New! Espresso Gear Tools

Soup up your home espresso setup with these professional-grade tools! Featuring polished stainless steel and highly durable rubber accents, Espresso Gear developed commercial-quality barista tools driven by their passion for great espresso. We think the design is a wonderful blend between form and function — elegant, stylish and simple.

Our favorite item is their Click Mat, which is the only pressure-sensitive tamping mat on the market. Allowing you to change the pressure sensor weight between 22lbs. and 55lbs, the mat will signal when you’ve tamped to the set pressure — giving you the ultimate tool in calibrating your extraction.

Recipe: Diva Tofu-Chino Parfaits

We all try to cut caloric corners every now and again, and this dessert has the potential to deliver on the flavor without taking a toll at our waistline!

Diva Tofu-Chino Parfaits
vegan, makes 4-8 servings, depending on cup serving size.

Cinnamon Vanilla Mousse

  • 1 box vegan vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/4 cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups soy milk
  • 8 oz. firm tofu (1/2 pack of tofu)
  • 2 Tbsp Veganaise
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Arrowroot Powder (my substitute for cornstarch)

Spicy Chocolate Mousse

  • 1 box chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 cups soy milk
  • 8 oz. firm tofu (1/2 pack of tofu)
  • 2 Tbsp tofu
  • 1 Tbsp Veganaise
  • 4 Tbsp sweetened high quality cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Arrowroot Powder (my substitute for cornstarch)

(for a richer chocolate flavor melt 1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips into the pan when heating pudding mixture)

Other:

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 1/2 cup crushed almonds
  • 1 cup crushed organic graham crackers or vanilla cookies


Equipment: blender, lidded pan, cappuccino or parfait serving cups.

To make:

  1. Add add vanilla ingredients, except tofu to a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add in tofu and blend again until smooth.
  4. Add blender contents to pan.
  5. Turn stove on med-high.
  6. Stir constantly until mixture begins to bubble.
  7. Continue heating on medium and stirring until mixture thickens a bit and large bubbles break through.
  8. Heat can be turned to medium-low if you are worried about burning the pudding.
  9. When pudding has thickened, remove from heat and pour back into blender.
  10. Re-blend until smooth.
  11. Be
    careful, make sure to vent blender and a heated blender can easily
    build up pressure to explode. Be careful. Never point blender towards
    face.
  12. Repeat entire process with chocolate pudding.
  13. Set puddings aside, but no need to refrigerate yet. A thin, still-warm pour will be better for presentation anyways.
  14. Prepare 2 shots of espresso.
  15. Crush the almonds and crust crackers.

Assembly of cups:

  1. Fill serving cups with a 1/2 inch layer of ‘crust’. (crushed cookie or cracker.)
  2. Pour in a nice layer of chocolate pudding.
  3. Add a thin layer of almonds.
  4. Add 1 Tbsp of espresso to each cup. Use more or less depending on your tastes.
  5. You can even substitute de-caf, coffee or chai tea instead of espresso.
  6. Add a layer of vanilla pudding.
  7. You can add more chocolate than vanilla or more
    vanilla than chocolate. Or equal amounts of both. It looks more like a
    cappuccino if you use more vanilla as top layer.
  8. pouring the pudding while it is still warm will allow for a more even line-pretty presentation. Cooled pudding can clump more.
  9. The top garnish layer is a sprinkle of cinnamon and a tsp of espresso. A few almonds also looks nice. You can garnish with whatever filling you decide to use.

Filling
subs: If you don’t eat nuts, or would like a different center layer,
try these: peanut butter, dried blueberries, fresh fruit, goji berries,
more crushed crackers/cookies, soy cream, sponge cake, pan fried
bananas, another type of crushed nut.

Notes: Chill cups until firm before serving. Adding
more tofu will make a thicker, milder pudding. I actually like this
with a bit more tofu-the thicker the better to my taste.If you do not have Veganaise, you can sub with a Tbsp of white or apple cider vinegar.

Tech Tip: Superautomatics and Oily Beans

We have written before about the no love lost between superautomatic espresso machines and oily, dark roasted coffee beans, but when we got a machine in the repair center last week that was caked to the gills with coffee cement, we just had to film it and show you what we’re talking about.

Watch Gail take apart the grinder of a Saeco Vienna superautomatic espresso machine and show what happens over time to the internal grinders on these machines if someone is using super-dark and oily beans. We definitely recommend sticking with a lighter, drier roast for the long term health of your machine — and now you’ll see why!

Coffee: The World in Your Cup Lecture Series – Third Lecture Update

This past Tuesday, we headed into the third lecture of the Coffee From the Grounds Up series, being held at the University of Washington in conjunction with the Burke Natural History Museum’s exhibit Coffee: The World in Your Cup.

Unfortunately, we had a last minute scheduling conflict, so weren’t able to attend last week’s lecture on Direct Trade — very bummed about that. Tuesday night’s lecture was from an anthropological perspective and was entitled Why We Love Coffee. The speaker was professor Eugene Anderson and covered the social, cultural and economic factors that make caffeine-based drinks such an essential element of so many societies. Professor Anderson explores the impact of all types of drinks that contain caffeine — from coffee to tea to yerba mate to even cola — and it was quite fascinating to hear about the importance these stimulant-based beverages have in different societies.

