Rebuilding the Rancilio C-Lever Steam Arm Assemblies

Rancilio C-Lever TechnologyIf you’re running a fast-paced coffee business, slinging a high volume of milk-infused espresso drinks throughout the day, you’ll be giving your commercial espresso machine’s steam wands a serious workout. This results in some degradation of a few of its internal parts, which will require replacement in order to maintain full steam functionality.

But performing this regular maintenance doesn’t have to mean a tech call if you know your way around your machine’s steam arm assembly. In fact, since performing this maintenance can be required sometimes as often as every 6 months, learning how to do it yourself will save you money, in addition to extending the life and performance of your machine. Sure, it sounds a bit daunting, but we’re here to help!

The first demonstration we have for you is on the Rancilio series of commercial espresso machines that feature their C-Lever functionality. We asked our commercial expert, Brandon, to guide us through how to remove, disassemble, replace parts, reassemble and then reinstall the steam arm on the Rancilio Classe 9, but this process applies to the majority of their machines. If you’re starting to notice water or steam leaking from the wand when it’s in its ‘off’ position, this is a hallmark sign that it’s time to perform this maintenance. So watch this video and then dive in!

SCG How-To Guide: Rebuilding Rancilio C-Lever Steam Arm Assembly

Tech Tip: Saeco Incanto Deluxe Test Mode & Troubleshooting

Saeco Incanto DeluxeThe Saeco Incanto Deluxe has been around for a loooooooong time … and for good reason! It features a simple digital interface, volumetric programming, Saeco’s SBS brewing system and an easy to use panarello steam wand, all wrapped up in a metal case. If the Vienna is the workhorse of the Saeco superauto line-up, the Incanto may very well be the show pony!

It’s so reliable that even its Certified Refurbished counterparts have a long life after they’ve been re-homed with a new java family, so with a mix of both new and gently-used models on the market, we thought you might want a little guidance on how to troubleshoot, diagnose and possibly resolve some of its minor quirks.

In this duo of videos, Brendan does just that: He first shows us how to get into and then navigate the Test Mode on the Incanto, so that you can run each functional component independently and possibly deduce the source of any issues you’re experiencing. Then he takes us through a walkthrough of the alarms and errors your Incanto may throw at you during the course of doing business. These are as equally important to understand, leading to a speedy resolution (and more coffee!).

If the Incanto Deluxe is your partner in caffeinated crime — or you want it to be — get to know it a little better right now.

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Incanto Deluxe Test Mode

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Incanto Deluxe Alarms & Errors

Brewin’ with Brandi: Creamy Caramel Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

Pumpkin Spice Latte recipeAs the seasons change each year from splendid summer to austere autumn, so arrives the legendary Pumpkin Spice Latte. This year, Sam had had more than enough and attempted to launch a full-scale boycott against … with only very minimal success (sorry, Sam). But in deference to her cause, Brandi decided to take a little bit of a mad scientist approach to this favorite seasonal drink by incorporating both caramel (AKA Kat’s body lotion) and candied orange into it!

Watch as she uses the Saeco Exprelia Evo to produce this delicious twist on the Pumpkin Spice latte. Yes, we were surprised by how truly delicious it was! We highly recommend that you craft this gem yourself and surprise those around you with your unique re-imagining of a rather cliche beverage.

Recipe: Creamy Caramel Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ingredients

Directions

Combine sauce and syrup together, add espresso and stir. Top with steamed milk and enjoy!

The Reluctant Barista Dials in a Coffee Grinder on the Last Frontier

IMG_1796Lots of Seattle Coffee Gear fans watch our YouTube videos to learn more about coffee and espresso with our hands-on tutorials. But what if you don’t have internet or wireless service available? This summer, I carefully hand-carried a Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder to Homer, Alaska, a location often highlighted as part of the current ‘Alaskan Reality TV Show’ craze. Let me tell you about the reality I faced as I tried to help my family dial in their new coffee grinder without the SCG Crew there to help me.

