Category Archives: Videos

Coffee On The Brain: How Altitude Affects Coffee Flavor

By now you’re well on your way to being a coffee flavor expert. We’ve talked about how flavors differ from coffee varietals or how the roasting process changes the beans—just a few of the factors that create a unique profile! But have you ever noticed the elevation listed on your bag of beans? On this episode of Coffee On The Brain, Amber reveals how altitude affects coffee flavor. The answer might surprise you!

A coffees flavor can change based on where the plant is grown. The higher altitude affects coffee flavor by making it harder for the coffee plant to mature. You might think this means that the coffee’s flavor wouldn’t be good, but actually, the opposite is true. It takes longer for the coffee plants to mature and that helps produce cherries that are bursting with fruity, floral or spicy flavors.

When we say higher altitude, we’re talking about coffee that is grown at least above 3,000 feet or preferably 5,000 feet or 1,524 meters, which coffee roasters frequently use as their measurement. Some of our favorite coffees are grown above 5,000 feet like the Intelligentsia Coffee Bolivia AnjilanakaCaffe Ladro Ethiopia Yirg Z, and Bluebeard Ethiopia Ardi Natural.

ladro_yirgz

The lower you go in elevation—lets say down to below 3,000 feet—the easier it is for the plant to grow, mature and produce boring flavors. That’s right, boring. Lower altitude cherries create a less desirable cup described as simple and bland.

Here’s a quick and simple guide for how altitude affects coffee flavor:

How Altitude Affects Coffee Flavor

Growing at higher altitudes does have its drawbacks, though. It puts stress on the plant and makes it harder for farmers to grow a lot. With fewer plants, it is more expensive to produce those coffees and that means a higher price tag for us.

Here’s another factor to throw in the mix—slopes. Imagine you’re a farmer growing your coffee in a valley that floods. There’s no drainage so the plants begin to absorb lots of water and produce big, fat, juicy cherries. Sounds delicious, right? Wrong—those bloated cherries have lost lots of flavor thanks to the water diluting the sugars.

The farmer’s that planted their coffee on a mountain slope have better drainage and so the cherries are crisp. The harder cherries preserve the delicious sugars and flavor packed in the beans—think Intelligentsia Coffee Bolivia Anjilanaka that Gail brewed on this episode of Good Morning Gail. This seasonal blend is grown above 5000 feet and has notes of chocolate, nuts and fruit.

The higher altitude affects coffee flavor by making it harder for the coffee plant to mature.

Flavor profiles are complex with all the variables in the mix that produce different notes and body. It’s no wonder there are so many rich coffee blends to try! Watch the full episode of Coffee On The Brain with Amber and if you didn’t realize you were missing out on episodes, come on over and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Crew Comparison: Breville Barista Express vs. Breville Infuser

We’ve got another Breville showdown for you today: the Breville Barista Express versus the Breville Infuser. It’s a tough match since these two semi-automatic machines are cut from the same cloth. On this Crew Comparison, we’ll go over the main difference between these machines—the built-in grinder on the Breville Barista Express.

Breville Compare - Barista Express vs. Dual Boiler
Can you tell which is the Barista Express?

Both machines have some of the same features and functions. Both use a Thermocoil boiler, which keeps the water in the boiler reservoir cool so that when you’re done brewing you can easily switch over to steam and has a Thermoblock to heat water on the fly. There are two programmable buttons for espresso volume and a three-way solenoid valve to ensure that you have a dry puck after each shot.

On both machines, all the goodies are conveniently stored in the machine. The tamper magnetically sticks up in the machine for storage and under the drip tray is a spot for the pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets and razor to top off the grounds.

The biggest difference you’ll notice is that the Breville Barista Express is outfitted with a built-in grinder. There’s a lot of debate about the benefits of built-in grinders—so of course, we’ve compiled a simple pros and cons list for you to check out here—and the top concern for the Barista Express is that the grinder will break down while the rest of the machine works perfectly. It’s completely possible for it to stop working, especially if the it’s not properly cleaned, but the good news is we haven’t heard about it happening too often with the Barista Express.

