Tag Archives: Coffee Makers

Taste Test: Aeropress vs. French Press

How does a classic compare to the specialty coffee community’s darling? We had a viewer ask this question, so we answered!

Gail prepared her standard Aeropress brew and then whipped up a batch in a Bodum Shin Bistro French press. We taste them and compare them side by side to determine how they differ — and which tastes better.

 

Crew Review: Hario Clear Water Dripper

If patience is a virtue you’ve already acquired, Hario’s beautiful Clear Water Dripper might produce the cold cup of coffee to reward you. Watch as Gail takes this gear-fit-for-a-laboratory out for a test drive.

As you can see, we didn’t have great results, but we wont give up. Have you tried this prep method, or something like it? Please share your technique with the class!

The Lowdown on Distilled Water

A common inquiry we receive is in regard to the type of water customers should use in their coffee making equipment. Some folks think that distilled water will be their best bet, as they won’t have to worry about scale build up or performing descaling procedures for the life of the machine. While there seems to be as many supporters as there are detractors regarding whether or not it’s healthy for the human body, we do know that distilled water is not healthy for your machine. Seriously!

First up, let’s talk about your equipment. Putting water that has a lack of ions or mineral content through equipment that is basically composed of minerals (stainless steel, copper, nickel, brass, etc.) means the water will take that opportunity to take on ions from the surrounding space, contributing to a slow breakdown of those materials. It will essentially leach minerals out of the metal components and degrade the machine’s performance over time. Additionally, there are several models of machines on the market (such as the Rockets) that use a minor electrical charge to determine if there is water in the reservoir. If there aren’t enough minerals in the water to conduct that charge, the machine’s sensor will report that the reservoir is empty.

Now, let’s talk about the coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America performed extensive testing and found that the ideal mineral balance is 150 parts per million (ppm). Coffee produced with water that contains this level of hardness is better balanced and a smoother cup. A lower mineral content allows for too much available space, often resulting in an overextraction and a bitter flavor. Conversely, water with a higher mineral content won’t have enough available space, so coffee will be underextracted and possibly more sour. As distilled water has hardly any mineral content (roughly 9ppm), using it for coffee preparation will result in a bitter cup.

We often say that you should use water that you like to drink to make your coffee — after all, coffee is over 98% water. Another option is to use softened water, which encapsulates the minerals, maintaining their structure within the water while prohibiting their ability to adhere to internal components. This can give you the best of both worlds: A smooth and balanced cup of coffee while also reducing the overall maintenance for the life of the machine.

Blind Taste Test: Technivorm vs. Bonavita Coffee Makers

Things were getting a little bit docile around these parts, so it was clearly time for another grudge match! We asked Gail to brew a pot of coffee in the Technivorm Moccamaster KB741 and in the Bonavita Coffee Maker, then line ‘em up and see which our trusty crew members preferred.

Watch as Rade, Allison, Bunny and our newest ingenue, Kaylie, sip and select their favorite.

SCG’s Most Popular Non-Electric Coffee Gear – 2011

When it comes to great coffee or espresso, it doesn’t always mean it has to come out of a fancy shmancy high-tech espresso machine. Check out 2011′s most popular gear that didn’t require an outlet.

Under $30.00
#1: Aeropress
A specialty tool approved by many newbie espresso lovers and coffee connoisseurs alike, the Aeropress is a one stop shop to make that caffeinated drink you love when you’re on the go. Simple, easy to use and with minimal necessities, all you’ll need along with the Aeropress are coffee filters, grounds and hot water and you’ll have a cup o’ joe as good as (or better than!) your local cafe.

#2: Hario Coffee Coffee Dripper V60 – White Ceramic – Medium 02
Perfect for that single serving or a small group of friends, Hario pour overs are simple to use but produce an excellent cup. All you need is a coffee filter, your favorite coffee grounds and hot water and you’ll be sipping on a quality drink in a matter of minutes.

#3: Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker – 6-cup
Want that strong cup of coffee without the hassle of plugging it in? The Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop just needs hot water, your favorite coffee grounds, a few minutes on the stovetop and it’ll be percolating a rich cup of coffee in a flash. (And if you really want to avoid electrics, throw it on your wood stove!)

Under $50.00
#1:  Sowden Soft Brew Coffee Maker with scoop – 27 oz.
Some like it hot while others like it cold, and the great thing about the Sowden Soft Brew is that it’ll brew both kinds of coffee. Using a micro-thin metal filter with half a million microscopic holes, the Sowden Soft Brew brews up a smooth cup of coffee with no need for plungers. All you need to do is measure out your preferred amount of coffee, pour in hot or cold water, brew for four to eight minutes (for hot coffee) or overnight (for cold coffee) and you’ll be sipping on rich and smooth java.

