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  • Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Aurelia 2 T3 Commercial Espresso Machine

    Aurelia 2 T3While sophisticated temperature control and experimenting with how different brew temps affect the flavor of coffee was born in the world of Third Wave coffee, more and more cafes are getting in on the fun lately. Nuova Simonelli designed their Aurelia 2 T3 commercial espresso machine to meet this need. Combining their well-known commitment to excellent build quality, ergonomic design and intuitive functionality, they've designed the T3 version of their popular Aurelia 2 series of machines with independent brew boilers and separate temperature control.

    By using a combination of heat exchange and multiple boiler technology, each brew head on the T3 (from two to four) will produce a very consistent shot. You can program each of them for different temperatures, allowing you to brew coffees in different ways without having to adjust your machine in the process. As this is targeted toward higher end specialty coffee businesses, it is currently only available in a semi-automatic configuration -- Nuova Simonelli is assuming that you and your baristas will want to be actively involved in your shot extraction!

    To learn more about the Aurelia 2 T3, we visited Nuova Simonelli's US headquarters in Ferndale, WA, and took one out for a test drive. In this comprehensive review video, Brandon guides us through the T3's tech specs, functionality and design, then demonstrates how to make a latte.

    These machines are designed for very high volume businesses, so if you're in the market for something that affords you sophisticated customization yet can also keep up with your busiest rush, the Aurelia 2 T3 is well worth your consideration.

    Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Aurelia 2 T3 - Commercial Espresso Machine

  • Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Mythos

    Nuova Simonelli MythosWhile we've reviewed other Nuova Simonelli commercial-class coffee grinders like the MDX and Eureka, we had never had the opportunity to spend quality time with the oft-mentioned Mythos. So when we visited Nuova Simonelli's US headquarters in Ferndale, WA, we couldn't wait to get our paws on one -- let alone three!

    Currently, the Mythos has a couple of variations that will soon evolve into three distinct models: The Basic, the Plus and the ClimaPro. The Basic is a straightforward dosing grinder that has an expansive bean hopper, programmable dosing functionality and the Mythos' unique vertically-aligned burr set. The Plus has everything the Basic does, but adds a mechanical tamper to the mix. Finally, the ClimaPro features a smaller profile and a heating element in the dosing chute, which maintains a consistent temperature and, therefore, grind consistency amidst ambient temperature changes.

    Watch as Brandon guides us through these three grinders, showing us how they work and compare with each other. He also talks about which type of business would benefit more from each of these styles of Mythos grinders, so you'll be able to select the right model for your coffee-oriented business.

    If you'd like to learn more about these specific models or pre-order a model, please contact Brandon and he can work with you to do so.

    Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Mythos Grinders

  • Tech Tip: How to Clean the Mazzer Major Commercial Coffee Grinder

    Mazzer MajorEach time we provide an overview of a new coffee grinder like the Mazzer Major, we feel the need to also get down to the nitty gritty and show you how to take it apart, care for it, look for signs of wear & tear, then put it back together again.

    A lot of our day-to-day work involves helping people get the most from their coffee gear, and one big way that you can do that is by keeping it enviably clean. Especially if you are running a coffee-oriented business! Day in and day out, you're serving up delicious coffee to your adoring customers and you want to make sure that it's fresh and fully represents what you're all about, right? Taking care to regularly clean your grinder's bean hopper, burr set, grinder chute and doser chamber (if applicable) will go a long way to improving both the consistency and the flavor of your espresso.

    In this comprehensive how-to video, Brandon guides us through how to perform regular care and maintenance on the Mazzer Major. Watch him take it apart, assess the internals, clean and then re-assemble this popular commercial coffee grinder. If you own or work for a business that uses a Mazzer Major in your operation -- and you're not performing similar maintenance on a regular basis -- might we recommend that today's the day you change that trend? Follow Brandon's guidance and you'll see how simple it is to do so.

    Tech Tip: How to Clean the Mazzer Major Commercial Coffee Grinder

  • Crew Review: Jura Impressa F7

    Jura Impressa F7In the recent evolutions of Jura's long line of sophisticated superautomatic espresso machines, they've been focusing on the one-touch cappuccino experience. If you're someone who doesn't drink milk-based drinks very often but would like the ability to share those with friends and family when they come over, the new Impressa F7 is well worth your consideration.

