure is what creates proper extraction. To brew good espresso, the pump must be able to quickly put out 9 BAR and sustain it through the brew process. Cheap machines offset this requirement by using pressurized portafilters. These portafilters have additional material in them to provide resistance. While some great machines do brew with pressurized filters, they generally still have consistent pumps. Cheaper machines lack this.

    Case Material, Interface, Odds and Ends

    Another core element of machine pricing is materials. It may seem obvious, but a shiny stainless steel machine just costs a lot more to produce than one made of plastic. While plastic isn't always a bad thing, it can be a factor for many users. Having that solid, metal case can be a major selling point. More important than the case though, is the inside. hoses, gaskets, and fittings made from solid, long lasting materials matter. Cheaper machines might use plastic on the inside of machines at common failure points. More expensive machines avoid this by using stronger metal and rubber.

    Also important are things like controls. Does your machine have mechanical control elements like levers and dials? Or are you simple pushing a cheap feeling button for steam? This won't matter for some, but for others having that tactile control is important.

    Finally, little odds and ends like cool touch steamwands, specific grouphead styles like E61, and three way solenoid valves may SEEM minor, but they can matter. E61 groupheads, for example, help hot water stay hot during brewing. There are a lot of seemingly small bullet points that really matter in the long run.

    ...And Much Much More!

    Beyond everything here, there's so much more to talk about in the nitty gritty. Temperature controllers, plumbability, NSF certifications for commercial outlets, and even more! Trust us when we say, there's a lot that goes into upping your espresso game. It's worth it to do hard research on your new machine purpose to understand the cost. It'll help you end up with a generational machine for you to learn on instead of one you'll replace in a year or two.

  • Video Roundup: 10/11/2019

    Happy Friday!

    We have a cornucopia of new videos this week and we can't wait to share!

    Check out Gail's look at the fabulous Supergrindz superauto grinder cleaner:

    Next up, you may have heard the news that we have a new line of superautos on the block, here's an overview!

    Gail also provided a look at the SCG exclusive Carina here:

    John gave us a meaty crew review of the Rocket Espresso RE Doppia:

    And finally, it wouldn't be Friday without some Clementine!

    We hope you enjoy! We'll see you next week for a whole new set of videos!

  • Superauto Milk Steaming Systems

    There are a lot of different ways that superautos handle milk steaming. While the end result is your morning latte or cappuccino, how you get there has an effect on the final product. Here’s a rundown of some of the milk systems you might run into while browsing Seattle Coffee Gear!

    Panarello

    Panarello steam wands work a lot like the kinds of steam wands you find on semi-automatic espresso machines. The difference is that these wands are designed to direct steam in your milk in such a way that less finesse is required compared to a standard steam wand. While you do have to hold the milk up to the wand to do the steaming, these devices also let you decide how hot you’d like your milk. This is useful for superauto owners because one of the complaints some people have about these types of machines is milk not being hot enough. On the other hand, the whole point of superautos is to make the whole process automatic, so you'll have to decide for yourself if you value control more than convenience. Take a look at the Philips Carina for an example of a Panarello system.

    Siphon System

    Cappuccinotores and other siphoning systems pull milk through a tube into a steam chamber within the machine. From there the milk is delivered to your cup. These systems are easy to use and convenient, but they can require a bit of extra cleaning and don’t offer much control over the process of steaming the milk. Since milk is drawn into the machine, it's hard to get all the way in and clean the inner-workings of the steam system by hand. Luckily most siphon systems feature a cleaning cycle that makes it easy to run a cleaning agent through the system to clean out any gunk. Another thing to keep in mind is that siphons don't always handle alternative milks or cream easily. You should make sure your machine will be able to heat something other than milk if you use an alternative. The Miele line of superautos uses a siphon system.

    Carafes

    Carafes generally have you pouring milk into a container that you then plug in to your machine. Milk is pulled from the carafe into a steam chamber, then dispensed into your drink. This method helps to cut down on waste, you can simply store the carafe in the fridge with any excess milk. These systems do mean another item to clean, and often are more expensive than the other options on this list. Otherwise, carafe fed milk systems are a really great option that simplifies your steaming. The Saeco Incanto Carafe features a carafe.