Silvia vs Barista Express

It’s really hard to resist the convenience of the built-in grinder. For one, you don’t need to shop around for a grinder; you know from the get-go the grinder is going to work with your machine.The built-in grinder does limit the options to dial in the beans but if the grind isn’t great, it’s easy to pull a decent shot with the pressurized portafilter that comes with this machine. 

OK, time to discuss some cons on the Breville Barista Express. Let’s face it, with a built-in grinder, you won’t be able to use the grinder for other brewing methods like a French press. It’s designed for only pulling espresso shots on the Barista Express and the grind will be too fine to make a decent cup in a French press.

You’ll also notice a slot for the portafilter right above the drip tray. That alignment is handy for catching loose coffee grounds but it also means it’ll gunk up the drip tray. This mixing will be hard to avoid and cleaning the drip tray frequently is the only option.

Let’s say you did have a grinder—then the Breville Infuser is the way to go! It’s smaller and features the same functions as the Barista Express. The only set back is you’ll need to get a grinder but with the pressurized portafilter, you could get away with a less consistent grind.

Pro Tip: If you’re going to buy a grinder, invest in a grinder you can grow with. We recommend a high-end grinder that produced consistent coffee grounds such as the Rocket Fausto Grinder and Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder.

Tell us what you’re thoughts are on the Breville Barista Express and Breville Infuser in the comments below. Check out the full Crew Comparison and stay tuned for more episodes!

Pros & Cons Of Having A Built-In Grinder

Let’s talk about built-in grinders. There’s a lot of debate on the benefits of a built-in grinder on coffee machines. You expect it on a superautomatic, but what about those other guys? Built-in grinders can be found on some semi-automatic machines like the Breville Barista Express and some drip coffee makers like the Breville Grind Control. Naturally, we compiled a pro and con list for people out there weighing their options on buying a machine with a built-in grinder.

Built-In Grinder (1)

Our Top Pros

Space Saver:

When it comes to saving room on the kitchen counter, the built-in grinder optimizes every inch of your machine. Instead of having two machines sitting taking up space, you have one compacted unit. Arguably, a machine with a built-in grinder tends to be bigger overall, but we appreciate that it’s more ergonomically designed for space.

Convenience:

As if we needed more decisions to make, after you purchase an espresso machine you’ll need to search for a compatible grinder. Grinders come in all shapes and sizes and not all grinders fit the bill for your machine.

Saves Money:

We debated whether or not buying an espresso machine and built-in grinder saved money and we decided it can be less expensive to buy them together…depending on the model, that is. If you’re buying a grinder and espresso machine at a similar caliber, then it’s generally less expensive when the machine has a built-in grinder.

Compatible:

To pull off a delicious brew, you need a grind that’s consistent—and consistency can be tricky to find in a grinder! In short, you’ll cut out the middle man when you purchase a coffee machine that has a grinder that’s compatible with it.

Our Top Cons

If It Breaks:

Worse-case scenario is your grinder breaks. You generally have two options that will end up costing you extra money. The first option is to purchase a new grinder—which can be a good purchase if you invest in a high-end grinder. The second option is you have the scrap the whole machine and buy a new one. Hopefully, you have a machine that doesn’t rely on the grinder (such as the Breville Barista Express) but if it can’t be bypassed, then you’re out a whole machine.

Bulkier:

While the grinder and machine together create an ergonomic design the overall size is larger than a model without one. If you look at the Breville Barista Express and Breville Infuser, the Barista Express is about an inch wider than the Infuser.

Difficult To Change:

You can’t turn the whole machine upside down to shake out the old beans (well, we guess you could, but we highly recommend not doing that). To remove the old beans you’ll have to grind until it’s empty and waste beans—especially if you have multiple coffees you want to brew. 

One Function:

If you’re interested in brewing a pour over, French press or other brew methods that require a wider grind setting, generally a built-in grinder will only make a grind consistent for that machine. Take the Breville Barista Express again, for example, the grinder makes a fine grind for espresso shots that wouldn’t be coarse enough for French press.

