Make Coffee You Love!

  • Whole Beans Vs. Pods

    You’ve heard us talk about how much we love superautomatic espresso machines. We’ve discussed the convenience, simplicity, and ease of maintenance that comes with these machines extensively. But you may think, “pod based machines offer all of this, right?” While technically true, there are lots of reasons to go for a superauto over pod based options, and we’re here to share them!

    Waste

    One of the biggest selling points of a whole bean brewing superautomatic is its lack of waste. Pod waste is an immense problem with pod based solutions. Whole bean coffee comes in simple paper packaging that is usually fully recyclable. What’s more, it’s recyclable without an expenditure of lots of energy.

    While some pods do tout compostability, they generally require high pressure industrial equipment to do so. In some cases, this still causes an environmental impact, and many users may not have access to composting options like this. While there are reusable pods available, you then must provide correctly ground coffee, which largely defeats the purpose in the first place. With their built-in grinders and ability to handle most whole beans, superautos definitely have a smaller waste footprint.

    Cost and Variety

    Another problem with pod based machines is only having access to what you can get in the pods. Blank, reusable pods exist, but then require more work to use. With standard pods, you get a limited set of options for what coffee you can use. Beyond that, pods are often more expensive than whole bean coffee. Using them for your daily cup can become quite pricey compared to a whole bean option.

    Superautos don’t encounter this issue. While we recommend avoiding oilier beans, otherwise the world of coffee is open to you. With thousands of roasts to choose from across a range of prices, variety is definitely better with a superauto.

    Flavor and Performance

    While this is the most widely varying element of the equation, you’ll generally always get better coffee from the freshly ground beans a superauto like a Philips or Miele uses. Pod based coffee can sit on a shelf for long periods and lacks that “freshly roasted, freshly ground” aspect that whole bean coffee has.

    While quality among superautos varies just like it does with pod based machines, in general, you’re going to like the coffee you get from your new superautomatic espresso machine more than a pod. Combined with all of the other elements we’ve mentioned, it’s clear why we encourage you to ditch your pods and go whole bean!

  • Video Roundup: 5/15/20

    Hey coffee lovers!

    It's Friday, which means we've got our regularly scheduled Video Roundup for you! Let's get into what we've been up to at home and in the studio.

    First up, Pat and Allie break down SCG's May Roast of the Month, Kickapoo Spring Blend!

    Next up, it's a classic crew comparison between the Ratio Six and the Breville Precision Brewer!

    And finally, Gail dropped in to give us some tips and tricks on getting the most out of the Rocket Espresso Giotto Type V Timer!

    That's all for now folks! We'll be back next week with more for you to enjoy!

  • Roast of the Month: Kickapoo Spring Blend

    It’s that time once again for Seattle Coffee Gear’s Roast of the Month! This month we’re celebrating Kickapoo’s annual Spring Blend. We love this year’s offering on this always solid coffee and we think you will too. Join us as we give it a look!

    Origins and Producers

    This year’s Spring Blend features coffees from two of Kickapoo’s newest suppliers, one from Progresso, Peru, and one from Inza Valley Colombia. The Pillimue group is an independent farmer collective in Inza Valley, Colombia. This group focuses on traditional coffee development made difficult in other regions of the country due to the La Roya leaf fungus. Inza Valley has largely been safe from the fungus, and the Pillimue group has taken this advantage and ran with it to produce traditional Colombian coffee at a high level of quality.

    The Padilla family is a farming family in Progreso, Peru. Located in the Northern part of the country in the Andes, the conditions there are perfect for coffee production. This hard working family expertly tend this land and practice Minga, which means roughly “today for me, tomorrow for you.” Their quality coffee indicates what a positive impact this philosophy has on the practice.

    Brewing and Flavor Profile

    Spring blend features an approachable flavor profile that Kickapoo refers to as “layered and confectionary.” These are good descriptors, expanded upon through notes of milk chocolate, nougat, and cherry. These notes combine for a classic coffee flavor that is just rich enough for fans of something sweet without alienating someone who prefers a lighter roast. This is the perfect kind of coffee to hand to someone who is used to grocery store brands and chain coffee shops. It really gets across how good a classic cup can be.

