Make Coffee You Love!

  • Turkish Coffee a la Aeropress

    You asked for it, so we answered! Recently, a viewer suggested that we experiment with the AeroPress when making Turkish coffee. So we asked our resident Turkish coffee expert, Rade, to jump into the 21st century by prepping up some coffee and then putting it through an AeroPress.

    Watch to find out how the experiment turned out.

  • The Lowdown on Distilled Water

    A common inquiry we receive is in regard to the type of water customers should use in their coffee making equipment. Some folks think that distilled water will be their best bet, as they won't have to worry about scale build up or performing descaling procedures for the life of the machine. While there seems to be as many supporters as there are detractors regarding whether or not it's healthy for the human body, we do know that distilled water is not healthy for your machine. Seriously!

    First up, let's talk about your equipment. Putting water that has a lack of ions or mineral content through equipment that is basically composed of minerals (stainless steel, copper, nickel, brass, etc.) means the water will take that opportunity to take on ions from the surrounding space, contributing to a slow breakdown of those materials. It will essentially leach minerals out of the metal components and degrade the machine's performance over time. Additionally, there are several models of machines on the market (such as the Rockets) that use a minor electrical charge to determine if there is water in the reservoir. If there aren't enough minerals in the water to conduct that charge, the machine's sensor will report that the reservoir is empty.

    Now, let's talk about the coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America performed extensive testing and found that the ideal mineral balance is 150 parts per million (ppm). Coffee produced with water that contains this level of hardness is better balanced and a smoother cup. A lower mineral content allows for too much available space, often resulting in an overextraction and a bitter flavor. Conversely, water with a higher mineral content won't have enough available space, so coffee will be underextracted and possibly more sour. As distilled water has hardly any mineral content (roughly 9ppm), using it for coffee preparation will result in a bitter cup.

    We often say that you should use water that you like to drink to make your coffee -- after all, coffee is over 98% water. Another option is to use softened water, which encapsulates the minerals, maintaining their structure within the water while prohibiting their ability to adhere to internal components. This can give you the best of both worlds: A smooth and balanced cup of coffee while also reducing the overall maintenance for the life of the machine.

  • Crew Review: Handpresso Wild Hybrid

    If you can't live without the hope of espresso resting squarely in your back pocket, Handpresso's series of portable espresso makers were developed specifically with you in mind.

    Formerly, they offered the Wild version for use with ESE pods and the Domepod version for use with ground coffee. Now they've combined both functions in one sweet lil number -- the Hybrid -- for those of us who simply cannot make up our minds.

    Watch Gail walk through the features and functionality, as well as pull shots using an ESE pod and ground coffee. Please note: Compak K10 Fresh not included.

  • Compare: Airscape vs. Coffee Bean Vac

    In the world of coffee bean storage, do either of these devices do a better job of keeping your beans fresher, longer? We asked Gail to throw a bag of Velton's Bonsai Blend into an Airscape and a Coffee Bean Vac, then we pulled shots a week later and two weeks later to see how they held up. Aside from when we opened them for testing, they were securely sealed.

    Watch to find out how they stack up!

  • Espresso vs. Coffee Beans: Is There a Difference?

    What’s The Difference?

    Browsing the coffee aisle, you might notice some bags are marked as espresso or drip blends. That get’s you thinking: “What’s the difference between coffee and espresso beans?” The truth is, there’s no difference between espresso and coffee beans. A coffee bean is a coffee bean. So, why are bags labeled differently? As it turns out, it's the brew method.

    Labeling beans as espresso or drip is nothing more than a recommendation from the roaster on how to bring out the flavor of the beans. Of course, there are different roasts and coffee beans—two species actually, Arabica and Robusta, as well as varietals bred from these species—but each is still a coffee bean that can be used in a variety of methods.

    We’ll dive into how beans and blends create different flavors and how the recommended brew methods evolved.

    Olympia Big Truck organic espresso blend is a sweet, clean bodied roast shines as an espresso. Olympia Big Truck organic espresso blend is a sweet, clean bodied roast shines as an espresso.

    Coffee Flavor Profile

    Read the label of your favorite bag of beans and you’ll sometimes find food descriptors like oranges or baking ingredients like brown sugar listed on the label. These descriptors are unique flavor notes that the roaster has tasted or smelled in the beans based on their recommended brew process. However, these descriptions do not indicate the quality of brew, but a recommendation based on the background of the beans—such as growing region, process or whether it’s a single origin or blend.

    Try brewing based on their recommendation: What do you taste? Perhaps it’s what the roaster detected—subtle sweet and fruit flavors with chocolate undertones or black tea with a tart, citrusy kick—or maybe you’ll find a slightly different flavor.

