Category Archives: Weblogs

Advanced Menus on the New Breville Dual Boiler and Oracle

Breville Oracle BES980XL
Breville Oracle BES980XL
new Breville Dual Boiler BES920XL
Dual Boiler BES920XL

A couple of you have requested that we discuss some of the advanced features on the new Breville Dual Boiler and Breville Oracle and compare them to the first Breville dual boiler. Ask and you shall receive! We got these two espresso machines together in a room, unlocked their advanced menus and played around with them.

The main difference between the Dual Boiler BES900XL (first generation), the Dual Boiler BES920XL (second generation) and the Oracle BES980XL (third generation) is that both the second and third generation machines have two new features in their advanced menu options. The first feature is the capability to adjust the temperature (from 265-285 degrees Fahrenheit) on the steam boiler so you can get hotter (or cooler, if you prefer) milk. The second feature is the ability to choose whether your extraction is based on time or the amount of espresso produced, instead of having the extraction be based strictly on time as on the BES900XL.

The advanced menus on both the new Breville Dual Boiler and the Oracle are easy to get into. To access them on either machine, simply hold down the single shot button and press power. Once you are in the advanced menu, you will be able to scroll through the options for adjusting your machine’s settings. These features are pretty similar on both machines, as they enable you to tweak the factory settings, descale, alerts and sounds in addition to the steam temperature and extraction settings as we mentioned before. However, you will find the Oracle has a few extra choices, such as settings for how fast the pump comes on for steaming your milk, the contrast on the LCD screen, fan and others. For more information, check out our video and let Gail guide you through how all these options work and how to change them.

SCG Tech Tips: Breville Oracle (BES980XL) & New Breville Dual Boiler (BES920XL) Advanced Menu

The Reluctant Barista Dials in a Coffee Grinder on the Last Frontier

IMG_1796Lots of Seattle Coffee Gear fans watch our YouTube videos to learn more about coffee and espresso with our hands-on tutorials. But what if you don’t have internet or wireless service available? This summer, I carefully hand-carried a Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder to Homer, Alaska, a location often highlighted as part of the current ‘Alaskan Reality TV Show’ craze. Let me tell you about the reality I faced as I tried to help my family dial in their new coffee grinder without the SCG Crew there to help me.

First of all, my family lives on twenty acres located ten miles outside of town. Fair to say, it is a little remote. Tom Bodett calls Homer The End of the Road: Electricity is a new arrival at the house and my mom still cooks on a wood stove. Internet comes via satellite service, which is comparable to the dial-up systems of yore in terms of both speed and reliability. My step-dad unpacked this nice hand-built Italian grinder on the coffee table and fished around inside the box for instructions. I laughed a little at the old-fashioned notion of reading a user manual and pulled out my smartphone. The joke was on me when I had no cell reception and such limited wi-fi that I could navigate to YouTube, but not play a video! Then, the joke was on him because the poorly translated Italian-to-English instructions left us scratching our heads.

I love the Rancilio Rocky grinder. It is a home grinder, but it’s made with commercial parts, so I knew it would be the right grinder to reliably produce the daily espresso needed to make my folks an Americano and a cappuccino. I reached deep into my memory bank to help set up this burr grinder. The one thing I clearly recalled was to make sure beans are ground through it as the burrs are adjusted lower so they do not grind against each other and cause damage. I wish I had seen Teri’s excellent video on how to dial in a Rocky before I left Seattle. We did find a written blog post by Kat years ago and used it to guide our efforts.

The part that frustrated me most about dialing in the new grinder was not the physical adjustment, but rather the amount of espresso beans used and time it took. Compared to the Baratza Virtuoso I have at home in Seattle, the process was night and day. By the time I ran through the recommended ¼ pound of beans on the Baratza I found my grind. With the Rocky, it took a full bag of beans plus the stopwatch app on my phone and multiple taste tests that left us all wired. The Rancilio instructions say that this process will never need to be repeated but I know from watching Kat and Gail’s videos that any time you get new beans or a new machine, re-calibration is required.

The Rancilio Rocky grinder is an excellent coffee grinder and the fuss of a more temperamental set up is rewarded with an ideal home espresso grind. My parents wanted a grinder that could be carefully maintained and serviced to last many years. In the greater scheme of things, an evening spent hopped-up on espresso shots was family bonding time and not actually wasted. Plus each morning thereafter was like Christmas as we raced to see who would get to use the new grinder first.

