Category Archives: Q&A

SCAA 2014: Coffee Kids

Coffee KidsAs a retailer of espresso machines, coffee makers, grinders, accessories and of course coffee, we clearly rely heavily on others in the coffee community. Since we would not be where we are today without the hard work of numerous people around the globe, we feel it is only to appropriate for us to do what we can to give back to the people who have helped generate our success. Thus, Seattle Coffee Gear is committed to charitable giving in the coffee communities that need it most. To facilitate this process we donate to Coffee Kids, a non-profit organization that supports coffee-farming communities in Latin America to contribute toward a better quality of coffee by investing in projects and education, food security, health care, capacity building and economic diversification. We have chosen to work with Coffee Kids due to the multi-pronged approach mentioned above and we appreciate the resources and expertise they put into reaching community goals.

At the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event, we were excited to come across the Coffee Kids booth, and chat with their Development Director, Elisa Kelly, who to learn more about their organization. Elisa explained that Coffee Kids was founded in 1988 by Bill Fishbein, and was originally started as a sponsor a child program, which is what inspired the name “Coffee Kids.” However, after a few years, Fishbein realized that the company’s dollars could go further if they were put into the hands of the community. As a result, he changed the company’s model, and Coffee Kids now focuses on funding projects at the base of these coffee families and communities, and putting the terms of development in their hands. These types of projects help ensure that coffee famers get the correct price for their coffee so they can continue producing quality beans. In addition, the programs provide farmers with the ability to start or expand their own small businesses so they can make a living and put food on the table year round. Clearly, Coffee Kids is doing great things to improve the lives and livelihoods of coffee-farming families. Check out of video to hear more of Elisa’s insights about the company.

SCAA 2014: Coffee Kids

SCAA 2014: Sowden SoftBrew Coffee Maker

Sowden SoftBrew Coffee MakerThe classic clean lines and simple brew method of the Sowden SoftBrew Coffee Maker made us instant fans of this brew method when it first came onto the market a few years ago. Besides, the coffee maker isn’t the only product we love, we also enjoy the timeless look of the Penrose SoftBrew Tea Maker and the mini 12 oz. Coffee Maker on days when we don’t want quite as many cups of coffee. What makes this low-tech approach to coffee so different? The SoftBrew filter is 185 microns in diameter with about 200,000 holes in it, and likely one of the finest filters around. As a result, it separates the grinds from the coffee well so the pour is very clean and there is very little sediment in the pot. This extra-fine filter also means you don’t have to be as precise with your grind, making it a great way for coffee neophytes to learn about and appreciate the mighty bean.

Since brewing coffee (and tea) is such an individualized process, we like to learn how other people brew on their coffee gear. Over the years, people have given us a variety of different tips for brewing on the Sowden, from everything on how to heat the water to how much coffee to use. In addition, we’ve conducted a few fun experiments ourselves, such as cold brews, iced teas and even using different milks. If course, we also like hearing what our vendors recommend, especially since they use the product on a regular basis. As such, while we were at SCAA we stopped by the Sowden booth to visit our vendor for the brand, Michael so he could show us what approach he uses. Besides demonstrating his preferred method for brewing on the Sowden SoftBrew Coffee Maker, Michael filled us in on a little of the brand’s history. Check out the video to learn the secret behind the SoftBrew name and see this little coffee maker in action.

SCAA 2014: Sowden SoftBrew Coffee Maker

SCAA 2014: JC Coffee Farms Cupping Demo

JC Coffee FarmsRecently, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) hosted their annual exposition in Seattle. The Event was a great success featuring a variety of retailers in the coffee and tea industry, and we were luckily enough to be able attend. While we were there we got a chance to talk to some of our favorite vendors about what equipment is coming down the pike for them in the next year or so, as well as meet some new people and check out their products as well. Fortunately, we were also able to film a few of these conversations and demonstrations and we will be sharing them through out the week.

