Category Archives: Tips – Brew

$20 Thrift Shop Challenge – Coffee Edition

thrift shop coffee cupsSeattle is home to the singer Macklemore and his song ‘Thrift Shop’ was the theme for a really fun and unique birthday party I attended. The birthday party activity was a thrift shop challenge: Who can find the best present at Goodwill for under $20? With a tight budget and 45 minutes to shop, it was a great reminder that it really is ‘the thought that counts.’ We spent quality time together, had fun and didn’t spend much money.

This led me to wonder: Is a twenty dollar thrift store coffee challenge possible? I studied the aisles of previously owned houseware products to see which types of coffee accoutrements are commonly found. Based on SCG experience, here are my top tips for what thrift shop coffee items to try — and, possibly more essential, which items to avoid.

Storage – Yes!

Whether you use whole coffee beans or ground coffee, proper storage will help your coffee stay fresher and taste better. As coffee beans age they become harder and stale, the oils oxidize and can add a bad taste to the brewed cup. The best way to store coffee is in a cool, dark and dry place. Airtight storage is ideal and while decorative ceramic canisters are easy to find, make sure to select one with a tight fitting lid. Once the coffee is opened and stored, use it within 30 days for best taste.

Cups – Oh Yes!

Cups are easy to inspect for visible damage prior to purchase and easy to clean. This is the best coffee item to find at a thrift store because it shows your individuality at home or at work. I attended a wedding where thrift store coffee mugs served as the place cards on the tables. Each mug was specially selected by the bride and groom. Mine had my home state on it, which made it a very special memento of the day.

Drip Coffee Maker – No

I purchased a ‘vintage’ mini drip coffee maker for 4.99 to see if it worked. There are two factors to consider when making a delicious cup of drip coffee: Temperature and evenness of how the coffee grounds are wet. Expensive coffee makers have boilers that ensure the water is around 200F/93C for the entire brew process, which is in the ideal temperature range. Some also have fancy shower heads to evenly wet all of the coffee grounds in the filter basket. This creates an ‘even extraction’ which is necessary for the best tasting cup of coffee possible. After using coffee care products to clean and descale the internals, the little mini drip still didn’t work great. A better value for the same price is a new manual cone dripper. These simple cones are made out of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass and require a kettle and a filter. With this method, it’s you — not the coffee maker — that makes sure the water is the right temperature and all of the coffee grounds are evenly wet. Talk about quality control!

Espresso Maker – Maybe

A very traditional style stovetop espresso maker can often be found second-hand. This is a tried and true method for making delicious espresso coffee at home. There are two pieces that screw together with a small basket and a gasket in between. Inspect the unit to make sure there are no dents, that the pieces screw together easily and the gasket is intact. Replacement gaskets are available too. Most of these stovetop espresso makers are made out of aluminum, some are made out of stainless steel and they also come in different sizes. Make sure you are getting a good deal second-hand because you can also find some for less than twenty dollars brand new. Stay away from semi-automatic and superautomatic espresso machines unless you are a repair pro and you have access to replacement parts.

Other Coffee Brewing Methods – Depends

French press, cone drippers, immersion brewers, AeroPress, cold brew pots, Turkish coffee, the list of fancy coffee brewing methods goes on and on…These are all fun (and tasty!) manual methods of making coffee and espresso. Many of these ideas are under twenty dollars new, so make sure you are check the quality before you try one second-hand.

stove top

 

Crew Review: Frieling Insulated French Press – 44oz

Frieling French PressIf you were going to peek through our kitchen windows on a Saturday morning (which we’re really hoping you weren’t going to do), it’s highly likely you’d see us sipping a delicious cup of coffee produced by our small Frieling coffee press. It’s something we enjoy in blissful solitude, ruminating over the previous week’s hijinks and planning future hilarity so that it may flawlessly ensue.

But we totally understand that while we happen to be on the loner side of the spectrum, many of you enjoy sharing your Saturday morning java with other people — and, clearly, Frieling understands that, too! In answer to the prayers of all you extroverts out there, they’ve introduced a new size in their popular line of double walled stainless steel coffee presses: A mambo 44 oz.

To find out how much it actually yields, though, we put Teri to the test. Watch as she brews up a batch of coffee, measuring out her quantities and then showing us how much coffee the press produces. If you want to share your caffeine with those you love, pick one up today — they’re available in either brushed or polished finishes.

