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  • 2020 Holiday Shopping Guide: Alternative Brewing

    Hello and welcome to the first of our 2020 Holiday Shopping Guides! These guides differ a bit from our “Top 3 2020” articles in that they’re complete shopping guides for you or someone on your gift list to get brewing this holiday! Today we’re focusing on alternative brewing methods.

    Brewer’s Choice

    The first choice here is what sort of alternative brewing are you looking to do? When we talk about this term, we mean all of those brew methods that don’t fall under drip, pour over, or espresso. This means options like coffee presses, Turkish coffee, and stovetop brewing. There’s a lot of room here, so we’ll break it down piece by piece.

    Let’s start with Turkish coffee. Turkish is a brew method that is extremely rich and intense, and relies on hyper fine grounds being dissolved into hot water. The most important part of brewing for Turkish is your choice in grinder, and in our opinion there’s no real option other than a Turkish hand grinder. Along with this, you’ll want a Turkish coffee pot, and you’re pretty much good to go!

    Then there’s press and stovetop. These are sort of the bread and butter here. If you know you’re interested in press brewing, you can’t go wrong with an AeroPress Go. This press is all in one, portable, and proven. It’s filter based brew chamber creates some of the best press coffee we’ve ever tasted. If you’re looking for a more traditional press, you can’t go wrong with Espro’s line of coffee presses.

    As far as stovetop brewing is concerned, there are a number of excellent Ilsa stovetop brewer’s. We’re fond of the lot of them, but the Neapolitan is a particularly favored option among stovetop enthusiasts. We love all of the above, but if you want the flexibility to brew many different ways with one purchase, we have to recommend the Varia Multi-Brewer.

    The Varia Multi-Brewer offers three distinct brew styles all from one device. At a basic level, you can brew pour over, press, and moka pot brew styles with the included attachments. On top of this, you can also brew tea and cold brew, or use the kettle as a stovetop hot water source. To make it even easier, the Varia’s brew screens are designed to use the same grind across all three styles. This means you simply dial your grinder in for pour over and then you can use that setting for press and stovetop brewing. It even comes with a brew guide, pour over filters, and a spare set of gaskets for the kettle.

    With the Varia or one of the other options listed above, you’ll have your brewer, but you’ll still need two very important things. Hot water, and ground coffee!

    Grounds and Water

    Arguably the most important part of any fresh brew is the coffee grounds you use. The nice thing about alternative brew methods like press and stovetop is that you can use the same grinder here, for pour over, and for drip! 

    Given this, we’ve got two recommendations for those looking to upgrade from that old blade grinder. The first is the classic Baratza Encore. This is a legendary grinder that is perfect for any slow brew coffee method (like the ones we’re talking about today). It’s a simple to use grinder with stepped settings and a basic on/off switch for operation. You can also pulse the grind with the button on the front of the grinder. The Encore produces a fantastic, consistent grind and will last years and years. It’s also easy to clean and maintain.

    We’ve also got a new kid on the block for 2020, the Solis Scala! The Scala hasn’t yet built up the reputation that the Encore has, but we’re excited about it just the same. The Scala also produces an excellent grind for slow brew methods, and even includes timed dosing. This means that you can dial in a time for your grind and simply push the button!

    The other key part of the perfect brew is your water! You have to have hot water to make coffee, and our recommendation with where to start here is very simple. The Bonavita Interurban is a great way to get water at the perfect temperature. This stylish kettle comes in four colors and includes programmable presets for different temp options. This feature is especially useful if you like tea!

    The last thing we want to touch on is scales. For stovetop you may just want to measure with a measuring spoon, but we think having a scale is the right call for press (and can be for stovetop as well). For slow brew methods, the Oxo Precision Scale and Timer is a great option that won’t break the bank. You can use it as a timer as well to measure brew time for your press.

    And that does it for our first shopping guide for 2020! Check back soon for guides on gifting or buying for other brew methods.

  • 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!

  • Pour Over or Press?

    Espresso and drip coffee both require machines that might not be easy to accommodate in a small kitchen, or travel with. For those looking for a brewing solution that fits some tighter spaces, pour over and press brewing is quite attractive! Let’s take a look at each style so you can get an idea for what might fit your taste buds more.

    Water

    Whether you end up going for press or pour over, hot water is a must. We recommend picking up a variable temperature kettle like this Bonavita kettle or this Fellow EKG. One of the most important parts of any brew method is accurate, consistent temperatures, and both of these kettles will provide that!

    If you’re traveling and don’t want to bring a whole kettle with you, you can get by with boiling water left off boil for 20-30 seconds. 

