coffee

  • So Many Brews, So Little Time

    Hey Coffee Fans!

    We thought we'd stop for a moment this week and get back to basics. Learning to craft the perfect pourover or espresso is great, but is it right for you? Our goal at Seattle Coffee Gear is to help you make coffee you love! With that in mind, we wanted to provide an overview of what several different brew methods are actually like.

    Drip Brew

    Drip brewed coffee is a true classic. The combination of convenience and ability to brew large quantities at once makes this the most popular brew method in the world for a reason. The thing most people don't realize though is that more goes into drip brewing than meets the eye. Proper extraction requires proper water temp and distribution through the grounds. Cheap drip brewers tend to overheat above the recommended 195f to 205f that is recommended for coffee. On top of that, these brewers will often drip water right into the middle of the filter. This means that water isn't saturating all of the coffee, which leads to a scorched, thinner cup.

    When buying a brewer, consider one that offers temperature control or brews in the 195-205f range. You'll also want to consider a brewer that has an auto shut off warming plate that won't scorch your coffee in the carafe (or, if you don't mind stainless steel, go with that material for your carafe). Finally, a spray arm that evenly distributes water in the grounds is important.

    Drip brewed coffee tends to be the most basic taste. You lose some of the complexity of more delicate roasts, while maintaining the bitterness and acidity pourover gets around. This can be mitigated with pre-infusion, which blooms the coffee (saturating with water to release acid), something many nicer drip brewers offer. Despite some negatives in the taste department, drip brewed coffee is the standard that most coffee drinkers learn about first.

    Pourover

    Pourover is the same principle as drip brewed coffee, but with a bit of a lighter touch. This brew method involves brewing coffee by manually pouring water over the grounds through a filter. The nice thing about this is that you can directly control everything about the brew process. Pourover begins with a bloom, where you pour a small amount of water into the grounds to saturate them and release acid. This is followed by your first draw. In this stage, you'll pour the water in a motion spiraling out from the center, so that you can evenly saturate the grounds with water. After a first draw, you'll wait and perform another draw, this time rotating inward, to catch grounds on the sides of the filter.

    The result is delicate, delicious coffee that gets rid of the bitterness and scorched taste of cheaper drip brewers. The downside though, is that pourover is a time consuming process that takes practice. You'll want to measure your grind, the ratio of coffee to water, and things like kettle temp and flow rate as you go. It's a complex brew method that may not be worth the better taste at 6:00 in the morning.

    Press

    Press brewed coffee is strong and thick. To brew in a press, you'll add coarse grounds and hot water, then stir vigorously and leave to brew for 10 minutes or so. After waiting, you'll plunge the press, forcing the water through the grounds and simultaneously separating them. The result is a strong, well saturated coffee that misses all of the delicate notes in flavor of offering rich chocolatey coffee taste. Best used on darker roasts, press brewed coffee definitely is a different experience than filtered brewing.

    Espresso

    The most complex, expensive way to prepare coffee. Espresso brewing involves pressurized water being pressed through a puck of finely ground coffee. This brew method creates incredibly rich, creamy, and sweet flavors, which is why it goes so well with steamed milk. Some may find espresso to be too strong, it's also far more caffeinated than other brew methods due to the concentrated extraction.

    Those things come down to taste, where the biggest hurdle for brewing espresso is cost and learning curve. Even on the low end, a proper espresso setup costs hundreds of dollars. You'll need a good burr grinder to be able to grind fine enough for espresso, as well as a specialized machine. On top of that, learning how to properly dial in a shot takes time and patience (though we do provide plenty of guides and resources for it).

    With these concepts in mind, it's important to know that there are even more ways to brew out there, these are just the most common. We'll talk more about some more adventurous methods, like Turkish, in the future!

  • Video Roundup: 8/17/2018

    Welcome to another Video Roundup!

    This week we've got two awesome crew reviews with Gail!

    First, we took a look at the Eureka Atom 65:

    Next, Gail walked us through the brand new Eureka Specialita!

    Thanks for watching, and have a great weekend!

