Category Archives: Tips – Brew

Global Coffee Habit

From the creamy depths of a French Cafe au Lait to the sugary tar of a Cuban Coffee, the little brown bean is reinterpreted time and again all over the world. If you’ve ever wondered what coffee is like beyond your neck of the woods, this cool little synopsis by Sebastian Rotella for the LA Times is a great primer on what you’ll find from Buenos Aires to Baghdad.

What’s your favorite coffee preparation? We have been digging on a long shot mixed with Monin’s incredibly delicious Cinnamon Syrup — it’s an awesome little afternoon pick-me-up that gives us a sense of the exotic.

Brew Tip: Some Like it Hot

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Temperature, temperature, temperature. For truly great espresso, there is a fine balance between too hot and not hot enough — and maintaining the temperature from portafilter to lips is very important. Oh yes, yes it is.

The first step is to let your machine warm up all the way; often, folks think that as soon as the light goes out (generally around 1 – 2 minutes after turning it on), the machine is ready to rock. Not so! In fact, all that means is that the machine has reached ideal boiler temperature, but all of the other parts of the machine have not, so if you pull espresso right at that time, the water is going to cool significantly as it travels through colder apparatus to reach your cup. Depending on your machine, we recommend waiting anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes to allow your machine to reach an even heat.

Next step is to pull some water through the system to warm up the brew head, the portafilter and — if it’s a heat exchange — the copper tubing that pulls water from the reservoir to the brew group. Let it run through and fully warm up all the metal components.

Finally, make sure you’re pulling into a preheated cup; you can easily preheat by using the cup as the container to catch the water you just pulled through the brew group, or you can keep your cups on top of your espresso machine and let them toast as your machine warms up.

Do you have any tips on how you maintain ideal temperature for your espresso extractions? Drop us a comment here if there’s something we didn’t cover that you think is essential.

Une Tasse Savoureuse de Cafe

Look, we know that we spend a lot of time with fancy high-end machines like the La Marzocco GS/3 or the Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler, but we’re not ashamed to fess up that our deepest appreciation for coffee has always come from the more than capable spout of a French press.

It’s lo-fi, fast, easy and you can take it anywhere — just like us! We have had a few people ask for tips on making the best pot of french press coffee and so we decided to record the method to our madness here for posterity, etc.

There is a growing movement toward single-serve press pot coffee in the cafe industry, similarly to what you see with individually potted tea, and there’s definitely an art and science around that as well — how much coffee, what temperature the water, how long it should steep, etc. Like all things, you can probably get as obsessive about this as you’d like, and there’s going to be differences across the board; the process outlined below is what works for us — if you have differences in opinion/experience, we definitely want to hear them!

Water Works

We could spend a few days debating which type of water to use, but the most important element is to choose water that you think tastes great by itself. Definitely filter out any chemicals like chlorine or fluoride that might be in your tap water, but if you’re working with a highly mineralized water supply, we totally recommend sticking with it. That could just be our preferences talking, however, because we dig the flavor minerals add to the end product. Regardless of your water source, set the kettle on before you grind your coffee, as you want the water to sit a bit after boiling to reach the ideal temperature. We think bringing it to a boil and then allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes works well.

The Grind’s the Thing
You’re probably sick of hearing us chastise you about your cheap grinder, so we’ll stop nagging and just tell you this: As with all things coffee, the more uniform the coffee particles are, the better the flavor. French press is no different than espresso in this regard — consistent, uniform particle size is essential, it’s just the particle size that’s different. You’re going for a coarse grind, and if you have a metal mesh filter on your press pot, your grind should be a little bit coarser than if you have a nylon one. Uniform and coarse grounds = no muddy sludge at the bottom of your cup.

The Measure of a (Wo)Man
Now that you’ve got your freshly ground coffee and your water’s on the boil, measure out 2 rounded tablespoons for every 6 oz. of your press pot’s brewing capacity.

Islands in the Stream
There really is no end to the cheesy puns we can spin utilizing bad song titles, but feel free to challenge us. Now, your water’s just below boiling, your coffee is in the pot and it’s time to pour. The key here is a steady stream that thoroughly moistens all of the coffee. Your water level needs to take into account the space required for the filter, so leave room at the top. Stir up the grounds and water to release the “bloom.”

Steeped in Tradition
Now it’s time for a little patience — but not much! — as you allow the coffee to steep. This can take anywhere from 2 minutes for a smaller pot to 4 minutes for one of the larger ones. We dig multi-tasking, so use this time to warm our cups by pouring in some of the excess water we boiled. Let the warm water sit in the cups until you’re just about ready to filter the coffee, then toss it and wipe any lingering droplets out so that’s it’s nice and warm and dry for your perfectly brewed java.

Take the Plunge
Slowly and steadily, depress the plunger — too fast and you could let some grounds escape (resulting in the aforementioned mud) or you could end up spilling some over the side. Once you’ve fully depressed the plunger, serve the coffee into your warmed cups, taking care to keep the lid and plunger stable as your pour.

