coffee

  • Coffee Regions: Ethiopia

    We’ve taken a look at some of the unique regions that coffee is produced in before, but we wanted to revisit them! Today we’re talking a bit about Ethiopian coffee. We’ll discuss the geographical concepts at play, and dig into the flavor profiles typical for coffees of the region. We’re excited to highlight these interesting concepts in other regions too! For now, let’s get started:

    Geography

    Ethiopia has a diverse range of climates and biomes. From the dusty, but vibrant eastern deserts to mountains, jungles, and forests, this is a large, beautiful country. It also means that it contains the ideal climate for growing coffee plants. Indeed, most consider this country to be the birthplace of coffee. It’s also one of the finest regions for coffee production in the world.

    In light of this, coffee accounts for most of the foreign income in the country. Most of it is produced in the Western part of the country, with some coffee coming from central Ethiopia as well. Because of all of this, coffee in the country is grown at varying elevations. Most coffee is grown in the 1,000-2,500 meter range, but there are outliers as well. With the excellent elevation and climate, Ethiopian coffee beans really are of extremely high quality.

    Processing

    Ethiopian coffee goes through all sorts of processes. Even within specific regions like Yirgacheffe or Limu you may find multiple processing methods. For the most part, the aforementioned regions feature washed coffee. However, it’s not uncommon at all to find a delicious natural Yirgacheffe coffee. By contrast, coffee from the Harrar region is primarily natural processed. This means you get interesting processing experiments as well. Honey processing, for example, is common in Ethiopia, but reserved for specific harvests.

    Their wet and natural processing is managed by highly skilled coffee processors whose attention to detail is fitting for the quality of beans that are grown there. 

    Flavor Profiles

    The easiest way to break down Ethiopian coffee flavor profiles is by region. Generally though, coffee from the country is recognized as some of the most enjoyable and flavorful available. Rich berry notes are some of the most recognizable elements of Ethiopian coffee. You’ll also find bright, almost tea-like roasts from the region, and more balanced affairs. Here are some examples of flavors you can expect from some of Ethiopia’s most prolific coffee growing regions:

    • Sidamo
      • Rich, full, lots of floral and citrus notes.
    • Yirgacheffe
      • Bright, herbal, floral, very light and delicate.
    • Harrar 
      • Intense, fruity, acidic, and rich. Lots of berry notes.
    • Limu
      • Floral, balanced, and a hint of spice.
    • Jimma
      • Bright, fruity, and tropical.

    We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Ethiopian coffee and we can’t wait for you to try some for yourself!

  • 2020 Rocket Espresso Home Machine Lineup

    Rocket Espresso’s home machine lineup is an excellent way to bring cafe quality drinks to your kitchen. Hand built in Milan, Italy, these machines bring authenticity and sophistication alongside their powerful performance. With the addition of the stunning R58 Cinquantotto, Rocket Espresso’s lineup of machines just got an upgrade. We thought we’d provide an updated look at this fantastic collection of espresso machines!

    Rocket Espresso Appartamento

    Rocket Espresso’s Appartamento is a fantastic entry into the prosumer espresso machine space. We often get questions about performance in machines under $1,000. Users sometimes purchase a machine like this and assume they will get the same kind of performance from them as you might from a commercial machine. The Appartamento is an option that gets you closer to that kind of performance without the cost of a professional machine.

     

    Featuring standard Rocket Espresso features like a heated E-61 group head, beautiful and solid case design and construction, a fast heat exchanger boiler, and commercial-like steam want, the Appartamento is a powerful option. On top of this, this machine’s cut out side panels and colored inserts give it a unique, striking look. The compact design of this machine compared to other Italian espresso machines makes it suitable for more counter tops as well. For an added dose of style, check out the Appartamento Nera.

    Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato & Giotto

    Rocket Espresso’s Mozzafiato and Giotto machines offer an upgrade in performance and capabilities over the Appartamento while maintaining the same design ethos and Italian espresso aesthetics.These machines feature similar design elements on the inside, and represent an upgrade due to the addition of PID controlled temperatures. The result is more stable temps under heavy load than the Appartamento offers.

