Manualicious

If you’re anything like us, you probably used your gear’s user manual for one of three things:

  1. To ineffectively swat at flies, yet one day you accidentally killed one and couldn’t bear to keep the gut-stained book around.
  2. To prop up the uneven handmade bookshelf lovingly made by a friend/parent/spouse/sibling/child that never sits right on the wood floor.
  3. To start a fire in the fireplace to enjoy while sipping on a delicious glass of chai spiced wine. (Guilty!)

Or, maybe you just recycled it by accident. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is that now you have no wisdom to guide you. We created our manufacturer manual repository over at Brown Bean to connect you with the source code. We have manuals for a lot of models both current and historical, so if you’re looking for tips on how to perform maintenance or need to find out what that error code means, check ‘em out.

Don’t see your model there? Leave a comment here and we’ll see if we can’t track it down and add it to the repository.

Nespresso Competition?

While the Nespresso machines are clean, convenient and easy to use — as well as making darn good coffee — some folks are turned off by the fact that the capsules for the machine are available for sale only through Nespresso directly. We sometimes have people stopping into the store hoping to get a small batch of the capsules to tide them over until their next mail order shipment arrives…and you can imagine their sour disappointment when we tell them we’re not allowed to sell any of the demo capsules we have in the store.

It can certainly be a really convenient option for those that are great with planning ahead, especially because you can setup a regular delivery of your favorite types of capsules so, theoretically, you’d never be out. And the way that Nespresso has structured their product and pricing reflects the fact that, when you buy a machine from them, you are starting a long term relationship, not just engaging in a quick n’ dirty one night stand.

So it’s no surprise that Nespresso is reacting with a little bit of attitude to the recent news of a second large company (this time, it’s Sara Lee) in the process of producing capsules that will be compatible with the Nespresso machines to directly compete with them. Last year, another company (Casino Guichard-Perrachon) announced it would introduce capsules made with coffee from the Ethical Coffee Company. Nespresso says it has over 1,700 patents covering the capsules and the way in which they interact with their machines, stating that they will “defend our intellectual property vigorously”.

We think competition does benefit the customer at the end of the day, so maybe two companies coming after their business will result in Nespresso changing up their game a bit. In our opinion, if they widened their capsule distribution to include their authorized retailers, that would be an excellent benefit for everyone involved.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Dark Roasted Blend

We were recently pointed to this blog because of an entry on strange and beautiful espresso machine designs. The entry features models of our beloved Pavoni, highlights the multiple group options of the Elektra (yummy!) and shows off some cool designs from a contest by Nespresso.

Oh, and it also introduces us to a peculiar curvy wood grinder that is specially shaped for your loving embrace. Yeah, we don’t know, either…but whatever works, baby.

Field Trip: Hario USA – Slow Cold Brew

Some folks live for iced coffee alone, and options like the old toddy makers or the newfangled Hourglass create a deliciously smooth brew that isn’t watered down by melting ice. Hario also has a slow cold brew option that is both beautiful and functional.

Edwin Martinez talks to us about Hario’s cold brew — something we’re looking forward to trying in the future.

Recipe: That Old English Rose

No, it’s not just your Nana that smells like roses — it’s spring! Enjoy a little iced tea with a floral twist as you ring in this lovely new season.

Ingredients

Directions

Fill shaker with ice, add tea and syrups and then shake to combine. Pour over a fresh glass of ice and garnish with rose petals and/or mint leaves.

Health Watch: Dark Roast = Tummy Friendly?

Having GI distress after a cup of coffee is more than enough reason for some folks to swear off the stuff. Like so many things around food and how our bodies process it, the subject of what causes such distress is often up for debate. Edwin Martinez of Hario USA & Finca Vista Hermosa posited that the negative reactions to coffee could be based in rancid oils or over-roasted beans. Some folks think that maybe it’s just sheer acidity in the bean itself.

But a new group of scientists who are studying the nutritional benefits of processed foods versus totally raw foods have found that a stomach-friendly compound called N-methylpyridinium (NMP) that appears in coffee beans only after the roasting process actually decreases the amount of acid that stomach cells produce in response to coffee. To test out stomach cell reaction to coffee, they used a combination of water and solvents to extract compounds from some different coffee blends, then exposed them to the cells. Except for NPM, the cells increased their acid production in response to the compounds.

So maybe darker roasts aren’t going to give you the same rainbow of flavors that a medium roast coffee might, but it may be easier on the ol’ tum tum — and if that’s a concern for you, choosing a darker roasted bean may be the key to you enjoying a cup of morning java.

How To: Steaming & Brewing on the Quick Mill Alexia

If you’re looking for a machine that’s a little bit classier than the Rancilio Silvia, but you’re not looking to spend $1500 on the machine alone, the Quick Mill Alexia is a gorgeous single boiler that has the benefit of a very large (a little over 25 fl oz.) boiler, the hallowed E61 brew group and a low water cut off to keep your machine from burning out. It also has a shiny stainless steel design much like the rest of Quick Mill’s US espresso machines.

It’s not a heat exchanger, however, so you don’t have simultaneous steam and brew functionality available. Therefore, following the steam -> temperature surf -> brew procedure will not only keep your boiler in good shape (by regularly pulling fresh water into the boiler), it will make sure your brew temp is just right for that super-sweet shot. While we regularly recommend the Alexia as the cream of the crop for shot lovers, some latte/cappuccino drinkers pick it up as well and are really satisfied with the results, even though it takes a bit more time than its heat exchanger or double boiler counterparts.

You can retrofit the machine with a PID, but if you don’t want to add another few hundred bucks to your purchase price, it is easy to use the machine once you have a good idea of how to regulate the temperature. Since our demo model in the store has a PID, we went through and tracked the process corresponding to the PID’s temperature gauge to determine a rough estimate of how much water to pull through the steam/water wand during temperature surfing to easily switch between steam and brew temps.

Continue reading How To: Steaming & Brewing on the Quick Mill Alexia

Single Origin: Velton’s Finca Alaska

While we have an appreciation for the simplicity of many espresso blends, getting into single origins can be a sumptuous adventure. For his recent Holiday Blend, Velton imported a delicious Arabica from the El Salvador plantation Finca Alaska. This 2007 Cup of Excellence winner is a clean, smooth cup with bright lemon, fig, chocolate and even blackberry notes.

He only has a small quantity left, so if you have a love for single origins and want to try this excellent varietal, we highly recommend picking it up. In fact, during our recent trip to Hario USA, this is the coffee we used to demo the gear and Edwin Martinez noted that it is one of the best coffees he’s tasted in a long while — even bringing it down to the plantation in Guatemala and impressing his counterparts there!

Not sure if Velton’s Coffee is worth the hype? Well, your local church folks sure thinks it is:

Recipe: Hot Cinnamon Berry Martini

Were you a good little girl or boy last night, or did St. Paddy get the best of you? If it was the latter, this little number might just be a nice sweet hair o’ the dog.

Ingredients

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously. Serve up in a chilled martini glass with a strawberry garnish.

Field Trip: Hario USA – Cup Tasting Championships

One of the things we loved hearing about during our visit to Hario USA was Edwin’s experiences with the International and US versions of the Cup Tasters Championship. Devised to accentuate the importance of tasting the flavor of coffee — instead of seeing it simply as a commodity or a fuel — the contest brings coffee buyers from all over the world together to compete head-to-head.

Who has the best taste buds? Only the strong survive? OK, not so much. But it was fun learning about it from Edwin.