Our first episode in this series is a coffee cupping hosted by Pedro from JC Coffee Farms, which also just happens to the producer of Café Lusso’s coffee beans. JC Coffee Farms in a family partnership between Sergio and Anita Dias and Ibraim and Marly Chaib de Sousa, whose farms are located in Carmo de Minas, Brazil. Pedro explained that one of the main purposes of a cupping is to taste the quality of it’s aroma, body, mouth feel, sweetness and acidity and then to compare the coffee either to itself or another coffee. In this case, we decided to brew three cups of the same coffee and focus on what makes the coffee taste different, taste its consistency from one cup to another and look for any defects (even though that is not something we want to find). Of course the part of the goal of coffee cupping is also to do it for the love of coffee, try something new, share your findings and have fun.

In case you missed Caffe Lusso’s cupping at our Bellevue store, here’s your chance to get a rough idea of what it is like to attend one. Hopefully, you will be able to join us next time!

SCAA 2014: JC Coffee Farms Cupping Demonstration

Commercial Tips: Choosing a Commercial Grinder

Commercial GrindersWhether you’ve decked out your café with the latest and greatest espresso machines or are just starting to put together your shopping list of equipment, one of the most important things you’ll need is a commercial grinder. However, even though having a good grinder is a crucial aspect of your shop (in fact, some people would say it is even more important than your espresso machine) it can be hard to figure out exactly which one you should choose. For instance, what type and how big of a grinder do you need? Or what is the difference between all the various burr-set sizes, burr shapes and dosers anyway?

When deciding upon a grinder, the first step is to think about the type of shop you have and then calculate how many drinks you are expecting to serve per day. Based on our caffeinated mathematics for stores here in Seattle, a donut or bagel shop serves about 20-50 drinks, a coffee shop will serve around 200+ drinks and restaurant or a bar can expect to serve 10-50 espresso beverages a day. Of course these numbers can fluctuate depending on how big your store is, where it is located, etc.

Once you have determined how many people you will be serving, you can start thinking about what type of grinder to pair with your espresso machine. If you have a smaller sized bakery or donut shop with a one-group machine like a Rancilio Epoca, you’ll get something like the Mazzer Mini, which is a 58mm burr-set grinder that is perfect for doing 20-50 drinks a day. If you have a slightly higher volume store, such as a small to medium sized coffee shop that makes about 120-200 drinks a day you will need to move to a bigger grinder. Generally, if you are making this number of drinks you will have a two-group espresso machine such as the Rancilio Classe 7 or Nuova Simonelli Appia, so you will want to pair it with a 64-65mm grinder like the Nuova Simonelli Eureka Zenith or the Mazzer Super Jolly.

What is the advantage of having bigger burrs? You won’t have to wait as long to get a shot. With a smaller burr-set like 58mm, it will take you about 8-10 seconds to get a double shot of espresso, while with a 64-65mm burr-set it will take only 6 seconds. Thus, if you have a small volume café, it is ok to go with smaller burrs since you won’t experience as much of a time crunch. However, you cannot use a smaller grinder at shop at that is doing 150 drinks a day, as it will slow you down too much.

Does your shop fall somewhere in the middle? You can try getting a commercial grinder equipped with a doser. This allows you to make multiple drinks at once by grinding for them and then fill up the portafilter back to back. Another good rule to keep in mind is that 75 drinks a day is the limit for a smaller 58mm burr-set grinder, and 200 drinks a day is maximum for a mid-size 64-65mm burr set grinder. Finally, if you are making more like 300 drinks day rather than 200, you will need to get a large grinder to get your doses out even faster. For these grinders, you will be looking at something like the Mazzer Major, a 83mm burr-set (which is the biggest flat burr grinders get) grinder or even moving to a conical grinder such as the Compak K10.

Still have questions? Check out this video as Brandon and Kaylie describe picking out a commercial grinder in more detail.

