coffee

  • Roast of the Month: Counter Culture Kabeywa Natural

    Counter Culture’s Kabeywa Natural is a stunning study in processes and flavor profile and one you should not miss.

    A Study In Process

    Kabeywa Natural is one of two Kabeywa coffees offered by Counter Culture this month. The other option is a washed coffee with less powerful tasting notes. We liked the natural because of its juicy flavors. Speaking of flavors, this is a coffee that blends a distinct grape flavor with more vague, but present, nutty and floral notes. The result is a sweet profile that doesn't overwhelm, but also presents itself strongly. This coffee's body is well balanced and isn't too rich or too thin. We really love this one as a pourover, but as with any great coffee, experimentation is always a good thing.

    One of the more interesting elements of this roast is its origin combined with its process. While we don't see that much Ugandan coffee in the first place, it comes in now and then. What is exciting is how delicious this roast is from a natural process. Ugandan coffee has long had quality issues in its natural processing, resulting in unpopular harvests for specialty roasters. This means that most high quality Ugandan coffee is washed. With Kabeywa natural, Counter Culture has found a truly delicious sun-dried natural process crop. Grown at high elevations, this harvest emphasizes quality through meticulous processing and harvesting. Hand picked and carefully prepared for processing, this is a roast that speaks to what experienced, engaged producers are capable of. Counter Culture went so far as to suggest that this could be the best harvest in this producer's four year relationship with them. We think you'll love it too, and it's a great introduction to a region that is only going to get more prevalent over time.

    Order a bag here, and don't wait, because this roast is only available for a limited time.

  • Espresso Vs. Drip Grinders

    We get a lot of questions about what makes a good drip grinder Vs. espresso. We often get questions about the best grinder for both applications as well. There are a lot of things that go into a grinder, so we wanted to provide some tips for what makes each type tick.

    Drip Grinders

    What makes a great drip grinder is consistency. It's fairly well understood that larger burrs can lead to finer grind. In the case of a great drip brewer we're more interested in control settings and consistency than getting as fine as possible. Because drip brews require less fine adjustments, stepless controls are additional nice-to-haves, but not a necessity. What is important is consistency. A grinder with a decent sized (40mm or so) burrset and conical shape will provide quality, consistent grounds.

    Ultimately the point we're getting to here is that drip brewing is simply less demanding than espresso. This means that buying a drip grinder should be a much smaller dent in your budget than an espresso grinder.

    Espresso Grinders

    For espresso, consistency and control are important, but power is required as well. Espresso brewing requires a highly precise grind due to the pressure at play. This is especially true when using unpressurized portafilter baskets, because your grounds are helping to create that pressure. This means that you need very fine grounds that are also very consistent. The best way to get this is with larger (50mm or larger) burrs. Finding a compromise between burr size, shape, and price is key here. This need for more fine grounds is also why some grinders just can't to drip and espresso. Such a wide range of positions isn't possible for every burrset to do well.

    Another important facet here is control. Unlike other brew methods, desired fineness will shift from roast to roast. Some coffees will want a slightly coarser or finer grind depending on origin, roast level, and more. This all means that super fine adjustments are very important. You'll also need to carefully dial in your grinder for the best results for espresso whenever you refill it with a new bean. Which leads us to our conclusion...

    Why Not Both?

    Instead of hunting for a grinder to do both drip and espresso, consider budgeting for a separate one for each method. This may seem like overkill, but switching from your carefully dialed in espresso grind to drip and then re-dialing it is a large frustration. Even if you carefully mark where your espresso grind is set, it can be quite difficult to find the spot precisely. On the other hand, drip grinders are so comparatively affordable that by sacrificing a bit of budget for a separate one you can really make your coffee setup more usable.

    It's for this reason that we hesitate to recommend grinders that can handle both types of brewing, even if they technically do exist. Just make your life easier by adding a small drip grinder to your kitchen! We're sure it'll save you some headaches.

  • Video Roundup: 6/28/2019

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's time once again for another SCG video roundup!

    First up, we've got a double-shot of crew reviews, first from Allie...

    Then from John!

    Next up, Clementine tried an activated charcoal latte in Coffee Collaboration!

    That's all for this week! Check back soon for loads more coffee content!

  • New From Acaia: Pearl Model S

    Acaia scales have been some of our favorites for a while now. The Acaia Lunar offers perfect shot weighing, and the Pearl is one of the best pourover scaled you can get. One of the reasons Acaia's products are so easy to recommend is their connectivity. By using smart apps that help you measure things like flow rate and temperatures, these scales are almost magical. Enter the Pearl Model S.

