• On the Grind: All About Grinders—Part 1

    One of the most essential parts of the coffee brewing process is grinding your coffee beans. Whether you're brewing in a press, pourover, drip brewer, or (especially) pulling espresso shots, having a reliable grinder is extremely important. That said, it's not easy to shop for a grinder, there's a lot that goes into selecting the right one for your kitchen. But we're here to help! We'll be taking a look at what makes these machines tick, and what you should look out for when purchasing. Let's get grinding!

    Why Bother?

    At a basic level, grinders are just motorized devices for making your whole coffee beans fit for brewing. So why not just buy whole bean? Why not grind them at the store? These are great questions.

    Beans are at their most flavorful just after grinding, so ideally you'll brew with them within a few hours of having ground them. pre-ground coffee offers less in terms of flavor notes, and generally just produces a standard "coffee" flavor, with strength dependent on dose and roast level. To get at the real flavor notes of specialty coffee, you'll want to grind it fresh.

    On top of that, different brew methods require difference grind levels. For pourover coffee, as an example, you typically want a consistency closer to rock salt. By contrast, espresso requires a much finer grind, one that isn't even possible with most coffee grinders.

    Blades Vs. Burrs

    So you're ready to buy a grinder, but why not just grab a $20 blade grinder at the grocery store? It turns out, for a number of reasons. Blade grinders are simply a pair of blades that spin at high speeds and slice beans to pieces. They are extremely inconsistent, and offer no control over grind level. On top of all that, they have to be replaced frequently as the blades dull.

    Burr grinders, on the other hand, provide a great degree of control and consistency. They also tend to last far longer than blade grinders, and can be maintained for years and years with proper cleaning and part replacement.

    But what is a burr?

    Burr Science

    Burr grinders use two plates to grind beans. These plates can be made of a variety of materials, but the most common are steel and ceramic. In the case of most home grinders, the plates will be flat, and sit on top of each other. Some higher end commercial grinders use conical burrs, with a cone shaped burr fitting inside of a funnel shaped burr.

    In any case, the burrs will have bumps and nobs that work to grind the beans as they are fed in from a hopper. Typically, a knob can be used to control how far apart the burrs are, thus controlling how fine the grounds are after grinding.

    Material Matters

    Arguably the most important aspect when purchasing a home grinder is the material and control method for the burrs. We'll discuss control and why it matters next week, but of these two aspects, burr material is the more relevant here.

    As noted above, burrs are typically made out of hardened steel or ceramic. There are some very high end coatings, but what you will see in 95% of home grinders (and even commercial) will be steel or ceramic, and each has its pros and cons.

    Steel burrs are strong and efficient, but they also tend to dull over time. Because of the nature of burrs, re-sharpening can be a challenge, so after several years the burrs may need to be replaced.

    Ceramic burrs generally solve the problem of dulling, and offer highly consistent grinding. They are, of course, more likely to shattering if a bad bean or other debris gets caught within the grinder.

    Both materials, however, are completely viable and should last years.

    Join us for part two and part three, where we dive into the specifics of grind control and motors!

  • Milk Steaming With John!

    Check out the equipment used in this video:

    Rocket Espresso Macinatore Fausto Grinder

    Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato Evoluzione R Espresso Machine

    Thanks for watching!

  • Cold Brew Crazy!–Part 2

    Last week we discussed the differences between cold brew and iced coffee. This week we're going to talk about the most important part: How to make your own!

    Selecting a coffee roast

    The first part of any coffee brewing process is selecting the right roast. Cold brew is no different! Selecting a roast for cold brew is a little different than drip or press brewing. Cold brewing results in lower acidity in the coffee at the cost of also losing more complex flavors. This means that very delicate light roasts can end up tasting muddy. By the same token, a roast that may seem too acidic as a press or drip brew may taste great as a cold brew!

    Some coffees, such as Kickapoo's Icebreaker or Dogwood's Zamboni are specifically roasted for cold brew. You can also try brewing coffee as a pourover, another brew method that results in lower acidity, to see if you'll enjoy a roast as a cold brew.

    Brew methods!

    There a number of ways to actually brew your cold brew. We love to use custom made cold brewers like the Toddy Cold Brew System or the Osaka Mount Fuji Cold Brew Dripper. Both of these systems make cold brewing an easy process.