    Pour Over

    Pour over brewing is simple and effective, but takes a little practice to get right. When considering it as a brewing option with a smaller footprint, keep your scale in mind. Because of how pour over is made, you really need a scale to measure weight as you brew. This can take up additional space, but there are plenty of scale options that are compact enough to slide into a bag for travel. We love the Hario V60 Drip Scale for its slim profile and usability.

    You’ll also need a dripper, which doesn’t take up much cupboard space, but can be difficult to pack for travel if that’s your goal. The Hario V60 is a gold standard dripper, but this collapsible dripper from GSI Outdoor is perfect for travel. You’ll need appropriate filters for your dripper as well, which can add a bit more complication for travel.

    Space questions aside, pour over offers fantastic flavor. It’s the brew method we use here at SCG to try new coffees, and the perfect way to take in every note from a roast.

    Press

    Coffee presses generally offer a bolder, stronger flavor than pour over. For some, press coffee is the only way to go. Depending on your press, it can be a little bit difficult to get a totally grit free cup. With that in mind, the Aeropress Go is a fantastic press that uses a paper filter to strain the grounds. Aeropress is one of our most popular presses, and a fantastic option for coffee on the go or at home. The Go in particular collapses into a simple cup to travel with.

    Other presses can still offer excellent results as well and brew in larger quantities, but might be harder to travel with. Classic like this Bodum Brazil or this Espro P7 are fantastic options that are simple to use and delicious. These larger options are a little on the large side, so they might be hard to travel with.

    Final Thoughts

    One last thing to keep in mind is a grinder. Luckily a simple brew grinder like the Baratza Encore or the Oxo Brew can handle press or pour over brewing.

    The best thing you can do is try both brew methods. For those who like a little variety, the space and cost is gentle enough with pour over and press brewing that you might even find room for both!

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Alternative Brewers

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

    Presses and Cold Brew

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

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

    Siphons and Stove Top Espresso

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

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

    Ready for something different?

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

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • 2019 Holiday Roasts Guide - Part 2

    It's time for part 2 of our holiday roasts series! If you haven't yet, check out part 1 here!

    Dogwood Coffee - Snow Emergency

    Dogwood's Snow Emergency is a certified classic holiday roast. Returning with some equally classic notes, we love this one for so many reasons! Fruity, chocolatey, vanilla-y, this is a must drink coffee for your holiday rotation. Sometimes with these roasts we get the most excited by wild new elements, but this one does a wonderful job of sticking to the script. Delicious in a wide range of brews too, try it as a drip brew to get a baseline. You can buy a bag here.

     

    Verve Coffee Roasters - Holiday Blend

    Verve's Holiday Blend is described with the note "comforting." We think that makes a lot of sense! Also featuring notes of candied orange and spiced rum, this is a satisfying sipper. As usual, we always have to point out that no, there is no alcohol in this roast despite the spiced rum note! Perfect for chilly nights by the fire, this one has just enough sweetness to put a smile on your face. Brew it however you like, but pick it up here.

     

    Espresso Republic - Cabin Fever

    Milk Chocolate, Molasses, and Nutmeg in one of the prettiest boxes we've ever seen... Sign us up! Espresso Republic's Cabin Fever is a wonderful holiday roast full of warm and cozy flavors. Enjoy this one snuggled under a blanket by a frosted over window with a good book while you recover from a busy evening with friends and family. Also great for sharing, but we won't tell! We're sure you'll love this one as a drip brew or espresso! Purchase it here.

     

    Camber Coffee - Cambrrrr

    It's a real treat to see Camber throw some humor into the title of this seasonal roast, especially given their gorgeous, classy packaging. This roast is more than a funny name though, offering a little something extra. Like we said above, some holiday roasts are all about bringing something new to the season, which Cambrrrr definitely does! The fruity sweetness on display here is soft and mild, without offering too much "candied" taste like you can get sometimes with particularly fruity blends. Try it as a pourover and buy it here!

     

    Brandywine Coffee Roasters - Seattle Coffee Gear Holiday Blend

    It's back for 2019! We loved our 2018 holiday blend with Brandywine so much that we brought it back for this season. This year the roast features notes of mulled cider, marionberry jam, orange, and chocolate for a perfect mix of old and new notes. Sweet, juicy, and not too complex, we think this roast will be a great choice for just about very coffee fan. It's mellow, easy to drink, and easy to brew. Kind of the point! We wanted to bring you something you would love to try with your family and friends, and we hope we did so. Try it in a variety of brew methods. Be sure to get it before it's gone here!

     

    We'll be back next week with part 3!

