Category Archives: Coffee & Tea

Brew Tips: How to Froth Milk

How to Froth Milk2Among our most frequently asked questions is “how do you create perfectly frothed milk?” This question is often closely followed by, “how do I then use that milk to create latte art?” or “how do I incorporate that milk into a shot to make a latte, cappuccino, etc.?” This comes as no surprise, since one of the trickiest parts of making a great drink is getting the milk frothed just right. You don’t want your milk to be too frothy, but not entirely flat either. In most cases the goal you are trying to achieve is creating just the right amount of microfoam. To further help you achieve caffeinated bliss; we’ve decided to tackle all of these questions in this series of brew tips, starting with how to froth milk. After all, creating perfectly frothed milk is the one of the key components for creating all the other drinks.

Getting your technique down, and then practicing a lot, is an important part of successfully frothing milk. However, the type of machine you are using as well as the type of steam wand the machine has, will also impact how your milk turns out.  For instance, inexpensive espresso makers and machines like the Saeco Via Venezia, often have panarellos, which basically foam your milk for you. This is great if you are an espresso newbie who isn’t used to using a manual steam wand or just want to have foamy milk and aren’t picky about what type of foam you get. The plastic models usually have four or more holes on the top, which bring in a lot of air and will make your milk bubblier. If you don’t like bigger, airy foam with a lot of bubbles, you might want to upgrade to one of the stainless steel panarellos that typically only have one hole.

When it comes to frothing milk on a machine that has a traditional steam wand, like the Nuova Simonelli Musica, the rules about the number of holes in steam arm change. Wands with four holes will give you a lot of steam power and will heat the milk really quickly. These wands will also create really amazing microfoam. However, the quality of the microfoam you get is partially based on what type of machine you are brewing on as well as the tip. For instance, the Musica naturally has a lot more steam power, as opposed to a machine like the Breville Dual Boiler, which is a bit slower when it comes to steaming. That being said, neither machine is better than the other, it just depends on what you are looking to create. The Dual Boiler is nice in that it gives you a lot more time to work with, and produce a lot of, foam. On the other hand, it can be tricky to get a lot of foam on the Musica because it heats up so fast.

Once you’ve got what machines and wands you will be using for brewing, it all comes down to practice as we mentioned before. However, we realize this can be harder than it sounds, so here is our cheat sheet for how to froth milk for a latte or a cappuccino.

11 Steps for Frothing Milk for a Latte

1)   Start with a very cold pitcher and milk. This will gives you more time to work with your milk. If it is already warm already it’s going to heat up faster, providing you with less time.

2)   Blow out the extra water in the steam wand.

3)   Adjust the angle of the steam wand to suite your preferences. We typically keep ours at a pretty high angle, but you can play around with it to see what works best for you.

4)   Hold the tip of your frothing pitcher against the steam wand; this will give you more leverage when moving the pitcher around.

5)   You will also want to angle your frothing pitcher to the side, which will help you get the milk swirling around in a circle.

6)   Submerge the tip of the steam wand in the milk. Don’t be alarmed if you hear a high pitch squeal followed by slurping. While it is loud at first, this is exactly what you want to hear. As soon as you hear that squealing noise, make sure you bring the pitcher down so you hear that slurping noise as you start to incorporate air. This will help prevent you from getting too much foam, since for a latte you want to create a smaller amount of foam.

7)   Submerge the rest of the wand in the milk after a few seconds.

8)   Once you can feel the bottom of the frothing pitcher get nice and toasty, almost too hot to touch, remove the steam wand from the milk.

9)   Always wipe down and blow out the steam wand when you are done to prevent the milk from getting sucked back into the boiler.

10)     Mix milk in by slowly swirling the milk around the pitcher, to get a rich and creamy consistency. The milk will look a bit more porous before you begin this process, but once you start mixing it in it starts getting a really shiny texture and that’s exactly what you want.

11)     Combine the milk with espresso and relax with your drink.

