All posts by Kat

Brewin’ with Brandi: Caramel Maple Latte

Caramel Maple Latte RecipeIf there’s any way you’re going to make it through the trytophan-infused fare of the day, it’s via the magical meditative combo of coffee and drawing cartoon turkeys. So while you’re expressing yourself artistically, how about jazzing up your coffee with some seasonally-inspired syrup and sauce?

Today’s recipe features our favorite body lotion (er, Monin Caramel sauce) and Maple Spice syrup, which join forces to accent the espresso with sweet and creamy notes. Watch as Brandi crafts it on her new favorite easy-to-use superautomatic espresso machine, the Saeco Minuto.

Recipe: Caramel Maple Latte

Ingredients

Directions

In your serving cup, combine the sauce and syrup together, then add the espresso and stir well until thoroughly blended. Pour the steamed milk to taste — we used about 6 ounces, but you could use more or less depending on how sweet you like your coffee drinks.

Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Mythos

Nuova Simonelli MythosWhile we’ve reviewed other Nuova Simonelli commercial-class coffee grinders like the MDX and Eureka, we had never had the opportunity to spend quality time with the oft-mentioned Mythos. So when we visited Nuova Simonelli’s US headquarters in Ferndale, WA, we couldn’t wait to get our paws on one — let alone three!

Currently, the Mythos has a couple of variations that will soon evolve into three distinct models: The Basic, the Plus and the ClimaPro. The Basic is a straightforward dosing grinder that has an expansive bean hopper, programmable dosing functionality and the Mythos’ unique vertically-aligned burr set. The Plus has everything the Basic does, but adds a mechanical tamper to the mix. Finally, the ClimaPro features a smaller profile and a heating element in the dosing chute, which maintains a consistent temperature and, therefore, grind consistency amidst ambient temperature changes.

Watch as Brandon guides us through these three grinders, showing us how they work and compare with each other. He also talks about which type of business would benefit more from each of these styles of Mythos grinders, so you’ll be able to select the right model for your coffee-oriented business.

If you’d like to learn more about these specific models or pre-order a model, please contact Brandon and he can work with you to do so.

Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Mythos Grinders

Livia G4 vs. Musica Espresso Machines

Livia G4 vs. Musica Espresso MachinesWhen you’re dropping a couple thousand bucks on an espresso machine, your choices generally involve models with a more luxe approach to style and design, replete with commercial-grade components and sophisticated functionality. But beneath the heavy use of polished stainless steel and chrome-plated brass, these prosumer-class espresso machines feature different technical specifications that speak to the specific manufacturer’s method of getting to the same goal: You, making excellent espresso-based drinks for everyone you know.

And because you know we have a deep, abiding love for a grudge match, we’re pitting two more pieces of coffee gear against each other, for fun and profit! In the left corner, we have the Livia G4 Auto with PID by Pasquini and, in the right, we have a Nuova Simonelli Musica. While these are two Italian heat exchange espresso machines with commercial-class build quality, they have some pretty big functional differences.

First, the Livia G4 is available in a few configurations (semi-auto, semi-auto with PID and auto with PID) while the Musica is a simple, straightforward heat exchange with no temperature control options. Next, the Musica has proprietary brew head temperature regulation that produces some of the best no fuss, no muss espresso shots we’ve ever had, yet the Livia G4′s unique internal technical design (on the auto, its heat exchange is controlled by a PID and a thermoblock at the brew head maintains a consistent brew temp) means that you can play with how different brew temperatures affect your coffee. Finally, the Livia’s steam functionality, while strong, is a little more tame than what the Musica produces, giving it an edge to folks that are learning how to steam and texture milk.

Want to learn more about these two espresso machines? Watch as Teri gives us functional overview, then shows us how they compare, performance-wise.