    The Model S is an update to the Pearl style scale. While the existing Pearl is still a powerful scale, the Model S steps things up a notch. On the surface, this scale looks quite similar to its predecessor. The most notable difference comes in the form of its new programming options. This is where the aforementioned app connectivity comes into play.

    Previous Pearl models featured connectivity with Acaia's Brewbar app, which allowed you to monitor all kinds of real time metrics while brewing pourover. While this was a fun, useful tool for home baristas, the Model S takes this concept further with the Brewguide app.

    Instead of simply allowing you to monitor brew elements, the Brewguide app actually connects you with other users. Roasters can upload the perfect pourover recipes for their roasts, and pro baristas can share their favorite techniques. When you find a recipe that you like you can send it to the scale. From there, the Model S will walk you through each pour, ensuring that you hit the proper flow rates and saturation levels. This kind of walkthrough integration is perfect for newcomers to pourover. Even for veteran home baristas, the ability to experiment with and share recipes should be a boon.

    Beyond all of these fancy app features, this is still the same powerful, durable scale that Acaia is known for. Water resistance will protect the Model S from splashes during brewing, and it is accurate to a tenth of a gram. For those looking for the smartest scale you can buy, check out the Acaia Pearl Model S here!

     

  • Thermoblocks Vs. Thermocoils

    Several years ago we offered a description of thermoblock espresso machine heating elements. You can find that post here!

    Thermoblocks

    A thermoblock is a type of heating element commonly found in home espresso machines. Unlike commercial machines, which feature a boiler, many home machines simply pull water through a heating element for brewing and steaming. Thermoblocks are heating elements of this type that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In these machines, water travels through a heated block of metal. The water heats up as it passes through the block, preparing it for steaming or brewing. By altering the temperature and flow rate through the block, temperatures for each application can be met. The result is a relatively inexpensive method for heating water for espresso brewing and steaming.

    The downside to thermoblocks is that they can lake consistency and longevity. While a high quality thermoblock espresso machine can be nearly commercial grade, cheaper versions exist as well. Ultimately, thermoblocks are a good option for home espresso heating, but newer thermocoils continue to see more use.

     

    Thermocoils

    Thermocoil heating elements function similarly to thermoblocks. These elements still pull water through the heating element. The difference is that instead of pulling the water through a multiple piece chamber, they use a tube. These tubes are usually made out of copper or another metal. Because the water circulates in the chamber more thoroughly, these heating elements are generally more consistent. While you still have to allow time for temp changes from steaming to brewing, overall they are usually faster too.

    On top of this, thermocoils tend to last longer. Because the water circulates in a closed tube, they tend to be less prone to leaks and failures. The best part is that as thermocoil technology evolves, the price is coming down. The result is even better home espresso than you could get several years ago!

     

  • Video Roundup: 6/21/2019

    It's that time again for another video roundup! Let's see what's in store this week!

    First up, our crew tasted SCG's June Roast of the Month!

    Next up, Allie gave us some awesome Chemex tips and tricks.

    And to round out the week, another Coffee Collaboration with Clementine!

    And that's all for this week! Check back next week for more coffee content!

  • Roast of the Month: Bluebeard Colombia Rigo Belarcazar

    This month we're celebrating the delicious Colombia Rigo Belarcazar from Bluebeard Coffee!

    A Unique Colombian Profile

    When we think Colombia we naturally think coffee. So much of the current wave of coffee roasting owes itself to Colombian beans. It's for this reason that most enthusiasts have a clear picture of what a Colombian tastes like. We look for rich, deep chocolate flavors, a full body, and a "classic" feel. These notes with that profile are foundational to many coffee drinker's picture of what coffee "should" taste like. With all that in mind, Rigo Belarcazar breaks this mold in some pretty exciting ways.

    This is a roast that maintains that huge, satisfying body found in most Colombians and puts a twist on it. Instead of coffee, you instantly get an almost natural process blast of raspberry. This note doesn't overpower, but it is clear and above any typical Colombian notes. We love that, because it also maintains the profile of a washed coffee. It's clean, concise, and separable from the other notes involved.

    There is also a satisfying citrus twinge on the back end that offers a nice twist. It's represented in the notes as mandarin, which feels accurate. The real thing that sealed the deal for us was the sugary notes. While Bluebeard has separated cinnamon and brown sugar as two separate notes in their cupping, we'd say it's more like an overall cinnamon and sugar taste. This note lingers after the sip, leaving a delightful sugary flavor across your palate.

    We love this roast in a variety of brew methods. In fact, this is the perfect coffee to try in different methods to see how it stacks up and how those methods affect it. If you are going this route, give it a try as a pourover first. This will give you a great baseline of what to expect. Grab a bag of this exceptional coffee right here!