    Not a traditional one-touch cappuccino crafter, the F7 is two steps: First, you make your shot, then you add your milk (or vice versa, depending on your tastes). Both of them will come out of the same dispenser, however, so you don't have to move the cup around like on previous versions. It also features their intuitive menu within which you can set dosage and temperature of your shots, even the volume if you know precisely what you'd like. But then you can program it on the fly as drinks are being produced, so if you're someone who likes to eyeball your coffee (like us!) then you can do that, too.

    In his inaugural SCG video, our regional store manager, Chris, shows off the F7 to us. He's a huge fan of Jura machines in general, but that doesn't stop him from still giving us (and you) the straight dope on the good, the bad and the particularly gorgeous. Check it out!

    Crew Review: Jura Impressa F7

  • The Reluctant Barista: How to Choose an Espresso Machine

    As luck would have it, six years ago this holiday season I was gifted with an entry-level semi-automatic Breville espresso machine. This meant I did not have to select my own home espresso machine or, as Kat likes to call the process, Choose Your Own Adventure. My little dude is still chugging along with its tiny thermoblock and I am both excited and dreading the day I need to pick out the replacement.

    Are you in the same boat? The number of manufacturers, models and variations on variations of home espresso machines can be overwhelming. Pour a cup of coffee, sit back and let’s ponder a few questions to set you on the right path for a successful adventure in espresso. This is an exercise in narrowing down available options until you are left with a manageable few to consider. Set aside budget (for the moment) and let’s think about who will use the espresso machine:

    Do you have an interest in hand-crafting espresso?

    Yes, I want to learn to make drinks myself No, I just want to drink espresso beverages
    A semi-automatic espresso machine allows you to decide the dosage and the shot time which you can adjust to enhance the extraction of different styles of coffee. You have the time, counter space and additional equipment (grinder, tools, etc) to do-it-yourself. A superautomatic espresso machine makes life easier. There is less customization possible but shot consistency makes up for it. You will save time, space and possibly budget by having an all-in-one home espresso machine.

    Alrighty then! How you approach espresso lands you squarely into one of these two distinct camps: Semi-automatic or superautomatic. Intuitively, this was the easiest espresso question to answer. If only there was a Harry Potter-style Sorting Hat to then announce the right machine for you! Instead, I will separate these two categories by their functionality and you can sort yourself.

    Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

    So you want to hand-craft your espresso beverages, eh? Now it's time to consider what style of semi-automatic might best fit your needs.

    Do you drink milk-based espressos (like lattes, cappuccinos etc)?

    Yes, Two words...Latte Art No, I like espresso and Americanos
    Single boiler home espresso machines can froth milk. A heat exchanger or a dual boiler will get the job done better and faster, but they can cost more due to more complicated internal systems. Even though you won’t need the steam wand to froth milk, you may use it to add hot water to an Americano so make sure it is easily accessible for how you will use the machine. Some machines even have a hot water spigot separate from the steam wand.

    Will you invest in a quality burr grinder?

    Yes, a good espresso grinder is just as important as the espresso machine Maybe, I'm not sure No, I might use espresso pods, pre-ground espresso and/or a pressurized portafilter
    The grinder may cost almost as much as the espresso machine you select. A well designed and well built grinder will offer consistent and uniform particle size necessary for a great shot of espresso. If you are on the fence about it, consider a semi-auto espresso machine with a built-in grinder for the best of both worlds. This will limit your selection to models that can be adapted for espresso pods or compatible with a pressurized portafilter. You will still get to make your own drinks and these options will make it easier for beginners or those pressed for time.

    Recommended Semi-Automatic Machines

    Based on your answers to the above questions, here are a few different suggestions for you to start your machine research.

    Nuova Simonelli Oscar home espresso machine
    Bryan uses the red Nuova Simonelli Oscar heat exchanger espresso machine that I want

    Semi-Automatic, with a latte focus and a good grinder

    This is where I am now. I have a Baratza grinder and I am ready to find a semi-auto with excellent shots and very good frothing capability. Heat exchanger models and dual boilers both make excellent foam fast.