    If you want to take a more DIY approach, you can make cold brew using presses and pitchers as well. No matter what you're using, the first step is the grind. You'll want to use a 1:8 ratio of coffee to water for cold brewing, so keep this in mind as you grind your beans. You'll also want to use a coarser grind setting, like you would for a pourover.

    Time to brew

    Depending on your choice of brew method, your next steps will be different. When using a press or pitcher, you'll combine your grounds with water in the container and stir. This is similar to using a Toddy system, except that there are some additional steps for setting up and they recommend that you don't stir (check out the link above for more in the Toddy Cold Brew System). In an Osaka or other drip brew system, you'll typically put grounds in the filter, just like any other drip brewer.

    Once you've added your coffee and your water, you'll want to let your brewer do it's thing! In the case of immersion brewers and presses you'll let the mixture sit on the counter for 8-16 hours, depending on method. You can also place the brew in the refrigerator, though it will take longer due to the lower temperature.

    After letting the coffee sit overnight, it'll be time to strain. It's generally OK if you go a little long on brew time, as this won't affect taste. To strain the coffee, you'll either use a filter to strain out the grounds (immersion), or plunge your press (when using a French or other press). In the case of a specialized cold brewer like a Toddy, follow the instructions provided (the Toddy and the Osaka both drip strain as they brew).

    Once you've strained the coffee it'll be ready to drink! depending on brew method and coffee:water ratio, you may need to dilute your brew. You can do this to taste with water.

    Thanks for joining us for some tips on ways to make (cold brew) coffee you'll love!

  • Recipe Spotlight: Ice Cream Coffee

    Iced coffee and cold brew are delicious, chilled ways to get some caffeine, but can go even colder! For a frozen treat on a hot Summer day, check out this great collection of ice cream and coffee recipes!


    Vanilla Ice Cream Mocha

    • 1/2 cup iced coffee or cold brew
    • 1/2 cup ice cubes
    • 1/2 cup milke
    • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
    • 2 Tbsp chocolate syrup
    • Whipped Cream


    Combine coffee, ice cubes, milk, ice cream, and chocolate syrup in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into large glasses and garnish with whipped cream. Makes 2 servings.

    Affogato al caffé

    • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
    • 2 shots hot espresso


    A few hours in advance of serving, place scoops of ice cream on a freezer proof tray and place tray in freezer. When serving, place ice cream in bowls or glasses, pour hot shots over them. Serve immediately. Makes two servings.

    Coffee Float

    • 3/4 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
    • 1/2 cup ice cream (we recommend vanilla or coffee flavored, but try it with your favorite!)


    Simply top fresh, hot cup of coffee with ice cream. Add ice cream carefully to avoid splashing hot coffee!

    We love these creamy Summer treats, what have you been enjoying to beat the heat?


  • Cold Brew Crazy!—Part 1

    Hey coffee lovers!

    This week we're excited to kick off a two part series on a great Summer treat: Cold brew!

    Whether out on the boat for a weekend or just grabbing lunch on a sweltering work day, cold brew is a cool and delicious way to get your coffee fix. But what's the difference between cold brew and iced coffee? Why go through the extra hassle? Turns out, there's a lot of reasons!

    What makes cold brew different?

    The main thing that separates cold brew from iced coffee is concentration. This difference in concentration occurs because of how the two types of cold coffee are brewed. Typically, an iced coffee is simply coffee brewed hot poured over ice. This leads to a pretty standard cup of joe, but cold, instead of hot. This also can lead to the same degree of bitterness, which can be more noticeable in drip brewed coffee after it is cooled.

    Cold brew tends to be much more involved. While there are many cold brewing methods, typically they all involve using, you guessed it, cold water. Because of the way coffee brewing works chemically, it takes much longer to do with colder water. The solution then, is to use either extra pressure, or immersion (or both)! We'll cover some specific brewing methods in our next feature, but tools like presses make the cold brewing process easier. You can also use immersion process like simply letting coffee grounds sit in water overnight (though this requires somewhat frequent stirring and can be harder to get right).

    Concentration equals customizability!

