Category Archives: Semi-Automatic

Video Crew Review: Grindenstein Knock Box

Looking for a pretty little number that won’t take up too much space and will keep your countertop clean? We’re talking about knock boxes, of course (what were you talking about?). The Grindenstein is a great choice for a home espresso setup and Gail shows us how it works, plus compares it with other knock boxes available.

Call for Reviews: Rancilio Silvia

Over on our new resource website, Brown Bean, we have been working hard on putting up editorial reviews of all kinds of espresso machines. We’ll be eventually expanding the reviews to include other kinds of equipment — grinders, accessories, even coffee — but a big part of us being able to provide a full picture of a machine’s performance is to balance our editorial opinion with user reviews like yours.

If you have a Rancilio Silvia, we’d love it if you could take the time to fill out a review on Brown Bean. You’ll have the opportunity to share your experiences, talk about the pros and cons of the machine and indicate whether or not you recommend it.

We currently have a couple dozen machines listed and reviewed up there, so if you don’t have a Silvia and would like to review your machine, check them out to see if there’s a listing. We’re always adding to it, but if your machine isn’t listed, please email us with the make and model and we’ll promptly list and review it if possible, then let you know when it’s ready for your feedback.

Looking forward to learning more about your thoughts on your equipment!

Is Crema Sacred?

We get a lot of questions about crema: What is it, how can I get more of it, where does it come from, etc. We’re going to get Gail in front of the camera soon to talk about and experiment with crema, but first up let’s reference James Hoffman’s strongly posited belief that crema is, in fact, ‘rubbish.’

What we love about this video is that he questions some of the basic ideas behind espresso, and when the pros who devote their lives to learning all there is to know about their passion start messing around with core ‘truths’, we all benefit from their innovations at some point. There’s talk about how the crema is a chemical result of the espresso extraction process, and we’ve noticed that the crema from different coffee bean types is produced differently — even roast types will have a different crema story, when pulled from the same machine.

Ultimately, again, it’s all about flavor and what you like in your coffee; we’re going to do some experiments so expect more to come on this topic. You can check out what others are thinking about in this opinionated forum topic on Home Barista.

Ask the Experts: Do I Need to Backflush if I Descale?

If you have an espresso machine with a three-way brew pressure release valve, you have an additional maintenance regimen on your hand: The backflush. We are sometimes asked if backflushing is necessary if descaling is performed regularly, and so we posed your question to Gail. In this video, she’ll describe the different procedures and talk about which espresso machine systems they target.

Under Pressure

Espresso machines often list 15 – 17 BAR pumps in their technical specifications, but the general rule of thumb for most espresso extraction is for 9 BARs of pressure. In this video, Gail talks to us about this pressure differential, what you’re looking for and talks a bit about the new world of pressure profiling in commercial/professional espresso.

Crew Review: Bottomless Portafilter

If you’re interested in fine-tuning your grind and tamp — or just really love a good show — the bottomless portafilter provides a great tool for calibrating your technique. In this video, Gail shows us how it’s done.

New! Breville Die-Cast Programmable Espresso Machine BES820XL

Always on the look-out to expand the vast array of espresso machines we have available, we just added the Breville series to our products over at Seattle Coffee Gear. As we’ve begun testing them, we’re starting to dig the 820XL — for a machine under $500, it’s got some great features.

First off, the die-cast, stainless steel casing is really gorgeous, with smooth lines and incredibly sturdy and durable finish. It also has programmable buttons, so you can easily reproduce your espresso shot every time, without having to worry about watching it to turn it off. Finally, it has a unique boiler design that results in a bit better temperature regulation than you might find on other single boilers in this class.

On the downside, it only comes with a pressurized portafilter, so you’ll have less control over your shot and it will be infusing the espresso with air — not producing a traditional crema. It doesn’t have a three-way release valve, so you end up with a watery puck, and the portafilter is stainless steel so suffers from some inconsistency in temperature regulation (unlike its chrome-plated brass brethren).

Overall, it’s a good value — if you’re not ready to lay down the cash for a Silvia but want something a little more powerful than the Aroma, this could be right up your alley.

The Grind: September 2009

The September issue of Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter has hit the bricks! In this month’s issue, we have a delicious Buttercream Cappuccino recipe, a directory of our most recent videos, some tips on using oily beans in your superautomatic and a few new product features. Plus, a coupon code for 10% off $99 or more during the month of September. Check it out!