Commercial Tips: Choosing a Commercial Grinder

Interview with Breville’s Phil McKnight

BrevilleAn influencer in the espresso and drip coffee industry for the past 15 years, Breville has long been one of our favorite brands. Not only do they create beautiful die cast espresso machines, coffee makers, grinders, blenders and even ice cream makers, but they also put a lot of work and research into developing their products. For instance, when Breville makes an espresso machine there is nothing left behind; all the gadgets you need to create a drink (portafilter, different sized portafilter baskets, frothing pitcher, cleaning tools, etc.) are included an there is even a place to store them. As a result, you can expect to receive machines with great functionality like the new Oracle BES980XL, which enables you to easily pull a shot and froth your milk for latte while still giving you control over the parameters involving the extraction of your shot. This approach also permits Breville to improve products that have become old standbys, like their dual boilers, by gathering customer feedback to create something even better, such as the Dual Boiler BES920XL.

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to have Breville pay us a visit all the way from Australia to do some training. While they were here, we got a chance to chat with Breville’s Global Business Manager for Beverage Products, Phil McKnight. Since he started at Breville Phil has been known as the “coffee guru” as he has over 10 years of industry experience in coffee, including judging the Australia Barista championships and running his own café in Sydney. We were eager to hear his thoughts on coffee makers and espresso machines, and asked him to if he’d be willing to do an interview with us so we could learn more about one of our favorite brands. Phil happily obliged and shared some of his insights about the brand’s history, manufacturing techniques and what products we can look forward to seeing in the future.

Interview with Breville’s Phil McKnight

Advanced Menus on the New Breville Dual Boiler and Oracle

Breville Oracle BES980XL
Breville Oracle BES980XL
new Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL
Dual Boiler BES920XL

A couple of you have requested that we discuss some of the advanced features on the new Breville Dual Boiler and Breville Oracle and compare them to the first Breville dual boiler. Ask and you shall receive! We got these two espresso machines together in a room, unlocked their advanced menus and played around with them.

The main difference between the Dual Boiler BES900XL (first generation), the Dual Boiler BES920XL (second generation) and the Oracle BES980XL (third generation) is that both the second and third generation machines have two new features in their advanced menu options. The first feature is the capability to adjust the temperature (from 265-285 degrees Fahrenheit) on the steam boiler so you can get hotter (or cooler, if you prefer) milk. The second feature is the ability to choose whether your extraction is based on time or the amount of espresso produced, instead of having the extraction be based strictly on time as on the BES900XL.

The advanced menus on both the new Breville Dual Boiler and the Oracle are easy to get into. To access them on either machine, simply hold down the single shot button and press power. Once you are in the advanced menu, you will be able to scroll through the options for adjusting your machine’s settings. These features are pretty similar on both machines, as they enable you to tweak the factory settings, descale, alerts and sounds in addition to the steam temperature and extraction settings as we mentioned before. However, you will find the Oracle has a few extra choices, such as settings for how fast the pump comes on for steaming your milk, the contrast on the LCD screen, fan and others. For more information, check out our video and let Gail guide you through how all these options work and how to change them.

SCG Tech Tips: Breville Oracle (BES980XL) & New Breville Dual Boiler (BES920XL) Advanced Menu

Semi-Automatic vs. Superautomatic Espresso Machines

superautomatic espresso machinessemi-automatic espresso machineIf you are coffee connoisseur (or at least a budding one) by now you’ve probably heard about semi- and superautomatic espresso machines. You’ve likely also heard that there are some differences between the two when it comes to operating them. However, you may have wondered, “What really makes a semi-automatic espresso machine (besides being able to create a really good shot) different than a superautomatic (which is often described as more convenient) machine?” T o clear up any lingering questions, we decided to explore these two types of machines in a little more depth, so you can see what factors make these machines unique. And of course, ultimately determine which is right for you.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

Semi-automatic machines are generally the most popular choice for consumers who are looking for a “traditional” home espresso machines. These machines feature a boiler, portafilter and a switch to activate/deactivate the pump to perform the extraction. It is this last feature that puts the “semi” in automatic, if you will. While the other features are automated, you have control over when the extraction begins and ends. There are also semi-automatic machines with programmable doses that allow you to program the extraction to stop after a certain length of time.

