coffee

  • Seattle Coffee Gear’s Top 3 Grinders of 2018

    Hot on the heels of our top 3 espresso machines of 2018, we’re back with our top 3 grinders of the year! This year we saw some exciting new releases, so we’ve decided to feature two of those alongside a home espresso classic.

    The Rancilio Rocky

    The Rocky is a classic standby in home espresso brewing. This is a grinder that has existed for a long time and sold loads of units. This is for good reason. The Rocky is built with the same design ethos as Rancilio’s commercial machines. This makes for extremely high quality grounds and a solid built, especially at the Rocky’s price point. This grinder features 55 stepped position adjustments and a set of 50mm flat steel burrs. This burr set doesn’t provide quite the lack of retention of more expensive conical burr grinders, but it makes up for this with consistency and quality. The motor is also extremely robust, giving you the kick you’d expect from a quality grinder. All around, this grinder is just an excellent choice for home use, with very few caveats.

    The only thing that you may notice is a lack of programmability. There’s no timed or volumetric dosing options, and the grinder is controlled by a simple on/off switch. An option with a doser is available for those seeking espresso grinding specifically. The Rocky is a great grinder for a wide range of applications, from espresso all the way up to press and pourover.

    The Baratza Sette 270Wi

     

    The Baratza Sette 270Wi is a new grinder for 2018 that improves upon the 270 model. Most of these improvements come in the form of updates to the weighted dosing of this grinder, its most compelling feature. Built with scale tech from Acaia, one of the leaders in coffee scales, the 270Wi grinds extremely accurate doses of coffee. After just a few calibration grinds, the 270Wi can grind to three pre-programmed doses, and does so consistently.

    On top of the convenient dosing, this grinder features an easy to clean, drop out 40mm conical steel burr set. Our only word of caution is that the stepped fineness settings really work best for espresso. We recommend a secondary grinder for drip or press brewing. That said, due to the design of this grinder, you’ll likely prefer using it with a portafilter anyway. Other convenient design features include a flip down stopper on the grinder’s hopper to keep beans from flying when you remove it, as well as adjustable portafilter arms. An excellent, well priced espresso grinder that really nails weighted dosing better than most!

    Eureka Mignon Specialita

    The Specialita is one of the awesome new Mignon grinders added to Eureka’s lineup this year. These grinders offer a more compact footprint and are less expensive than some of Eureka’s larger grinders. They also add some powerful noise dampening technology that will keep them from waking up the whole family in the morning. It’s this quiet operation that puts this grinder over the top for us, but it’s not all it offers.

    The Specialita features large 55mm flat steel burrs. While plenty of grinders (especially in the commercial space) have larger burrs, it’s rare to see them of this size in this form factor. The Specialita should easily fit on even the most cramped countertop, and looks stunning, especially in red. We also love the touchscreen. It is extremely simple, but looks great and offers easy access to timed dosing. The portafilter activated button on this grinder keeps grinding simple and easy. Last but not least, smart design features like the wide, anti-clumping chute and easy to access burrs make this grinder easy to recommend. The stepless grind setting adjusts the bottom burr, meaning you can take it apart to clean it without losing your setting.

    These three grinders make a great addition to any countertop, and we hope you’ll agree! For more thoughts, check out our video of these three grinders below!

  • An Overview of Izzo Espresso

    You may have noticed an exciting new product line on SCG recently: Izzo Espresso! We're extremely excited to bring Izzo to our list of machines. We thought we'd take some time to introduce each of the machines in the line here today.

    Roasting First

    One of the things that differentiates Izzo from other machine manufacturers is heritage. Many machine companies start with a goal of building a great espresso machine. This has created incredible machines from a wide range of producers. Izzo, on the other hand, started as a roaster! This means that the company sought to create the perfect machine for brewing their coffee.

    This unique approach is precisely why we've decided to bring on Izzo coffee alongside their machines. This is classic Italian espresso roasting with big flavor and big body. We definitely recommend grabbing some coffee with your new machine! We should, however, be really clear that this coffee tastes great in many machines. Further, these machines are incredible brewers capable of brewing coffee from anywhere! Let's give them a look!

