Brewin’ with Brandi: Happy New Year Boozy Shakes!

Happy New Year 2014!In preparation for tonight’s festivities, here’s a special episode of Brewin’ with Brandi — Happy New Year Edition!

Many of you will be rockin’ the bubbly when the clock hits midnight, but there’s plenty of time to get in some yummy drinks beforehand. For example: Breakfast. If you had a little pre-funk last night and need a good way to alleviate the boozy shakes, or are looking to set yourself up for a remedy tomorrow morning, then this boozy shake is just for you. With coffee, liquor, liqueur and chocolate ice cream, it’s certain to be a party favorite.

Watch Brandi whip up a batch for us to enjoy.

Recipe: Boozy Shake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Irish whiskey
  • 2 cups chocolate ice cream
  • 1/2 cup chilled coffee
  • 1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 cup of ice (more or less)

Directions

Place all of the ingredients (or half or the ingredients) into the blender and turn it on high speed. If you have a ‘pulse’ feature you can use it to hear if your ice cream/ice cubes are well blended. Serve up to yourself and three of your favorite people.

Happy New Year!

Compare: Dual Boiler Espresso Machines

After many requests, we were finally able to get all of our dual boiler espresso machines in the same place at the same time — these guys have very busy schedules! But once we cornered a La Marzocco GS/3, Rocket Espresso R58 and Breville BES900XL at our Bellevue retail location, Gail made short work of a very thorough comparison.

First off you may be wondering why you’d choose a dual boiler machine to begin with. One of the primary benefits they offer is that you can control the temperature of the brew boiler independent of the steam boiler’s function. You can also brew and steam at the same time, producing cafe-quality lattes and cappuccinos in a snap. Each of the dual boiler machines we carry offer something a little bit different … here’s a quick overview:

La Marzocco GS/3 Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

La Marzocco GS/3

Originally designed by La Marzocco for roasters to use to test their espresso roasts, the smallish stature yet commercial grade components have made the GS/3 a sought-after home espresso machine for truly committed enthusiasts. Because it technically is a commercial machine, and can be used in very low volume commercial environments, its shot and steaming performance is most like that of a much larger pro model. The steaming is fierce and forthright, the shot temperature consistent throughout and it features an internal reservoir or plumb-in option. This is the machine for those that appreciate high quality with a little brand cachet.

Rocket R58 Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

Rocket Espresso R58

The R58, on the other hand, is a decidedly home-oriented espresso machine with commercial-grade components. Featuring an E61 brew head, a removable PID interface and an exceptionally polished stainless steel case design, it also has a convertible water source and a large steam boiler. While the GS/3 will steam your milk a bit faster, the R58 does enable you to work your milk a little bit, which is perfect for those with mid-range milk frothing skills. If you love the look of polished stainless steel and want a machine that recalls the classic design of early espresso machines, the R58 is a solid choice.

Breville Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

Breville Dual Boiler

Finally, we have the BES900XL, which is Breville’s entry into the dual boiler ring. Like their entire suite of products, this espresso machine is designed from a home appliance perspective — smaller footprint, increased ease of use and some people-friendly elements like an integrated storage tray and the ability to move the machine around on a wheel that’s integrated into the bottom. It has the smallest boiler set of the trio, making its steaming functionality much slower, which can be great news to anyone just learning how to make the fine micro foam necessary for latte art. It’s also the most budget-conscious of the lot, so definitely a great choice for folks who don’t want to drop a few thousand bucks for an espresso machine.

Want to learn more? Watch as Gail gives us a detailed feature and spec overview of each machine, then demonstrates how they perform by making us lattes. If you’ve been curious about these models or the benefits of a dual boiler espresso machine, this video should answer most of your questions.

SCG Compare: Dual Boiler Espresso Machines

Crew Review: Jura Impressa J9 – Redux!

Jura Impressa J9Next in our series of revamped reviews of Jura’s series of superautomatic espresso machines is the Impressa J9, a seriously sexy superauto that features Jura’s first implementation of the TFT screen. A gorgeous piece of eye candy, this full color menu is incredibly intuitive, with both programmable buttons and the rotary dial navigation Jura is known for. In addition to the fetching menu screen, the J9 also features one-touch cappuccino functionality, a sleek case design and luxe finishes like a polished stainless steel drip tray.

