Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter, The Grind, landed in an email box near you today — and if it wasn’t near enough for you to actually read it, you can do so here on the site or make sure you get up close and personal next month by signing up for future editions.
This month, we talk about the different functional types of espresso machines, include a recipe for Indochine Lemon, point you to our manufacturer manual resource on Brown Bean and introduce you to a few new products we have in the store. What you won’t see, however, is The Grind Special, which is for subscriber-eyes-only. Sign up to get that little bit o’ goodness every month.
Navigating the available options in the world of home espresso machines can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Functionally speaking, there are a few different basic variations:
Manual/Lever: With these machines, you are the pump. You grind, tamp and control the pressure during the extraction. You also manage the whole steaming process.
Semi-Automatic: Semi-automatics have 15 – 17 BAR pumps involved, which will settle down to about 9 BARs of pressure if your grind/tamp is accurate. You will grind & tamp, then initiate the shot on and off. Steaming is also up to you.
Automatic: Still grinding, tamping and steaming on your own, but you can program these machines to dose out a specific amount of water, so it will automatically end the shot.
Pressurized Portafilters: Automatic and semi-automatic machines can have a variation that includes a pressurized porftafilter. This makes the machine a little bit easier to use because you don’t have to be super particular about your grind and tamp.
Pod-Friendly: Another variation of semi-automatic and automatic machines are those that allow you to use what is basically a ground coffee version of a tea bag. These single serving pods make for easy, mess-free brewing.
Superautomatic: These machines manage the whole grind and tamp process for you, but on most of them you will still be required to steam your milk. Some of them (usually called ‘One Touch’) provide automated frothing and shot extraction into your cup at the touch of the button; others have an automated frothing system that will froth the milk separately and you can pour it into the cup after it’s automatically extracted.
Capsule: Probably the most simple machine in terms of materials and labor, these guys use a proprietary capsule filled with pre-ground coffee and extract it at the touch of a button — no grinding and tamping. Some of them have automatic frothing options.
We asked Gail to talk to us about these different machines, why someone would want to buy a specific type and why perhaps they wouldn’t want to buy it. Hopefully, this video will function as a good primer for learning the basic functional differences and help you as you research which machine best suits your needs.
DIY lovers are all into the idea of using lemon juice or vinegar to descale their machines, but while the latter will leave a nasty residue and we don’t recommend it for that reason, the former just isn’t concentrated enough to do as an effective job in as an efficient manner as a concentrated citric acid solution like Dezcal. This is what we find out from Gail, plus she makes freaky faces and it’s worth watching just for that.
Several models of superautomatic espresso machines feature a bi-pass doser which allows you to use pre-ground espresso to brew coffee without changing the beans in your hopper. Saeco and DeLonghi models allow a maximum of 1 tablespoon or scoop of pre-ground coffee per brew and Jura models allow up to 2 tablespoons or scoops. We occasionally run into situations where customers bring in a superauto for repair because they have used either pre-ground coffee that is too fine or they have used too much of it in the brewing, resulting in the development of a cement-like coffee clog on the brew group and the eventual break down of that group — either by breaking the gears or the group completely seizing up.
In this video, Gail talks to us about how much one should use in the bi-pass doser, as well as shows us an example of the fineness in ground that should be used, demonstrated on the Jura Ena 4.
We’re huge fans of stovetop espresso at home, and we’re often just throwing in a little milk after the fact. Having a stand alone milk frother makes it easy to get a latte-style drink at home, sans espresso machine.
In this video, Gail shows us the FrothXpress, by Capresso, and gives us a demonstration on how it works. For our money, the Nespresso Aeroccino is probably still a better buy.
Doing its part to keep cups full in more ways than one, Jura UK is holding a charitable auction in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you are in the UK and have always wanted an Ena5 — or if you just really, really love the color pink — you can take part in the auction of a one-of-a-kind Jura Ena5 with a pink and silver two-tone case.
Anyone who keeps up on our fetishes over here knows that the Jura Ena series are our favorite superautomatic espresso machines because they’re simple, reliable, space-conscious and make a great cup of coffee. And while we won’t get into our other fetishes, suffice it to say that we are huge supporters of finding a cure for breast cancer!
We hope Jura UK is successful in raising a nice contribution to the three charities that sponsor Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the UK, and we highly encourage you to help them out by bidding on this great machine.
If you’re in the market for a machine that kind of does it all, choosing which one is right for you can be a little bit tricky. We asked Gail to walk us through the superautomatics priced in the $899 – $1199 price range and in this video she discusses their features, similarities, pros and cons.
Over in the Brown Bean Reviews area, we’ve been adding new product listings and reviews for your research, reading and (hopefully!) reviewing pleasure. If you’re researching any of the below machines, please check them out. If you own one, we’d love it if you could write a user review to help others pick the machine that is right for them — your experiences are priceless.
Shopping around for a grinder, but don’t have the opportunity to see how it grinds? We took a few different models and produced some of their finest and coarsest grinds so you could see how they compare together.
We’ve all had a few rough mornings where we’re not sure where the floor and ceiling are in relationship to each other, so it’s no surprise that a few of us have had a tragedy occur: Accidentally pouring water into the bean hopper/grinder instead of the reservoir on our superautomatic espresso machine.
If this happens to you, the most important thing is DO NOT USE THE MACHINE. There is nothing that you can do to fix this because the grinder needs to be taken apart and cleaned as soon as possible to prevent it from seizing up. In this video, Gail shows us what happens when water gets into contact with the grinder and gives us advice on what to do — you know, after we’ve run around screaming in panic.