coffee

  • Roast of the Month: Victrola Burundi Mpanga

    It’s a tale of twin processes this month for SCG’s Roast of the Month! We’re excited to share Victrola’s Burundi Mpanga single origins. One of these roasts is a washed process, and the other is a honey process. We hope our customers will give each one a try to better understand how process effects flavor!

    Both of these coffees are from the same producer from Nyangwe Hill’s prestigious coffee farms. From there, the coffee is processed differently, allowing the end customer to experience the different flavor profiles the processes impart. To best evaluate them side by side, we recommend brewing as a pour over. From there though, let your imagination run wild! There’s so much joy to be had in exploring the ways to get the most out of each coffee.

    Mpanga Washed

    Washed process coffee is fully cleaned of the cherry before drying and shipping. This means no trace of the cherry is allowed to ferment and impart flavors after harvesting. 

    For this roast, the result is mild, sweet flavors that are clean and balanced. Expect notes of soft fruit, brown sugar, and raisin. We find this one to be delicious and easy to drink, as well as versatile. While we recommend trying them side by side as pour overs, this roast works particularly well as a drip or press brew too.

    Mpanga Honey

    For a quick refresher on honey process coffee: A honey process splits the difference between washing all of the mucilage off of the bean and allowing the whole cherry to ferment on the bean like in a natural. Honey process coffee is hulled, but the mucilage isn’t fully washed off, allowing for a honey like wrap to develop on the bean. 

    In practice, this gives this roast more unique and striking notes than its counterpart. Victrola lists notes of Maple syrup, cherry cola, and graham cracker. You’ll get plenty of sweetness that hits different parts of the palate differently, and a bright acidity that pulls the notes together. A great pour over, this roast also results in a sweet and delicious espresso!

    Again, we can’t recommend trying both of these roast side by side enough!

     

  • Video Roundup: 4/10/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's Friday, which means it's time for another video roundup here at SCG!

    Let's dig in:

    First up, we got a taste of John's morning routine straight from the source!

    Next up, it's Ariels morning routine!

    And finally, a look at some great ways to improve your latte art with John:

    That's all for now! Join us next week for more videos!

  • Coffee Culture at Home!

    This may seem like a silly post, as we talk about brewing coffee from home all the time! But something that we don’t often talk about is what living with the equipment we provide can be like. It’s easy to recommend equipment we love, but we wanted to share a little bit of what brewing from home really looks like once you’ve got your equipment home!

    Pour Over

    Brewing pour over is rewarding, but also a bit intense! You’ll need room for a scale, kettle, and grinder. To streamline pour over brewing we think keeping your water source close to your kettle is key! When it comes to grinding, there’s a couple of different ways you can manage your beans. If you keep multiple kinds of coffee stocked, you’ll be weighing your grounds each time you brew and then pouring them into the bean hopper. This can be time consuming but ensures the least amount of waste! If you have one coffee that you like you can fill your grinder with it and then do your best to grind just what you need each time. Every grinder is different, so some might make this easier with timed or weighted dosing. 

     

    On top of all of this, you’ll need to warm your cup with hot water, set your dripper, and wet your filter. The whole process can take anywhere from five to ten minutes, but the end result is worth it! It also doesn’t require expensive equipment. Many of these concepts also apply to drip and press brewing, but in these cases you can walk away as the coffee brews, instead of needing to tend to it like a pour over, though the flavor profile will also change!

    Semi-Automatic Espresso

    Brewing with a semi-auto is a bit more complicated up front but can ultimately be a bit easier once you’ve got it down. You’ll need to dial in your grinder, which can be a bit tricky depending on your coffee of choice. You’ll want to arrange your machine and grinder together so you can move your portafilter back and forth easily, as well as have easy water access for your machine. 

     

    The actual brewing process is quick when you’re used to it, and with a machine like the Rocket Appartamento you can steam milk and brew at once. You’ll want a couple of towels on hand to clean out your portafilter after you knock the puck, and to wipe down your steam wand (after you purge it of course!). Aside from that, regular backflushing and descaling are key bits of maintenance!

    Superautomatic Espresso

    Superauto machines like the Philips Carina change a lot of this dynamic! All you have to do for prep is making sure you have a ready source of beans and water. The biggest hassle with a superauto is needing to refill the water tank, aside from that, it’s super easy to brew with these machines (Pun intended)! You’ll have some regular cleanup like wiping down and watching drip tray elements and the brew group that are very important, but otherwise maintenance just extends to replacing water filters and regular descaling. All in all these machines are quite easy to live with and maintain. 