We’ve heard the top concern is that if the grinder breaks down, then you’re stuck with a now completely useless feature. Fortunately for you, we haven’t seen that happen too often, so don’t let this be the number one deterrent. The biggest disadvantage, in our opinion, would be that the grinder is only designed for that machine, and not for other brewing methods such as French press or pour over.

Pro Tip: We recommend investing in a high-end grinder as your first purchase. If you are interested in investing, check out some of our reviews on top-notch grinders like the Rocket Fausto Grinder and Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder. We also recommend the Breville Dose Control if you’re leaning towards something sweet, but not too sweet.

Coffee Collaboration: Use Up Your Old Coffee Beans Recipe

Old Coffee Beans

Here’s the age old question that’s been affecting coffee lovers across the nation: What do you do with stale, old coffee?

To answer this questions, you should know why it goes stale.

Coffee goes stale when it has been oxidized by contact with—you probably guessed—oxygen. Roasters will use different bagging methods to reduce oxidization, but once you split open that new bag of coffee and take a big whiff of those fresh roasted beans, the quality goes down from there. As the beans stale, the flavor quality is reduced and loses its unique profile.

The best way to avoid old coffee is to brew it ASAP. Each coffee bag typically has a roast date and a recommended “best buy” date. But when your coffee ultimately goes stale, it’s time to get inventive like our coffee friend Saxman11290 who sent us this delicious recipe solution. Let’s check it out!

This recipe calls for a double shot of espresso, so you’ll need a superautomatic or semi-automatic machine. Got it? Here’s everything you’ll need:

Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of ice
  • 1 cup of 2% milk
  • 14-18 grams of ground old coffee
  • Drizzle of chocolate sauce
  • Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg

Instructions:

  1. Add 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of ice into a shaker.
  2. Using an espresso machine, make a double shot of espresso. For semi-automatics measure 14-18 grams of pre-ground old coffee or use a superautomatic and brew a double shot.
  3. Pour your double shot on the milk and ice and shake it up!
  4. Pop off the glass and strain the mixture over a chilled glass.
  5. Top off with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Enjoy!

Thanks Saxman11290 for this tasty creation! Gail whipped herself up a cup—and we don’t want to spoil it for you—but she couldn’t tell that she was drinking old coffee.

Send us your favorite coffee recipe in the comments below and we’ll share it with everyone on another episode of Coffee Collaboration.

Coffee On The Brain: What’s Happening When Roasting Coffee Beans?

Let’s get cracking on today’s coffee lesson. Today we’ll dive into the chemical process that transforms those green beans into the aromatic, brown beans we’re all familiar with. The process is so complex, it’s not fully understood, but what we do know, we’ll share with you on this episode of Coffee On The Brain.

Roastingcoffeebeans_infographic

Roasting coffee beans produce over 800 aroma and flavor compounds. There are two chemical component groups, volatile and nonvolatile, that occur during the roasting process. The volatile components create the aroma while the nonvolatile create the basic flavors that we get from coffee such as bitterness or sourness. Caffeine falls into the nonvolatile category and accounts for some of the bitterness in your cup.

Now to the good stuff: the roasting stages. Each stage goes through a number of endothermic and exothermic phases. To sum it up, the endothermic phase is when the beans absorb the energy in the form of heat whereas the exothermic phase the beans release the energy. It’s easy to remember “en” as “in” and “ex” as “exit,” for those of you taking notes.

Try roasting coffee beans right in your own home. We’ve got the Behmor 1600 Plus Home Coffee Roaster and Velton’s Bonsai Green Beans – Unroasted to create the right roast for you. You’ll have the freshest coffee on the block and a perfect conversation starter during your next brunch out. Check out this video we’ve made with the Behmor roaster and give it a try!

Roasting Stages

Stage One: Endothermic

The green beans absorb energy in the form of heat, lose moisture and mass and begin to turn yellow in color. Beans will give off a toast or popcorn smell.