     

  • Video Roundup 6/14/2019

    Hello!

    Welcome to another video roundup! Let's jump in.

    First up, check out this grinder Crew Review with Gail!

    Next up, it's John with a commercial Crew Review!

    And last but certainly not least, another Coffee Collaboration with Clementine!

    That's all for now! Enjoy your weekend!

  • Plenty to Boast About!

    We've got plenty to boast about today! New to our roaster lineup is Boast Coffee Co., straight from San José CA! Boast offers a small but sweet line of single origins alongside a easy drinking blend. Let's dig in to their lineup!

     

    Level Up

    Level up is an easy to drink blend that highlights some of the key characteristics of Boast's roasting style. This blend features a light roastiness that evokes earthier tones that its chocolatey notes enhance. Also present is a sweeter cherry note that ties this coffee's flavor profile together into an approachable package. This one is a great option for drip brewing and worth a try as an espresso!

    Peru Puno Medium

    Peru Puno is the first of Boast's single origins that we'll be taking a look at. This roast is rich and sweet. We described it as a German chocolate cake in coffee form, and this really comes through in a pourover. A delicious choice for those who really love deeper, fuller cups of coffee.

    Guatemala Cimarron Medium

    This roast's nuttier notes really come through in a sweet and satisfying way. The first of Boast's 1-2 punch of Guatemalan roasts, this is the darker version. We love the way this roast's almond notes creates a sort of cookie taste. It makes for a really drinkable and delicious cup of coffee that is great for a morning brew or an afternoon pick-me-up.

    Guatemala Cimarron Light

    The lighter side of the coffee above. This roast retains the flavor notes but exchanges the richer baked good flavor for some more bright. This bright bit of acidity may not appeal to every coffee drinker, but trying both roasts offers a unique study in how roast profiles differ. For those who prefer less heavy roasts, this may be the best recommendation of the bunch!

    Check out our full offering of Boast roasts, we're sure you'll find some coffee you'll love!

     

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

    This is an update to an old post which you can find right over here!

    A question that people new to espresso ask all the time is "can I use any bean?" The answer is a bit complicated! We'll dig into what separates espresso and drip beans, and give a little insight into superautomatic appropriate beans as well. Read on to learn!

    What's the Difference?

    Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: Coffee is coffee. When we see beans labeled for espresso, it's not because it's a different kind of bean. Ultimately, the thing that extracts the flavor from coffee beans is brew method. What is important to understand is the ways in which brew method cultivates the natural flavors of the coffee bean. This is where that espresso vs. drip beans distinction comes into play. The espresso brew method is pressurized. This means that more delicate flavors are often smashed together when brewing without high end equipment and beans. Thankfully, modern third-wave roasters use high quality beans, and its easier than ever to access great equipment. With that said, espresso generally leads to more intense flavors, hence the distinction between beans for that vs. drip.

    So with that in mind, it's important that you're intensifying flavors that you want to. There are plenty of great roasts that work best with less intensity. Very rich, fruity roasts, for example, often work better in a drip or pourover brew. On the flip side, sugary, chocolatey roasts make for delicious espresso to a wide range of coffee drinkers. So to answer the "what's the difference" question, the difference is all in the flavor profile.

    So Why the Distinction?

    So that brings us to why a roaster would make the distinction in the first place. The simple answer is user error! You can use any coffee for any brew method, but when a roast works well for a specific one, it just works. As a roaster, you'd likely hate it if your wonderful new espresso was described as bland by a drip drinker. By contrast, a coffee that needs the extra oomph of pressure from espresso brewing may be less palatable in drip. Roasters want you to have the best experience with their coffee, hence the guidelines. We try to help too, offering brewing suggestions for every coffee we sell in the product description.

    But this doesn't mean you shouldn't experiment! Brewing coffee is an art, and you may just find something wonderful. Just know that it's much harder to preserve delicate floral notes in espresso. On the other hand, it's sometimes hard to get straight chocolate notes to shine in a pourover. By understand the process of brewing and what each method adds to the coffee, you can make informed choices about what to buy for different methods.

    What about Superautos?

    You know we love our superautos, so how do they factor in? The biggest thing you'll want to be careful of in superautos is level of oil on the surface of the beans. Oily beans clog up grinders, so try to avoid darker roasts! Superautos work great with any coffee designed for espresso, and many other blends as well! The thing superautos don't do well is preserving the little notes on the edge of a brew. They're great for convenience, but not as precise as a semi-auto process. Because of this, we recommend roasts with simpler, stand by flavors. With that said, it's hard to go wrong and get something totally terrible for the method.

    We hope that this provides some insight on the great "drip vs espresso" question, and we how you enjoy some experimentation!

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