    The only real downside to superautos is that they don’t give you quite the same degree of control that a semi-auto machine does. Many users will want the fine tuning you can achieve with a semi-auto, but if you just want good coffee without the extra work, these machines are the perfect option. 

     

    We hope this is a helpful window into what it’s like to have these machines on your countertop!

     

  • Coffee History: The French Press

    The History of the French Press isn’t as French as you might think! We decided it’d be fun to take a look at the history of this beloved brew method. Let’d dive in!

    Beginnings

    The first coffee presses likely did originate in France. These very basic, rudimentary presses followed similar principals as today’s coffee presses. They were likely homemade as well. These proto-coffee presses usually involved using a metal screen or some cheese cloth with a metal rod acting as the plunger. You’d simple press the whole thing down into an appropriately sized vessel after steeping to separate the grounds and the liquid. While simple and perhaps more clumsy and messy than today’s presses, they did the job. 

    We say that it’s likely these presses originated in France because of the French obsession with coffee in the 19th century. They were generally on the forefront of developing new ways to brew and enjoy coffee. For the next step in the French Press story, we head to one of their neighbors.

    The Milanese Not Quite French Press

    The first patented coffee press was developed by Milanese designer Attilio Calmani in 1929. Over the course of the next 30 years this press saw design modifications and updates. Many of these updates were developed by Faliero Bondanini, who later patented the design in 1958. This is how we finally got the name “French Press.” The reason for this is the factory that Bondanini built his presses in was located in France. They originally produced cabinets!

    His brand, Melior, was aided in its rise to popularity by being featured in the 1965 film the Ipcress File, which starred Michael Caine.

    The 1960s to Today

    After the success of the Melior French Press, British and European countries began to take notice. Of particular note was Danish kitchenware company Bodum, who you’re probably familiar with. They took the press worldwide, and developed it into the cylindrical design you’re familiar with now. 

    From the past to the future, the French Press is a bonafide legend!

     

  • Video Roundup 4/3/20

    Hey out there!

    It's a weird time right now, with many of us working from home we decided to do some special content. All of your favorites from SCG will be checking in from home, but this week we've got a mix!

    First up, I (Pat) ran through my at home brewing set up, and how I brew each morning!

    Next, Allie gave us her own tour of her setup.

    Finally, we've got a look at the Brewista Cold Pro Jr. with Ariel.

    That's all for now, join us next week for more home coffee content!

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Alternative Brewers

    By now you’ve hopefully seen our guides for buying gear for pour over, drip, espresso, and superautos. Beyond those methods there’s a whole world of fun odds and ends to try! We wanted to list some of our favorite alternatives to the “standard” ways to make coffee, so read on to learn more!

    Presses and Cold Brew

    One very popular brewing method is the coffee press. While you’re probably familiar with the concept of the French Press, presses come in more varieties! First up, the American Press. This press uses the motion and ergonomic design of the French Press but has a brew chamber that increases the pressure to create a profile closer to espresso. For on the go brewing, AeroPress’ AP Go offers a similar cup to the American Press in a compact package. Both of these brewers use a medium grind, so you’ll be all set if you already have a burr grinder for use with a drip brewer or pour over!

    Cold Brew is one of the simpler ways to brew coffee, but it can seem like a pain given how much effort goes into one cup. The Cold Pro Jr. allows you to brew a large amount of concentrate overnight with very little prep. Simply add coarsely ground coffee to the filter, pour over water, and stick it in the refrigerator for 12 hours, and you’ll have more cold brew than you can drink. It’s a great way to explore this delicious way to brew!

    Siphons and Stove Top Espresso

    Two other fun ways to get more out of your coffee setup are the siphon brewer and the stovetop espresso maker. Stovetop espresso makers use steam pressure to make an espresso like drink on your stovetop instead of with a machine. The Ilsa Omnia is a great way to try this out, and works best with a finer grind like you’d get from an espresso grinder (though finer settings on brew grinders can work in a pinch too).

    A siphon brewer is another way to use your stovetop, and the Bodum’s Santos is a fun way to see this method in action! Easy to clean and simpler than it looks, vacuum brewing makes brewing coffee into a cool science experiment.

    Ready for something different?

    Bonus round! If you’re ready for something different, we recently brought in some incredible tea makers as well. The Breville One-Touch Tea Maker and Brewista Smart Brew each approach hands off, automatic tea brewing a little differently, but with similarly excellent results. Both offer the ability to brew puts of tea and keep them hot to sip on over time, a great change of pace for the coffee fan who craves some variety!

