All posts by Brenna

Quick Review: Planetary Design French Presses

Planetary Design French PressesIf you’re lucky, you have a summer filled with fun adventures ahead of you. However, you maybe wondering what you are going to do without your favorite coffee or tea while you are away from home. Even if you don’t have a vacation planned, you may wish that you could take your coffee or tea with you on your ride to work. If you fall into either of these two categories, we have a variety of Planetary Design French presses that you can grab and take with you when you are on the go.

One option is the Table Top Coffee Press. This French press is available in a couple of sizes to ensure you have enough coffee for everybody. Although this press was originally designed for indoor use, it is incredibly durable and is perfect for camping and outdoor entertaining. Likewise, since the press is double walled and vacuum-insulated, it will keep your coffee warm for hours even if it is a little chilly outside.

The other Planetary Design French Press we carry is the Double Shot Travel Mug and Press. This French press is great for camping and back packing as well, and there are a couple of features we particularly enjoy. The first is that the travel mug comes with two lids, one lid that has a built in press mechanism and one lid that is a regular sippy top, so you can switch them out depending on which one you want. The second feature we like is the hidden compartment, which is found beneath the bottom of the cup, that allows you can store extra coffee or tea for later use.

While both of these French presses have great filtration systems, the Table Top Coffee Press even has two filters, we suggest that you use coarsely ground coffee with this French press. If you grind your bean to the finer side, you still may end up eating your coffee. To discover how to operate all of the Planetary Design French presses, watch as Dori walks us through their benefits.

Quick Review: Planetary Design French Presses

Crew Review: Krups Falcon

Krups FalconIn our technologically advanced lives, where nearly everything can be done in an instant, the desire for a fully automatic espresso machines is continuing to grow. Luckily, we have brands like Krups who are “dedicated to precision and technical perfection” to continue to create fancy little superautos for us. We recently got our paws on the newest machine to hit the U.S. market, the Krups Falcon EA84, and decided to give it a whirl.

With such an impressive name, we were a little disappointed that the Krups Falcon didn’t fly around our kitchen when we unpacked it. In all seriousness though, this machine does have some pretty impressive features. Instead of having pre-set drink options, the EA84 allows you to tailor your drinks to your specifications on the fly. For instance, you can choose the number of shots you want, the strength of the coffee (aroma) and the volume of water used to make the drink. Besides being smart enough to create the perfect drink, this machine also keeps track of how many drinks you’ve brewed and how many coffee pucks are in the dregs box. This allows the Falcon to remind you when it is time to clean the machine, descale, empty the dregs box and change the filter.

Another aspect we like about this machine is the super cappuccino, which is a milk frother and hose that you can attach to the steam wand to create rich and steamy microfoam. In fact, for automatic steamer, the super cappuccino gets surprisingly hot. In addition, there is even a handy container built into the corner of the machine’s drip tray where you can store this device when it is not in use. Ultimately, the Krups Falcon has a lot of programmability, making it a good option for someone who likes to try new things, and not get in a routine of having the same shot every day. To learn more about the Falcon, watch as Gail, Brendan and Scooter examine its functions.

Crew Review: Krups Falcon

Brewin’ with Brandi: Espresso Sugar Cubes

Espresso Sugar CubesWant to flavor your coffee, with cream, sugar and more coffee? Well, we have just the thing, with a bit of a sweet twist. What is this magical potion? Espresso sugar cubes! These sugar cubes are similar to the popular drink “shot in the dark,” which is a shot of espresso poured into a cup of coffee. If this blend of coffee, sugar and espresso doesn’t wake you up and get you’re heart racing in the morning, we don’t know what will!

These caffeinated sugar cubes are surprisingly easy to make. All you need is white sugar, brewed espresso and a few cooking utensils. If you want to get fancy, you can try experimenting with cookie cutters or ice cube molds to create different shapes like hearts, stars or seasonal patterns. If you really want to step up your game you can also try flavoring the cubes with something besides espresso, such as Monin syrups. For instance, we think Toasted Almond Mocha sounds pretty tasty, and that Rose flavored sugar cubes would even pair well with tea. In other words, don’t be surprised if you find us back in the kitchen playing around with sugar in the not so distant future. In the meantime, watch Brandi and Kaylie get their buzz on as they mix up these espresso sugar cubes.

 

Brewin’ with Brandi: Espresso Sugar Cubes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons brewed espresso

Directions

  • Measure out the white sugar and brewed espresso into a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir the ingredients together until everything is moistened and combined. The mixture should have the texture of wet sand.
  • Pour mixture onto a large rectangle baking dish or baking sheet, and smooth out the mixture with a spatula. You’ll want the mixture to be about ½ inch high, otherwise you will have giant sugar cubes.
  • When you have achieved your desired thickness, cut the sugar mixture into small squares to form cubes.
  • Let the cubes air-dry, uncovered for 12-24 hours.