First of all, my family lives on twenty acres located ten miles outside of town. Fair to say, it is a little remote. Tom Bodett calls Homer The End of the Road: Electricity is a new arrival at the house and my mom still cooks on a wood stove. Internet comes via satellite service, which is comparable to the dial-up systems of yore in terms of both speed and reliability. My step-dad unpacked this nice hand-built Italian grinder on the coffee table and fished around inside the box for instructions. I laughed a little at the old-fashioned notion of reading a user manual and pulled out my smartphone. The joke was on me when I had no cell reception and such limited wi-fi that I could navigate to YouTube, but not play a video! Then, the joke was on him because the poorly translated Italian-to-English instructions left us scratching our heads.

I love the Rancilio Rocky grinder. It is a home grinder, but it’s made with commercial parts, so I knew it would be the right grinder to reliably produce the daily espresso needed to make my folks an Americano and a cappuccino. I reached deep into my memory bank to help set up this burr grinder. The one thing I clearly recalled was to make sure beans are ground through it as the burrs are adjusted lower so they do not grind against each other and cause damage. I wish I had seen Teri’s excellent video on how to dial in a Rocky before I left Seattle. We did find a written blog post by Kat years ago and used it to guide our efforts.

The part that frustrated me most about dialing in the new grinder was not the physical adjustment, but rather the amount of espresso beans used and time it took. Compared to the Baratza Virtuoso I have at home in Seattle, the process was night and day. By the time I ran through the recommended ¼ pound of beans on the Baratza I found my grind. With the Rocky, it took a full bag of beans plus the stopwatch app on my phone and multiple taste tests that left us all wired. The Rancilio instructions say that this process will never need to be repeated but I know from watching Kat and Gail’s videos that any time you get new beans or a new machine, re-calibration is required.

The Rancilio Rocky grinder is an excellent coffee grinder and the fuss of a more temperamental set up is rewarded with an ideal home espresso grind. My parents wanted a grinder that could be carefully maintained and serviced to last many years. In the greater scheme of things, an evening spent hopped-up on espresso shots was family bonding time and not actually wasted. Plus each morning thereafter was like Christmas as we raced to see who would get to use the new grinder first.

What is the takeaway from this cautionary tale? A) Don’t count on modern technology to work in the wilderness B) Be more patient than I am C) We put a great effort into creating the perfect home espresso station while there’s still no thought of indoor plumbing. And that is the reality of life on the Last Frontier.

homer

 

Crew Review: AeroPress – Redux!

AeroPressIf you were to survey the crew at SCG about their favorite coffee prep, you’d learn that the AeroPress is the hands-down winner. We love how simple and easy it is to use, plus it’s compact, transportable and produces a delicious cup of coffee.

Over the years, we’ve featured it in a variety of videos, but hadn’t actually refreshed our original crew review of it, even though it was updated a bit in the interim by Aerobie. So we asked its biggest fan, Bunny!!!, to give us the rundown — how it works, what it comes with, etc. — in this updated review. Watch her show off its components and accessories, then prepare coffee using two different methods: That described by Aerobie and the very popular inverted technique.

Whether you’re camping, hiking, out on the road or just hanging out at home, the AeroPress is an excellent choice in coffee accoutrement. Pair it with the Hario Mini Mill and you’ve got an awesome java prep no matter where the day takes you.

Crew Review: AeroPress – Redux!

Crew Tip: Rancilio Rocky Doserless Adjustment

Rancilio Rocky GrinderIf you own a Rancilio Rocky doserless coffee grinder, you sometimes might wish you were blessed with as many arms as Blinky is with eyes … how else do you hold down the adjustment lever, turn the hopper and then also run the grinder when you’re making the grind more fine?

