Educational

  • Pour Over Workflow

    Hey coffee fans!

    We’ve talked about organization and utilizing your brewing space in the past. Today we want to touch on some specifics about optimizing your pour over workflow for that kind of brewing. Coming up with a solid workflow saves time and can make the brewing process more enjoyable. As we work from home, it’s really easy to see the benefits of a larger space, but either way, there’s tips you can use to improve your workflow wherever no matter how much room you have to work with. We’re going to go through a good workflow step-by-step. We’re assuming you just want to make a good pour over in the morning, so this article is omitting some hobbyist concepts like flow rate control and sifting fines.

    Water

    One way to speed up your pour over process is to get your water going first. We recommend using an electric kettle with precise temperature adjustment and setting it up right next to your scale and grinder. Ideally, it’ll also be near a source of water. You’ll want to use filtered water for the best taste, so keeping a dedicated pitcher at your station is a help if you have the space. Start your brewing process by filling your kettle and setting the temperature. Then, while it heats, you can prep your coffee.

    Choosing and Weighing Coffee

    If you like to keep multiple coffee options around, we recommend using a dedicated container for each roast. Something like an Airscape will keep your coffee fresher for longer, so you will have more time to drink multiple roasts at a time. If you’re a single roast person, we still recommend keeping your coffee in the bag rather than in the hopper. This is because it is easier to dose for pour over if you weigh your coffee as whole beans rather than try to get a timed grinder to spit out a consistent dose. 

    We like to use the lid of our grinder hoppers to weigh coffee. Placing the lid on the scale and then pouring out the proper amount of beans, plus half a gram or so extra to account for retention as needed. From there, you can just turn on the grinder until it fully grinds everything, then dump all of the grounds into your filter.

    Filter and Dripper

    Whether you’re brewing into a carafe or a mug, your next step is to wet your filter and place it in the dripper. If you have a place to dump your water (like a sink), you can use a bit of the water that should be heating in your kettle to do this. Ideally, you’ll want to heat your carafe or mug too, so a little bit of water through the filter and into the vessel can help make that happen. Assuming you have everything set, you should now have your wetted filter, heated mug or carafe, ground coffee, and hot water. When you get this all down you can have everything ready right as your water comes up to temp.

    The Pour

    For the pour itself, you’ll eventually find the perfect bloom amounts, times, and pour amounts to dial in your favorite flavor. We generally find that you get the best flavor with ascending volumes over three pours. Meaning your first pour (bloom) will be the smallest, with your third pour being the longest. If you want to brew at peak efficiency and quality, using a scale with a built in timer is a huge boon. This is because you can get just the right bloom time. In most cases, you can also count off the bloom if you don’t have a scale like this handy. Either way, you should now have a delicious cup of coffee!

    Cleanup

    Cleanup is pretty simple, just wipe down your area and toss your filter. If you have the option, putting a dedicated small waste bin near your pour over setup can make this easier. In any case, after a quick cleanup you’ll be ready to brew for the next day! We do recommend washing your dripper regularly as well as descaling your kettle every 3-6 months, depending on use. It just keeps everything as fresh and clean as possible. You can use coffee pot cleaners and descalers for best results.

  • A Note on Tasting Notes

    Tasting notes can be a confusing thing. When you look at a bag of coffee and see that it lists things like chocolate, raspberries, and brown sugar, it’s easy to interpret that as actual added flavors or ingredients. This isn’t actually the case! Tasting notes are actually note added flavors, but to understand why they list what they do, you’ll have to get into the head of a roaster.

    Full of Flavors

    Coffee is a lot like wine in that it is full of different flavors. Every aspect of coffee production imparts some kind of flavor. The type of coffee plant, the soil, the elevation, the humidity and light amount, processing, roasting… All of it! It’s really why coffee is so exciting in the first place. There’s just so much that goes into every single cup. For roasters, explaining what coffee might be right for the right drinker can be tough. That’s why tasting notes exist.

    After roasting a batch, roasters will do what’s called “cupping.” Coffee cupping is a type of tasting where you use immersion brewing to allow coffee to steep right in the vessel it will be served from, similar to brewing tea. Then, tasters use special spoons to taste spoonfuls of the coffee.The tasters will then take notes on the kinds of flavors they get from the coffee. Again, this isn’t actual, added flavor, but an interpretation of what the coffee tastes like when brewed at its strongest. These notes form the basis of what ends up on the bag, though they may try the coffee in other brew methods before finalizing the notes.

