Drip

  • Differentiating Drip Brewers

    Drip coffee brewers may not all look the same, but telling them apart features wise can be a bit of a challenge. With so many brewers offering wild stylistic differences but still boiling down to only having a couple of buttons, it can be tough to know what to look for. We’re here to help!

    The Basics

    The core of a good drip brewer is temperature stability. Brewing great coffee requires water that is ~200 degrees fahrenheit, with about 5 degrees of give on either side. This means any drip brewer needs a heating element capable of maintaining temperature in this narrow band throughout the brewing process. Cheap drip brewers tend to skimp out on this. They might burn the coffee by overheating it so that consistent temperature isn’t applied, or just fail to maintain hot enough temperature to brew with. 

    So for this reason, the first thing you should ensure is that your prospective drip brewer has a heating element that provides the right water temp. This can be achieved with less expensive brewers like those from Bonavita, which offer value and quality performance. The other basic part of differentiating these brewers is whether they use a glass carafe with a warming plate or a stainless steel option. This is entirely a preference issue. Glass carafes have less heat retention, which is offset by the warming plate, but extended use of a plate can scorch the coffee. By contrast, stainless steel carafes can impart a taste difference that bothers some palates.

    Control and Options

    Once you’ve secured a set of options that you know will be temp stable, the real fun begins. The big differentiator at this point is control options. What you’re looking for is going to be based on preferences largely. One important thing to look for is blooming. In pour over brewing, the bloom is the first step in brewing. You pour a smaller amount of water to saturate the grounds, which releases acids, aromas, and flavors. Great drip brewers do this as well, usually with options to disable the bloom based on preference.

    Otherwise, what you’re looking for is largely up to you! Do you want a machine that will simply make a great pot of coffee when you turn it on? A Ratio or Technivorm brewer might be perfect for you. If you’re looking for the ability to tweak your brew, you might be more interested in something like a Breville Precision Brewer

    The Precision Brewer has numerous settings that allow you to customize your coffee. You can alter the temperature, bloom time, amount, and other settings. You can even set it up to brew iced coffee, or use a pour over dripper. While this range of options might be overwhelming for some users, the control here is unparalleled.

    While the process of differentiating drip brewers is more simple than with espresso machines, it’s still worth doing some research. With that in mind, ensuring temperature stability, blooming, and that you get the right style carafe for you is the most important thing!

  • 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!

  • Brew Ratios

    Most at-home coffee enthusiasts know that the gold standard brew ratio for a pot of coffee is 1:16 coffee to water. This means that if you use 10 grams of ground coffee you’ll want to use 160 grams of hot water for brewing. The reason for this has to do with extraction. Coffee to water ratio is one of the three key ingredients for brewing great coffee. The others, of course, are water temperature and grind size.

    With all of that in mind, are there times that you might want to stray from that 1:16 ratio? 

    Alternative Brew Ratios

    For drip and pour over coffee, 1:16 will create the gold standard cup of coffee that really exemplifies the roast that you’re using. It’ll be the best way to tease out the flavor notes on the bag and generally offers the flavor agreed upon as ideal. That said, everyone’s tastes are different. If you brew up a new bag and find that it tastes too strong, you can try a 1:17 ratio. This will “water down” the coffee, but it may create a flavor more conducive to your taste buds. 

    The reverse of this is true too. If you like your new roast but wish it were just a stronger flavor, by brewing at a 1:15 ratio you’ll find a stronger flavor. The issue is what flavors this will tend to bring out. A weaker ratio may water down some of the more delicate, gentle notes that make a coffee unique. By contrast, brewing a roast stronger may not intensify your favorite notes.

    Ratios for Different Brew Methods

    While all of the above applies to drip, pour over, and press brewing, espresso is a different world entirely. There’s certainly a lot of ways to express a brewer’s touch on pour over coffee, but espresso offers another level of experimentation. Generally, you’ll want to start with a 1:2 ratio of coffee to water for espresso. With that said, the variability of espresso flavors by slightly modifying parameters is quite pronounced. 

    The goal with espresso shots is to brew something smooth without any bitterness or sour notes. To do this, you have to careful balance grind level, shot time, and ratios. Many easy to dial in blends will work best at that 1:2 ratio with a 20-30 second shot time. The variable will be your grind size, which you’ll adjust to hit those parameters. But then there’s the trickier single origins.

    While that 1:2 ratio and 20-30 second pull time is a good baseline, we try coffees better suited to experimentation all the time. These usually come in the form of single origins. In some cases, a longer pull will draw out some of the sneakier flavor notes in a single origin. On the flip side, using more coffee and less water can drastically alter the profile of the shot.

    The important thing when experimenting with espresso is to make very small adjustments. Jumping to a 1:1 ratio will have a pretty significant impact on shot flavor. This may result in a better shot, or one especially suited to combining with milk. That said, we usually recommend experimenting with pull time and grind size before adjusting ratios. This is partly because there’s a limit to the amount of coffee you can make work in a portafilter on both sides of the equation. 