Stage Two: First Crack

Heat released in the form of steam creates a large crack during the exothermic phase. The beans double in size and turn light brown.

Stage Three: Pyrolysis

Fats and sugars in the beans continue to break down and develop the aromas and flavors we know and love.  Roaster’s typically stop roasting during this stage.

Stage Four: Second Crack

Pressure formed by various gasses crack the beans again. The beans deepen to a medium to dark brown and begin to develop a sheen as oils are pushed to the surface.

Stage Five: Final Roast

Most roasters will stop prior to the second crack to retain the bean’s flavor. The longer the beans are roasted, the less unique flavored is preserved.

Crew Comparison: Saeco Xsmall vs. Xsmall Vapore + Xsmall Chrome!

The Saeco Xsmall is retiring to the Bahamas and handing down the family legacy to the juniors—the Saeco Xsmall Vapore and Xsmall Chrome! There’s a striking family resembles—but don’t be fooled, these juniors come equipped with the skills to make one amazing cup.

The Xsmall Chrome and Xsmall Vapore are one and the same but in different colors. The Chrome resembles the original Xsmall with sophisticated two-tones of silver and black while the Vapore is a rich black. Because we want your machine to complement your kitchen, we have two different reviews on our YouTube channel for the Xsmall Chrome here and the Vapore here. Take a peek at the colors and tell us what you think in the comments below!

x-small_chrome

The improvements Saeco made to the Xsmall Vapore and Chrome are mainly aesthetic. The original Saeco Xsmall’s all plastic body might have turned people away, but the new machines come with metal drip trays that sparkles and shines against your cup. While the body of the machines are still plastic, there’s a nice sheen to the black and chrome that make up for the fact that they’re still, well, plastic. The plastic does cut down the cost on a machine at this caliber and makes the price tag affordable and well worth the purchase for the features you get on this superautomatic.

x-small_vapore

OK, so feature-wise you’re getting the same deal—and why wouldn’t you when their predecessor did it so well? Latte, cappuccino, Americano…you get the idea! This tiny bot can handle a variety of drinks without all the buttons and icons some other machines have. The Saeco Xsmall features one dial to rotate between espresso, hot water or steaming and buttons for two espresso options.

Are you feeling like an Americano? The panarello style steam wand dispenses hot water using the quick-heating Thermoblock. After it’s done, simply switch it make to espresso (the bean icon), press and watch your coffee come together! Latte, anyone? The wand is also great for steaming and requires no skill to get frothy foam. Make sure to keep the steam wand’s air intake clear and you’ll be making hot lattes for everyone.

Check out the full comparison between the original Saeco Xsmall and Xsmall Vapore and Xsmall Chrome. Drop us a comment if you’re loving the new Saeco Xsmall!

Crew Review Comparison: Breville Oracle vs. Barista Express

Breville has made it their mantra to infuse their coffee makers with simplicity and convenience. When you’re comparing the Breville Oracle and Breville Barista Express, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Both are semi-automatics with similar style and capabilities to whip up delicious espresso, but they have their own approach to getting the job done. On this Crew Comparison, we’ll break down feature-by-feature to see the full  differences of the Oracle and Barista Express!

Breville_Oracle

Grinder & Tamper

A closer look at the Oracle’s robust portafilter holder reveals some hidden features. Once the portafilter is locked in place, with the flick of the wrist the grinder dispenses coffee right into it. Here’s the real hidden gem: When it’s done grinding, the Oracle automatically tamps for you! Like many features we’ll dive into on this machine, the tamping pressure and grinder settings can be programmed using the digital display.

There’s no love lost with the Barista Express’s grinder! Unlike the Oracle, you can program the volume of your grounds for a single or double shot. To activate the automatic grinder, simply press the portafilter against the back, but instead of the grinder and tamper working together like in the Oracle, you’ll have to manually tamp. The Barista Express comes with a tamper that magnetically sticks into the machine to easily store away when it’s not in use.