    For brewing, we recommend starting with a good old fashioned drip brewer. Running this coffee through a Bonavita or Precision Brewer results in a delicious, classic morning cup of coffee. For a sweeter cup, try an espresso with some milk in a latte or macchiato. Finally, to get at that cherry note the best way to brew is a pour over. One of the reasons we like this blend so much is just how easily it works across these brew methods. This is exemplified by the roast’s flavor in a superauto or press along with the above mentioned brewers. Get a taste of this delicious seasonal roast now before we roll over into the Summer

     

  • Static and Coffee Grounds

    One complaint we see a lot about grinders is that grounds can sometimes come out with a lot of static cling. This is certainly a pain, but how much is the grinder to blame for this clinginess? Read on to find out!

    What is static electricity?

    Static electricity occurs when there’s an imbalance of electric charge on a material. All materials are made of atoms that are, at rest, electrically neutral. This is due to a balance between positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. When two materials come in contact, electrons can move from one material to the other. The result is an imbalance between protons and electrons. It’s a complex process that’s a little heavier than what we’ve got time for today, but the main cause of static in coffee grounds is friction. 

    As you can probably guess, there’s a lot of friction inside of a grinder as the beans make their way from the hopper, into the grind chamber, through the burrs, and down the exit chute. All of this is exacerbated by dry air. This is why it can be a problem one day and not the next.

    So what’s the solution?

    The general solution for reducing static buildup is introducing more moisture. If your beans are clingy, you are probably seeing static buildup in other places as well. A humidifier can be a good step towards making the air in your kitchen less dry. This can provide benefits beyond just coffee grinding! Another option is to introduce a bit of moisture into the equation with some water drops in the bean hopper. This is a delicate balance because you don’t want to add too much water to the hopper or it’ll cause grounds to clump, but too little won’t have much effect on the static. It’s also possible that adding water won’t end up counteracting the static either.

    In the end, the best solution may be the simplest. A good hard thump on the grind chute and knocking your catch bin on the counter can knock grounds to the bottom. From there, giving the coffee a few minutes to settle before pouring into a filter can help the static dissipate.

     

  • Video Roundup: 5/4/2020

    It's another Monday and another Video Roundup!

    Gail's taking a break from Good Morning Gail, so this'll be our last Monday roundup for a while. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled releases next Friday.

    But for now, let's jump in!

    First up, your's truly provided some insight on how to brew in a tightly packed kitchen:

    Next up, Allie shared some tips on different ways to brew:

    Then we have everyone's favorite coffee expert, Gail, with another episode of Good Morning Gail!

    And last but certainly not least, Ariel showed us how to make a delicious cold brew Daiquiri.

    That's all for this week, we'll see you next Friday!

  • 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!

     

  • Heat Exchangers Vs. Dual Boilers

    Your espresso machine is one of the most important purchases you can make for your café or coffee shop. These are machines that are built to last decades, so it’s important that you work to ensure that your machine is fit for the task of handling your customer load. One of the major elements of every espresso machine is how the boiler works. This is a passing curiosity for home machines, as most boiler types will do the job in a home setting. On the commercial side though, boiler type can make a huge difference in recovery, and prep time. The type of boiler in your machine can also add to greater consistency from shot to shot, easing the load on you baristas.

    The goal of this article is to help you understand the differences between heat exchanger type boilers and dual boiler systems. Each design is useful and valid, but with a bit of help from SCG you can make sure you purchase a machine with a boiler that will perform best for your shop. This is also an important topic for those commercial customers who have seen a lot of growth and are considering an upgrade or a second machine. It’s important to weigh where you’re at vs. the investment, because it can be a costly mistake to jump into an additional machine if you don’t truly need the capacity.

    Heat Exchangers

    The first thing to cover is what a heat exchanger actually is. To put it as simply as possible, this is a boiler that transfers heat from one fluid to another without those fluids coming into contact. To visualize this, imagine a pool of water with a tube running through it. The water in the pool will influence the temperature of the water in the tube, and vice versa, despite the tube’s material separating them. These types of boilers are used for thousands of home, commercial, and industrial applications. There is a good chance that you have at least one heat exchanger in your home, whether it’s your water heater, coffee machine, or some other appliance!

