Category Archives: Accessories

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta

SCG's Tune Up Kit for Pasquini LiviettaLast week we shared our affection for the Pasquini Livia G4, and discussed how to care for the machine. This week, it is time for another of one of Pasquini’s semi-automatic espresso machines to enjoy the spotlight. Almost like a little sibling to Livia, at just 12 inches tall and 8 inches wide the Livietta is probably one of the smallest semi-autos on the market. However, don’t be fooled by the machine’s diminutive size, it still packs a powerful punch. The Livietta has two thermoblocks, which enable simultaneous brewing and steaming, as well as a very fast heat up time. Since this machine does so much work for you, it is important to provide your Livietta with a little TLC every once and a while. As part of this process, we recommend giving the machine a thorough cleaning and using SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta to exchange the parts that are showing signs of wear and tear.

How do you know when its time to replace some of the parts on your machine? A few key signs to look out for are water or coffee coming over the top edge of your portafilter when brewing, your pump working harder or the flavor of your coffee just generally tasting off. The first scenario is likely occurring because your brew head gasket has failed and is no longer making a seal with your portafilter. Meanwhile, the later two scenarios are probably being caused by coffee residue that has built up on your brew head screen or in your portafilter basket, which does actually make your machine work harder and can taint your coffee. In either case, your Livietta is definitely in need of a tune up, so you can replenish the rundown parts.

Removing and installing SCG’s Tune Up Kit for the Pasquini Livietta is basically the same process we used on the Livia. You will remove all the accessories on the machine, flip it over and began removing the brew head components (brew screen screw, brew screen, diffuser and gaskets). The main difference between the two machines in this process is that in addition to the brew head gasket, the Livietta also has a shower screen holder gasket. This just means that you have two gaskets to uninstall, remove the shower screen holder gasket followed by the brew head gasket, which might require a bit of extra elbow grease. As usual, the next step is to clean any coffee grounds and residue out of the brew head (your diffuser and portafilter basket should already be soaking in a Cafiza solution made with the tablet provided) to prevent it from eating away at the new parts you will be installing.

Next you can begin installing the new parts in the reverse order from which you removed them. When it comes to the gaskets, install the brew head gasket first, followed by the shower screen holder gasket. When installing the screen gasket into the groove created for it, make sure that you don’t twist the gasket to make it fit or it won’t fit properly. To speed up and simplify the installation process, you can lineup the diffuser, shower screen and screw and thread them back into the brew head. Do one final check with your portafilter to make sure everything is seated right, and you’re done!

Want to see the process of installing SCG’s Tune Up Kit for the Pasquini Livietta in action before tackling it yourself? Check out this video to have Brendan walk you through it.

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta

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

SCAA 2014: Hario Beam Heater

HarioAs we mentioned a few weeks ago, to us, Hario means happiness (the true meaning of the word is “king of glass”). And nothing makes us happier than fun new coffee gear to play with! Thus, we made sure to make our way over to the Hario booth while we at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) expo. As we expected, Hario had a ton of great new products on display. We’re big fans of science and are always interested in creating experiments of our own, so our two favorite products that are new to the United States market are the Hario Beam Heater and the Hario Next Siphon.

Luckily, we had Kris Fulton from Lamil Coffee (a California based coffee house) to explain the beam heater to us. One of the main advantages is that the heat it emits comes from a really high-powered halogen lamp, which comes with a dimmer switch that allows you to have more control over the heat coming off the lamp as well as the direct heat on the coffee. To show us how the beam heater works Kris demoed it with the Next Siphon, enabling us to learn more about the siphon as well. Siphon brewing as become pretty popular in the past couple years, since not only does it produce a great cup, but it is also neat to watch and is sure to impress your guests. So we put our “scientist hats” on and watched Kris brew us on a cup of coffee. Although the process does look like a science experiment, we were happy to find that this brewing method is not as complicated for the barista as it sounds.

