Crew Review: Capresso Iced Tea Maker

Capresso Iced Tea MakerIce, ice baby! That’s what we’ve been chanting these past couple of weeks. Yes, it does get hot even here in Seattle. As such, we probably wouldn’t make it through the summer, nor would it be complete, without a frosty cold drink to sip on. One of our preferred beverages to cool down with is iced tea. However, the one draw back is that we usually have to wait a couple of hours for the tea to brew and chill before we actually get to enjoy it. When it is as hot as it has been, we’re talking upper 80s here folks – we’re just not built for that, a couple of hours seems like an awfully long time to wait for refreshment. Enter the Capresso Iced Tea Maker, our wonder brewer of the summer. This slick machine can brew up a batch of tea in just 10 minutes or less, and it is pretty easy to use as well.

In order to make iced tea on this machine, load the removable filter basket with three to six tablespoons of loose leaf tea or four to ten tea bags, depending on how strong you like your tea. Next, fill the removable water tank in back of the machine up with water and fill the glass carafe in the front of the machine up to the “ice line” with ice. Note, that the line is pretty high up, so make sure you have a lot of ice. There is also a water line (near the bottom of the machine), so if you’re short on ice you could also fill it up with really cold water.

If you are brewing something like a black tea, you can also try putting pieces of fruit into the carafe with the ice, which will infuse your tea as it brews over the fruit. In fact, if you are interested in experimenting with your tea, the Capresso Iced Tea Maker actually comes with a recipe booklet that has instructions for creating other clever, tea-based drinks. Before you start your brew, make sure you adjust the brew level on the top of the machine, to brew your tea to your desired strength. Finally, press the button the side to start brewing, and your delicious iced tea should be ready within five to ten minutes.

The nice thing about this brewer is that you won’t even have to put it into hibernation during the colder winter months, as it makes hot tea too. Just you’re your tea without the ice or cold water. Or, if you really need your java fix, and would rather cool off with iced coffee, you can make that on this brewer as well. Simply add coffee grounds instead of tea and you’re good to go.

We used some of the Chai Dairies Iced Tea we just got in to whip up a batch and were impressed with both the teas and the machine. The tea maker is ultra convenient and the teas are in tasty flavors like Blood Orange, Rose Oolong and Berry Blast.  Watch as Kaylie and Gail use the Capresso Iced Tea Maker to try out the Blood Orange tea in particular, which they say is perfect for when you’re thirsty on a hot day.

Crew Review: Capresso Iced Tea Maker

SCG Westlake Retail Store Tour

Westlake Retail StoreWe’ve completed our second build out of the summer, and now we’re ready to share the fruits of our labor! Gail and crew have done a lot of work in the last three weeks to finish getting everything setup in our new Westlake retail location for our grand opening last week. If you are disappointed you missed it, here is your chance to at least check the store out virtually.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into the store is a large gear on the floor. After all, we couldn’t have a store without our signature gear, and in this case we were lucky enough to have room for two of them. In case you are wondering, the other one is a metal gear located behind our demonstration bar. Inside the entrance on the left, we have a table of Saeco espresso machines, followed by Breville and Krups machines on another table.

We also have all of our Monin syrups, we carry over 40 different flavors, displayed in the left front window of the store since it shows through the glass well. Likewise, in case you need future convincing that a store with the word “coffee” in its name sells tea too, we have all of our tea, tea ware and cups sharing the spotlight in the front window. Along the back wall we have every coffee-making accessory you could possibly want. This includes, but is not limited to, French presses, pour overs, tampers, shot glasses, frothing pitchers, hot water kettles and Airscape canisters.

For those of you who want to try out different coffees, our Westlake retail location has its own coffee marketplace. This display features all of our local roasts from the Seattle area, such as Caffe Ladro, Caffe Lusso, Caffe Umbria, Middle Fork Roasters, Velton’s Coffee, Zoka Coffee and more! These coffees also make for great souvenirs or gifts for friends and family back home, as they allow to you share and enjoy one things Seattle is famous for. Let’s not forget all those great windows looking out on to 5th Avenue we keep talking about. In them we have a display of our shiny, single boiler machines, as well as a few others.  Around the center of the store you will find an island of drip coffee makers and single cup makers, and on the right of the store you will find displays for brands like Illy, Nespresso, Jura and Rocket.

If you couldn’t make our grand opening, that doesn’t mean you have missed out on all the fun things happening in the store. We will be offering regular coffee tastings hosted by our local roasters, equipment demonstrations and other classes and workshops. Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, our store is only a Monorail or bus ride away. Better yet, we offer free-home delivery from the store, so you don’t have to worry about hauling larger items back on the bus with you. Come on down and check the store out when you can, the crew in our Westlake retail store is excited as can be to talk coffee with you!