    Espresso vs Coffee

    So, how did espresso beans come about? When it was first popularized, coffee farms didn’t have the refinement of cultivating that we see today—and when the lesser quality beans were brewed as espresso it was painfully noticeable. When you put beans under pressure, like you do with espresso, the flavor profile becomes more intense, sort of like the difference between a blueberry tea and a spoonful of blueberry jam. In an effort to create a consistent flavor profile, roasters would use a darker roast to produce smoky, caramelized sugar notes, like we see in an Italian roasts. This roasting method, however, meant that the nuanced flavors were no longer detectable. Nowadays, specialty roasters source high-quality beans to make this method of masking taste not necessary. Roasters can experiment with lighter roasts the enhance the flavor of the coffee and share its complexity.

    Brewed coffee, whether it’s from a standard drip brewer or pour over set-up like Chemex, tends to produce less intense flavors than espresso making it more forgiving when used to brew a variety of coffee qualities. You many also find that brewed coffee is a bit easier to control the extraction and therefore the flavor of the cup you produce. Many find that single origins, beans sourced from one location, are easier to brew in this fashion. Single origins typically have more delicate flavors, which makes it easy to under or over extract making them often difficult to brew with for espresso. Think of it like a target, getting a great cup of brewed coffee is like hitting the board and a great cup of espresso like hitting the bullseye. It’s not impossible, but it will take a bit more time and dedication.

    We believe the writing on the bag shouldn’t influence how you brew. It’s a recommendation meant to guide you, but it’s ultimately up to you to experiment and find that ideal brew. While it might require some finessing to dial-in a single origin for espresso, we think the reward is well worth the effort—add some steamed milk and you’ll get a decadent, dessert-like treat. We enjoy pulling espresso shots that taste like a rich blueberry cobbler using a delicious natural processed coffee.

    Slate Coffee Roasters' Cream and Sugar drip blend brings out notes of dark chocolate and caramel when brewed on a dripper. Slate Coffee Roasters' Cream and Sugar drip blend brings out notes of dark chocolate and caramel when brewed on a dripper.

    Conclusion

    There is no difference between espresso and coffee beans. When specialty roasters write “espresso blend” or “drip blend,” it’s just the brew method roaster's believe will make the flavor profile really shine. Coffee is a matter of personal taste and preference—you do you and make coffee the way you love.

  • Compare: Double Boiler Espresso Shots - Izzo, La Spaziale & Breville

    For folks that dig precision, a dual boiler espresso machine with PID temperature control of the brew boiler is hard to beat. While we tend to shoot from the hip in general around here, that doesn't mean we can't appreciate a shot pulled from one of these beauties!

    We asked Gail to pull shots from the Izzo Alex Duetto II, La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi and Breville Dual Boiler so that we could see how they compare. No science at work here, friends (hey, old habits die hard!), but we did use the same grinder for each machine (the Nuova Simonelli MCI), coffee (Lavazza Super Crema) and brew temp (199F) to try to nail down a few of the variables.

    Watch as we taste and discuss the shots from each of these machines, then rank them in terms of our favorites, flavor-wise.

  • Brewin' with Brandi: Iced Latte a la Nespresso

    We kept her on pins and needles long enough, so when we had the opportunity to pair up a non-sweetened coffee drink with a batch of Kaylie's Espresso Meringue cookies, we let Brandi break out the Nespresso! She chose to produce an iced latte, featuring the Aeroccino's cold frothing functionality.

    While the recipe isn't rocket science (a couple shots of espresso and a batch of cold-frothed milk), it's always fun to watch Brandi whip something up, isn't it?

  • Crew Review: Izzo Alex Duetto II

    One of the more popular double boiler espresso machines on the market, the Alex Duetto II has a lot to love about it. The functionality is awesome -- PID interface to set the coffee and steam boiler temperatures, easy access to switching between 15 or 20 amp, convertible water source so you can use either the internal reservoir or plumb it in, anti-burn hot water and steam wands -- which also now features a four hole steam tip.

    Since our last look at this machine, several upgrades have been made, so we decided it was time for another run-through. Watch as Gail talks about features and specs, then demonstrates shots and making a latte. Dig it!

     

  • Compare: Chemex Filters vs. Hario 02 Filters

    Our first time out, Allison used a Hario 02 paper filter for her brew test with the Chemex. And we didn't hear the end of it from our YouTube fans!

    So once we received our first shipment of signature Chemex filters, we decided to do a side by side brew comparison to practically determine if you could tell a difference in the cup. Watch as Allison brews up two batches on the Chemex and we taste them to find out.

  • Crew Review: Baratza Virtuoso Model 586

    Leave it to Baratza to take a good thing and make it better, right? Their well-loved Virtuoso has just been souped up with burrs that previously were included with the Preciso model. Why did they do this? Because they love you -- of course! And also because it improves the overall consistency in the grind.

    Watch Gail compare the older 585 model with the new 586.

     

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