    Because cold brew is produced over a long time (or with a lot of pressure), it also is far more concentrated than normal drip coffee. The nice part about this is that you can always add water to get just the amount of caffeine and flavor you're looking for! This also means that a pitcher of cold brew can go much further than a carafe of coffee, and it'll keep for days so long as it's refrigerated. What's more, despite higher caffeine amounts and a stronger flavor, cold brew lacks that bitterness mentioned above. This makes it smooth and easy to drink, even for those who don't typically favor coffee in the first place!

    Hopefully we've sold you on some of the benefits of cold brew coffee. Join us next week when we dive in to actually brewing it!

    Thanks for reading!

  • From Planting to Process, the Life of a Coffee Bean—Part 2

    Here at Seattle Coffee Gear we're passionate about sharing the knowledge we've gained about our favorite subject: Coffee! From how beans are grown to brewing the perfect espresso, and so much more, Join us Mondays to learn!

    Welcome to part 2 of our series on farming and processing!

    Last time we covered the basics of coffee farming. This week we're ready to talk processing! there's a lot to learn about processing, so we'll focus on the basics today and feature even more in depth looks at each method in later articles!

    After beans are harvested, they're sent to processing stations not far from where they are farmed. Processing techniques vary, but the general purpose is to remove the shell and ferment the beans to ready them for roasting!

    Washed Processing

    The first, and most common method of processing is washed/wet. First, the coffee cherries are added to a large tank of water. This allows the processors to separate good cherries from bad, as the bad fruit will sink while the good ones will float on top. After this, most of the cherries are removed from the bean inside through methods like pressing and filtration. After this process, usually some pulp remains on the bean. This remaining pulp is removed by fermenting the beans, and then washing them thoroughly with a large amount of water.

    Following this washing, the beans are dried in the sun or with machines. By the time they are dry, their parchment skin becomes very dry and crumbles off easily. At this point, machines are used to hull the dry parchment off, and the beans are ready to be sent to roasters.

    Washed processing is popular because it provides the purest coffee flavor. Most coffee you purchase is washed. This processing method does require large amounts of water and equipment, which can make it wasteful specifically in areas already affected by a lack of water.

    Natural Processing

    Also known as dry processing, naturals are most common in Brazil, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Paraguay. Natural processing is simpler and less machine driven than a wet process, but it also creates a very strong tasting bean that many find too overwhelming.

    First, cherries as sorted by hand, often using a sieve. This sorting process removes overripe or damaged cherries, as well as dirt, twigs, and leaves that may have stuck to cherries during harvesting. The cherries are then laid out in the sun, sometimes for up to 4 weeks. This drying process is occasionally machine assisted as well. In any case, getting the right dry time is the most important part to natural processing. The cherries are closely monitored, and frequently raked to prevent mildewing and promote even drying.

    Finally, the dried cherries are sent to a mill, where the dried cherry and other outer layers are removed in one step by a hulling machine. The beans are then bagged and ready for transfer to roasters.

    Honey Process

    Honey processing provides a middle-ground in taste between the balance of a washed bean and the sometimes overwhelming fruitiness of a natural bean. The name comes from a sticky layer of mucilage left on the bean after pulping.

    First, only the ripest beans are used for honey processing. These beans are pulped so that their outer layer of skin is removed, leaving the bean and the mucilage layer mentioned above. At this point, the beans are dried in a similar manner to natural process beans. Though while similar, the dry time is even more delicate here than with natural beans.

    The coffee is carefully monitored and raked frequently for about a day to reach the desired moisture level. At this point the beans are then raked only once a day, and left to dry for another week or so. This is an arduous process that requires precise measurement by hand. After the drying is complete, the beans are milled similarly to the way natural process coffee is milled.

    What's next?

    From there, all of these beans are sold to your favorite roasters! These roasters then work their magic on the coffee, and it's ready for you to enjoy. We'll talk more about roasting more in future segments!

    Thanks so much for joining us for this series, and remember to make coffee you love!



  • Video Roundup 5/25/2018

    Hey everyone!

    In case you missed it, Gail gave us some great tips this week. First, be sure to check out her video on dialing in a superautomatic:

    Next, we took a look at the new Baratza Sette 270Wi!

    Finally, Gail walked us through the differences between Breville's YouBrew and Grind Control machines:

    Thanks for watching, and as always, remember to make coffee you love!