Crew Review: Frieling Insulated French Press – 44oz

As for us, we’ll be chilling over here in the corner with our tiny 11oz model, thinking deep thoughts and wearing nothing but a catsuit.

How-To: Programming the Breville Infuser

Breville Infuser Espresso MachineIf we were going to anthropomorphize the Breville Infuser (BES840XL), we’re pretty sure its human counterpart is Gabby Douglas: Sleek, compact, multi-faceted and the best all-around performer in the group.

One of the features that it offers is automatic water dosing for your espresso extraction, which can take a bit of the guess work out of the process. But since programming the Breville Infuser isn’t as simple as measuring out exactly one or two ounces of water and then calling it a day, we asked Gail to guide us through the process.

Watch as she discusses with us how automatic dosing works, provides us with tips on getting the right shot volume and then shares her thoughts on why you’d want to do this. Whether you’ve been considering the Breville Infuser or already own it and just want to learn more, this how-to video dives a little deeper into one of its great, easy-to-use features.

Ask the Experts: Why are My Coffee Pucks Soupy?

We often have customers contacting us with some concern about the leftover moisture in their portafilter post-brew. Depending on the type of machine you have, this will be more or less present — but is it something that you should be worried about? Is it indicative of an issue with the machine?

To allay your fears, we asked Gail to break soupy pucks down for us. Watch as she explains to us what they are, which machines might have soupier pucks than other machines and what, if anything, excess moisture on your coffee puck might mean.

 

 

 

Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II Volumetric: Review, Internal Tour, Care and Maintenance

Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II VolumetricAn incredibly popular machine for high production cafes, the Aurelia II Volumetric by Nuova Simonelli is built to keep up with long lines of latte-lovin’ customers. In this series of videos, our commercial sales manager, Brandon, guides us through everything from a straight-up functional and spec review to a detailed internal tour of the machine to best practice around maintenance and care. If you’re in the market for a machine for your business, the Aurelia II is definitely worth your consideration, and these videos lay down the groundwork for your research.

If you have more questions about these videos or need some guidance regarding the right equipment for your business, drop us a line!

 


Crew Review: Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II Volumetric


Internal Tour of the Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II Volumetric Espresso Machine


Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II Volumetric Care & Maintenance

SCG Experiments: Pressurized vs. Non-Pressurized Portafilter with Older Coffee

One of the benefits of using a pressurized portafilter or filter basket is that you can generally use coffee that isn’t super fresh and still produce a serviceable shot. Is this best practice? Well, maybe not … but a lot of people who are making lattes and adding syrups and sauces might not really notice a big difference in the shot’s flavor as the coffee ages.

We wanted to find out how much of a practical difference one might be able taste if we opened up a bag that had been sitting around, sealed up for several weeks. We dialed it in for both non-pressurized and pressurized extractions on the Saeco Poemia, then tasted the shots to see how they compared. Find out what we learned in this fun video experiment.

Brew Tip: Saeco Intelia SS Panarello Sleeve Retrofit

While we love the gorgeous metallic finish on the Saeco Intelia SS, we’re not super in love with the cappuccinatore functionality that comes as stock. So when Gail came to us with the idea that we could retrofit the machine with the panarello sleeve from the Syntia series of machines, we were excited!

Watch as she shows how easy it is to swap this out and then demonstrates how it performs.

SCG Experiments: Drip Coffee Preparations in the Brazen Brew

Brazen BrewIt’s time for Fun with Drip Coffee, starring Bunny and Coach!

When preparing coffee, we know that there are a few different variables we can tweak in order to impact the flavor in the cup. We can play with brew temperature, pre-infusion timing, grind consistency, coffee dosage and water ratio, and each element will produce a different flavor nuance.

So we decided to play around with that! In this video, we take three different Brazen Brewers and we change up the grind consistency, coffee dosage, brew temperature and pre-infusion time, then taste them to see how they compare. Watch as we learn more about how changing these elements impacts our coffee.

 

SCG Experiments: Playing with Single Shots

We’re not quite sure why one would want to pull single shots, but we’ve been asked multiple times to experiment and provide our tips on how to get the job done. So we drafted Jess to take on the formidable task of dialing in a single shot. Off-camera, she worked on the Rocket Giotto Evoluzione and the Crossland CC1; while she had success on the former, the latter still proves to be a challenge.

Watch her pull a few shots on the Rocket, varying an element each time to dial it in. The singles she pulled did taste great, but, still … really? We’re triples all the way, friends.