Category Archives: Semi-Automatic

Crew Review: La Marzocco Linea Mini

It’s new. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. It must be from La Marzocco.Linea Mini

Yes! That is right. We are here today with a Crew Review of the new La Marzocco Linea Mini. And while the word mini is in the name, it really is anything but mini!

The Linea Mini has a huge 3.5 liter  water reservoir which is sure to last you several brewing cycles before requiring a refill. (And that means more coffee! We all can get behind that!)

We were really impressed with the details that were put into this machine. The drip tray features a new magnetic connection. Which makes for easy removal and re-attachment, it literally snaps back into place. The Linea Mini also has their lion logo etched into the brew head screen. Sure it doesn’t change the way your espresso will taste, but it certainly looks awesome!

The steaming function on this machine is truly a show stopper. It features a 4 hole steam tip, which makes for some fast steaming. During the filming of our Crew Review, Gail was able froth up a 12 ounce pitcher in no time flat!

Gail seems to enjoy the stainless steel model, but the Linea Mini also comes in black, red and white. Something for everyone!

Be sure to watch the full Crew Review below to learn about all the details of the awesome machine!

Crew Review: Saeco Aroma

Do you smell that? That aroma? Well? :)Saeco Aroma

That’s right! We are talking about the Saeco Aroma semi-automatic espresso machine. Perfect for those with limited space but still want the control for great espresso. The Saeco Aroma is a pressurized portafilter system which will improve the extraction from almost any fineness of ground beans. The pressurized environment promotes the perfect brewing conditions without need of an expensive grinder.

The Saeco Aroma has a huge water tank. Or should we say swimming pool. At 88oz, you will rarely need to refill this machine. The panarello steam wand makes frothing milk a breeze. You won’t have all the control you would get with a traditional wand, but it will get you very close! The steam wand does have limited motion, which can be make frothing larger pitchers more difficult.

The Saeco Aroma is smaller than the Saeco Via Venezia, therefore it’s great for those with limited space. Watch the full Crew Review below!

 

 

Crew Review: DeLonghi Dedica

DeLonghi DedicaBig things come in small packages! That’s right folks, we are talking about the DeLonghi Dedica. It’s a brand new machine to our store, and sure packs a punch! Coming in at just under 7 inches wide and 13 inches tall, the DeLonghi Dedica is dedicated to bringing you fast and tasty espresso when it counts!

This is a  great entry level machine, that comes with a lot of features you won’t find on other machines in the same price range. The DeLonghi Dedica has a lot of programability. It allows you to control the water temperature (low, medium or high) for hotter espresso. You can adjust the amount of time until the DeLonghi Dedica goes into stand-by mode and you can set your water hardness (soft, medium or hard) for a better tasting brew.

But one of the features that really makes this espresso machine stand out from the crowd is the descaling mode. It will let you know when it is time to descale and it will even run the descaling solution through the machine for you. Yay for automation!

As you probably imagined, this is a single boiler machine. What does that mean for you? You can’t steam and brew at the same time. Which can be a turn off to some, but a non-issue to others!

The DeLonghi Dedica also comes with an E.S.E pod basket, allowing you to brew pods if that is the way you roll! Overall, this is a great machine and we are excited to share it with you. Be sure to watch the full Crew Review below! And please subscribe to our YouTube channel by clicking here!

 

 

Comparison: R58 vs. Oracle

Because two boilers are better than one, that’s why! Yes we are talking about the double boiler machines, and specifically we are going to take a closer look at the Rocket R58 and the Breville Oracle.

So ring the bell referee, it’s the R58 vs. Oracle.

While these two machines have a few things in common they truly are very different, each one catering to a different type of  home barista.

The Breville Oracle sits in class almost to it’s own; somewhere R58 vs. Oraclebetween a super-automatic and a semi-automatic.  It has a grinder and a tamper built right into the machine. The internal clock allows you to have the machine auto start in the morning, which can make waking up that much easier! The auto frothing steam wand allows for easy cappuccino creation. The Breville Oracle has many menu features allowing you to tinker until you get the perfect drink. However, automation always comes at a cost. Even with all the menu features, measuring exact amounts of coffee grounds, for example, is not possible.