  • Lactose-Free Lattes | Part Four

     Are all of the options we’ve discussed in the previous parts still not meeting your whole milk standard? In this last segment of our four-part series, we’ll explore specialty versions of coconut, soy, and almond milk designed specifically for lattes.

    While researching how to make lattes with nondairy milks, we came across Pacific’s “Barista Series” that we decided to try out! The company claims subtle flavor profiles, curdle-free frothing, and perfectly textured milk for professional cafes to use. We were skeptical going into it (how different could they be?), but in the end, the results were fantastic! Overall, coconut milk was the clear winner, and soy and almond tied for second around the office for the best latte.

    Coconut Milk: Barista v. Conventional Coconut Milk: Barista v. Conventional

    Wow! The Barista Series coconut milk was amazing! This is easily our standout. In a cup, you get all the good, sweet flavor from regular coconut milk except with a rich foam that steamed well. Not to mention the latte art!

    Almond Milk: Barista v. Conventional Almond Milk: Barista v. Conventional

    Similarly, the Barista Series almond milk was definitely a step up from the regular almond milk we tested, but some of the tasters still opted out due to the persistent bitter undertones.

    Soy Milk: Barista v. Conventional Soy Milk: Barista v. Conventional

    The Barista Series soy milk was good, but it wasn’t our favorite. The texture was much improved when mixed with the acidic espresso, but still not as good as coconut. However, we thought that the flavor of the other milks paired better with our coffee.

    Nutrition per 8 ounces Nutrition per 8 ounces

    Sodium Citrate is a food additive that emulsifies liquid and fat. Pacific likely added this so that their milks had a creamier texture than comparable conventional options.

    Gellan Gum is an additive to some alternative milks to help them foam and behave more like dairy milk. We suspect that the barista soy milk doesn’t contain Gellan Gum because soy milk has a tendency to get thicker foam than dairy milk, which they were aiming to fix.

  • Seattle Coffee Gear + illy: Be Your Own Barista

    SCG_illy (2 of 24)It’s a frustrating question that has plagued many a coffee aficionado throughout the years: why doesn’t the cappuccino I make at home taste as delicious as the cappuccino I buy from my local coffee shop? The answer to that question can be found by addressing a diverse set of material related variables from the freshness of your beans, to the quality and calibration of your grinder, to the pressure at which you are extracting your espresso. Maybe your machine hasn’t been cleaned? Maybe it wasn’t properly rinsed after cleaning?

    But what about when you’ve covered all of the variables and you’re still not getting the results you are hoping for? Then it’s time to look at your technique!

    SCG_illy (11 of 24)That’s where illy’s “Be Your Own Barista” course came in to play. Meant to empower coffee lovers who wanted to take their home coffee preparation to the next level, this class held at our Bellevue location provided participants with the opportunity to train hands-on with Giorgio Milos – illy Master Barista and Italian Barista Champion. Equipped with all of the tools needed to produce great coffee at home, fourteen students discussed coffee history, learned tips and tricks to consider when preparing their beverages, and were released to put their new knowledge to the test while illy’s education team helped fine tune their technique.

    “I never knew I could make espresso that tastes this good,” shared a participant frustrated with the past drinks she had been making at home. It was a matter of making small corrections to her grinder as well as changing her tamping that helped her produce a cleaner, fuller bodied drink. Many attendees took notes on the discussions while others asked technical questions they had been investigating for months.

    Seattle Coffee Gear strives to be a place where coffee lovers like us can go to the next level in beverage preparation using the best tools available while also being a resource for people to ask questions and learn. This partnership with illy is only one of the many ways we continue to help people “make coffee you love!”

  • Gear Guide: Convenience Rules With Superautomatic Espresso Machines

    Find Your Dream Espresso - Superautomatics

    Taking Home A Superautomatic Espresso Machine

    In our last post, we asked you how committed you were to your espresso. If you’re the one running out the door empty-handed and caffeine deprived, then you’re in the right place. We’re about to revolutionize your life—enter the superautomatic espresso machine. Superautomatics do all the heavy lifting and will grind, tamp and brew delicious espresso for you. It’s the perfect solution for coffee lovers who are “just friends” with their cup.