    A Dash of Excitement

    One key element of tasting coffee is building a realistic profile of what the flavor of the coffee is like through the tasting notes. On the other hand, you can pull out flavors like chocolate and berries from lots of coffees. To help differentiate, often roasters will really dig to try to find the hint of flavor that makes a coffee unique. To an unrefined palate, two coffees might taste the same. Someone well versed in coffee tasting may find unique little elements to show how they differ.

    What this means is that you may need some practice before tasting some more interesting and subtle notes. That’s OK! The important thing is to keep trying, and keep developing that palate. The best way to understand flavor profiles of most coffees is as a pour over. So if you’re really interested in understanding the intricacies of different flavors of coffee, putting together a pour over setup is a good first step!

    Hopefully this sheds some light on those tasty coffee notes!

  • Video Roundup: 6/26/20

    It's time for another video roundup here at SCG!

    We'll kick things off this week with Allie's Crew Review of the versatile Varia Multi-Brewer:

    Next up, Allie and I sat down to chat about coffee process and how it affects flavor:

    And finally, Ariel gave us a backyard Crew Review of Capresso's Froth Select Milk Frother!

    Enjoy these videos and have a wonderful weekend, we'll see you next week!

  • Coffee or Espresso?

    For some people, choosing between drip coffee and espresso is the hardest part of the coffee journey. While the equipment to make drip coffee is usually less expensive, do you lose something with it? What is it about espresso that makes me willing to spend so much to brew it? Which method is quicker for a morning cup of coffee? There are a lot of factors to consider here!

    Cost

    The first thing to think about is cost. To get the best cup of coffee possible you’ll need to be willing to spend some money, but you don’t have to break the bank. One misconception is that espresso costs prohibitively more than drip coffee. While it’s true that high end drip brewers stop around the spot that solid, true espresso machines and grinder packages start, it’s still a matter of perspective. Furthermore, there are superautomatic espresso machines like the Philips Carina that cost similarly to a decent grinder and drip machine combo. 

    With that said, getting started with something like pour over is especially affordable, so it never hurts to pick up a less expensive, entry level grinder and a dripper while you decide.

    Technique

    The technique needed for the perfect pot of drip isn’t quite as intense as what you need for a great espresso. Brewing espresso can be challenging at first, because it relies so much on having the right grind. Technical elements like shot timing, milk steaming, and tamping can be hard to understand at first. Especially when compared to the simple measuring and push button operation of many drip brewers.

    However, brewing espresso really can feel like a skill. You’ll be proud of the first latte you serve a friend with just the right texture, incredible flavor, and a nice piece of latte art on top. It’s hard to say the same for drip brewing, but not everyone wants to make their morning coffee a hobby. Once you do develop that skill, brewing up a shot of espresso and steaming some milk could go even faster than preparing a pot of drip!

    Taste

    This is really the big one. Espresso and drip coffee just taste totally different! Drip coffee offers balance and tends to emphasize nutty notes, as well as notes of cocoa or dark chocolate. If you go with pour over instead, you’ll get a wider, sweeter range of flavors. Espresso, on the other hand, is quite intense. The dark, syrupy consistency of this pressurized brew method adds to a very rich, sweeter profile. While you may have had sour or bitter tasting espresso in the past, this is actually an indication of a bad grind. Well-made espresso should be smooth and rich, if a bit intense. 

    You can certainly add milk or cream to a drip coffee to alter the flavor, but espresso is a whole other world! With syrups and steaming you can tune your morning cup to be the perfect one for you. For some, this may mean a simple latte or cappuccino, for others it might mean some fruity syrup with just a touch of warm milk! Further, with an espresso machine you’ve got all the tools to whip up an Americano, which is the middle ground between coffee and espresso. In a home with different coffee tastes on a budget, this might mean a new espresso machine is the best way to please everyone.

    While there are many more factors involved in choosing the right machine for you, we hope this narrows down why you might want one that brews in a specific way!

     

  • Video Roundup: 6/5/20

    Hello Coffee fans!

    It's been another week here at Seattle Coffee Gear and we've got some videos to share!

    Allie and I sat down to talk about some things to keep in mind about choosing an espresso machine:

    Next up, we've got a look at the E61 Tune Up Kit from Allie:

    And finally, a good ol' Crew Comparison between the Eureka Notte and Baratza Sette 30 AP:

    That's all for now, we'll see you next week!

  • Video Roundup: 5/29/20

    Hey coffee fans!

    This week we've got at home discussions, recipes, and a good old crew comparison for you. Let's take a look!