The Rocket R58 sits up at the top of it’s semi-automatic class. It R58 vs. Oraclefeatures a dual PID temperature control system, allowing you to program both the steam and brew boiler temperatures. The commercial grade rotary pump is quieter than most and allows for pump pressure adjustments and monitoring. The R58 is also plumbable, which means you can say goodbye to refilling the water tank by directly connecting this machine to your water supply. Of course, you can’t talk about any Rocket machine without mentioning its beautiful design. A lot of care is put into each of these handcrafted machines, you can be sure it will look great on your countertop.

Be sure to watch the full comparison video below! If you found this comparison helpful, subscribe to our YouTube channel for more by clicking here.

 

 

Ask Gail: Espresso Shot Quality

espresso shot qualityAs with everything in life, when you choose one thing you will always have give up a little something elsewhere. And that’s not always a bad thing! But in order to make an informed decision you should know what it is exactly that you will be gaining and losing. When it comes to espresso machines, a lot of what you will be gaining and losing is espresso shot quality.

Let us preface by saying that there are a lot of factors that need to come together in unison in order to create the perfect shot of espresso. Everything from the grind, to the tamp, to the humidity in your environment need to be just right for that espresso to make the ultimate list of all things delicious. So one machine simply can’t make all things come true. But it certainly can get you close.

When it comes to espresso machines you have essentially three families: manual, semi-automatic and super-automatic. We are going to focus on the semi- and super-automatics since they tend to be the most popular. The super-automatics are the one stop shop machines. Espresso at the push of a button. Super convenient for those who want it. The semi-automatics give you a little more control over your espresso shot. You have the ability to fine tune your grind and tamp pressure to just how you like it. That is not to say that super-automatics don’t give you options, but there will inherently be less.

As a result, your shots will vary from machine to machine. We think that you can pull better shots on a semi-automatic but that comes at a cost. You will be required to hone your craft in order to get that sweet nectar just right. While a super-automatic will get you close enough with little to no effort. It all comes down to what you want! That’s really the best part of it all.

Watch the video below to hear Gail’s full explanation of espresso shot quality from machine to machine. And be sure to check out our YouTube channel as well for more information and Crew Reviews!

 

(Not So Scientific) Experiment: Brewing Tea in a Pressurized Portafilter

You may remember that not so long ago we posted a blog about brewing tea on your espresso machine. Wha?! Yep, true story. At the time, we had a lot of fun with it and found that we could pressurized_teasuccessfully pull a whole cup of tea through a pressurized portafilter. There was even a layer of tea crema. So crazy and so cool.

Around SCG, we’re always looking for different ways to use the equipment we already have. So this was pretty exciting to us, especially given that there are cafes specifically dedicated to this type of tea experience…and now we could do it ourselves!

If you’re more into videos than text-based articles, we’ve created one specifically to walk you through the process of “dialing in” your cup of espresso machine-prepped tea. Now we’re off to daydream about the possibilities of tea lattes. Let’s say it together now: Yummmm!

Tech Tips: Temperature Surfing on the Rancilio Silvia

Oh, Miss Silvia! A beloved home espresso machine among many a household, she can pull an Rancilio Silviaespresso shot like nobody’s business. However, like other single boiler espresso machines, you need to do a bit of temperature surfing after steaming your milk in order to get a quality shot of espresso. Unlike regular surfing, though, you don’t need to wear a bathing suit, so that’s pretty sweet.

Why do you need to temperature surf? Well, steam temperature is right around 212 degrees F, whereas brewing temperature is between 195-205 degrees F. If you steam your milk and jump immediately into the brewing process, you’re at far too hot a temperature for a tasty shot of espresso. Yes, it will still pull the shot, but there will be plenty of burned taste to be had!

Luckily, Gail and Brendan are here to walk us through the simple process in the video below. And let’s try to keep daydreaming about the beach to a minimum, shall we?

Tech Tips: Plumbing in a Rocket Home Espresso Machine

We hear from customers quite frequently that directions for pluming in a Rocket Espresso machine are needed…desperately! We’re not going to lie, we’ve even heard from plumbers calling in on behalf of their customers, as they are in their homes trying to complete the installation. And, on more than one occasion, we’ve had stories recounted of multiple hardware store trips and a fair amount of frustration.

