The Great Vita-Mix Experiment 2009

Well…maybe it’s not that great — but it was fun and that’s about 63.4% of the reason why we do things around here. Gail shows us the ins and outs of the awesome Vita-Mix Professional Series blender, which we wrote about earlier this month, and even whips up a couple of experimental smoothies for our refreshment. We cannot stress enough how deeply we adore this blender — it’s unnatural!

Crew Review: Quick Mill Superautomatic

We’ve had the Quick Mill version of the superautomatic espresso machine on our floor for a few months now, and there are things we really dig about it, balanced by a few minor grievances with the fit and finish. Watch Gail walk us through the good, the bad and the ugly — then make us a latte to show us how it works.

Ask the Experts: What is a Standard Grinder Setting?

Q. I have a Rocky Doser grinder and would like to know what the standard setting is for my Quick Mill Alexia espresso machine. Can you tell me what number you have your demo model set to?

A. Unfortunately, there is no standard setting for grinders and machines. Each grinder is going to be engineered a little bit differently, so while we could give you a rough estimate of the range, the best way to determine your grinder’s setting is to go through the calibration process.

To calibrate your grinder to your espresso machine, you need to time your shots. The standard timing for a double shot is between 25 – 30 seconds for two shot glasses filled to the 1.5 oz line. When you initiate your shot, you want the extraction to begin 7 – 10 seconds after, and then the espresso should run smoothly into the shot glasses until they’re full at that 25 – 30 second range. Note that this is for a standard shot and there are other shot styles out there (ristretto or luongo) that have shorter or longer extraction time frames. For the purposes of calibration, however, we’ll stick with the standard.

Start with your grinder in a lower end setting — for stepped grinders, maybe start around 5 or 10. Grind and tamp and then time the shot: If it’s coming out too slowly, you know your grind is too fine and you’ll need to make it coarser; if it’s coming out too quickly, then the converse is true and you’ll need to make that too-coarse grind finer. Keep an eye on your tamp because that could also being affecting it — too hard means too slow, too soft means too fast.

Continue to experiment until your shot extraction occurs within the standard time frame. Once you have calibrated your grinder to produce a shot at the rate and consistency described above, make a note of it. This is something that will need to be tweaked regularly — especially if you live somewhere with extreme temperature fluctuations throughout the year, as the environment and weather will impact the nature of the bean. You’ll also need to recalibrate if you try different beans, as they will have unique grind requirements.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that calibrating and getting familiar with your grind is a crucial element to producing delicious espresso, so don’t be afraid to experiment or change it often! Espresso is as much art as it is science — tweak it to your individual preferences, regardless of any tenets you may read elsewhere…after all, isn’t that why you decided to make espresso at home in the first place?

Caffeine-Free Coffee Plant

Arizona State Univeristy’s International Institute for Species Exploration released their 2009 top 10 new species, including a new strain of the coffee plant that is naturally caffeine-free.

Dubbed Coffea charrieriana, this wild species was found in the diverse growing region of Cameroon and will likely be experimented with to determine if a palatable, naturally-caffeine free brew can be made from its cherries.

Given that caffeine is considered to be the primary pest-repellent in coffee plants the world over, it’s quite impressive that this little guy has developed in the wild. Caffeine is also responsible for much of the bitter flavor in coffee, and species such as Robusta, which have significantly higher caffeine quantities than Arabica species, are known to be less palatable and more harsh to the taste. Perhaps this new species will produce a coffee that is smoother and better suited to tasting the full spectrum of flavor inherent to this little bean.

Recipe: Cafe Sheccerato

It’s true, the thermometer hits about 65F in Seattle and everyone starts to strip. We also start sipping on the frozen drinks as if we’re swimming up to the side of a Acapulcan pool bar. One of our favorites in the coffee realm is the Cafe Sheccerato, which is a pretty simple drink that has the potential to be basically whatever your tastes desire.

We pull a couple of long espresso shots (run it for about 45 seconds) and then poor it over a full glass of ice. We love throwing in a little mint sometimes to add to the refreshment, but if you pull the shots just right and they’re nice and sweet, adding anything isn’t necessary at all. The shots will melt the ice a bit and it’s quite delicious. You can also combine the two in a martini shaker and shake them up to put a frothy spin on it if you’d like. Whichever way you do it, we think the Cafe Sheccerato tastes like summer.

Hot Blog on Vlog Action: TamperTantrum

In this episode of our hot action, we’re going to talk about something a little different: The video log.

A newly launched effort featuring UK roaster Steve Leighton and Dublin barista Colin Harmon, TamperTantrum is targeted towards home espresso enthusiasts that might consider themselves in the ‘prosumer’ arena — folks interested in bridging the gap between professional espresso skill and home espresso experience. The first episode is a little long, but worth the watch and we’re definitely looking forward to future videos!

Tamper Tantrum from Stephen Leighton on Vimeo.