    Vivi PID+ Pro

    The Vivi Pro is Izzo's most compact machine. Like its bigger siblings, the first thing you'll notice about Vivi is its stunning design. The gorgeous, shiny stainless steel extends to the case, frame, and boiler of the machine. The controls on the machine are tactile and responsive, giving you fine control of pre-soaking grounds and steam. The gauges on the front of the machine are precise and easy to read, and the machines' PID temperature controller interface is simple and doubles as a shot timer. Finally, you might notice the Vivi's exposed E-61 grouphead. This group keeps water temperature constant as it flows into the portafilter. This leads to even extraction and hot shots, every time.

    The inside of this machine is exciting as well. The Vivi's stainless steel boiler is 1.8 liters and features a heat exchanger design. This means the boiler heats up incredibly quickly and has the power to pull shots and steam milk at the same time.

    Our criticisms are very minor. For one, this is a hot machine. This is normal for machines of this type, but you'll definitely want to avoid leaning on it! We also found ourselves making fine adjustments to the PID setting to really find the best temp to pull shots AND steam milk. This is because of the size and shape of the boiler. It's a minor nuisance though, and one common in machines of this nature.

    Overall, this is an excellent brewer for someone looking to get into high-end espresso and really start tweaking their drinks.

    Alex PID+ Pro

    Next up is the Alex PID+ Pro. For starters, this machine offers everything that the Vivi does so well. The Alex PID+ is all about "more is more." The boiler is stepped up to a 2.3 liter size. This is a massive boiler for a home machine, and it means you'll be pulling shot after shot without slowing down. This added capacity means added size as well, so fitting this machine on your countertop may prove more difficult than with the Vivi. Bigger size means more room for cups, and a deeper drip tray as well. Finally, the Alex PID+ has a rotary pump, making plumbing in possible if you have the right water!

    The only real complaint we have with this machine is that it might be a little bulky for some kitchens. If that's not a concern for you, it's a fantastic option.

    This is a beautiful machine best suited for a heavy espresso drinker looking for a "prosumer" solution to the daily coffee shop run. While the Vivi is an excellent option for a wide range of kitchens, the Alex PID+ is a slightly larger size investment. With that said, the larger boiler, rotary pump, deeper drip tray, and cup warmer real estate definitely justify the slight bump in price.

     

    Alex Duetto IV+ Pro

    Last but not least, the Duetto IV+ Pro. At first glance, this machine may look just like the Alex PID+ Pro, and while it shares similarities in terms of design and component quality, it's a different animal. This machine takes the exquisite attention to detail of the PID+ and Vivi and adds a host of tweakable features, and a whole second boiler. The second boiler means that the machine is able to steam and brew far faster than you can. We'd challenge even the busiest home barista to outrun this machine!

    But it's not just the boiler that sets the Duetto apart. First of all, if you have a kitchen wired for 20A, the Duetto can accommodate. While it works perfectly fine for 15 amp wiring, the 20 amp mode gives accelerated heatup times and blazing fast steam recovery times. It's a great option for the busy kitchen with the ability to take advantage of the feature. Additionally, this machine is a techie's dream.

    The Duetto gives you external access to elements like pump pressure, boiler drains, and heating elements. This means you can tweak and tease every aspect of the machine's operation. All of this means that hobbyist home baristas will have field day making fine adjustments and changes to their shot creation. Most machines make accessing these components much more of a chore, so it's a welcome addition alongside the larger boiler. It is worth noting, only experienced users and technicians should mess with a lot of these items, and doing so could affect your warranty.

    We hate to sound like a broken record, but the only thing we can knock the Duetto for is potential size concerns in smaller kitchens. It combines the smart design throughline of the other Izzo machines with a second boiler and tweakability not common in machines at this price point. Check out all of these machines below!

     

     

     

  • Seattle Coffee Gear’s Top Three Espresso Machines of 2018

    It’s that time of year again! Leaves are falling, the air is getting cool and crisp, and Summer is well and truly in the rear view mirror. All of this means that we have plenty to share about our favorite machines for 2018! Today we’re taking a look at SCG’s top espresso machines of 2018! We focused on picking the best buys of the year, not limiting the list to machines that came out this year.
     
    Chances are that if you’re a coffee enthusiast, you’ve seen a machine from Rancilio. From stalwart commercial machines to no-frills home machines, Rancilio earns its reputation. The Silvia is no exception! For starters, many of the Silvia’s features are inspired by its commercial siblings, but adapted for the smaller form factor. The controls are also extremely easy to use. Simple on/off switches control extraction and steaming, with clear indicator lights to tell you when something’s not right.
    All of this combines with excellent construction and component quality to produce a solid machine. The Silvia doesn’t have the bells and whistles of some higher dollar machines. It also doesn’t have the boiler capacity of machines above its price bracket. It makes up for this with usability and reliability. New this year is a stylish black powder coat over the stainless steel frame. The classic stainless Silvia is still a nice looking machine, but the black may fit better in your kitchen, and we love how it looks.
    The Silvia is the perfect machine for someone upgrading from an entry level brewer or looking to spend a little extra on their first machine!
     
    If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know that we’re big fans of this machine. The Saeco Xelsis is an update to a classic machine that well outperforms the previous model. We’ve said it before, but the programmability, milk quality, and ergonomics of this machine punch above their weight. It’s an excellent superautomatic in its price bracket.
    The control options in the Xelsis are more varied than most other superautos. This means you get to change things like milk texture, flavor, strength, and so much more with the slide of a finger. Additionally, while the shots from the Xelsis are on par with any of its competitors, the milk is the real star. The hygiesteam system froths milk with quality that’s not easy to achieve from a device of this nature. That system, plus Saeco’s tried and tested AquaClean water filtration, make maintaining the Xelsis easy.
    It’s great machine wether it’s your first superauto, or an upgrade.
     
    We don’t have too much to say about this machine that we haven’t already. Between the Appartamento’s stellar looks, excellent build quality, and capable components, this is simply one of the most successful home espresso machines that we offer. The first thing you’ll likely notice is its looks. This machine shines with its beautiful stainless steel casing and tactile controls. These controls give you the ability to make fine adjustments to your brewing process. They also help you “feel” every aspect of pulling the shot and steaming your milk. This gives you a great sense of the science behind your brewing.
    It wouldn’t be one of our favorites though if wasn’t also high performing. The Appartamento features a 1.8 liter heat exchange boiler, this will allow you to steam milk and brew shots at the same time, something that’s hard to find in machines at this price point. The heated E-61 group also keeps water temps and extraction even through the brewing process. To top it off, the build quality of the Appartamento is extremely solid. In the end it’s a fine machine for someone ready to buy a machine they’ll hold onto for a very long time.
    Check out the video version of this piece, where I discuss these picks in our studio! Stay tuned for even more best of 2018s, coming very soon!
  • Interview: Ivania Rivera of Aldea Global

    Hey coffee lovers!

    We were given the extraordinary opportunity to interview Ivania Rivera, Head of Specialty Coffee for Aldea Global! Check out our video interview below, followed by the full transcript of the interview!

    Full Interview

    Seattle Coffee Gear: Can you tell us a little bit about Aldea Global?
    Ivania Rivera: Yes, we are a farmer’s association in Nicaragua. Right now we have over 11,00 members, total members. From those we have some vegetable producers, women who do business in rural areas. From those, 4,800 are small coffee producers. We started in 1992, and have been in the coffee industry since 2000. We are growing every year, little by little. We offer very different speciality coffees, and very different qualities of coffee.
    SCG: What does your role within the organization entail?
    IR: I do kind of everything! [laughs] But I have a lot of contact with the farmers and producers. I normally am taking care of the receiving centers, working with the dry milling process to the different preparations of coffee we have on contract. I also do the sales and contracts with importers, and follow up with roasters.
    SCG: Very cool, so kind of working in the middle area connecting roasters and producers. This is exciting for us because we don’t get the opportunity to talk much with people involved with producing. We get to talk to roasters all the time, but it’s a really awesome, unique opportunity to get to talk to someone involved with producing the coffee. How did you get involved with Aldea Global originally?
    IR: Well, it was something that I always liked, coffee. The first experience I had in coffee was I was a coffee picker on a farm. So I was wondering what’s next. What happens to the coffee cherry, where is this coffee going to? That was when I was pretty young. Then I moved to the U.S. to study agricultural business for export, then came back to Nicaragua and went to Aldea Global to see if there was an opportunity for me, and of course there was because we are coffee producers. Inotega is a region that produces 60% of the coffee from Nicaragua.
    SCG: That’s great. It’s an interesting story because we often work backwards. I worked in a cafe when I was a college student making coffee. I’ve always had an interest in where the coffee comes from. So it’s very interesting to hear the reverse of that. Someone who was involved in producing the coffee wanting to know where it ends up. It’s very exciting to bring those two groups together. So what excites you most about coffee in general, as an industry?
    IR: For me something that is really important is all of the people that are involved in the industry. It’s not only the production, but the transport, the milling, the processing, the shipping, the importing, roasting the coffee… Putting together all of the logistic people it takes to move this coffee from the producer to the final consumer. It’s a lot of hands involved. It’s a lot of work and a lot of love.
    SCG: Yea, there’s a lot of…
    IR: Passion!
    SCG: Yes! And the exciting thing about third wave roasting too is I think there’s a lot of passion all the way through. It’s not just going to a huge company doing the roaster. It’s going to small roasters that have a concern for the people that are producing the coffee too.
    IR: Yes, just imagine for example, one cup, having a cup of coffee. How many cherries does this coffee need? How many hands touched the coffee? Who was in charge of selling and buying that coffee? Who did the logistics? Who did the transportation? Who did the distribution? Who did the roasting? All of this takes a lot of effort, hands, and passion. So that’s why I’m excited about coffee.
    SCG: That makes sense to me, that’s one of the many things that excites me too! What do you think it is that makes coffee from Nicaragua unique?
    IR: I would say, for Nicaragua, for most of the producers, it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that our people are doing for a lifetime. Once you are born on a farm, once you grow up enough in a coffee farmer family, then that’s something that you will do for life. That’s something that will become the only way of income for the farm. A way of living living, that produce is paying for the whole life of the family. So something that is really unique for Nicaraguan coffee is that all of the processes and production is done by family members. 92% of the producers in Nicaragua are small producers. So they are normally doing all of the process with their family. That’s something that’s important.
    SCG: Sure, that’s really interesting and I imagine that leads to a respect for all parts of the process that maybe you wouldn’t see in a factory farming setting. That’s definitely unique.
    IR: Yea, it’s something that’s important to the whole family. Even the kids are assisting with the harvest, and they’re taking care of the quality there. Doing sorting to add quality to it. They get involved with the process.
    SCG: So something we talked about that ties into all of this a little earlier that ties into all of this is that the current socio-political climate in Nicaragua is kind of tumultuous and in flux. I think that many people here and in most parts of the Western world don’t have a great understanding of what that really means, especially how it affects the coffee trade. Do you have any thoughts on that particularly?
    IR: We had some difficulties when the situation started in April. It turned very difficult to do some shipping of coffee in some parts of Nicaragua, but in terms of the coffee producing areas, they were not affected. The producers continue taking care of the farms, continue working, and this year we are preparing all of the receiving centers to receive that coffee. So what we hope to do during this political crisis is support the farmers. We cannot say “hey I’m not buying your coffee because this is going on in Nicaragua” or “I’m not financing your coffee because this is going on in Nicaragua.” We have to support our members because if they receive the services that they require, they stay in the farm, they keep producing, and that’s the only way that we can say “we are here to support our members.” So we provide them with loans, even during the crisis, we are financing right now, we are opening our business to new members, and getting ready for shipping and sales. I know many importers and roasters are worried about whether this coffee will get out of Nicaragua, but the coffee needs to get out of Nicaragua anyway. We don’t have any reason to have the coffee sit there.
    SCG: Right, and I think it speaks to, regardless of the political climate, these are still families working these farms.
    IR: and this is the Rural areas, most of the crisis is happening in the big cities. The big cities and urban places. But the Rural areas are working. Everybody needs to produce coffee there.
    SCG: It’s very interesting, and we’re very privileged to be able to ask you directly about things like that. Because that’s something that’s hard for us to get an accurate picture of a lot of the time with the wild news cycles that we see here. It’s hard to get reliable information about this. Do you think political challenges aside, more broadly, and maybe even historically, what do you think the biggest challenge is for growing coffee in the region specifically?
    IR: Many people may thins politics is the biggest issue or challenge, but I think it’s prices. That’s the biggest challenge right now. Not the political crisis. As you’ve you seen in recent years, prices have been lower. For a producer, it takes more money to produce enough coffee. So it gets really difficult to negotiate prices when the prices are down, as they are right now. It’s a difficult time for the producers because they ask if the coffee prices are how they are, how are we going to keep producing? How are we going to invest in the farm? How are we going to pay our workers to pick the coffee? How are we going to move that coffee from farms to the receiving centers? How can we continue the process? For small farmers it’s really difficult to think “we have been working on this farm for many years, this is the only way we have money to invest in the farm, and now I’m selling my coffee for less than it costs to produce.” So that’s a big challenge right now in Nicaragua and the region. It’s hard.
    SCG: I think that speaks to the value and importance of organizations like yours too. In terms of building those alliances and trying to help provide answers for those farmers because without that help it might be even harder.
    IR: Yes, but I’m also not just talking about the 4,800 members that we have. In Nicaragua we have 42,000 coffee producers. What about the rest? What about the coffee farmers who are not part of a cooperative like Aldea Global and have to sell coffee locally? It’s difficult for them.
    SCG: That’s a definite challenge. You’d hope, as the political environment improves, that perhaps you’d see prices improve as well. Ee appreciate your time so much, did you have any other thoughts that you wanted to share?
    IR: Well something that I always encourage people in the industry to do is, if you have the chance to talk to people about coffee, it’s good for you to come and visit us someday in your life. That’s the only way you can get the real, real information from the farmers on how coffee is produced. On all the effort it takes to produce a single bean. Did you know, coffee is hand picked? Did you know coffee is hand dried?
    SCG: I bet many people don’t!
    IR: Yes! Many people don’t know. So it’s good for people who are involved in coffee to know all the processes it takes, all the people it takes. That’s something that I like to share, that I always encourage.
    SCG: Well we appreciate your knowledge and willingness to share that information with us, and we’ll do our best to try to educate people on that too. Thanks for your time!
  • SCG Expert Review: Saeco Xelsis Superautomatic Espresso Machine

    Sporting a lot more than a new look, the new Xelsis from Saeco is here. We know you're eager to hear how it stacks up against the old Xelsis One Touch. We can say comfortably that these two machines aren't even comparable. Let's start with the first thing you'll probably notice about the new Xelsis, its looks.

     

    If Looks Could Brew

    Superautomatic espresso machines have never been the prettiest addition to the kitchen. While manufacturers like Jura and Miele do offer some strong design elements, most of these machines could be described as "coffee boxes". It's not the fault of other machines in the Xelsis' price range really, these devices cram a lot of components into the smallest form fact they can. It's no wonder, then, that aesthetic design takes a back seat to practicality.

    With the new Xelsis, Saeco took advantage of modern design tropes to build something truly striking. Regardless of color choice, the smooth angles of the face of this machine look and feel great. The chrome accents and textured buttons add this the machine's appearance in a big way too. This smart beautiful design is enhanced further by little touches like the illuminated water tank and smart logo placement. It all combines with a form factor that impresses.

    The smart case design factors into more than just the looks too. Many superautos have tanks that need to be lifted out of the side or top. This is manageable, but low counters can make refilling your water tank a pain. The Xelsis solves this by making the 2-liter water tank pull out from the front of the machine. We love this design touch, and when combined with the ease of removing the grounds bin and drip tray, makes maintenance a breeze.

    If we have any complaints about the case, it's that some of the seams can feel a bit... Plasticy. While the case as a whole feels solid and premium, some of the gaps in the plastic don't feel as premium by comparison. This wasn't to noticeable except when handling the machine to move it, however.

    The cherry on top is, of course, the touch screen. This screen also serves as your gateway into an incredible degree of drink options.

