coffee

  • Compare: Glass vs. Thermal Carafe on Technivorm

    In addition to the wide array of coffee makers on the market that offer different functionality and technology, when selecting the model that's right for you, you also have to consider the carafe -- glass or thermal? Like most things, it's all about you, darling.

    The case for glass: You want to choose a grind-and-brew or programmable model that would come on and start brewing your coffee in the morning before you wake up. You'll also be drinking that full pot of coffee (or whatever amount you've selected) within the hour. Glass is ideal in these cases as you won't have to worry about pre-heating the carafe and you'll be drinking the coffee before it starts to taste more tar-like than java-like.

    The case for thermal: You're going to be making the coffee yourself and you want to be able to pour out a few cups throughout the day without risking a nasty aftertaste. You'll be around to take the time to pre-heat the carafe before the brewing starts and then to seal it up to keep the coffee up to temperature. Thermal is the best choice for this because it will stick around at the right temperature for a few hours without continuous heating. However, some folks are sensitive to the flavor that is produced using a stainless steel carafe, so if you're in that camp yet you want a thermal, make sure you're choosing a model with a glass lining (like the Bonavita, for example).

    Here at SCG, we use glass carafes in our break room because, quite simply, as soon as a pot is brewed, it's in our cups and the next pot is brewing away. We don't really have to worry about stagnant coffee sitting on a hot plate for hours on end, but we wanted to find out what kind of impact allowing the coffee to sit around for an hour had on its flavor. So we brewed up a batch of coffee in two Technivorms -- one using a thermal carafe, one using a glass -- then let them hang out for an hour before we held a taste test. Watch to find out what we learned!

     

  • Turkish Coffee a la Aeropress

    You asked for it, so we answered! Recently, a viewer suggested that we experiment with the AeroPress when making Turkish coffee. So we asked our resident Turkish coffee expert, Rade, to jump into the 21st century by prepping up some coffee and then putting it through an AeroPress.

    Watch to find out how the experiment turned out.

  • The Lowdown on Distilled Water

    A common inquiry we receive is in regard to the type of water customers should use in their coffee making equipment. Some folks think that distilled water will be their best bet, as they won't have to worry about scale build up or performing descaling procedures for the life of the machine. While there seems to be as many supporters as there are detractors regarding whether or not it's healthy for the human body, we do know that distilled water is not healthy for your machine. Seriously!

    First up, let's talk about your equipment. Putting water that has a lack of ions or mineral content through equipment that is basically composed of minerals (stainless steel, copper, nickel, brass, etc.) means the water will take that opportunity to take on ions from the surrounding space, contributing to a slow breakdown of those materials. It will essentially leach minerals out of the metal components and degrade the machine's performance over time. Additionally, there are several models of machines on the market (such as the Rockets) that use a minor electrical charge to determine if there is water in the reservoir. If there aren't enough minerals in the water to conduct that charge, the machine's sensor will report that the reservoir is empty.

    Now, let's talk about the coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America performed extensive testing and found that the ideal mineral balance is 150 parts per million (ppm). Coffee produced with water that contains this level of hardness is better balanced and a smoother cup. A lower mineral content allows for too much available space, often resulting in an overextraction and a bitter flavor. Conversely, water with a higher mineral content won't have enough available space, so coffee will be underextracted and possibly more sour. As distilled water has hardly any mineral content (roughly 9ppm), using it for coffee preparation will result in a bitter cup.

    We often say that you should use water that you like to drink to make your coffee -- after all, coffee is over 98% water. Another option is to use softened water, which encapsulates the minerals, maintaining their structure within the water while prohibiting their ability to adhere to internal components. This can give you the best of both worlds: A smooth and balanced cup of coffee while also reducing the overall maintenance for the life of the machine.

  • Compare: Airscape vs. Coffee Bean Vac

    In the world of coffee bean storage, do either of these devices do a better job of keeping your beans fresher, longer? We asked Gail to throw a bag of Velton's Bonsai Blend into an Airscape and a Coffee Bean Vac, then we pulled shots a week later and two weeks later to see how they held up. Aside from when we opened them for testing, they were securely sealed.

    Watch to find out how they stack up!

  • Espresso vs. Coffee Beans: Is There a Difference?

    What’s The Difference?

    Browsing the coffee aisle, you might notice some bags are marked as espresso or drip blends. That get’s you thinking: “What’s the difference between coffee and espresso beans?” The truth is, there’s no difference between espresso and coffee beans. A coffee bean is a coffee bean. So, why are bags labeled differently? As it turns out, it's the brew method.

