Category Archives: Tips – Brew

Brew Tip: Dialing in Your Grinder

If you’ve just picked up a new grinder or an espresso machine/grinder package and you’re wondering how to get it setup for that perfect shot extraction, check out this video. Gail shows us how to calibrate a grinder with an espresso machine and discusses tips for determining the extraction level and tweaking your puck.

You’ve Got Great Taste: Coffee Flavor Profiles

The world of coffee sometimes seems a little bit overwhelming — even to us! When we’re working with folks to pick the right machine to meet their needs or discussing the different coffee flavors inherent to different bean blends, we often hear the refrain that many people just want coffee to taste “good.”

Like any vague and subjective descriptor, “good” is defined differently by each of us, and how we achieve that “good” flavor is going to be similarly unique. Finding the blueberry or jasmine in a particular blend of coffee doesn’t have to involve pretension as much as it involves your particular sense of smell. Since flavor itself is defined as the combination of two sensory experiences — that of taste and smell — then your unique anatomical make-up regarding these two sensory systems will define your experiences of all foods, including coffee.

Continue reading You’ve Got Great Taste: Coffee Flavor Profiles

Italian Roast vs. French Roast

We’ve found that we generally prefer medium roasted coffees because we’re able to taste a more diverse palette of flavors in a specific coffee blend. However, we know that there are die-hard devotees of dark roasted coffee and we were recently asked what the difference was between French Roast and Italian Roast.

They’re both roasted quite darkly, so that they have an oily sheen to them after the roasting process is complete. With a French Roast, the temperature of the roast is high enough that these oils are brought to the surface and will impart a roasted flavor to the produced coffee or espresso. Aromas can vary from berry to citrus. Italian Roast is much darker and oilier than a French Roast and often preferred in Italy.

If a coffee is described as being a French or Italian roast, it isn’t because they were grown or roasted in these countries, just that the roaster utilized this generalized roast level for that blend of beans. You can read more about roasting in our article It Starts with Great Coffee.

What is your preferred roast or blend and why? We’d love to hear about some of your favorites!

The Grind – May 2009

The May issue of our monthly newsletter, The Grind, has hit the bricks! Including the Turkish Dee-Lite recipe, our process for making excellent french press coffee, tips on how to brew a strong shot in a superautomatic espresso machine and a directory of all the recent YouTube videos we’ve done over the last month, May’s news is a sweet little compendium of a lot of the content we’ve shared with you here.

But what you won’t find here is The Grind Special — this month: $10 off the Hourglass Cold Brew Coffee Maker! Get this special and all future specials by signing up.

New! Hourglass Cold Brew Coffee Maker

We have been waiting for this for weeks! The new Hourglass cold brew coffee maker has finally hit the shelves and we are digging it. Simple to use and probably the greenest coffee preparation available, the coffee is smooth and rich — perfect for adding hot water for a straight up cup of coffee or blending up with some ice and milk for a delicious chilled coffee drink.

Watch as Gail brews up and tastes the delicious flavor the Hourglass has to offer!

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.