     

    Both of these machines are available with a rotary or vibratory pump. Rotary pumps allow these machines to be plumbed in directly to water lines for the busiest users. The main differences between the Giotto and the Mozzafiato are the side panels, with the Giotto featuring sharp, slanted panels that provide a little extra visual flair. THe Mozzafiato features an integrated cup rail that is part of its flat side panels.

    Rocket Espresso Porta Via

    The Porta Via is Rocket Espresso’s travel machine. While this may sound counter intuitive, it’s actually a clever offering that folds into itself to create a simple to transport case. With a little bit of setup, this is the perfect machine to bring on your weekend road trip or to a cabin getaway.

     

    While it definitely doesn’t fit everyone’s needs, the Porta Via fills a unique niche that will make it the perfect option for some on the go espresso drinkers!

    Rocket Espresso R58 Cinquantotto

    The Cinquantotto is a new update to the classic R58. This machine features all of the design standards of a Rocket Espresso machine with some overhauled elements that take home espresso brewing to the next level. The Cinquantotto’s dual boilers make for an outstanding brewing platform that is nearly impossible to outrun for a home user. This means you’ll always have the perfect temps for steaming and brewing. The Cinquantotto also features a touchscreen controlled PID that allows precise temperature control, auto-on time programming, and more with a vibrant, easy to read interface. 

     

    The Cinquantotto is also plumbable and features the stylish, polished case design of other rocket espresso machines. If you’re looking for some of the highest performance on the home machine market, the R58 Cinquantotto is a compelling offer.

    Rocket Espresso R9 One Group

    The R9 One Group is a complex, hobbyist machine. This is one built for the most dedicated home brewer and features nearly unparalleled control over the brewing process. By using the machine’s brew handle you can recreate the pressure application of a wide range of machines. This lets you mimic brew pressure to recreate the kind of drink you’d get from almost any machine on the market. While the brew paddle reacts slightly slower to adjustments than with something like the La Marzocco GS/3, with the R9 One you can actually store those pressure profiles. By doing this, you can recall past pressure recipes to try your favorites over and over again.

    For a visual look at these machines, join Allie for her overview of Rocket Espresso's machine lineup:

  • Video Roundup: 7/31/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's time for another video round up over here at SCG. We have a mix of videos this week we hope you'll love. Let's jump right in!

    First up, we have a review of the new and upgraded Capresso Infinity Plus:

    Next up, we've got some Rancilio Silvia tips and tricks with Allie!

    And finally, a commercial crew review of The handy dandy PuqPress Q2:

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

  • Coffee Testing

    One thing we don’t talk too much about is the way we taste test new coffees, and how that might help you experience a new roast. 

    As you’ve almost assuredly noticed, coffee tasting notes aren’t always perfect. There’s usually some nuance in there, which we’ve talked about in the past. As such, we don’t just look at the notes and decide whether or not to bring on a roast. We actually try everything we bring on to make sure we like it.

    Given that, you might wonder why sometimes your brew is different from what we describe on product pages. So much of this comes down to brew method and personal palate, but what are the ideal ways to try a new roast?

    Brew

    For brewed coffee instead of espresso, we recommend a pour over. This allows you to start with a small sample of coffee instead of a whole pot’s worth. You’ll also get the most definition in the coffee’s notes, which is important for the initial tasting. 

    For a recipe, we always stick to a 1:16 standard ratio of coffee to water. It’s good practice to use around 20 grams of coffee and 320 grams of water. We then brew with three pours, using around 106 grams of water in each, starting with a 30 second bloom. Spreading the pours out evenly like this can help to balance and settle the tasting notes, even if an ascending pour ultimately leads to better flavor.

    Once you’ve tried a pour over of your new roast, you’ll be able to understand the way the flavor will come out in a drip brewer or press. I’ll also give you the best baseline for understanding those flavors.

    Espresso

    We often receive roasts not explicitly marked for espresso that seem well suited for the brew method. For these roasts, we still taste them as a pour over as described above. After that, we’ll try dialing them in for espresso.

