review

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Crew Comparison: Baratza Sette 270W vs Eureka Atom

    What a year for grinders! Out of all the grinders released in 2016, none have excited us as much as the Baratza Sette 270W and the Eureka Atom. Of course, you know about the Baratza Sette 270W and its entry-level brother, the 270. Baratza kicked off SCAA 2016 by announcing the Sette and it quickly built hype amongst home brewers. The Eureka Atom? It flew under the radar. But we want to change that! Both these grinders deserve a place in a home barista’s kitchen for very different reasons. But which one’s right for you?
  • Crew Comparison: Baratza Sette 270 and Sette 270W

    The anticipated Baratza Sette 270 and 270W have finally been released for home barista’s kitchens. Have you gotten your hands on one of the Settes? If you haven’t, you’re not alone! Both grinders are in high-demand and it’s no surprise why. Baratza built both the Sette 270 and 270W with the hardware to grind efficiently and quickly—3.5 to 5.5 grams per second!

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