Category Archives: Accessories

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

$20 Thrift Shop Challenge – Coffee Edition

thrift shop coffee cupsSeattle is home to the singer Macklemore and his song ‘Thrift Shop’ was the theme for a really fun and unique birthday party I attended. The birthday party activity was a thrift shop challenge: Who can find the best present at Goodwill for under $20? With a tight budget and 45 minutes to shop, it was a great reminder that it really is ‘the thought that counts.’ We spent quality time together, had fun and didn’t spend much money.

This led me to wonder: Is a twenty dollar thrift store coffee challenge possible? I studied the aisles of previously owned houseware products to see which types of coffee accoutrements are commonly found. Based on SCG experience, here are my top tips for what thrift shop coffee items to try — and, possibly more essential, which items to avoid.

Storage – Yes!

Whether you use whole coffee beans or ground coffee, proper storage will help your coffee stay fresher and taste better. As coffee beans age they become harder and stale, the oils oxidize and can add a bad taste to the brewed cup. The best way to store coffee is in a cool, dark and dry place. Airtight storage is ideal and while decorative ceramic canisters are easy to find, make sure to select one with a tight fitting lid. Once the coffee is opened and stored, use it within 30 days for best taste.

Cups – Oh Yes!

Cups are easy to inspect for visible damage prior to purchase and easy to clean. This is the best coffee item to find at a thrift store because it shows your individuality at home or at work. I attended a wedding where thrift store coffee mugs served as the place cards on the tables. Each mug was specially selected by the bride and groom. Mine had my home state on it, which made it a very special memento of the day.

Drip Coffee Maker – No

I purchased a ‘vintage’ mini drip coffee maker for 4.99 to see if it worked. There are two factors to consider when making a delicious cup of drip coffee: Temperature and evenness of how the coffee grounds are wet. Expensive coffee makers have boilers that ensure the water is around 200F/93C for the entire brew process, which is in the ideal temperature range. Some also have fancy shower heads to evenly wet all of the coffee grounds in the filter basket. This creates an ‘even extraction’ which is necessary for the best tasting cup of coffee possible. After using coffee care products to clean and descale the internals, the little mini drip still didn’t work great. A better value for the same price is a new manual cone dripper. These simple cones are made out of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass and require a kettle and a filter. With this method, it’s you — not the coffee maker — that makes sure the water is the right temperature and all of the coffee grounds are evenly wet. Talk about quality control!

Espresso Maker – Maybe

A very traditional style stovetop espresso maker can often be found second-hand. This is a tried and true method for making delicious espresso coffee at home. There are two pieces that screw together with a small basket and a gasket in between. Inspect the unit to make sure there are no dents, that the pieces screw together easily and the gasket is intact. Replacement gaskets are available too. Most of these stovetop espresso makers are made out of aluminum, some are made out of stainless steel and they also come in different sizes. Make sure you are getting a good deal second-hand because you can also find some for less than twenty dollars brand new. Stay away from semi-automatic and superautomatic espresso machines unless you are a repair pro and you have access to replacement parts.

Other Coffee Brewing Methods – Depends

French press, cone drippers, immersion brewers, AeroPress, cold brew pots, Turkish coffee, the list of fancy coffee brewing methods goes on and on…These are all fun (and tasty!) manual methods of making coffee and espresso. Many of these ideas are under twenty dollars new, so make sure you are check the quality before you try one second-hand.

stove top

 

Crew Review: Breville Crystal Clear Kettle

Breville Crystal Clear KettleIf we had to choose between mad science and madcap magic, we’d be hard pressed to explain the difference between the two and, therefore, would choose both! Thankfully, the Breville Crystal Clear Kettle doesn’t force us to choose, offering up some serious science (er, boiling water) in a rather magical way.

Sure, there’s all manner of different electric kettles available on the market, from models that allow precise temperature control (such as Breville’s Variable Temperature Kettle) to those that actually make the tea for you at the touch of a button (Breville One-Touch Tea Maker, anyone?), but if you’re simply looking for a quick boil, no bells and whistles, plus a bit of a show as well, the Crystal Clear Kettle will definitely fit the bill.

Watch as Teri shows us how simple it is to use, then times how long it takes to boil 44 oz. of water for her large Frieling coffee press preparation.