First off, let’s cover why you should do this. Whenever you’re adjusting a burr grinder to a finer setting, you’re essentially bringing the burrs closer together. If you do that without running the grinder at the same time, you run the risk of compacting coffee beans in the grind chute and even warping or permanently damaging the threads. This is such a costly repair, it really means that you’re looking for a replacement grinder.

To avoid such horror, you need to run the grinder as you bring the burrs closer together. On the Rocky model that includes a doser chamber, this is easier, as you have an on / off button to use. The Rocky without a doser, however, simply has a rocker switch that must always be engaged in order to grind. So how do you manage all three at once? Watch Teri as she demonstrates her trick for adjusting the Rocky doserless more finely when you’ve only got your own hands to spare!

SCG Crew Tip: Rancilio Rocky Doserless Adjustment

Tech Tip: Saeco Odea Test Mode & Troubleshooting

Saeco OdeaWe had a customer come into the store a few years ago with his Saeco Odea Giro in tow. He loved the coffee that it made and wanted to have it tuned up by our repair team. While he had it in, however, he wanted to find out if his model had a particularly tender heart because he felt like the only way it would work each morning is if he started out by giving it a hug.

It’s true that the Odea series kind of got a bad rap because not only were its sensors particularly sensitive, it had limited tools with which to communicate its feelings to you. What does a slow blinking exclamation point mean versus a fast blinking or solid exclamation point?

In these two videos, Brendan demystifies the rather cryptic errors and alarms that the Saeco Odea series of espresso machines can show. Then, he shows us how to take the machine into Test Mode so you can run each functional component separately and diagnose what might be having an issue.

If you’re in need of a secret decoder ring for your Saeco Odea machine, check out these videos.

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Odea Series Test Mode

SCG Tech Tip: Saeco Odea Alarms & Errors

Brewin with Brandi: Marochino a la GIGA 5

Jura GIGA 5Brandi’s at it again with her favorite little coffee robot, the Jura GIGA 5!

This sophisticated espresso machine incorporates a ton of fancy features, including dual bean hoppers, one-touch cappuccino and an extensive drink menu that covers all the traditional drinks (like latte macchiatos and cappuccinos) as well as offering up a selection of rather unique recipes. They’re fun and super easy to make, as the GIGA 5 will outline the ingredients and then guide you through creation — at the touch of a few different buttons!

In this video, Brandi takes on the rather tasty Marochino:

Recipe: Marochino a la GIGA 5

The Reluctant Barista: Baratza Grinder Groove

baratzaThere are many reasons why I remain a reluctant barista. Over the past year, my caffeinated knowledge has greatly improved and my skills have marginally improved but there remains a hole in my espresso education: Coffee grinders have me particularly perplexed. I understand the working parts, I have even taken them apart (and put them back together again) for cleaning purposes. However, when I see a fluffy pile of fresh coffee grounds and compare it to another pile, it all looks the same to me. Sure I can tell French press coarse from Turkish fine but the micro-adjustments have me stumped.

So, here I stand with the full line of Baratza coffee grinders in front of me. This is a quality coffee problem to have, except I only know how to use the Encore grinder! It is a sturdy little workhorse that pairs well with my Technivorm coffee maker. Instead of regurgitating RPMs and clump tests — which really isn’t my style — let’s start with what’s in it for you — which really is my style. How will you get your groove on with a Baratza coffee grinder?

Entry level/Drip Coffee = Encore. This is my not-so-secret weapon for successful office coffee. The Encore has an on/off knob, a pulse button and an adjustment ring on the collar. This is great for coffee preps like drip, pour-over, AeroPress, French press, Siphon and Chemex. It can also be adjusted finer for espresso grind if you are using a pressurized portafilter.

Mid-level/Multiple Brew Preps = Virtuoso. The Virtuoso is very consistent. It has an on/off knob, a timer, a pulse button and an adjustment ring on the collar. The particle size uniformity makes it well suited for coffee preps like espresso in addition to drip and manual brewing methods. This versatility is great for anyone who enjoys multiple brew preps.