    Breville Barista BES870XL
    Breville Barista Express BES870XL

    Semi-Automatic with a latte & shot focus, without a separate grinder

    Not too many home espresso machines fit the bill but this Breville does! It has a thermoblock and an integrated burr grinder that saves space and economy of motion. It is a programmable semi-auto so it almost acts like a superautomatic machine and is very easy to use once it is set up.

    infuserA thermoblock style, Breville Infuser BES840XL

    Semi-Automatic with a latte focus and no grinder

    This is where it all started for me -- an older Breville model that was a bit smaller than this. It was an easy step into the world of espresso before committing to a costly set-up. Some come with pod adapters, pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets for versatility.

    Crossland CC1 + Baratza Preciso
    The Crossland CC1 with a Baratza Preciso grinder is a great combo

    Semi-automatic with an espresso focus and a good grinder

    If your primary focus is quality espresso and you pay attention to tamp, temperature, timing and dosage then find a machine that allows you to control all of these variables. (This PID-controlled machine froths well too.)

    Saeco Via Venezia
    A small single boiler, Saeco Via Venezia with optional non-pressurized portafilter upgrade (right) and bottomless portafilter upgrade (left)

    Semi-Automatic with an espresso focus and no grinder

    Plop a pod in the basket and you’ve got what you need to make a ristretto or a lungo how you like it, when you want it. Quick and easy! Just in case you need a touch of frothy milk once in awhile there is a panarello too. A choice in portafilters helps you build espresso skills.

    Superautomatic Espresso Machines

    So ease of use is paramount for you, but you still want to drink great espresso-based drinks? A superauto may be the machine style for you. To determine which of the many versions available will be the best fit, here are a few more questions for you to consider.

    Do you drink milk-based espressos (like lattes, cappuccinos etc)?

    Yes, Creamy lattes are what life is all about No, I like espresso and Americanos
    Not every superautomatic is great at frothing milk. Many users find that entry-level superautos don’t get the milk froth hot enough. A superauto that also has a steam wand is a nice touch so you can choose whether to use the machine’s auto-frother or its steam wand. Stand alone milk frothers are also a solution. Some superautos do not come with milk frothing capability. If you like espresso and Americanos (and maybe even an occasional Affogato!) this is not a problem. For guests who do like lattes a standalone milk frother is a quick and easy option for frothing milk or making hot chocolate.

    Do you need a bypass doser for pre-ground coffee?

    Yes, having the option for pre-ground coffee allows me to make a decaf sometimes No, I like fresh whole bean ground coffee for my espresso shots
    Some superautos come with a bypass doser. This is a little chute directly to the brew unit so that you can use a different coffee than the beans that are already in the hopper. And that’s ok! if you don’t need the bypass doser that will save you some bucks on technology that you won’t use.

    Recommended Superautomatic Machines

    After considering the above questions, you should be armed to select which of the below machines speaks to you!

    Saeco Xsmall superautomatic espresso machine
    Bunny froths milk on a Saeco Xsmall superautomatic espresso machine, or as we like to call it, the Little Dude.

    Superautomatic with a latte focus

    Your favorite drink features creamy frothy milk, some Monin gourmet syrup and, oh yeah, espresso. If time and counter space are at a premium then a compact superauto can be a great option.

    Saeco Exprelia EVO superautomatic espresso machine
    Chris in the middle of "making" a one-touch cappuccino on the Saeco Exprelia EVO

    Superautomatic with a latte focus and a bypass doser

    For you, or for your guests, it’s great to have the option to make a decaf latte once in awhile. The pannarello wand assists by boosting more air into your steam. Or some models have one touch drink-making capability as a fancy feature.

    Saeco Minuto superauto
    Either/or Teri shows the Saeco Minuto superauto can serve regular coffee or strong espresso at the flip of a lever

    Superautomatic with an espresso focus

    Grab and go! Like in a true Italian espresso bar where you stand, converse a bit, have a few sips from your demitasse and continue on your way...Some superautos make quick and easy espresso or Americanos. The new Saeco Minuto will drop the pressure to make a single cup of true American-style filter coffee.

