culture

  • Simplifying Your Morning Cup

    Hey Coffee Fans!

    With school starting and many parents helping their children to access a virtual classroom, we thought it would be a good time to look at ways to simplify your morning cup of coffee! 

    There are a few techniques that can help you cut down your time to coffee in the morning, no matter what brew method you choose. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite ways to do this!

    Workflow

    We’ve talked at length about workflow in the past, and it’s important here as well. Making sure you have access to your coffee, grinder, and brewing equipment is the key to a quick cup of Joe. This means setting up a dedicated workspace for brewing your coffee if you can. You should also identify the passive elements of your brewing that can take the longest. Do you brew pour over? Makes sure you start heating your water as a first step. Drip fan? Consider placing your filter in the basket the night before. 

    Another great way to speed up your brewing process is to portion coffee ahead of time. Taking 10 minutes to prep pre-weighed coffee is a great way to save a few extra minutes while you prepare your brew! You can also fill your drip brewer’s water tank the night before to cut that step from the drip brewing process.

    Method

    To really hone in on brewing faster coffee, you might want to take a look at your brewing process. Slow, hands on methods like pour over are not the quickest option. You might want to consider switching to something like drip or press brewing, two “set it and forget it” methods. In the case of drip brewing, all you have to do is load up the water and grounds and push a button. Five minutes later, you’ll have delicious coffee!

    Similarly to drip brewing, for a coffee press you just load in coffee and water and set it to steep, ready to press later. You can even take your press around with you to have your coffee the second it’s finished steeping.

    Of course, for rapid morning coffee there’s nothing faster than a superautomatic espresso machine. Superautos give you delicious coffee with just a few button presses. What’s more, you can even make lattes and cappuccinos in a super automatic with a milk steaming system. Many of the best superautomatic espresso machines even steam milk automatically!

    We hope these methods and ideas help you get your coffee just a tad bit quicker this school season. Stay safe!

  • Using Your Summer Leftovers

    We’ve all been there, sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach when it comes to coffee. Who wants to miss out on that natural Ethiopian? Do you really want to wait until next year for your favorite seasonal blend to come back? And maybe there’s something experimental and awesome you just have to try. But here you are, with loads of coffee that is losing its freshness. So what’s the solution? We’ve got a couple in mind!

    Batch Brewing

    The first way to use that leftover coffee is to brew it! Batch brewing means brewing a large batch of coffee at once. While there are some delicious and easy to use ways to brew a large amount of hot coffee at once, you probably don’t need a commercial drip brewer for everyday use. Considering that, cold coffee batch brewing is the way to go!

     

    With a Toddy Cold Brewer you can brew quite a lot of cold brew concentrate at once. From there you can refrigerate it for up to two weeks and have delicious cold brew every day. You could also batch cold brew lots of coffee and bottle it for your friends! One of the ways that you can really squeeze every last bean out of a bagged roast is to blend singles and blends yourself before brewing. Look for coffees with notes that will compliment each other, like chocolatey Colombians and rich berry tasting Ethiopian coffee. 

     

    Blending coffee like this is a fun way to experiment, and you may find you like it even with the freshest of the fresh roasts! For some ideas for preserving that coffee, read on!

    Coffee Preservation

    If you don’t want to brew it all at once, there’s always preserving it. While your mileage may vary with the existing freshness of the coffee, an airtight container can do wonders for freshness. Coffee stored like this can taste close to how it does right after opening it for months, giving you more time to enjoy it. 

     

    You can also freeze coffee to get a little more freshness. While this may not do much for coffee already at the end of its life, setting some aside to freeze from a fresh bag is a great idea. One thing to note, however, is that some drinkers might taste a difference in flavor with a frozen coffee, but not everyone will.

     

    Let us know if you have any tips for using your coffee leftovers!