Brewing

As we discussed above, whether you flip a switch or program in when you want the extraction to end, with a semi-auto you have control of the water flow for every shot you make. Why is this a good thing? It provides you with opportunity to perfect your shot. For instance, if you create a good looking shot but it’s pouring slowly, you can let your pump run longer to provide more time to complete the shot. On a superautomatic you usually don’t have this option. Superautos usually have a preprogramed time for shots that determines when to end them, which could potentially cause shots to end too soon.

Portafilters and Grinders

Another key component of using a semi-automatic machine is using a portafilter to insert the coffee into the machine. There are a couple of different styles of portafilters that can come with a machine, but the two basic types are non-pressurized or pressurized.

Non-pressurized portafilters are usually larger (58 mm) sized and made with chrome or chrome plated brass. This provides the heftiness that is necessary for temperature stability, which makes it possible to create a better shot of espresso. However, this design requires that you have a very precise grind and tamp. This can make non-pressurized portafilter harder to use, since it is more technical, but many people claim it is worth the effort since you can get a really great shot – if you have the right equipment. For this reason we recommend that you get a good grinder (which we’ll discuss more later) if you get a semi-automatic machine.

Pressurized portafilters use either a valve or special filter basket that will not let water out of the portafilter until the right amount of pressure has been reached. This allows the portafilters to compensate for an imperfect grind or uneven tamp, which make them a good option for people that don’t have a grinder or who are using pre-ground coffee.

Finally, if you want to get into ESE pods you’re in luck, since many semi-automatics accept them. You can purchase baskets that will allow pods to fit into pressurized and non-pressurized portafilters or can even find portafilters that are designed specifically for pods.

Most semi-automatic machines do not come with a built in grinder. We won’t say all, because there are a few that do, like the Breville Barista Express, but most do not. This means that you will either have to get a separate grinder or use ground coffee beans to dose your portafilter. If you want to be able to play around with your grind and tamp to achieve that perfect shot, you will want to get a non-pressurized portafiler and a really good grinder. In fact, it’s best to start out with as high of quality grinder as you can afford, since the grinder is more important than the machine when it comes to getting good shots. On the other hand, if you don’t want to get a grinder or have to tamp your coffee, a pressurized portafilter will be the best option for you.

Frothing/Steaming

There a couple of different types of boilers you can find in semi-automatic machines and, depending on which you choose, it will impact whether you can brew and steam at the same time. Generally, smaller and less expensive machines will contain a single boiler. This helps keep the machine’s footprint small, but it also means that you won’t be able to brew your coffee and steam your milk at the same time. However, mid-range or higher end semi-autos will usually have a thermocoil, heat exchanger, single boiler with a thermoblock or a dual boiler. All these options, with the exception of the thermocoil, have a bigger boiler or even two boilers allowing you to brew and steam simultaneously.

Semi-automatic machines usually come with a traditional steam wand, which require you to “work” the milk a bit in order to get a good froth. While there is a slight learning curve to frothing milk, it isn’t as hard as it seems. In fact, some people prefer having a traditional steam wand, since it again provides them more control over how to the final product turns out. Some semi-autos do come with a panarello wand that injects air into the milk, making the frothing process easier.

Superautomatic Espresso Machines

Often known as the machines that “will do everything but fold your laundry,” superautomatic espresso machines are great for people who like the convenience of being able to make their drink of choice in just a few minutes. While it may be hard to believe, these machines do indeed do almost everything for you including grinding, tamping, brewing your coffee and even steaming the milk for your espresso shot. As a result, these machines are incredibly easy to use and will produce a consistent shot every time, with no muss or fuss.

Brewing

Part of the magic of superautomatic espresso machines is that they make creating your favorite drinks a breeze. The machines all have varying levels of programmability, but some of the most common features on these machines are the ability to adjust your brew temperature, brew volume, extraction time and water hardness. Many machines also have an auto-on function, so your machine will be warmed up by the time you get up in the morning. In addition, some superautomatic espresso machines have one touch pre-set espresso drink options, others have you manually enter your drink selection while others still let you save personalized drink selections.