    But how is this principle applied to an espresso machine, and what does it mean for machine performance?

    In an espresso machine, heat exchanger boilers differ from standard boilers because of how they heat and control the water. Where a standard boiler pulls water directly from the boiler to both steam and brew, heat exchangers separate this process. This matters because the difference in water temp for steaming and brewing is over 40 degrees fahrenheit. That means you’ll have to wait for temperature changes between brewing and steaming. All of this is why the vast majority of commercial machines are a heat exchanger or dual boiler.

    In a heat exchanger, brew water is pulled through a copper pipe that runs through the boiler. These tubes are designed to pull the water at the ideal temperature for brewing, guaranteeing the perfect water temperature every time. This is done by calibrating the pipe’s diameter and size to ensure that water passing through is heated to the correct temp as it runes through the pipe (and therefore through the boiler). Meanwhile, steam is pulled directly from the boiler, allowing you to brew and steam at the same time.

    The trade-off here is consistency and specific temps for volume and finer temp control for each process in a dual boiler. These machines are also often more affordable than dual boilers because they just have a lower material cost to produce.

    The downside is that it is possible to outrun them in very high volume scenarios, specifically when doing lots of steaming, and brew temps (and because of this, espresso flavor) can be less consistent in these situations as well due to fluctuations in temperature. While this can be true of a dual boiler as well, it’s less likely to run into inconsistencies in brew quality since the brewing is handled by a completely separate boiler and heating element.

    Dual Boilers

    Dual boiler machines are just what they sound like, machines with multiple boilers. Instead of a single boiler with multiple water paths, dual boilers just feature separate brew and steam boilers. This allows a boiler to be ready at all times for either task. The upshot here is the removal of temperature as a cause for shot inconsistency. It’s nearly impossible for a barista’s shot prep to outrun brew boiler recovery on a machine like this. Like a heat exchanger, a dual boiler allows you to steam and brew at the same time. Both boilers are temp stable at the required temp for each process, providing excellent consistency in both brewing and steaming. The only time this can change is, again, in high steam volume situations, such as trying to steam milk for 10 20oz. lattes in a row. The difference with a dual boiler is that this situation won’t cause brew temps to fluctuate and create inconsistent espresso.

    So what’s the issue? The first, as you might have guessed, is cost. Machines with dual boilers tend to be much more expensive than heat exchangers because they pack in much more material. Functionally, a heat exchanger takes up the same amount of space as a single boiler. On the other hand, a dual boiler machine requires double the materials. That means double the components that could fail over time. They also requires double the space. This is another primary issue with dual boiler machines, they tend to run larger.

    These caveats aside, dual boilers are powerful solutions for very high volume cafés, especially useful when you actually have multiple baristas working one espresso machine.

    Which Is Right For Me?

    This is going to depend on a lot of factors. First of all, there’s space and group count. Because of the way heat exchangers are designed, they make great single group machines when you’re pressed for space. A barista can work on them to pull a shot and steam at the same time, and they can be used with very little recovery time.

    On the flip-side, a dual boiler machine is great for the cafe seeing volume that their current machine(s) can’t keep up with. A two group, dual boiler machine can effectively double your capacity. With this type of machine you could have two baristas brewing and steaming at once, solving speed issues you might be experiencing. They are also more precise than heat exchangers because of the dedicated boiler. Finally, if the brew boiler fails for whatever reason, you still have a boiler for steaming, or vice versa.

    All of this can make the extra expense for a dual boiler machine very worth it. While heat exchangers can be hard to outrun, it is possible in high volume scenarios, especially when you’re making lots of milk drinks. Dual boilers almost completely alleviate this issue. Additionally, a dual boiler machine will offer a lot more “nice to haves” as standards. Things like fully saturated brew groups, dual PID controllers, steam check valves, and other higher end features.

    As with all of these decisions, our commercial experts are happy to help you make a choice, so give us a call for a detailed consultation!

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