Category Archives: Tips – Brew

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.

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.

Making a Better Cup of Coffee: Rami

We’ve been communicating with Rami via YouTube ever since he ran across our videos and sent us some questions about grinders. Since then, we’ve helped him with some general tips and ideas as he was tweaking his home setup in order to make an amazing Americano — his morning ritual. He recently sent us photos of his process and described what he did to achieve a really delicious espresso at home.

Creating this delectable drink actually started 15 hours before, when Rami freshly roasted a batch of Sweet Maria’s Espresso Monkey Blend to a medium roast (or right after the second crack, in roasting lingo).

He then ground up the right amount for a double shot extraction:

Next, he filled his portafilter and tamped evenly. Then he put 3 oz. of hot water into his cup and put it under the portafilter, extracting the double shot right on top:

Removing the cup from beneath his portafilter, he lovingly admired his handiwork, anticipating its delicious flavor:

Bellissimo! Finally, he enjoyed the lovely Americano that he had so expertly prepared:

Rami’s setup is a FrancisFrancis X5 by Illy and a Rancilio Rocky Doser grinder. He says, “Special thanks to Kat for the post purchase support (you don’t get that much these days), dealing with these guys has been a pleasure, I think anyone interested in this kinda stuff should definitely check out Seattle Coffee Gear.”

Thank you Rami! We’re glad we could be part of helping you make a better espresso at home.

Do you have a story about making better espresso at home that you’d like to share? Let us know!

Coffee Roasts: Shades, Names and Flavors

Back in May, we wrote a little bit about Italian vs. French Roasts, but lately we have been sampling a lot of different roast and blend types and decided to read more about the basic theory behind roasting and blending. In our research, we ran across Kenneth Davids’ excellent table describing the different roast styles and their corresponding flavor, so we thought we’d reprint it here for easy future reference.

The big question that was on our mind was in regard to dark roasts: Peet started an American tradition back in the 60’s by taking his roasts well into the very dark brown degree and we wondered why. Particularly because, for us, the darker roasts just aren’t as complex flavor-wise, so we were curious about his roasting theory — one that would ultimately be imitated by the founders of Starbucks and eventually influences hundreds of small specialty roasters around the world. It seems that it’s largely due to the fact that, when taken to a darker roast, the oils and sugars caramelize in a manner which imbues the roast with a bittersweet tone — if it’s not taken too far, it will still retain much of its richness and will also feature less caffeine. However, and we think this is where we have often found ourselves, when the beans are taken to a really dark black brown, they’re just charred at that point — dried out little husks with little to no coffee oil or sugar leftover, so very little can be imparted during extraction.

So while we personally prefer something in the medium brown range, we’re glad we now understand why all the dark roast lovers out there are such ardent fans. If you want to learn more about roasting and blending — as well as pretty much anything else to do with coffee — we highly recommend picking up Kenneth Davids’ book.

Right now, however, you can check out his handy reference table after the jump.

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