What is the takeaway from this cautionary tale? A) Don’t count on modern technology to work in the wilderness B) Be more patient than I am C) We put a great effort into creating the perfect home espresso station while there’s still no thought of indoor plumbing. And that is the reality of life on the Last Frontier.

homer

 

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:

The Reluctant Barista: Jura Versus Jura

Jura Impressa C5My job at Seattle Coffee Gear allows me to try all of the demonstration models, just like a customer. I try to do it before the store opens when no one is watching because I generally make a mess. Today Gail found me trying to figure out the steam wand on the Jura Impressa C5 Superautomatic Coffee Center. ‘You have to twist the knob AND push the button on this model,’ she explained. Easy for her to say! I had hot water squirting out of the wand for Americano coffee or tea instead of steam for my frothing pitcher. I’m used to the Jura ENA 4 which is very straightforward.

With additional programmability comes a little more head-scratching the first time facing the espresso machine control panel. Lots of folks consider Jura espresso machines are the Cadillac (or insert any fancy auto brand here, maybe a Tesla!) of superautomatics. The quality and temperature of espresso shots produced is consistently delicious from the most basic to the most programmable model.

Because there are so many different models, let’s talk about what makes the C5 different from my simple standby, the ENA 4. The C5 takes the standard choices of coffee or espresso, volume, plus it offers additional manual control so you get your drink just how you want it. From my personal pre-dawn experimentation, it has better milk frothing capabilities as well. The water tank is much larger on the C5 (64 oz compared to 37 oz), so is the bean hopper and the dregs box, but it is only 2.5 inches wider. The C5’s sleek case and controls, larger capacity and better froth is hard to beat.

Which Jura wins? If you’ve got multiple users who care for cappuccinos, the C5 is a crowd pleaser. Don’t need the fine foam, the fancy case or capacity? Go ENA4 for a tried and true superauto — or the smaller, coffee-only Micro 1 for a bit more space saving. No matter which route you choose, the espresso from the Jura 15BAR stainless steel thermoblock is delicious in any ‘case.’

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:

Hot Blog on Blog Action: We’re Back!

Kerry Park SeattleWant to know what’s on our collective mind? Much like the Borg we are single-minded in the pursuit of … coffee! Here’s where we comb the interwebs and report back to you on the the weird and the wonderful coffee-related things we find.  After a three-year hiatus, our highly curated and highly subjective links to the coffee blogosphere return with a vengeance.

If you want a daily dose, we spill the beans about Bacon Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld’s coffee date with David Letterman and other items of caffeinated interest on:

The Reluctant Barista: Making the Case for Office Coffee Upgrades

Saeco InteliaPick a Wednesday, any Wednesday. How much coffee do you need at work today to get over the hump? How many meetings do you have? Presentations to give? Deals to close? Sure, you can drink whatever office coffee sludge is sitting on the warming element as you pass from your desk to the conference room, but you deserve better, work friend. And so do your work compatriots!

Let’s cut to the chase, business people. Let’s get down to brass tacks and find the win-win and the net-net and the synergy for you all within one superautomatic espresso machine.

Two words: Saeco Intelia. This superautomatic espresso machine will boost employee morale and caffeination levels to previously unimagined heights. With one well-timed capital expenditure, the Saeco Intelia Focus will beat forking over $967 average annual expense for a latte-per-day habit. Take my word for it, or make your own Excel spreadsheet. With a 10”x17” countertop footprint, it is smaller than a paper cutter and much safer to have around the office.

Here’s what to expect: Push the small button for an espresso shot (ours is set to 1.5 ounces) made just for you and poured into your favorite Dilbert coffee mug in 30 seconds. Milk frothing took an additional 60 seconds with the panarello. There you have it, synchronization optimization with steaming and brewing for a latte in under a minute and a half. Don’t dig lattes? Push the big button for a programmable Cafe Lungo (ours is set to a hefty 8 ounces) in your cup or get hot water from the panarello for an Americano coffee in the same time or less.

Here’s a real world case study: I have a meeting regarding commercial equipment (yes we sell coffee and espresso machines for home, office and café!) and I will need a latte. I can pick any espresso machine. Semi-automatics take longer to prepare and one-touch coffee centers don’t get the milk hot enough for my taste. The Saeco Intelia, on the other hand, offers push-button espresso convenience combined with the control of a panarello to get the milk as hot and foamy as I want it. I leave my desk, whip up a piping hot latte and Bam! I’m in the conference room faster than you can recite the “Glengarry Glen Ross” speech.

We’ve got a winner here, send the requisite requisition forms to the purchasing department. Any way you slice it, the Saeco Intelia leverages price and performance to hit the sweet spot for office coffee. It is easy to clean, easy to maintain and so easy anyone can intuitively use it without a PowerPoint presentation. Sometimes the easy choice is the right choice.

The Reluctant Barista: Jura GIGA 5 and the Secret Menu

giga5_feature4There is something so intriguing about a secret menu. Starbucks has one. In-N-Out Burger has one. And now, the Jura GIGA 5 Automatic Coffee Center does too. After a hot tip from Kat that there was indeed a secret menu, I decided to play detective. I found these new recipes through my favorite machine testing method called ‘random button pushing.’ You won’t find this covered in the Jura user manual (unless you happen to look at page 20…). The Reluctant Barista has some delicious insider information to share.

