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Crew Review: Jura Impressa F7

Jura Impressa F7In the recent evolutions of Jura’s long line of sophisticated superautomatic espresso machines, they’ve been focusing on the one-touch cappuccino experience. If you’re someone who doesn’t drink milk-based drinks very often but would like the ability to share those with friends and family when they come over, the new Impressa F7 is well worth your consideration.

Not a traditional one-touch cappuccino crafter, the F7 is two steps: First, you make your shot, then you add your milk (or vice versa, depending on your tastes). Both of them will come out of the same dispenser, however, so you don’t have to move the cup around like on previous versions. It also features their intuitive menu within which you can set dosage and temperature of your shots, even the volume if you know precisely what you’d like. But then you can program it on the fly as drinks are being produced, so if you’re someone who likes to eyeball your coffee (like us!) then you can do that, too.

In his inaugural SCG video, our regional store manager, Chris, shows off the F7 to us. He’s a huge fan of Jura machines in general, but that doesn’t stop him from still giving us (and you) the straight dope on the good, the bad and the particularly gorgeous. Check it out!

Crew Review: Jura Impressa F7

The Reluctant Barista: How to Choose an Espresso Machine

As luck would have it, six years ago this holiday season I was gifted with an entry-level semi-automatic Breville espresso machine. This meant I did not have to select my own home espresso machine or, as Kat likes to call the process, Choose Your Own Adventure. My little dude is still chugging along with its tiny thermoblock and I am both excited and dreading the day I need to pick out the replacement.

Are you in the same boat? The number of manufacturers, models and variations on variations of home espresso machines can be overwhelming. Pour a cup of coffee, sit back and let’s ponder a few questions to set you on the right path for a successful adventure in espresso. This is an exercise in narrowing down available options until you are left with a manageable few to consider. Set aside budget (for the moment) and let’s think about who will use the espresso machine:

Do you have an interest in hand-crafting espresso?

Yes, I want to learn to make drinks myself No, I just want to drink espresso beverages
A semi-automatic espresso machine allows you to decide the dosage and the shot time which you can adjust to enhance the extraction of different styles of coffee. You have the time, counter space and additional equipment (grinder, tools, etc) to do-it-yourself. A superautomatic espresso machine makes life easier. There is less customization possible but shot consistency makes up for it. You will save time, space and possibly budget by having an all-in-one home espresso machine.

Alrighty then! How you approach espresso lands you squarely into one of these two distinct camps: Semi-automatic or superautomatic. Intuitively, this was the easiest espresso question to answer. If only there was a Harry Potter-style Sorting Hat to then announce the right machine for you! Instead, I will separate these two categories by their functionality and you can sort yourself.

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

So you want to hand-craft your espresso beverages, eh? Now it’s time to consider what style of semi-automatic might best fit your needs.

Do you drink milk-based espressos (like lattes, cappuccinos etc)?

Yes, Two words…Latte Art No, I like espresso and Americanos
Single boiler home espresso machines can froth milk. A heat exchanger or a dual boiler will get the job done better and faster, but they can cost more due to more complicated internal systems. Even though you won’t need the steam wand to froth milk, you may use it to add hot water to an Americano so make sure it is easily accessible for how you will use the machine. Some machines even have a hot water spigot separate from the steam wand.

Will you invest in a quality burr grinder?

Yes, a good espresso grinder is just as important as the espresso machine Maybe, I’m not sure No, I might use espresso pods, pre-ground espresso and/or a pressurized portafilter
The grinder may cost almost as much as the espresso machine you select. A well designed and well built grinder will offer consistent and uniform particle size necessary for a great shot of espresso. If you are on the fence about it, consider a semi-auto espresso machine with a built-in grinder for the best of both worlds. This will limit your selection to models that can be adapted for espresso pods or compatible with a pressurized portafilter. You will still get to make your own drinks and these options will make it easier for beginners or those pressed for time.

Recommended Semi-Automatic Machines

Based on your answers to the above questions, here are a few different suggestions for you to start your machine research.

Nuova Simonelli Oscar home espresso machine
Bryan uses the red Nuova Simonelli Oscar heat exchanger espresso machine that I want

Semi-Automatic, with a latte focus and a good grinder

This is where I am now. I have a Baratza grinder and I am ready to find a semi-auto with excellent shots and very good frothing capability. Heat exchanger models and dual boilers both make excellent foam fast.

