review

  • Top 3 Brew Grinders of 2020

    It’s that time of year! Time for the best machines and accessories of 2020. We love everything we offer at Seattle Coffee Gear, but each year our content team puts our heads together to come up with the gear that we think is the best in the industry for right here and now. Today we’re digging into our top 3 brew grinders of 2020.

    What does brew grinder mean? It means these grinders are the best of the best for brewing pour over, drip, press, cold brew, and other “slow” brew methods. This is in contrast to espresso grinders, which are specifically designed for grinding fine enough to use with an espresso machine. We don’t recommend these grinders if you’re on the hunt for a grinder to use with your Rocket Espresso machine or Rancilio Silvia Pro. Stay tuned for our Top 3 espresso grinders if you’re in that market!

    Eureka Mignon Crono

    The Eureka Mignon Crono is a peculiar grinder, but one that we absolutely love. Built on Eureka’s tried and true Mignon platform, this is a grinder that offers a little more than the Mignon Filtro. But before we look at that, let’s look at what makes Eureka’s Mignon grinders tick.

    The first thing you’ll notice about the Crono is its rock solid case design. Mignon grinders are built like tanks, and last many years if properly maintained. The Crono is no different, with a full metal case and sturdy interior components. This build quality is where a large chunk of the price tag comes from. It’s also a looker, available in black or white with the smoked catch bin and hopper built from high quality, easy to clean plastic.

    Also of key importance with the Crono is its specifically designed brew path, motor, and burr set. While other grinders in the Mignon line are engineered for espresso, the Filtro, Crono, and Brew Pro are engineered specifically for slow brew methods. Finally, the stepless adjust these grinders feature can be a challenge to use initially, but also provide heightened precision for dialing in roasts to tease out their full flavor.

    What sets the Crono apart from the Filtro is its timer. The Filtro uses a simple manual control that you have to keep held down. This means you can’t set it and walk away. The Crono on the other hand uses a simple timer, which makes single dosing a breeze. If you prefer to keep the hopper filled, you can dial in a grind time as well.

    It’s a precise, consistent, powerful, and reliable grinder with a little something extra in the form of its timer.

    Fellow Ode

    The Fellow Ode is the newest kid on the block in this list. New for 2020, the Ode is something of a revolution in brew grinding. In keeping with Fellow’s theme of empowering hobbyist coffee fans with incredible gear for pour over, the Ode is loaded with features. 

    For starters, the Ode features massive 64 mm flat burrs. This type of burr set is typically found in high-end commercial grinders, so it’s a big deal that Fellow has scrunched these into a home brew grinder. With its solid construction, beautiful visual design, and 31 grind settings, the Ode has the basics covered.

    Then there’s its wild innovations. On the simpler side, there’s the Ode’s noise reduction, which is best-in-class. From there, things get very interesting. One thing that many coffee enthusiasts will tell you is that the way to the freshest coffee is through single dosing. What that means is that you store your beans in an airtight container, and then you only put what you need for your morning brew through your grinder. This cuts down on waste and preserves your beans better than storing your beans in a grinder hopper. The Ode embraces this fully, with a small loading area that only has room for a single dose of beans. While it has plenty of space for your extra large coffee bot, it isn’t the type of hopper you leave beans sitting in. 

    Once you’ve loaded the beans, you just have to engage the motor and the Ode takes care of the grinding. With a PID Controlled motor, the Ode is able to tell when it has finished grinding your beans. A built in grinds knocker and magnetically attached catch bin reduce mess and ensure minimal retention. It really is an incredibly innovative, premium package.

    Breville Smart Grinder Pro

    We say it all the time: Use a dedicated espresso grinder if you can. But that last part is important, because not all of us can! If you have budget or space limitations, maintaining two grinders might just be impossible. There are a few grinders that can actually perform well for espresso and slow brew methods, and the Breville Smart Grinder Pro is one of them.

    The Smart Grinder Pro also represents excellent value. With 40mm conical steel burrs you’ll get a quality grind at both ends of the spectrum. You’ll also get a full 60 stepped grind settings, which is why the grinder can move so far at either end of the spectrum. A vibrant touchscreen works with the knob to give you a really clear indication of what setting you’re on as well, which is very convenient. Speaking of adjustments, you can actually get even finer or coarser grinds by opening the grinder and making adjustments to the top burr, which is supported as a feature, not a hack.