So we’re here to set the story straight: You don’t need a plumber to install your plumbed in machine. You don’t need to spend hours, or really more than 10-20 minutes, on the installation. Last, but not least, you certainly don’t need to suffer through sixteen trips to [insert name of your favorite hardware store]. What you do need is to watch the video below, which is a step-by-step walkthrough (with SCG’s very own repair technicians!) of how to plumb in your Rocket home espresso machine!

They’ll even explain how to disconnect the hoses, in case you need to remove the machine for a repair or relocation, and show you the steps for programming the PID to accept a direct connection the R58. Espresso lovers, unite!

Brew Tips: How to Froth Milk

How to Froth Milk2Among our most frequently asked questions is “how do you create perfectly frothed milk?” This question is often closely followed by, “how do I then use that milk to create latte art?” or “how do I incorporate that milk into a shot to make a latte, cappuccino, etc.?” This comes as no surprise, since one of the trickiest parts of making a great drink is getting the milk frothed just right. You don’t want your milk to be too frothy, but not entirely flat either. In most cases the goal you are trying to achieve is creating just the right amount of microfoam. To further help you achieve caffeinated bliss; we’ve decided to tackle all of these questions in this series of brew tips, starting with how to froth milk. After all, creating perfectly frothed milk is the one of the key components for creating all the other drinks.

Getting your technique down, and then practicing a lot, is an important part of successfully frothing milk. However, the type of machine you are using as well as the type of steam wand the machine has, will also impact how your milk turns out.  For instance, inexpensive espresso makers and machines like the Saeco Via Venezia, often have panarellos, which basically foam your milk for you. This is great if you are an espresso newbie who isn’t used to using a manual steam wand or just want to have foamy milk and aren’t picky about what type of foam you get. The plastic models usually have four or more holes on the top, which bring in a lot of air and will make your milk bubblier. If you don’t like bigger, airy foam with a lot of bubbles, you might want to upgrade to one of the stainless steel panarellos that typically only have one hole.

When it comes to frothing milk on a machine that has a traditional steam wand, like the Nuova Simonelli Musica, the rules about the number of holes in steam arm change. Wands with four holes will give you a lot of steam power and will heat the milk really quickly. These wands will also create really amazing microfoam. However, the quality of the microfoam you get is partially based on what type of machine you are brewing on as well as the tip. For instance, the Musica naturally has a lot more steam power, as opposed to a machine like the Breville Dual Boiler, which is a bit slower when it comes to steaming. That being said, neither machine is better than the other, it just depends on what you are looking to create. The Dual Boiler is nice in that it gives you a lot more time to work with, and produce a lot of, foam. On the other hand, it can be tricky to get a lot of foam on the Musica because it heats up so fast.

Once you’ve got what machines and wands you will be using for brewing, it all comes down to practice as we mentioned before. However, we realize this can be harder than it sounds, so here is our cheat sheet for how to froth milk for a latte or a cappuccino.

11 Steps for Frothing Milk for a Latte

1)   Start with a very cold pitcher and milk. This will gives you more time to work with your milk. If it is already warm already it’s going to heat up faster, providing you with less time.

2)   Blow out the extra water in the steam wand.

3)   Adjust the angle of the steam wand to suite your preferences. We typically keep ours at a pretty high angle, but you can play around with it to see what works best for you.

4)   Hold the tip of your frothing pitcher against the steam wand; this will give you more leverage when moving the pitcher around.

5)   You will also want to angle your frothing pitcher to the side, which will help you get the milk swirling around in a circle.

6)   Submerge the tip of the steam wand in the milk. Don’t be alarmed if you hear a high pitch squeal followed by slurping. While it is loud at first, this is exactly what you want to hear. As soon as you hear that squealing noise, make sure you bring the pitcher down so you hear that slurping noise as you start to incorporate air. This will help prevent you from getting too much foam, since for a latte you want to create a smaller amount of foam.

7)   Submerge the rest of the wand in the milk after a few seconds.

8)   Once you can feel the bottom of the frothing pitcher get nice and toasty, almost too hot to touch, remove the steam wand from the milk.