     

    Hopefully this look at brew ratios has given you some ideas for where you’d like to take your next espresso shot or pour over!

  • Coffee Testing

    One thing we don’t talk too much about is the way we taste test new coffees, and how that might help you experience a new roast. 

    As you’ve almost assuredly noticed, coffee tasting notes aren’t always perfect. There’s usually some nuance in there, which we’ve talked about in the past. As such, we don’t just look at the notes and decide whether or not to bring on a roast. We actually try everything we bring on to make sure we like it.

    Given that, you might wonder why sometimes your brew is different from what we describe on product pages. So much of this comes down to brew method and personal palate, but what are the ideal ways to try a new roast?

    Brew

    For brewed coffee instead of espresso, we recommend a pour over. This allows you to start with a small sample of coffee instead of a whole pot’s worth. You’ll also get the most definition in the coffee’s notes, which is important for the initial tasting. 

    For a recipe, we always stick to a 1:16 standard ratio of coffee to water. It’s good practice to use around 20 grams of coffee and 320 grams of water. We then brew with three pours, using around 106 grams of water in each, starting with a 30 second bloom. Spreading the pours out evenly like this can help to balance and settle the tasting notes, even if an ascending pour ultimately leads to better flavor.

    Once you’ve tried a pour over of your new roast, you’ll be able to understand the way the flavor will come out in a drip brewer or press. I’ll also give you the best baseline for understanding those flavors.

    Espresso

    We often receive roasts not explicitly marked for espresso that seem well suited for the brew method. For these roasts, we still taste them as a pour over as described above. After that, we’ll try dialing them in for espresso.

    Dialing in a shot can be very challenging depending on the roast. Many coffees just aren’t suited for the brew method. Some trickier single origins (or even blends!) really need a long pull rather than the standard 20-30 seconds you usually start with. By developing your palate and practicing with different espresso blends you should be able to use pour over brewing to understand a coffee’s flavor. Developing this understanding can make it much easier to dial in a shot, because you know what you’re looking for. 

    In any case, it’s always exciting to pick up a new coffee and work out all of its subtle notes. We highly encourage you to experiment with these different tasting methods to get the most out of your coffee too!

  • Video Roundup: 4/27/2020

    Happy Monday Coffee Lovers!

    We've got another video roundup for you today featuring a load of quality coffee content. Let's dig right in!

    First up, our daring CEO Mike made his YouTube debut to share how he brews a delicious cup of decaf from home:

    Next, Allie gave us a look at how the Ratio Six stacks up against a Technivorm:

    Then I gave some thoughts on some of our newest coffees in a Coffee Roundup!

    Then, of course, you know her, you love her, it's Gail's second Good Morning Gail for 2020!

    And finally, we've got some coffee infused cocktail production with Ariel:

    We hope you've enjoyed this week's videos! We'll be back soon with more incredible coffee content!

  • 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!

     

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Drip Coffee

    We’ve looked at pour over, superautos, and semi-autos in our buying guides posts so far, but there’s a couple of stones still left unturned. Today we’re going to offer some advice for buying a machine perfect for one of the simplest, but most approachable kinds of coffee brewing: Drip! Drip coffee is easy to get started with, but with so many brewers out there it can be hard to get a grasp of what will provide the best bang for your buck. We’re here to help!

    Grinders

    First thing’s first, you need a way to grind your beans! While you could use pre-ground coffee, using freshly ground beans is the best way to get the most out of your brewer. In fact, having coffee that’s been freshly ground is arguably the most important part of the process alongside temperature stability. 

    With that in mind, it’s hard to recommend any grinder as highly for first time drip brewers as the Baratza Encore. This grinder is well priced, consistent, easy to use, and will last quite some time. Baratza is one of the best grinder producers that we know, and it shows in this no-frills knockout of a product. If your budget has a bit more headroom we can also wholeheartedly recommend the Eureka Filtro. The filtro offers just a bit more performance and reliability due to its larger burrs, which are specifically designed for drip brewing. The Filtro also features stepless grind adjust, which gives you more precise control over grind size.

    But what about upgrading? You may want something that provides a little bit more in the bells and whistles department in the future. On the Baratza front, the Vario-W features more micro adjustments than the Encore, with the addition of weight based dosing. As you explore the coffee world you’ll find that weight is a better way to dose your coffee than volume, and the Vario-W helps with that.  Eureka also offers an excellent grinder upgrade in the form of the Brew Pro. The Brew Pro features the same powerful burrs as the Filtro mentioned above. It also adds timed grinding via a vibrant touch screen. The perfect upgrade if you become accustomed to the precision stepless adjust of the filtro.

    Brewers

    It’s time for the main event! Selecting a brewer is actually a bit easier than you’d think. The two most important pieces of a drip brewer are temperature consistency and the ability to evenly wet grounds. Bonuses like pre-infusion are nice to get the absolute most flavor out of your coffee. For all of this and a palatable price, check out the Bonavita Connoisseur. This brewer offers exceptional temperature stability, has a wide angle showerhead for the water, and even does simple pre-infusion. It’s the perfect option to start with, and comes at an excellent price too. 