The initial screen shows what you might come to expect from a superautomatic menu: Ristretto, Espresso, Coffee, Hot Water, Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato, Milk, Milk Foam. From these simple settings you can further customize the coffee dosage, water temperature, water volume, milk volume and milk foam. The Jura GIGA 5 does not come standard with an integrated milk carafe, so I used a Jura Cool Control Automatic Milk Cooler and the included hose that came with the GIGA 5 to make a bevy of milk-based beverages.

Last week I made my go-to drink, a foamy hazelnut latte and was happily surprised by how hot the drink got. Monday morning I had the GIGA 5 pour me a double cappuccino. I needed it! After the caffeine kicked in, it was time to explore uncharted territory. There were 12 more “secret” recipes once I twirled the rotary dial on top. I have to admit, these recipes perplexed me. Were they chosen by an Italian espresso aficionado? Were they chosen by the Swiss manufacturer? Who mixes lemonade and espresso? They did not seem to be targeted to Seattle taste profiles, or at least not my particular taste. However, I did try the recipe for ‘Winter Magic Coffee.’ This turned out to be what I would describe as a Nutella Latte. It was so popular with the SCG Crew that I ended up making 5 drinks back to back.

Sadly, there was no barista gnome inside the Jura GIGA 5 to prepare the drinks. You need to provide your own ingredients. From home I brought my treasured Nutella and used Monin Honey Sweetener although it was sweet enough without it. The GIGA 5 walked me through each step with a series of easy to read screens. I especially liked the final step of each drink I made when the GIGA 5 screen simply said, ‘Enjoy!’

The Jura GIGA 5 “Secret” Drink Menu:

  • Marocchino – espresso, Monin Dark Chocolate Sauce, chocolate powder
  • Pepresso – espresso, Monin Dark Chocolate Sauce, mixed peppercorns (Watch Brandi make this recipe)
  • White Cool – espresso, carbonated lemonade, ice cubes
  • Gourmet Latte Macchiato – espresso, evaporated milk, Monin Irish Cream Syrup (non-alcoholic) or Bailey’s Irish Cream (alcoholic)
  • Irish Coffee – coffee, brown sugar, Irish Whiskey (alcoholic), whipped cream on top
  • Café Melange – coffee with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top
  • Viennese Coffee – coffee, vanilla ice cream, Monin Vanilla Syrup and chocolate shavings on top
  • Winter Magic Coffee – espresso, Nutella, honey and a pinch of ginger and cardamom on top
  • Shakerato – espresso, lemons, sugar, ice
  • Mango Lassi – espresso, yogurt, mango puree
  • Red Cool – espresso, carbonated lemonade, Campari (alcoholic), ice
  • Summer Fire – espresso, Monin Coconut Syrup, lemon pepper

Thank you GIGA 5 — we will enjoy!

The Reluctant Barista: Tackling the Rocket R58 Dual Boiler

58I had an ‘Aha! Moment’ this morning and it changed my whole relationship with espresso prep. Very reluctantly, and only because I was on a deadline, did I approach the Rocket Espresso R58 Dual Boiler. Kat asked me why I was more reluctant than usual to pull shots on this machine and I didn’t have a good answer. Shiami encouraged me and told me that I would love the quality shots an E61 brew group produces.

To start, I frothed a pitcher of milk, which I do regularly on the Rocket Giotto, and the difference between a heat exchanger and a dual boiler became apparent. In the same time it takes me to get a nice velvety microfoam at 150 degrees on the Rocket Giotto, I found the Rocket R58 had gotten up to 170 degrees! There was foam but the higher temperature killed the creaminess. The powerful steam cut frothing time almost in half and I had not adjusted for that fact.

Next, I enlisted Fillmore from the repair department to expertly dial in the grinder. I watched him grind into the portafilter from a Mazzer Mini. He pulled a shot and it was too quick. He adjusted the grind a tick finer, pulled another shot and it was still a little fast. He re-adjusted, then felt the espresso grounds in his hand and they were fine like ground pepper. On the third extraction the shot pulled evenly and within 22 seconds we each grabbed a shot and tasted it. Zoka Organic Espresso Quatro — yum!

As I stared at the shiny stainless steel Rocket R58 with its 58mm portafilter, I was still reluctant to pull my own shots. I recounted all of the variables Gail recommends for a perfect espresso shot: filtered water, the right grind, the correct tamp and a deluxe hand-built Italian espresso machine (just kidding! Kind of…). Finally the answer was clear to me: While I understand how to make espresso, my problem is I can’t tamp!