    Saeco SyntiaPractically hands-free operation...here's an action shot of the Saeco Syntia (after I made sure the shot glass was placed correctly!)

    Superautomatic with an espresso focus and a bypass doser

    Bypass doser capability is not always built into superautomatic espresso machines so make sure to verify its availability. The Saeco Syntia has a bypass doser and a pannarello wand making it a very versatile superauto.

    Now you have thoughtful criteria to evaluate and select the best home espresso machine to meet your caffeinated (or decaf!) needs. The next step is to research our Learn section with informative articles and YouTube videos, ask questions and read reviews. Will there be a new home espresso machine on your counter in the New Year? There might be on mine!

  • Tech Tip: Saeco Minuto Test Mode

    Saeco Minuto - Test ModeWhile the Saeco Minuto offers some unique functionality compared to Saeco's other superautomatic espresso machines -- such as brewing coffee at a lower pressure to produce a more drip coffee like flavor -- it still offers a Test Mode to help diagnose and resolve issues with the machine.

    Knowing how to get into Test Mode is important, as it can assist you in determining what a particular error might be and how you can fix it. Since you can run each functional component separately, you can test things like whether or not the pump is working or if the grinder is grinding but not dosing. You can also learn helpful info like how quickly your grinder is rotating, how many drinks you've made and more.

    In this video, Brendan guides us through Test Mode on the Saeco Minuto -- how to get into it, navigate through it and interpret what its telling you. Once again, indispensable knowledge for Minuto owners everywhere!

    SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Minuto Test Mode

  • What is Tea Certification?

    Tea CertificationYou may have heard recently that tea is rapidly increasing in popularity in America. In order to keep up with the trends, you might have considered adding tea to your cafe or store offerings, doing some research on tea to learn more about it or even taking classes to become a tea master or tea sommelier. However, since getting a tea certification is still a fairly new concept for most people, the phrases 'tea master' or 'tea sommelier' may leave you scratching your head, wondering what the programs entail or whether they are really worth the cost. To figure out what getting a tea certification is all about, we did our due diligence and took a class ourselves.

    Who Should Get Certified as a Tea Master, Sommelier or Specialist?

    Some of the folks that would benefit from this certification include:

    • Retailers or business owners that desire industry recognition or want themselves and/or their staff to have a deep knowledge of tea so they can increase their sales.
    • Owners of tea rooms or cafes who want advanced knowledge on how to serve tea and what to pair it with.
    • Wholesalers who are directly involved in buying or selling tea.
    • People in the food service or culinary industry, as well as those in the coffee and wine business (while they are very different beverages, there are similarities in how tea, coffee and wine are evaluated).
    • Tea growers or researchers.
    • Nutritionists, dieticians or other health care professionals who are interested in using tea to lead a healthy lifestyle.

    However, getting a tea certification can also be helpful for people who are simply interested in tea or have a passion for it and would like to learn more about tea.

    What is the Tea Certification Process?

    Generally, the tea certification process begins by building a strong understanding of the Camellia sinensis plant and the six basic types of tea. Students learn how each type of tea is processed and produced, what differentiates each classification of tea and where and how the teas are grown. Tisanes and popular herbals like Rooibos, Yerba Mate and Honeybush are often also taught about during the class. The next step of a tea specialist’s education is usually learning about post-production processes such as naming and grading, decaffeination, blending, scenting and flavoring. The final part of becoming a tea master is discovering how to brew, taste and evaluate teas, as well as being able to create and host their own tea cuppings. Some programs also include lessons on pairing food with tea, the health benefits of tea, how to educate guests about tea or hosting specific types of tea ceremonies, while other organizations have these classes separated into additional, more advanced programs.

    If you are interested in enrolling in a tea certification program, you are in luck, as there are several available in America (there are plenty of courses outside the United States as well). Depending on what program you enroll in, classes are offered either in-person, online or some combination thereof. Here are a few popular programs, and the certifications they offer:

    Is Tea Certification Worth the Cost?

    While there is no absolute guarantee that becoming a certified tea master or sommelier will secure you a job or increase your business, becoming more knowledgeable about the products you are selling or serving certainly can’t hurt. The more you know, the better you will be able to stock your store, pair tea with food in your cafe, educate your customers about tea and explain why it is a good option for them. If nothing else, by attending a class you will have gotten to see, learn about, taste and experiment with some new teas, and perhaps even connect with other people in the industry.