    The timed dosing offered here is impressive as well. Using the touchscreen’s foolproof interface you can set grind times. This is helpful for once you dial in a grind. If you do want to grind manually, you can just hold the activation button down as well. Finally, you can pause mid-grand to level out the grounds or check weight, which can help with dialing in that time programming. 

    While we really do love the Smart Grinder Pro, it is important to note a couple of tradeoffs. It’s not going to perform quite as well at either end of the grind scale as a dedicated brew or espresso grinder. While it’s going to produce a good grind, there is still a reason to seek dedicated grinders. Part of that is also that switching back and forth from an espresso grind to a brew grind can be frustrating, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Otherwise, this is a great pick for anyone working with a tighter budget or who doesn’t have room for two grinders.

    Baratza Encore

    And here we have an entry that could very well make this list forever. The Baratza Encore remains one of the best starting points in coffee. There are few pieces of gear that a budding pour over enthusiast will get more use out of. The Encore continues to combine high quality engineering, a commitment to reliability and repairability, and an attractive price point.

    If you’re not familiar, the Encore is a simple machine. A rotating hopper provides 40 stepped grind settings, a simple on off switch engages the motor, and a molded catch bin catches the grinds. You can also grind a little extra with the Encore’s pulse button, located above the hopper.

    It’s the Encore’s performance and reliability that make this grinder such a shoe in for our best of list every year. With extensive parts availability through Baratza, your Encore could last decades with proper maintenance and the occasional repair. Its 40mm burrs are easily accessible and simple to clean as well. Once you put it all together you get a grinder for the ages, and it’s available at an excellent price point.

    New this year is a stylish white finish, finally offering an alternative to the black version.

    All three of these grinders could be the last brew grinder you ever need to buy, and we love them for that. Stay with us for more best of 2020 content throughout the month! Make Coffee You Love!

  • Solis Perfetta Review

    If you’ve spent some time on Seattle Coffee Gear you’ve probably seen some of our exclusive machines. When we bring a machine on as an exclusive like this it’s because we feel it’s a unique piece of gear that just needs some help getting into customers’ hands. We’re excited to share that the Solis Perfetta joins our lineup of exceptional exclusives. Read on to learn more about this mighty little machine!

    The Basics

    The Solis Perfetta is a unique offering because it’s sort of an “Entry level plus” machine. While machines in the $100-200 range exist, we usually don’t recommend them unless it’s to someone unsure if they’re even interested in owning an espresso machine. They’re the sorts of machines you’ll likely replace within a year or two of purchase should they hold your interest.

    For those who already know that they want to get started in the home espresso world, we point to the price range of the Solis Perfetta. There are other great machines in this price bracket, but what impressed us about the Perfetta is how much more it offers. 

    This is a machine that can get you started, and act as a solid platform for brewing espresso and steaming milk for years. This all starts with its reliable basic design features. 

    The Solis Perfetta is powered by a single thermoblock boiler that offers quick heat up times and solid performance. You’ll also get a commercial style single hole steam wand perfect for creating microfoam for your lattes and cappuccinos. You can also pull hot water through the steam wand for americanos and rinsing. On the portafilter front, the Perfetta comes with both pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters, and the pressurized filter works with E.S.E. pods without the need for an adapter.

    All of this means you’ll have the basics for a great home espresso experience there for you from the start. You can start learning how to dial in a shot with your pressurized filter, then graduate to the true art of pulling with an unpressurized basket when you’re ready. Excitingly, this also allows you to use an existing brew grinder that can grind fine enough to pressurized espresso to get started. You’ll also be able to steam up milk with some great textures for lattes and cappuccinos, or brew an americano right there with the hot water dispensed from the steam wand.

    What really impresses us about the Perfetta though is the ways in which it brings more high end features to this great price point.

    The Details

    First of all, the Solis Perfetta includes auto-purge solenoid valves, which may seem confusing, but it’s a big deal. These valves help the machine handle pressure buildup in the portafilter, which is what makes this brewer really work for using non pressurized baskets. For comparison, this is a feature found on high end Rocket Espresso machines and similarly priced offerings. It’s rare to find it in a $400-600 machine.