Some of our notes from the lecture were:

  1. Purchasing shade grown coffee is one of the most powerful choices we can make as consumers because they’re promoting fabulously diverse nature preserves around the planet
  2. Caffeine works by preempting the adenosine receptors in our brain which regulate our sleep cycles and the acclimation process inspires our body to create more adenosine receptors, which is why we need more caffeine over time to experience the same result — your body will keep producing these receptors because you need to sleep, eventually
  3. Chocolate was used historically in a similar method as coffee, but the chocolate houses around the world slowly transitioned to coffee houses because it takes less coffee than chocolate to produce the same result, and coffee has little-to-no calories, whereas chocolate will make you feel full after awhile because of it’s high caloric composition
  4. The UK and other members of the Commonwealth are so tea-centric due to the coffee rust blight that wiped out the coffee plantations in India and Sri Lanka — after this happened, the plantations replanted with tea instead, which is why these societies became such renowned tea drinkers
  5. Coffee houses were historically notorious hotbeds of rebellion — the American Revolution was born out of coffee houses, and it’s no secret that the Beat generation, which fed into the 60′s hippie movement in the US, spent a lot of time fomenting their resolve in coffee houses (Cafe Trieste in San Francisco is one such legendary place where the likes of Alan Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs wrote/read/ranted)
  6. Feminist politics were also born from coffee, although more so in private spaces, the coffee klatches of yesteryear were spaces in which women could get together in order to discuss their own version of what many considered subversive politics — that is, equal rights
  7. The rise of what some consider ‘yuppie coffees’ — ie. Starbucks gourmet lattes, etc. — has turned the coffee house from a place of the working classes to the haunts of the leisurely, privileged class
  8. There is intense ritualization of coffee and caffeine-based drinks around the world; the highest per capita coffee intake is in Finland, which has an incredibly sacred, detailed and intricate ceremony that developed over hundreds of years and involves the evolution of the bread that was adopted/adapted by several different cultures — one notable evolution is Jewish challah
  9. Many of the aforementioned ceremonies were developed as a method for creating community or celebrating the sacred. For example, the Sufis developed a ceremony that involved coffee simply because it helped them stay awake for the other aspects of the ceremony
  10. The explosion of coffee consumerism over the last 300 years can be tracked to an increased adherence to time/alarm clocks (something driven largely by the industrial revolution), work discipline trends and the gourmetship/connoisseurship of the bean
  11. Coffee houses were also historical places of business. We’re used to seeing folks working on laptops at the local cafe, and this is a natural evolution of what used to be considered the poor man’s or working man’s office. Establishments such as Lloyds of London began as a coffee house, frequented quite often by members of the maritime industry, which eventually developed into an insurance/bonding firm that is now famous for some of their more unique insurance policies. It was quite typical that community or labor leaders would have their specific hours at a specific table and the locals could find them there during those ‘office hours’ at the local coffee house
  12. Coffee houses — and all houses that serve caffeine-based drinks — serve the very vital function of the 3rd place. The 3rd place refers to a non-work, non-home environment that allows for community, society and brings people together — they are intrinsic locations for humans and the societies in which they live, as they help them to both adapt to and survive the system

Overall, the lecture was very involved and the above notes are just a selection of what we gleaned from Professor Anderson. Wonderful food — and drink! — for thought.

Nerdy Birds: Portland’s Micro-Roasters

The double-edged sword of many small start-up companies is that growth can often come at a price — sometimes that price is the culture, sometimes it’s the product and, if you’re a small company hailing from Portland, OR, it can come at the price of cred. With homegrown independent roasters such as Stumptown expanding into the burgeoning NYC espresso market, what was once considered an alternative to the big boys is slowly becoming a big boy itself.

So how does DIY and indie-heavy PDX keep it real? It becomes a breeding ground for the next wave of small independents that might develop into something larger down the line. Peopled by young couples with toddlers and folks exploring the next chapter in their lives, the growing swell of micro-roasters in the Portland area speaks to that region’s history of upstarts, rebels and creatives.

In this fabulously descriptive profile, Kathleen Bauer discusses the trend and poses questions about the Portland roasting scene to five of its stars. One aspect we really loved about this article was the discussion of the volatility of coffee — that dialing in the scientific elements is not actually a science at all, and that every batch of coffee is different. This extends into the brewing space, as well, and is something we often find ourselves reiterating to new-on-the-scene espresso enthusiasts who are in search of the Ten Steps to Perfect Espresso how-to guide that, honestly, can’t possibly exist.

The creativity, artisan craftmanship and just plain nerdy obsession with delicious coffee that these roasters embody is something we love — and something that makes us love the coffee they produce all the more.

2009 World Barista Champion: Gwilym Davies

The UK National Barista Champion, Gwilym Davies, took the top honor Sunday at the World Barista Championship! Held this year in conjunction with the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s exposition in Atlanta, the competition featured four days of trials and eliminations with participants from 52 countries. Throughout the course of the competition, Gwilym created four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks, coming out ahead of finalists from Canada, Hungary, Ireland, Korea and the US.

In addition to the super-tight title of World Barista Champion and a hefty trophy, Gwilym also walks away with a Victoria Arduino Athena espresso machine and Mahlkonig K30 grinder. He’ll reign supreme until next year’s competition, scheduled to take place at the June 2010 Specialty Coffee Association of Europe’s exposition in London.

Congrats to Gwilym!