Category Archives: Articles

Health Watch: Aluminum Boilers & Alzheimers

One of the more controversial topics within the discussion of Alzheimer’s is whether or not aluminum has a causal relationship to the development of the disease. Since the first study in the 1960’s that found higher concentrations of aluminum in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s than in the brains of people without the disease, scientist have been exploring the influences and attempting to correlate the two, with contradictory results. To this day, there is not conclusive evidence one way or the other, and the medical community is still very uncertain about whether or not the aluminum found at the center of the plaques which they believe to be the cause of the disease are the cause of the plaques or simply a harmless secondary association.

What does a discussion of neuroscience and disease have to do with coffee? Well, many people are concerned about the uncertain and contradictory information on this topic — one that might be close to home to any of you with an espresso machine or stovetop espresso brewer with an aluminum boiler. Since aluminum is part of the earth’s crust and used in tons of products, from toothpastes to antacids to cookware, it’s difficult to avoid it altogether. But the amount of aluminum that might leach into your espresso during the brewing process is relatively minimal, if any, than you would intake normally, so it’s likely not much of a concern.

While the jury is still out on whether or not aluminum is a contributing factor to developing Alzheimer’s, or just coincidentally happens to be along for the ride, you’re probably pretty safe to continue enjoying your delicious espresso — aluminum boiler or not.

Brew Tip: Got Two Turntables and Microfoam

If you’re looking to rock like a pro barista, you need to perfect the art of microfoam — that glossy smooth steamed milk that makes latte art possible. It’s really not that difficult to pull off once you know the step-by-step process:

  1. Keep your steaming pitcher in the refrigerator/chilled
  2. Start with icy cold milk (about 34F degrees)
  3. Begin steaming by getting the milk to spin rapidly clockwise, then
    work the surface of the milk for about 15 – 20 seconds in one of the
    following ways:

    • Standard Steam Wand: Bring the tip of the steam wand to the top, so that it just barely breaks the surface to suck in air and milk
      simultaneously
    • Panarello Steam Wand: Submerge the wand so that the top of the
      milk and the air intake slot or hole are even, allowing milk and air to
      be drawn in evenly — if you submerged it above the air intake, you’ll
      just steam the milk; if you submerge it well below the intake, you’ll
      end up with fluffy, bubbly foam
  4. Plunge the steam wand all the way into the milk and then roll the milk for the remainder of the steam
  5. Temperature-wise, your milk should measure between 140F – 180F
    degrees — if it’s too cold, it will be chalky; if it’s too hot, it
    will be scalded
  6. Tap the pitcher on the counter to settle the milk and force any air bubbles to the top
  7. Prior to pouring, roll the milk slightly around the pitcher to
    incorporate the foam and the milk. The milk should have a shiny, glassy
    smooth surface that is free of any bubbles
  8. Pour to make your favorite latte art

More visually inclined? Check out our video.

Lavazza Whole Bean Blends Go Toe to Toe

Lavazza is renowned around the world for some of the best coffee available, and we’re often asked about the differences between their six main whole bean blends. So, we took these guys to the tasting lab and came back with a comparison chart that should help you pick the blend that’s going to taste best to you.

Some of the highlights are the smoky chocolate and loam undertones of Grand Espresso and Super Crema‘s sweet & earthy fruitiness. Our descriptions might not do them full justice, however, so why not have a tasting party yourself? You’re sure to find a favorite among them.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Pregnancy

Two universities in the UK have determined that excessive amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can impact the weight of the child as it’s developing, putting some babies at risk of a low birth weight.

What do we mean by excessive? Well, the study found that the babies of mothers who drank the equivalent of 3 or more cups of coffee each day tracked to a lower weight during each trimester of development. A low birth rate has been linked to health issues such as diabetes or heart disease later in life, so it’s important that a baby is born within the healthy range.

While the study has confirmed a link between caffeine and fetal development issues, scientists don’t think this should inspire pregnant mothers to abstain from all caffeine intake. Other health benefits still exist and a mother limiting her coffee to 1 cup per day should have no concern.

The Grind – November 2008

Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter, The Grind, provides readers with tips, expert advice, recipes, article highlights and a Grind-only special coupon!

This month’s Grind includes expert advice on how to produce microfoam, information on our new Tune-Up service and a recipe for our new favorite drink: The Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Mocha!

Read this month’s edition and sign up for future editions of The Grind here!

Health Watch: Coffee & Relationships

An intriguing new study from the University of Colorado indicates that warm drinks lend themselves to more friendly feelings. Participants in the study were randomly given hot cups of coffee or glasses of iced coffee, then asked to assess the relative warmth of a series of fictional characters. The result was that they were 11% more likely to rate a complete stranger as welcoming or trustworthy if the participant had been holding a warm beverage versus a cold beverage.

Psychologists attribute this to possible early conditioning in infancy, when bonding and trust building with our parents could have been in an environment of warm bodily temperature — just think of all those baby blankets! — so that we are more likely to associate the actual physical temperature with the relative warmth and openness of someone’s personality.

Whatever the root cause, it’s clear that the age old practice of socializing over a hot cup of coffee helps build and expand on the warm bonds of friendship — so why not invite your friends (or someone new) over for an espresso today?

Health Watch: Caffeine & Alzheimer’s

We just read this fascinating article about a study from earlier this year that indicates regular coffee consumption can decrease the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life.

Researchers found that caffeine may cut the risk of dementia because of its ability to block the adverse effects of high cholesterol on the body’s systems — one of which may be the breakdown of the blood/brain barrier that protects our brain tissue from potentially harmful chemicals in our bloodstream. There have been previous studies to indicate that the breakdown of this barrier may contribute to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The research centered on rabbits, which were given a high cholesterol diet over a 12 week period, some of which were also given the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day. At the end of the trial, researchers found that the blood/brain barrier in the rabbits that had the coffee supplement was far less deteriorated than the rabbits with no supplement. The results of this research are a very interesting step in determining both new restoration therapies and preventative
care.

So sip your daily joe knowing that it’s not only delicious — it’s brain food!

How To: Boiler Draining

If you’re planning on transporting or storing your machine, it’s important that you drain the boiler of any residual water from the last use. The main reason is so that it doesn’t freeze, expand and damage the internal components.

Here’s a guide on how you can drain your boiler before you store or ship it. This care tip is essential to the longevity of your machine, so don’t skip it!

Health Watch: Caffeine & Breast Cancer

A new joint study out of Harvard and Tokyo indicates that caffeine consumption may not be a strict carcinogen. It found no statistically reliable evidence that drinking coffee increases overall breast cancer risk, but it did find data regarding how it effects pre-existing breast tissue conditions, requiring further study.

The researchers reviewed the medical and dietary records of nearly 40,000 women since a baseline taken between 1992 – 1995, and examined the commonalities between their dietary intake and the development of breast cancer. They were unable to find any statistical¬† proof that caffeine did in fact increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, but they did notice that those with higher caffeine intake (more than 4 cups per day) did experience adverse effects in the state of pre-existing benign breast disease and tumors.

While it appears that minimal intake my not increase your risk — if you’re a coffee lover with a history of breast cancer in your family, it might be a good idea to switch to decaf (just to be on the safe side!).

How To: Brew Group Maintenance

You may be sensing a theme here…keep it clean! The best way to keep your machine out of the repair shop and performing optimally is to regularly maintain all of its components.

Your machine’s brew group is arguably the most important part, so taking the time to keep it in tip top shape means it will give you delicious espresso shots for years to come.

We’ve compiled some how-to tips for each of the basic styles of home espresso machines. If you need more assistance, refer to your user manual or give us a call.