Silvia vs Barista Express

Brewing & PID

The intuitive digital display on the Breville Oracle allows you to fine-tune the PID to the exact temperature you want and then the machine maintains it. The real kicker for the Oracle is the dual boiler and pump system that allows you to brew and steam at the same time. The PID and dual boilers work in sync to maintain the correct temperature for each, so you’ll never worry about semantics again.

We learned from Gail that the Barista Express has a basic PID. This just means that it can only be adjusted between four degrees of the programmed temperature. That being said once the PID is set it will heat the boiler to the desired temperature and maintain it. The boiler on the Barista Express is a thermocoil and it can only brew or steam separately. Even though this isn’t a dual boiler machine, the PID keeps the temperature in check and that deserves some brownie points in our book!

Steam Wand

What the heck is that on the Breville Oracle? That’s the Oracle’s steam wand—a hybrid of manual and auto steaming. And it’s extremely smart. Set your wand to auto, adjust the temperature to the “happy zone” and let it froth! The tip of the wand has a sensor that will indicate when the desired temperature is reached. Once it’s achieved, the wand automatically stops steaming. Can we just say the milk was fantastic? The froth on the Breville Oracle is perfect for a latte without a lot of effort.

Bonus points for the Oracle: When you’re done steaming, push the wand back into place and it automatically purges for you! Say goodbye to gunky steam wands. This feature will help maintain the life of your machine and keep it sparkling.

Breville Oracle Care

The Barista Express has a steam wand that would be better suited for a beginner. The traditional steam wand features one hole to release steam and lower pressure steaming. The lower power will take longer to heat up the milk, but on the other hand, it will be easier for a budding barista to hone their craft! There’s no auto feature, too, so steaming is done completely by hand.

Bonus Round:

The Oracle has some additional features that we couldn’t resist pointing out. There are two ridiculously easy ways to access the water tank. To add water, the Oracle is outfitted with an access point on the top. Press down the lid and it’ll pop right open!

The second feature is hidden beneath the drip tray. Remove the tray and you’ll notice a dial, which you can turn to engaged a swivel foot under the machine that makes accessing the water tank in the back a piece of cake! This round goes to the Breville Oracle!

Watch the full Crew Review and witness these powerful machines at work. We’re attractive to the convenience and thoughtful features of the Breville Oracle, but the Barista Express certainly doesn’t lack in capabilities! Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Coffee Collaboration: Portuguese Mazagran Coffee – A Coffee & Lemonade Treat!

 While you’re impatiently waiting for short season, we’ve got a refreshing drink that’ll curb your summer appetite! Today’s concoction includes a summer favorite, lemonade, and our personal favorite, coffee, to create one delicious treat. Thanks Nick for the awesome recipe!

Gail went ahead and made herself a glass! Here a tip Gail discovered: make sure you have a tall enough container. We recommend at least a 12-ounce glass for this brew.

Gail_Drink

Nick’s Portuguese Mazagran Recipe:

Equipment:

  • 12 ounce+ glass
  • AeroPress
  • Scale

Ingredients:

  • 56 grams fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 356 grams filtered water
  • 56 grams sugar
  • 100 grams of Ice
  • 25 grams of light roast coffee ground fine
  1. In a carafe with 100 grams of ice, combine the sugar, lemon juice and 56 grams of water to make a concentrated lemonade.
  2. Bring the remaining 300 grams of water to a boil.
  3. Set the AeroPress on top of the lemonade mixture and add in 25 grams of coffee.
  4. Slowly add 300 grams of boiling water into the AeroPress. Stir and brew for about 4 minutes and press when done.
  5. Stir to combine the lemonade with the coffee and pour into a glass with fresh ice!

Mazagran_Seperation

This sweet infusion reminds Gail of iced tea with lemonade—another summer favorite!

Do you have a recipe to share with us? Drop us a comment below and we’ll brew up your favorite cup!