Tech Tips: Cleaning and Maintaining a Drip Coffee Maker

Cleaning and Maintaining a Drip Coffee MakerHere at SCG, we discuss the importance of taking care of various espresso machines and coffee accessories quite a bit. So, imagine our surprise when it came to our attention that we had yet to cover cleaning and maintaining a drip coffee maker. Although we use these machines every day, it seems that they are so easy to use that we tend to forget that they need maintenance too. Once we realized we were remiss in our ways, we set out to remedy the situation as soon as possible. We took stock of our machines, and realized that the much-loved Technivorm Moccamaster in our break room was overdue for a cleaning. Thus, we temporarily borrowed this little dude to return it to its shinning glory.

The first step in maintaining your drip coffee maker is making sure to descale from time to time. Technivorm recommends using Urnex’s Dezcal Coffee/Espresso Machine Descaler, so we used it for our descaling process, but it is a good idea to check with the manufacture of your particular machine to see what they suggest. To descale, simply mix the descaler with hot water and fill up the water tank with the mixture. When you turn the machine on, the mixture will be pulled through the water path of the machine and clear put any scale that has built up. Once you have finished descaling, make sure to run two cycles of just plain water through your machine to rinse out all of the descaling solution.

After you have descaled your drip coffee maker and rinsed it free of solution, the third, and final, step in this maintenance process is to give your machine a good cleaning. To do so, soak all parts of the machine that come into contact with coffee residue in Cafiza. Generally speaking, these pieces are the coffee pot, coffee pot lid, brew basket lid, water tank lid, spray arm and brew basket. Let all of this gear soak for about 5-10 minutes, then give it a rinse and wipe it down. You also may want to dip a rag into your Cafiza solution and give the outside of the water tank, heating plate, stand, etc. a good wipe down to get your coffee maker extra clean.

One important thing to keep in mind is that while descaling a drip is easy, it doesn’t mean should do it all the time. Generally most manufactures will have a recommendations for often you should descale, so it’s a good idea to consult your manual or local service center for advice before you start the descaling. To learn more about how to clean and maintain your drip coffee maker at home, watch Brendan take us through the process in this video.

Tech Tips: Cleaning and Maintenance for Your Drip Coffee Maker

SCG Westlake Store Update #1

SCG Westlake StoreWhat’s better than opening one new store this summer? Opening two! In continuation with our plan to take over the world, we are proud to announce that we will be opening a SCG Store in Westlake Center. The store will be our third location in the greater Seattle area and the fourth retail location we’ve opened overall.

The store will be open for business on July 15th, and we will be having a special grand opening celebration on July 19th. In addition to being located in the heart of downtown Seattle, one of our favorite things about this location is all of the windows. The store has a bank of windows that look out onto the mall and there are also several windows that face onto 5th Avenue, allowing you to find us easily from every direction.

As you might have guessed, Gail and Jim (and Scooter!) are once again busily working away in our shop. Yep, they have this build on top of the one they have already been working on for Portland; and you thought you had a jam-packed summer. As busy as we may sound, we are really excited about our grand openings, as they will make for an excellent summer. We also looking forward to seeing a lot of new faces in our stores, and hopefully some old ones too!

We recently made a trip down to the SCG Westlake store to pick out paint colors and determine what kind of fixtures we would like to install. Check out the video below to catch a sneak peek of the space.

SCG Westlake Store Update #1

Brewin’ with Brandi: Seahawk Burger

Seahawk BurgerRecently, the Seahawks have been a pretty deal around these parts. They did win the Super Bowl after all. Not ones to fall behind on a trend, we decided to celebrate their success by creating our own yummy treat – the Seahawk burger!

What makes this burger special? It has espresso in it! What, you thought we’d make something that didn’t involve coffee? Besides espresso, this burger contains the usual ingredients you would expect to find. To keep this recipe local, we did try to use Washington or Seattle-based produce, coffee and wine. Think Beecher’s cheese, Chateau Ste. Michelle wine and locally roasted espresso. We think this burger might also pair really well with a beer from one of our many craft breweries, such as Redhook or Pyramid. However, if you don’t live in the area, feel free to substitute in your own local brands.

While some naysayers, or fans of rival teams, may try to argue that football season is over, nothing says summer like grilling burgers on the barbeque. If it happens to be raining, you can always cook the burgers in a skillet. Plus, these burgers are a great way to help tide yourself over until football season starts up again.

Hungry? Check out our video to learn how to make these giant (and tasty!) Seahawk burgers with Brandi and Kaylie. You may even catch a glimpse of a surprise guest.