Breville Barista BES870XL
Breville Barista Express BES870XL

Semi-Automatic with a latte & shot focus, without a separate grinder

Not too many home espresso machines fit the bill but this Breville does! It has a thermoblock and an integrated burr grinder that saves space and economy of motion. It is a programmable semi-auto so it almost acts like a superautomatic machine and is very easy to use once it is set up.

infuserA thermoblock style, Breville Infuser BES840XL

Semi-Automatic with a latte focus and no grinder

This is where it all started for me — an older Breville model that was a bit smaller than this. It was an easy step into the world of espresso before committing to a costly set-up. Some come with pod adapters, pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets for versatility.

Crossland CC1 + Baratza Preciso
The Crossland CC1 with a Baratza Preciso grinder is a great combo

Semi-automatic with an espresso focus and a good grinder

If your primary focus is quality espresso and you pay attention to tamp, temperature, timing and dosage then find a machine that allows you to control all of these variables. (This PID-controlled machine froths well too.)

Saeco Via Venezia
A small single boiler, Saeco Via Venezia with optional non-pressurized portafilter upgrade (right) and bottomless portafilter upgrade (left)

Semi-Automatic with an espresso focus and no grinder

Plop a pod in the basket and you’ve got what you need to make a ristretto or a lungo how you like it, when you want it. Quick and easy! Just in case you need a touch of frothy milk once in awhile there is a panarello too. A choice in portafilters helps you build espresso skills.

Superautomatic Espresso Machines

So ease of use is paramount for you, but you still want to drink great espresso-based drinks? A superauto may be the machine style for you. To determine which of the many versions available will be the best fit, here are a few more questions for you to consider.

Do you drink milk-based espressos (like lattes, cappuccinos etc)?

Yes, Creamy lattes are what life is all about No, I like espresso and Americanos
Not every superautomatic is great at frothing milk. Many users find that entry-level superautos don’t get the milk froth hot enough. A superauto that also has a steam wand is a nice touch so you can choose whether to use the machine’s auto-frother or its steam wand. Stand alone milk frothers are also a solution. Some superautos do not come with milk frothing capability. If you like espresso and Americanos (and maybe even an occasional Affogato!) this is not a problem. For guests who do like lattes a standalone milk frother is a quick and easy option for frothing milk or making hot chocolate.

Do you need a bypass doser for pre-ground coffee?

Yes, having the option for pre-ground coffee allows me to make a decaf sometimes No, I like fresh whole bean ground coffee for my espresso shots
Some superautos come with a bypass doser. This is a little chute directly to the brew unit so that you can use a different coffee than the beans that are already in the hopper. And that’s ok! if you don’t need the bypass doser that will save you some bucks on technology that you won’t use.

Recommended Superautomatic Machines

After considering the above questions, you should be armed to select which of the below machines speaks to you!

Saeco Xsmall superautomatic espresso machine
Bunny froths milk on a Saeco Xsmall superautomatic espresso machine, or as we like to call it, the Little Dude.

Superautomatic with a latte focus

Your favorite drink features creamy frothy milk, some Monin gourmet syrup and, oh yeah, espresso. If time and counter space are at a premium then a compact superauto can be a great option.

Saeco Exprelia EVO superautomatic espresso machine
Chris in the middle of “making” a one-touch cappuccino on the Saeco Exprelia EVO

Superautomatic with a latte focus and a bypass doser

For you, or for your guests, it’s great to have the option to make a decaf latte once in awhile. The pannarello wand assists by boosting more air into your steam. Or some models have one touch drink-making capability as a fancy feature.

Saeco Minuto superauto
Either/or Teri shows the Saeco Minuto superauto can serve regular coffee or strong espresso at the flip of a lever

Superautomatic with an espresso focus

Grab and go! Like in a true Italian espresso bar where you stand, converse a bit, have a few sips from your demitasse and continue on your way…Some superautos make quick and easy espresso or Americanos. The new Saeco Minuto will drop the pressure to make a single cup of true American-style filter coffee.

Saeco SyntiaPractically hands-free operation…here’s an action shot of the Saeco Syntia (after I made sure the shot glass was placed correctly!)

Superautomatic with an espresso focus and a bypass doser

Bypass doser capability is not always built into superautomatic espresso machines so make sure to verify its availability. The Saeco Syntia has a bypass doser and a pannarello wand making it a very versatile superauto.

Now you have thoughtful criteria to evaluate and select the best home espresso machine to meet your caffeinated (or decaf!) needs. The next step is to research our Learn section with informative articles and YouTube videos, ask questions and read reviews. Will there be a new home espresso machine on your counter in the New Year? There might be on mine!

Brewin’ with Brandi: Espresso Witch Fingers (Shortbread Cookies)

Espresso Witch Fingers (Shortbread Cookies)It’s that time of the year when the ghouls come out to play and there’s probably no better way to keep them in check than by serving up a batch of creepy witch finger-shaped treats, right? Right. Devised especially for your Halloween shindig this year, Brandi’s delicious recipe for espresso-infused shortbread cookies is made all the more spooky and delicious by the addition of a slivered almond ‘fingernail’ at the end of a crooked finger!