7 Steps for Frothing Milk for a Cappuccino

1)   Just like with a latte, you will want to start with very cold milk and make sure to blow out the extra water in the steam wand.

2)   Start with the tip of your steam wand submerged.

3)   Once you start hearing that high pitched squealing noise, you will want to slowly bring the pitcher further and further down to incorporate more air.

4)   As soon as you feel the pitcher and milk get hot is when you stop frothing.

5)   Tap the bottom of a pitcher on a table and swirl the milk around the pitcher to mix it in. You will notice that the texture of the milk is a lot thicker.

6)   If you are creating a drier cappuccino (or a cappuccino with more foam and less milk), you will want to let the milk settle a little bit after you have mixed it, and it will separate out.

7)   Combine the milk with your shot of espresso and enjoy.

If you would like to see the process in action and follow along step-by-step, watch as our resident milk frothing expert Dori teaches Sarah how to perfect her pour. If you live in the greater Seattle area, you can also learn how to froth milk with Dori in person if you stop by for her Sunday milk frothing or latte art workshops in our Bellevue store.

Brew Tips: How to Froth Milk

Crew Review: Rishi Tea Simple Brew Teapots

Rishi Tea Simple Brew TeapotsRishi Tea Simple Brew Teapots1Love tea? So do we! In these hot summer months, and particularly the “Dog Days of August” as some people like to call them, there is nothing better than a glass cold, smooth iced tea to cool you down. Luckily, with the Rishi Tea Simple Brew Teapots, making iced tea has never been easier!

To all of you who love coffee as well, this brewer might remind you of a French press. The construction is similar, as there is a filter attached to the brewer’s lid. However, unlike a French press, you don’t press the filter down. The purpose of filter is not to help extract the tea, but to prevent any tea particles from escaping into your cup. To make iced tea, fill the larger, 24 oz. Simple Brew Iced Teapot to the halfway mark with hot water, add your tea and let it steep for the desired length of time. After your tea has steeped, fill the other half of the teapot to cool down your tea. You might also want to refrigerate the tea and add ice to help cool it down even faster. Serve by pouring over a couple of ice cubes in a glass.

However, these teapots aren’t just for making iced tea, they will also brew a pretty tasty cup of hot tea. We love that these teapots because they are multifunctional as it allows you to use them all year long. The smaller, 13-15 oz. teapot is especially a good option for brewing hot tea, as it is more of personal-sized teapot that you can use to brew up one to two cups of tea. The process for brewing a hot cup of tea is similar to that of brewing a cold tea. All you have to do is spoon your loose leaf tea in to the bottom of the teapot, add hot water, let the tea steep for as long as you want and enjoy.

The smallest of these Rishi Simple Brew Teapots are also just big enough to allow a blooming tea ball to expand as it steeps. Thus, at your next tea party you can not only impress your guests with these classy looking teapots, but also entertain them as they watch their tea unfurl into a beautiful flower as it steeps. To discover more uses for these teapots, watch as Dori shows tea-newbie Brendan the ropes.

Crew Review: Rishi Tea Simple Brew Teapots

Crew Review: Jura Impressa F8

Jura Impressa F8Jura has been busy designing a lot of new machines, and this latest model is sure to impress all of your friends! The Jura Impressa F8 contains a mix of some of the best features from the brand’s new and older machines. However, in our opinion the nicest part about this machine is its software and all of the programmability it has.

One of our favorite settings on the Impressa F8 is the “Expert Mode,” which allows you to be the authority and change the settings (shot volume, shot strength, shot temperature and amount of milk used) for all the drinks that are programmed on the machine. Likewise, the F8 gives you the option of changing the volume of your shot once the machine starts to brew, allowing you to customize and play around with your drinks on the fly. Finally, the machine also has a counter so you can keep track of how many shot you’ve pulled and how many drinks you’ve made, and use that to help calculate when your machine is due for a cleaning.