SCG Compares: Pasquini Livia G4 v. Nuova Simonelli Musica Espresso Machines

Crew Review: Breville Colors

Breville ColorsEvery time we walk into a recently built or remodeled kitchen, we’re immediately struck by the drab uniformity of brushed stainless steel. We definitely think it has a place when it comes to certain large appliances like your stove or refrigerator, but if you have the opportunity to give your kitchen a little pop of color or deep accent, why not go for it?

Breville was picking up what we’re laying down because, after years of brushed stainless finishes on their popular suite of products, they’ve introduced a little variety into the mix. Enter Black Sesame and Cranberry versions of the Barista Express, Infuser and Smart Grinder. Functioning in the exact same way as their silvery counterparts, these gem-like versions will give your kitchen a possibly much-needed counterpoint. In addition to their gleaming, painted metal finishes, they also sport a polished stainless steel front that gives them even more pop — and eye candy!

If you’ve been interested in their machines but have wished for some style variety, then perhaps these new, limitedly-available hues will fit your bill. Watch as Gail shows them off.

Crew Review: Breville Colors

Crew Review: Jura Impressa XJ9 One-Touch for Offices

Jura Impressa XJ9If you own a small business and you’re looking to upgrade your office’s coffee experience — plus pretty much secure your receipt of a World’s Best Boss mug from your trusty crew — the Jura Impressa XJ9 is the only way to go! With all of the sophisticated features of the Impressa J9 one-touch, the XJ9 has been adapted for an office environment by expanding the capacities of its bean hopper, water reservoir, drip tray and dregs box.

Aside from the more generous volumes, it pretty much performs as the J9 does — programmable drink buttons, an intuitive full color TFT navigation screen and one-touch cappuccino functionality. Watch as Chris guides us through its features and specs, then demonstrates how easy it is to make a delicious cappuccino!

Crew Review: Jura Impressa XJ9 One-Touch for Offices

Brewin’ with Brandi: Chai Spiced Wine Recipe

Chai Spiced Wine RecipeWe would all love to be more organized, prepared, planned during the holiday season, but sometimes the festivities get the better of us and all of our good intentions go out the window. One of our favorite seasonal drinks to enjoy is mulled wine — the warmth of the rich red wine paired with the delicious mulling spices of clove, cinnamon and allspice is a difficult libation to beat. But it does take some planning: Most spiced wine recipes recommend warming your wine and spices on low heat for a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

If you need to whip something up a bit more quickly, our chai-infused version is a great way to produce this lovely seasonal flavor in a pinch. Watch Brandi whip it up, using Monin’s Chai Tea Concentrate.

Chai Spiced Wine Recipe

Tech Tip: How to Clean the Mazzer Major Commercial Coffee Grinder

Mazzer MajorEach time we provide an overview of a new coffee grinder like the Mazzer Major, we feel the need to also get down to the nitty gritty and show you how to take it apart, care for it, look for signs of wear & tear, then put it back together again.

A lot of our day-to-day work involves helping people get the most from their coffee gear, and one big way that you can do that is by keeping it enviably clean. Especially if you are running a coffee-oriented business! Day in and day out, you’re serving up delicious coffee to your adoring customers and you want to make sure that it’s fresh and fully represents what you’re all about, right? Taking care to regularly clean your grinder’s bean hopper, burr set, grinder chute and doser chamber (if applicable) will go a long way to improving both the consistency and the flavor of your espresso.

In this comprehensive how-to video, Brandon guides us through how to perform regular care and maintenance on the Mazzer Major. Watch him take it apart, assess the internals, clean and then re-assemble this popular commercial coffee grinder. If you own or work for a business that uses a Mazzer Major in your operation — and you’re not performing similar maintenance on a regular basis — might we recommend that today’s the day you change that trend? Follow Brandon’s guidance and you’ll see how simple it is to do so.