    Hygiesteam

    Hygiesteam is a unique system developed by Saeco for use with Xelsis machines from 2018 onward. This system uses cleaning agents and a metal siphon that self cleans itself periodically to help alleviate cleaning issues. While the siphon can be placed in any container, a specially designed carafe supplied with the machine even combines some of the conveniences of other carafe based systems. Overall, the Xelsis' Hygiesteam system produces some of the best milk we've ever had out of a superauto, largely due to the control you get from the touch screen interface of the machine. Check out Hygiesteam on the Xelsis here.

    LatteGo

    The newest entry to the superauto milk steaming family is Philips' LatteGo. This device looks just like the carafe you might find on other machines, but actually offers something very new and different. Instead of pulling milk through tubing, milk is pulled into a simple steam chamber and poured through a part of the carafe itself. A siphon at the bottom of the device pulls the milk up into a chamber that steam is injected into, but that chamber is part of the carafe instead of the machine. The milk is then poured through a large spout into your coffee. This is a great system that creates excellent texture and can be cleaned and stored very easily. It really combines some of the best elements of different milk steaming systems into one package. The LatteGo system is available only on the Philips 3200 LG for now.

    As you can see, there are a lot of options for superauto milk steaming!

     

     

     

  • Philips Saeco Carina Superautomatic Espresso Machine Review

    If you follow us here, we're guessing you're familiar with Philips Saeco's prowess in the superauto market. From past machines like the Vienna, through the modern Incanto Line, to the best in class Xelsis, this is a proven manufacturer. New on the scene is a full line of Philips machines, and with it, a new Seattle Coffee Gear exclusive. We wouldn't sell you this machine if we didn't believe in it, so it's high time to put it to the test!

    Appearance and Usability

    The new Philips line uses case stylings similar to the Xelsis. This gives all of these machines a sleek, stylish look that fits into any kitchen easily. Carina's faceplate a simple glossy black, keeping the buttons readable. Front access water is a huge plus, thought beans are still top-loading, with a grind setting dial in the hopper. The drip tray is simple and functional, though it can be a touch finicky to slide in and out at first as you get used to it. Simplicity is the name of the game for Carina's interface. On the front you'll find buttons for espresso, coffee, hot water, and steam. At first this can seem like a limited set of options, but combined with controls for strength and water volume, and the panarello steam wand, there's a lot you can do here. With a few button presses you'll be pulling shots, pouring americanos, and whipping up lattes. As with most superautos, the coffee button pulls a long shot rather than true drip. This means you won't quite get drip coffee, but something somewhere between an espresso and an americano.

    Also present are simple rinse and AquaClean. The latter is one of our favorite parts about the Carina - it uses Saecos current AquaClean filtration. This means you'll get guided alerts on when to change the filters. This filtration system makes cleaning and maintaining your machine incredibly easy.

    Another note here is the panarello steam wand. Sometimes these devices get a bad rap in the superauto world because they're less "auto" than cappuccinotores and carafes. This is true, but panarellos also give you full control over degree of foam, and temperature. Sure, it takes a little bit of extra effort, but you save yourself from being stuck with milk that isn't hot or foamy enough for you.

    Performance

    This machine uses the same brewing hardware as the higher end machines in the new Philips line. This means you'll be getting the same quality of espresso machines double the price, and it's far better than pod-based machines at this price point. You also get to bring your own beans. It's true - the Carina isn't quite at the level of the Xelsis, but for a fraction of the price, it's impressive. Impressive enough to recommend even to someone replacing an Incanto or Pico. Dialing in grind, strength, and volume will let you get the coffee tasting just how you like it too. Carina also heats quickly, going from off to ready to brew in under a minute. Steaming requires a bit of additional heat up time, and we recommend starting with your milk and then pulling your shot.