  • Gear of the Month: Eureka Mignon Perfetto Espresso Grinder

     

    Eureka!

    This month marks our release of several new Eureka grinders. The burly Atom 65 is more than a contender for the Gear of the Month crown, but given its price point we decided to feature one of the new Mignon grinders instead! These new Mignons come in three flavors. The least expensive of the trio is the Silenzio, which is a no frills, 50 mm burr grinder that runs silent but requires manual dosing. On the high end is the Specialita, which has all of the features of the Silenzio, plus timed dosing and a set of 55mm burrs. Both of these grinders are excellent options, but we decided to focus on the middle brother of the three, the Perfetto!

    The Perfetto strikes a nice balance between the Silenzio and the Specialita. It has the baffled internals for a whisper quiet grind, as well as the timed dosing and touch screen. The only thing that separates it from the Specialita is the burrs, with the Perfetto having the smaller, 50mm burrs. We still think it strikes a great balance between the two machines, and we think you will too! Let's dive in a little deeper.

    Features

    The first and most noticeable feature is how quiet this grinder is. Like the other new Mignons, the Perfetto is quiet enough to use at 4AM without waking the kids or the neighbors. It really is impressive how quiet these things get while still offering fast, consistent, and powerful grinding.

    On the usability front, the Perfetto offers timed dosing controlled by a vibrant and beautiful touch screen. While the interface is very simple, it's a huge step up from the manual control of the Silenzio and other non timed grinders. With a little but of time spent dialing in you'll be able to grind without needing to weigh your dose thanks to this timing. This cuts down on time spent prepping your shot, which is always a plus. It is worth noting that this touch screen is resistive, which means that pressure on the screen is what works the buttons. This can feel a little tacky in the age of capacitive touch phone screens, and you have to be careful not to press too hard. We didn't feel this detracted from how useful and striking the screen is.

    The other major usability feature is the EZ dial. This stepless dial has a guide on it that will help you find the starting point for your brew. While you'll still want to take time to dial in espresso shots, this dial will at least help you find where to start, and gives you a good guide for brewing drip or press. We did find that getting down into the Turkish level was really the sweet spot for espresso, so your mileage may vary.

    Conclusion

    Aside from usability features, this grinder features the solid construction and excellent burrs that you'd expect from a Eureka grinder. While a little smaller than it's big brother, these burrs still do a great job grinding your coffee quickly and consistently. The footprint and durability of the Perfetto is also excellent, we don't expect to hear of many problems with this workhorse.

    Ultimately, the Mignon Perfetto is an excellent exercise in combining simplicity, usability, and durability. Get yours here today!

  • Roaster Spotlight: Elm Coffee Roasters — Part 2

    As we teased last week, we recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brendan Mullally, founder of Elm Coffee Roasters, to chat about coffee, roasting, and running a business. We already provided a rundown of Elm last week, so without further adieu, check it out!

    What led you to roasting?

    I worked in coffee for about ten years before I started Elm, and I had no roasting experience! It was all front house management, training, all that kind of stuff. As to why, honestly it was just the flexibility in choosing what we want to serve. I did a lot of multi-roaster shops while I was managing, and it was never consistently what I wanted from coffee. The ability to determine what we serve was a huge part of it, ethical sourcing was a huge part of it, paying good prices was a huge part of it. I've worked in coffee since I was about 14 in Seattle, then Santa Fe, then New York. I had no roasting experience when I decided to open up a roaster! I hired someone to help.

    You talked a little about ethical sourcing, that’s important to us when determining roasting partners. Do you have a core philosophy surrounding this?

    I wouldn’t say it’s a philosophy, but more of a practical approach, which is work with importers I know are paying good prices, not just to the producers but to the pickers as well. There’s only a few, I would say. You know, asking for the information on the prices the pay to the producer, not everyone will do that, but some will. Some will give it to you in a price that doesn’t make sense, so being able to ask them to make that make sense to you is important.

    Would you say that getting into roasting shifted your view of the countries you source from, or the other way around, that you chose those countries based on your understanding of them?