SCG Westlake Retail Store Tour

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta

SCG's Tune Up Kit for Pasquini LiviettaLast week we shared our affection for the Pasquini Livia G4, and discussed how to care for the machine. This week, it is time for another of one of Pasquini’s semi-automatic espresso machines to enjoy the spotlight. Almost like a little sibling to Livia, at just 12 inches tall and 8 inches wide the Livietta is probably one of the smallest semi-autos on the market. However, don’t be fooled by the machine’s diminutive size, it still packs a powerful punch. The Livietta has two thermoblocks, which enable simultaneous brewing and steaming, as well as a very fast heat up time. Since this machine does so much work for you, it is important to provide your Livietta with a little TLC every once and a while. As part of this process, we recommend giving the machine a thorough cleaning and using SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta to exchange the parts that are showing signs of wear and tear.

How do you know when its time to replace some of the parts on your machine? A few key signs to look out for are water or coffee coming over the top edge of your portafilter when brewing, your pump working harder or the flavor of your coffee just generally tasting off. The first scenario is likely occurring because your brew head gasket has failed and is no longer making a seal with your portafilter. Meanwhile, the later two scenarios are probably being caused by coffee residue that has built up on your brew head screen or in your portafilter basket, which does actually make your machine work harder and can taint your coffee. In either case, your Livietta is definitely in need of a tune up, so you can replenish the rundown parts.

Removing and installing SCG’s Tune Up Kit for the Pasquini Livietta is basically the same process we used on the Livia. You will remove all the accessories on the machine, flip it over and began removing the brew head components (brew screen screw, brew screen, diffuser and gaskets). The main difference between the two machines in this process is that in addition to the brew head gasket, the Livietta also has a shower screen holder gasket. This just means that you have two gaskets to uninstall, remove the shower screen holder gasket followed by the brew head gasket, which might require a bit of extra elbow grease. As usual, the next step is to clean any coffee grounds and residue out of the brew head (your diffuser and portafilter basket should already be soaking in a Cafiza solution made with the tablet provided) to prevent it from eating away at the new parts you will be installing.

Next you can begin installing the new parts in the reverse order from which you removed them. When it comes to the gaskets, install the brew head gasket first, followed by the shower screen holder gasket. When installing the screen gasket into the groove created for it, make sure that you don’t twist the gasket to make it fit or it won’t fit properly. To speed up and simplify the installation process, you can lineup the diffuser, shower screen and screw and thread them back into the brew head. Do one final check with your portafilter to make sure everything is seated right, and you’re done!

Want to see the process of installing SCG’s Tune Up Kit for the Pasquini Livietta in action before tackling it yourself? Check out this video to have Brendan walk you through it.

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livietta

Crew Review: Ascaso Dream Up V2.0

Ascaso Dream Up V2.0One thing we like a lot about Ascaso is that they frequently update their machines to ensure that they allow you to produce a better cup of coffee at home.  As result, we’ve seen a lot of different versions of this machine at SCG over the years. The last version, the Dream Up, incorporated a three-way solenoid valve into the machine and this most recent upgrade introduces a thermoblock to the espresso maker as well. We were excited to see the update to the Ascaso Dream Up V2.0 since the machine previously used a traditional style boiler, which our repair department noticed had to get replaced quite frequently. With this improvement, the espresso machine should have a longer life span and be much faster as well.

In addition to the faster brewing time, we also like that the Ascaso Dream Up V2.0 comes with a lot of options for actually creating your coffee. With both single and double pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets, as well as basket for E.S.E. pods, this machine accommodates people who are just getting to coffee and those who are old pros. Better yet, you even have a choice when it comes to how you want to steam your milk, as there steam arm tips for both a panarello and a standard steam arm.

The one draw back some people may find with this espresso machine is that it tends to have soupier pucks than other machines with three-way solenoid valves. This is due to the spring and the ball valve in the brew head. This setup ends up sealing the brew head, so that the three-way solenoid valve can’t go all the way to your portafilter to return that pressure to enable the puck to dry out more completely. However, with some many other great features on this machine, the soupier pucks are not a deal breaker for us.

It is no surprise this machine has remained as part of our lineup for so many years. Even though the Ascaso Dream Up V2.0 is a fairly simple in design, it performs very well and is easy to use because it doesn’t have an excessive amount of bells and whistles. Thus, if you like brewing shots out of your portafilter and are not a big fan of superautos, this is the machine for you. Likewise, with its retro styling and aluminum metal casing, which will hold up to nearly anything, this machine will look great on your counter top. We also love that this little semi-auto comes in a ton of fun colors like cow print and baby blue in addition to the more traditional polished aluminum and gray.

To see how this the machine looks in action, watch as Brendan and Gail give it a whirl. We’ll even let you in on a little secret; the stylish look of the Ascaso Dream Up V2.0 made it the machine Brendan picked when asked which espresso maker he would buy out of our showroom during his interview.