After having the Impressa J9 around for awhile and getting to know it much, much better, it was time for a redux! In this comprehensive review video, Chris takes us through the usual explanation of features and specs, provides tips and trick for making your favorite coffee on it, then demonstrates how simple it is to make a delicious espresso-based drink at the touch of a button.

The Impressa J9 is the superautomatic for you if you reside squarely where both form and function meet. It’s not only an excellent espresso machine, it looks darn great doing it … and who doesn’t love that? Check it out!

Crew Review: Jura Impressa J9 – Redux!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Winter Magic Coffee a la Jura GIGA 5

Jura GIGA 5This summer, we started filming Brandi as she tried out the rather unique drinks included in the Barista menu of the ultra-sophisticated Jura GIGA 5. From pepper-infused espresso to a souped-up latte macchiato, sampling these recipes was quite an adventure.

At long last, we’ve reached the end of the menu, topping it off with an interesting gem called Winter Magic Coffee. With ingredients such as chocolate hazelnut spread and ground ginger, we weren’t quite sure what to think. But we took it on anyway and were pleasantly surprised.

Like many of the drinks incorporated into the Jura GIGA 5’s Barista menu, it is an interesting answer to a question we had never even thought to pose: Will ginger and cardamom meld well with the flavor of espresso? Watch as Brandi rocks it out, again, and then both she and Gail give their feedback on the flava!

Recipe: Winter Magic Coffee a la Jura GIGA 5

If this drink intrigues you and you don’t happen to have a GIGA 5 at your disposal, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 pinch of ground ginger
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 1.5 oz of espresso
  • steamed milk to taste

Directions

  1. In your serving mug, combine the chocolate, honey, ginger and cardamom together, then stir well until smooth.
  2. Add the espresso and again stir until everything is well incorporated.
  3. Top with steamed milk to taste and serve!

What’s Your Signature Espresso Drink? Episode Two: The Puristas

Purista Blog - Coffee RoasterWe talk a lot about coffee experimentation here at SCG. The great thing about being a coffee lover is that there is always something new to learn. Heck, we will try any espresso drink and any coffee brewing method at least once and we love to share our knowledge.

Recently, we met a couple who have taken our raison d’être ‘How do you make great coffee at home?’ to new heights of exploration. They have even started to roast their own coffee beans at home! When passion and inquisitive minds collide … meet the bloggers behind Purista.

Home Roasters

David and Mae have a beautiful coffee review blog. In researching their coffee reviews they found ‘one green coffee can become any multitude of different roasts.’ Many coffee lovers would simply compare these final roasts but David and Mae were intrigued by the whole process. ‘In order to more fully explore coffee, and to provide ourselves with even more education and understanding, we decided to begin roasting coffee at home. We are still in the early stages of our roasting setup, and are learning new things with every roast.’

Ethiopia Aramo

David and Mae’s Recipe for Success

‘We recently adopted a back-to-basics mentality with our roasting. Per the suggestion of a member of the Sweet Maria’s coffee roasting community, we now roast in the following manner:

  • Turn on the roaster
  • Add just enough coffee to stop the rotation of the mass of coffee
  • Watch. Smell. Listen.

This has already proven so much better than how we were doing it before. Our roasts are now closer to seven minutes, rather than the four minutes we were getting before for the same roast level. This translates to a more developed profile — more complex aromas, flavors, finish.’

Signature Drink: Pomegranate Molasses Affogato

Here is the background and step by step recipe with pictures from David and Mae for this luscious and festive holiday treat. The volume yields 4 drinks total.

