Category Archives: News – Coffee

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.

Top 50 Coffee Drinking Countries

If you’re expecting to head to Rwanda and sample some of their world-renowned coffee, you’ll most likely be sorely disappointed in the cup of coffee you end up with. This is true of many of the coffee producing countries of the world, who actually have a relatively small population of actual coffee drinkers. The majority of their coffee is exported around the world — and you’ll probably find a tastier cup in Finland than you will in Ethiopia.

At the end of April, Bloomberg reported (from Euromonitor) the most avid coffee drinking countries in the world, measured by the quantity consumed in liters per capita. We took that, put it in a table and assigned each country a general region, as well, so you can sort it and see which parts of the world are the biggest coffee connoisseurs.

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Health Watch: Caffeine & Cataracts

The caffeine contained in your daily dose of java may play a part in keeping your eyes in check. A recent study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that caffeine might provide protection against the lens damage that can lead to the formation of cataracts.

They engaged in two different studies:

The team studied the oxyradical effects in vitro by incubating mice lenses in medium exposed UVA in the presence of kynurenine with and without caffeine. In vivo studies were conducted in rats by incorporating caffeine with galactose in their diet. In both cases, caffeine was found to be effective in protecting the lens against damage. (Source)

Yet another reason to enjoy your morning cuppa — if you needed another one, that is.

Nespresso Spring Promo: $50 Coffee Club Credit

A lot of people dig the ease of the Nespresso capsule machines, and if you’ve been on the market for one — or even considering pulling the trigger on picking one up — they’re sweetening the deal on purchases made between 4/30/10 and 6/30/10. If you buy a machine of $299 or more, you can fill out a rebate form that will apply a $50 credit to your Coffee Club account.

One of the big debates about the Nespresso is the fact that you can currently only get the capsules from them via their website, and so this little gift will be a sweet discount on the cost of your coffee over the life of the machine. With the rough price of each capsule at around $.50, this is basically 100 free of them! If you pick up one of these machines during this promotion period, print out and follow the instructions on this form to get your goods.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: The Other Black Stuff

Since spending a nice chunk of time in its rolling hills in our youth (St. Mullins reprazent), we have always had a soft little spot for Ireland. While the coffee scene in the rural areas was non existent, we didn’t really see much of anything going on in the major cities we visited, either, but that was 15 years ago and a lot has changed since then.

There are a few people holding it down for the bean in Ireland, making great strides to bring quality, experimentation and true gastronomic appreciation for coffee to their communities. We love reading the work folks like Colin Harmon (2009 Irish Barista champ) are doing and we stumbled upon the musings of David Walsh via Twitter. His blog, The Other Black Stuff, provides excellent tips, opinion, perspective and experience on a variety of coffee and equipment related subjects — a great read for anyone interested in how coffee is changing in Ireland, but also interesting from a general coffee perspective as well.

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.

USBC & SCAA

Acronyms unite! The United States Barista Championship kicked off today down at the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference in Anaheim, CA. It’ll be going on through the weekend and you can watch it streaming live on their website.

We’ll be heading down to the SCAA event this afternoon and will be there for the next couple of days. Very excited to meet new folks, put faces to names and learn from the variety of lectures and labs we’re attending. We’ll post updates!

Knowledge IS Power: Balance & Accountability in Home Espresso

For Richard Branson, an essential criteria for his business success, his compass, is the idea of ‘fun’. He has infused it into all the brands he has founded, promoted and seen flourish — and it’s arguable that the simplicity of the idea in and of itself is what has made the brands he’s launched gain traction and longevity in their respective markets. Sure, when we get too complicated, we lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve and run the risk of confusing the people with whom we’re trying to communicate.

While we absolutely cherish and extol the virtues of fun, when we thought about boiling down what we do at Seattle Coffee Gear to one simple, essential idea, we settled on another word: Knowledge. It’s in this blog we write, in the videos we produce, in our product descriptions, in the customer service we give on the phone and in the store — we have even dedicated a whole website to providing resources and knowledge to folks as they navigate the sometimes far-too-complex world of choosing their coffee related gear. While we have fun with this and it’s important to us to communicate the elemental joy to be found in the experimentation with, creation and drinking of coffee, teaching people, being honest and giving them the information they need to make the right choice for them is our ultimate ideal.

From a pure data perspective, this industry is really young in the United States: In Europe, the average household spends around $800 on their home coffee machine, while we spend an average of $80 in the US — obviously, there is significant room for growth and a big part of that growth is education. One of the most common refrains we hear from customers is that they want simple and concrete information, they’re confused by all the options, which is the best choice, etc. What these people are looking for is honesty, facts, advice and candid experience.

And that’s what we give them. But that’s not always perceived as a positive move in our industry.
Continue reading Knowledge IS Power: Balance & Accountability in Home Espresso

Nespresso Competition?

While the Nespresso machines are clean, convenient and easy to use — as well as making darn good coffee — some folks are turned off by the fact that the capsules for the machine are available for sale only through Nespresso directly. We sometimes have people stopping into the store hoping to get a small batch of the capsules to tide them over until their next mail order shipment arrives…and you can imagine their sour disappointment when we tell them we’re not allowed to sell any of the demo capsules we have in the store.

It can certainly be a really convenient option for those that are great with planning ahead, especially because you can setup a regular delivery of your favorite types of capsules so, theoretically, you’d never be out. And the way that Nespresso has structured their product and pricing reflects the fact that, when you buy a machine from them, you are starting a long term relationship, not just engaging in a quick n’ dirty one night stand.

So it’s no surprise that Nespresso is reacting with a little bit of attitude to the recent news of a second large company (this time, it’s Sara Lee) in the process of producing capsules that will be compatible with the Nespresso machines to directly compete with them. Last year, another company (Casino Guichard-Perrachon) announced it would introduce capsules made with coffee from the Ethical Coffee Company. Nespresso says it has over 1,700 patents covering the capsules and the way in which they interact with their machines, stating that they will “defend our intellectual property vigorously”.

We think competition does benefit the customer at the end of the day, so maybe two companies coming after their business will result in Nespresso changing up their game a bit. In our opinion, if they widened their capsule distribution to include their authorized retailers, that would be an excellent benefit for everyone involved.

Health Watch: Dark Roast = Tummy Friendly?

Having GI distress after a cup of coffee is more than enough reason for some folks to swear off the stuff. Like so many things around food and how our bodies process it, the subject of what causes such distress is often up for debate. Edwin Martinez of Hario USA & Finca Vista Hermosa posited that the negative reactions to coffee could be based in rancid oils or over-roasted beans. Some folks think that maybe it’s just sheer acidity in the bean itself.

But a new group of scientists who are studying the nutritional benefits of processed foods versus totally raw foods have found that a stomach-friendly compound called N-methylpyridinium (NMP) that appears in coffee beans only after the roasting process actually decreases the amount of acid that stomach cells produce in response to coffee. To test out stomach cell reaction to coffee, they used a combination of water and solvents to extract compounds from some different coffee blends, then exposed them to the cells. Except for NPM, the cells increased their acid production in response to the compounds.

So maybe darker roasts aren’t going to give you the same rainbow of flavors that a medium roast coffee might, but it may be easier on the ol’ tum tum — and if that’s a concern for you, choosing a darker roasted bean may be the key to you enjoying a cup of morning java.