  • Coffee Acidity

    Ah acid, it’s a constant topic of conversation for some coffee drinkers, and we can understand why. The acidic flavors in coffee are one of the reasons people love this drink so much. From bright citrus and fruity flavors to sparkling notes that dance across your palate, those acidic flavors are enticing for a lot of coffee fans. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have to avoid acid for health or taste reasons. The issue is that sometimes the flavors we associate with acids and the actual acid content in a cup of coffee do not correlate at all. So what’s the deal?

    The Chemisty

    Acid content in a cup of coffee plays into flavor extensively. In fact, it’s a careful balance. Too much acid leads to sour tasting coffee. If the acid content is too low, the coffee will have a flat, uninteresting taste. Striking that balance is key. The first thing to understand here is that there are multiple kinds of acids at play. Malic, citric, and tartaric acid (along with some other acid compounds) all add unique flavor to the roast. There are also chlorogenic acids, which break down into quinic and caffeic acids. These acids come out during the roasting process, and cause bitterness and a sour flavor. This is why darker roasts tend to be more bitter.

    This means that your first step is in determining what acids you want to avoid. From there, you can make informed judgements about acid content based on factors of the coffee’s production.

    Origin, Variety, Process

    As you (hopefully) know, coffee is a plant! This means that its nutritional content largely comes from the contents of the soil it draws nutrients from. This means that origin plays into coffee acidity very much. Different origins have soil with different acid contents, so if you know that Colombian coffees tend to be grown in soil with higher citric acid contents, you can assume a Colombian coffee will contain more citric acid than an Ethipiopian coffee. 

    Then there’s variety/species. Arabica coffees tend to be lower in acidity than Robustas, for example. From there different varieties will have their own differences in acidity. Climate and elevation can also play into the equation, with cooler climate coffees tending to be higher in acid content due to their slower development.

    FInally, there’s processing. 

    Washed processing, for example, leads to more acidic flavors. This is because the pulp of the cherry is washed from the bean, so those fruity compounds don’t dry into the bean. This is why washed coffees tend to taste a bit more sparkly and balanced without that sweetness to overpower the acid. This is not a change in the overall acid content however, just perceived acidity. 

    Brewing

    You can also affect acidity with your brew method. Since coffee extraction is the chemical process of water bonding with molecules in the coffee grounds, it plays a big role in determining overall acidity in your cup. How does this translate to your recipe? 

    To get a lower acid cup, you’ll want a finer grind time, longer brew time, and lower water temps (but still in the 195-205 fahrenheit range). This lengthier extraction time will allow acids to release during brewing, leading to a less acidic cup. For more of that sparkling acidity, simply reverse those parameters.

    In the end though, there’s no way to completely eliminate acids from coffee. The best you can do is make informed guesses as to acid content. 

     

  • Coffee Regions: Ethiopia

    We’ve taken a look at some of the unique regions that coffee is produced in before, but we wanted to revisit them! Today we’re talking a bit about Ethiopian coffee. We’ll discuss the geographical concepts at play, and dig into the flavor profiles typical for coffees of the region. We’re excited to highlight these interesting concepts in other regions too! For now, let’s get started:

    Geography

    Ethiopia has a diverse range of climates and biomes. From the dusty, but vibrant eastern deserts to mountains, jungles, and forests, this is a large, beautiful country. It also means that it contains the ideal climate for growing coffee plants. Indeed, most consider this country to be the birthplace of coffee. It’s also one of the finest regions for coffee production in the world.

    In light of this, coffee accounts for most of the foreign income in the country. Most of it is produced in the Western part of the country, with some coffee coming from central Ethiopia as well. Because of all of this, coffee in the country is grown at varying elevations. Most coffee is grown in the 1,000-2,500 meter range, but there are outliers as well. With the excellent elevation and climate, Ethiopian coffee beans really are of extremely high quality.

    Processing

    Ethiopian coffee goes through all sorts of processes. Even within specific regions like Yirgacheffe or Limu you may find multiple processing methods. For the most part, the aforementioned regions feature washed coffee. However, it’s not uncommon at all to find a delicious natural Yirgacheffe coffee. By contrast, coffee from the Harrar region is primarily natural processed. This means you get interesting processing experiments as well. Honey processing, for example, is common in Ethiopia, but reserved for specific harvests.