The cool thing with this recipe is that you can take it to the dough chilling phase and then have fun creating all manner of ghastly shapes — ghosts, worms, headless horseman … wherever your imagination takes you! And if you happen to have little goblins (AKA small children) hanging around, this recipe is perfect for them to have some fun with, too.

Watch Brandi creep us out while crafting these shortbread cookies. This was seriously the most disturbing video we’ve ever shot, so … enjoy?

Recipe: Espresso Witch Fingers (Shortbread Cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon finely ground coffee
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • slivered almonds

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  2. Add vanilla and coffee, then combine until well mixed.
  3. Sift the flour and salt together to incorporate a little bit of air, then add to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.
  4. Chill the dough until firm, about 2 hours.
  5. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 325F.
  6. It’s time to make the fingers! Shape the dough into inch-wide rolls and 4 – 5 inch long pieces.
  7. Place one slivered almond on the end (this is the witch’s fingernail!) and, using the tines of a fork, make a light impression mid-way down the roll (this is the witch’s knuckle!).
  8. Place on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and bake 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden.
  9. Scare the heck out of everyone by serving them up next to a cup of coffee!

Crew Review: Jura Automatic Milk Frother

Jura Automatic Milk FrotherThere are times in your life when you need to stand before a mirror and have a deeply honest moment with yourself. Are you a coffee purist or do you like your java balanced by a little dairy / dairy alternative? If you answer the former, then you may be very tempted to rock all manner of coffee-only equipment that doesn’t bother with any newfangled milk steaming functionality. But then you need to consider: Do you have friends? Do they like their coffee deliciously unaltered? Might you want to offer them a java-infused milk beverage after you serve up the world’s most amazing osso bucco? If your answers to these questions is yes, then picking up a standalone milk frother is highly recommended.

One such model available for your milk frothing and heating needs is the Jura Automatic Milk Frother, which does an excellent job rockin’ hot and cold froth or just straight up warmed milk. Watch as Teri shows us its features and then demonstrates how it performs.

Crew Review: Jura Automatic Milk Frother

Hot Blog On Bog Action: Coffee Your Way

Laila-GhambariWe are all for having fun brewing coffee and tea however you like it — we love how personal/meaningful/medically necessary it is … It can be all things to all people and we don’t judge (except for my not-so-secret campaign to stop the current #pumpkinspicelatte craze but that’s a whole different story). Here’s some inside scoop on coffee, tea, and having it your way.

Interview: Laila Ghambari, Caffe Ladro Director of Education (via Food GPS)
Our coffee friends at local Seattle roastery Caffe Ladro focus on quality. We talked with Laila about how ‘coffee culture is changing and progressing so rapidly’ and how that effects everyone in the chain from growers to customers. She aims to make high quality coffee that is approachable to consumers — without  coffee elitism.

Tea Cupping Versus Tea Tasting (via T Ching)
Tea cupping is serious business. There are rules. Protocol. Necessary accoutrement. Yikes! But a tea tasting is a social get-together where you can break those rules and still have a lovely cup of tea … your way.

Tea Bags Get a Bad Rap, What’s a Solo Sipper to do? (via Drink Tea)
Be kind to yourself. If you drink tea, make it a good cup of tea. Pick loose leaf black tea, green tea, white tea, Oolong, Pue-erh or herbal blends that float your boat and have the right tools on hand for home, work or travel.

Map of Seattle’s Best Tea Houses (via Eater)
We’ve gone to Cederberg Tea House before, see other places Brenna found around Seattle to tempt your tastebuds. Or re-create the tea house experience at home with these goodies.

If you want a daily dose, we spill the beans about National Coffee Day 9/29, a coffee comic strip, cats that need coffee and other items of caffeinated interest on:

SCG | Bellevue: Grand Opening Event Tomorrow!

SCG Bellevue Store MapTomorrow, Saturday, September 14th, we’re holding our Grand Opening event at the new SCG | Bellevue location! Please join us for a fun day of coffee, tea and even ice cream tasting, plus regular raffle drawings of super fun prizes.

Schedule of Events

Raffle Drawing

Each hour, we’ll be drawing names for some fantastic prizes! If you’re not present when we chose your name, we’ll give you a call at the end of the day and save your gear for you.

Here’s what we’ll be drawing for:

Free Gifts Bags

The first 50 folks will get a gift bag chock full of free coffee gear, including:

If you’re in the Seattle area tomorrow, we really hope you can swing by some time and help us celebrate the opening of our second location!