Tech Tip: How to Clean the Mazzer Major Commercial Coffee Grinder

Crew Review: Krups EA9000 – Barista One-Touch

Krups EA9000There was a time when we thought we’d never see some of our SCG crew mates again. They had fired up the new Krups EA9000 in our kitchen studio one morning and we didn’t see them for hours. When we did see them much later in the afternoon, they walked around with the glassy-eyed daze often seen on neophyte converts of rather concerning religious or political movements; their world had been irrevocably changed by the simple gesticulation of a steam wand.

And gesticulate it does! While one-touch cappuccino machines have been on the market for several years now, and there are a variety of ways that manufacturers have devised to produce them (carafes, steaming tubes, elves,) the Krups EA9000′s technology is rather unique. Instead of pulling milk from another container and putting it through a steaming process, you actually start with the desired amount of milk in your serving cup and a steam wand arrives via a complicated system of pulleys and robots (or something) to steam and froth your milk for as long as you like. This produces not only some of the best steamed milk we’ve seen on a one-touch, it produces the hottest because you can program it when to stop.

In addition to its unique steam wand functionality, it also has the ability to program several unique users, within which you can set your own set of customer, personalized drinks. There’s so much to this machine that it’s hard to know when to stop, but thankfully, it has a very forthright menu that succinctly guides you in basically every operation it performs.

Watch as Gail takes us through the Krups EA9000, then takes it through its paces!

Crew Review: Krups EA9000

Gear Testing: Milk to Perfection Latte Art Pitcher

Milk to PerfectionFor years now, our most popular video on YouTube has been Milk Steaming Tips, our latte art classes fill up before they’re even promoted and our support interactions are rife with questions (and frustrations!) around steaming milk. While everyone has a different perspective on shot quality and which machine produces the best espresso, they all have a similar goal with their milk steaming: A beautiful heart or rosetta to serve to themselves or someone they love. From the DeLonghi EC155 to the La Marzocco GS/3, the Saeco Vienna Plus to the Jura GIGA 5, how the milk is produced and the end result is high on everyone’s list.

So when tools are invented to improve the process for folks, we have to try them out, of course! Enter the Milk to Perfection steaming pitcher, which is designed to facilitate the clockwise swirl necessary for producing high quality, latte art style milk. Some machines (such as the Rancilio Silvia or the Nuova Simonelli Oscar) are known for their rather rowdy steaming functionality — a lot of strong steam that needs to be wrassled into producing nice, tight micro foam. So we thought that experimenting with how the Milk to Perfection performed on one of these steam-forward machines would be a great test to determine how effective of a tool it is.

Watch as Bunny steams up two pitchers on the Nuova Simonelli Oscar: First, a standard 20 oz. stainless steel pitcher and then the Milk to Perfection. Does one produce micro foam more easily than the other? Can either of them tame this steamy beast? Does it matter what kind of pitcher you’re using once you’ve been frothing milk for years? Find out in this fun side-by-side test and comparison video.

Milk Steaming Test: Milk to Perfection vs. Standard Stainless Steel Pitcher

Crew Review: Jura Impressa F7

Jura Impressa F7In the recent evolutions of Jura’s long line of sophisticated superautomatic espresso machines, they’ve been focusing on the one-touch cappuccino experience. If you’re someone who doesn’t drink milk-based drinks very often but would like the ability to share those with friends and family when they come over, the new Impressa F7 is well worth your consideration.

Not a traditional one-touch cappuccino crafter, the F7 is two steps: First, you make your shot, then you add your milk (or vice versa, depending on your tastes). Both of them will come out of the same dispenser, however, so you don’t have to move the cup around like on previous versions. It also features their intuitive menu within which you can set dosage and temperature of your shots, even the volume if you know precisely what you’d like. But then you can program it on the fly as drinks are being produced, so if you’re someone who likes to eyeball your coffee (like us!) then you can do that, too.

In his inaugural SCG video, our regional store manager, Chris, shows off the F7 to us. He’s a huge fan of Jura machines in general, but that doesn’t stop him from still giving us (and you) the straight dope on the good, the bad and the particularly gorgeous. Check it out!

Crew Review: Jura Impressa F7