coffee

  • Machines to Tinker With!

    Hey coffee fans!

    We talk a lot about “entry-level” machines, and “prosumer” machines here at Seattle Coffee Gear, but there’s another kind of machine we don’t get into as much. While it’s hard to put a label on them, we’re talking about machines like the Rancilio Silvia and the Crossland CC1. These are machines that require a little extra TLC to get the most out of.

    That’s not to say that they aren’t good starter machines or ones that will last you many years. We love 'em’ and you can brew some cafe quality drinks on them too. You’ll just need to spend a little bit of extra time learning to get the most out of them. In some ways, learning on a machine like this is perfect! You’ll be able to understand everything there is to know about how to brew the perfect espresso and steam great milk.

    Brewing

    To get the absolute perfect espresso you need temperature consistent water and consistent pressures. Add in finely ground, dialed in coffee, and you’re good to go! Important to note with machines like the CC1 and Silvia is they only come with unpressurized portafilters. We’ve talked about this before, but the quick version is it means you’ll need a perfect grind to get a perfect shot. For that reason, you’ll want to pair one of these machines with a dedicated espresso grinder. The upshot is that you’ll be learning to brew espresso on the same kinds of portafilters you’d eventually be wanting to use anyway!

    Steaming

    Milk steaming on these machines can take a bit longer than what you might get from something like a Rocket Espresso machine. That said - with patience and practice you can get incredible micro-foam off of a CC1, Silvia, or similar machine. Part of that is because their steam systems remove barriers between the user and the equipment. With simple dials and switches, you’re in complete control of the steaming process. This can be less true of more user friendly, entry level machines, which can rely on less tactile interface to seem less intimidating. 

    Maintenance

    Maintaining these machines means you’ll need to backflush them and descale them like most other espresso machines. You’ll also probably find that you might want to take an even more hands-on approach to maintenance. Disassembling the brew head to change gaskets, opening up the machine to learn about the boiler components, etc. While you need to be very careful to avoid voiding your warranty, these machines can take some extra tuning and TLC on the inside to really shine.

    If you’re willing to really practice, tinker, and exercise patients, these kinds of machines can be extremely rewarding to own and use!

  • Video Roundup: 5/29/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    This week we've got at home discussions, recipes, and a good old crew comparison for you. Let's take a look!

    First up, Allie and I sat down to chat about brew methods:

    Next, we've got a tasty looking recipe from Ariel!

    And finally, Allie did a comparison of the new Eureka Mignon Notte and the classic Rancilio Rocky.

    That's all for now! We'll be back with more videos next week.

  • Video Roundup: 5/22/2020

    Hello out there!
    We have a trio of videos for you to enjoy over the upcoming long weekend. Let's get into them!

    First up we've got Allie with a Crew Review of the brand new Eureka Mignon Notte!

    Next, Ariel gave us some tips on infusing some coffee into your next Manhattan!

    Finally, it's a comparison between the Eureka Notte and the Eureka Silenazio with Allie.

    That's all for now! Enjoy your holiday weekend!

  • 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!

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