Speaking of cleaning, while Jura doesn’t provide you with access to the brew unit, which is the case on all of their superautos, they do provide you with some pretty efficient automated cleaning tools. These tools can be found and accessed in the maintenance section of the machine’s programming. For instance, you can program the Jura Impressa F8 rinse both your coffee and milk system to ensure your machine doesn’t get gunked up with coffee residue or old milk.

The Jura Impressa F8 is ideal for someone with a lot of users in their home, such as roommates or large family, that enjoy making a variety of coffee drinks. While we wish Jura had incorporated a little more stainless steel into the casing of the machine, we like that it has features like a bypass doser and digital screen as well as a ton of functionality. Watch as Brendan and Gail play around with the settings for making a cappuccino on the Impressa F8, and attempt Gail’s famous superauto latte art.

Crew Review: Jura Impressa F8

Meet the Roaster: Zoka Coffee Roasters

Zoka Coffee RoastersFounded in 1997, Zoka Coffee Roasters began with a small roaster in their now flagship café in the Tangletown neighborhood near Greenlake. Owner Jeff Babcock started Zoka because he wanted to create company whose purpose wasn’t about becoming a giant corporation, but whose goal was to create incredibly quality-oriented coffee. Jeff says, “We really wanted to focus on the quality of the coffee – because I knew it existed and I wanted to get there. I wanted to make a spectacular cup of coffee and I also wanted to make a great latte.” Jeff adds:

Just about every coffee company in the world says ‘we have the best coffee in the world’ but there is a lot to that, and if you really do have spectacular coffee, you have to go to the farm, you have to find it, you have to really know how to roast it right after you have found it, and then your presentation in your store as to prepare it right, and your baristas have to be very quality oriented and very customer friendly. So having all of those elements correct is the journey. And I guess you never quite get there, but we’re getting a lot closer.

In addition to continuing to learn about coffee, part of this journey has been becoming heavily involved in both the local and coffee community. In 2003 Jeff was invited to judge his first Alliance for Coffee Excellence Cup of Excellence (COE) competition, and has continued to judge them ever since. Likewise, Zoka consistently turns out fabulous baristas, and several of them have won barista championships. Finally, as Jeff mentioned previously, being on the ground and getting to know the people who grow, harvest and perfect the coffee Zoka roasts is a very important aspect to creating a spectacular cup of coffee. As such, Jeff makes frequent trips to origin to connect with coffee farmer around the world.

These reasons and more are why Zoka Coffee Roasters have become a much-adored favorite among coffee lovers over the years. In the last year Zoka was even named as one of America’s 15 Best Indie Coffee Shops by Fodor’s Travel, which is an impressive accomplishment. Here at SCG we’ve been fortune enough to work with Zoka quite a bit. Their talented crew members often stop by our stores for tastings and educational demos, so keep an eye on our calendar to make sure you catch the next one. We also were recently treated to tour of their roastery and got a chance to chat with their team. To learn more about Zoka Coffee Roasters and the wonderful small batch-roasted coffee they produce, check out our interview with Jeff Babcock himself.

Meet the Roaster: Zoka Coffee Roasters

Crew Review: Melitta Pour Over Stands

Stainless StandMelitta Pour Over StandsWant to ensure you stay on trend with your coffee making? Why not try pour over coffee? Manual coffee-making methods are becoming increasingly popular, you’ve probably seen them popping up in your favorite cafes and many coffee enthusiasts are using them at home as well. The nice thing about brewing with pour overs is that you have more control over the different variables (the grind, water temperature, length of the pour, etc.) that go into to making a cup of coffee so you can create your ideal cup of coffee. In addition, with a pour over, you can evenly extract your entire basket of coffee, which is big advantage. Oftentimes on drip machines the middle of your coffee will get extracted a lot more than the edges, which can impact the flavor. As result, pour over coffee is typically very smooth and highlights the unique flavor profile of the coffee brewed. Besides providing you with the control you need to create a quality cup of coffee pour overs are also a simple, lo-fi way to create a tasty cup of coffee. All you need is a cup, kettle, pour over and a filter of coffee to start brewing. Of course, if you are brewing on a pour over, it is also nice to have a stand! Devices like Melitta Pour Over Stands put the focus on the coffee brewing process and provide an extra helping hand by holding your pour over in place.