    I would say the former. When I was just buying roasted coffee I, for one thing I don’t think my palate was as developed. After we started roasting coffee, if anything for logistics, we’ve narrowed our focus to Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Honduras, simply because if there’s more transparency in those places the price to quality ratio is a lot higher.

    I ask because it’s interesting how the politics of different regions affect the ability to purchase from them. When we write about regions, the instinct could be to avoid conversations on transparency and politics, but it’s also kind of impossible.

    I agree, and transparency is not something that just happens. Even though we try to do that, sometimes it’s not successful. That has a lot to do with politics.

    Everything else aside, when you look at quality of beans, what do you look for?

    First is nothing wrong with it. That’s the thing I learned first. 99.8% of coffees you can cut out immediately because they're agey, or fermenty, all sorts of things can go wrong with coffee. After that, something that’s a little more fruit forward with interesting characteristics. Sweet, clean, then we roast it to highlight the fruit. We’re pretty light, but I wouldn’t say we’re on the super light end of the spectrum. We try to have acidity and balance. That was the weirdest thing, picking coffee that’s clean was the weirdest and hardest part.

    What do you think was hardest when it comes to the business or art of roasting coffee?

    I would say from the business side, just getting started. I had no business experience. I wrote a business plan and showed it to a friend who who’s an entrepreneur and he said it was terrible, so I had to tear it up and write another 60 page plan. I learned how to make projections, all that stuff. I asked 15 different institutions for financing, it just took a long time. It took 2 years to open.

    On the roasting side, learning to cup well took a while. Especially sample roasts. I thought I had a pretty good palate when I was doing barista training, but, mine’s not even that great, our roaster John has a great palate. It’s just something you have to keep doing constantly.

    The last part was people management, that was hard to learn.

    What do you think the biggest ongoing challenge is?

    Well distinguishing yourself. There’s a lot of roasters these days. Roasting well, light roasting coffee is very hard. The window is extremely small, if it’s too light its sour and vegetal. We don’t particularly like roasty flavors in our coffee, so we don’t like to go that far. If anything we’ll edge a little more roasty if we can’t find that sweet spot.

    But otherwise, inventory control is hard, can’t buy too much, can’t buy too little. If we buy too little, prices go up, if we buy too much it gets agey.

    Was your initial setup similar to what you have now?

    This is what we had when we started! I hired my friend to help start the roasting program. He helped set up everything, taught me how to roast, everything.

    Do you have a favorite roast that you’ve done?

    That’s hard to say. I would say now, maybe just because we have it, I would say the Ethiopia Worka Sakaro is probably the nicest Ethiopian coffee we’ve bought in a long time. It’s extremely good. It’s really floral and fruity but not too bright, a big body.

    What would be your biggest piece of advice for amateur roasters looking to go pro?

    Man, hmm, know your market. Who you’re selling to. Don’t roast too light, don’t underdevelop the coffee. Have fun. It’s going to be really hard, but have fun. Harder than you think it’ll be, times 1000, but have fun. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

  • How Long Will My Beans Last?

    One perennial question on every coffee fans mind is always: "Are these beans still good?"

    It hasn't been too long since we talked about the life of a coffee bean, so we figured now would be a good time to touch on the tragic death of the un-brewed bean.

     

    How Fresh Is Fresh?

    What does it mean when coffee is "fresh-roasted?" How fresh is fresh? Most roasters and resellers will sell coffee within two weeks of its roast date. At Seattle Coffee Gear, we pull coffee from our shelves no more than four weeks after the roast date. We let our roasters indicate if they'd prefer that it be pulled sooner than that. Additionally, some coffees that are vacuum or nitrogen sealed can last as long as a year, but that will be clearly noted on the packaging. Given those numbers, you can say that "freshly roasted" coffee is coffee that has been roasted within the last month.

    It's important to buy as close to the roast date as possible, but don't worry if it's been a few weeks. More important is how quickly you use the coffee upon opening the bag. Coffee is sealed to keep the beans fresh. While you can usually press some air out of the bag to smell the beans inside, usually a small rubber gasket prevents any airflow into the bag. Because of this, the coffee is only expose once you open it.