    Dialing in a shot can be very challenging depending on the roast. Many coffees just aren’t suited for the brew method. Some trickier single origins (or even blends!) really need a long pull rather than the standard 20-30 seconds you usually start with. By developing your palate and practicing with different espresso blends you should be able to use pour over brewing to understand a coffee’s flavor. Developing this understanding can make it much easier to dial in a shot, because you know what you’re looking for. 

    In any case, it’s always exciting to pick up a new coffee and work out all of its subtle notes. We highly encourage you to experiment with these different tasting methods to get the most out of your coffee too!

  • Coffee History: Japan

    It’s time for another look at coffee history, this time, in Japan! So much wonderful coffee gear comes from this island nation, so we wanted to take a look at how the drink has had an influence on the culture there! Let’s jump in.

    Coffee Arrives in Japan

    Like many goods, coffee first arrived in Japan in the 18th century, sometime around 1700. Our favorite bean found its way to Japan via Dutch traders, some of the first foreigners to make contact with the Japanese. For most of these early years, coffee was a luxury brewed at home by the wealthy, rather than at coffee shops like in most places. It wasn’t adopted widely in the country until the Meiji Era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912. Even during this time, its popularity was brief and limited.

    In 1888 the first coffee shop opened in Japan, and it closed just a few years later. It’s hard to pinpoint why the beverage had trouble catching on. A factor that may have been related is cost and difficulty in importing beans, especially already roasted ones.

    Coffee During the 20th Century

    During World War II, coffee was seen as a Western influence. This was true of many Western items, and was a function of the government’s stranglehold on the populace during their Imperialistic attempts at expansion. As a result of this, coffee was banned in Japan and didn’t have much presence in the country until well after the war was finished.

    Coffee began its resurgence in Japan in the 1960s, and grew immensely in popularity over the rest of the century. According to Rochelle and Viet Hong (Coffee In Japan: 100 Years of Mornings), imports grew from just 15,000 tonnes in 1960 to over 440,000 tonnes today. Part of this rise can be attributed to the ways in which Western culture became a fascination in Japan in the latter half of the 20th century. That, coupled with coffee’s marketing as an on the go beverage made it a convenient thing to enjoy on the way to work or school. This worked well in Japan’s busy, always in motion economy. 

    Modern Coffee Consumption

    In modern Japan, coffee occupies an interesting place in culture. It is still viewed as a Western beverage, and is treated like many elements of Western Culture. Much like American fast food and theme parks, coffee is viewed as a novelty. While still a largely on the go drink, it’s also one that’s enjoyed as a solitary one by most people. Unlike the United States, where coffee is often a social activity, this is largely reserved for tea in Japan. The exception comes from young people, who view coffee as a disruptive drink, and often enjoy it in groups as a counter-culture activity.

    We couldn’t talk about modern coffee in Japan without mentioning how much Japan has influenced Western coffee culture. Manufacturers like Hario have created some of the finest equipment for pour over in the world. Coffee may come to Japan from the West, but Japan has certainly made its mark on the way the world drinks coffee too!

  • Pour Over Workflow

    Hey coffee fans!

    We’ve talked about organization and utilizing your brewing space in the past. Today we want to touch on some specifics about optimizing your pour over workflow for that kind of brewing. Coming up with a solid workflow saves time and can make the brewing process more enjoyable. As we work from home, it’s really easy to see the benefits of a larger space, but either way, there’s tips you can use to improve your workflow wherever no matter how much room you have to work with. We’re going to go through a good workflow step-by-step. We’re assuming you just want to make a good pour over in the morning, so this article is omitting some hobbyist concepts like flow rate control and sifting fines.

    Water

    One way to speed up your pour over process is to get your water going first. We recommend using an electric kettle with precise temperature adjustment and setting it up right next to your scale and grinder. Ideally, it’ll also be near a source of water. You’ll want to use filtered water for the best taste, so keeping a dedicated pitcher at your station is a help if you have the space. Start your brewing process by filling your kettle and setting the temperature. Then, while it heats, you can prep your coffee.