Crew Review: Ascaso Dream Up V2.0

Crew Review: Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius

Rancilio Classe 9 XcelsiusIf you’re looking for a commercial machine that uses the latest technology to produce consistently great shots and that is classy to the nth degree (or should that be the 9th degree?) then the Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius may just be the machine for you. Rancilio has put a lot of work into researching and building this machine, and they have created something really great in their first foray into third wave coffee temperature profiling machines.

What is the difference between the Classe 9 and the Classe 9 Xcelsius? In this case, the word Xcelsius does actually mean something and hasn’t just been added the name of the machine in order to make it sound fancier. While the Xcelsius will still do a heat exchange to get water up into the coffee boiler, the machine also introduces an individual coffee boiler at each brew pad. This means no matter if you have two, three or four group machines, there will be an individual 250 watt boiler at each group head.

In order to provide even more temperature control, Rancilio has also designed a micro boiler (which they call finishing boiler) and cold water source into the machine. The finishing boiler is very small, and the concept behind it is to use it to inject water up in to the coffee boiler. Next, a heating element inside the coffee boiler is used to either increase or flatten out the water temperature. Finally, the cold water source is used to bend the temperature down. For instance, if we have the boiler temperature at 203 degrees Fahrenheit and want to bring it down to 198 degrees Fahrenheit during the extraction process, we can inject cold water into the boiler, a feature you’re not going to see on any other machine.

After we get past the Xcelsius programming, the machine is very much like a typical volumetric machine. However, there are a couple of other features we like on the Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius, such as the being able to configure the machine for short or tall drinks by simply sliding out a tray to set shot glasses on for shorter drinks.  With this machine you also have the ability to turn off individual group heads and save power by not having them run all night.

The Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius has the best temperature stability on the market, and is the highest commercial machine Rancilio has created thus far. As such, the Classe 9 Xcelsius is great option for high volume cafes that are trying to do third wave coffee and are brewing a variety of single origin coffees. Especially since the machine’s temperature profiling ability will allow you to pull different characteristics out of Sumatran or Ethiopian coffees. To learn more about the functionality of this machine, watch as Brandon walks us through its features.

Crew Review: Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livia G4

SCG's Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livia G4Not only does the shiny Pasquini Livia G4 espresso machine look beautiful on your counter, but it is also a workhorse of a machine. The Livia produces consistent shots time after time and it is heat exchanger, meaning you can steam your milk and brew your coffee at the same time. As a result, you can expect to spend a lot less time on whipping up your favorite lattes. With more time on your hands, perhaps you’ve thought about giving your machine some extra TLC in return, to ensure it continues to fuel your caffeine habit. A good deep cleaning is a great place to start, and you should also take stock of the some the parts on your machine. If you have noticed that your coffee has been tasting off recently or the pump has been working harder when you are pulling a shot, coffee residue has built up on your brew screen and its time to replace it.  Likewise, if you see water or coffee pouring over the edge of your portafilter when you are pulling a shot, it means your brew gasket is no longer sealing properly and needs to be replaced as well. Luckily, SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livia G4 fixes both of these issues. Do keep mind that the parts on this kit are slightly different that those that were used on the original Livia 90. Therefore, if you have an earlier model of the Livia this kit won’t work for you.

The kit includes a brew head screen, a brew head gasket, a shower screen screw and a Cafiza cleaning tablet (to use to clean your diffuser and portafilter basket). The process for installing SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livia G4 is similar to that of the other tune up kits we have created. First, you will want to remove all accessories on the machine as well as the drip tray, drip tray grate, water tank, water tank lid, the cup warmer panels and the portafilter. This will prevent any of stainless steel pieces on the machine from getting scratched (as they have been removed) so your machine can continue looking shiny. Next you will your machine over and remove the components of the brew head – the brew screen screw, the brew screen, diffuser and the brew head gasket.

You will want to clean the diffuser, the portafilter basket and the brew head screen (if you want to keep an extra around as a spare) by soaking in hot water mixed with the included Cafiza packet. You should also clean up any coffee residue that had built up around your machine’s brew head. Use something like a small vacuum cleaner attachment or a can of compressed to blow all of the coffee out of the brew head. It is important that you get the brew head really clean before you install the new gasket since coffee is acidic and will start eating away at the gasket instantly.

The final part of the process is to reinstalling all the new pieces in your tune up kit. Replace the pieces in the reverse order you removed them, starting with the brew gasket and finishing with the brew screen screw. Once you have completed this process, insert your portafilter into the machine to make sure everything is aligned, and you are done! Ready try out SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livia G4 on your machine? Let Brendan walk through all the steps as he completes the process himself. It really is easier than you might think.

Tech Tips: SCG’s Tune Up Kit for Pasquini Livia G4