Sip and enjoy!

Crew Review: Grinder Buying Guide

In the market for a new grinder? One refrain that resounds amongst espresso enthusiasts is that, if they had it to do all over again, they would have invested in a great grinder to begin with. Next to temperature, the fineness and consistency of the ground is one of the most important elements of excellent espresso.

We had Gail talk us through the different burr grinders that are available at Seattle Coffee Gear — you can watch the three part video here.


Part 1: Introduction to grinders and reviews of the Capresso Infinity and Baratza series — including the Maestro, Maestro Plus and Virtuoso


Part 2: More information on grinders plus reviews of the Rancilio Rocky Doser/Doserless and the new Baratza Vario


Part 3: Final installment discusses the high end consumer grinders available such as the Compak, Macap and Mazzer

Crew Review: Grindenstein Knock Box

Let’s face it: Some of us are messier than others, and nowhere is this more true than around the espresso machine. Whether its leftover grinds spilling from the grinder, a soupy puck from the portafilter or some drips of espresso on the counter top, we all leave a little mess after we extract.

The Grindenstein knock box was designed to provide an affordable, sturdy, leak-proof and compact option for home espresso lovers everywhere. We dig its bright, durable plastic construction and think its innovative shape that’s made specifically to fit on your espresso machine’s drip tray is a definite plus for anyone with limited counter space.

What we don’t love is that, because of its compact size, it sometimes doesn’t catch all the coffee coming out of your portafilter. Also, the knock bar is a bit thick for our tastes, and we find that it doesn’t let the puck fall as easily down into the container, unlike its skinny-bar brethren.

Using the Aeropress

Recently featured in an NPR story, the Aeropress has really taken off in the past couple of months. It’s considered the ‘next generation’ of French Presses and really does make a delicious cup of coffee.

Watch Gail use the Aeropress to make the beginning of a cup of coffee — you could add hot water to the brew for an Americano or warmed/frothed milk for a latte or cappuccino.

New! Saeco Non-Pressurized Portafilter Upgrade

Arguably the best little workhorse in the business, the Saeco Aroma is a robust machine that had really only one major flaw (in our opinion): Its pressurized basket. Lauded as a triumph for non-grinding, quick-n-dirty espresso lovers everywhere, the pressurized basket gives merely the illusion of crema by aerating the espresso as it’s extracted. People that don’t want to put the time and effort into learning how to fine tune their grind and tamp love this contraption because it does give a fairly good shot without much fuss.

But if you’re a geek like us and love yourself some rich, thick crema, you’re going to be thrilled with the latest release out of the Saeco camp — a non-pressurized portafilter handle that uses the same baskets that came with your original pressurized portafilter. You can pull a delicious shot with this new non-pressurized portafilter — one that may rival the Rancilio Silvia!

In addition to the Saeco Aroma, this portafilter is compatible with the following machines:

  • Starbucks Barista
  • Starbucks Via Venezia
  • Estro Profi
  • Saeco Magic Cappuccino
  • Saeco Gran Crema
  • Saeco Via Veneto

Watch Gail pull a shot with the new non-pressurized basket on the Saeco Aroma:

New! Ascaso Brew Head Upgrade Kit

Love your Ascaso Basic, Dream, Arc or UNO Special Edition espresso machine but wish that it produced a better shot? Well, we did, too — so we talked with Ascaso and asked them about creating an upgrade kit! While the original screen and water delivery works well for E.S.E. pods, its concentrated-stream functionality just doesn’t properly moisten ground coffee to the level required for a great extraction, so the upgrade kit includes an improved screen that showers water more evenly across the coffee.

The resulting espresso is rich, creamy and has a thicker crema — as good as any shot you’d pull from a Rancilio Silvia. This easy-to-install upgrade is essential, we think, but especially so if you dig using ground coffee in your Ascaso.

Brew Tip: Half Double Decaf in a Half Caf (with a Twist of Lime)

He may have been poking fun at the overly complex ordering practices of his fellow Angelenos, but Steve Martin’s humorous cafe scene in LA Story is a (semi-)appropriate backdrop for our tip today: Brewing rich, delicious espresso with just a bit of a kick.

When we’re craving the taste of coffee but still need to get to bed before 2am, we meld together a blend of 1/2 Lavazza Super Crema and 1/2 Lavazza DEK espresso. Mixing the caffeinated with the decaffeinated takes things up a notch, but not the full whammy we usually find at the bottom of our cup. And while Lavazza’s DEK is some of the tastiest decaffeinated coffee out there, we love the added creamy dimension of the Super Crema.

One Touch Lattes with the Jura Impressa S9

If simplicity is key, you may be interested in the one touch functionality of the Jura Impressa S9 superautomatic espresso machine. Setup your cappuccinotore with your favorite milk, fill up your hopper with your preferred beans and then, at the touch of a button, you’ll be enjoying a delicious and frothy latte or cappuccino.

Check out Gail as she shows us how easy it is to use this awesome machine!