‘We wanted to create a signature drink that embodies the season, but keeps our Purista ideals in tact. What we mean by that is that we want the coffee to be the focal point and any additions secondary and complementary. Since we’re also proponents for taking the time to make something well, the recipe involves a bit of work.
Pomegranate Molasses Affogato

Ingredients

  • 1 pint Vanilla ice cream; chocolate ice cream would be a solid choice as well
  • 4 double shots Espresso
  • 8 oz 100% Pomegranate juice (POM makes a bottle just the right size)
  • 1 tbsp Agave sweetener (you can use cane sugar or honey instead)

Directions

We’ll walk you through the pomegranate molasses reduction before the assembly of the drinks. This takes some time, and attentiveness, but you can make it ahead of time and store it in a container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the pomegranate juice and agave sweetener and reduce on a medium-low heat. The liquid should simmer within about ten minutes. After ten minutes check it about every four minutes. In twenty eight to thirty minutes, the liquid should have reduced by more than half and coat a spoon ever so slightly, like syrup, when stirred. Don’t let it get too thick, as it will thicken a bit more as it cools, and for this drink we want it to be about the same consistency as the espresso.
  2. Remove from heat and let it cool about five minutes before pouring it into a suitable container. If you’re doing it ahead of time you can just put it in the refrigerator. If you need to use it relatively soon, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes.

And now it’s time for assembly …

Pomegranate Molasses Affogato

  1. Place 1/2 cup ice cream into 4 small cups or bowls. For reference, our INKER cups are 6 ounces. Place in the freezer until the espresso is prepared.
  2. Pull a double shot of espresso for each serving.
  3. Take the ice cream out of the freezer and pour a fresh double shot over each serving, followed by a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses.

Note the way that the syrup and espresso seamlessly blend together in texture. Then take note of the tartly sweet play on the coffee’s own acidity accentuated and complemented by the pomegranate. The ice cream is just a carrier vessel, and a balancing component that tames the intense flavors just enough, and shocks the coffee into a submissive temperature. This is our treat of the season, and since we can’t have you in our own living room, we send this decadence off to yours. Happy holidays!’

Many thanks to David and Mae. If you would like to share the recipe for your signature drink, send us an email!

How to Descale a La Pavoni

Uncle BobWe’ve descaled double boilers, heat exchangers, every superautomatic under the sun and even simple thermoblock-driven machines, but in all of our years giving scale the what-for inside espresso machines, we had not descaled a La Pavoni. So when Sam’s Uncle Bob asked us to show him the ropes, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to delve into something completely new!

La PavoniThe first part of the process, of course, was to find a willing participant, and Bunny stepped in to do the job. After working in our retail store for years and performing tune-ups for customers, she knows a thing or two about descaling machines, so we tasked her with researching how to perform it on a manual lever style machine like the La Pavoni. What she learned (and what we then filmed) was deceptively simple! It will take some time, patience, a little elbow grease and, of course, some Dezcal, but it was a very effective method for removing scale within the La Pavoni’s boiler and on its heating element.

Watch as she guides us through the process. And if you happen to have a La Pavoni or a lever machine that you descale in a different way, we’d love to learn new techniques! Post your process in the comments and we’ll share with the class.

SCG How-To Guides: Descaling La Pavoni Manual Espresso Machines

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Queen Mary Tea Room Review

After having our first snow last week and with the holiday spirit in the air, you can’t help but want to pop in a cozy tea room and warm up with a cup of cheer (aka tea).  With its sophisticated decor, the charming English-style Queen Mary Tea Room, owned by “Queen” Mary Greengo, makes for the perfect locale. I recently stopped by the University District-area store and, in an effort to slowly convert the rest of the crew into tea lovers, brought Kaylie along for the ride.Holiday Harvest Tea

Upon entering the Queen Mary Tea Room, we were seated next to the home of Princess, the tea room’s resident dove, who enjoys watching guests from her perch (I later found out her counterpart, Earl, a five-year-old pied dove, makes his home at the Queen Mary Tea Emporium down the street). I was curious to learn more about these feathered friends, so I asked Queen Mary’s Brand Ambassador, Michael Zaborowski, to tell me about their story. According to Michael, “Mary has always been a great lover of birds. She even has a Macaw and a Lovebird at home! They add to the elegance of the environment here, just as anywhere.” Both doves used to live at the tea room, but when Mary opened the Tea Emporium three years ago Earl was relocated there so he can greet guests with a coo as they enter the store.