    From there, we generally recommend that you use the coffee within a week. For larger nitrogen sealed tins, beans can last a month or more after opening, but for a typical one pound bag of coffee you'll want to brew it within a week. This is a great reason to use a grinder at home instead of grinding at the supermarket/roaster as well. You can wait to grind the beans until you open the bag!

    While there are methods of preserving coffee after its open, such as freezing, these affect flavor. For this reason we suggest that you stick to brewing within a week of opening!

  • Roast of the Month: Bluebeard Coffee Roasters — Santa Maria Yucuhiti

     

    This month's roast of the month is a delicious single origin from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters: Santa Maria Yucuhiti!

    This Mexican single origin features some enticing flavor notes, and definitely doesn't disappoint. We loved the rich and creamy taste of caramel and chocolate with the sweetness of blood orange. This washed process roast is also smooth enough to enjoy as a daily drinker, so consider grabbing a couple of bags more than you might for other single origins.

    As with many lighter single origins, the best way to enjoy this roast is as a pourover. This will allow you to get the most out of the coffee's more complex notes. It also helps control acidity, so that the flavors aren't overwhelmed with "coffee" taste. We think you might just love this roast enough to want a whole pot pourover to yourself! So check out Bluebeard's Santa Maria Yucuhiti here today! We're pretty sure it's a coffee you'll love!

  • Roaster Spotlight: Elm Coffee Roasters — Part 1

    Here at Seattle Coffee Gear we love to get to know the roasters that we partner with. It's real, genuine connections that fuel the coffee industry. We had the fantastic opportunity to sit down with Elm Coffee Roasters' owner and founder, Brendan Mullally, to talk all things coffee. We're excited to bring that to you next week. In the meantime we wanted to provide a bit of background for those who aren't familiar with this incredible roaster!

    Seattle Born and Raised

    After years of experience in the coffee industry in New York City, Brendan decided to move back home to found Elm. The cafe and roastery opened in 2013 in the heart of Seattle's Pioneer Square with a focus on providing great coffee in a great environment. In our opinion, they do just that. Elm specializes in light, delicate roasts packed with complex flavor. Between their desire to present interesting, drinkable coffee and their concern for ethical sourcing, we find it easy to recommend Elm's product.

    Of particular note is the atmosphere in the café. High ceilings, lively music, and a bustle of activity inside and out define the feel of a morning at Elm. Brendan explained to us that they're using the same equipment and space that they've been using since 2013, and the command that staff have over the machines is evident. From tasty, beautiful lattes to carefully crafted pourover, we can't recommend a stop by this café enough.

    None of this would matter, of course, if the coffee wasn't excellent.

    Light Roasts and Complex Notes

    One of the reasons we love Elm so much is because of their clear focus. Rather than try to check every box, this is a roaster that works to perfect a specific kind of roasting. They do this with coffee from specific places. They focus on coffee from Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Honduras. These are countries that they've had the best success sourcing from at the right price. It also gives them the ability to dial in great roasts from each region year after year.

    As of the time of this writing, Elm's offer is 5 roasts. Two Ethiopias, two Colombians (one a decaf) and one seasonal blend. With some roasters, this would indicate a lack of availability. In Elm's case, it's because each roast is so very good.

    Of particular note this year is their Ethiopia Worka Sakaro.  We loved it so much that we featured it as our coffee of the month for July. This roast's notes of black tea, jasmine and lemon are all distinct and noticeable. This is a running theme with Elm's roasts, and it makes them a great roaster to work on your palate with.

    We're very excited to continue to work with Elm Coffee Roasters, and we hope you'll be happy to try them. Check out our selection of Elm roasts on our site here, and stay tuned next week for our full interview with Brendan.

  • Coffee History: The Great Italian Coffee Ban

    If you've been following our coffee history series you know that coffee has had a long and storied history. From its discovery and popularization in the Middle East to it's place in kitchens around the world today, times haven't always been easy for coffee drinkers. This week we're taking a look at one of those harder times to get a cup of Joe!