    Next up there’s the programming. This machine allows you to program shot times in for both single and double shots. That means once you dial in your shot you can simply push the button next time and get the same result every time. This also cuts out a variable as you learn. Getting different volumes from shot to shot? You’ll know it’s not an issue with your shot timing, helping you to adjust your tamp or grind to compensate.

    Beyond programming shot times, you can also adjust the brew temperature. While we recommend starting with a stock standard 200 degree fahrenheit temperature, the ability to explore the effects of water temp on espresso is huge. This is the sort of feature we tend only to see on machines at or above the $1,000 mark. A built in manometer should provide some additional flair, and can help you track down certain issues with your shots too.

    Finally, there’s the case. While this machine has a small reservoir and drip tray, it makes up for this with it’s great footprint. The Perfetta should fit next to a grinder on just about any countertop, and that makes it easier to use for those just getting started as well. It’s also solidly built, with metal and plastic components that don’t feel cheap or compromised.

    The most important part though? The Solid Perfetta brews great shots. Really. We were very impressed with the taste and consistency of espresso pulled on this machine, and it’s why we decided to bring it on. Check out the Solis Perfetta today, and get started on your espresso journey!

  • Rocket Espresso R Nine One Group

    Rocket Espresso offers an incredible lineup of home espresso machines, with a fit for any user. Today we’re taking a look at the Rocket Espresso R Nine One espresso machine. This is at the highest of the high end for home espresso, but it really does earn it. Note that Rocket Espresso does offer a commercial model called the R9, which bears some similarity, but the R Nine One really is its own specific machine made for home use.

    The Basics

    Calling this section “the basics” is a bit of a misnomer, as the R Nine One is anything but basic. The first thing you may notice about this machine is the price tag. It is an expensive machine, which is specifically designed for home espresso hobbyists who view brewing espresso as a pastime as much as a utility. The R Nine One is a lot more than just a powerful espresso machine, so if you’re looking for something more affordable in the prosumer market, the Rocket Espresso R58 Cinquantotto is an incredible option as well.

    As for the R Nine One, there’s a lot here to cover.

    For starters, this machine is powered by two stainless steel boilers. The brew boiler is 1.9 liters and features PID controlled temperature regulation for stable brew temps. The service boiler is 3.6 liters, providing excellent recovery time between steaming sessions. At a basic level, the R Nine One is one of the most powerful, consistent home machines on the market. This is enhanced by features like its fully saturated brew group and commercial style steam arm, giving you professional grade brewing and steaming. The tactile controls that you come to expect from Rocket Espresso are here as well, with highly visible steam gauges for each boiler as well. The R Nine One also offers a hot water spout for rinsing and Americanos. It’s all wrapped up in a stainless steel case and frame, which gives this machine a stunning appearance and solid construction.

    We’ve established that the R Nine One delivers on a design and performance perspective, but what makes this machine truly special is the last part of its face that we haven’t touched on: That little screen, and what you can do with it.

    Programming and Pressure Profiles

    At a basic level, the touchscreen on the front of the R Nine One gives you elements like a timer and control of the machine’s temperatures. You can even set an auto-on time through the R Nine One’s screen. But the thing that sets this machine apart is its pressure profiling, a feature perfect for espresso hobbyists.

    Pressure profiling is a feature that allows you to manually set a pressure curve either by hand, or electronically. Every espresso machine applies water pressure to the portafilter over a slightly different curve. This is what creates distinct flavors from machine to machine. The R Nine One Group gives you the ability to create a profile by manually moving the brew lever during the brew process. You can also program in the profile you want via the screen. In both cases, you’ll be able to save 5 different profiles. This allows you to recreate virtually any espresso machine in the world.

    This might be a lot for newer users to take in. It’s hard to wrap your head around the differences between different machines, but this is likely the last machine a big fan of home espresso will ever need to purchase. It’s for this reason that we believe the Rocket Espresso R Nine One justifies its price point for true enthusiasts, and we can’t imagine a better machine for the serious espresso hobbyist. Shop the R Nine One here now.

     

  • Video Roundup: 11/22/2019

    Holidays are right around the corner and we're in high gear!