Our table was decorated for the season, with miniature Christmas trees, a bowl of sparkling green, red and white sugar and beautiful floral bone china. After pouring over the menu of over 80 different teas from all over the world, Kaylie and I decided to select one of the special holiday teas. With six teas to choose from, we had a hard decision to make. However, in the end we decided upon Holiday Harvest, a flavored black tea described on the menu as being “infused with orange slices, cardamom pods, pink peppercorn, clove, cinnamon, coriander and apple pieces.” According to our server, this tea is a perennial favorite, so while the other holiday teas change every year, the Holiday Harvest is always featured.

The tea came in a pretty silver teapot and our server told us to steep the tea for three to four minutes.  So we flipped over the hourglass timer on our table and waited anxiously for the last grains of sand to trickle through the timer so we could try our tea.  The tea had a mild orange flavor, with a hint of spiciness and smelled like cloves, cinnamon and citrus. Kaylie described it best when she exclaimed, “This smells like Christmas! Like what Santa’s house at the North Pole would smell like.” We also got to sample the Roasted Chestnut tea (also flavored black tea), which had a very sweet smell (like a cinnamon roll) but a smoky, nutty taste.

Though the Holiday Harvest and Roasted Chestnut tea were very different, both of the teas were quite tasty. If you aren’t able to make to it Queen Mary Tea in time to try one of the limited-time Christmas teas, never fear, the shop does feature teas for different holidays as well. According to Michael, “Last February saw the ‘Romeo’s Raspberry Rose’ and March featured ‘Luck of the Irish Vanilla Cream’.”

sugar for teaAlthough I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Mary in person, I did get the opportunity to chat with her and Michael via email. Launched in 1988, Mary proudly admits that Queen Mary Tea Room is the oldest independently owned tea room in the United States.

Mary came up with the idea to create the tea room during one fateful lunch with friends. While all of Mary’s friends ordered coffee, she ordered tea, which Mary claims arrived “weak, watery and flavorless.” Thus, Mary adds, “The idea for the Queen Mary Tea Room was born. I want[ed] a place where guests fe[lt] warm and welcome to sit and enjoy the traditional tea experience with the best cup of tea they have ever had.”

While this incredible idea may have just been a passing fancy for some, Mary had the necessary skills to turn her dream into a reality. Prior to opening the tea room, Mary spent years as a banquet chef at a five-star hotel (she has a degree in culinary arts) and always had the desire to run her own business. Tea also comes naturally to Mary. A native of Seattle, which might as well be the coffee capitol of America, she has never had a cup of coffee in her life (neither had her mother and grandmother). But Mary’s background wasn’t the only sign the store was meant to be. Mary explains that she and her brother came up with the store name at the same time, on the same day. Mary says coming up with a layout for the store was equally painless, “The design just popped into my head and the vision came together in all of two minutes. I bought all of my kitchen equipment at auction and it all fit with only ¼ inch to spare.”

Whether you believe in things being kismet or not, one thing is for certain – Mary has created a unique and wonderful atmosphere. With tea and food designed to please everyone who enters, you certainly won’t find another tea room like Queen Mary (although Mary says customers keep requesting that she open another tea room elsewhere). Mary isn’t afraid to share her royal status either. If you ask, she or her staff will happily offer up tiaras for kids (and adults too!) to wear during birthday parties or other special occasions, allowing everyone a chance to be “queen” for the day.

Crew Review: Victoria Arduino Adonis

Victoria Arduino AdonisIf you asked us to characterize the nature of our time recently spent with the Victoria Arduino Adonis at Nuova Simonelli’s US headquarters, it would not be fit for the family-friendly tone of this blog. This sleek, gorgeous and elegant commercial-class espresso machine takes the sophisticated functionality of Nuova Simonelli Aurelia 2 T3 and wraps it in an incredibly fetching design.

Available in two to four brew group configurations, each with individually-controlled temperature and volumetric shot programming, the Adonis is designed for cafes that want the best of both worlds … if those worlds happen to be named Form and Function. With its gleaming stainless steel, accent lighting and unique brew head design, the Victoria Arduino Adonis is an elegant showpiece that will also produce exceptional coffee.