Just as there are a variety of styles and types of pour overs, there are also a couple of different Melitta Pour Over Stands to choose from. However, one of the benefits of these stands is that both types we carry come with a porcelain cone (or even two or three in some cases) as well as filters, so that at least that part of the selection process is taken care of for you. From there, you just have to decide if you would rather go with the Melitta Bamboo Stand, which is a single brewer that will allow you to brew like a “slow bar” professional at home. If you like to drink a lot of coffee, are worried about other coffee drinkers stealing your precious brew or are looking to get a third wave setup in your café, you might want to consider getting the Melitta Stainless Steel Pour Over Bar. These sleek pour over stations allow you to brew either two or three pour overs at once, so you can serve several eager coffee drinkers. Check out Gail and Brendan as they try out these Melitta Pour Over Stands and pick up a few brew tips along the way!

Crew Review: Melitta Pour Over Stands

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Savrika Tea Review

IMG_1795After a year of writing tea reviews, I have visited quite a few different tea shops and houses in the greater Seattle area. While none of the other tea shops I visited were bad, in fact all of them served great tea and food, it was apparent that the owners of some tea shops hadn’t invested the same amount of knowledge or time into learning about the products they sell. Or if they have, they haven’t quite figured out how to share that information with their customers. However, when I recently stumbled upon Savrika Tea in downtown Kirkland, I realized I had discovered something really special.

You can tell that the owner, Rupa D. Gadre, is passionate about tea. This love for tea is evident from the second you step into Savrika Tea. This is not only because the numerous tea certifications she has earned, Rupa has been taking specialized courses since 2011 and officially became a Certified Tea Specialist in the Fall of 2013, but also due to the tea wall focal point and huge variety of tea with something to suit every taste.

IMG_1821Rupa’s entry to the tea world and entrepreneurship was somewhat unexpected. She originally worked as a Web Analyst for Cisco Systems, but took a hiatus from work to have children. As a mom, Rupa often visited the mall for her kid’s play dates and stopped at Teavana while there. Yet, while the store introduced her to a variety of wonderful loose leaf teas, she soon realized there were major drawbacks with the experience. One, there was no place to actually sit and enjoy the tea she purchased, so Rupa was forced to take the tea home and drink it by herself. Two, Rupa explains that she had a lot of questions about tea that the store staff couldn’t answer. Thus, disappointed in the lack of the social aspect and wanting people to be able to learn more about the tea they were drinking, Savrika Tea was born.

When it was clear that the store was going to be a reality, Rupa told me that she lucked into meeting an architect, who also happened to be an ex-Starbucks employee, through a fellow parent. Rupa explained that, while not a designer, she knew she wanted “a modern and clean look and feel.  That is evident also in the tea wall focal point, the furnishings I chose, the concrete design on the floor, and the bathrooms.” Rupa adds that “because I’m the one making the final decisions, there was no committee to restrict my colors or themes,” which was nice since it allowed her to make the space truly her own.

IMG_1818The appearance of the store definitely accomplishes Rupa’s goal. The shop is a modern oasis, with shiny granite tables and a cozy nook to one side of the space that is excellent for curling up with a good book. The clean lines of the shelving put the tea ware and tea that is sold on display. Aside from the giant wall of tea, my favorite part of the store was the tea sampling station that is set up in the center of the room.  Here, all 200 varieties of tea the shop sells are stored in small, color-coded tins (black tins for black teas, green tins for green teas and so on). Customers are able to open these tins in order to smell and examine the teas inside to find one or more that they would like to drink. There is a directory of all the teas that the store offers, which lists the ingredients and a description of each tea to help you get a better idea of what each one contains. If you still aren’t sure what tea you would like to try, Savrika’s knowledgeable staff can help you find a tea that is a good fit for you based on what flavors you enjoy. To ensure her staff remains knowledgeable about tea, Rupa says that, “after every training [I go to], I bring back my coursework and notes and educate my staff. That way they have more information at hand when speaking with customers.” In addition, Rupa states, “ I encourage my staff to try a new tea on each shift; that way they can give personal recommendations as well make their way through all 200 varieties.”