    Of course, there are a variety of superautomatics, so while they make getting a cup of coffee a snap, you still have some choices to make on how committed you’ll be to your machine. The way we like to decide between models is to use this simple scenario: You walk into your favorite coffee shop, what do you order?

    Espresso, Americano Or Drip For Me!

    So, you take your coffee black? Then we recommend checking out some introductory superautomatic espresso machines. These machines focus on convenience and are incredibly easy to learn and are built with fewer features and programmability. Before you jump to any conclusions, remember that saying "less is more?" We tend to see people favor an introductory superautomatic for its ease of use, affordability and small footprint. The coffee options are usually espresso, coffee or, sometimes called, lungo. Generally, you can program the volume but you really don’t see settings for temperature, coffee strength, etc. There are some doubts that superautomatics produce good espresso. While there will be quality differences between semi-automatic and superautomatics, we have definitely made delicious espresso with superautomatics.

    Add A Splash Of Milk...

    If you like your coffee with milk, no worries—there are introductory superautomatics with milk options. A panarello-style steam wand is the frother of choice because it does all the frothing for you. Panarello's work by aerating milk through a slit in the top. No skills required! Since it’s doing all the heavy frothing, you won’t have to worry about controlling the milk texture. It's easy to achieve fluffy cappuccino foam without any technique. Occasionally, some superautomatics won’t have a milk frother, in which case you could look into getting an external frother.

    Small And Easy To Clean

    Another benefit of these introductory superautomatics is their small footprint and maintenance. With fewer features, these machines tend to run small; small enough to fit into any kitchen or even squeeze on your desk at work (you’d be a hit at the office). Maintenance is also a breeze. If there’s no steam wand, then you’ll never need to worry about properly cleaning off the milk. And if you have a panarello, it's easy to disassemble and clean. Most superautomatics will have an automatic rinsing cycle before and after brewing, keeping your machine in tip-top shape. But you’re not off the hook completely. You’ll still have to descale and clean the brew group (if accessible) as the manufacturer recommends, but it’s nice to have some of the maintenance handled.

    Latte Or Cappuccino, Please!

    If you crave control, then we recommend bumping up to a mid-range, intermediate or advanced superautomatic espresso machine. A lot of these machines will allow you to adjust the temperature, volume, coffee strength, etc. Many feature a user-friendly interface, such as a digital display or labeled buttons, to make programming effortless. One of our favorite features is customizable profiles that allow a select number of users to program and save their drink preferences (of course, it’s only available on some machines. More on those in our next post). The amount of customization offered in superautomatics makes it easier to tailor your drink to your liking.

    One-Touch Lattes Or Cappuccinos

    Latte and cappuccino lovers, get ready to jump for joy—there are machines that blend coffee and cream directly into your cup. One-touch superautomatics have an attached carafe that siphons milk to steam. When you’re done, you can remove the carafe and store extra milk in the fridge.  Some machines even let you adjust the milk temperature, milk foam texture or milk foam amount. There can also be a more traditional steam wand, so if you wanted to improve your frothing technique, here's your chance!

    Learning Your Machine's Menu & Icons

    With the additional customization, there will also be a learning curve. Occasionally, the menus aren’t intuitive and icons or buttons have dual proposes. When you throw in alerts and lights, navigating the machine's interface might seem frustrating, but we there's a solution! We recommend referring to the manual to learn the ins and outs of the machine. There is also a troubleshooting section in most manuals that provides instruction to fix common issues.

    Bonus: Most menus feature amazing maintenance features. These machines also automatically perform or recommend daily maintenance such as rinsing. Even machines with carafe will prompt cleaning out milk from the hoses. Like some introductory superautomatics, these built-in features will help keep your machine well maintained.


    If you’re just friends with your coffee, then a superautomatic espresso machine is the choice for you! Since there are a variety of superautomatic espresso machines we have another post coming out for you. We’ll dive into mid-range, intermediate and advanced superautomatics and what sort of features and functions you’ll find on those machines.

    If you’re looking for caffeine on the go, an introductory superautomatic is the machine for you. These machines offer a balance of convenient features without the fuss of programming. Some may only offer espresso options, but you will find some with panarello-style steam wands. If you’re satisfied with those features, we recommend checking out some of the entry-level superautomatic espresso machines under 'Shop.'

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