Scary French Press Experiments for Halloween

experimentWith (seemingly) unlimited access to great coffee and espresso making equipment comes great responsibility. In this spirit, Seattle Coffee Gear tests out the things we hear on the gear we have, mainly so you don’t have to … Sure, we made eggs with an espresso machine steam wand.  What more? This week, the interwebs inspired us to try three more truly crazy coffee experiments. Insert mad (coffee) scientist laughter here [muah hahaha]!!!

Coffee and Beer

This is a natural partnership in the beverage world. If you enjoy beer and coffee, there are plenty of coffee porters and espresso stouts available in specialty shops. But what if you want beer-flavor coffee instead of coffee-flavored beer? This question occurred to our Instagram friend one morning when he combined Young’s Double Chocolate Stout with Starbucks Pike Place medium roast and Bailey’s hazelnut coffee creamer in a mug. Sadly, he did not find the combination delicious. So we picked up where young Mister Alves left off … oh yeah, we brewed a French press with boiling beer instead of boiling water.

The recipe: French press, 32oz Midnight Sun Brewing Co. Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter heated almost to boil (at boiling it goes to a huge fizzy mess so monitor the situation carefully if you try this at home and use a saucepan that will hold double your initial volume for safety sake and, heck, while you’re at it put on some Kareem Abdul Jabbar-style safety goggles) and 62 grams Velton’s Twilight blend coffee. 4 minute steep, then plunge.

The results: It tasted like warm beer, the coffee essence was not pronounced. Bummer.

Coffee and Coconut Water

If it looks like water will it perform like water? This was the rationale behind our next experiment. In truth we thought we had a fair chance that this would turn out to be a taste sensation. Some folks have experimented with heated milk or soy milk as a water substitute also but in all cases the flavor did not extract well because the proteins and sugars get in the way.

The recipe: French press, plus we gurgled a 32oz carton of Vita Coco coconut water into a saucepan and brought it to a boil. Then we added 62 grams Velton’s Twilight blend coffee. 4 minute steep, then plunge.

The results: When refrigerated, coconut water doesn’t have a very distinctive taste, but heated, regrettably, it turned very sweet. The coffee flavor was barely there, it was as if someone had spilled the whole sugar bowl into a single cup of coffee.

Coffee and Chicken Broth

Ripped from the headlines! The single cup coffee brewer market is being taken by storm and by chicken noodle soup capsules. I took an informal survey of friends and family members who admitted to owning Keurigs, and my suspicions were confirmed: Not one of them had ever cleaned or descaled their little dudes. Why does their coffee taste bad? Many reasons, and now chicken soup is one. So to drive home the point that it doesn’t matter how you make your coffee, you have to keep your equipment clean, I made a French press with boiling chicken stock instead of boiling water.

The recipe: French press, 32oz Pacific Natural Foods Organic Free Range Chicken Broth heated to a simmer, 62 grams Velton’s Twilight blend coffee. 4 minute steep, then plunge.

The results: This approach was too concentrated. The chicken flavor predominated the combination and it was so strong it was hard to try even one sip. Gross!


After three failed experiments in a row, did I give up? No! In a stroke of genius inspired by too many episodes of the televised cooking contest Chopped, I combined all three results into one carafe. Surprisingly, this created a very wacky yet drinkable cup. In fact, it may already be invented and available for sale in an international vending machine somewhere. If it is not, feel free to pitch the idea yourself — now you have the recipe!

PS. Because Bunny would kill me if I wasted all of that nice Velton’s Coffee, I browned some ground pork, added some beans and New Mexico green chile and made a delicious chili con carne for dinner.

coffee beer chili with coconut water and chicken broth

Brewin’ with Brandi: Creamsicle Sherbet Recipe

Now, just because the weather has changed, the leaves are turning color and you might be more motivated to sip hot apple cider next to a roaring stove than indulge in a deliciously juicy frozen dessert, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t. In fact, why not treat yourself to this luscious Creamsicle sherbet today!

Utilizing the Breville’s Smart Scoop and Juice Fountain, Brandi crafted some of the tastiest sherbet we’ve ever had. Watch as she juices some oranges, makes a yummy simple syrup and then whips up a batch of sherbet in this fun recipe video.