I love it when Kaylie makes me a latte, I use E.S.E. pods at home and I will occasionally use the new Francis Francis capsule machine for an afternoon pick-me-up. As a result, I have avoided the tamping issue altogether. Aha!

There are benefits to having the entire SCG demonstration arsenal at my disposal. I lined up a tamping mat, a tamper and a knock box. Long overdue tamping practice began and continued until both the Rocket R58 drip tray was full (twice!) from pulling shots and the knock box was full of spent pucks. From this experience I found out the following:

  1. The R58 brew head warning sticker states, ‘Caution Hot Surface,’ and that’s the truth
  2. Pre-warming your portafilter in the brew head yields great results, however it also makes it hot to touch when you tamp
  3. Fillmore’s Pro-Tip: A half flip of the lever allows for a mellow pre-infusion using passive boiler pressure
  4. It is hard to get espresso grounds out from under your fingernails

Many people go through a coffee preparation progression as their taste, budget or skills change. I went from French press to stovetop espresso maker to a small single boiler machine. How do you know when you are ready for the next step, in this case a dual boiler? Identify your comfort level and your ultimate goal. My comfort level had me afraid to tamp, but my goal was a fresher shot. So it turns out that I am ready to upgrade. For now, a heat exchanger model is my next step.

There is a machine for every person though, so who does need a dual boiler espresso machine? For me, the styling of the Rocket line is what an espresso machine ‘should’ look like — I would love to see one on my counter top. Like a heat exchanger, a dual boiler saves time if your preferred drink is milk-based since you can froth and pull shots simultaneously. The R58 in particular can be used with the internal reservoir or plumbed-in for even more convenience. Finally, espresso is all about consistency; with commercial grade parts, dual pressure gauges, a rotary pump and an external PID, the Rocket R58 uses current technology to allow you to pull the best shots you are capable of every time.

Where will your preparation progression lead you? The Rocket R58 Dual Boiler is not a starter machine. When you are ready to take things to the next level though, this espresso machine is one of the very best. Don’t be reluctant to try it!

The Reluctant Barista: Jura J9 One Touch TFT Superautomatic

Fast forward…one month later and my budding barista skills are still negligible. Secretly, when the SCG Crew isn’t looking, I use superautomatic espresso machines! Muahahaha! I’m such a rebel. Until my hand-pulled espresso shots improve, I am happy to ‘push button, receive coffee.’ Please meet my new best friend: The Jura Impressa J9 One Touch TFT superautomatic espresso machine that does all the work for me!

Although there is a video guide available for the Jura J9 that covers all of the features, this time I went in cold turkey. I punched buttons just to see what happened. On the top of this stylish silver espresso machine was the power button and a rotary dial. I double-checked the water reservoir on the side and the bean hopper in the back. It took 58 seconds from ‘on’ to ‘ready.’ The color display panel then listed six drink choices, while the rotary dial on top toggled the strength and volume of the drinks.

I did not realize the Jura slogan Never-Move-The-Cup meant that I needed to position the cup under the milk/coffee spout on the left. Lights illuminated where to put the cup, but no, my cup was under the espresso spout in the center when my cappuccino poured forth into the ample drip tray.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That was clearly a case of user error. My only legitimate complaint was the cup clearance, while adjustable up to 5 inches, would not fit my Monday Mug — a Bodum behemoth. Although I have seen SCG Crew members remove the drip tray grate to accommodate taller cups, this drip tray did not have an even surface on the bottom to rest the cup.

I pushed all of the buttons in turn and received: A cappuccino, a latte macchiato, an espresso, plain coffee, along with milk and water options. Very scientifically I stuck my finger in the hot water as it streamed out. Oh yes, it was boiling! Like other superautomatic espresso machines with automatic frothing, the milk did not get as hot or as frothy as I prefer. [Pro-Tip: Warm your cup first to keep your drink hot longer.] And although the machine self-rinses the milk spout, it does not rinse the tube between the included stainless steel thermal milk container and the machine.

The pre-set drinks were all good and can be further customized. I used Lavazza Super Crema Whole Bean, which will work well in any superautomatic espresso machine. Much like Goldilocks, none of the creations were to my exact taste so I did some tinkering and eventually landed on a delicious combination of a 6 ounce coffee pour with a 1.5 ounce espresso shot in the same cup — a drink that is known throughout the world under several different names … A Shot in the Dark, Red Eye, Depth Charge, Sludge Cup or by my favorite moniker, Mother Of All Coffee.

Who else besides me, the Reluctant Barista would want a Jura J9 superautomatic coffee robot to make her drink? I imagine anyone who wants to save time (it’s faster than a trip to the espresso drive-thru,) or receive better coffee than their current skill level allows (me!) or who wants a variety of people to be comfortable making consistent and delicious drinks on an easy to use machine (in an office setting or the SCG break room, for instance).