    Their wet and natural processing is managed by highly skilled coffee processors whose attention to detail is fitting for the quality of beans that are grown there. 

    Flavor Profiles

    The easiest way to break down Ethiopian coffee flavor profiles is by region. Generally though, coffee from the country is recognized as some of the most enjoyable and flavorful available. Rich berry notes are some of the most recognizable elements of Ethiopian coffee. You’ll also find bright, almost tea-like roasts from the region, and more balanced affairs. Here are some examples of flavors you can expect from some of Ethiopia’s most prolific coffee growing regions:

    • Sidamo
      • Rich, full, lots of floral and citrus notes.
    • Yirgacheffe
      • Bright, herbal, floral, very light and delicate.
    • Harrar 
      • Intense, fruity, acidic, and rich. Lots of berry notes.
    • Limu
      • Floral, balanced, and a hint of spice.
    • Jimma
      • Bright, fruity, and tropical.

    We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Ethiopian coffee and we can’t wait for you to try some for yourself!

  • Coffee History: Japan

    It’s time for another look at coffee history, this time, in Japan! So much wonderful coffee gear comes from this island nation, so we wanted to take a look at how the drink has had an influence on the culture there! Let’s jump in.

    Coffee Arrives in Japan

    Like many goods, coffee first arrived in Japan in the 18th century, sometime around 1700. Our favorite bean found its way to Japan via Dutch traders, some of the first foreigners to make contact with the Japanese. For most of these early years, coffee was a luxury brewed at home by the wealthy, rather than at coffee shops like in most places. It wasn’t adopted widely in the country until the Meiji Era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912. Even during this time, its popularity was brief and limited.

    In 1888 the first coffee shop opened in Japan, and it closed just a few years later. It’s hard to pinpoint why the beverage had trouble catching on. A factor that may have been related is cost and difficulty in importing beans, especially already roasted ones.

    Coffee During the 20th Century

    During World War II, coffee was seen as a Western influence. This was true of many Western items, and was a function of the government’s stranglehold on the populace during their Imperialistic attempts at expansion. As a result of this, coffee was banned in Japan and didn’t have much presence in the country until well after the war was finished.

    Coffee began its resurgence in Japan in the 1960s, and grew immensely in popularity over the rest of the century. According to Rochelle and Viet Hong (Coffee In Japan: 100 Years of Mornings), imports grew from just 15,000 tonnes in 1960 to over 440,000 tonnes today. Part of this rise can be attributed to the ways in which Western culture became a fascination in Japan in the latter half of the 20th century. That, coupled with coffee’s marketing as an on the go beverage made it a convenient thing to enjoy on the way to work or school. This worked well in Japan’s busy, always in motion economy. 

    Modern Coffee Consumption

    In modern Japan, coffee occupies an interesting place in culture. It is still viewed as a Western beverage, and is treated like many elements of Western Culture. Much like American fast food and theme parks, coffee is viewed as a novelty. While still a largely on the go drink, it’s also one that’s enjoyed as a solitary one by most people. Unlike the United States, where coffee is often a social activity, this is largely reserved for tea in Japan. The exception comes from young people, who view coffee as a disruptive drink, and often enjoy it in groups as a counter-culture activity.

    We couldn’t talk about modern coffee in Japan without mentioning how much Japan has influenced Western coffee culture. Manufacturers like Hario have created some of the finest equipment for pour over in the world. Coffee may come to Japan from the West, but Japan has certainly made its mark on the way the world drinks coffee too!

  • 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!

  • What Makes the Perfect Coffee Cup?

    One aspect of coffee making that we don’t talk about much is what you use to drink it. You’ve probably tried many coffee cups in your lifetime, but how much do you think about them? It turns out, there’s a lot that goes into designing the perfect cup for drinking coffee and tea from. Here are some thoughts on several aspects of coffee cup design from us here at SCG!