Crew Review: Saeco Exprelia Evo Superautomatic Espresso Machine

Saeco Exprelia EvoWe know that some folks prefer the convenience of a one-touch cappuccino, while others appreciate the ability to craft latte art with their finally textured milk. When Saeco introduced the Xelsis and Exprelia machines a couple of years ago, they’d formed a bond between these two approaches to making coffee at home by offering both an auto froth function and a separate, traditional (read: No panarello!) steam wand. But the auto froth continued to suffer from the same condition as all of its predecessors: The milk just wasn’t hot enough. So whether or not you wanted the convenience of a one-touch, if you liked your cappuccino on the hotter side, you had to use the steam wand anyway. With the Exprelia Evo, however, Saeco has finally resolved this long standing issue.

In addition to improving upon the automatic milk frothing functionality, the Exprelia Evo also features a change in the button design … but, otherwise, it’s fairly similar to the original Exprelia. Watch as Gail takes us through its features and functionality, then demonstrates how well it produces a cappuccino at the touch of a button.

If you’ve always dismissed machines that offered one-touch cappuccinos because of a low temperature issue, the Exprelia Evo may be the model that changes your mind. Check it out!

Crew Review: Saeco Exprelia Evo Superautomatic Espresso Machine

Mazzer Tech Tip: How to Replace the Timer Switch

Mazzer Timer SwitchMaybe it’s because we’re geeks or maybe it’s because science says so (wait, aren’t those the same thing?!), but we think it’s a great idea to learn a new thing every day. It keeps us interested in this madcap world of coffee and it also keeps our brain in fighting shape! So you can imagine our zeal when we recently learned a couple of new things in one day: First, that if you live in an area with more lightning and thunderstorms, you run a higher risk of burning out the timer switch on  your Mazzer coffee grinder; and second, how easy it is to replace said switch yourself — without paying a tech to come out to your business to do so.

If you happen to live somewhere that is affected by electrical fluctuations, knowing how to replace the switch on your Mazzer will be an important skill. Watch as Brandon guides us through this very simple process — and while he uses a Super Jolly for the demonstration, this applies to all US Mazzer models that feature a timer switch.

SCG Tech Tip: How to Replace the Timer Switch on Mazzer Grinders

SCG | Bellevue Store Opens on September 3rd!

SCG Bellevue Store MapThe first step in our bid to take over the world? Build a second store, of course!

During her summer vacation, Gail decided to build an entire retail store from scratch — laying the floors, painting the walls, crafting machine demonstration shelves and creating an amazing event bar for us to hold coffee tastings and fun workshops. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to build a store from the ground up, here’s the how-to video for you!

Now that you’ve seen the journey, we’d love it if you came in for a visit at our new location to see how it all turned out!

Store Info

Where: 10692 NE 8th St, Bellevue WA 98004
When: Open for Business – Tuesday, September 3rd, @ 10am | Grand Opening Event – Saturday, September 14th, 10am – 8pm

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Tea Time — What?!

velton rossLast month something strange happened at Seattle Coffee Gear (well, stranger than usual): A bunch of the SCG Crew started drinking *gasp* tea! And with this new found appreciation for tea, we discovered the basic preparation fundamentals are similar to coffee prep.  It starts with fresh water, a quality product and the right gear. Check out the lovely links you may have missed about all things coffee (and tea!).

  • Here Is My Handle, Here Is My Spout via 39Steeps.blogspot.com – Don’t settle for a drippy tea kettle when you can harness the power of fluid dynamics, no lab glasses or Bunsen burners required!
  • Interview: Coffee Pro Velton Ross via FoodGPS.com – Our ace reporter Brenna tracks Velton’s success from barista to renown roaster.
  • The Controversy Over Crema via TheShot.CoffeeRatings.com – Shocking but true stories about espresso crema. Some people scoop it off! Some people have been known to mix it altogether! And some naughty people call blonding from a pressurized portafilter, crema.
  • The Art of Making Flowering Tea via LeafJoy.com – Grab a glass teacup or glass teapot and watch the magic unfold. Flowering teas are more fascinating to watch than Sea-Monkeys and more enjoyable to consume (we’re just theorizing here, though, because we’ve never consumed Sea-Monkeys).
  • Be A Coffee Pro At Home: Vertical Tastings via ChicagoCoffeeScene.com – Take the best whole beans you can find and then do a little side-by-side challenge with your favorite coffee preps. AeroPress, Chemex, French press … it’s all good!

If you want a daily dose, we spill the beans about serving espresso in brandy snifters, the Kaffeologie S-Filter upgrade and other items of caffeinated interest on: