coffee

  • 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!

  • Coffee or Espresso?

    For some people, choosing between drip coffee and espresso is the hardest part of the coffee journey. While the equipment to make drip coffee is usually less expensive, do you lose something with it? What is it about espresso that makes me willing to spend so much to brew it? Which method is quicker for a morning cup of coffee? There are a lot of factors to consider here!

    Cost

    The first thing to think about is cost. To get the best cup of coffee possible you’ll need to be willing to spend some money, but you don’t have to break the bank. One misconception is that espresso costs prohibitively more than drip coffee. While it’s true that high end drip brewers stop around the spot that solid, true espresso machines and grinder packages start, it’s still a matter of perspective. Furthermore, there are superautomatic espresso machines like the Philips Carina that cost similarly to a decent grinder and drip machine combo. 

    With that said, getting started with something like pour over is especially affordable, so it never hurts to pick up a less expensive, entry level grinder and a dripper while you decide.

    Technique

    The technique needed for the perfect pot of drip isn’t quite as intense as what you need for a great espresso. Brewing espresso can be challenging at first, because it relies so much on having the right grind. Technical elements like shot timing, milk steaming, and tamping can be hard to understand at first. Especially when compared to the simple measuring and push button operation of many drip brewers.

    However, brewing espresso really can feel like a skill. You’ll be proud of the first latte you serve a friend with just the right texture, incredible flavor, and a nice piece of latte art on top. It’s hard to say the same for drip brewing, but not everyone wants to make their morning coffee a hobby. Once you do develop that skill, brewing up a shot of espresso and steaming some milk could go even faster than preparing a pot of drip!

    Taste

    This is really the big one. Espresso and drip coffee just taste totally different! Drip coffee offers balance and tends to emphasize nutty notes, as well as notes of cocoa or dark chocolate. If you go with pour over instead, you’ll get a wider, sweeter range of flavors. Espresso, on the other hand, is quite intense. The dark, syrupy consistency of this pressurized brew method adds to a very rich, sweeter profile. While you may have had sour or bitter tasting espresso in the past, this is actually an indication of a bad grind. Well-made espresso should be smooth and rich, if a bit intense. 

    You can certainly add milk or cream to a drip coffee to alter the flavor, but espresso is a whole other world! With syrups and steaming you can tune your morning cup to be the perfect one for you. For some, this may mean a simple latte or cappuccino, for others it might mean some fruity syrup with just a touch of warm milk! Further, with an espresso machine you’ve got all the tools to whip up an Americano, which is the middle ground between coffee and espresso. In a home with different coffee tastes on a budget, this might mean a new espresso machine is the best way to please everyone.

    While there are many more factors involved in choosing the right machine for you, we hope this narrows down why you might want one that brews in a specific way!

     

  • Weird and Wacky Coffee Machines

    There have been a lot of strange and wonderful coffee machines over the years. From visual flair to interesting combos, we’re taking a look at some wacky coffee designs. All of the images we’re featuring today were captured at La Marzocco’s private Seattle machine collection.

    All-In-One Breakfast Stop

    Olimpic’s “Toast Cafe” was the perfect machine for you if you wanted your morning espresso and your breakfast in one spot. With an old fashioned manual toaster on the right side, you’d toast your bread with one hand and pull a shot of espresso with the other hand! This little wonder even included a timer for toasting the perfect morning slice and a steam wand for steaming up a latte to go with it. We’re not sure how well this machine performed either task, but it sure brings a whole new meaning to the term “all-in-one”

    Watch the Magic

    This classic European commercial espresso machine includes a window so the customer can watch their shot be pulled. This machine fits the trend of making the cafe a place of wonder as much as a place to grab a cup of coffee. Customers would pay for their beverage and get the full show of a beautiful shot of espresso making its way from the group head, through the puck, and into their cup. This machine used a manual pump with a heated boiler, so there really was a lot of finesse on the part of the barista to get the best possible caffeinated treat.

     

    Radical Designs

    This machine (and the one at the top of this post) was designed with a bit of extra flair. Eye catching and striking, these are examples of the kind of art that coffee shops would (and do) go to to draw in the customer. What on earth could a drink from such a strange looking machine taste like? It turns out, it tastes a lot like any other commercial espresso, but the visual appeal of the machine is enough to add a few extra points. The two machines like this that we feature here were designed with inspiration from sailboats and automobiles, two natural coffee companions!

     

    Oodles and Oodles of Espresso!

    This machine is a real head scratcher on first glance. It’s a manual espresso machine that would have been found in a very busy cafe, but perhaps not for the reason you’d expect. It’s true that it has a dozen brew groups, but it’s not so it can brew a dozen coffees at once! Because of the way older boilers and brew groups were designed, there was a recovery time associated with cooling down the group head. High volume machines like this solve that problem by featuring so many group heads. By moving from group to group, baristas could ensure that there was always one at the perfect temperature to pull a tasty shot. Perfect for a busy cafe needing to move extra fast!

     

    There’s a world of wild machines out there, and we’re always on the lookout for more!

  • 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!

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