Compare: Heat Exchange Espresso Machines

Heat exchange espresso machines offer simultaneous brew and steam functionality by employing a large steam boiler with an embedded brew boiler and a dual pump. They’re easy to use and work well for the majority of home espresso enthusiasts who aren’t interested in dialing in and playing around with different temperatures.

In this video, Gail explains to us what a heat exchanger is and how it works, then talks to us about models from Pasquini, Rocket Espresso and Nuova Simonelli.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Mocha Butter

Like buttah, baby! Like buttah.

Because Brandi is hell bent on making the rest of us significantly more portly while she remains svelte, she has concocted yet another sinfully delicious recipe for us to tempt ourselves with! This is a perfect way to dress up that jar of peanut butter which has been hanging around the cupboard for a bit too long … if you need a reason to make something so yummy, that is. We’re pretty sure this is part of a balanced breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 & 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon espresso

Directions

  1. Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or microwave until smooth. Take care not to burn the chocolate and let it cool a bit so that it’s barely warm.
  2. Scrape melted chocolate into a large boil.
  3. Add peanut butter, butter, sugar and vanilla extract.
  4. Stir thoroughly to combine.

Rancilio Silvia with PID: Shot Temp in Cup

If you retrofit a PID on a Rancilio Silvia, how should you calibrate it to ensure you’re getting the ideal shot temperature? How much of an impact does preheating your cup have on the end shot temperature? In this video, Gail measures the temp of extraction with and without preheating the demitasse beforehand.

New! SCG Parts Kits

Since we launched our new website with a selection of external-only parts, we’ve been hard at work building out kits that include parts and instructions for common espresso machine repairs. First to be released are the Tune Up kits for the Ascaso Dream and Rancilio Silvia. We also brought back the ever popular Rancilio Silvia Steam Wand Upgrade Kit for V1 and V2 machines.

The new Tune Up kits include all the parts you’ll need to refresh gaskets, seals, brew head screens and descale your machine — a process we recommend following every six months or so. We’re also including step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process.

The Steam Wand retrofit is a bit more complicated, as you do need to get inside your Silvia in order to upgrade the machine’s steam manifold and install a new steam knob. While we don’t provide specific written instructions for this, we did produce a demonstration video a few years ago that will walk you through the process.

Before picking up any of these kits, definitely read through the instructions (Ascaso Dream | Rancilio Silvia) or watch the video to confirm that you understand what you’re getting yourself into! Personally, we’ve always been able to get things apart … it’s the putting them back together again that’s the challenge.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

While the calendar reads summer, the seasons are already threatening to change on us here in the Pacific Northwest! Brandi decided to craft a lovely hot beverage using Bodum’s Hot Chocolate Maker. While using it makes it super easy — and fun! — you could also just heat everything up on the stove together and you’d get similar, albeit less frothy, results.

Ingredients

Directions
Heat milk (on stovetop or microwave – your call), add the sauces and salt, then mix well. Serve with a dangerous dose of whipped cream and enjoy!

Grinder Throwdown: Virtuoso vs. Smartgrinder vs. Rocky

Looking for an entry-level espresso-grade grinder and not sure where to start? Well, we like a grudge match around here, so you may have seen the previous stand-offs between the Breville Smart Grinder vs the Rancilio Rocky and the Baratza Virtuoso vs Breville Smart Grinder. Those may have left you wondering: How do all three stack up against each other? Being the mind readers that we are at SCG, Kat and I used a Breville BES900XL and Velton’s Bonsai Blend to put these grinders through the paces.

Let’s compare them side-by-side:

Baratza Virtuoso Breville Smart Grinder Rancilio Rocky
Burr Type Conical steel Conical steel Flat steel
Burr Size 40mm 40mm 55mm
Case Material Plastic Brushed stainless steel Stainless steel
Height 13 inches 14 inches 14 inches
Hopper Capacity 8 oz. 1 lb and hopper is removable! 8 oz.
Weight 16 lbs 5.6 lbs 18 lbs
Programmability None LCD screen lets you set grind (coarse to fine) volume (in cups and shots depending on fineness of grind) and dosage (weak to strong) None
Timer or on/off switch Timer and manual Timer and manual setting Manual only
Time to grind double shot 12 sec 22 sec 20-30 sec
Dosing Only with timer, not by weight/volume Automatically adjusts with grind; from coarser (dose in cups) to fine (dose in shots) Doser avail for +$10, otherwise chute only
Grind consistency (1-5 scale, 5=most consistent) 40 individual step settingsFinest setting: 3

Coarsest setting: 1

25 settingsFinest setting: 4

Coarsest setting: 2

55 settingsFinest setting: 5, like talc

Coarsest setting: 3

Shot performance (scale of 1-5, 5=strongest) 3: Overall, a solid shot, with the depth you’d expect from a fresh grind and proper dial-in. 4: A solid shot with great flavor and slightly more complex notes using the 2nd finest setting. 5: Shot has a great mouth feel, and you can taste more complexity and richness to the shot.
Notes No frills, no fuss, easy to use, it’s a strong performer for espresso and other coffee applications. No electric panel makes trouble shooting a breeze as your grinder ages. The lightest of the pack, this grinder is extremely versatile and a great value. It’s all about the features and accessories: portafilter holders, ground coffee canister, removable hopper to switch out beans. Commercial quality for home use and it shows. Largest footprint of all grinders, a big commitment to your counter top, but with definite benefits in shot quality.

The Rocky is a literal heavyweight coming in at 18 pounds and a hundred dollar heftier price tag, but there’s no doubt that the commercial quality burrs make a difference when it comes to tasting the complexity of your shot. I love the Virtuoso’s ease of use and inherent versatility, so it’s often my go-to for testing espresso, pour overs and french press. But like an ostrich, I am drawn to shiny objects and I wish it had more stainless in the casing. The Smart Grinder fulfills this need, and weighing in under six pounds means it doesn’t need to be a permanent fixture on your countertop – but it could be because it’s great for households with multiple coffee drinkers with different bean preferences. What would you choose?

Compare: Grinder Performance with Rocket Giotto Evoluzione

We often talk about the importance of grinders and how investing in a good burr grinder will positively impact your shot, so we thought we’d demonstrate it for you!

Watch Gail pull shots on the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione using the Baratza Preciso, Baratza Vario, Mazzer Mini E and Mahlkonig Pro M Espresso. We taste each shot and give our practical assessment and comparison of each of them. Yum!