Most superautomatics come with a built-in grinder, so you don’t have to worry about grinding your beans yourself. Yet this doesn’t mean you don’t have any control over the results. Many superautos will allow you to adjust the fineness and the dosage of the coffee so you can get the flavor and strength you desire. The downside of having a built-in grinder is that while you have the ability to it, there are a limited number of changes you can make. Thus, there is some advantage to having a semi-auto machine that allows you to have a separate grinder, which provides you with an infinite number of grind settings.

Another caveat is that they do not do well with super oily or dark roasts. The oil the beans produce can cause the grinder to clog over time, often doing a number on the machine. Finally, if you want to brew pre-ground coffee, some machines also feature a bypass doser. This feature provides you with the opportunity to brew something besides the beans you already have in the machine’s bean hopper, such as a decaffeinated version of espresso.

Frothing/Steaming

Not unlike semi-autos, there are a variety of options when it comes to what type of boiler is inside your superauto. The most common options are thermocoil heating systems (which don’t give you the ability to brew and steam at the same time), thermoblock heating systems and dual boilers (which do allow for simultaneous brewing and steaming).

Superautomatic espresso machines also offer a couple of choices when it comes to frothing milk. There are machines that use a standard steam wand to froth milk or ones that have a panarello. Some superautos make the process even easier and will automatically froth your milk in a separate carafe or even have a steam wand that will come down and froth your milk right in your own cup.

So, Which is Better?

When it comes down to purchasing a machine, some people use how much maintenance is required to decide what type of machine to get. While this is not a bad factor to keep in mind, you should be prepared to do regular maintenance on either a semi-automatic or superautomatic machine. It’s true that semi-automatic machines do require a little more maintenance, since you will have to clean the portafilters, baskets and shower screen. However, superautos need TLC too, and there are some steps like cleaning the brew group, steam valve and steam wand that are important to perform no matter what type of machine you have.

Ultimately, what is most important when picking out a machine is determining what you want to get out of your machine and what features are most important to you. Now that you know a little more about each type, hopefully you can figure out which will work best for you.

Brew Tips: How to Store Your Coffee Beans

Coffee BeansYou’ve found the perfect espresso machine or coffee maker for you and gotten some tasty coffee beans to brew with. However, now you’ve started to use your beans, you may be wondering how to store them so that they retain their flavor and stay in the best shape possible. This subject can be quite confusing, as there almost as many ideologies on the best way to store coffee beans as there are roasts. In the hope of clearing things up, we completed a variety of tests to determine the best way to keep your coffee fresher longer.

The Freshness Factor

You may have heard that coffee has a short shelf life, which is mostly true. After the beans have been roasted, they outgas carbon dioxide for about 72 hours. As such, many local roasters will package their beans in bags that feature one-way valves that allow the carbon dioxide to escape while protecting them from contact with oxygen, which can make the beans go stale. While this allows you to experience the coffee’s peak flavor, but it will start to lose its freshness once its bag has been opened. Thus, as a general rule, we have found that it’s best to consume your coffee within one or two weeks after opening the bag.

If coffee wasn’t already complicated enough, it is important to keep in mind that every coffee has it’s own sweet spot for when it tastes the best after it has been roasted. Thus, if you ask a number of different roasters when you should drink your coffee beans by, you will get a variety of different answers. Since everyone has different tastes, so we highly recommend that you experiment with your coffee and find your own sweet spot for your roasts.

Storing Your Coffee

Due to the reasons mentioned above, we have found that is best buy your coffee in small quantities, as you need it. Likewise, if you are using whole bean coffee, you should only grind your beans as you make your coffee or espresso, instead of grinding the whole bag all at once. This will ensure the coffee keeps more of its flavor.