9)   Always wipe down and blow out the steam wand when you are done to prevent the milk from getting sucked back into the boiler.

10)     Mix milk in by slowly swirling the milk around the pitcher, to get a rich and creamy consistency. The milk will look a bit more porous before you begin this process, but once you start mixing it in it starts getting a really shiny texture and that’s exactly what you want.

11)     Combine the milk with espresso and relax with your drink.

7 Steps for Frothing Milk for a Cappuccino

1)   Just like with a latte, you will want to start with very cold milk and make sure to blow out the extra water in the steam wand.

2)   Start with the tip of your steam wand submerged.

3)   Once you start hearing that high pitched squealing noise, you will want to slowly bring the pitcher further and further down to incorporate more air.

4)   As soon as you feel the pitcher and milk get hot is when you stop frothing.

5)   Tap the bottom of a pitcher on a table and swirl the milk around the pitcher to mix it in. You will notice that the texture of the milk is a lot thicker.

6)   If you are creating a drier cappuccino (or a cappuccino with more foam and less milk), you will want to let the milk settle a little bit after you have mixed it, and it will separate out.

7)   Combine the milk with your shot of espresso and enjoy.

If you would like to see the process in action and follow along step-by-step, watch as our resident milk frothing expert Dori teaches Sarah how to perfect her pour. If you live in the greater Seattle area, you can also learn how to froth milk with Dori in person if you stop by for her Sunday milk frothing or latte art workshops in our Bellevue store.

Brew Tips: How to Froth Milk

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta

SCG's Tune Up Kit for Pasquini LiviettaLast week we shared our affection for the Pasquini Livia G4, and discussed how to care for the machine. This week, it is time for another of one of Pasquini’s semi-automatic espresso machines to enjoy the spotlight. Almost like a little sibling to Livia, at just 12 inches tall and 8 inches wide the Livietta is probably one of the smallest semi-autos on the market. However, don’t be fooled by the machine’s diminutive size, it still packs a powerful punch. The Livietta has two thermoblocks, which enable simultaneous brewing and steaming, as well as a very fast heat up time. Since this machine does so much work for you, it is important to provide your Livietta with a little TLC every once and a while. As part of this process, we recommend giving the machine a thorough cleaning and using SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta to exchange the parts that are showing signs of wear and tear.

How do you know when its time to replace some of the parts on your machine? A few key signs to look out for are water or coffee coming over the top edge of your portafilter when brewing, your pump working harder or the flavor of your coffee just generally tasting off. The first scenario is likely occurring because your brew head gasket has failed and is no longer making a seal with your portafilter. Meanwhile, the later two scenarios are probably being caused by coffee residue that has built up on your brew head screen or in your portafilter basket, which does actually make your machine work harder and can taint your coffee. In either case, your Livietta is definitely in need of a tune up, so you can replenish the rundown parts.

Removing and installing SCG’s Tune Up Kit for the Pasquini Livietta is basically the same process we used on the Livia. You will remove all the accessories on the machine, flip it over and began removing the brew head components (brew screen screw, brew screen, diffuser and gaskets). The main difference between the two machines in this process is that in addition to the brew head gasket, the Livietta also has a shower screen holder gasket. This just means that you have two gaskets to uninstall, remove the shower screen holder gasket followed by the brew head gasket, which might require a bit of extra elbow grease. As usual, the next step is to clean any coffee grounds and residue out of the brew head (your diffuser and portafilter basket should already be soaking in a Cafiza solution made with the tablet provided) to prevent it from eating away at the new parts you will be installing.

Next you can begin installing the new parts in the reverse order from which you removed them. When it comes to the gaskets, install the brew head gasket first, followed by the shower screen holder gasket. When installing the screen gasket into the groove created for it, make sure that you don’t twist the gasket to make it fit or it won’t fit properly. To speed up and simplify the installation process, you can lineup the diffuser, shower screen and screw and thread them back into the brew head. Do one final check with your portafilter to make sure everything is seated right, and you’re done!

Want to see the process of installing SCG’s Tune Up Kit for the Pasquini Livietta in action before tackling it yourself? Check out this video to have Brendan walk you through it.

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta