Category Archives: Tips – Brew

Ask Gail: Latte Art Using Milk Frothers?

Latte ArtEvery once in awhile we like to let our inner Picasso out to play. It’s fine, we all do it and there is nothing to be ashamed of! But the question remains, is it possible to create beautiful latte art using milk frothers?

Well, unfortunately the short answer is no. While milk frothers like the Jura are excellent at providing you with no-fuss perfectly frothed milk for your espresso beverages, they just don’t have the finesse needed for latte art foam.

We asked Gail to give us a little explanation as to why these stand alone milk frothers won’t give us the best results and she delivered! Watch the video below to see Gail attempt some latte art using a milk frother.

Ask Gail: Soupy Pucks

Nine out of ten home baristas agree, soupy pucks are a coffeehouse sin. Well, maybe not a sin, but in our experience it’s pretty close! What causes a soupy puck and why exactly is it so bad? When it comes to the hard questions, we like to ask Gail!

Gail and our excellent customer service team are always reiterating how important it is to dial in your grind – and this Ask Gail session is no exception! Having your grind too fine can cause soupy pucks, as a super fine grind will hinder proper water flow. The water is then “trapped” on top of the puck and released into the dredge box with the under-saturated puck, causing a sour or bitter espresso shot and the undesirable soupy puck.

If you think there could be more to your soup-tastic pucks, check out our first edition of Ask Gail!

Brew Tips: Latte Art Basics

If we had to choose three words to describe the video below, they would be “Chad is awesome!”

When he’s not helping out customers in our Seattle Coffee Gear Portland store, Chad teaches barista classes. Which means that as soon as he joined the team we started hitting him up to make some sweet latte art videos for us. After all, we could write out the steps to latte art all day long, but having a visual aid is at least 100 times better (if not 1,0000).

In this video, Chad walks us through latte art basics. Pay attention, because you’ll need these next week when we post some advanced techniques!

Brew Tips: How to Make a Macchiato

Sarah and Dori are back (at the same bat time on the same bat channel) and ready to share their cafe macchiatobrew tips with you! Up this time is the macchiato, but not the one drenched in caramel that you are accustomed to seeing in a big chain coffee shop. While, admittedly, those are delicious, this is an old fashioned foamed milk and espresso type o’ macchiato.

Composed of two parts espresso to one part foamed milk. And by “foamed milk” we really mean either the foam off the top of the milk or really, really well frothed milk. So milky coffee lovers may want to look at a cappuccino to get their espresso beverage fix!

How to Make a Macchiato

1)   Clear the extra water out of the steam wand.

2)   Follow our steps for frothing milk for a cappuccino (yes, even though you are making a macchiato) when preparing your milk.

3)   As you froth your milk, keep in mind that you should be expanding it quite a bit and incorporating in as much air as you can. Remember: We’re looking for that milk foam!

4)   Clean up that steam wand while you pull your espresso shot.

5)   Give your frothing pitcher a firm tap against the counter and swirl to incorporate the foam into the milk.

6)   For a macchiato with very foamed milk, pour the milk directly on top of the espresso shot. For a macchiato with a dollop of foam, let the milk sit for a minute to let it separate from the foam (or don’t tap and swirl initially) and then spoon a few tablespoons onto the espresso shot.

You can be as pro as Sarah and Dori, too. Just watch the video below and then follow the foolproof steps to macchiato mania!

Brew Tips: How to Make a Cappuccino

How to Make a CappuccinoIt’s that time again! Yep, Dori and Sarah are back to teach you how make another one of those delicious and fancy drinks you find in your local cafe. In this week’s installment they’ll show how to make a cappuccino. One of the more common drinks, people often confuse cappuccinos with lattes. It is easy to see why, as they are pretty similar since they are both milk-based drinks with espresso. However, with a cappuccino, there is a third component included in the recipe that is not in a latte – foam!

Thus, a cappuccino is a third part foam, a third part milk and a third part espresso.  Luckily this is pretty easy to remember, even for the math adverse like myself. Typically a cappuccino will have more foam and less milk than a latte and the entire drink will only be about six oz., so not that giant drink you may love and adore from some chain stores. In addition, some places will actually steam the a cappuccino a little cooler than some other drinks, so it is more like a drink you can chug. The reason for this is because is your milk is steamed at a cooler temperature, you can get more of the natural sweetness out of the milk and your drink will be sweeter. However, if you heat your milk past 140 degrees Fahrenheit the milk starts to get bitter.

How to Make a Cappuccino

1)   Clear the extra water out of the steam wand.

2)   Follow our seven steps for frothing milk for a cappuccino when preparing your milk.

3)   As you froth your milk, keep in mind that you should be expanding it quite a bit and incorporating in as much air as you can.

4)   When you’re done frothing, tap the bottom of the pitcher on a table and swirl the milk around to get a nice, rich foam. We usually try to work in the little mound that forms on top of our milk to ensure our milk is creamy through out. However, if you like to keep the mound so you can eat the foam with a spoon, that’s perfectly fine too!

5)   Don’t forget, if you like a cappuccino with more foam ask for a dry cappuccino the next time you are at your favorite café. You can also achieve this effect at home by letting your drink sit for a minute or two after you have made it and the milk will separate. If you want a creamy cappuccino, start drinking right away.

Watch as Dori and Sarah show you how to make a cappuccino in just a few minutes! While it may seem like they are just making it look easy, once you have your technique down you’ll be making this drink in a snap as well!

Brew Tips: How to Make a Latte and a Mocha

how to make a latte2Last week we gave you some tips on how to perfectly froth your milk for creating a latte or a cappuccino. Now we are going to expand on those skills a bit and show you how to make a latte and a mocha. Once again we used our trusty Nuova Simonelli Musica Espresso Machine with its super-charged frothing power to create these drinks.

How to Make a Latte

1) When making a latte you can use as much milk as you want. Generally you want to use more milk for a latte than you would use for making a cappuccino, about 8 oz. is a good amount.

2) Once you have your milk, follow the same tips we used for frothing milk for a latte in our video last week.

3) Since you are only making a little bit foam for your latte, make sure you submerge your steam arm fairly quickly to ensure you are just heating the milk and not creating bubbles.

4) When your milk is hot, tap the pitcher and swirl the milk around the pitcher to get it mixed in. This time around you will be able to see the milk texture underneath, as the milk is not nearly as thick as when we were frothing it for a cappuccino. However, you can still create a rich milk by making sure any foam you have created is well-incorporated in to the milk. If you let it separate out too much, you’ll get that lighter milk texture and have thick foam on the top.

5) Pour your frothed milk into a cup containing a shot (or two or three!) of espresso and you have created a latte.

How to Make a Mocha

1) Creating a mocha is very similar to creating a latte, as it is basically a latte with chocolate. As such, follow steps 1-4 in the latte recipe above to prepare the milk for your mocha.

2) Before you add milk to your cup, mix your espresso shot with chocolate syrup (you can use any type of chocolate to create a mocha – white, dark, sugar-free, whatever you prefer). Stir the espresso and shot together with a spoon to make sure they are well combined. This makes creating the drink easier, especially if you want to attempt latte art, which we’ll save for another post.

3) Pour in the milk with the espresso chocolate mixture, and enjoy.

Follow along with Dori and Sarah as they make a latte and a mocha. Make sure to check back in next week to discover what other coffee concoctions you can make with your newfound skills.

Brew Tips: How to Make a Latte or a Mocha

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

Java Talk: Zoka Coffee Chemex Demo

Zoka CoffeeContinuing on our tour of local roasters, we recently visited Zoka Coffee in Ballard, Washington. While we were at the roastry, we were lucky enough to have our friend David brew up some Zoka coffee on a Chemex for us. We were also able to persuade him, which really wasn’t too hard, to share some of his brewing suggestions during the process In fact, if you’ve visited us at our Bellevue retail location, hopefully you’ve been able to pick up some of David’s tips firsthand at one of the workshops he has hosted. If not, here’s your chance to see what you’ve been missing!

One thing that made this demo different from others we’ve seen was that David introduced us to a relatively new filter to use when brewing; the Coava Kone. The Kone is made out of locally sourced steel and has laser precision perforation (say that three times fast!), which provides a really clean, crisp flavor. Even without the Coava Kone, David said the Chemex is Zoka’s favorite way to make coffee in general. This brew method is a little more forgiving than something like a Hario Cone and creates a lot of body like a French press but without being as sooty or oily. As a result, the Chemex is a great way to bring out the flavor nuances in single origin coffees and in coffee blends as well. David explained that the Chemex is used as a standard in Zoka’s roastry and they are beginning to implement in several of their cafes. If you’re interested in doing the same, or want to learn how to brew on the Chemex at home, check out David’s brewing tips in this video.

How to Brew Chemex Coffee Zoka Coffee Style:

In this brew, we used Zoka Coffee’s Santa Rosa 1900, a single origin coffee grown in the hills above Tarrazu, Costa Rica.

  • Measure out 48 grams of whole bean coffee and grind it to about the same size as kosher salt.
  • Place the grounds in the Coava Kone filter in the Chemex. This filter is the reason why your grounds should be a little coarser than what you would use with a traditional paper filter. If you use the same size grind, it will be too fine and you will have a thin layer of soot at the bottom.
  • Begin by saturating the grounds evenly with water that has been heated to 204 degrees Fahrenheit. Let saturate for about 30 seconds.
  • Continue to pour the rest of the water, using frequent small pours beginning in the center and expanding circularly to the outside. Avoid pouring down the sides of the filter to prevent water from getting underneath it, diluting the coffee.
  • The extraction process should take a little over four minutes, and use 720ml of water.
  • After your coffee has finished extracting, throw away the coffee in your filter, pour coffee into a preheated cup, and enjoy. You should have about 40 oz. of coffee, enough to serve three to four people.

Java Talk: Zoka Coffee Roasters Chemex Demo

Java Talk: Water Avenue Chemex Demo

Water Avenue ChemexThe grand opening of our Portland store this past weekend was a great success! We had a great turn out and had a wonderful time meeting all of you. Thank you so much for your support. Besides getting a chance to meet everyone, one of our favorite parts of the weekend was the coffee! We had a couple of our local roasters brewing on our store during the event and we got to try out some coffee from a few of the other local roasters we carry as well.

For instance, while we were visiting with Water Avenue Coffee, one of their baristas, Joshua, was kind enough to demonstrate to us how they brew coffee on a Chemex. This was a real treat for us, since we really like brewing on the Chemex. We’ve found that it creates a really smooth and tasty brew. Not only did we enjoy the coffee, but it is also fun for us to see how different roasters brew since they each have their own unique method. Watch Joshua in action to learn Water Avenue’s approach to making coffee on a Chemex.

How to Brew Single Serve Chemex Coffee Water Avenue Coffee Style:

For this brew, we used Water Avenue Coffee’s El Salvador El Manzano roast, which is a Red Bourbon, pulped natural from El Salvador that was ground just finer than drip coffee.

  • Pre-wet your filter paper, with some of the 192-degree water you heated for your brew.
  • Pour 31g of coffee into filter. Settle the grounds.
  • Bloom coffee for about 25 seconds by pouring in 40g of water (about 10% of the water). Make sure to use a swirling motion, inside out, while pouring. This helps ensure that all grounds are saturated so the water disperses better when you do the continuous pour.
  • Continuously pour 410g (450g total by weight) of water in a tight circular motion over a period of one minute. When you do the pour, pour the water in a steady stream and move in concentric circles. This is important so as to disperse the turbulence of the water and not break up the grounds, which leads to over extraction.
  • During this pour aim to get through all 450 grams of water and finish the pour at about 1 minute and 20 seconds.
  • Let the coffee extract for another minute and half (3 minutes total), give or take about 10 sec, depending of the density of the coffee and the quality of the pour.
  • Tip: At the end of the extraction you should have a wall of coffee around the edge your filter, which means you poured correctly. The turbulence of the water was dispersed during the pour, meaning the water didn’t hit the side of the Chemex and wash all the grounds down, which is what you want to see.  You don’t want to see the bare sides of the Chemex, as that means too much coffee has gone down to the bottom.
  • After your coffee has finished extracting, throw away your filter, pour coffee into a preheated cup, and enjoy.

Java Talk: Water Avenue Chemex Demo