Crew Review: Breville Crystal Clear Kettle

Crew Review: Jura Cool Control – Redux!

Jura Cool ControlA superautomatic isn’t authentically one-touch if you have to bother preparing the milk first, right? You can take all the guesswork out of your cappuccino crafting by employing one of two Jura Cool Control countertop refrigerators.

Designed to work with all of their one-touch superautomatics, the Cool Control and Cool Control Basic will keep your milk supercool, which results in delicious foam creation without risk of the legendary blue cheese latte. These are also highly recommended for small offices that are using a Jura one-touch in their company kitchen, as you can fill it up with milk throughout the day and then do one thorough cleaning at the end of all of it.

Watch as Teri shows off these updated versions of the Cool Control!

Crew Review: Jura Cool Control – Redux!

Crew Review: Pallo Cleaning Tools

PalloKeeping your coffee equipment clean doesn’t have to feel like a chore! Pallo’s purpose-built tools make short work of this sometimes unsavory task. Their array of gear includes:

  • The Grindminder – designed to clean up all the gritty little grinds that get in / around your grinder and keep it so fresh and so clean!
  • The Steamy Wanda – if steam wands had a best friend and / or patron saint, it would be this tool.
  • The Coffeetool – available in a variety of colors, this is your go-to brew head cleaning tool — brush, detergent measuring tool and steam wand hole cleaner.
  • The Caffeine Wrench – this little dude does it all, from popping out filter baskets to popping open a cool post-cleaning celebratory beer!

Watch as Bunny shows us these fun and highly useful tools!

Crew Review: Pallo Cleaning Tools

 

Crew Review: OXO Gear

Oxo Measuring Beaker SetWhile we each have a deeply personal love for OXO products, much of their awesome gear just doesn’t make sense for us to sell as purveyors of coffee and tea related equipment. Sure, you could be the hardest working manual grinder in the business by utilizing your OXO chef’s knife to finely chop your specialty coffee, but … that’s kind of ridiculous (sorry).

Consequently, we were thrilled to be bringing on a selection of their products, which are more oriented toward coffee and tea preparations: Two different tea kettles, a tea infuser and (our personal favorite) a measuring beaker set. Watch as Teri shows off these fun and highly functional pieces of kit; isn’t it time you experimented with a little mad science? We thought so.

Crew Review: Oxo Gear

How-To: SCG’s Tune-up Kit for the Starbucks & Saeco Sirena

Sirena by Saeco for StarbucksWith its volumetric dosage, convertible portafilter (pressurized or non-pressurized, depending on how you roll) and high cup clearance, there was a lot to love about the Sirena. Originally produced for Starbucks by Saeco, it also had a long and glorious life on the market as a refurbished espresso machine once it was discontinued. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on one and it met your needs, you might want to take extra special care of it as there’s no way to pick-up a replacement.

Part of that care is a regular tune-up — a thorough descale and the replacement of some of the parts that see a bit more wear and tear. Because this was such a popular machine, we produced a Tune-Up Kit especially for it, which includes descaler, the recommended replacement parts and step-by-step instructions.

Interested in performing this tune-up but want to find out what you’re getting yourself into first? Check out Brendan’s walkthrough of the process in this how-to video.

Maintenance Tip: Steaming with Rinza

RinzaLooking for a quick and easy way to keep the milk-residue at bay on your espresso machine’s steam wand? If you can take it apart and soak the components in a solution like Rinza or Full Circle’s Milk Cleaning Solution or Milk Wash, that’s a great idea, but what if there’s a leetle bit o’ milk hanging out in the internals of your wand?

Check out Gail’s super simple tip for keeping your steam wand super clean, even if you can’t easily take it apart to clean separately.

Blind Taste Test: AeroPress with Paper & S Filters

AeroPressWhile we’ve previously performed a taste test comparison between the Kaffeologie S Filter and the standard paper filter on the AeroPress, we were requested by our loyal fans to perform a blind version!

So we asked Bunny to brew up two batches of AeroPress coffee — one with the S Filter and one with the regular ol’ paper filters — and then Brandi, Teri and Brendan joined us for a tasting. Watch them weigh in on how they think they compare and which one (if either) they prefer, before finding out which is which.