     

    The Great Italian Coffee Ban

    When coffee reached Italy in the 16th Century it received a frosty reception. When you consider the politics of the region at the time, it's not hard to see why. Italy was the seat of the Catholic Church's power, and the church had extensive power throughout Europe. Because coffee originated in the Middle East, many god fearing Italians took pause at it's arrival.

    While time had passed since the era of the crusades, many Catholics still did not trust goods emerging from the Middle East. This was especially prevalent among clergymen. Add to this the fact that coffee had an energizing effect, and the puritanical church of the time panicked at the spread of the beverage.

    This fear of "mind altering" effects was common among all major religions during medieval and Renaissance Europe. It's the same mindset that led to coffee's initial struggles at being accepted in Mecca shortly after its discovery. When its place of origin and effects were combined, members of the Catholic church demanded that the beverage be labelled as Satanic.

    While this fear and uncertainty around coffee did result in a countrywide ban, all was not lost. Pope Clement VIII, it turned out, was a big fan! Upon tasting coffee, the pope remarked that it was a tasty beverage, and deserved to be baptized. Thanks to this blessing, coffee quickly took root in Italy. The rest of Europe soon followed, and coffee became an international favorite!

    Thanks for reading! Remember to make coffee you love!

  • All About Espresso: Part 3

    Hey Coffee fans!

    In this, the final part in our series on the basics of espresso, we'll walk you through dialing in a shot, from start to finish. Note that this process takes time to perfect, so don't worry if you have some trouble with it at first! Let's get started!

    Find Your Grind

    The key to dialing in a new coffee for espresso is finding the right grind to create the perfect shot time. A general rule of thumb is that you'll want a ratio of water to coffee of around 2:1. This may vary depending on the roast, so be sure to try the recommend ratio if the bag suggests one! Note, this is different than drip brewing, so ignore anything that suggests a 16:1 ratio, that's meant for drip!

    You'll want to use a medium/fine setting to start. for most grinders, this is going to mean something around 4-6. This will be different on every grinder. For dose, 14-16 grams is a good starting point. After grinding, be sure to level the grounds to ensure even distribution using a tool or by gently tapping the side of the portafilter.

    Once you've ground some coffee into your portafilter, it's time to tamp! You'll want to apply pressure evenly across the grounds at around 30 lbs. A good way to measure this is to tamp until you feel like you're pressing against the counter top.

    After tamping, you're ready to pull your shot. The best way to really dial in a shot is to use a scale with a bottomless portafilter, but if you don't have access to it, don't worry about it! Just try to weigh the shot or use a measured shot pitcher so you can stop the extraction at around 1.5 oz. You'll want the shot to take 20-30 seconds to pull.

    Where Things Go Wrong

    Here are some common issues that you'll be fighting against while dialing your shot in!

    • Fast extraction: If your shot pulls too fast, try a finer grind, and/or a stronger tamp
    • Slow extraction: If your shot pulls too slow, try a coarser grind, or a lighter tamp
    • Channeling: If your shot is only pouring from one spout, try to make your tamp more even. This is often caused by the grounds being unleveled in the portafilter.
    • Sour taste: If your shot is too sour, it's under extracted. Try a finer grind setting, which will increase the amount of time it takes to brew the shot.
    • Bitter taste: If your shot is to bitter, it means it was over extracted. Try a coarser grind, which will lower the brew time.

    Using these rules of thumb, you should be able to dial in the right grind, tamp, and time for your new bag of espresso. As you get more experienced dialing in shots you'll be able to get closer to the perfect pull from the get-go, which will mean less wasted coffee!

    Stick with it, and remember to make coffee you love!

     

  • Video Roundup: 8/3/2018

    Happy Friday!

    It's time for yet another recap of some of the great video content from Gail and Co. from this week!

    First, John gave us some latte art tips!

    next, Heather showed us an interesting way to use coffee in the kitchen: On the grill!

    Finally we took a look at the Saeco Incanto Plus Vs. the Jura E6 in a Crew Comparison with Gail!

    Enjoy, and remember to make coffee you love!

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