    Choosing and Weighing Coffee

    If you like to keep multiple coffee options around, we recommend using a dedicated container for each roast. Something like an Airscape will keep your coffee fresher for longer, so you will have more time to drink multiple roasts at a time. If you’re a single roast person, we still recommend keeping your coffee in the bag rather than in the hopper. This is because it is easier to dose for pour over if you weigh your coffee as whole beans rather than try to get a timed grinder to spit out a consistent dose. 

    We like to use the lid of our grinder hoppers to weigh coffee. Placing the lid on the scale and then pouring out the proper amount of beans, plus half a gram or so extra to account for retention as needed. From there, you can just turn on the grinder until it fully grinds everything, then dump all of the grounds into your filter.

    Filter and Dripper

    Whether you’re brewing into a carafe or a mug, your next step is to wet your filter and place it in the dripper. If you have a place to dump your water (like a sink), you can use a bit of the water that should be heating in your kettle to do this. Ideally, you’ll want to heat your carafe or mug too, so a little bit of water through the filter and into the vessel can help make that happen. Assuming you have everything set, you should now have your wetted filter, heated mug or carafe, ground coffee, and hot water. When you get this all down you can have everything ready right as your water comes up to temp.

    The Pour

    For the pour itself, you’ll eventually find the perfect bloom amounts, times, and pour amounts to dial in your favorite flavor. We generally find that you get the best flavor with ascending volumes over three pours. Meaning your first pour (bloom) will be the smallest, with your third pour being the longest. If you want to brew at peak efficiency and quality, using a scale with a built in timer is a huge boon. This is because you can get just the right bloom time. In most cases, you can also count off the bloom if you don’t have a scale like this handy. Either way, you should now have a delicious cup of coffee!

    Cleanup

    Cleanup is pretty simple, just wipe down your area and toss your filter. If you have the option, putting a dedicated small waste bin near your pour over setup can make this easier. In any case, after a quick cleanup you’ll be ready to brew for the next day! We do recommend washing your dripper regularly as well as descaling your kettle every 3-6 months, depending on use. It just keeps everything as fresh and clean as possible. You can use coffee pot cleaners and descalers for best results.

  • A Note on Tasting Notes

    Tasting notes can be a confusing thing. When you look at a bag of coffee and see that it lists things like chocolate, raspberries, and brown sugar, it’s easy to interpret that as actual added flavors or ingredients. This isn’t actually the case! Tasting notes are actually note added flavors, but to understand why they list what they do, you’ll have to get into the head of a roaster.

    Full of Flavors

    Coffee is a lot like wine in that it is full of different flavors. Every aspect of coffee production imparts some kind of flavor. The type of coffee plant, the soil, the elevation, the humidity and light amount, processing, roasting… All of it! It’s really why coffee is so exciting in the first place. There’s just so much that goes into every single cup. For roasters, explaining what coffee might be right for the right drinker can be tough. That’s why tasting notes exist.

    After roasting a batch, roasters will do what’s called “cupping.” Coffee cupping is a type of tasting where you use immersion brewing to allow coffee to steep right in the vessel it will be served from, similar to brewing tea. Then, tasters use special spoons to taste spoonfuls of the coffee.The tasters will then take notes on the kinds of flavors they get from the coffee. Again, this isn’t actual, added flavor, but an interpretation of what the coffee tastes like when brewed at its strongest. These notes form the basis of what ends up on the bag, though they may try the coffee in other brew methods before finalizing the notes.

    A Dash of Excitement

    One key element of tasting coffee is building a realistic profile of what the flavor of the coffee is like through the tasting notes. On the other hand, you can pull out flavors like chocolate and berries from lots of coffees. To help differentiate, often roasters will really dig to try to find the hint of flavor that makes a coffee unique. To an unrefined palate, two coffees might taste the same. Someone well versed in coffee tasting may find unique little elements to show how they differ.

