Category Archives: Reviews

Crew Review: Rancilio KRYO 65 OD

Rancilio KRYO 65 ODWant to be able to create the perfect grind on demand when making drinks at your cafe? Now, you can with the Rancillio KRYO 65 OD. The “OD” just happens to stand for “On Demand.” With this grinder you will be able to easily dose any amount of coffee you want to be ground with the single, double and customize buttons on the machine. The thing that is particularly nice about this customize feature is that you can grind continuously when making drinks. For instance, if you are making a single, double and triple, you have the function to grind for all three drinks without actually going in and changing the settings as you would on most other machines. Likewise, with this grinder you will be able to grind for nearly any application you can imagine – French press, drip coffee espresso, fine drip/pour over and even Turkish coffee.

While the On Demand function is what makes this machine standout most from its “sibling” the KRYO 65, there are a couple of other features, such as dosing and counting, which are unique to the Rancilio KRYO 65 OD. One feature we really like is the “start dose” option. This setting provides you with the choice of starting the dose by activating the grinder with a portafilter or the press of a button. Thus, if you don’t like to have to constantly push in your portafilter to start your grind, this is a very nice option.  Another option you have within the KRYO 65 OD’s dosing settings is to set the grinder to dose out your coffee based on time. To do this you will have to figure out how many seconds your grinder needs to run to in order to fill up your portafilter for a single or double shot, but once you do so, you can program the machine to run for that length of time every time you want it to grind for a single or double shot.

When it comes to counting your drinks, the KRYO 65 OD allows you to keep track how many total drinks you have made, as do many other machines. However, unlike other machines, you can also keep track of how many single, double and customized shots you produced on the grinder. By keeping track of your drinks this way, you can make sure you aren’t running through a bunch of espresso and not charging for it. In addition, there are counters for the burrs themselves, a feature we haven’t seen on many other machines. These counters allow you to calibrate your grinder by weight, so it will tell you exactly how many grams of coffee you use when you make a shot. You then can take that weight and input it into the settings of the machine, so your grinder thinks every time it makes a shot it is dosing a certain amount of coffee. Finally, you can then use the burr counter to see how much weight has gone through the machine. While this process isn’t completely perfect, it is great because it allows to you too see how much coffee has gone through your machine so you know when you are due to replace your burrs (this typically after going through 900-1,000 pounds of coffee).

Ultimately, we found the Rancilio KRYO 65 OD to be a pretty great grinder. It is a pretty clean grinder, so you won’t have to worry about cleaning up a huge mess after making a drink. In addition, the price point of the machine is pretty reasonable, especially considering all the great features that are included. To see what actually all of these features and options to do, watch as Brandon explores some of the machine’s settings.

Crew Review: Rancilio KRYO 65 OD

Crew Review: Jura Impressa F8

Jura Impressa F8Jura has been busy designing a lot of new machines, and this latest model is sure to impress all of your friends! The Jura Impressa F8 contains a mix of some of the best features from the brand’s new and older machines. However, in our opinion the nicest part about this machine is its software and all of the programmability it has.

One of our favorite settings on the Impressa F8 is the “Expert Mode,” which allows you to be the authority and change the settings (shot volume, shot strength, shot temperature and amount of milk used) for all the drinks that are programmed on the machine. Likewise, the F8 gives you the option of changing the volume of your shot once the machine starts to brew, allowing you to customize and play around with your drinks on the fly. Finally, the machine also has a counter so you can keep track of how many shot you’ve pulled and how many drinks you’ve made, and use that to help calculate when your machine is due for a cleaning.

Speaking of cleaning, while Jura doesn’t provide you with access to the brew unit, which is the case on all of their superautos, they do provide you with some pretty efficient automated cleaning tools. These tools can be found and accessed in the maintenance section of the machine’s programming. For instance, you can program the Jura Impressa F8 rinse both your coffee and milk system to ensure your machine doesn’t get gunked up with coffee residue or old milk.

The Jura Impressa F8 is ideal for someone with a lot of users in their home, such as roommates or large family, that enjoy making a variety of coffee drinks. While we wish Jura had incorporated a little more stainless steel into the casing of the machine, we like that it has features like a bypass doser and digital screen as well as a ton of functionality. Watch as Brendan and Gail play around with the settings for making a cappuccino on the Impressa F8, and attempt Gail’s famous superauto latte art.