However, if you buy your coffee in bulk or need to store it for some other reason, you do have options.  For starters, you may want to divide your coffee supply into a small container for daily use, and a larger container for the bulk of the coffee (which will only be opened to refill the small container). This will allow you to reduce the amount of air the larger container of coffee is exposed to, enabling you to keep it longer. Another thing to keep in mind is generally whole beans will have a longer shelf life than ground beans, which go stale at a faster rate since they have more surface area. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t store ground coffee, you may just not be able to keep it quite as long, depending on how sensitive your taste buds are.

In fact, this same rule applies to how long you can store your coffee in general. In short, it depends on you and how you like your coffee to taste. Some people will notice a change in the flavor of the coffee after a week and want to replace it, while others won’t notice a difference in the coffee until it has lost most of its flavor.

When it comes to storing your coffee, the best environment to keep it in is an airtight container, in a cool, dry place. Why is how you store your coffee so critical?  If you don’t store your coffee in this manner, you risk exposing your coffee to the five “coffee killers” listed below, which decrease the lifespan of your coffee and cause it to go stale.

  • Air: When roasted beans are exposed to air, the flavors in them are oxidized, causing the coffee to go stale.
  • Moisture:  One of the worst things for coffee, moisture taints the oils in the beans, causing off flavors or even making the beans deteriorate.
  • Heat: Exposing the beans to heat before they are brewed will cause them to lose flavor.
  • Light: Direct light can cause the beans to go stale and lose flavor.
  • Odor: Coffee is porous, which means if coffee is near other fragrant items, like fish, it can absorb these flavors. As a result, your coffee could end up tasting like seafood instead of coffee.

Luckily, there are some pretty nifty containers on the market that you can use to store your coffee in and keep it out of harm’s way. We have found that the best options are metal, ceramic or even darkly colored plastic canisters. In addition, it is important to use coffee containers that are airtight, which will keep out air and can prevent moisture and odor from contaminating your beans as well. One of our favorites is the Airscape Coffee Bean Canister, which has a specially designed lid that you push down to remove air from inside the can.

What about glass or clear plastic containers? While these options do look pretty on your counter and let you to see the contents inside, they also allow in one of the biggest coffee killers – light. If you really want to keep your beans in a clear container, make sure to store it in a pantry or drawer where it won’t be exposed to sunlight. Another alternative is to use a polarized canister that will allow you to see its contents while keeping light out.

Is it Ever Okay to Freeze Your Beans?

Freezing beans is a contentious topic in the coffee world. Some people adamantly oppose ever freezing your beans, while some claim it’s okay in certain circumstances. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), “It is important not to refrigerate or freeze your daily supply of coffee because contact with moisture will cause it to deteriorate.” This is a valid point, since every time you open the bag of coffee, which is likely at least once a day; you will be exposing the beans to oxygen and whatever humidity is in the air. Neither of these things is good for coffee and can impact the coffee’s flavor. This effect is even worse when open bags of coffee are stored in the freezer. The humidity forms ice crystals, which essentially freezer burns the beans and causes them to go stale even faster.

However, when it comes to storing unopened coffee, the NCA states it okay to keep it in the freezer as long as it is in an airtight bag. However, once you remove this bag from the freezer and thaw the coffee, do not put the bag back in the freezer. If you do, you will encounter the issue mentioned above, and will likely have freezer burned coffee. Instead of returning the coffee to the freezer, the NCA suggests that you “move [it] to an airtight and store in a cool, dry place.”

While we like the NCA, we couldn’t just take their word for it, so we decided to conduct a couple of tests ourselves. While we did notice a slight difference in the taste of the beans and did have to tweak our grind for the beans a bit, overall we found that coffee beans can be frozen, as long as the package is tightly sealed and unopened the entire time.

Through our research and quasi-scientific experiments, we have discovered a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when storing your beans. While we prefer to use our coffee sooner rather than later, we have found it is possible to prolong the life of your coffee if you take the time to store it properly.