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • What Sets Burr Grinders Apart?

    Hello!

    We talk a lot about needing different grinders for different things, but why is that? Why is it that certain grinders are only for espresso, and others do best with brew? Why do espresso grinders tend to cost so much? What makes a burr grinders so important in the first place? We’re going to answer some of those questions today to help you understand grinders a little bit better!

    Why Burr Grinders?

    You may be used to using blade grinders for grinding your coffee. Blade grinders use a spinning blade to chop up coffee beans into chunks, and eventually into grounds. The problem here is consistency. Coffee is brewed with hot water passing through the grounds, causing elements of the coffee grounds to bond with the water as it moves through. This means that proper “extraction” of the coffee requires several key things. One of those things is proper consistency of your ground coffee. Having roughly equivalent chunks at the proper degree of fineness is really important to proper brewing, regardless of method used.

    Burr grinders swap the imprecise, inconsistent blades of a blade grinder for carefully engineered plates (or cones) that produce a consistent motion for grinding the coffee. These grinders have controls that allow you to set how far apart the burrs sit, which allows you to control the fineness of the grounds that come out. Finally, burr grinders typically use simple gravity to control the flow of beans. The beans feed from a hopper at the top into the grinding chamber, then the grounds pass through a chute into some form of catch (or portafilter for espresso). The result is perfectly ground, consistent coffee, when using a quality grinder.

    Drip Vs. Espresso

    As you may already know, espresso requires a finer grind than drip. This is because the grounds themselves help provide the pressure against the water passing through them. The finer the grind, the greater pressure against the water. While it’s entirely possible to go too fine, you need a finer grind than what many burr grinders designed for drip coffee can produce. To achieve this degree of fineness, espresso grinders often have specialized burrs that are more expensive to produce than drip grinders. They may also have more expensive internal elements like motors and bean paths as well. 

    There’s also the control factor. Stepped grinders have set “steps” that they click between for different degrees of fineness. Stepless grinders have dials that work more like a free turning screw, allowing you to even lock the burrs together at their tightest setting. Control type doesn’t factor into cost too much, but it is important to know that there are advantages to each type of control. Stepped grinders are easier to use and have very clear reference points, perfect for brewing drip coffee. Stepless grinders allow for more precise control and can work well across a range of brew types, but are harder to use.

    All of this is on a scale, as well. The Breville Smart Grinder, for example, is capable of grinding coarse enough for drip coffee and fine enough for espresso. However, the consistency and quality of grounds at both ends of the spectrum won’t necessarily match a Eureka Mignon Specialita for espresso and a Baratza Encore for drip. The Smart Grinder is affordable and versatile though, so it may be the preferred option for some users.

    What’s with the cost?

    If a Smart Grinder is under $300, and a Eureka Mignon is under $1,000, why do some grinders cost so very much? There are a lot of factors. One of the main ones is burr size. Larger burrs tend to produce more consistency in grinding. To support larger burrs the entire grinder has to be engineered for them. This increases the cost of the whole grinder. Some high end grinders also use things like gear reduction to carefully control the speed of the grind and balance power and speed to grind fast but consistently. All of this carries a premium price tag.

    Then there’s the extras. Things like weight based dosing, timers, screens, digital buttons, touch controls, etc. can all increase the cost of a grinder. In some cases most of the cost differences between grinders boil down to these extras. 

    Hopefully this clears up some of your questions about grinders, and makes picking out your first or next one easier!

     

  • Video Roundup: 3/27/20

    Hello out there!

    It's another week and another video roundup from us. As you might expect, we'll be making some creative changes to some of our video formats in the coming weeks. We hope you enjoy this week's videos, and look forward to some fun stuff coming soon!

     

    First up, John showed us how to pour a latte art favorite: the swan!

    Next, we got a crew comparison between two classic espresso machines from Allie!

    That's all for now! We know it's a light week, but we'll have so much more to share in the weeks ahead. Happy Friday everyone!

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Grinders

    Hello! 

    If you’ve been keeping up with us recently you know we’ve been releasing our set of 2020 buying guides here on the SCG Blog. This week we’re providing a general look at buying your first coffee grinder, whether you’re pulling shots or brewing pour over. Let’s get started!