Brewin’ with Brandi: Seahawk Burger

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 sliced sweet onion (such as a Walla Walla)
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup Washington state red wine (Merlot or Syrah)
  • ½ shot brewed espresso (such as Zoka’s Espresso Paladino Blend)
  • 4 (6 oz.) grass-fed ground beef patties
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 1 cup arugula (you will need a ¼ cup for each burger)
  • 12 slices of Colby Jack Cheese (use 3-4 slices for each burger)

Seattle Aioli:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • ½ shot brewed espresso

Directions:

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onions and mushrooms in the oil until the onions start to caramelize and mushrooms soften, or about 5-10 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to the skillet to season the vegetable mixture. When the mixture has cooked down, add the red wine and ½ shot of brewed espresso (reserving the other ½ for later).
  • Cook the vegetable mixture for five more minutes until most of the wine and espresso burn off. This will give the mushrooms and onions a really nice flavor.
  • In the meantime, cook four hamburger patties to taste and begin preparing the Seattle aioli.
  • To make the aioli, combine the mayonnaise, Sriracha sauce and other ½ of the espresso shot together in a medium sized bowl. Wisk until smooth.
  • Spread aioli on each hamburger bun.
  • When the burgers are done grilling, top each patty with 3-4 slices of Colby jack cheese, mushroom and onion mixture and arugula lettuce.
  • Makes four large burgers – enjoy!

Crew Review: Frieling Coffee-for-One

Frieling Coffee-for-OneIf you’re looking for a pour over brewer that you can take with you on camping trips or other travels this summer, look no further than the Frieling Coffee-for-One. This single cup brewer is small in size and made mostly from plastic, making it lightweight, not easily breakable and very portable. Likewise, since the Coffee-for-One features a 23-carat gold-platted filter, you won’t have to worry about packing (or packing out) paper filters. After all, there’s nothing better than enjoying the great outdoors while reducing your ecological footprint at the same time. The other benefit of having a gold filter is that it enables the brewer to produce a cup of coffee that is similar in flavor to a cup produced on a coffee maker.

Of course, we wanted to see the Frieling Coffee-for-One in action. As such, we conducted a two-part test to see how easy the brewer is to use and what kind of flavor it produced. The Coffee-for-One passed the first part of the test with flying colors. To brew with this pour over, all you have to do is load coffee into the filter, place the water infuser on top and pour in hot water. You don’t even need to worry about getting all of your grounds wet, since the infuser has a shower head-like water distributor that will do the job for you.

When it comes to creating the flavor you desire, you may have to do a bit of experimenting. The instructions suggest using one heaping scoop of coffee when brewing a cup, but we found that this measurement produced a pretty light cup of coffee. Thus, if you are a daily coffee drinker who likes a strong coffee, we recommend using either two or three scoops when crafting your brew. Everyone’s tastes are different though, so it is a good idea to play around with the grind, amount of coffee and volume of water to find out what tastes best to you.

Not sure where to start? Watch Dori and Chris try out a few different grinds on the Frieling Coffee-for-One in the video below. You can even compare tasting notes and see if you get the same results.

Crew Review: Frieling Coffee-for-One

Crew Review: Krups EA82 Redux

KRUPS EA82Krups has been popular for decades, and much of the brand’s success is to due to the fact they create products with a high level of functionality and enduring quality. As such, it is no surprise that they are the maker of some of our favorite little robots, aka automatic coffee and espresso machines. Part of this lineup includes the Krups EA82 Espresseria, which has been around for a couple of years. In fact, its small size and affordable price have had made this machine one of our tried and true products. It has been awhile since we played around with all the features of this machine, so we decided to give it a more an in-depth look.

The Espresseria may appear unassuming at first glance, but this espresso maker packs in a lot of features for a machine in this range. The EA82’s display and programming make it incredibly easy to use, even for novice baristas. Likewise, the thermoblock boiler allows the Espresseria to create consistently hot drinks time after time. (A word to wise, by hot, we mean really hot, as in almost 200 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, you may want to let your drink cool down for a minute or two to avoid burning your tongue like us.) The milk frother does an excellent job of creating rich, foamy milk. Plus, it is nice to have the option of being able to have the EA82 froth your milk automatically or try your hand at frothing yourself. Most superautos only provide automatic frothing, so the opportunity to play around if you start to feel adventurous is certainly an added benefit.

If the Krups EA82 didn’t already simplify your life enough by making delicious espresso drinks for you, it also contains a special slot for storing a plastic coated manual. This feature ensures that your manual is always close at hand if you ever need to troubleshoot your machine. That’s right, no more digging through a “junk drawer” of manuals to find the one you need. Should you need further assistance, there is contact information for support in nearly every country imaginable, so no matter where you are help is never far away.