After exploring a number of the different teas on offer, I ended up deciding upon a black-green tea blend called “Roxie’s Passion” at the recommendation of a staff member. This blend includes black tea, green tea, papaya cubes, rosehip peel, flavoring and sunflower blossoms. Since it is summer, and has been hot out, I opted to have Roxie’s Passion brewed iced.  The tea arrived at my table in a to-go cup and was a pretty golden peach color. The flavor was even better. The tea tastes of a nice, smooth traditional black tea, except slightly lighter, perhaps because of the green tea that was also in the brew. There were fruity notes, such as peach and passion fruit, in the tea that made it even more delicious. In addition, the tea shop sells quite a few desserts and tea sandwiches, which can be hard to find nowadays. I didn’t sample any of these goodies myself, but they looked pretty tasty.

IMG_1812While Savrika Tea is Rupa’s first foray into selling tea on her own, it is not her first experience with tea. According to Rupa:

As far back as I can remember, tea was always around and part of my life.  When we had guests, my Mom would bring out the nicer teapots.  At parties, chai was always the last item served.  When we’d go on vacations, my parents would stop the car for afternoon tea time. It didn’t matter where we were, but the tea break came to be expected. It was the tradition that followed from India to their new country, from their parents’ houses to our home, and now to my home and business.

Since tea has long been a part of Rupa’s life, she decided she would combine another important aspect of her background, her Indian heritage, into the store. As such, “the base of the [store’s] name is ‘Sarika,’ which is a Sanskrit woman’s name meaning beauty in nature. I added the ‘v’ to make it Savrika – wholly mine and unique, but with an Indian base. “

IMG_1823Savrika Tea is rapidly approaching its second birthday; the store opened its doors in September of 2012, and shows no signs of slowing down. Even on a Wednesday afternoon, when I visited, there were quite a few people in the shop sipping tea while reading or working on their computers. Besides selling tea, Rupa offers frequent tea tastings and classes so customers interested in learning more about tea have the opportunity to do so. It seems the abundance of knowledge Rupa provides her customers is likely what makes Savirka Tea so successful. Rupa said it best when she stated, “I have no agenda except to provide high-quality tea and perhaps educate customers along the way.”

Java Talk: Ristretto Roasters Chemex Demonstration

Chemex DemonstrationNot too long ago, we were lucky have Ristretto Roasters out at the grand opening of our Portland store to provide a tasting of some of their fabulous coffee. While they were in we got to chat with them about their approach to brewing and Ryan even allowed us to film him as he brewed on a Chemex. As we have seen with our other local roasters, Ryan had his own unique approach to the process, which was interesting to compare with the other techniques we have seen. We love having roasters in our store for coffee tastings, and Ristretto Roasters have already been back to visit us a second time, and they are hosting a third tasting at SCG Portland on September 6th, from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. If you haven’t tried this locally roasted Portland coffee, this is your chance to do so. Likewise it is a great opportunity to pick up additional tips and tricks from Ryan and his crew.

How to Brew Chemex Coffee Ristretto Roasters Style:

For this brew we used Ristretto Roasters’ Kenya A/B Roast, which has taste notes of black current, Meyer lemon, and maple syrup. You get the maple syrup and current flavors right up front, and the Meyer lemon acidity is sort of a nice finish.