    I recently attended James Nordwood Pratt’s Apprentice Tea Sommelier class at Coffee Fest, and while I thought I was decently educated about tea before, I found out there was a lot I didn’t know. I came out of the class with a greater appreciation for tea, and a head full of new fun facts, stories and information to share with my coworkers.

    If you aren’t ready to shell out your hard earned cash for a tea class, you can also find a lot of written information about tea either online or in books. There are a number of tea professionals (such as James Norword Pratt, Robert J. Heiss, etc.) who have written informative books that can be found most libraries. In addition, there is a large and active online tea community with folks who are part of organizations like the Association of Tea Bloggers, who review and write about tea regularly. There are also several forums such as Steepster and Tea Trade where people can ask questions and share information with fellow tea lovers. Finally, some tea retailers like Adagio Teas have extensive information on tea that is helpful for beginners and advanced learners alike.

  • Tech Tip: Saeco Talea Giro Test Mode & Troubleshooting

    Saeco Talea GiroWhen you have an excellent tech resource like Brendan around, you sometimes have to just lock him in a room with a bunch of superautomatics and force him to teach you his ways of diagnostics and troubleshooting! Okay, we really didn't have to lock him in the room -- he was more than willing to share his expertise with us -- but we did spend an afternoon with him as he explained the Saeco Talea Giro's test mode and errors for us.

    As you may have learned from our other forays into Test Mode, this is a wonderfully helpful tool that you can use to run each functional element of your superautomatic separately, without making coffee, in order to determine what might be the cause of an issue with the machine. Is your machine not brewing because the pump isn't working, or are you simply grinding your coffee too finely? You can find out by running the pump to see if water comes out of the machine, sans coffee.

    After he guides us through Test Mode, Brendan then dives into the Talea Giro's more cryptic errors and alarms -- since it doesn't have a display screen and only a series of symbols and lights to communicate any issues it might be having, it can sometimes be difficult to interpret. He gives us a few tips and tricks in understanding what the errors mean and how you might be able to easily resolve them.

    SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Talea Giro Test Mode

    SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Talea Giro Alarms & Errors

  • Tech Tip: Saeco Syntia Test Mode & Troubleshooting

    Saeco SyntiaWhile it's true that the Saeco Syntia offers a display with icons and text that will signal to you when something is going wrong, we often hear from folks that aren't clear on what's going on with it. Is that a close up of a fly's head or a symbol telling you to descale? Is it signaling that the tap is open a smidge or is it warning you that snakes are coming out of your espresso machine? These are the big questions, folks.

    In our next series of Saeco superautomatic espresso machine troubleshooting, Brendan takes on the Syntia series. Using the SS model, he first guides us through Test Mode, which is the highly useful diagnostic tool that enables you to run each functional component separately, and without making coffee, so that you can deduce what might be going on with your Syntia. Then, we dive into interpreting the rather cryptic symbols that appear as errors or alerts on the machine.

    Even though we used the SS model for this demonstration, much of this applies to the Syntia Focus and Syntia Cappuccino models, too. If you've wanted to learn more about the inner workings of your machine, these are your go-to videos!

    SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Syntia Test Mode

    SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Syntia Alarms & Errors

  • Tech Tip: Saeco Intelia Focus Test Mode

    Saeco Intelia SuperautomaticsSince the Saeco Intelia Focus features a pretty darn clear menu screen that will alert you specifically to any issues and errors, we thought that going over them was of very little import. Instead, we wanted to focus on its Test Mode, which is cool because it allows you to run each of the functional components separately and independently of actually making coffee. So if your machine is behaving badly (naughty machine!) and you want to find out what might be the source of its bad behavior, test mode can be a helpful deduction tool.

    Watch as Brendan guides us through test mode -- how to get into it, navigate through it and then use it to diagnose any functionality or performance issues with your machine. And while we did use the Saeco Intelia Focus as the demo machine for this troubleshooting video, this process applies its Cappuccino and SS counterparts, too.

    SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Intelia Focus Test Mode

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