Recipe: Creamsicle Sherbet


  • 1 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice (divided)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Combine 1/2 cup of orange juice and the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add remaining orange juice to mixture and place in refrigerator to chill.
  3. Once chilled, combine the orange juice mixture, vanilla yogurt, heavy cream and orange zest; pour into the ice cream bowl.
  4. Set ice dream maker to 50 minutes on the manual setting and churn (this is specific to the Smart Scoop; if you’re using a different ice cream maker, check your manufacturer manual for sherbet recommendations).
  5. Once mixture is frozen, transfer to a freezer safe container; you can freeze it for up to 1 week.

Tech Tip: Saeco Syntia Test Mode & Troubleshooting

Saeco SyntiaWhile it’s true that the Saeco Syntia offers a display with icons and text that will signal to you when something is going wrong, we often hear from folks that aren’t clear on what’s going on with it. Is that a close up of a fly’s head or a symbol telling you to descale? Is it signaling that the tap is open a smidge or is it warning you that snakes are coming out of your espresso machine? These are the big questions, folks.

In our next series of Saeco superautomatic espresso machine troubleshooting, Brendan takes on the Syntia series. Using the SS model, he first guides us through Test Mode, which is the highly useful diagnostic tool that enables you to run each functional component separately, and without making coffee, so that you can deduce what might be going on with your Syntia. Then, we dive into interpreting the rather cryptic symbols that appear as errors or alerts on the machine.

Even though we used the SS model for this demonstration, much of this applies to the Syntia Focus and Syntia Cappuccino models, too. If you’ve wanted to learn more about the inner workings of your machine, these are your go-to videos!

SCG Tech Tips: Saeco Syntia Test Mode

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Syntia Alarms & Errors

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Remedy Teas Review

Remedy TeasWith fog lingering in the air, and Halloween just around the corner, what better time than the present to stop by Capitol Hill’s Remedy Teas, which is styled like a trendy science lab? Upon entering, you’ll find five rows of good-sized white canisters, numbered from 1 to 150 in black print behind the counter, which contain the cafe’s selection of organic loose-leaf teas (which can be brewed by teapot, to go, iced or purchased in bulk). To the right, along one of the store’s walls, you will find a long row of test tubes (each also numbered) that provides customers with the opportunity to smell and see each tea up close.

In keeping with the apothecary feel, there are flasks scattered around the store filled with flowers and various potions. There is plenty of seating as well, with white ottomans, several wood tables and a bar area. Anthony, one of the store’s owners, said the design was inspired by the desire to create a shop that combined the elements of a traditional cafe and tea store where “the focus is on the tea and the customer.”

However, the store’s menus are not to be outdone by its design — there is not one, but two menus! One menu is dedicated entirely to the store’s tea selection and includes a detailed description of each tea’s ingredients and flavors. With too many tantalizing teas to try in one visit (yes, I will be going back!), my mouth was watering from just looking at the menu. The second menu is the food and mixed drink menu, featuring tea smoothies, tea lattes, tea sandwiches, soups, salads and even full tea services if you want to partake in “high tea.”

After pouring over the menu, I selected a teapot of a flavored white tea blend called the “Blue Hawaii,” which is described as, “A sinfully good blend of white teas, coconut, natural essences, vanilla pieces and blue cornflowers. It’s aloha in your cup.” Prior to my visit, Anthony had mentioned that one of the store’s most popular foods was the Apple Pie tea sandwich. The Cucumber Classic tea sandwich also caught my eye, so I decided to round out my order with half of a unique apple sandwich, and half of a more traditional cucumber one.

My order arrived in a cute personal glass teapot that was kept warm by a tea light candle, a pre-set timer for my tea (which flashed when the tea was done steeping), a metal holder for the tea filter and a Bodum double wall glass. This glass also happens to be one of my favorite tea cups at work since it allows me to make my tea as hot as I want without burning my fingers. It also keeps my tea hotter, longer, because of its double-walled insulation.

The tea produced a light yellow liquor that smelled and tasted heavenly, like vanilla and coconut. Both the sandwiches were tasty as well. The Apple Pie sandwich (apple butter, melted cheddar cheese and butter spread served on cinnamon bread dusted with cinnamon) was sweet and slightly salty, while the Cucumber Classic sandwich (cucumbers, chive cream cheese and butter spread on whole grain bread garnished with chives) was zesty and creamy. As Anthony had mentioned, you really can’t go wrong with the food here and it’s no wonder all the teas are popular.