Mad (coffee) Scientist/Espresso = Preciso. More fine-tuning options and a little bit faster output make the Preciso a conical burr home grinder with commercial functionality. There are 40 step adjustments multiplied by 11 micro-adjustments within each setting. I can’t even do the math or my brain will explode! Suffice it to say, if you enjoy playing around with different coffee and espresso blends, then this grinder is optimized for your caffeinated brewing adventures.

Pro Version/Multiple Brew Preps = Vario. So where does this grinder fit? The 54mm ceramic flat burrs provide accurate, fast-grinding performance. This is a professional-grade machine with optimal consistency within a very small footprint. It has 230 distinct grind settings from fine grind for espresso to coarse grind for French press. With a digital timer and three programmable buttons, the Vario has accurate one-touch dosing. Small cafes and roasters report a solid track record with the Vario and the Vario-W model, which adds weight-based functionality.

Cafe Version/All Purpose = Forte AP. While the Vario does a great job, the brand new Forte models are bigger, beefier and have digital touch screens. The AP features 54mm ceramic flat burrs which stay accurate longer than metal burrs and grind finer. The weight and time based functionality provides repeatable grinding results. Designed for long lasting cafe use and abuse, the AP shines for espresso and can grind for coarser settings also.

Cafe Version/Pour Over Preps = Forte BG. This model features 54mm flat steel burrs. Why offer a choice of burr sets when ceramic lasts longer and grinds finer? Metal burrs reduce ‘fines’ in the mid to coarse range of grinds. Pour over preps require particle consistency, which is harder to achieve in the coarser grind settings. The Forte BG is a specific solution to a problem that high end/Third Wave coffee bars have had — they demanded the highest quality burr grinder available for everything but espresso. The BG can still technically ‘do espresso’ but it has been designed to tackle mid-range particle quality and quantity.

forte grindsOnce you have selected a grinder for your intended usage, then you can dial it in. This had — up to now — been my downfall, then I realized I was rushing it. It takes time, patience and a pound of beans … and that’s asking a lot from an impatient person like myself. I tried the Forte AP since it is new and fancy (and I love new and fancy) and I paired it with the Pasquini Livia G4 Automatic espresso machine because that is also new and fancy. The process involves picking an initial setting and noting the results with each incremental change. Instead of visually inspecting the grind, this is a combination of timing the espresso shots and tasting the results. Word to the wise: Just sip — otherwise you are in for a sleepless night! I filled a frothing pitcher with discarded espresso shots before I felt comfortable with the right setting for particle size and dosage.

One final note before I leave you up to your elbows in coffee grounds … Sadly for me, this process needs to be repeated if you change your beans or the machine you are using. Grinders are not universally calibrated so there is no cheat-sheet to tell you what number or setting will be optimal. This is a situation where trial and error, er I mean to say, highly scientific methodology is the only way to help any grinder find its groove.

Crew Review: Rancilio KRYO 65 Commercial Burr Espresso Grinder

Rancilio KRYO 65Can’t sacrifice quality for quantity or vice versa? The Rancilio KRYO 65 feels your pain and was designed specifically to alleviate it.

Featuring 64mm stainless steel burrs, an aluminum fin collar to dissipate heat more evenly and a simple worm-drive adjustment mechanism, the KRYO 65 is built for high capacity coffee shops that need to produce consistent, excellent espresso. It also features a doser chamber for you to grind and dose quickly during a particularly mad rush, which also has the virtue of keeping things (relatively) clean.

If your cafe’s pace means you need to craft a quality espresso-based drink each minute, the KRYO 65’s speedy delivery (14 grams in about 4 seconds) will get you where you need to go. Watch as Brandon shows us its tech specs and features, including an internal tour of the burrs and grind shaft, plus a demonstration of of its grind quality.

Crew Review: Rancilio KRYO 65 Commercial Burr Espresso Grinder