    Heat Retention

    One of the objectively necessary parts of a great coffee cup is heat retention. If the mug doesn’t help insulate your drink, then it’s an easy pass! There’s lots that goes into heat retention, material is key, but so is shape and design. Double-walled mugs often retain heat better than single walled, as they provide a layer of insulation. Ceramic and glass retain heat better than plastic as well. Finally, a mug with a wider body than mouth will help keep your coffee a bit hotter too!

    Handling

    If your coffee cup is hard to hold, that’s another easy way to tell something is amiss. It’s important to be able to grip the mug without burning your hand. Some mugs solve this problem by including insulated material around the mug. This can solve the problem, but often a good old fashioned handle is the easiest solution. From there it’s down to individual ergonomics for each person. Your hand size and shape are the only things that can determining if a mug will be pleasant for you to hold!

    Size, Shape, and Design

    These three elements are also key. You want a mug large enough to hold the amount of coffee you’ll drink in a sitting. At the same time, a mug that’s TOO big can be heavy, awkward, or hard to drink through before the coffee gets cold. Shape is important too, how will it fit in your cupboard? Will you be using it with cupholders? Is the rim of the mug too thick or thin for your mouth? Then there’s the heat retention and handling concerns outlined above. Finally, the shape of the curves on the inside of the mug can have an impact on your enjoyment as well. Some mugs have more square angles on the inside that trap liquid.

    Appearance

    For some, this is the most important aspect of any drinkware! If you don’t like the way a mug looks, it may not be a fit for your collection. This brings us to the most important point of all: Preference! You should use the drinkware you love, even if it doesn’t quite fit with the criteria we’ve laid out here.

     

    We do hope that we’ve given you a little bit more to think about the next time you’re shopping for a new mug!

  • Coffee Culture: Spain

    The history of coffee is closely tied to the movement of people and goods around Europe. Given this, it should come as no surprise that Spain has an incredible rich history and culture surrounding our favorite drink. Join us as we take a look at some of the ways coffee affects culture in Spain!

    A Coffee With Every Meal

    Most coffee served in Spain is grown in countries like Angola and Mozambique. The Spanish tend to prefer darker, full flavored roasts, not dissimilar to Italian and French roasting. Coffee is, as you might have guessed, a major part of daily life in Spain. Many Spaniards start their day with a cafe con leche, a drink consisting of a 1:1 ratio of coffee and scalded milk. Spanish coffee drinkers will often have multiple cups of coffee at different times throughout the day. Other popular styles include a small, very dark espresso called a cafe solo. 

    The Spanish Coffee that you might be familiar with could be a Cafe Carajillo. This coffee drink involved a small, dark espresso mixed with hard spirits like brandy or whiskey. Mixing alcohol and coffee is a standard practice in Spain, even in the mornings.

    Spanish Coffee Shops

    Coffee houses in Spain are often slightly more formal than we’re used to in the U.S. While not always true, many cafes have beautiful flooring and architecture, with patrons dressed up to match. All of this plus a slightly reserved atmosphere may be a culture shock for Americans visiting traditional coffee houses in Spain. 

    But formal coffee isn’t always the way. Jovial Spanish meal times are almost always accompanied by fresh coffee. In this way, enjoying this great, truly global beverage is a joyous experience, often accompanied by delicious food, family, and friends. Not so different from the rest of the world!

     

  • Video Roundup 4/20/20

    Hey Coffee Lovers!

    We've got some VERY exciting videos for you this week, and for the time being we'll be coming to you on Mondays! Moving our video roundup day is temporary, but we wanted to help you start your week with some fresh coffee tips.

    So without further adieu...

    Gail gave us a look at her brewing setup from her RV!

    Then Allie showed us her process for dialing in Olympia's Big Truck Espresso:

    Next we've got a look at the brand new Rocket Espresso Appartamento Nera!

    Then Allie and I sat down to for a video chat to talk about our delicious Roast of the Month:

    And we're VERY excited to share a limited return of Good Morning Gail!

    That's all we have for you this week, we'll be back with more next Monday!

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