Crew Review: Jura Impressa F8

Mystery Taste Test: Cappuccino Chips

CappuccinoBy now you’ve probably heard of the Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest. If you haven’t, this annual contest hosted by Lay’s allows people to submit their ideas for new potato chip flavors in to the company. The brand then selects three to four “flavor finalists” to actually produce so that the public can sample them and vote on an ultimate winner. Last year’s contest conjured up inventive flavors like Chicken & Waffles, Sriracha and Cheesy Garlic Bread (which ended up being declared the winner). This year, contestants have gotten even more creative in developing flavor finalists, which are Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Mango Salsa, Wasabi Ginger and Cappuccino chips.

Being the coffee lovers that we are, we were both surprised and interested to hear that a cappuccino chip was being created. After all it combined two of our favorite things, a cappuccino and potato chips. However, we were a little uncertain how these two flavors would mix, as they are both pretty distinctive. As such, we decided we no choice but to put these cappuccino chips to the test and taste them ourselves. However, we wanted this test to be as scientific as possible and wanted people to taste these chips without developing any preconceived notions about their flavor. Therefore, we decided to invite several of our crew members to blind tasting, so we could find out what they truly thought of the chips.

“What were the results of the experiment?” you may ask.  What did the chips taste like? Are they sweet, salty or somewhere in between? More importantly, do they actually taste like a cappuccino or even coffee? You’ll just have to watch the video of our crew chowing down on these cappuccino chips to find out. Likewise, if you have gotten to try the chips out yourself, we would love to hear what you think! Please leave a comment and share your review.

Mystery Taste Test: Cappuccino Chips

Crew Review: Melitta Pour Over Stands

Stainless StandMelitta Pour Over StandsWant to ensure you stay on trend with your coffee making? Why not try pour over coffee? Manual coffee-making methods are becoming increasingly popular, you’ve probably seen them popping up in your favorite cafes and many coffee enthusiasts are using them at home as well. The nice thing about brewing with pour overs is that you have more control over the different variables (the grind, water temperature, length of the pour, etc.) that go into to making a cup of coffee so you can create your ideal cup of coffee. In addition, with a pour over, you can evenly extract your entire basket of coffee, which is big advantage. Oftentimes on drip machines the middle of your coffee will get extracted a lot more than the edges, which can impact the flavor. As result, pour over coffee is typically very smooth and highlights the unique flavor profile of the coffee brewed. Besides providing you with the control you need to create a quality cup of coffee pour overs are also a simple, lo-fi way to create a tasty cup of coffee. All you need is a cup, kettle, pour over and a filter of coffee to start brewing. Of course, if you are brewing on a pour over, it is also nice to have a stand! Devices like Melitta Pour Over Stands put the focus on the coffee brewing process and provide an extra helping hand by holding your pour over in place.

Just as there are a variety of styles and types of pour overs, there are also a couple of different Melitta Pour Over Stands to choose from. However, one of the benefits of these stands is that both types we carry come with a porcelain cone (or even two or three in some cases) as well as filters, so that at least that part of the selection process is taken care of for you. From there, you just have to decide if you would rather go with the Melitta Bamboo Stand, which is a single brewer that will allow you to brew like a “slow bar” professional at home. If you like to drink a lot of coffee, are worried about other coffee drinkers stealing your precious brew or are looking to get a third wave setup in your café, you might want to consider getting the Melitta Stainless Steel Pour Over Bar. These sleek pour over stations allow you to brew either two or three pour overs at once, so you can serve several eager coffee drinkers. Check out Gail and Brendan as they try out these Melitta Pour Over Stands and pick up a few brew tips along the way!

Crew Review: Melitta Pour Over Stands

Crew Review: Saeco Pure

Saeco PureWe are excited to announce a new addition to the Saeco family. Part of the Minuto class of the machines, the Saeco Pure is the second machine that is in this category that we know of, but the brand claims that they are going to add at least one machine to the family and possibly more.