Finally, while most superautomatic espresso machines can be bulky, the Krups EA 82 is pretty small in size and will not take up a lot of space on your counter. As such, this machine is great option for people who are just starting out, don’t have a lot of room or looking for an affordable machine to help ease them into the world of espresso. To learn more about the Krups EA82, check out Brendan and Gail as they model a few of our stylish SCG t-shirts, and try out some of the machine’s settings.

Crew Review: Krups EA82 Redux

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Review of High Tea on an Alaskan Cruise

premium teaThe end of May and the beginning of June are not only the beginning of the camping and backpacking season for many people, but they are also the start of the summer vacation season. While many people in the greater Seattle area travel to warmer climes, another popular vacation destination is Alaska. After all, Alaska is considered part of the Pacific Northwest, albeit a very far northern part of it. In fact, a few of our other crew members have already made the trek, so I decided it was my turn and booked myself on a cruise. Besides, in addition to getting to explore the beautiful scenery, I thought it would be a great chance to check out the coffee and tea scene up north.

Before I left on my trip, a few of my co-workers gave me some advice on things to do while traveling. One of the most important pieces being to make sure to see if my cruise ship offered high tea on of the days during the trip. Once I was onboard, I glanced at the schedule and was excited to find that there indeed was a high tea planned for the next day and made a note to attend.

tea treatsTo my surprise and delight, the tea was far fancier than I expected. Arrayed on at least two-dozen, if not more, platters were hundreds of sweet and savory teatime goodies. These treats included sandwiches made with smoked salmon, cucumber, prosciutto, turkey and roast beef combined with either cream cheese or mayonnaise. In addition, there were a variety of muffins, breads, éclairs, brownies, cookies, cakes, tarts and fruit. There was even a snack that was new to me for teatime – biscuits and gravy! Behind this gigantic spread of food were six beautifully hand-carved watermelons and an ice sculpture of a windmill. In short, the display was stunning.

With so many different snacks available, it was difficult to take them all in, let alone decide which ones to sample. After much deliberation, I ended up picking up a salmon sandwich, cucumber sandwich, éclair, fruit tart and a chocolate covered strawberry. All of which were very tasty. The tea served, although good, wasn’t quite as impressive as the food. The tea was a pretty common brand that you could likely find at your local grocery store. However, I did pick up a little secret for others that also prefer to have premium teas at teatime. You can bring your own tea and brew it at your table. Hot water is readily available at every table, so all you need is your loose leaf tea and an infuser. The beauty of this approach is that you can use whatever travel brewer you prefer, be it a tea filter, a small tea infuser or travel tumbler. Even without this remedy, the high teas were definitely worth revisiting. There was one held at the same time each day of the cruise and some even had different themes, such as a cupcake tea.

Alaska Wild TeasWhile I wasn’t able to go to high tea every day, I did get a chance to check out some local Alaskan teas while I was on land. The brand of teas I stumbled upon is, not surprisingly, called “Alaska Wild Teas.” These teas are not “true teas” but are rather tisanes made out of a blend of wild Alaskan herbs, fruit and berries. Even though they aren’t true teas, they sure are tasty! The teas come in flavors like blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, wild rose and strawberry, and can be served hot or cold. I even brought some back home with me to continue to enjoy and share with friends and family.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and it was interesting to sample and learn about teas from another part of the country. Will you be traveling somewhere exotic this summer that will also allow you to partake in local coffee or teas? Let us know about your experience in the comments.

(Not so Scientific) Experiment: Brewing Tea in the Bonavita Immersion Dripper

Immersion DripperEarlier this week we showed you how to make coffee on the Immersion Dripper, and now you can learn how to make tea on it. That’s right, tea! While a lot of our gear is designed with coffee in mind, there are a number of products that can also brew tea perfectly as well. Maybe tea and coffee aren’t so different. Perhaps the two camps can even finally make peace with each other and agree that both beverages can be equally delicious in their own way. Okay, that might be going a little too far, but at least they can share the same gear!

To be honest, it actually hadn’t occurred to us to brew tea this way until one of our viewers asked if it was possible. However, as you have probably learned by now, we love playing crazy chemists and jumped at the chance to try out this experiment. Besides, the fact that the Immersion Dripper has that valve on the bottom you can open and close (or turn on and off) that we like so much, made this product seem like a pretty good choice for steeping tea.

The setup for preparing tea on this dripper is basically the same process for brewing coffee. Place a filter inside the brewer and pre-infuse with hot water to dampen the filter and heat up the cup. In fact, since we are using loose leaf tea for this experiment, we think the filter will work much like a tea bag, but better since we are using full leaves and not tightly constraining them, and keep sediment from getting into our brew. Next, we combined Rishi Masala Chai tea with boiling water in the Immersion Dripper, let the tea steep for the desired time and sampled a cup or two. To see how the tea turned out, watch as Dori and Chris perform this experiment!

 

(Not so Scientific) Experiment: Brewing Tea in the Bonavita Immersion Dripper