 

Tech Tip: Your Boiler on Milk

When it comes to suffering home espresso machines, our repair technicians have seen it all. From clogged brew screens to burnt out heating elements, there are a variety of ways people unintentionally use and abuse their machines. The unfortunate part is, many of these issues could have been prevented, had the owners known about them and completed some simple espresso machine maintenance. Just following a few easy steps could have saved the owners a lot of money and time away from their precious machine. Of course, just as many homeowners don’t expect some of the worst disasters (such as burst plumbing or leaking roofs) to happen to them, many espresso machine owners hope that they will be able to avoid common problems as well.

The reality is that even if you have a top of the line machine, wear and tear from frequent use will require that you give it a little extra TLC from time to time. Usually this involves giving the machine a weekly cleaning and doing an annual tune-up. If you don’t follow these tips, it is likely that eventually you will encounter a few problems. Costly repairs or replacements are not myths, and they can happen to you.

Still not convinced? Check out what happened to the heating element and boiler inside a Nuova Simonelli Oscar when the steam wand wasn’t removed from the milk frothing pitcher when the machine was turned off and properly cleaned.

espresso machine maintenance

All of the brown clumpy stuff coating the walls of this boiler is milk that got sucked inside it due to the steam wand not being removed from the milk frothing pitcher and opened up after each use; it baked and rotted! The two brown strands hanging off of the white and metal valve are also strands of milk, and should not be there.

milk_boiler_02

As you can see, the boiler on the left overheated, blackened and even cracked due to the milk buildup inside. The boiler on the right is what a normal, or “healthy,” boiler should look like – nice and clean.

heating_element02

The heating element for this machine, on the left, has also gotten burnt out, blackened and corroded. Again, the heating element on the right is how one should look.

Unfortunately, once a boiler has gotten to this stage it has reached the point of no return and must be replaced in order to get your machine up and running again. In some instances you may even be out of luck and have to get an entirely new machine.

However, there are a few easy tips you can follow to avoid winding up in this situation. If you have a heat exchanger machine like the Oscar above, make sure to open the steam valve on your machine every time you turn it off and it cools down. If you don’t, a vacuum is created and the left over milk in the steam wand is sucked up into the boiler. On the other hand, if you have a single boiler machine, such as the Rancilio Silvia, the best way to avoid this problem is to run water out of your steam wand after each use so you don’t create a vacuum in the boiler.

The next time you consider saving flushing out your steam wand for “later,” remember these images and cautionary tale. Clean your steam wand after each use and do a more thorough cleaning of the machine once a week. If a wet cloth isn’t strong enough to cut through the grime, try using a liquid or powder espresso machine cleaner. If your machine has any removable parts, you should take them off for cleaning as well. For instance, if your machine has a panarello, you should remove it and soak it in a solution like Rinza. This will rid it off any milk that has built up inside the panarello as it can get sucked into the boiler. If you follow these simple steps, your espresso machine will likely run well and continue to produce tasty drink for years to come. If you are kind to your espresso machine, it will be kind to you.

Tech Tips: Saeco Talea Touch Test Mode

Saeco Talea TouchThe fact that the Saeco Talea Touch does nearly everything for you (except fold your laundry) makes it one of our more popular espresso machines. Not only does this machine’s technology allow for easy brewing, but it also enables you to access the Test Mode section, so you can give it a “check up” and explore the cause of any issues that may be occurring.

One of the greatest benefits of Test Mode is that it allows you to freely operate the functionality of your machine. For instance, you can do things like check to see if your grinder is working without brewing a shot of coffee, monitor if your brew unit motor is running right or even see if your pump is in good shape. While this mode is useful, the Test Mode for the Talea Touch is one of the more challenging to get into. You must know a special code, as well as how use it, which are both cryptic enough to warrant the use of a secret decoder to finger them out. This is also the case for both the new and the refurbished Saeco Talea Touch Plus, which requires you go through the same process to access the Test Mode.

Luckily, we have something even better – our parts and tech expert, Brendan, who told us the secret code and how and when to enter it. Once we were in, he also showed us how to navigate through the system and play with the options, which are much easier to use.

SCG Tech Tips: Test Mode on the Saeco Talea Touch