In this review video, Brandon guides us through its features and specs, then demonstrates how to make a latte. If you’re designing your cafe to include an element of showmanship and high design, then the Adonis by Victoria Arduino should definitely be considered.

Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Victoria Arduino Adonis

How to Program an Auber PID on the Rancilio Silvia

Rancilio Silvia with Auber PIDPerhaps more than any other home espresso machine, the Rancilio Silvia has a devoted, storied following. Originally designed by commercial espresso machine manufacturer Rancilio to give as a gift to their distributors, it quickly took on a life of its own and, for many years, was considered the go-to espresso machine for home enthusiasts who wanted to craft specialty coffee quality drinks.

Owing to its creators, the Silvia featured largely commercial-grade components, which hadn’t really been on offer for many home-class espresso machines before. With copper-plated brass internals, a 58mm standard chrome-plated brass portafilter and a traditional steam wand, it provides the tools you need to make excellent espresso-based drinks. But it does have one major design element that have caused some folks to deem it as ‘finicky.’

The Silvia is a single boiler espresso machine that employs a rather simplistic temperature regulation system — a bi-metal thermostat that engages and disengages the heating element by bending one way or the other (as determined by the machine’s temperature). So, if the machine is on the lower end of the temperature spectrum, a small metal piece will bend one way in order to make a connection and allow the electrical current to reach the element, beginning the heat up process. On the other side of the spectrum, once the machine’s internal temperature reaches a high that causes this thin metal to bend in the opposite direction, it will interrupt the current and the machine will cease heating up. This is a very common method of temperature regulation used in appliances or thermostats around the home, and while it is cheap, reliable and effective, it also lends itself to a wide arc of variable temperature.

When these temperature variables happen in your home, you put on a sweater; when they happen in your espresso machine, they can result in marked differences in shot quality. At the hottest end of the spectrum, your coffee will taste burnt and over extracted, while on the coldest end it will taste sour. One way you can ensure you’re brewing at the right temperature, however, is to ‘temperature surf’ — pull just enough cold water into the boiler to engage the heating element, then, after it’s heated up to its highest temp, wait a bit (to allow the temp to come down from its hottest level) and then brew. Another way you can manage this is to circumvent the bi-metal thermostat altogether and install a PID!

The PID will take over managing the boiler’s temperature by using a more sophisticated and programmable electronic chipset. At SCG, you have the option of ordering a Rancilio Silvia from us that already has an Auber PID installed, which offers the ability to program the boiler temperature and elements of extraction such as pre-infusion and shot timing. In the video below, Gail shows us how to get into the Auber PID unit that we install on the Rancilio Silvia, navigate through it and program it for your specific needs.

Yes, this was a rather extensive and detailed lead-up to a simple how-to video, but knowing is half the battle, friend. And the other half is brought to you by espresso.

SCG How-To Guides: Programming the Auber PID on the Rancilio Silvia

Crew Review: Jura Impressa Z7 – Redux!

Jura Impressa Z7While we affectionately refer to Jura’s Impressa Z7 as ‘the elder statesman’ of their one-touch superautomatic espresso machines, it is by no means outdated! At one time, it was their most sophisticated espresso machine, offering an array of programming features and one-touch cappuccino functionality.

Then came along the TFT-enhanced models like the J9 or the big daddy, the GIGA 5, and the Z7 seemed downright simple in comparison. But rather than considering it simplistic, we prefer to accentuate how streamlined it is — and even though there are other show ponies now available, it’s still a solid choice.

With Jura’s intuitive menu interface, the ability to program a selection of different drinks and the upgraded automatic frother technology that produces a finer, denser foam, there is a lot to love about the Impressa Z7. So we asked someone who truly loves it — and has for a long time — to refresh our review! Watch as Chris takes us through all of the features and specs, then demonstrates crafting a delicious latte macchiato at the single touch of a button.

Crew Review: Jura Impressa Z7 – Redux!