    First up, Allie and I sat down to chat about brew methods:

    Next, we've got a tasty looking recipe from Ariel!

    And finally, Allie did a comparison of the new Eureka Mignon Notte and the classic Rancilio Rocky.

    That's all for now! We'll be back with more videos next week.

  • Video Roundup: 5/4/2020

    It's another Monday and another Video Roundup!

    Gail's taking a break from Good Morning Gail, so this'll be our last Monday roundup for a while. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled releases next Friday.

    But for now, let's jump in!

    First up, your's truly provided some insight on how to brew in a tightly packed kitchen:

    Next up, Allie shared some tips on different ways to brew:

    Then we have everyone's favorite coffee expert, Gail, with another episode of Good Morning Gail!

    And last but certainly not least, Ariel showed us how to make a delicious cold brew Daiquiri.

    That's all for this week, we'll see you next Friday!

  • Latte Art 101

    Latte art is the sign of a truly skilled and experienced barista. To pour good latte art your barista has to start with the perfect shot, then add milk steamed to just the right degree, with a specific degree of microfoam. Just learning to pull the shot and steam the milk consistently can take baristas hundreds, if not thousands of drinks. The ability to consistently pour beautiful shapes with that milk means you’ve got a barista who’s trained hard to put a smile on your face. 

    Learning to pour latte art at home can be a fun challenge that we thought we’d dig into!

    The Steam

    Steaming your milk for latte art is one of the most important parts of the process. You’ll want to start steaming with the wand at the bottom of the pitcher, then slowly bring it up to being about half an inch from the top of the milk. Once your milk reaches around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to move the wand deeper and use the pressure against the side of the pitcher to create a counter clockwise spin. It should look a bit like water circling a drain. You’ll want to make sure you maintain this motion until the milk is at your desired temperature. You’re aiming for a velvety texture and no large bubbles. Don’t forget to wipe down and purge your steam wand when finished!

    The Pour

    The hardest part of the process is the pour! Before pouring, make sure there are no large bubbles in your milk. If there are, give it a hard tap on the counter to break them up. Next swirl your milk and make sure it stays bubble free. Pour the milk slowly, but steadily, with your cup held at an angle. You can start with your pitcher further from the drink as you pour, but as you reach the halfway point you’ll want to bring the pitcher in close. As the foam begins to become more visible, use gentle wrist movements to create your desired patterns.

    Check out some of our favorite videos from John showing some specific patterns and tips!

  • 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!

  • Why Isn't Every Coffee Superauto Recommended?

    If you’ve tuned in for some of our videos or checked out our blogs on superautos you may have noticed something. We talk a lot about how we don’t recommend oily beans for superautos. One question we get a lot is, why? Why can’t you enjoy an oily French Roast in your new Carina or Miele? The answer can be described pretty simply, but we wanted to give a detailed explanation to help you get the most out of your machine. 

    Grinders and Oil

    If you’ve made it this far, you probably know that all coffee beans have some amount of oil on them. The degree to which the oil is released and sticks to the bean is largely dependent on the roasting process, but can also be influenced by the beans themselves. In any case, some roasts literally glisten with oil. Others are, by comparison, quite dry. 

    When you run any beans through your grinder, it can cause oil build up. This is just a fact of life when it comes to grinding coffee. With most grinders, you can open them up and give them a cleaning. Usually this involves removing the hopper and unscrewing the burrs, which can be time consuming, but isn’t hard with a standalone grinder. 

    Without regular cleaning like this, particularly oily beans can cause thick buildup on the burrs. Because burrs operate so close together, this oil buildup can cause sticking. Between that and the kind of buildup it has on the rotor, your grinder can completely seize. Again, this is something you can fix with a standalone grinder.

    Superauto Grinders

    The issue with superauto grinders is that they don’t open up for cleaning. Because of the way they are designed, superautos have to have each of their parts carefully engineered and positioned to work. That means there’s no way to open up the burrs and scrub them. This may seem like a major flaw, but if you just avoid the oiliest of beans your grinder will run for years and years!

    One potential option is Urnex’ recent innovation in grinder cleaning - SuperGrindz. This cleaning powder is designed specifically for cleaning buildup from superauto grinders. For anyone who absolutely must have a French roast in their superauto, it’s a good option. We still urge caution though, and you should make sure you use SuperGrindz as directed on the packaging. We say all this because grinder damage due to oil buildup is often NOT covered under warranties, as it is considered user damage. 

    The best bet is still to avoid those oily beans altogether!

     

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