    What this means is that you may need some practice before tasting some more interesting and subtle notes. That’s OK! The important thing is to keep trying, and keep developing that palate. The best way to understand flavor profiles of most coffees is as a pour over. So if you’re really interested in understanding the intricacies of different flavors of coffee, putting together a pour over setup is a good first step!

    Hopefully this sheds some light on those tasty coffee notes!

  • Iced Coffee Vs. Cold Brew

    It’s that time of year where we pull out our cold brewers and ice cube trays for some cool coffee treats. Staying caffeinated and cool isn’t so hard, but you might be wondering what the real difference is between iced coffee and cold brew. We’ve got your back, with an explanation of each method right here!

    Iced Coffee

    Iced Coffee is as simple as it sounds. You start with brewed coffee and simply add ice. The trick is in the way you add the ice without diluting the coffee too much, because simply brewing over ice will lead to lukewarm coffee as the ice melts. On the other hand, using cool water with a pour over or press won’t cause the coffee to bond with the water effectively unless allowed to steep (see the cold brew section!). There are a few ways you can mitigate this, and they offer varying flavors. 

    First, you can just brew coffee over ice. The trick here is adjusting your water to coffee ratio to account for the melting ice in the coffee. This also means that your flavor profile will differ a bit because you’re really brewing a concentrate that is being instantly diluted. Some machines, like the Breville Precision Brewer, have brew settings that help with this.

    The other option is to brew coffee in a glass carafe, then remove it from heat and let it sit until it reaches room temperature. This can feel counterintuitive, but when removed from heat, coffee can cool quickly enough that you won’t lose its freshness in the process. Then you simply pour the lukewarm coffee over ice, and it will melt slower than if you brew over the ice. 

    Both methods can lead to tasty iced coffee, so it’s worth experimenting with both, and with different coffee ratios and recipes to find what works for you!

    Cold Brew

    Over the past decade, cold brew has risen to prominence as a fantastic way to drink cold coffee. And there’s a reason for that! As noted above, cooler water takes longer to bond with coffee molecules. You can achieve this with colder water by giving it a longer steep time. There are some fantastic brewers that help you do this, such as the Toddy Cold Brew System. Systems like this use a filter and valve to allow coffee to steep for a long time (such as overnight) and then be drained from the brewer. The result is ready to drink cold brew, or cold brew concentrate that can be diluted with water, depending on the ratio of water to coffee used. Some simple, grab n’ go options that brew for portability are brew bottles like those that Primula offers. 

    Other cold brewing methods include brewers like the Bruer Slow Drip Cold Brewer.This brewer emulates the slow drip cold brewing method that’s popular in Japan. By modulating flow rate, you can get different flavors as the cold water slowly drips through the grounds.

     

    No matter what kind of cold coffee method you use, the principles of each are simple. Iced Coffee refers to hot brewed coffee cooled down to room temp and then poured over ice. Cold brew methods refer to coffee that is actually brewed slowly with room temperature water. Both offer unique flavor profiles and are delicious with a splash of milk or cream. Give both methods a try this cold coffee season!

  • Video Roundup: 6/26/20

    It's time for another video roundup here at SCG!

    We'll kick things off this week with Allie's Crew Review of the versatile Varia Multi-Brewer:

    Next up, Allie and I sat down to chat about coffee process and how it affects flavor:

    And finally, Ariel gave us a backyard Crew Review of Capresso's Froth Select Milk Frother!

    Enjoy these videos and have a wonderful weekend, we'll see you next week!

  • Video Roundup 6/19/20

    Hey there coffee fans!

    We missed you for last week's video roundup because of our wonderful Roast of the Month. That means this week we have a double whammy of video goodness for you! Let's dive in.

    First up, Allie and I chatted last week about roast levels and how they affect flavor:

    Next, we've got a look at the Jura Smart Connect app with Jake, his very first video!

    Then we checked out some Barista Pro setup steps with Allie:

    Next up, Allie took a look at the new white Barista Encore:

    Then Allie and I sat down together (virtually) to taste our Roast of the Month for June.

    And finally, it's a sneak peak of the new Fellow Ode grinder!

    That's what we've got for now, we'll be back next week with more video content, have a great weekend!

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