    Brew Like a Pro

    One of the key reasons to consider a semi-automatic machine over a superauto is control. You can control things like dose, extraction time, milk steaming, and temp very directly. Superautos usually let you adjust things like strength and temp, but not with the granularity of a sem-auto. The Xelsis bucks this trend by giving you nearly unparalleled control over your drink.

    It does all of this with the ease of use of a smartphone app. Controlling things like temp, strength, and more, are done with clear sliders and buttons. The only problem with this is that for some, it may offer TOO many options. Let's take a look at the basics:

    As you can see, strength and volume options are the basics, which most machines offer. Swiping right gives you access to more granular items like flavor, temp, foam, and more. It's a dazzling set of options that can feel intimidating at first. In the end though, with a little bit of experimentation, you'll be able to dial in your perfect drink. What's more, you can save your drinks to a profile so that you'll always be able to get the perfect cappuccino or latte. For those who don't want to customize, the default options still provide delicious drinks too.

    Other menu options like cleaning, and more granular machine settings, are easy to access too. The cleaning menu gives you simple, step by step instructions as well. Speaking of cleaning...

    Squeaky Clean

    Cleaning and maintaining a superauto can sometimes be a hassle, but we found the Xelsis' options to be simple and effective. the machine rinses automatically, and brew head cleaning is as easy as following prompts from the machine. The Xelsis also features Saeco's tried and true AquaClean filtration system. These filters cut down on maintenance like descaling by simply telling you when they need to be changed through the machine's interface. They are a great option that have proven themselves in other Saeco machines, and do so here as well.

    The hardest thing to keep clean in a superauto is the milk system. Saeco's attempt at solving this problem in the Xelsis is the Hygiesteam system. This system takes the form of a convenient, round carafe that fits easily in the fridge. A cappuccinotore wand fits through a hole (which can be closed) in the top of the carafe. From there, as you'd expect, milk it pulled up through the wand and tube and into the frother. The system automatically purges itself in the cappuccinotore caddy attached to the side. You can also manually purge the wand from the cleaning menu. It's a great system that is easier to work with than other carafes, which often have plastic points of contact that need to be scrubbed by hand.

    Ease of use, looks, and cleaning are all great, but what about performance?

    It's All About Performance

    The coffee out of the Xelsis is definitely on par with other machines at its price point. It won't blow your mind, but it should please any coffee drinker who's used to superauto espresso. The taste also lets the unique notes of the coffee through better than cheaper models, a great reason to consider an upgrade. All of that said, nothing beats manually dialing in and pulling a shot from a semi-auto or lever driven machine, but the Xelsis tries it's best and matches the performance of its peers. But superautos aren't just about the coffee.

    The Xelsis features some of the best milk texturing and flavor of any superauto we've ever seen. This is often the hardest thing to get right on a machine like this. Recreating the delicate process of hand steaming milk is a huge challenge, and the Xelsis really knocks it out of the park here. The microfoam from this machine is even of a high enough quality to pour latte art, not something that can be said about most home superautos.

    This machine should be able to keep up with the demands of a family coffee drinkers as well. The Xelsis features a short warm-up time and the ability to pump out several drinks in a row without stopping.

    So what's the verdict?

    Conclusion

    The new Xelsis definitely sets the bar for its price point, and even punches up in ways the previous model did not. While elements of the machine on their own are relatively standard, the full package is an incredible proposition. The HygieSteam system in particular, for it's ease of cleaning and fantastic milk, is a great reason to buy. We definitely recommend at least trying the coffee and milk out of this machine beside others in its price range to see the difference for yourself.

    Check out the Xelsis on Seattlecoffeegear.com here!

     

     

     

  • Roast of the Month: Toby's Costa Rica Santa Teresa 2000

    Welcome to October's Roast of the Month, featuring Toby's Estate Costa Rica Santa Teresa 2000!

     

    Sweet and Creamy

    This roast is a true winner when it comes to balancing sweetness and mouthfeel. The beans in this coffee were processed using a technique called "honey-process". This is similar to the honeyed process you may have learned about in the past, where some cherry is left on the bean while drying. The "white" part of the term refers to the amount of mucilage left on the bean, and the length of time it is given to ferment. The result of this process and the roasting technique is a flavor profile similar to that of a natural, but less intense.