    But what about an upgrade? Eventually you might want more control than the Connoisseur offers. There’s arguably no better upgrade option you’ll find than the Breville Precision Brewer. This brewer offers an incredible degree of control over your coffee. Including options for brewing over ice, using a pour over attachment, specific gold cup brewing settings, and tons of options for setting custom recipes, the Precision Brewer should be the last machine you’ll ever need. 

    Thanks for joining us for this look at getting started with your drip brewing shopping list!

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • Introducing Spyhouse Coffee Roasters!

    It’s time once again to welcome another new partner to the SCG lineup of outstanding coffee roasters. Today we’re excited to introduce Spyhouse Coffee Roasting! Spyhouse Coffee Roasting comes to us from the chilly climes of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Spyhouse describes themselves as focused on building partnerships. Partnerships with distributors, producers, and customers. These partnerships paired with a finely honed skill for roasting has resulted in excellent, reliable coffee.

    The Blends

    Spyhouse Coffee’s house blend is Orion. Featuring notes of chocolate and sweet fruit, this is a simple but enjoyable roast that is perfect as an espresso or drip blend. A roaster’s house blend really should tie their coffee program together. We’re happy to say that Orion absolutely does so for Spyhouse. This is a tasty, adaptable, and easy to brew blend that does everything a house blend should do!

    Bold and the Beautiful offers a richer, darker blend of beans that is especially excellent as a strong drip brew. With notes of baker’s chocolate, black walnut, and creme brulee, this roast isn’t heavy on smoky flavors, but they’re present. Like a refined and extra flavorful cup of diner coffee, Bold and the Beautiful is perfect for anyone looking for a heavier coffee to have as a morning drip brew.

    Surprising Decaf

    We’ll be honest, good decaf can be tough to come by. Thankfully, Spyhouse Coffee’s Colombia Decaf Organic is quite good! With far more depth than what we typically see in a decaf, this is a satisfying coffee for the late afternoon or caffeine avoidant! We recommend it in a drip brew or a pour over, but either way we’re sure fans of decaf will enjoy.

    And none of this gets into Spyhouse Coffee’s full range of single origins. We have a few to choose from now, and we’ll be evaluating more to rotate in! 

    We hope you’ll give Spyhouse Coffee a try, and if you do we’re sure you’ll find them just as tasty as we do. Order a bag today

  • Keep Your Coffee Hot This Winter

    Winter is well and truly here, and we thought it'd be a good time to talk about heat. Hot, clean water is possible the most important part of the brewing process after getting good, fresh ground coffee. It's no wonder then that heat is often the sticking point for a lot of coffee drinkers! We often hear about how coffee out of superautos isn't hot enough, or how warming plates won't stay on long enough. We figured now would be a great time to talk about some ways to keep your coffee hot, and help set expectations.

    Drip Brewing

    One of the biggest questions with brewing drip coffee is whether glass or stainless carafes are better for heat. The truth is, they just work differently. Stainless steel carafes insulate your coffee to keep it warm vs. being heated by a plate underneath for a glass carafe. Either way, your coffee won't stay hot for more than an hour or two. You can help this by running hot water into the carafe to heat it prior to brewing. This will heat the carafe so that the coffee doesn't bleed as much temperature into it during brewing. Either way, you should expect to need to brew more coffee after an hour or two. If you find it hard to drink a whole pot in that time, just consider brewing less coffee!

    If you're trying to serve coffee for a group at an office or event, consider a batch brewer. Nothing keeps drip coffee hot for hours and hours like an airpot!

    Pour Over

    For pour over, there's a trick that will really help you with heat retention, and that's leaving your dripper and filter over your server. By only removing these for pouring the coffee, your server will retain more heat. This means you can brew a couple of cups worth and it'll stay warm. Other tips include pre-heating the server by pouring hot water into it, pre-heating your cup the same way, and transferring the coffee to an insulated thermos right after brewing.

    Espresso

    A big one for espresso is keeping your portafilter hot. Special brew groups like E-61s will do this automatically. In any case though, you should keep your portafilter in the machine at all times to aid with this heat. If you have a machine that doesn't heat the portafilter, run a shot's worth of water through it before pulling your espresso. This will heat the portafilter and help with even extraction and heat during brewing. Keeping your cup warm helps here too.

    For superautos, heat is just an issue that comes with the territory. These are machines with lots of moving parts packed into tight spaces. Unfortunately, their need to flash heat water quickly to maintain convenience means they just don't always produce drinks as hot as you'd like. Our best recommendation for superautos is to try steaming your milk prior to brewing, as this heats the water more and generally increases the temperature to the machine. We also recommend consuming your drink shortly after brewing to enjoy it at its hottest! If you still find that your superauto isn't as hot as you'd like, it might be time to consider switching it up to a semi-auto.

    That's all for now, we hope you enjoy some (hot) coffee you love this Winter!

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