It is clear that Anthony and Andrea (Anthony’s partner at Remedy Teas) truly love their tea and want to share that passion and knowledge with their customers. Anthony explained that the first teas he ever drank were “terrible bagged black tea, poorly prepared and over-brewed. Hence, one of the reasons we created Remedy Teas. [We wanted to provide people with] excellent organic loose leaf teas of every kind, [that are] well prepared, good for you and tasty.”

Remedy TeasThis November will mark the seventh year the café has been in business, and based on how busy the store was when I visited, they certainly have met Anthony’s goal of “tak[ing] the fussy out of tea and present[ing] tea to [people] in a modern approachable way.” While I was in their shop, Andrea came over with a huge smile and pointed out a toddler who had tried and enjoyed her first cup of tea (which was very cute). According to Andrea, moments like this one, where she gets to interact with the happy, creative and fun clientele of Capitol Hill, are the best part of running the store.

Anthony and Andrea have created the perfect venue to escape the standard black teas and try a variety of healthful teas. Anthony says he now “prefer[s] a fine Japanese green tea, but every member of the team tends to drink different teas throughout the day depending on whatever [they’re] craving; traditional tea or something non-traditional, caffeinated or non caffeinated, something to settle your tummy or help you sleep, something spicy or floral, something calming or energizing — it’s tea time all the time honestly.”

Crew Review: Jura Cool Control – Redux!

Jura Cool ControlA superautomatic isn’t authentically one-touch if you have to bother preparing the milk first, right? You can take all the guesswork out of your cappuccino crafting by employing one of two Jura Cool Control countertop refrigerators.

Designed to work with all of their one-touch superautomatics, the Cool Control and Cool Control Basic will keep your milk supercool, which results in delicious foam creation without risk of the legendary blue cheese latte. These are also highly recommended for small offices that are using a Jura one-touch in their company kitchen, as you can fill it up with milk throughout the day and then do one thorough cleaning at the end of all of it.

Watch as Teri shows off these updated versions of the Cool Control!

Crew Review: Jura Cool Control – Redux!

Crew Review: Pallo Cleaning Tools

PalloKeeping your coffee equipment clean doesn’t have to feel like a chore! Pallo’s purpose-built tools make short work of this sometimes unsavory task. Their array of gear includes:

  • The Grindminder – designed to clean up all the gritty little grinds that get in / around your grinder and keep it so fresh and so clean!
  • The Steamy Wanda – if steam wands had a best friend and / or patron saint, it would be this tool.
  • The Coffeetool – available in a variety of colors, this is your go-to brew head cleaning tool — brush, detergent measuring tool and steam wand hole cleaner.
  • The Caffeine Wrench – this little dude does it all, from popping out filter baskets to popping open a cool post-cleaning celebratory beer!

Watch as Bunny shows us these fun and highly useful tools!

Crew Review: Pallo Cleaning Tools


Brewin’ with Brandi: Espresso Witch Fingers (Shortbread Cookies)

It’s that time of the year when the ghouls come out to play and there’s probably no better way to keep them in check than by serving up a batch of creepy witch finger-shaped treats, right? Right. Devised especially for your Halloween shindig this year, Brandi’s delicious recipe for espresso-infused shortbread cookies is made all the more spooky and delicious by the addition of a slivered almond ‘fingernail’ at the end of a crooked finger!

The cool thing with this recipe is that you can take it to the dough chilling phase and then have fun creating all manner of ghastly shapes — ghosts, worms, headless horseman … wherever your imagination takes you! And if you happen to have little goblins (AKA small children) hanging around, this recipe is perfect for them to have some fun with, too.

Watch Brandi creep us out while crafting these shortbread cookies. This was seriously the most disturbing video we’ve ever shot, so … enjoy?

Recipe: Espresso Witch Fingers (Shortbread Cookies)


  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon finely ground coffee
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • slivered almonds


  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  2. Add vanilla and coffee, then combine until well mixed.
  3. Sift the flour and salt together to incorporate a little bit of air, then add to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.
  4. Chill the dough until firm, about 2 hours.
  5. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 325F.
  6. It’s time to make the fingers! Shape the dough into inch-wide rolls and 4 – 5 inch long pieces.
  7. Place one slivered almond on the end (this is the witch’s fingernail!) and, using the tines of a fork, make a light impression mid-way down the roll (this is the witch’s knuckle!).
  8. Place on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and bake 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden.
  9. Scare the heck out of everyone by serving them up next to a cup of coffee!