Basically, using a siphon brewer is all about pressure. Once the water in the bottom chamber of the siphon gets to the right temperature, you use the rubber seal at bottom of the top chamber to create a vacuum that draws the water from the bottom chamber to the top chamber. When all the water is in the top chamber, you introduce the coffee to the hot water. The next step is to give the coffee a stir to fully incorporate it and then let it sit for a certain amount of time. After the coffee sits for the desired length of time, you turn off (or remove) your heat source and break the seal you created earlier. This causes the vacuum between the two chambers to suck the coffee down into the bottom chamber. As the coffee is being sucked down, the ground coffee is going to be filtered out by the metal filter. Thus, at the bottom of the carafe you will have fresh brewed coffee and at the top of the carafe you will have ground coffee. The resulting coffee, according to Kris “has the full-body richness you get from a full-immersion brewer like a French press combined with the clarity you get from a percolator like V60 or a pour over.” In other words, it is delicious! To learn more about both of these products, and to see them in action, watch as Kris shows them off in this video.

SCAA 2014: Hario Beam Heater

Crew Review: Hario Coffee Dripper V60 and Accessories

Hario Coffee Dripper V60If we could translate the name Hario into the language of coffee, it would mean happiness. Why do we love Hario so much? Because they have developed a variety of pour over gear like the Hario Coffee Dripper V60, Buono Coffee Drip Kettle, V60 Glass Server, V60 Drip Scale as well as grinders and other accessories.

One of our favorite items is the V60 coffee dripper itself, since it comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials. You can get the Hario V60 in ceramic, glass or acrylic, and it comes in three sizes that make two, four and even six cups of coffee – so you can share with your friends of course! The scale has some pretty impressive features as well. You can use it as both a scale to weigh your coffee and also as a timer, so you can make sure your pour over brews for just the right amount of time. Of course it’s hard not to love the glass server, which looks somewhere between a cute little beehive and a carafe, will pretty up any tabletop. The server’s airtight lid enables you to keep in the aroma of your coffee and it is handy for making cold brew in your refrigerator. What is even cooler is that you can combine all of these pieces together with the V60 Drip Station to create your own fancy setup, transforming your kitchen into a gourmet coffee bar.

We’ve talked about these products quite a bit over the years, so we thought we’d share our preferred way to brew on these coffee drippers. And who better to demonstrate this than Dori and Chris, who are big fans of pour over brewing. Watch as they brew up some super-smooth, nearly acid-free coffee on the Hario Coffee Dripper V60 and show how to use all the accessories you can pair with it at the same time.

Crew Review: Hario Coffee Dripper V60 and Accessories

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for E61 Brew Group

Tune Up Kit for E61 Brew GroupThe E61 group head is one of the more popular brew groups, and is seen on a number of different brands of espresso machines like Rockets, Alex Duettos, older ECM machines and some Quick Mills. In fact, the E61 is one of our favorite types of brew groups since it is designed to provide consistent heat, enabling your water temperature to stay the same from the boiler to the moment of extraction. However, just like any other brew group, it is important to clean and perform regular maintenance on the E61 so it continues to produce tasty shots day after day. Luckily, we’ve made the job easier by creating a Tune Up Kit for the E61 Brew Group for both 8mm and 8.5 mm gaskets.

“Why are there two different sized kits?” you may ask. The reason is the metal on metal friction from your portafilter rubbing against your brew head will wear down the “ears” on your portafilter. As a result, there will be a gap between the brew head and the portafilter, causing the portafilter to no longer sit straight in the machine. This is normal and will happen on most machines, but to get it sitting properly again you will need to start using a 8.5mm gasket. Thus, to help you out, we have also made an E61 Brew Group Tune Up Kit with a 8.5mm Gasket.