  • Start by weighing out your beans on a scale (make sure to zero out the scale once you have put your container on it, but before you add the beans).
  • Measure out 50 grams of coffee into your container.
  • Grind the coffee to a grind that is a little finer than a French press. When Ryan made his Chemex, he used a Baratza grinder set to the 28 mark.
  • Program a Bonavita Electric Gooseneck Variable Temperature Kettle to 196 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Next, open a Chemex filter and put the three fold side of the filter on the side of the Chemex that the spout is on.
  • Hold the filter in your Chemex, and use the water you heated up in the kettle to damp the filter down. The damping helps the filter suck in against the Chemex, gets paper tastes out and also heats up the vessel.
  • Pour out the extra water that has collected in the base of the Chemex.
  • Add 100 grams of water to the 50 grams of coffee in your Chemex and allow it to bloom for 30 seconds; starting your timer when you add the water for the bloom.
  • While the coffee is blooming, the coffee the coffee is expanding and oils are coming to the surface of the grounds. This process will slow down the brew and actually start adding water to the coffee.
  • After 30 seconds, add water to the center of the bloom and slowly do little circular spinning motions of pours around the bloom. This agitation brings out a nice acidity in the coffee. Over the course of four minutes, you’ll be adding up to 700 grams of water.
  • You don’t want to rush your pour, so make sure your water line stops a quarter inch from the rim of the Chemex.
  • Once you reach the four-minute and the 700 gram mark, you will be able to drink the wonderful Chemex coffee you have brewed.
  • When the brew stops dripping, you can remove the filter with the grounds and toss it into a trashcan or compost.
  • Before pouring a cup of the coffee, give the Chemex a little swirl, to make sure everything is well combined.
  • Then serve it up!

Java Talk: Ristretto Roasters Chemex Demonstration

Brewin’ with Brandi: Cappuccine Extreme Toffee Coffee

CappuccineThe heat is on, and there is no better way to cool off this summer than with a blended, frozen beverage. Many people satisfy this craving by ordering a frappe from their local café, but you can actually save yourself money (and a trip to you local coffee shop) by making this delicious treat at home with Cappuccine Gourmet Frappe Mix.

Besides being incredibly yummy, this powdered drink mix is about as easy as it gets when it comes to making it. All you have to do is blend a couple of scoops of Cappuccine with ice, milk and coffee and or espresso and you are good to go! What’s nice about Cappuccine is that there a number of flavors to try out and even more options when it comes to brewing with it, so you can get creative when concocting various recipes. After all, isn’t experimenting with different flavors supposed to be what cooking is all about?

For instance, we’ve also been know to throw in of our Monin syrups or fruit in the blender with our Cappuccine for added flavor. While Cappucinne specializes in frappes, you don’t have to reserve this drink mix just for hot months, you can also try mixing it with hot water or milk to create hot cocoa. Or even try it with hot coffee or espresso to make a mocha-like drink! The options are endless.

In our most recent foray into the kitchen, Brandi and Kaylie blended up an Extreme Toffee Coffee frappe. This may just be one of our favorite flavors, as there are actual chunks of toffee in the powder, like a Heath bar. Watch them in action as they brew up the drink to join in on the fun!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Cappuccine Extreme Toffee Coffee

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz. of ice
  • Two scoops of Cappuccine – The Cappuccine powder comes with its own handy scoop, but in case you happen to misplace yours, two scoops is equal to about 7 tablespoons
  • 5 oz. of coffee

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender – we used our trusty Vitamix.
  • Blend, and enjoy!

Crew Review: Capresso Iced Tea Maker

Capresso Iced Tea MakerIce, ice baby! That’s what we’ve been chanting these past couple of weeks. Yes, it does get hot even here in Seattle. As such, we probably wouldn’t make it through the summer, nor would it be complete, without a frosty cold drink to sip on. One of our preferred beverages to cool down with is iced tea. However, the one draw back is that we usually have to wait a couple of hours for the tea to brew and chill before we actually get to enjoy it. When it is as hot as it has been, we’re talking upper 80s here folks – we’re just not built for that, a couple of hours seems like an awfully long time to wait for refreshment. Enter the Capresso Iced Tea Maker, our wonder brewer of the summer. This slick machine can brew up a batch of tea in just 10 minutes or less, and it is pretty easy to use as well.