    Labeling beans as espresso or drip is nothing more than a recommendation from the roaster on how to bring out the flavor of the beans. Of course, there are different roasts and coffee beans—two species actually, Arabica and Robusta, as well as varietals bred from these species—but each is still a coffee bean that can be used in a variety of methods.

    We’ll dive into how beans and blends create different flavors and how the recommended brew methods evolved.

    Olympia Big Truck organic espresso blend is a sweet, clean bodied roast shines as an espresso. Olympia Big Truck organic espresso blend is a sweet, clean bodied roast shines as an espresso.

    Coffee Flavor Profile

    Read the label of your favorite bag of beans and you’ll sometimes find food descriptors like oranges or baking ingredients like brown sugar listed on the label. These descriptors are unique flavor notes that the roaster has tasted or smelled in the beans based on their recommended brew process. However, these descriptions do not indicate the quality of brew, but a recommendation based on the background of the beans—such as growing region, process or whether it’s a single origin or blend.

    Try brewing based on their recommendation: What do you taste? Perhaps it’s what the roaster detected—subtle sweet and fruit flavors with chocolate undertones or black tea with a tart, citrusy kick—or maybe you’ll find a slightly different flavor.

    Espresso vs Coffee

    So, how did espresso beans come about? When it was first popularized, coffee farms didn’t have the refinement of cultivating that we see today—and when the lesser quality beans were brewed as espresso it was painfully noticeable. When you put beans under pressure, like you do with espresso, the flavor profile becomes more intense, sort of like the difference between a blueberry tea and a spoonful of blueberry jam. In an effort to create a consistent flavor profile, roasters would use a darker roast to produce smoky, caramelized sugar notes, like we see in an Italian roasts. This roasting method, however, meant that the nuanced flavors were no longer detectable. Nowadays, specialty roasters source high-quality beans to make this method of masking taste not necessary. Roasters can experiment with lighter roasts the enhance the flavor of the coffee and share its complexity.

    Brewed coffee, whether it’s from a standard drip brewer or pour over set-up like Chemex, tends to produce less intense flavors than espresso making it more forgiving when used to brew a variety of coffee qualities. You many also find that brewed coffee is a bit easier to control the extraction and therefore the flavor of the cup you produce. Many find that single origins, beans sourced from one location, are easier to brew in this fashion. Single origins typically have more delicate flavors, which makes it easy to under or over extract making them often difficult to brew with for espresso. Think of it like a target, getting a great cup of brewed coffee is like hitting the board and a great cup of espresso like hitting the bullseye. It’s not impossible, but it will take a bit more time and dedication.

    We believe the writing on the bag shouldn’t influence how you brew. It’s a recommendation meant to guide you, but it’s ultimately up to you to experiment and find that ideal brew. While it might require some finessing to dial-in a single origin for espresso, we think the reward is well worth the effort—add some steamed milk and you’ll get a decadent, dessert-like treat. We enjoy pulling espresso shots that taste like a rich blueberry cobbler using a delicious natural processed coffee.

    Slate Coffee Roasters' Cream and Sugar drip blend brings out notes of dark chocolate and caramel when brewed on a dripper. Slate Coffee Roasters' Cream and Sugar drip blend brings out notes of dark chocolate and caramel when brewed on a dripper.

    Conclusion

    There is no difference between espresso and coffee beans. When specialty roasters write “espresso blend” or “drip blend,” it’s just the brew method roaster's believe will make the flavor profile really shine. Coffee is a matter of personal taste and preference—you do you and make coffee the way you love.

  • Crew Review: iRoast 2 Home Coffee Roaster

    Rob has agreed to become our master roaster! The first model up in his journey of self-improvement is the iRoast 2, a popular entry-level home roaster that basically functions as a modified popcorn popper.

    Watch as he takes us through the features and roasts his first batch of Velton's Bonsai Blend; then we meet up a few days later to see how they compare to the master!

  • Recipe: Coffee Mudslide

    The sun is out and all you can think about is an ice cold drink -- one that will cool you down as well as give you the requisite kick in the pants to get that party started. We've included both boozy and non-boozy versions of this recipe so you can share with everyone, regardless of their tastes.

    Ingredients - with booze:

    Ingredients - without booze:

    Directions:

    1. Boozy: Mix equal parts Kahlua, Bailey's and Vodka on ice in a cocktail shaker (enough for one glass). Non-Boozy: Blend 1/2 cup of strong coffee with cream, sugar and ice until it's a smooth mixture.
    2. Take your 8 oz glass and hold it at a 45 degree angle while you pour the sauce directly onto the sides of the glass. Turn the glass around as you pour the Monin Dark Chocolate sauce so that you have "mud" sliding all around the glass.
    3. Pour your cocktail or iced coffee mixture into the “mud” coated glass. Serve at once. Feel free to top it off with some whip cream for an extra treat.

