All posts by Kat

Crew Review: Chai Diaries’ Blooming Teas

Chai Diaries There’s a lot to love about tea in general — there’s such a wide variety of styles and applications that it would seem nearly endless! We adore everything from a crisply brewed genmaicha to a bright earl gray over ice, herbal infusions when we have a sour belly or sore throat to fruit-infused tisanes that perk up creative cocktails. So when we brought in the blooming teas by Chai Diaries we were excited to experience yet another approach to brewing tea — albeit one that is significantly more gorgeous!

Over the following weeks, we brewed up and tasted all of their blooming teas, watching them with rapt attention as they slowly unfurled inside our Adagio Glass Water Kettle. We loved that not only did they produce a delicious pot of tea, they offered a lovely show and point of discussion for our whole crew. We can imagine these Chai Diaries teas as a unique and tasty centerpiece to a very special tea party!

Watch as Bunny and Brandi show us the different varieties we offer, then brew a pot of Double Happiness, a delicate tea infused with jasmine and chrysanthemum.

Crew Review: Chai Diaries’ Blooming Teas

Brewin’ with Brandi: Espresso Whipped Cream

Espresso Whipped Cream RecipeSometimes, simple is better; but other times, souping up simple is even better. Take this espresso whipped cream recipe, for example: With the minor addition of finely ground coffee to a fairly standard whipped cream recipe, you produce something that is altogether more sophisticated and refined.

This delectable topping could proudly accent a gourmet coffee brew or molten chocolate cake; heck, it could even stand on its own, chilled in a decorative serving glass. And if you don’t have Brandi’s rockin’ biceps to work it out with a standard whisk, you can whip it up using an electronic mixer when you’re not even in the room! What could be more simple?

Watch her show us how it’s done in this fun recipe how-to video.

Recipe: Espresso Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons golden brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground coffee – we used Velton’s Twilight

Directions

In a medium bowl, beat all the ingredients until it forms soft peaks. Can be prepared up to 4 hours in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator if needed.

Source

Crew Review: Curtis G3 Electric Water Dispenser

Curtis G3In recent years, the popularity of slowly-crafted, by-the-cup coffee preparations like pour over and immersion brewing has steadily increased in cafes across the US. Some shops will employ dueling hot water kettles in order to tailor the water temperature to each and every brew, and if you’re offering a wide selection of coffees prepared in this manner, then that still may be a great way of doing it. However, if you find that you’re brewing these coffees at relatively similar temperatures or your demand dictates a more efficient approach to water delivery, the Curtis G3 hot water dispenser is an essential tool of the trade.

With a simple programming interface, temperature control and the ability to aerate your water prior to delivery to ensure it is highly oxygenated — and tastes great — the G3 is an updated version of their tried-and-true electric hot water dispenser. It has a much more fetching case design, allowing it to fit right in behind the counters of even the most hip and stylish cafes, but it’s still easy to use under high volume brewing conditions.

In this review video, Brandon guides us through the Curtis G3′s features and functionality, shows us how to program it and set temperature and then discusses what kind of applications it is best suited for. In addition to aforementioned manual coffee brewing methods, we think this would also be an exceptional tool in a tea house.

Crew Review: Curtis G3 Electric Water Dispenser

Espresso Shot Comparison: Breville Dual Boiler v. Rocket Espresso R58

Espresso Shot ComparisonLining up a couple of espresso machines and comparing them against each other in terms of functional features, technology and build quality is one way of determining which machine is the best fit for your particular needs. Another tactic is a straight up espresso shot comparison — holding a practical, blind taste test between machines to see if you can taste a difference in the shot glass.

In response to a viewer requesting that we compare the Breville Dual Boiler against a machine with an E61 brew group, we asked Gail to setup the Rocket Espresso R58, dial both of the machines in using a Mazzer Mini coffee grinder, then pull shots simultaneously. Next, two willing volunteers from our Bellevue retail store, Michael and Kevin, donated their tastebuds to the cause and they gave us their opinion on how the shots compared, flavor-wise.