However, even though you know that doing preventative maintenance on your machine is important, the process can sound a little daunting. After all, once you take the brew head apart there are all of those little pieces to keep track of and then you have to figure out how to put everything back together. The reality is reassembling your brew head it is isn’t too difficult, and we even include step-by-step instructions in our tune up kit for E61 brew group (as well as all our other parts kits) to help you out. If this isn’t enough to dispel your fears, you can allow along with Brendan in this guided video.

 

SCG Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for E61 Brew Group

Quick Review: La Cafetiere Lexi Cafetiere – 8 Cups

La Cafetiere LexiIf you love French press coffee as much as we do, why not ex-press this love of yours by using the La Cafetiere Lexi to brew up some tasty java? Not only will this porcelain cafetiere, don’t let the name confuse you – cafetiere is synonymous with French press in Europe, look elegant on your dining room table but it also will keep your coffee warmer longer than glass models since it helps retain heat. However, you will have to pre-warm that carafe in order to get it up to temperature. Another advantage of this French press is that the silicone gasket inside the pot makes for easy brewing, as it provides an excellent seal.

Making coffee on a French press may sound fancy (and hey, why not exploit the term a little to impress your guests) but it is actual pretty simple to make. First, heat your water to about boiling, we used a Bonavita Variable Temperature Electric Kettle in our example, or 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Then measure coarsely ground coffee into the cafetiere and pour a small amount of water over them. Let the grounds “bloom” for about 20-30 seconds before pouring in the rest of the water. Next, allow the grounds steep in the water for about five minutes, you can brew your coffee for a shorter (four minutes) or longer (six minutes) length of time depending on how strong you like it to be. You can also give the grounds a stir halfway through the steep time if you would like to allow them to mix. After the coffee has steeped, slowing press the plunger down, so finer grounds don’t escape through the sieve. And you’re done, you’ve have successfully made French press coffee!

To see the process in action, watch Miranda as she makes a cup of coffee on the La Cafetiere Lexi. If you want even more tips on brewing with a press pot, check out our snazzy infographic on how to make excellent French press coffee.

Quick Review: La Cafetiere Lexi – 8 Cups

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune-Up Kit for the Oscar and Musica

Tune-up kit for the Oscar and MusicaNuova Simonelli how much do we love you? Let us count the ways. With their beautiful design and professional functionality it is really hard not to love these machines. However, if you want to ensure your machine has a good long life, you’ll need to give it a little tender loving care. Part of that TLC (no, we don’t mean T-Boz, Left Eye or Chilli) is replacing some of the parts of the machine that see a bit more wear and tear, like the brew head gasket and screen. Since Nuova Simonelli machines are some of the more popular espresso makers we have around, we decided to help you out and create a tune-up kit for the Oscar and Musica. This kit includes a brew head gasket, shower screen and show screw. These parts will work for both the Oscar and the Musica; the installation is just slightly different.

Replacing your brew head gasket and screen may sound difficult, but it is actually pretty easy. When it comes down to it, your main tasks are just removing a screw and puling out a gasket. If you have an Oscar, we recommend laying down some soft towels and flipping the machine over to have better access to the brew head. Unfortunately, you can’t do this if you have a Musica due to the way the boiler is set up. Your next steps are to remove the old, worn out brew gasket and screen, clean the brew head and install the new parts from the kit. Easy peasy! How do you know when to tune-up your machine? Some customers said they have noticed they need to replace these parts at about every six months or so, but if you use your machine less frequently you may find you only need to replace them once a year. You can also watch for coffee and water leaking around the top edge of your portafilter or for lots of coffee grounds building up around your screen.

Inspired to give your machine a tune-up but want to see the process in action before attempting it yourself? Check out Brendan’s video on how to use the tune-up kit for the Oscar and Musica and pick up a few tips and tricks.

