When we started to poke around for a good general information book on espresso preparation and theory, we stumbled upon Scott Rao’s gem of a primer that covers pretty much everything you need to know about making excellent espresso, coffee and tea.
Designed to meet the needs of professionals in an industry that isn’t known for a lot of regimented curriculum, The Professional Barista’s Handbook is Rao’s answer to his own questions as he worked and developed his skill set over the years — opening, establishing and selling a couple of cafes along the way.
If you’re looking for a practical, well-thought-out guide that will give you some great information that you can apply to your home espresso setup, this book is definitely for you. It provides an excellent understanding of the basic theory behind different coffee preparations and the ideal ways to achieve the best flavor possible.
We recently ran across this news story from a few years ago on Reg Barber, his history and a bit of his manufacturing in Victoria, BC, Canada. It’s great to see where these beautiful tampers come from, and it’s a nice reminder of why investing in a handmade accessory is always a good thing.
One of these days, maybe Reg will let us up there to tour his factory! Stay tuned.
Looking for simplicity and convenience? You might want to try out one of Nespresso’s capsule-based espresso machines that feature an easy touch button interface and a wide array of pre-fabricated espresso capsules for you to choose from.
And this holiday season, Nespresso is offering a $50 Coffee Club credit on all machine purchases of $299 or more made between 11/19/09 and 1/17/10. This awesome rebate is available on machines purchased from any participating retailer, you just need to fill out the form available here.
Single and double boiler espresso machines can have greater temperature control if a PID is installed to more minutely manage the thermostat on the boiler. In this video, Gail talks about what a PID is and gives us the lowdown on why you might want one and how you can get one.
We’re huge fans of stovetop espresso at home, and we’re often just throwing in a little milk after the fact. Having a stand alone milk frother makes it easy to get a latte-style drink at home, sans espresso machine.
In this video, Gail shows us the FrothXpress, by Capresso, and gives us a demonstration on how it works. For our money, the Nespresso Aeroccino is probably still a better buy.
Looking to soften your water a bit without completely removing the mineral content? Try out one of these in-take resin water softeners. Not only are they rechargeable, so they’ll last basically forever, but they easily fit on any machine that uses an intake tube to pull water from the reservoir into the machine — such as the Rancilio Silvia, any of the Quick Mill machines or the Saeco Aroma.
It’s not super sophisticated, but it will reduce the hardness of your water and, in turn, how fast it takes scale to build up in your boiler and related waterworks. You can recharge it by putting it in a glass with water with a few tablespoons of non-iodized and additive-free salt (like kosher) and let it hang out once a week.
We often get requests for tips on how someone can achieve a silky, super-fine textured microfoam on a Saeco Aroma. Doing so is less a technique issue than an equipment issue: The Aroma’s stock panarello wand/sleeve are designed to automatically incorporate air into the milk during frothing, creating a fluffy foam. The benefit of this is that someone can get a nice foamy milk without a lot of skill or technique involved; however, the texture of the milk is more fluffy and airy — with larger air bubbles — than most people like, so it’s not ideal if you’re interested in achieving that shaving cream-like texture you often find at the hands of a pro barista.
So we went back to the drawing board and tried to modify the wand so that it would suck in less air during steaming. We tried duck tape, we tried epoxy, we even tried using the wand without the sleeve but it was just too short to really do a good job.
Eventually, Gail stumbled upon the stainless steel panarello steam wand replacements that we sell. These feature a tiny pinhole opening which pulls in significantly less air, so she tried putting it on the Aroma and it worked! By replacing the entire stock wand with the stainless steel version, we were able to successfully create a silky microfoam milk without requiring any type of skill or technique. Watch Gail below as she shows how the different wands compare and steams milk with each of them.
If you’re interested in picking up one of these steam wands, you can do so here.
We have a fairly impressive collection of Monin syrups, sauces and purees available here in the store or online and we’ve just added three new syrups to the mix.
Green Tea Concentrate
This sweet concentrate makes iced green teas simple and easy to whip up in a flash! We love its subtle flavor — and it’s really excellent mixed with the Monin White Peach syrup for a fruity and delicious iced tea.
Praline lovers will rejoice in this buttery, nutty syrup — perfect for your favorite coffee-based drink, or perhaps worked into a holiday-themed cocktail.
Bright and summery — even in winter’s dourest days! This syrup is a great for easily making Bellinis (mix it with sparkling wine) as a fruity and smooth holiday apperitif, or mix it in with a warm tea for something a little cozier.
When we started carrying the Breville espresso machines a few months ago, arguably the most common complaint we heard was that the pressurized filter basket easily clogged and was difficult to clean. We looked into the construction to see if there was something we could change about that, but decided to go with a upgrade altogether by creating a unique, non-pressurized porftafilter basket specifically designed to fit Brevilles!
In this video, Gail talks to us about the baskets and pulls us a shot to show us how they perform. If you have a Breville, this is a highly recommended upgrade to your setup. You will need to be more in tune with your grind and tamp than if you’re using the pressurized baskets, however, but you’ll have the opportunity to significantly improve your shot.
Looking for a pretty little number that won’t take up too much space and will keep your countertop clean? We’re talking about knock boxes, of course (what were you talking about?). The Grindenstein is a great choice for a home espresso setup and Gail shows us how it works, plus compares it with other knock boxes available.