  • Gail's Picks: Top Three Brew Grinders of 2019

    The year is coming to a close and it's time to celebrate our top threes for 2019! We'll be rolling out our top three favorites in a range of categories over the next month. To kick thinks off we're starting with the best brew grinders of the year! These grinders are for use with drip brewers, pour overs, and other non-pressurized brewing methods. (In other words, these guys won't do espresso!) Let's get started!

    Virtuoso+

    The Virtuoso+ comes to us from Baratza. This grinder features 38mm conical steel burrs. That means that it'll produce consistent, clump free grounds perfect for slow brew methods. A digital dial lets you dial in a specific time, which means you can determine how much you'll need for pourovers, drip brewing, or whatever method you use. That'll cut down on waste and ensure that you have the perfect amount of grounds every time. The fact that you can push the button and walk away means you can save time by setting up your grew while it grinds. We also notice less static in the catch bin than what we tend to see with most brew grinders.

    If we can find any cons, its that the hopper does not have a bean gate. This means you'll have a hard time removing all of the beans to change them out without grinding through them.

    Eureka Mignon Filtro

    The Filtro is one of Eureka's new brew grinders for 2019. This grinder steps up the burr game to 50mm flat steel burrs. These large burrs are controlled by a stepless grind adjust. This can feel finicky at first, but the stepless adjust means there are literally infinite settings you can set the burrs to. This will give you very fine control over grinding to adjust flavor for specific roasts. Aside from this, this stylish grinder provides super high quality grounds fed into its durable catch-bin. Simplicity in design means this grinder is a breeze to learn and use, and a hopper gate makes switching beans easy.

    The only real con with this grinder is its simple interface doesn't allow for programmed timed dosing, so you'll have to hold the button down to grind.

    Baratza Encore

    The perfect entry level grinder, the Encore uses 40mm conical steel burrs and simple operation to bring perfect brew grinds to your drip life. While this grinder doesn't offer as much control in burr adjustment as the ones above, it's powerful, consistent, and easy to use. This is a fantastic grinder for a new pourover enthusiast!

    The only real issue here is the simple operation and lack of programming paired with limited control. This is still a grinder that will be perfect for drip, press, and pourover brewing.

    Conclusion

    That's all we've got for 2019's best brew grinders! We'll be back this week with more 2019 best ofs!

     

  • All New Brew Grinders From Eureka!

    Eureka has long been a producer of exceptional espresso grinders. For years we've enjoyed consistent, simple grinding for home and commercial espresso. One thing we always say is that drip and espresso grinders are two different animals. While many espresso grinders are capable of grinding for drip, they're not ideal. Separating these processes is convenient, but it can also be hard to to get your espresso setting back after swapping to drip. For more information on why we think budgeting for a separate drip grinder is a good call, check out this article! Without further adieu, let's dive into these two new grinders.

    The Filtro is a simple grinder with a lot of quality and consistency. It uses the stepless grind adjust, found on Eurekas espresso grinders. While stepless adjust isn't necessarily needed for drip brewing, and it is a little tricky to get the hang of at first, it also offers rock solid consistency. Powerful 50 mm flat steel burrs deliver the fluffy grounds you'd expect from Eureka grinders, but for drip instead of espresso. This grinder also grinds at consistencies perfect for pourover as well.

    The Filtro uses a simple push-button system for operation. While this isn't as convenient as timer based systems, it does mean that its easy to control. Simply hold the button down until you get the volume you want. What's nice here is that the Filtro does grind quickly, so you won't be holding that button for long. What really seals the deal on why we like this grinder so much is its price point. This is a truly affordable grinder from one of the biggest, most reliable names in the business. If you want something with a little extra under the hood, check out the Brew Pro!

    The first thing you'll notice about the Brew Pro is its touch screen, shared with its Mignon cousins. While this is still a drip grinder, its one with enhanced controls. Using the Brew Pro's screen you can set timed grinding to push and forget while you prepare your brew method. Speaking of controls, this grinder also uses a single rotation dial for its stepless adjust. This means that you won't have to spin it multiple times to find the fully closed and open positions. The Brew Pro also features upgraded 55mm burrs for more power, speed, and consistency. A truly premium brew grinder that offers just about the best you can get for non espresso brewing.

    This is a more expensive brew grinder than what you might be used to seeing. This may be the case, but between the Brew Pro's upgraded burrs, powerful motor, easy to use interface, and single rotation stepless adjust, we think it justifies its price point.

    Both of these grinders offer great options for anyone looking for a highly reliable, efficient grinder. We hope you love them as much as we do!