 

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune-Up Kit for the Oscar and Musica

Quick Review: aerolatte Cappuccino Art Stencils & RSVP Shaker

aerolatte cappuccino art stencilsWhen it comes to latte art, we know there often can be a steep learning curve. Heck, just getting your milk to the right consistency to make the perfect latte can be challenging enough. Not only to do you have to figure out when to plunge the steam wand into your milk, but you also have to simultaneously work the milk to produce smooth and velvety microfoam. On top of that, you then to hold your wrist at a certain angle and pour your milk at just the right speed to create your design. Whew! It makes those of us who haven’t yet mastered this technique tired just thinking about it.

If you too haven’t quite refined your latte art making skills, never fear! The aerolatte Cappuccino Art Stencils are the answer to your problem. These six stencils come in an array of patterns, including a cute winky face and a pretty spiral, and allow you to create art of your own without having to worry about perfecting your pour. There’s nothing wrong with faking it until you make it, right? Besides, these whimsical designs are sure to stop any naysayers in their tracks. After all, you are still creating art.

Best of all, these stencils are incredibly easy to use. Just place them on top of your latte or cappuccino, use a shaker, such as the RSVP Endurance Fine Mesh Shaker, to sprinkle on anything from chocolate powder to cinnamon on top of your drink. We like using red velvet cake mix to top our lattes since it adds a pop of color to the drink. After you have topped the drink with powder, remove the stencil and you’re good to go! You’ve just created a latte that is sure to impress your guests at your next dinner party as well as entertain any kids in your home. To see the aerolatte Cappuccino Art Stencils in action, watch as Miranda uses them to decorate her drinks.

Quick Review: aerolatte Cappuccino Art Stencils & RSVP Shaker

Brew Tips: How to Store Your Coffee Beans

Coffee BeansYou’ve found the perfect espresso machine or coffee maker for you and gotten some tasty coffee beans to brew with. However, now you’ve started to use your beans, you may be wondering how to store them so that they retain their flavor and stay in the best shape possible. This subject can be quite confusing, as there almost as many ideologies on the best way to store coffee beans as there are roasts. In the hope of clearing things up, we completed a variety of tests to determine the best way to keep your coffee fresher longer.

The Freshness Factor

You may have heard that coffee has a short shelf life, which is mostly true. After the beans have been roasted, they outgas carbon dioxide for about 72 hours. As such, many local roasters will package their beans in bags that feature one-way valves that allow the carbon dioxide to escape while protecting them from contact with oxygen, which can make the beans go stale. While this allows you to experience the coffee’s peak flavor, but it will start to lose its freshness once its bag has been opened. Thus, as a general rule, we have found that it’s best to consume your coffee within one or two weeks after opening the bag.

If coffee wasn’t already complicated enough, it is important to keep in mind that every coffee has it’s own sweet spot for when it tastes the best after it has been roasted. Thus, if you ask a number of different roasters when you should drink your coffee beans by, you will get a variety of different answers. Since everyone has different tastes, so we highly recommend that you experiment with your coffee and find your own sweet spot for your roasts.

Storing Your Coffee

Due to the reasons mentioned above, we have found that is best buy your coffee in small quantities, as you need it. Likewise, if you are using whole bean coffee, you should only grind your beans as you make your coffee or espresso, instead of grinding the whole bag all at once. This will ensure the coffee keeps more of its flavor.

However, if you buy your coffee in bulk or need to store it for some other reason, you do have options.  For starters, you may want to divide your coffee supply into a small container for daily use, and a larger container for the bulk of the coffee (which will only be opened to refill the small container). This will allow you to reduce the amount of air the larger container of coffee is exposed to, enabling you to keep it longer. Another thing to keep in mind is generally whole beans will have a longer shelf life than ground beans, which go stale at a faster rate since they have more surface area. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t store ground coffee, you may just not be able to keep it quite as long, depending on how sensitive your taste buds are.

In fact, this same rule applies to how long you can store your coffee in general. In short, it depends on you and how you like your coffee to taste. Some people will notice a change in the flavor of the coffee after a week and want to replace it, while others won’t notice a difference in the coffee until it has lost most of its flavor.