The release of the Pure couldn’t happen at a better time as one of Saeco’s other beloved machines, the Vienna Plus, has recently been discontinued by the brand. However, the Pure is an excellent replacement. Like the Vienna Plus, the Pure’s simplicity and wallet-friendly price point make it a great option if you are just getting into the world of espresso. This machine is a great option even if you consider yourself an old pro when it comes to superautomatic machines, but just want just the basics and not all of the fancy and sometimes complicated settings that come with higher end superautos. Keeping on up your maintenance is also a breeze with the Saeco Pure. Just like the Vienna Plus, the Pure has a removable brew group, so you can pop it out of your machine whenever it is due for a cleaning. If you want to speed up the process, you can put the brew group in your dishwasher. We just recommend that you put it in the top rack of the dishwasher so it doesn’t melt.

While the Pure is part of the Minuto family, this model does have three major differences from the first Saeco Minuto. First, the Pure doesn’t have a coffee lever that allows you to brew drip like the Minuto does. However, there is a button to press that will brew a lungo (long espresso) so you can get something close to drip coffee. Second, you can’t adjust the strength of your shot (also known as the aroma). As such, you’re best option from regaining some control over your shot is to cut back on the amount of water that is going to be dispensed, which will make the coffee stronger. Third, the burrs inside the Pure aren’t ceramic like on the Minuto, but are stainless steel. Keep in mind these differences don’t make the Pure not as good of an option as the Minuto, just a different one. With the Pure, you are provided with some programmability with the bypass doser, the ability to program the length of your shot or the option to brew a double shot.

If you’re looking to add this machine to your family of appliances decorating your kitchen, check out Gail and Brendan’s demonstration of the Saeco Pure. They’ll go through the features, compare them with the machine’s almost twin, the Saeco Minuto and brew up Gail’s famous wet cappuccino. It’s so good; we’ll never get tired of it! If you listen carefully you can even pick up some pro-tips for milk frothing with a panarello from Gail.

Crew Review: Saeco Pure

A Tea Lover in a Coffee World: Savrika Tea Review

IMG_1795After a year of writing tea reviews, I have visited quite a few different tea shops and houses in the greater Seattle area. While none of the other tea shops I visited were bad, in fact all of them served great tea and food, it was apparent that the owners of some tea shops hadn’t invested the same amount of knowledge or time into learning about the products they sell. Or if they have, they haven’t quite figured out how to share that information with their customers. However, when I recently stumbled upon Savrika Tea in downtown Kirkland, I realized I had discovered something really special.

You can tell that the owner, Rupa D. Gadre, is passionate about tea. This love for tea is evident from the second you step into Savrika Tea. This is not only because the numerous tea certifications she has earned, Rupa has been taking specialized courses since 2011 and officially became a Certified Tea Specialist in the Fall of 2013, but also due to the tea wall focal point and huge variety of tea with something to suit every taste.

IMG_1821Rupa’s entry to the tea world and entrepreneurship was somewhat unexpected. She originally worked as a Web Analyst for Cisco Systems, but took a hiatus from work to have children. As a mom, Rupa often visited the mall for her kid’s play dates and stopped at Teavana while there. Yet, while the store introduced her to a variety of wonderful loose leaf teas, she soon realized there were major drawbacks with the experience. One, there was no place to actually sit and enjoy the tea she purchased, so Rupa was forced to take the tea home and drink it by herself. Two, Rupa explains that she had a lot of questions about tea that the store staff couldn’t answer. Thus, disappointed in the lack of the social aspect and wanting people to be able to learn more about the tea they were drinking, Savrika Tea was born.

When it was clear that the store was going to be a reality, Rupa told me that she lucked into meeting an architect, who also happened to be an ex-Starbucks employee, through a fellow parent. Rupa explained that, while not a designer, she knew she wanted “a modern and clean look and feel.  That is evident also in the tea wall focal point, the furnishings I chose, the concrete design on the floor, and the bathrooms.” Rupa adds that “because I’m the one making the final decisions, there was no committee to restrict my colors or themes,” which was nice since it allowed her to make the space truly her own.