    If you haven't seen Gail's awesome picks videos, make sure you check those out. Today we'll take a look at all of the other stuff we've got going on over on YouTube.

    First up, it's John with a review of a commercial grinder:

    Next, Allie, Nicole and I tasted some amazing Smith Teas:

    Finally, Clementine tried a tasty chilled treat on this week's Coffee Collaboration!

    That's all for this week! We'll be back next week with more videos to share!

  • LaMarzocco Linea Mini 2019 Review

    From a storied history producing commercial machines to nearly indestructible home machines, there's a lot to love from LaMarzocco. In light of this, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a look at a classic made for home. Read on for our 2019 look at the Linea Mini!

    Appearance and Usability

    The Linea Mini is the home version of the legendary Linea. That machine has been a workhorse in commercial settings for decades. Serving coffee shops around the world with reliable, powerful performance. The home version translates the look and feel of the Linea well. Visually, this machine really does give the appearance of the full size Linea. The only main differences are size and the brew paddle, which we'll get into momentarily. We love the look of the Linea Mini, but it's similarity to the commercial machine it emulates may be a turnoff for those looking for a less industrial look.

    From a usability perspective, this machine is a dream. Big, easy to use nozzles for steam and hot water control make those functions a breeze. The articulated steam wand is easy to manage and provides great steam. Finally, that brew paddle greatly improves the functionality of the machine. Giving you more tactile control over water flow means you can pinpoint accurate extraction times. With pre-programmed one second pre-infusion, you know you'll get perfectly responsive brew starts too. Plus, it's a lot of fun to use!

    Rounding out the look and feel of the machine are a big 3.5L water reservoir and a great set of indicators. The lights are easy to read and provide all of the info you need for operation. Meanwhile, that tank should last many shots before needing refilling thanks to its size.

    Performance

    On the performance front, the Linea Mini truly doesn't skimp. In fact, the LM's NSF rating means you could actually use this in a coffee shop if you wanted to. Most shops will need to be able to handle brewing multiple drinks at once, but it speaks to the quality of the machine.

    One piece of this puzzle is the Linea Mini's integrated brew group. Instead of separating the brew group and the boiler, like most machines, the integrated brew groups combine these parts. The result is a single, seamless part that keeps temperature stable throughout the brewing process. This means that the Linea Mini manages stable temps on par with E-61 machines while maintaining the signature Linea look.

    Temperature is maintained with a PID controller, providing rock solid temps that don't fluctuate like with standard thermostats. That controller manages two boilers, a .17L brew boiler and a 3.5L steam boiler. Each is the perfect size to handle its task, and having both means you can brew and steam at the same time with stable temps.

    The steam want on the Linea Mini is the same one that comes on the large standard Linea. This means you'll be steaming milk in seconds with power on par with your favorite coffee shop. Other odds and ends include a solenoid valve, cup warmer, and the option to plumb in the machine.

    Conclusion

    There's only a couple of issues with the Linea Mini. For one, the warm up time might seem extreme if you just want a latte in the morning. It can take 15 minutes to warm up for brewing, and up to 30 to be able to steam. That warmup time is worth the wait, but it also means that you'll either want to leave this machine on 24/7, or start it well before you're ready to brew. The only other con is the lack of programmable pre-infusion. While the pre-programmed option should be all you need, for super invested home baristas, more programmability is a good feature.

    Otherwise, this is a machine that really lives up to the LaMarzocco name. It's one of the closest things to putting the power of a professional cafe right on your countertop.

  • Video Roundup: 9/27/2019

    Hey coffee fans!

    It's time again for our weekly roundup. This week we've got tastings, recipes, and comparisons galore! Read on to check em' out:

    First, our Clementine inspired Roast of the Month tasting!

    Next up, Gail compared the Eureka Brew Pro and the Baratza Forte BG!

    And last but not least, a perfect fall Coffee Collaboration from Clementine:

    We hope you enjoyed! Check out some more videos next week!

  • DeLonghi Dinamica ECAM35020B Superautomatic Espresso Machine Review

    DeLonghi has been producing superautos for some time now, and while they offer some innovative machines, they haven't had a breakthrough like some of their competitors. Over time, these machines have become more and more refined, improving on performance and reliability, but the Dinamica ECAM35020B feels like a leap forward. Check out our full review to learn why!