    Note:
    For the non-alcoholic version make sure that the coffee is very cold before pouring it into the prepared glass. Otherwise, the chocolate will melt and mix into the coffee and you won’t get the mudslide effect. While drinking your coffee mudslide, swirl the coffee before every sip so that the chocolate syrup slowly mixes in.

    Recipe: Home Cooking Rocks

  • The ABCs of BPA

    Do you find yourself slowly backing away from your drip coffee maker or espresso machine because of all the hullabaloo about BPA (Biosphenol A) in plastics? As you have no doubt heard by now, there have been a wide range of reports regarding BPA -- an organic compound found in polycarbonate plastics -- examining how safe it is to have in containers from which we eat, drink, etc.

    A chemical that's been historically used to make a variety of items (from children's toys to food containers to water bottles to coffee makers), researchers have recently found that BPA emits toxins over time -- especially when it's heated. The long term affects of such leaching can cause health problems like cancer, reproductive abnormalities and neurological problems, just to name a (very nasty) few.

    But don't fret! Many coffee equipment manufacturers, such as Technivorm, AeroPress and Hourglass, have made a point to notify their customers or state on their products that they are BPA-free or that they've decided to switch to a safer alternative. As for Rancilio, Rocket, Delonghi, Saeco and Jura, we've searched high and low for some BPA-free facts, but have only received a verbal guarantee that they are BPA-free and FDA approved.

    Here  are a few tips on how you can make sure your java gear is safe and free of any dangerous toxins you don't want floating around in your cup o' joe:

    • Hard, Clear & Unbreakable: Plastics that are hard and clear are usually made from polycarbonate. Unless the manufacturer states that it is BPA-free, it's the BPA chemical additive that makes plastics clear instead of cloudy or opaque. Check on the manufacturing packaging for an explicit statement, otherwise skip it.
    • Too Hot to Handle: Heat accelerates the possibility of BPA leaching into beverages stored in plastics. Make sure your to go cups are stainless steel where your coffee touches it.
    • Unlucky #7: Take a look at your plastics and find the triangle stamp on or near the bottom of your product. Products consisting of polycarbonate should have the number 7 or sometimes the letters PC.

    However, not all plastics with the number 7 mean they contain BPA. The number 7 can also mean that that certain plastic is in the 'other' category. These plastics are usually soft and pliable, and are not made with BPA. Because some of their products contain components with the number 7 on them, Technivorm has tried to clarify this, also specifically listing which materials are utilized in those products:

    Although judged safe by most testing agencies and reports, a few misleading negative studies have identified plastics marked with recycling no. 7 as unsafe. Some -- but not all -- plastics with the recycling no. 7 are polycarbonate. -- Technivorm

    While a few of their components are a mixture of polycarbonate, they do meet FDA requirements. Technivorm hopes to get closer to being a totally BPA-free manufacturer by getting rid of the use of any polycarbonate in their current and future products.

    But if you're still worried about BPA in your coffee maker, just know that most coffee maker brew baskets are made of ABS plastic and polypropylene for their water tanks -- both of which are BPA-free plastics.

  • Coffee Roasts: Shades, Names and Flavors

    Back in May, we wrote a little bit about Italian vs. French Roasts, but lately we have been sampling a lot of different roast and blend types and decided to read more about the basic theory behind roasting and blending. In our research, we ran across Kenneth Davids' excellent table describing the different roast styles and their corresponding flavor, so we thought we'd reprint it here for easy future reference.
  • Italian Roast vs. French Roast

    We've found that we generally prefer medium roasted coffees because we're able to taste a more diverse palette of flavors in a specific coffee blend. However, we know that there are die-hard devotees of dark roasted coffee and we were recently asked what the difference was between French Roast and Italian Roast.

    They're both roasted quite darkly, so that they have an oily sheen to them after the roasting process is complete. With a French Roast, the temperature of the roast is high enough that these oils are brought to the surface and will impart a roasted flavor to the produced coffee or espresso. Aromas can vary from berry to citrus. Italian Roast is much darker and oilier than a French Roast and often preferred in Italy.

    If a coffee is described as being a French or Italian roast, it isn't because they were grown or roasted in these countries, just that the roaster utilized this generalized roast level for that blend of beans. You can read more about roasting in our article It Starts with Great Coffee.

    What is your preferred roast or blend and why? We'd love to hear about some of your favorites!

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