In order to make iced tea on this machine, load the removable filter basket with three to six tablespoons of loose leaf tea or four to ten tea bags, depending on how strong you like your tea. Next, fill the removable water tank in back of the machine up with water and fill the glass carafe in the front of the machine up to the “ice line” with ice. Note, that the line is pretty high up, so make sure you have a lot of ice. There is also a water line (near the bottom of the machine), so if you’re short on ice you could also fill it up with really cold water.

If you are brewing something like a black tea, you can also try putting pieces of fruit into the carafe with the ice, which will infuse your tea as it brews over the fruit. In fact, if you are interested in experimenting with your tea, the Capresso Iced Tea Maker actually comes with a recipe booklet that has instructions for creating other clever, tea-based drinks. Before you start your brew, make sure you adjust the brew level on the top of the machine, to brew your tea to your desired strength. Finally, press the button the side to start brewing, and your delicious iced tea should be ready within five to ten minutes.

The nice thing about this brewer is that you won’t even have to put it into hibernation during the colder winter months, as it makes hot tea too. Just you’re your tea without the ice or cold water. Or, if you really need your java fix, and would rather cool off with iced coffee, you can make that on this brewer as well. Simply add coffee grounds instead of tea and you’re good to go.

We used some of the Chai Dairies Iced Tea we just got in to whip up a batch and were impressed with both the teas and the machine. The tea maker is ultra convenient and the teas are in tasty flavors like Blood Orange, Rose Oolong and Berry Blast.  Watch as Kaylie and Gail use the Capresso Iced Tea Maker to try out the Blood Orange tea in particular, which they say is perfect for when you’re thirsty on a hot day.

Crew Review: Capresso Iced Tea Maker

Crew Review: Ascaso Dream Up V2.0

Ascaso Dream Up V2.0One thing we like a lot about Ascaso is that they frequently update their machines to ensure that they allow you to produce a better cup of coffee at home.  As result, we’ve seen a lot of different versions of this machine at SCG over the years. The last version, the Dream Up, incorporated a three-way solenoid valve into the machine and this most recent upgrade introduces a thermoblock to the espresso maker as well. We were excited to see the update to the Ascaso Dream Up V2.0 since the machine previously used a traditional style boiler, which our repair department noticed had to get replaced quite frequently. With this improvement, the espresso machine should have a longer life span and be much faster as well.

In addition to the faster brewing time, we also like that the Ascaso Dream Up V2.0 comes with a lot of options for actually creating your coffee. With both single and double pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets, as well as basket for E.S.E. pods, this machine accommodates people who are just getting to coffee and those who are old pros. Better yet, you even have a choice when it comes to how you want to steam your milk, as there steam arm tips for both a panarello and a standard steam arm.

The one draw back some people may find with this espresso machine is that it tends to have soupier pucks than other machines with three-way solenoid valves. This is due to the spring and the ball valve in the brew head. This setup ends up sealing the brew head, so that the three-way solenoid valve can’t go all the way to your portafilter to return that pressure to enable the puck to dry out more completely. However, with some many other great features on this machine, the soupier pucks are not a deal breaker for us.

It is no surprise this machine has remained as part of our lineup for so many years. Even though the Ascaso Dream Up V2.0 is a fairly simple in design, it performs very well and is easy to use because it doesn’t have an excessive amount of bells and whistles. Thus, if you like brewing shots out of your portafilter and are not a big fan of superautos, this is the machine for you. Likewise, with its retro styling and aluminum metal casing, which will hold up to nearly anything, this machine will look great on your counter top. We also love that this little semi-auto comes in a ton of fun colors like cow print and baby blue in addition to the more traditional polished aluminum and gray.

To see how this the machine looks in action, watch as Brendan and Gail give it a whirl. We’ll even let you in on a little secret; the stylish look of the Ascaso Dream Up V2.0 made it the machine Brendan picked when asked which espresso maker he would buy out of our showroom during his interview.

Crew Review: Ascaso Dream Up V2.0