    For this roast, that means delicious sweet notes of caramel apple and cherry soda, alongside creamier, chocolatey notes. What we love most about this roast is the way these flavors bend around the palate. It makes for an intensely satisfying mouthfeel and a taste you'll want to experience again and again.

    As is often the case with naturals and honey processed roasts, brew method is key. We recommend trying this roast as a pourover first, to really get the most out of it. This brew method will give you a clearer understanding of the roast's notes. From there, try dialing it in to your espresso machine or press! Just avoid using these beans in a super-auto. While not very oily for a honey-process coffee, we still recommend sticking to blends in these machines to prevent clogging.

    Grab your bag of Toby's  Estate—Costa Rica Santa Teresa 2000 here!

     

  • What's a PID?

    You may have seen that certain espresso machines include what's called a "PID," or "PID controller" more accurately. This week, we're going to talk about what a PID controller is, and why it's worth the extra cost!

     

    The Basics

    If you've been following along with us, you probably know that temperature is extremely important to brewing coffee. While different brew methods and roasts demand different temps, stability is key. PID controllers help ensure that stability. Machines without these devices often use a simple thermostat that isn't as accurate as a PID controller. By comparison, a machine with PID control monitors itself to ensure temperature stability and control.

    PID stands for Proportional-Integral-Derivative. Quite a mouthful! On a basic level, a PID controller uses the PID algorithm to determine the best way to control whatever process it's used for. PID controllers are used in a wide range of industrial applications, in our case, it controls the temperature in your espresso machine!

    A traditional thermostat has a tendency to hit a desired temp, then turn off the heating element as the temp rises above its target. Then it'll kick back on as the temperature falls below the target. This results in uneven temperatures that can result in inconsistent shot quality in an espresso machine. There are ways to mitigate this with many machines, but it often means learning how to ride the temperature wave with your specific machine. This may require timing the heat-up time precisely or running water through the group head before pulling a shot.

    PID controllers use the PID algorithm to keep your machine at the proper brew temperature. This also means the you can directly control the temperature of the machine. While not true in every case, PID controllers are usually visible on the machine. They also usually feature control buttons to increase or decrease the brewing temperature. While this won't matter for most, for some home baristas, experimenting with different roasts and temps is key!

    So You Want a PID Controller?

    It's possible to install a PID controller into most home espresso machines. The process however, can be daunting. Performing an after-market install of these devices is essentially rewiring the machine. You'll have to find the thermostat, disconnect it, and install the PID controller. This will require a pretty strong understanding of how these devices work, and competency in basic electrical work. You'll also need to understand how to program the PID controller , as these are devices used for a wide range of applications. Some vendors offer kits for specific espresso machines that will make this process easier. In any case, installation of a PID controller will definitely void your warranty.

    But there is hope! If you're in the market for a new machine, many now come with PID controllers installed. These devices used to be used primarily on commercial hardware, but have entered the home market. While you might pay a little extra for a machine with one of these devices, it'll come under warranty and save you digging around the guts of your machine. Once you have a PID controller, you'll be able to eliminate temperature as one of the variables in dialing in your shots.

    It's important to note, some PID controllers are clearly visible boxes attached to the machine. The PID installed in the photo above is an example of this. Other machines have external PIDs that are attached via a cable. Further, some PID controllers are internal and show up as a small screen on the machine, like the Ascaso Dream above. Finally, some machines have internal PIDs that do not have an interface. In these cases, you won't be able to control the temp easily, but the PID controller is still keeping it stable at a set level.

    We hope this helps de-mystify these devices!

  • Video Roundup: 9/28/2018

    Happy Friday! It's time for another video roundup!

    We hope these videos help to give you some insight into the inner workings of your favorite café's espresso machine!

     

    First, John gave us a peek inside the Rocket R9 Commercial Machine!

    Next, We took a look at the Boxer by Rocket Espresso!

    We hope you enjoy! Have a great weekend!