Tech Tip: Saeco Intelia Focus Test Mode

Saeco Intelia SuperautomaticsSince the Saeco Intelia Focus features a pretty darn clear menu screen that will alert you specifically to any issues and errors, we thought that going over them was of very little import. Instead, we wanted to focus on its Test Mode, which is cool because it allows you to run each of the functional components separately and independently of actually making coffee. So if your machine is behaving badly (naughty machine!) and you want to find out what might be the source of its bad behavior, test mode can be a helpful deduction tool.

Watch as Brendan guides us through test mode — how to get into it, navigate through it and then use it to diagnose any functionality or performance issues with your machine. And while we did use the Saeco Intelia Focus as the demo machine for this troubleshooting video, this process applies its Cappuccino and SS counterparts, too.

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Intelia Focus Test Mode

Barista Snapshot: Cort Kern aka Barista Maniac

cortkernWho: Cort Kern, Professional Barista/Consultant

Where: Head Barista, Christ Church Of Oak Brook

What is a coffee consultant?

Someone who steps in to guide and restructure a current or new coffee shop. I provide training at a professional level to increase sales and run an effective business custom tailored for each shop owner.

What was the first coffee drink you remember tasting? Did you like it?

It was an Americano. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but to be honest with you I just saw The Talented Mr. Ripley in the theatre that day and loved the song Americano. So it inspired me to order it. The barista behind the counter was singing the song without knowing I just saw the film.

What kind of coffee do you drink at home?

A black cup of coffee, no cream, no sugar. I use many different brewing methods at home including Chemex, Hario V60 dripper, Bodum siphon, AeroPress and Bunn Trifecta. I’m glad to have these at my disposal in the morning.

What kind of coffee do you drink at work, if different?

At work in the morning, I enjoy making myself a Cortado. Yes! Yes! Yes! My name is Cort. Many people at the church probably think I named the drink after me … I wish.

If you could teach people one thing about coffee, what would it be?

There are still quite a handful of people out there using drip coffee brewers. My first pour over coffee brewer was the Clever coffee dripper. I thought it was a unique way of brewing and it’s not very complicated. I’d gladly teach anyone how to use the Clever dripper effectively and by doing so it might open them up to try other delicious brewing options.

What’s cool about your local coffee scene?

The suburbs of Chicago are getting much better about coffee. There are some tiny hole-in-the wall places nearby, but the real meat and potatoes is in the city. I love Caffe Streets and Gaslight Coffee Roasters. So many independent markets are beginning to carry single origin coffees and fantastic cold brew options as well. I find it quite unique that I have the opportunity to serve professional espresso drinks at a church on Sundays.

As a barista, what are your thoughts on coffee skills versus customer service skills?

If you live in the suburbs, you need to do both to the best of your ability. But in Chicago I’ve dealt with nasty service and still had the most amazing cup. Personally, I like quality and great service and I try to share that philosophy as a coffee consultant.

Do you ever judge people by the drink they order?

Not at all. To each his own.

Whose espresso shots are better than yours?

On a Rancilio Epoca and a Faema X1 Granditalia Auto Steam, I got my dad beat. But at home his craft coffee and drink-making skills surpass mine. He finds it amazing what I can do with coffee and espresso these days though.

You can find Cort in his free time blogging about coffee and posting impressions on his website at and Twitter @BaristaManiac

photo by Ethan Paulson's Photography
photos by Ethan Paulson’s Photography

Crew Review: Jura Automatic Milk Frother

Jura Automatic Milk FrotherThere are times in your life when you need to stand before a mirror and have a deeply honest moment with yourself. Are you a coffee purist or do you like your java balanced by a little dairy / dairy alternative? If you answer the former, then you may be very tempted to rock all manner of coffee-only equipment that doesn’t bother with any newfangled milk steaming functionality. But then you need to consider: Do you have friends? Do they like their coffee deliciously unaltered? Might you want to offer them a java-infused milk beverage after you serve up the world’s most amazing osso bucco? If your answers to these questions is yes, then picking up a standalone milk frother is highly recommended.

One such model available for your milk frothing and heating needs is the Jura Automatic Milk Frother, which does an excellent job rockin’ hot and cold froth or just straight up warmed milk. Watch as Teri shows us its features and then demonstrates how it performs.

Crew Review: Jura Automatic Milk Frother