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.
If you’re anything like us, you probably used your gear’s user manual for one of three things:
To ineffectively swat at flies, yet one day you accidentally killed one and couldn’t bear to keep the gut-stained book around.
To prop up the uneven handmade bookshelf lovingly made by a friend/parent/spouse/sibling/child that never sits right on the wood floor.
To start a fire in the fireplace to enjoy while sipping on a delicious glass of chai spiced wine. (Guilty!)
Or, maybe you just recycled it by accident. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is that now you have no wisdom to guide you. We created our manufacturer manual repository over at Brown Bean to connect you with the source code. We have manuals for a lot of models both current and historical, so if you’re looking for tips on how to perform maintenance or need to find out what that error code means, check ‘em out.
Don’t see your model there? Leave a comment here and we’ll see if we can’t track it down and add it to the repository.
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.
Back in May, we wrote a little bit about Italian vs. French Roasts, but lately we have been sampling a lot of different roast and blend types and decided to read more about the basic theory behind roasting and blending. In our research, we ran across Kenneth Davids’ excellent table describing the different roast styles and their corresponding flavor, so we thought we’d reprint it here for easy future reference.
The big question that was on our mind was in regard to dark roasts: Peet started an American tradition back in the 60′s by taking his roasts well into the very dark brown degree and we wondered why. Particularly because, for us, the darker roasts just aren’t as complex flavor-wise, so we were curious about his roasting theory — one that would ultimately be imitated by the founders of Starbucks and eventually influences hundreds of small specialty roasters around the world. It seems that it’s largely due to the fact that, when taken to a darker roast, the oils and sugars caramelize in a manner which imbues the roast with a bittersweet tone — if it’s not taken too far, it will still retain much of its richness and will also feature less caffeine. However, and we think this is where we have often found ourselves, when the beans are taken to a really dark black brown, they’re just charred at that point — dried out little husks with little to no coffee oil or sugar leftover, so very little can be imparted during extraction.
So while we personally prefer something in the medium brown range, we’re glad we now understand why all the dark roast lovers out there are such ardent fans. If you want to learn more about roasting and blending — as well as pretty much anything else to do with coffee — we highly recommend picking up Kenneth Davids’ book.
Right now, however, you can check out his handy reference table after the jump.
We’ve got a couple of the gorgeous, artistic LavAzza posters hanging in the store, so when we ran across this synopsis of the Annie Liebovitz-photographed 2009 Lavazza calendar, we just had to pick one up.
Reinterpreting a selection of Italian artistic icons to incorporate the almost nearly iconic Lavazza espresso cup, these scenes are both breathtaking and surreal — and delicious artistic pieces in their own right.
We can’t help but feel the findings a bit disheartening: Of the brands they evaluated, nearly half of them didn’t rank at all! Coffee that we love by the likes of Illy or Lavazza didn’t get a single leaf, while large American brands like Starbucks or Stumptown got just a couple of leaves.
One ranking that shined was Bellevue-based Kalani Organica, coming in at 3 leaves! We have a personal connection to this truly lovely coffee: In the mid-to-late ’90′s, we cut our barista teeth slinging java at the Speakeasy Cafe in Seattle’s Belltown district. The cafe was a devout supporter and server of Kalani Organica until the cafe was closed by a fire in 2002 — despite the fact that we regularly had small competitive roasters try to convince us to switch. We stuck with Kalani because of the founder Karen’s commitment to organic, ethically-sourced coffee — something that is talked about a lot these days but wasn’t seen as particularly important 15 years ago. We’re thrilled that her work is getting recognized and hope that a rating like this will help expand Kalani’s availability around the country.
We have a deep love for and commitment to the home espresso enthusiast, but as our passion for making excellent espresso at home has grown, we have been exploring commercial-grade equipment, too. Obviously, comparatively few of us can afford to drop $15k on an espresso machine for our homes, but if you’re looking to either upgrade your business’ existing setup or thinking about launching a new espresso-based business, we have a wide selection of machines that is going to continue to grow.
Currently featuring primarily La Marzocco and Nuova Simonelli and Rancilio commercial-class espresso machines & grinders, we’ve also included a few of the prosumer class of machines that could work well in a smaller-scale business that has espresso as a complementary service — such as a bookstore or an art gallery. We also have tons of quantity discounts on accessories and wholesale pricing on coffee and syrups so just ask.
We’re excited to venture into a new realm within the coffee world and look forward to talking with you more about it! This blog will also expand as a resource and start offering up information that may be of interest to cafes and other small coffee businesses, so stay tuned.
If that stained Mr. Coffee from 1987 is spending more time baking coffee than brewing it and you find that visitors to your business are less than impressed by the caffeinated offerings from your office kitchen, it might be time to upgrade. We vote for eschewing the world of drip coffee for the exceptional flavor, performance and per-cup customization that is the Lavazza Blue superautomatic capsule espresso machine.
Featuring several styles of espresso, tea and even chicken soup, this machine is a perfect fit for a small business’ kitchen, and can even be configured for coin operation to help balance the cost of the capsules. Watch Gail as she talks about the features of this machine and brews up some delicious espresso.
Recently featured in an NPR story, the Aeropress has really taken off in the past couple of months. It’s considered the ‘next generation’ of French Presses and really does make a delicious cup of coffee.
Watch Gail use the Aeropress to make the beginning of a cup of coffee — you could add hot water to the brew for an Americano or warmed/frothed milk for a latte or cappuccino.