  • Pumpkin Pie Cold (and Hot!) Foam Coffee

    We're ready for fall this week, and we hope you are too! Whether you're feeling the Fall spirit or need a little something to get you into the season, we've got you covered! This Pumpkin Pie concoction puts a little spin on the classic formula. First, we'll make the spice, then we'll make cold and hot versions of this tasty drink!

     

    Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

    • 4 tbsp. ground cinnamon
    • 2 tbsp. ground ginger
    • 1 tbsp. ground nutmeg
    • 1 tbsp. ground cloves

    Combine all ingredients and stir!

    Pumpkin Pie Cappuccino

    • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
    • 4 oz. half & half
    • 2 shots of your favorite espresso
    • Whipped cream
    1. Combine half & half and spice in your Breville Milk Café and set for cappuccino foam
    2. Pull two shots of espresso
    3. Pour foam over espresso
    4. Add whipped cream to taste & garnish with a sprinkling of spice

    Pumpkin Pie Cold Foam Iced Coffee

    • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
    • 6 oz. iced coffee
    • 4 oz. of half & half cold foamed
    • whipped cream and/or simple syrup to taste (optional)
    1. Combine pumpkin pie spice and and half & half in your Breville Milk Café and set to cold foam
    2. Brew 6 oz. of coffee over ice
    3. Pour cold foam over iced coffee
    4. Add whipped cream/simple syrup to taste and garnish with sprinkling of spice mix (optional)

    We hope you enjoy this Fall flavored beverage!

    Products used to create this drink:

     

  • Coffee History: Seattle!

    Welcome to another installment of Coffee History! We decided one very important region to take a look at is our hometown! Join us for a look at what makes this town so very coffee focused!

    The Pick of the Pike

    Seattle has a long history in coffee, going all the way back to 1895. It was at this time that Oscar Delaloyes began pan roasting coffee after finding some beans spilled on the ground. First operating out of a cart, Delaloyes eventually opened Seattle Tea and Coffee In the Pike Place Market. That, however, was just the beginning.

    Alfred Peet, of Peet's coffee, began exploring the world in search of interesting coffee in the 60s. He opened Peet's Coffee in Berkeley, CA, which later supplied beans to the original Starbucks. Speaking of the coffee giant, they were one of several micro roasters to open in the 70s. This was an exciting time for coffee in Western Washington, with roasters popping up across the city, and even as far north as Bellingham. Starbucks opened multiple locations, including a move from their first to their currently advertised "Original Starbucks" in Pike Place Market.

    But roasting is only part of the coffee ecosystem. In 1978, Kent Bakke and John Blackwell began importing La Marzocco espresso machines from Italy. These machines were used in many local coffee shops, including Starbucks locations, for many years. The company still maintains a headquarters in Seattle to this day!

    Through the 70s and 80s, cafés and roasters continue to boom in Seattle and the greater region. Roasters evolve from being nothing more than suppliers to local cafés to actually serving the coffee they roast as well. This entire period is known as "second-wave" roasting, an evolution from the totally utilitarian approach to coffee production of the 19th century.

    Growth and Expansion

    Throughout this second-wave roasting boom, Seattle roasters developed a reputation for dark roasts. later in the 80s and through the 90s, Starbucks continued to expand and grow on the back of full bodied, darker roasts. This led to massive expansion for them, and a strong local roasting scene back home.

    As roasters began to experiment with lighter roasting techniques and higher quality green coffee, the third wave was said to have begun. This obsession with quality can be seen today in Washington roasters like Olympia, Bluebeard, and Elm. During this time, Starbucks also solidified itself as the "mainstream" coffee brand across the country and in Seattle. The company acquired many local competitors such as Seattle's Best. In 1984, Starbucks founder Jerry Baldwin purchased 4 Peet's coffee locations, later leaving Starbucks to focus on work with Peet's.

    In the meantime, micro-roasters and cafés continued to push boundaries in more niche departments. Perfecting specific flavors and discovering the unique properties of beans from different regions became an art and a science. Today it's not hard to find an exquisite cup of Joe in the city, even if other cities like New York are making strides in the micro roasting space.

    We hope you've enjoyed this brief look at the history of coffee in Seattle! Give us a wave the next time you'r here for a visit!

     

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