Category Archives: Commercial

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.

New! Everything but Espresso – Scott Rao

In follow-up to his seminal work on professional espresso preparation, The Professional Barista’s Handbook, Scott Rao takes on all the other forms of coffee brewing and gives them their day in the sun. Broken up into three main parts, and supported by a thorough reference bibliography for folks that want to read more, Everything but Espresso covers the following:

  • Part One: Coffee extraction, measurement and methods on improving flavor by changing the brewing parameters
  • Part Two: How to achieve optimal flavor via different brew methods (such as drip, pour over, press pot, steeping and vacuum pot)
  • Part Three: Proper water chemistry and bean storage

If you’re either an espresso aficionado who wants to spread their wings or someone who cherishes their old press pot, this book is the definitive guide to making the best possible brew at home.

Field Trip: Gail & Kat Take on the SCAA Main Event

No, there weren’t any wrestlers present, but there was a high concentration of coffee related ninjas on the floor. Last week, we were lucky enough to head down to Anaheim, CA, for the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Main Event, which is a specialty coffee industry educational and trade show that covers everything from coffee growers to roasters to equipment suppliers to mad skilled baristas. This year, it also hosted the United States Barista Championship — with Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia defending and re-securing his title. He’ll be heading out to compete with the rest of the national barista champs from around the world at the SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe) event this summer in the UK.

But back to the show. We attended a few different lectures, talked with many of our vendors on the trade show floor, watched Midwest Barista Champ Mike Marquard compete in the USBC semi-finals and even headed to a little partay that Intelligentsia, La Marzocco and Espressi (makers of the MyPressi TWIST) were throwing at Intelligentsia’s roastery in L.A. Yes, Grammy got her groove on.

In this video, Gail talks to us about what she learned from the lectures we attended, discusses some new products we saw  and even shares with us her new love for TWIST-inspired cocktails.

Vive La Evoluzione!

Rocket Espresso’s new Evoluzione machines are the next step in functionality. Sure, they’ve got many of the lovable features that other Rockets do (the E61 brew head, insulated steam and hot water wands, polished stainless steel casing) and share the dual pressure gauge functionality previously released on the Professional version, but these babies also have one major difference: They have a convertible water source, so you can easily switch between an internal reservoir or plumbing it in!

Watch Gail take us through the features of the Evoluzione and talk about how to tweak certain aspects of it. While we feature the Giotto, the Evoluzione is also available in the Cellini style.

Crew Review: Mazzer Burr Grinders

If you’re looking to seriously upgrade your espresso setup, you might want to investigate the Mazzer grinders. We can’t emphasize enough how essential a good grind is for producing yummy espresso, and we’ve often even recommended people spend more on their grinder than on their actual espresso machine. Feels a little backward, eh? Well, that’s just how we do ’round these parts.

There are a few different Mazzer models available on the market, and in this video Gail walks us through three of them: Mini, Mini Electronic and Super Jolly. These burr grinders are classified as pretty sophisticated home grinders or can be used in a lower-capacity commercial/pro setting as well.

Field Trip: Slayer

Last week, we headed off to points south and visited the warehouse headquarters of Seattle Espresso Machine Co., creators of the Slayer. We’ve talked about this machine on the blog in the past, primarily because it is the first to offer baristas the ability to independently control pressure during shot extraction. It’s also a ridiculously gorgeous machine.

We filmed our field trip and you can watch all three installments here. One of the founders, Eric Perkunder, and a friend of his, Sam from Equal Exchange, were veritable fonts of information, and there was a lot we weren’t able to catch on camera. Much of the engineering theory was really cool to hear about — specifically in regard to how they started the development process of the machine by examining traditional lever-powered espresso machines that allow for a little more control over extraction. But while the levers give you more control over pressure, it’s impossible to back them off of a certain level of pressure once you’ve built that up, and the Slayer has been engineered to allow for switching between disparate pressures throughout extraction, depending on how the shot is looking. Additionally, you can control the pressure independently at each group head, so you can calibrate the two or three heads for optimum brewing of different types of coffee.

