Some people start waiting in line for the next installment of their favorite film franchise six months before the first ticket will be sold and, while we admire that level of devotion and fortitude, it wasn’t until the first whispering rumors about and furtive glimpses of the purported double boiler espresso machine from Breville that we really understood that kind of anticipation. After a whirlwind, backroom romance earlier this year at the housewares show in Chicago, our demo model showed up last week and we finally got to give this lovely new gear a serious test drive!
Watch as we discuss all of the features (too many to count!) of Breville’s entry into the specialty coffee world. We seriously loathe references to ‘game changers’ but, in this case, we’ll have to bite our tongues and admit that the new Dual Boiler by Breville really could change the face of making excellent espresso at home. It’s currently slated to arrive on US shores later this month, so keep an eye out for it!
In a world where fluffy frothed milk is the line between good an evil, where whipping up dense microfoam at the touch of a button defines one’s fortitude, where selecting one of several frothing temperatures separates the women from the girls, there is only one tool that can stand up to the challenge: The Breville Milk Cafe!
Okay, okay, you know there’s always a little good with the bad and any weapon in the war against poorly frothed milk might not be perfection, but the Milk Cafe is pretty darn close. The only automatic frother that allows you to specify a temp, it’s the hottest auto-frother we’ve tested — and you know we’ve tested many. Watch Gail take us through the features and froth up a big ol’ batch o’ moo.
When is it time to say when? We’re often asked where the portafilter should be in respect to the machine — at a 90 degree angle? 45 degree? A little over to the right? Every machine will be a little bit different and the key is to make sure that it feels snug. Additionally, you’ll find that you’ll move it further as the gasket ages.
Watch as Gail demonstrates the position on several of our demo machines of varying style and age.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.