    The AquaClean filtration performs as well as you'd expect, and as noted above, the panarello works great. It's not quite as convenient as a carafe or cappuccinotore, and it's slower than a more expensive semi-automatic, but it still heats up and works quickly.

    Conclusion

    The biggest strength that the Carina has is its price point. This is definitely not a "cheap" machine, as it has features, performance, and style well beyond its price point. That price point is, however, an extremely attractive piece of the puzzle. The Carina is one of the lowest price superautos on the market, and that's with few compromises. We absolutely recommend this machine for any new superauto customer. It's even a great replacement if your Incanto is getting a little long in the tooth! Check out the Carina exclusively at SCG here.

  • Video Roundup: 10/4/2019

    Another week, another roundup! It's time to dig in to all of our video content from this week!

    First up, a long awaited look at DeLonghi's LaSpecialista with Gail (and Jamie from DeLonghi!):

    Next, Gail showed us some handy tips & tricks for use with the Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato!

    And finally, of course, it wouldn't be Friday without a new Coffee Collaboration with Clementine:

    Check back next week for more videos!

  • Video Roundup: 9/27/2019

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's time again for our weekly roundup. This week we've got tastings, recipes, and comparisons galore! Read on to check em' out:

    First, our Clementine inspired Roast of the Month tasting!

    Next up, Gail compared the Eureka Brew Pro and the Baratza Forte BG!

    And last but not least, a perfect fall Coffee Collaboration from Clementine:

    We hope you enjoyed! Check out some more videos next week!

  • Clearing Space: Where To Put It All?

    It's a constant struggle as a coffee fan, where do you put all of your supplies? How do you manage a machine, grinder, accessories, cups, the coffee itself... Sometimes it feels like too much! Here are some ideas for ways to keep down the clutter and manage your coffee making space, from grinders, to drip brewers, to espresso.

    General Tips

    The first thing we recommend is creating a dedicated space. This isn't possible for everyone, but whether it's a kitchen island, a space next to the sink, or the top of a shelf, it helps. Carving out a specific space for your coffee equipment helps cut down on mess and clutter. You also wont have to worry about finding your gear when it's time to get brewing. The biggest consideration in picking your space is access to power and water. This is especially important for an espresso brewer, where you'll need to provide both in steady supply.

    We also recommend dedicating some organizational space to your brewing space as well. This could be a drawer under the counter, a cabinet, or dedicated shelf space below your brewing area. Having a place to carefully and generally store your accessories next to, but without cluttering your brewing space is important.

    Finally, there's storing the coffee beans themselves. We recommend a solution like an Airscape or a Fellow Atmos. These canisters  vacuum seal your coffee, keeping it fresher for longer. It's also easier to scoop coffee from a canister than it is from a bag.

    Espresso

    For espresso setups, having a clear workflow from machine, to grinder, to tamp, to machine is key. You'll want a mat like a this one from Rocket Espresso, and to store your portafilter in your machine. Another tip is to keep a catch tray under your grinder. This way you'll be able to easily clean up any excess grounds and cut down on mess.

    Another big thing to keep in mind is your circuit. You'll want to make sure that running your grinder and espresso machine at once won't trip anything, otherwise you might be in for a longer wait for your morning coffee.

    Otherwise, keeping your grinder, portafilter, and machine close to each other and near needed power, water, and milk will be a huge help!

    Drip Brewing

    For drip brewing a lot of the same principals apply, but you'll also want to be able to carefully weigh out your grounds before brewing. If you're a fan of measuring volume instead of weight, you may want to keep a second storage container handy for excess ground coffee. Otherwise, you might miss your grind amounts and throw coffee out.

    Handy storage options for drip and pourover brewing include this filter holder, it's designed for V60 dripper filters, but can fit other filters as well.

    Keeping a grinder, whole and ground canisters, and filters close at hand should lead to an excellent cup of drip.

    There are other organization tips out there, but all of the above should get you started on curating a space for your brewing. This will help you to enjoy your morning cup with less prep and less cleanup, giving you more time to focus on the coffee!

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