The creation of this machine was inspired by the founders’ love for really great espresso — high quality beans that are either estate specific, season specific or from a single origin were not being given a chance to shine using traditional extraction methods, so these guys decided to experiment with pressure to see how that effected the flavor. What were once ‘scorched’ shots became deliciously sweet and syrupy espresso, with a flavor and consistency that you can drink without additives like milk or sugar. It’s an altogether different experience to taste coffee prepared this way!

The Slayer is currently in several cafes around the world, according to their blog:

“Melbourne, San Francisco, Kirkland, Ann Arbor, and Calgary.  Soon more will be showing up in New York, Germany, Vancouver BC, New Zealand, Portland Oregon.”

If you’re in the Seattle area, the Slayer is in the Zoka in Kirkland and it’s definitely worth your while to experience this delicious coffee. We had an awesome — and illuminating! — time at the factory and really appreciate the guys letting us come in for a tour.

Slayer = Control

Yesterday, we posted a video discussing brew pressure and how it applies to espresso extraction. Near the end, we talked about the Slayer espresso machine, which gives another customization option to the barista: Pressure profiling. The first machine to offer this on the market, it’s no surprise that the Slayer is slowly finding its place amongst high end espresso enthusiasts around the world. But if the results are as amazing as we’ve heard, the Slayer could just be the first in a new generation of espresso machines.

Earlier this week, The Seattle Weekly published a profile of the team, speaking with one of the founders, Eric Perkunder, and describing their current boutique-level factory. It’s a great read if you’re interested in the history and theory behind the invention of the Slayer.

We’re hoping to head out on a field trip in the near future to interview the guys and see the facility, plus play around with and watch a Slayer in action!

Under Pressure

Espresso machines often list 15 – 17 BAR pumps in their technical specifications, but the general rule of thumb for most espresso extraction is for 9 BARs of pressure. In this video, Gail talks to us about this pressure differential, what you’re looking for and talks a bit about the new world of pressure profiling in commercial/professional espresso.

Starbucks V.2.0 – Take Two

As folks discuss the reasoning behind Starbucks’ recent move to completely retool & rename their 15th Ave Coffee and Tea house, yet another example of the global java giant’s new approach is put on display: The redesigning of the back room of one of their Hong Kong locations to look like that city’s coffee shops from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Literally translated as “Ice Room,” the Bing Sutt style change-up also comes with some specialized additions to the cafe’s menu to further extend the coffee chain’s connection to its local area. We love the design of the space and applaud their attempts to increase their community relevance — whether or not a face lift and menu change will revitalize their market share remains to be seen.

Independent Espresso: On Wheels and Wings

One thing that we really love about the world of coffee is its diverse economic lifecycle: It’s putting food on the table and roofs over the heads of millions of people, from its cultivation through its brewing. A rather rich and unique dimension of this portrait is that of the small espresso or coffee shop — and we found a couple of examples of really cool independent businesses that are worth checking out.

First up, Redeye Roasters in Hingham, MA. Based out of a brightly colored truck, Bob Weeks founded his java-on-wheels when he elected to change up careers and get out of the advertising business. In 2006, he started roasting his own beans out of his house and in the subsequent three years has grown to distributing them in specialty groceries around the Boston area. This excellent profile goes into detail on Redeye’s past and present.

Another great little operation we ran across is the Celtic-influenced White Horse Coffee and Tea Co. in Sutherlin, OR. Owner Kristin Lusk has been roasting and brewing coffee and teas to an exotic bird aviary backdrop for the last 11 years — and you can balance their Kilted Ladies of Hell blend with a cinnamon roll that measures 10 inches across! She’s been taking in “stray” exotic birds like cockatiels and parrots so often that her roost has expanded to nearly 100 birds.

If you live close to either of these businesses and have had the chance to sample their goods, let us know what you think!