IMG_1818The appearance of the store definitely accomplishes Rupa’s goal. The shop is a modern oasis, with shiny granite tables and a cozy nook to one side of the space that is excellent for curling up with a good book. The clean lines of the shelving put the tea ware and tea that is sold on display. Aside from the giant wall of tea, my favorite part of the store was the tea sampling station that is set up in the center of the room.  Here, all 200 varieties of tea the shop sells are stored in small, color-coded tins (black tins for black teas, green tins for green teas and so on). Customers are able to open these tins in order to smell and examine the teas inside to find one or more that they would like to drink. There is a directory of all the teas that the store offers, which lists the ingredients and a description of each tea to help you get a better idea of what each one contains. If you still aren’t sure what tea you would like to try, Savrika’s knowledgeable staff can help you find a tea that is a good fit for you based on what flavors you enjoy. To ensure her staff remains knowledgeable about tea, Rupa says that, “after every training [I go to], I bring back my coursework and notes and educate my staff. That way they have more information at hand when speaking with customers.” In addition, Rupa states, “ I encourage my staff to try a new tea on each shift; that way they can give personal recommendations as well make their way through all 200 varieties.”

After exploring a number of the different teas on offer, I ended up deciding upon a black-green tea blend called “Roxie’s Passion” at the recommendation of a staff member. This blend includes black tea, green tea, papaya cubes, rosehip peel, flavoring and sunflower blossoms. Since it is summer, and has been hot out, I opted to have Roxie’s Passion brewed iced.  The tea arrived at my table in a to-go cup and was a pretty golden peach color. The flavor was even better. The tea tastes of a nice, smooth traditional black tea, except slightly lighter, perhaps because of the green tea that was also in the brew. There were fruity notes, such as peach and passion fruit, in the tea that made it even more delicious. In addition, the tea shop sells quite a few desserts and tea sandwiches, which can be hard to find nowadays. I didn’t sample any of these goodies myself, but they looked pretty tasty.

IMG_1812While Savrika Tea is Rupa’s first foray into selling tea on her own, it is not her first experience with tea. According to Rupa:

As far back as I can remember, tea was always around and part of my life.  When we had guests, my Mom would bring out the nicer teapots.  At parties, chai was always the last item served.  When we’d go on vacations, my parents would stop the car for afternoon tea time. It didn’t matter where we were, but the tea break came to be expected. It was the tradition that followed from India to their new country, from their parents’ houses to our home, and now to my home and business.

Since tea has long been a part of Rupa’s life, she decided she would combine another important aspect of her background, her Indian heritage, into the store. As such, “the base of the [store’s] name is ‘Sarika,’ which is a Sanskrit woman’s name meaning beauty in nature. I added the ‘v’ to make it Savrika – wholly mine and unique, but with an Indian base. “

IMG_1823Savrika Tea is rapidly approaching its second birthday; the store opened its doors in September of 2012, and shows no signs of slowing down. Even on a Wednesday afternoon, when I visited, there were quite a few people in the shop sipping tea while reading or working on their computers. Besides selling tea, Rupa offers frequent tea tastings and classes so customers interested in learning more about tea have the opportunity to do so. It seems the abundance of knowledge Rupa provides her customers is likely what makes Savirka Tea so successful. Rupa said it best when she stated, “I have no agenda except to provide high-quality tea and perhaps educate customers along the way.”

Crew Review: Everpure ESO7

Everpure ESO7If you live in the United States, it is likely you are afflicted by hard water. According to a U.S. geologic survey completed by the American Water Works Association, 85 percent of the United States has hard water (also known as water that high mineral content). While hard water is not harmful to your health, it can have a funny aftertaste and, even worse, cause damage in the boilers of espresso machines by creating scale buildup. Now that you know that there is a good chance that you have hard water in your area, what do you do to protect your precious espresso machine? The easiest and relatively least expensive method is to invest in water softener for commercial espresso machines, such as the Everpure ESO7.

While there are a variety of different water softeners and filtrations systems on the market, we like the Everpure because it takes care of a lot of different aspects of water filtration. Not only will this cartridge soften your water, but it will also buffer and filter your water. This helps prevent the water from becoming too acidic and reduces minerals, chlorine, off tastes and orders. In addition, this system has a pretty long lifespan and covers most manufacture warranties. The Everpure ESO7 is a single cartridge system, so you will also need a filter head in order to connect it to your espresso machine. Everpure makes a couple of different heads, so you can get any one that fits this system, but we typically use the QL2 Filter Head since it is simple and economical.