When it comes to storing your coffee, the best environment to keep it in is an airtight container, in a cool, dry place. Why is how you store your coffee so critical?  If you don’t store your coffee in this manner, you risk exposing your coffee to the five “coffee killers” listed below, which decrease the lifespan of your coffee and cause it to go stale.

  • Air: When roasted beans are exposed to air, the flavors in them are oxidized, causing the coffee to go stale.
  • Moisture:  One of the worst things for coffee, moisture taints the oils in the beans, causing off flavors or even making the beans deteriorate.
  • Heat: Exposing the beans to heat before they are brewed will cause them to lose flavor.
  • Light: Direct light can cause the beans to go stale and lose flavor.
  • Odor: Coffee is porous, which means if coffee is near other fragrant items, like fish, it can absorb these flavors. As a result, your coffee could end up tasting like seafood instead of coffee.

Luckily, there are some pretty nifty containers on the market that you can use to store your coffee in and keep it out of harm’s way. We have found that the best options are metal, ceramic or even darkly colored plastic canisters. In addition, it is important to use coffee containers that are airtight, which will keep out air and can prevent moisture and odor from contaminating your beans as well. One of our favorites is the Airscape Coffee Bean Canister, which has a specially designed lid that you push down to remove air from inside the can.

What about glass or clear plastic containers? While these options do look pretty on your counter and let you to see the contents inside, they also allow in one of the biggest coffee killers – light. If you really want to keep your beans in a clear container, make sure to store it in a pantry or drawer where it won’t be exposed to sunlight. Another alternative is to use a polarized canister that will allow you to see its contents while keeping light out.

Is it Ever Okay to Freeze Your Beans?

Freezing beans is a contentious topic in the coffee world. Some people adamantly oppose ever freezing your beans, while some claim it’s okay in certain circumstances. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), “It is important not to refrigerate or freeze your daily supply of coffee because contact with moisture will cause it to deteriorate.” This is a valid point, since every time you open the bag of coffee, which is likely at least once a day; you will be exposing the beans to oxygen and whatever humidity is in the air. Neither of these things is good for coffee and can impact the coffee’s flavor. This effect is even worse when open bags of coffee are stored in the freezer. The humidity forms ice crystals, which essentially freezer burns the beans and causes them to go stale even faster.

However, when it comes to storing unopened coffee, the NCA states it okay to keep it in the freezer as long as it is in an airtight bag. However, once you remove this bag from the freezer and thaw the coffee, do not put the bag back in the freezer. If you do, you will encounter the issue mentioned above, and will likely have freezer burned coffee. Instead of returning the coffee to the freezer, the NCA suggests that you “move [it] to an airtight and store in a cool, dry place.”

While we like the NCA, we couldn’t just take their word for it, so we decided to conduct a couple of tests ourselves. While we did notice a slight difference in the taste of the beans and did have to tweak our grind for the beans a bit, overall we found that coffee beans can be frozen, as long as the package is tightly sealed and unopened the entire time.

Through our research and quasi-scientific experiments, we have discovered a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when storing your beans. While we prefer to use our coffee sooner rather than later, we have found it is possible to prolong the life of your coffee if you take the time to store it properly.

 

SCG Crew Review: Frieling Milk Frother

Frieling Milk FrotherTurn ordinary milk into extraordinary milk with the Frieling milk frother! If you are looking for a quick and easy way to make creamy, foamy milk, this manual frother may be the device for you. To froth your milk, all you have to do is pour about half an inch of milk into the carafe, place the lid on top and then pump the handle up and down about 20 times. Made out of stainless steel, with a swanky mirrored finish, this little guy will not only froth your milk but also add some serious class to your beverage set.

We wanted to see this little beauty in action, so Bunny put it to the test and frothed up both warm and cold cow’s milk, as well as warm and cold vanilla soy milk. Check out the video for her assessment and to learn what drinks you can use the frother to make.

 

 

SCG Crew Review: Frieling Milk Frother