Coffee On The Brain: Mundo Novo & Catuai Coffee Varietals

On this Episode of Coffee On The Brain, we travel to Brazil to explore the Mundo Novo and Catuai coffee varietals. These South American coffees create a tasty blend that you have to try! After a short history lesson, we’ll brew up some of 49th Parallel’s Honduras Finca Bonanza coffee blend

The Mundo Novo coffee varietal thrived in Brazil and is a natural hybrid of Typica and Bourbon plant. It’s a favorite amongst farmers for its resistances to disease and its higher fruit yield than a Bourbon varietal. It didn’t, however, inherit the desired flavor profile that people love from a Bourbon. That doesn’t mean you can’t find quality Mundo Novo beans! When you are lucky enough to come across some, the flavor is described as heavy and sweet with lower acidity.

What do you do then when beans are missing desired traits? You make new ones, of course! The Catuai is a high-yield Arabica cultivar from the Mundo Novo and Caturra coffee varietals. It was bred in the 1950s by the Instituto Agronomico do Campinas in Brazil likely as an attempt to create a high-yielding, pest resistant plant with delicious cherries.

The Catuai is a high-yielding cultivar with a sweet, Bourbon-desired flavor, but, unfortunately, it is susceptible to diseases—we call this a success in the coffee world! Two out of three desired traits isn’t too bad. While the dream for a bean with all three traits wasn’t fully realized in this varietal, the Catuai coffee produces some espresso blends that we’ve come to love.

Want to get your hands on some Catuai coffee?

49th_honduras

Amber brewed up 49th Parallel’s Honduras Finca Bonanza and gave it a try. She detected notes of sweet, caramel balanced with tropical fruit undertone—like a mini-vacation in a cup! Try it and tell us what you think. 

If you’re curious to try Amber’s quick pour over, here’s the easy instructions.

Quick Pour Over Recipe:

  • Chemex Carafe with filter
  • 30 grams of ground 49th Parallel’s Honduras Finca Bonanza coffee
  • 500 grams of water at 205 degrees
  • Brew for 3:50 minutes
  • Serve  hot and enjoy!

Crew Review: Eureka Zenith 65E Coffee Grinder

“Eureka! I have found it!”

Shout it out! If you’re looking for a commercially designed machine built to change beans into beautiful, consistent espresso grounds, then this is your machine! Are you shouting “Eureka!” yet? On this Crew Review, we’re exploring the Eureka Zenith 65E Burr Grinder and showing you some cool features on this mighty machine.

eureka_zenith_front_black_1

Do you have three pounds of beans you’re looking to grind up? Because the Zenith 65E can handle it. The bean hopper holds three pounds of beans and is matched with 65mm stainless steel flat burrs that’ll turn nails to dust—just kidding! Don’t try that at home. But really, these burrs create grounds quickly and consistently, which is what you need for a great espresso shot.

The stepless grinder gives you full control to find your sweet spot—the best grind for your shot—which marries seamlessly with the powerful burrs. You have complete control over the coarseness (as Gail demonstrates in the video). With unlimited options, it’s easy to see how you could lose it. This is what we’d call a double edge sword. A cool feature on the Eureka Zenith 65E to keep your grind is that the bottom burr adjusts the setting. When you go to clean your grinder you’ll remove the top burr and avoid losing your sweet spot!

The Eureka Zenith 65E has a built-in portafilter holder that’s ready for anything. Adjust the holder up or down to hold different sized portafilters and, when you’re ready, activated the grinder by pushing the portafilter into the button directly behind. The Zenith 65E also features an adjustable spout to dispense your grinds at different angels and a spotlight shining down onto your grounds. Didn’t we tell you it was ready for anything?

Once you’ve found your sweet spot and lined-up your portafilter, don’t forget to program your grind! Using two programmable portions, customize your volume for your ideal single or double shot. As long as you keep everything in place, you’ll have a consistent grind to come back to each time.

The Eureka Zenith 65E a worthy machine to bring into any home. Realistically this massive machine and its power might not be best for individual use. It would work wonders in an office, apartment community, commercial setting or a home business where you have people trickling in and out. Fill the bean hopper in the morning and you can pull espresso shots all day long.

Check out the full video below and tell us what you think of the Eureka Zenith 65E by leaving us a comment on our YouTube video!