However, before you install a water softener, it is important that you know exactly how hard your water is to ensure your purchase the right setup for you café. If you live somewhere that has water that contains five to three grains of scale, you will not want to get the ESO7, as it is too strong and will actually do more harm than good. On the other hand, if you are located in area that has six grams of scale or higher, that amount of scale does need to be brought down and you will want to install something like the Everpure ESO7 to protect your machine. Finally, if you are in an area with really hard water (yes, we’re looking at you Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona and southern California), you can build a double or triple capacity flirtation system using these Everpure cartridges.

Besides working on a variety of setups, these cartridges are easy enough to install and replace that you can do it on your own. This will save you both time and money, since you won’t need to have a tech sent out to you or have to pay any for any technician fees. Ready to start setting up your filtration system? Check out this video where Brandon tells us a little bit more about the Everpure ES07 and demonstrates how it is installed.

Crew Review: Everpure ESO7

Crew Review: Jura Impressa C60

Jura Impressa C60Like many of our other favorite brands, Jura is always working on innovating their machines, and the latest edition is pretty easy on the eyes. The Jura Impressa C60 has the same sleek styling as its predecessor the Impressa C5, but many of the features on the machine have been enhanced. In fact, it almost seems as if Jura took a look at our list of areas that had room for growth and improved upon these items.

One of the more common complaints about the C5 was that users did not have much control over the functions on the machine. You had programmable control over the water volume, but not over the temperature or the shot volume. However, Jura has remedied this on the Impressa C60 by allowing you to adjust the volume, dosage and strength of the shot on the fly so you can make important last minute changes to your drink right before you brew. While you still don’t have the option to change your brew temperature on the fly with the C60, you can select it to be either “high” or “normal” in the machine’s menu.

Another drawback of the Impressa C5 is that while it would brew your coffee at one touch of a button, there was no automatic milk frothing option. This may not have been an issue for budding baristas, but we have found a lot of superauto users enjoy having the machine do the work for them and wished the C5 would do the same. Well, you no longer have to dream, as this wish has been granted. The C60 is equipped with Jura’s Fine Foam Frother, so you can make light and fluffy milk for cappuccino with just a touch of a button, no barista school required!

Ultimately, the biggest pro of the Jura Impressa C60 is the really inexpensive price of the machine, considering all of the options it has. We also like the programmable auto-shut off, since it allows you to go about your business around the house, and elsewhere, without having to worry whether you left your machine on. Do-it-yourselfers may not like being able to access the brew unit on the machine for cleaning, which is an issue on all Jura superautos, but we haven’t heard any complaints as they have tablets that do the job for you.

To see what exactly has been upgrade on the Jura Impressa C60, watch as Brendan and Gail explore the new functions on this machine. Of course, this test wouldn’t be complete without rewarding all of their hard work by making their signature cappuccino.

Crew Review: Jura Impressa C60

Tech Tips: Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius Programming

Classe 9 XcelsiusWe learned about the features and functionality of the Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius last week, so this week we are going to dive a little deeper and talk about what you can do with the machine’s programming and settings. With its variety of features and menus, the Classe 9 Xcelsius may seem a little intimidating at first glance. However, even though there are a lot of options on this high-end machine, it is really easy to use and get through. This is largely because Rancilio does an excellent job of explaining what every button on the machine does. In fact, you don’t even have to pull out your manual to look up the functions out each button, as Rancilio has printed a guide showing which features each button controls right on the bottom front of the machine.

The top row of icons shows you what each button does when you are in the programming mode of the machine. In this mode, you have a button for plus, minus, enter, escape and for programing the volumetric control. Once you are in programming mode, you have normal options like setup, Xcelsius module, counters, iSteam, cleaning cycle as well as data interfaces and diagnostics that are really just for techs. The true fun begins when you delve further into the setup option. In this mode you can adjust the pressure setting on your machine, which is cool since on most other machines you have to access their internals to make these kinds of changes. You can also change your dose setting and pre-infusion time, track the length of your shot and even save energy by reducing the amount of power the machine uses at night.

The bottom row of icons shows what buttons control the cleaning, manger and volumetric controls on this machine. Each of these controls comes with several helpful functions. For instance, on the cleaning module you can set the Classe 9 Xcelsius to do an automatic backflush and the volumetric control allows you to set your brewing parameters by volume instead of impulses. A few of our favorite features are the counter, which allows you to see how many times a button has been hit. This enables you to make sure this button as been hit roughly the same amount of times as drinks you’ve charged for, putting control over accounting features back in your hands. We also like the renew boiler water function, which is really unique and only offered by Rancilio, which allows you to flush all the water out of your boiler and replace it with fresh water.

Last, but not least, on the front of the machine are two buttons, which are the buttons that actually make this Classe 9 an Xcelsius machine. The first of these two buttons is marked with an “O,” and is the power button that allows you to turn each group head on and off.  The second button, or “X” button; will take you into the barista mode of the Xcelsius. Here you can control the temperature profile for each group head and change it up, down and also modify the start and end temperature of your brew.

The downside is the barista mode is one of the more limited options on the machine, and is really intended for making minor adjustments as you can only change your temperature setting by about five degrees. Yet, if you press and hold down the “X” and “O” buttons together, you are able to access the tech mode on the machine, which gives you a much larger temperature variance (ten degrees) to play with.

Although there are a few features to get accustomed to on this machine, the nice part is your tech should have set up most of the major options for you, so you will just have to make minor adjustments. However, whether you fully utilize all the options on the machine or not, it is nice know what they control. To find out more about each setting, watch as Brandon takes us on more in-depth tour of the programing of the Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius. Before you know it, you’ll have your machine dialed in to make the perfect cup of coffee!

Tech Tips: Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius Programming

Crew Review: Capresso Iced Tea Maker

Capresso Iced Tea MakerIce, ice baby! That’s what we’ve been chanting these past couple of weeks. Yes, it does get hot even here in Seattle. As such, we probably wouldn’t make it through the summer, nor would it be complete, without a frosty cold drink to sip on. One of our preferred beverages to cool down with is iced tea. However, the one draw back is that we usually have to wait a couple of hours for the tea to brew and chill before we actually get to enjoy it. When it is as hot as it has been, we’re talking upper 80s here folks – we’re just not built for that, a couple of hours seems like an awfully long time to wait for refreshment. Enter the Capresso Iced Tea Maker, our wonder brewer of the summer. This slick machine can brew up a batch of tea in just 10 minutes or less, and it is pretty easy to use as well.

In order to make iced tea on this machine, load the removable filter basket with three to six tablespoons of loose leaf tea or four to ten tea bags, depending on how strong you like your tea. Next, fill the removable water tank in back of the machine up with water and fill the glass carafe in the front of the machine up to the “ice line” with ice. Note, that the line is pretty high up, so make sure you have a lot of ice. There is also a water line (near the bottom of the machine), so if you’re short on ice you could also fill it up with really cold water.

If you are brewing something like a black tea, you can also try putting pieces of fruit into the carafe with the ice, which will infuse your tea as it brews over the fruit. In fact, if you are interested in experimenting with your tea, the Capresso Iced Tea Maker actually comes with a recipe booklet that has instructions for creating other clever, tea-based drinks. Before you start your brew, make sure you adjust the brew level on the top of the machine, to brew your tea to your desired strength. Finally, press the button the side to start brewing, and your delicious iced tea should be ready within five to ten minutes.

The nice thing about this brewer is that you won’t even have to put it into hibernation during the colder winter months, as it makes hot tea too. Just you’re your tea without the ice or cold water. Or, if you really need your java fix, and would rather cool off with iced coffee, you can make that on this brewer as well. Simply add coffee grounds instead of tea and you’re good to go.

We used some of the Chai Dairies Iced Tea we just got in to whip up a batch and were impressed with both the teas and the machine. The tea maker is ultra convenient and the teas are in tasty flavors like Blood Orange, Rose Oolong and Berry Blast.  Watch as Kaylie and Gail use the Capresso Iced Tea Maker to try out the Blood Orange tea in particular, which they say is perfect for when you’re thirsty on a hot day.

Crew Review: Capresso Iced Tea Maker