Category Archives: Breville

Crew Review: Breville Smart Grinder – Updated

Breville have produced many gorgeous pieces of equipment that seem to favor form a little over function. They have some great features that we really love, but sometimes the overall performance isn’t ideal. However, as with every machine, there are pros and cons and the Smart Grinder has a lot of really great aspects to its design: We love the metal casing, the pull rings, the digital interface and how you dial in the grind. Where it didn’t measure up for us, however, was that it indicates you can use it with a traditional non-pressurized extraction and we were not able to do so successfully — it just doesn’t go fine enough right now.

We contacted Breville about this and they are working on ways to improve it so we are really hopeful that this will be a great multi-purpose grinder in the future. At present, it’s a good choice for drip / press pot and pressurized espresso extraction — but stay tuned on any future improvements coming down the line. For now, watch Gail take us through this grinder’s features and test how it performs.

Update 3/16/11: We were able to meet with Breville and they provided us with shims in order to tweak the burrs on the grinder. Watch Gail install and test here:

Espresso Machine Storage Tips

Leaving your machine alone for the winter? Need to store it or move it (by hand) to a new location? Gail gives us some tips on what you should do to prepare your machine so you limit the possibility of damage.

Grinder Burr Test: Medium Roast vs. Dark Roast Beans

While you won’t find us purporting that cleanliness is next to godliness, you will hear us talk about keeping your gadgets clean for the good of all involved. Because darker roasts (such as French or Italian) bring so much of the bean’s natural oil to the surface, we wondered how this impacts a grinder’s burrs: Does it clog more easily and quickly? Do you need to clean your grinder more often if you’re using this type of bean/roast? What kind of residue does it leave in comparison to grinding medium roast beans?

To determine this, we put two Baratza Virtuosos to the test. Over a month period, we ran the timer on each of them twice each day, using Velton’s Treehouse drip coffee in one and some particularly intense French Roast Gail picked up at Costco in the other. Then we opened them up to find out what kind of residue was left on the burrs.

Watch as Gail takes them apart, meticulously studies them and then tests how easy it is to clean them (using Grindz).

Tech Tip: Adjusting Your Grinder More Finely

A public service announcement from our technical department regarding the care & feeding of your burr grinder:

Never adjust the grind finer without turning the grinder on. The motor needs to be on & spinning as you adjust the burrs more closely together to ensure that beans are not compacted in the burr teeth, clogging the burrs or carrying grinds into the grinding chamber threads, thus jamming the burr carrier. This can damage and/or break the grinder and is not something that is covered under any manufacturer or retailer warranty.

So if you’re going to tweak your grind to go a little finer, kick on the grinder first and, if you have beans in the hopper, make sure it’s grinding normally as you move the burrs closer together. This will ensure that you don’t clog/jam the burrs and potentially damage the grinder.

Crew Review: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

We recently got our little paws on the very popular programmable One-Touch Tea Maker by Breville. Featuring presets for type of tea (black, green, Oolong, herbal, etc.) and then a correlated variable steeping time that determines brew strength, the One-Touch Tea Maker also lets you customize for your preferences and program it for auto-on functionality. Yes, that means you can finally realize your dream of waking up to that fresh pot o’ tea in the morning.

Watch Gail run through features, functionality and then brew up a pot of Dammann loose leaf tea.

Field Trip: Uesugi USA – Recycling Center

Where do espresso machines and coffee makers go to die? Not in the landfill, if we can help it! At Seattle Coffee Gear, we launched a recycling program last year in an effort to keep as many fully assembled machines from landing in the trash. Many of these are pretty complex — they have circuit boards, electrical wiring and miscellaneous metals that are best kept out of our ground water supply.

Our partner in this venture is Uesugi USA, a Japanese company that (as luck would have it) have a US presence here in the Seattle-area. We pulled Henry into the mix and headed out to their facility to talk about what they do and see how they take these machines apart, break them down to their components and funnel them back into the commodity supply chain as cleanly as possible.

The ‘Great’ Breville Temperature Experiment

First we took brewing to the mat with The ‘Great’ Breville Brew Experiment, then we took on the steaming side o’ things with The ‘Great’ Breville Steaming Experiment and now it’s time to give temperature the what for.

A YouTube viewer suggested that we try pulling shots with cool tap water and then warm water in the reservoir to see how it would measure up with the Breville’s thermoblock. The results? Much better temperature with the warm tap water versus the cold tap water — so if you’re using a Breville and trying to get a great shot, you might want to introduce this variable into the mix.

Watch all the action:

Ask the Experts: Which Machines Need to be Backflushed?

Cleaning and maintenance is a hot topic in this neck o’ the woods, but some folks aren’t clear on which specific maintenance routines apply to the type of machine they own. This comes up specifically in regard to backflushing — do you or don’t you?

You do backflush if you own a machine with a valve system referred to as a three-way solenoid, brew pressure release, three-way valve, solenoid valve or any other combination of these phrases. Not sure if your machine has this? If your machine has an E61 brew group (such as those on Rockets, Quick Mills, Izzos or Grimacs), it has this valve system. Other models that feature this without the E61 are those made by La Spaziale, Pasquini, the Rancilio Silvia and Ascaso’s Uno Pro and Duo series. This valve system relieves pressure post-brew, which results in a drier puck, but it sucks a little bit of coffee and water into the system each time which can build up in there and adversely impact the machine’s performance. Backflushing forces detergent and water through the valve system, thoroughly cleaning it and maintaining the system. It also has the added benefit of cleaning up behind the brew head’s screen without taking it apart.

You don’t backflush if your machine doesn’t have this system — because you don’t have the valves to clean! Some machines that don’t need backflushing include the Saeco Aroma, Via Venezia, Sirena, models made by Breville, those from Francis Francis/illy and Delonghi and Capresso semi-automatics. But since you’re not forcing detergent through the brew head, you will need to take it apart semi-regularly to clean up behind the brew screen.

The best way to determine if you need to backflush your machine is to read the manufacturer’s manual and the machine’s technical specifications to see if it has the valve system. If it doesn’t, you’re good to go; if it does, you should backflush once every 1 – 2 weeks, depending on how often you use the machine.

Not sure how to do it? Watch us backflush the Rocket Giotto E61 or the Rancilio Silvia.

Talking about Water Filters & Softeners

Mineral content in your water will play a part in the coffee that you make and your machine’s longevity. In this video, Gail talks to us about a few different filters and softeners available for espresso machines, as well as explaining how a filter and softener differ.

Ask the Experts: What’s a Panarello?

Creating a silky microfoam can be a challenging enterprise: Even with the higher end prosumer machines we sell, it is arguably the most difficult skill to learn and sometimes takes more practice (and patience!) than folks expect from the outset.

The technique involves infusing the right amount of air and steam at the right pace to ‘stretch’ the milk, ultimately resulting in that wet paint texture that can be used in latte art, if you’ve got the skillz. You rest the tip of the steam wand on the surface of the milk and ‘ride’ it as the milk is slowly expanding with tiny air bubbles and coming up to temperature via the machine’s steam. You’ve got to keep a steady roll going, the bubbles to a minimum and eventually you’ll submerge the wand completely once you’ve achieved the amount of foam you want and need to simply bring it up to temperature.

Continue reading Ask the Experts: What’s a Panarello?