Gail walks us through the technical specs of the Mazzer Mini and Macap M4 burr coffee grinders, pointing out their differences and demonstrating their grind quality. We’re not sure if this answers the big question about which one to purchase, but hopefully the side by side comparison will serve as a helpful resource.
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.
Another Rancilio-related FAQ is about the Rocky grinder. Over the last six months or so, we’ve seen an increase in customers contacting us with issues around the Rocky’s ability to effectively grind oilier dark-roasted beans. Gail talks to us about the issue and her theory about what’s going on.
In answer to the oft posed question ‘can’t I just use pre-ground coffee from __[insert your favorite store/roastery/cafe here]__?’, we have held an aging test.
We’re big on freshly grinding your coffee before each shot, as pre-ground starts to dry out (even in air-tight containers) within the first 24 hours. To show you how the shots degrade, we dialed in and ground a bunch of coffee, then pulled a shot the day of for baseline purposes. We then pulled shots 24, 48, 72 hours and 1 full week later to show how the shots measured up — and to give our unequivocal vocal and facial feature responses to their flavor. Yowza!
Watch Gail as we go through the initial testing and then check in throughout the subsequent week.
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.
Summer’s siren song is courting us, so it’s time to start thinking about how to take our coffee on the road. There are several excellent brewing options available that are both easy to use and to transport. Here are some recommendations for your coffee travel kit.
Hario Mini Slim Hand Grinder
First up, let’s talk about grinding. You may have thought that you’d take pre-ground coffee with you, but we all know it’s not as tasty to brew with when you get right down to it. Adding the Hario Mini Slim grinder to your collection means that you’ll have a cost effective and easy way to freshly grind your beans to any coarseness level — from espresso to French press. Its durable plastic body is lightweight and compact.
Hario V60 Pour Over
You can go super lo-fi on your preparation by carrying one of these plastic pour overs with you; add paper filters, freshly ground coffee and some hot water from a kettle and you’re in business. There are ceramic and glass versions, too, but the plastic is going to be lighter and more durable in your travel gear. If you’re not going to be carrying said gear on your back, however, then the ceramic and glass models are a good choice as they’ll retain the temperature better than their plastic counterparts.
The Aeropress is one of the darlings of the specialty coffee world, but just because fancy pants coffee connoisseurs dig it doesn’t mean it’s off limits as your travel caffeine source. It’s as lo-fi as the Hario pour overs, but will create a richer brew that is kind of a hybrid between espresso and French press. All you’ll need is your Aeropress, paper filters, freshly ground coffee and hot water to make a tasty cup. It is also made of durable, lightweight plastic so it’s easy to take with you on the road.
Hailed by campers everywhere, the French press is an awesome solution for your outdoor java needs. Combine this with freshly ground coffee from your Hario Mini Slim, hot water and let it chill out for a few minutes. Then serve up a delicious cup to those near and dear. If you’re a car camper, pick one up made of highly dense borosilicate glass; for hiking or air travel, you may prefer the single-serve plastic version instead.
We’re huge fans of stovetop espresso because it’s a nice balance between strength and flavor. More akin to a really strong cup of coffee, we’ve successfully used our stovetop on gas camping stoves and wood campfires alike. Probably not the best choice for hotel travel, but an awesome solution for outdoors. The stainless steel versions can get a little hefty, so you might not want to carry them on a 10 mile hike-in to that super secret camping spot only you know about. The aluminum version may serve you (and your back!) better in that regard.
Grab and go! The Handpresso lets you pump up the pressure and then pull a shot. It comes in both the ESE pod version (Wild) or with the pre-ground version (Domepod) for a single shot extraction. Not as rich as some of the other methods, but definitely espresso. It’s awesome because you can easily take this on flights, boats, camping, roadtrips — anywhere. Its shots won’t blow you away, but it is nice that you don’t have to have anything other than your brute strength to create the required extraction pressure.
This little lady is taking the world by storm these days, and with good cause! If you put the effort into pre-heating all the metal components, this nitrous oxide-induced extraction will come close to that achieved on the Rancilio Silvia. You do have to have the nitrous oxide cartridges to achieve an extraction, however, and you can’t easily fly with them. You can try sourcing the cartridges at your destination — and if you’re driving there, even better. This is an awesome solution for roadtripping and hotel travel.
Do you have a favorite coffee travel item not referenced here? Leave it in the comments and we’ll add it to the list!
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.