Category Archives: Q&A

Tech Tip: Removable Brew Group Maintenance

This tip goes out to all of you Saeco superautomatic espresso machine owners out there. Keep your machine humming along by taking regular care of the removable brew group — we suggest performing the following tasks about once a week (more or less depending on your usage):

  1. Remove the group and thoroughly rinse with very hot water — do not use soap
  2. Older models with a removable screen: Take it off (by unscrewing the screw in the middle) and wash it thoroughly — you will find there is a fine coffee silt behind it
  3. Lubricate all moving parts with a food grade lubricant (give us a call if you need ideas on where to get this)
  4. When the group is out of the machine, thoroughly wipe down the interior chamber to make sure all of the connection points are grounds-free

UPDATE: Watch Gail perform maintenance on the Saeco Talea Giro superautomatic espresso machine

Brew Tip: Half Double Decaf in a Half Caf (with a Twist of Lime)

He may have been poking fun at the overly complex ordering practices of his fellow Angelenos, but Steve Martin’s humorous cafe scene in LA Story is a (semi-)appropriate backdrop for our tip today: Brewing rich, delicious espresso with just a bit of a kick.

When we’re craving the taste of coffee but still need to get to bed before 2am, we meld together a blend of 1/2 Lavazza Super Crema and 1/2 Lavazza DEK espresso. Mixing the caffeinated with the decaffeinated takes things up a notch, but not the full whammy we usually find at the bottom of our cup. And while Lavazza’s DEK is some of the tastiest decaffeinated coffee out there, we love the added creamy dimension of the Super Crema.

One Touch Lattes with the Jura Impressa S9

If simplicity is key, you may be interested in the one touch functionality of the Jura Impressa S9 superautomatic espresso machine. Setup your cappuccinotore with your favorite milk, fill up your hopper with your preferred beans and then, at the touch of a button, you’ll be enjoying a delicious and frothy latte or cappuccino.

Check out Gail as she shows us how easy it is to use this awesome machine!

The Jura Ena Series – From Tip to Tail

In the market for a superautomatic? Jura’s Ena series provides speedy and delicious shot extraction, an easy-to-use milk frothing wand or cappuccinotore system and a relatively small footprint. But don’t take our word for it — check out Gail’s guided tour of the Ena 3, 4 and 5 features and functionality.

Using the Handpresso Wild

We’ve had the Handpresso Wild in the store since October, and it’s one of the most handled objects on display. People are often tickled by the thought of taking their espresso anywhere they want — and we’ve had avid backpackers, day hikers, car campers and international (wo)men of mystery who travel extensively pick them up to make their lives a little bit easier and much more caffeinated.

Last week, we decided to film this awesome contraption — and the ever-suffering Gail went toe-to-toe with it. Check it out!

Brew Tip: Temperature Surfing on the Rancilio Silvia

While single boiler machines are extremely cost effective, they do suffer from wide temperature fluctuations which can result in poorly extracted espresso. As such, the technique for ‘temperature surfing’ was developed by home espresso enthusiasts and you can watch as Gail goes through the process on a Rancilio Silvia. This technique can be applied to any single boiler machine — such as the Saeco Aroma, Ascaso Basic or Dream and any of the Gaggia semi-automatic espresso machines.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

It would make sense that the purported origin of coffee would proffer an elegant and traditional ceremony that highlights the importance and appreciation of this little bean. Taking you from green bean to brew, the Ethopian Coffee Ceremony begins with freshly roasting beans before your eyes and ends with the sipping of a rich, delicious cup of joe — or three.

We found a great description of the ceremony, which covers both how you might experience it in a restaurant versus a traditional ceremony at home.

Continue reading Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Pump or Steam?

In the world of espresso machines, there are two different directions to take: Pump or steam. A lot of the machines we carry are pump driven and that’s pretty much the preferred method for quality espresso extraction, but we do carry a model that utilizes steam pressure and so we wanted to talk about why.

More than anything, our goal is to provide a wide selection of espresso and coffee related gear in a fairly vendor- and goal-agnostic environment. Whether you’re looking to artisan craft excellent espresso each morning or are simply interested in replacing your Starbucks habit, we want to be able to help you find the best tools to achieve your goal. We don’t judge, baby — we’re not snobs.

To that end, we added a DeLonghi coffee-and-espresso combination machine, which is a great solution for folks who battle it out for one type of java over the other in the morning. What may lack in ultimate taste is more than made up for in the convenience of a single unit.

Because these machines combine coffee and espresso makers, DeLonghi used steam pressure because of size and cost limitations. Utilizing one technology for both brewing coffee and pulling espresso makes for a sleeker design and a lower cost overall. But steam doesn’t get the same amount of pressure as a pump-driven machine and the steam pressure temp of 230-240F is well above the recommended espresso extraction temp of around 204F. The result? Burnt espresso.

Steam pressure is older technology and more affordable overall, so you will likely find it in some of the lower end espresso machines on the market. Just be aware of what you’re getting into — if price means more than flavor, steam pressure espresso machines may be the match for you.

Coffee in High Altitudes

It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were wondering in the store how brewing coffee or pulling espresso differs at higher altitudes. We’re basically at sea level here, but we’d been talking about the kind of coffee some of us have found in the higher elevations of Montana — more bitter and like ‘coffee water’ than what we make and drink here.

We found the answer in this interesting piece on coffee in Santa Fe, NM. A Qasimi discusses how the higher altitude affects brewing and roasting:

I don?t drink home-brewed coffee in Santa Fe. I?ve often found it sour and lacking in the depth, robustness and natural sweetness that makes great coffee great. How does high altitude affect coffee and espresso quality at home and with the use of commercial equipment? Drip coffee machines that merely boil are convenient devices but they deliver water to the grounds at below the ideal range of temperatures, leading to underextraction of the beans and a sour, dull or poorly developed brew.

Thus, the only way to compensate for altitude is pressure — and that means espresso — but pulling a proper espresso shot is not easy at this altitude either. Ironically, though the best coffee grows at higher altitudes, with water?s lower boiling point in elevated places, brewing can get tricky. Roasting, on the other hand, merely benefits from altitude: The best possible results come from roasting the beans at the same altitude as they?ll be used and particularly at high altitudes that allow for faster roast development at lower temperatures

Cleancaf or Dezcal?

Lime, calcium and other trace minerals exist in nearly every water supply, leaving behind white scaly deposits when the water has evaporated. Removing this scale on a regular basis is an essential component of any coffee maker or espresso machine maintenance regimen — even if you have ‘soft’ water, there will be trace amounts left over time that can build-up and hinder your machine’s performance.

Some folks suggest using filtered or distilled water from the get-go, so that you don’t risk pitting your boiler through repetitive use of the acid required to remove scale. That’s certainly one tack to take, but we’ve found that we prefer the taste of espresso made with water that has some mineral content to it. Because of that, we descale our machines about every three months to ensure that no deposits build up and ultimately burn out the boiler.

If you prefer minerals in your java as we do, there are a couple of products on the market that will help you keep your espresso machine or coffee maker in tip-top shape: Cleancaf or Dezcal. Which is better? Again, it depends on your preferences.

Billed as a cleaner and descaler, Cleancaf combines descaling acid with a detergent that will also break down the oils left behind by coffee beans. It also features a blue dye that helps with thorough rinsing.

Dezcal, on the other hand, is a straight-up descaler — and an incredibly powerful one at that. While it doesn’t have a detergent component, it’s a much stronger product and removes more scale; also, it doesn’t have a blue dye, which we think is a good thing.

Of the two, we recommend Dezcal over Cleancaf, but we carry both of them so you can determine which product is right for you.