Ever wonder how the Breville’s brew head technology measures up against the classic, tried-and-true E61? Watch this fun video to see how they compared this time! Of course, the coffee you use will definitely play a part in this equation, and you could go further with this by performing several blind taste tests in a row and then averaging the opinions, but here’s our first stab. Enjoy!

Espresso Shot Comparison: Breville Dual Boiler v. Rocket Espresso R58

Crew Review: Jura GIGA 5 – Redux!

Jura GIGA 5Last, but in no way whatsoever least, in our series of refreshed Jura espresso machine reviews is the GIGA 5, an almost-ridiculously featured one-touch superautomatic that offers functionality like no other home machine available on the market.

In addition to its dapper case design, gorgeous, full color TFT navigation screen and one-touch cappuccino functionality, the GIGA 5 also rocks unique features such as dual coffee bean hoppers — which you can use to custom blend your beans — and an integrated Barista Menu that offers nearly 30 different programmable and customizable beverages, plus a slew of somewhat quirky guided recipes.

Crafting your cappuccino or latte macchiato at the touch of a button, the GIGA 5 is pretty much the top of the line where superautomatic espresso machines are concerned. We think the GIGA 5 is the machine of choice for gourmet home kitchens, small office break rooms or as a complementary service in a business environment such as a car dealership, art gallery or design studio.

But its singular features and exceptional functionality does come at a relatively high cost; if there has to be a drawback on this machine, it would be its price tag. Otherwise, it’s hard to go wrong with this gem!

Want to learn more about it? Watch Chris guide us through a comprehensive review, explanation and demonstration of the GIGA 5.

Crew Review: Jura GIGA 5 – Redux!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Winter Kiss Martini Recipe

Winter Kiss Martini RecipeIt’s a brand new year and that deserves a little celebration, no? If you didn’t get all of your festivities out of your system a couple of nights ago, or you’re someone who feels that every day should end with a little bit of celebration, then this martini recipe has you in mind.

Admittedly, we weren’t sure about the fruit-and-mint combination that is featured in this martini, but it turned out to be both very refreshing and a little bit sweet. So break out the booze and the cocktail shaker, grab a bottle of your Monin Frosted Mint and get to shakin’! Or, just sit back and watch Brandi do all the work, then live vicariously through her enjoyment of this lovely martini.

Winter Kiss Martini Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 oz. Monin Frosted Mint syrup
  • 1 1/4 oz. berry-flavored vodka
  • 1/2 oz. orange cognac
  • 2 oz. cranberry juice
  • ice
  • orange peel (for garnish)

Directions

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients and then shake well. Serve up in a martini glass and garnish with an orange peel.

Crew Review: Hario Cold Water Dripper

Hario Cold Water DripperOne of the things we appreciate the most in this world is a little mad science. Experimenting and having fun with coffee is the cornerstone of why we do what we do, so we’re always game to try out new ways of doing things. When we took on the Hario Cold Water Dripper last year, we had admittedly less-than-stellar results. So while we dug that it was a slow-food approach to making smooth cold brew coffee, it wasn’t high on our list of favorite gear.

Cut to last month when one of our techs, Bryan, decided to experiment with this dripper, then reported to us his findings. What’s the best way for a mad scientist to validate a theory? Perform the proof experiment, successfully, at least one more time! So in came Bunny and the rest is now history.

The cool thing about the Hario Cold Water Dripper is that there is an element of showmanship involved, but it is also relatively hands-off and produces truly delicious coffee. The key is getting the right combination of coffee dosage, water volume, grind particle size and droplet frequency, but equally important is the kind of coffee you’re using and the water you’re brewing with. We find that coffees that come out as a rich, chocolatey espresso tend to taste like actual chocolate milk as a cold brew, while others that have more bright, fruity notes produce an often berry-forward cold coffee. But every coffee you love should be at least experimented with as a cold brew to see how it measures up, so definitely have fun with it!

Watch as Bunny sets up her experiment, then we check back over several hours throughout the day as the Hario Cold Water Dripper slowly produces a delectable batch o’ joe.

Crew Review: Hario Cold Water Dripper – Redux!

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!