     

     

  • Espresso Vs. Drip Grinders

    We get a lot of questions about what makes a good drip grinder Vs. espresso. We often get questions about the best grinder for both applications as well. There are a lot of things that go into a grinder, so we wanted to provide some tips for what makes each type tick.

    Drip Grinders

    What makes a great drip grinder is consistency. It's fairly well understood that larger burrs can lead to finer grind. In the case of a great drip brewer we're more interested in control settings and consistency than getting as fine as possible. Because drip brews require less fine adjustments, stepless controls are additional nice-to-haves, but not a necessity. What is important is consistency. A grinder with a decent sized (40mm or so) burrset and conical shape will provide quality, consistent grounds.

    Ultimately the point we're getting to here is that drip brewing is simply less demanding than espresso. This means that buying a drip grinder should be a much smaller dent in your budget than an espresso grinder.

    Espresso Grinders

    For espresso, consistency and control are important, but power is required as well. Espresso brewing requires a highly precise grind due to the pressure at play. This is especially true when using unpressurized portafilter baskets, because your grounds are helping to create that pressure. This means that you need very fine grounds that are also very consistent. The best way to get this is with larger (50mm or larger) burrs. Finding a compromise between burr size, shape, and price is key here. This need for more fine grounds is also why some grinders just can't to drip and espresso. Such a wide range of positions isn't possible for every burrset to do well.

    Another important facet here is control. Unlike other brew methods, desired fineness will shift from roast to roast. Some coffees will want a slightly coarser or finer grind depending on origin, roast level, and more. This all means that super fine adjustments are very important. You'll also need to carefully dial in your grinder for the best results for espresso whenever you refill it with a new bean. Which leads us to our conclusion...

    Why Not Both?

    Instead of hunting for a grinder to do both drip and espresso, consider budgeting for a separate one for each method. This may seem like overkill, but switching from your carefully dialed in espresso grind to drip and then re-dialing it is a large frustration. Even if you carefully mark where your espresso grind is set, it can be quite difficult to find the spot precisely. On the other hand, drip grinders are so comparatively affordable that by sacrificing a bit of budget for a separate one you can really make your coffee setup more usable.

    It's for this reason that we hesitate to recommend grinders that can handle both types of brewing, even if they technically do exist. Just make your life easier by adding a small drip grinder to your kitchen! We're sure it'll save you some headaches.

  • Holiday Purchase guide: Presses and Other Alternative Brew Methods!

    We’ve talked about various drip and espresso brew methods this season, but there’s a simple, delicious alternative that exists as well: The press! The French Press is a consistent, inexpensive brew method that makes stronger, full bodied coffee. It can be easy to get lost in the weeds of these simple machines, but we’re here to help. We’ll also look at a couple of other interesting methods that don’t fall into traditional categories!

    The Aeropress

    The Aeropress coffee maker makes delicious press cofffee using a simple, easy to pack brewing system. Instead of needing to bring a full sized press on a camping trip, the Aeropress folds and packs into itself, while still brewing excellent coffee. This is achieved through small paper filters that filter out grounds to provide a grit free cup of press coffee. Some people love this brewer so much that they use it at home!

    For a more classic press design, check out the Bodum Brazil French Press. This 8 cup shatterproof press is simple, affordable, and makes a classic cup of pressed coffee.

    A Wide World of Weird Brewers

    For a solution your gift recipient may be surprised by, take a look at the Fellow Duo. The Duo is an awesome little brewer that provides the full tasting cup of coffee of a press and less acidity, like you’d get from pourover. It also does it all easily and in just about 5 minutes. Simply add medium-coarse ground coffee and hot water to the steeping chamber and stir. Then, let the coffee steep for 4 minutes. Finally, twist the top of the brewer, and fresh, delicious coffee will fill the lower half. This brewer’s coffee tastes great and is grit free!

    Another weird coffee option that makes a great cup is the Bodum Santos Stovetop Vacuum Coffee Maker. This brewer sits on the stove and uses pressure from the hot water to brew your coffee. It’s easy to use, fun to watch, and delicious! Check it out for the curious coffee drinker on your gift list.

    Check back soon for more holiday gifting tips!

  • Crew Review: Espro Press P5

    You’ll never go back to regular French press coffee after you’ve tried a cup from the Espro Press P5. A classic cup of French press is muddled with coffee grounds at the bottom, but Espro said enough with muddy cups and invented a double filtration press to seal out gunk—literally! The layered filter and silicone seal work together to keep grounds out. The result? That clean cup of coffee you’ll be happy to sip all morning long. If you’re searching for your next French press coffee maker, check out the Espro Press P5.

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