    Your First Espresso Grinder

    We covered buying an espresso grinder as part of our overall espresso buying guide. There we recommended the Rancilio Rocky and the Breville Smart Grinder Pro. These are excellent grinders that are very affordable for an espresso grinder. The reason you tend to pay more for an espresso grinder is because of the need for very fine, very consistent coffee. This generally requires premium burrsets, motors, and controls. 

    The Smart Grinder Pro and Rancilio Rocky aren’t quite as easy to dial in for espresso as a Eureka Mignon might be, but they are excellent grinders for the price. They’ll have you pulling unpressurized shots from your new machine with just a bit of practice. Learning on a grinder like this is especially good for new users, because it’ll help you understand how pulling shots works!

    Filter Brewing

    One of the nice things about the above listed grinders is that they’re also great for non-espresso brewing as well. So we recommend them if you’re looking to brew with a range of different methods. With that said, having to switch the settings back and forth all the time can be a pain, so it’s worth having a separate brew grinder if you can. If you’re not planning on brewing espresso at all then you can even save a bit with these recommendations.

    For filter brewing like drip and pour over it’s hard to recommend anything other than the spectacular Baratza Encore. This is a world class brew grinder perfect for a wide range of non-espresso applications. If you are looking for stepless control for more fine adjustments, Eureka’s Filtro and Brew Bro also offer very compelling options. All of these grinders will provide excellent grounds for filter brewing for years and years.

    Alternate Brew Methods

    There’s a world of other weird and wonderful ways to brew coffee out there, from press to vacuum and mokapot. For these varied types of brewing we recommend many of the above grinders in various configurations. If you love press coffee, something like the Baratza Encore will be the perfect match. If you want to brew a mokapot but have the option of switching to pour over brewing, the Smart Grinder Pro we mentioned is a great step between ultra-fine capable grinders and something that can go courser.

    In the end, grinder selection has more to do with how it’s specialized rather than how expensive it is. Pricier grinders are certainly pretty and full of bells, whistles, and performance for more demanding brew types like espresso. However, to get started you just need the right tool for the job!

    That’s all for now, we’ll be back with one more buying guide, featuring some alternative brewing methods, next week!

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • Brewing at Home for Maximum Efficiency

    Hello out there!

    2020 is certainly a weird and wild year, and we know it has many folks working from home. Our deepest condolences and most sincere thoughts go out to all of those affected by the outbreak. With all of that in mind, building an efficient coffee setup at home is key. We decided to break down some of our favorite brew methods and how long they take to go from whole beans to delicious coffee.

    Pour Over

    Pour over is definitely the slowest brew method we’re looking at today. From measuring, grinding, heating water, wetting filters, blooming, and pouring, a lot of work goes into the perfect pour over. While we think it’s totally worth it to get some of the tastiest coffee around, it’s not the most efficient way to brew. Pour over takes around 5-8 minutes to prepare for most home brewers, but can take as much as 10 minutes to get right if you’re not used to the process. It’s the perfect way to start your morning if you can find some time to spare though!

    Drip Brewing

    Drip brewing (and similarly, using a press) is one of the most hands off methods possible. While it can still take 3-5 minutes to set up your drip brewer, you can step away and get back to your other tasks while you wait for the coffee to brew. This may make it the ultimate option for your morning cup of coffee, as you’ll also get more than one cup out of a pot. Also the best choice if you’re brewing for someone else as well!

    Semi-Automatic Espresso

    Semi-Auto brewing is a mixed bag in terms of effort. An experienced home barista can pull a tasty shot in just a few minutes. The time from grinding to pulling to even steaming milk is quick, but takes practice to master. We recommend practicing and dialing in your grinder when you have more time on your hands. By properly dialing in and familiarizing yourself with your equipment, you can whip up a delicious mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up from your semi-auto machine in 5 minutes or less.

    Superautomatic Espresso

    Superautos are the pinnacle of convenience for espresso machines. Given how fast an easy it is to brew with a superauto, it’ll barely impact your routine. Pulling shots just takes a button press with a Carina or Xelsis. What’s more, depending on what kind of milk system your machine has you may even be able to automatically froth milk for lattes and cappuccinos. By combining all of these features, you’ll be able to get the same kinds of drinks you normally grab on your afternoon break in just minutes from your kitchen. The only downside is that superautos don’t produce drip coffee, but most *do* offer a lungo option, which is a long espresso shot that gets closer to the flavor of a drip brew.

    So there you have it! Four fantastic brewing methods that will fit your schedule throughout the day. Stay safe out there and enjoy your coffee!

     

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