    Appearance and Usability

    One thing to note at the top is that while the case is very plastic, it also maintains a pretty unified look. The sleek black plastic with chrome accents gives it a muted, but pleasant, appearance. It definitely stands up to other machines at its price point without necessarily wowing either. One huge plus on this machine is the footprint. This is a machine that should fit on most countertops, and under most cabinets. With a front loading water tank, you'll also be able to refill it frequently. This is important, because the tank is, admittedly, a bit on the small side.

    Otherwise, you're looking at some pretty standard case design. The brew unit is pretty easily accessible behind the water tank, and the drip tray is convenient and easy to clean. If we have one complaint it's that it's still a bit of a chore to slide the machine out to fill the bean hopper, but this is a less frequent need than filling the water tank, and there's not much you can do to avoid putting the hopper where it is.

    The face of the machine is simple, but functional and attractive enough. While the interface may take some getting used to, it is to the point and functional. Programming and user profiles are great value adds, but there is something to be said for the simplicity of pushing a single button and getting a consistent shot. That simplicity and consistency is the name of the game here. The panarello wand is also easy to use, and once you understand how to get it to switch between steam and water it is very functional. The rinse button on the face is a nice to have as well for cleaning out the brew unit on demand.

    Performance

    With functional, if simple, case and interface design, the most important thing is performance. Overall we can say pretty happily that the Dinamica does a great job in this area. With some dialing in, the shots this machine can produce are quite good, and quite hot. This is good news for anyone disappointed with temps from semi-autos in general. With hot water from the panarello and easy single and double shot buttons, brewing espresso and americanos is a breeze. If you're a drip fan, the Dinamica also offers an intriguing coffee function. Usually, the "coffee" button on a superauto just provides an extra long shot. While you're still getting espresso, you're getting it watered down enough to be less strong. The Dinamica handles its coffee setting a little differently.

    The coffee button cases the machine to grind less than it would for a shot, and then pulse water through the coffee instead of applying sustained pressure. The result is a cup of coffee that isn't quite a pourover and isn't quite a long espresso shot, and you really can taste the difference. While we don't think it tastes like what you'll get out of a drip brewer, it's a closer approximation than what most superautos can provide. This means that your drip loving family member can get something close to what a drip pod machine can do without needing a second machine.

    The panarello has the issues you'd expect from this type of wand. It doesn't produce loads of foam, and doesn't produce particularly fine microfoam. That means it's hard to pour latter art or make a cappuccino with this machine. That said, it makes fine foam for a normal latte and because it's manual you can control how hot you want the milk. This is a boon for latte drinkers, as many superautos spit out milk that you might find too cool.

    Lastly, the over ice button is a neat little tool. It alters the brew temp, and volume of both the grind and water to go best with brewing over ice. It's a great feature for fans of iced lattes and americanos.

    Conclusion

    In the end the Dinamica is a strong option at its price point. While it lacks some bells and whistles, it gets it right where it counts and provides some nice add ons you might not expect. One to take a good look at for your next superauto. You can shop the DeLonghi Dinamica on Seattle Coffee Gear here.

  • Crew Review: Ascaso Basic Espresso Machine

    Basic gets a whole new definition with the Ascaso Basic Espresso Machine! Sure, it’s simple design and easy to use controls are the fundamentals, but this little machine comes with more accessories for budding baristas to grow their technique; the Basic includes both non-pressurized, pressurized and pod baskets to adapt to anyone’s barista skills.
  • Crew Review: Brewista vs Bonavita Gooseneck Kettle

    Water temperature is one of the most important variables for brewing coffee! That’s why we’re smitten with these two electric kettles, the Brewista 1.2L Variable Temperature Kettle and Bonavita 1L Gooseneck Variable Temperature Kettle. Featuring programmable temperature control, you can set both kettles to the exact degree for anything you’re steeping.
  • Crew Review: Brewista 1.2L Variable Temperature Kettle

    Quit standing around waiting for water to boil. With the Brewista 1.2L Variable Temperature Kettle, you can program it to automatically turn on at 6:30am sharp at 205 degrees. Your hot water is ready to pour on the dot, cutting your brewing time in half.

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