#2a: Chemex Handblown 6-cup (30 oz) coffee maker with wood collar and tie
Not your average looking coffee maker, the Chemex uses a chemically corrected method of brewing to extract the most flavor out of your favorite coffee beans. Using glass that is both heat resistant and does not absorb odors or chemical residue, you’ll be drinking a more natural cup of coffee with a full, rich-bodied flavor.

#2b: Frieling Insulated Coffee Maker French Press 1-2 cups
Frieling has taken the  french press process up a notch by giving their press double wall insulation, keeping your coffee hotter four time longer than your average glass french press. Multipurpose and seasonal, not only can this stainless steel press be used to make coffee but take out the plunger and it becomes a stylish pitcher for cold drinks on hot summer days.

#3: La Cafetiere Thermique Cafetiere  – 8 cup
Sleek yet sophisticated with a little whimsy to it, the La Cafetiere Thermique Cafetiere changes up the average french press by giving the press a new look and style. Taking a cue from other upgraded presses, the Thermique keeps coffee hotter three times longer with its double wall stainless steel body. And unlike other presses made of glass or stainless steel with a round look, the Thermique has a unique angular design.

Under $100.00
#1: Bodum Santos (Pebo) Stovetop Vacuum Coffee Maker
Why not combine coffee and chemistry — or at least a little mad science? While you’re really crafting a delicious cup of joe, it will feel like you’re mixing chemicals to make some crazy concoction with this vacuum pot. But fear not! Watch the magic happen as you place the Pebo on the stovetop, and see the water from the bottom orb get sucked up into the top orb, then saturate your favorite coffee to produce an excellent brew.

#2: Handpresso Portable Espresso Machine – with Domepod
Whether it be at the top of the mountain while you’re hitting the slopes, out in your tent in the middle of the forest or at the airport before you catch your flight, owning the Handpresso means there’s never a place where you can’t scratch that espresso itch. An easy to use portable espresso machine, it’s also lightweight and small, so can fit almost anywhere.

#3: Espro 3-cup Press
Can you really improve on the well-designed, classic press pots of yore? Espro thinks you can! Their Single Serve Press outshines other presses by micro-filtering and preserving your coffee’s flavor twice. With a unique metal filter, it keeps grounds out of  your cup and lets the oils in so your cup o’ joe is richer with a full-bodied flavor.

Over $100.00
#1: MyPressi TWIST Portable Espresso Maker 2.0
New gadgets are always fun to find, but they’re even better when they make life a little simpler. For coffee lovers who are always on the go, the MyPressi TWIST provides excellent espresso shots no matter their locale. Using N02 & C02 capsules to facilitate extraction, your shots will rival those of the cafe’s down the street.

#2: Walkure Karlsbad Porcelain Coffee Maker – 12.5 oz/28.5 oz
Straight from Germany, this innovative coffeemaker will amaze you! Who would’ve thought you’d get a smooth clean cup of coffee through a ceramic filter?! The Walkure Karlsbad Porcelain Coffee Maker uses a two chamber method, allowing you to brew your coffee like a pour over with its crisscross ceramic filter. Customers love it because it’s easy to clean, easy to use and — unlike other pour overs that use paper filters — it’s less wasteful.

Crew Review: Bonavita Coffee Maker

When folks contact us about picking up a new drip coffee maker, one of their primary concerns tends to be, ‘Is it hot?’ Bonavita’s new coffee maker definitely is, with technology that ensures an even extraction in the ideal temperature range of 195F – 205F.

Watch Gail take us through the features and functionality of this petite coffee maker, then brew up a batch to see how it tastes.

SCG’s Most Popular Coffee Gear – 2011

Not that we’re encouraging you to keep up with the Joneses, but if you’re in the market for a new espresso machine, we thought it might be helpful to share which models sold the best over the last year. Broken down by budget, here is what other folks have chosen for their home espresso setup, so definitely worth considering for yours.

Under $500
#1: Saeco Aroma Black – $249.95 Stainless Steel – $288.00
With its compact size and sturdy demeanor, this machine packs more punch than the average eye can see. With the ability to use a non-pressurized portafilter and pressurized portafilter, customers have come to adore both options. As the pressurized simplifies the process of espresso with no need to be particular with its grind, it’s still able to extract an ideal shot. However, many of our customer have also upgraded to the non-pressurized portafilter, giving them the ability to work on their grind and tamping skills — just like real baristas!

#2: Saeco Via Venezia Black – $299.99
For all you Starbucks Barista owners, you may recognize this machine since it’s the same model made by the same manufacturers that created the Barista for Starbucks. A bit bigger than the Aroma, the Venezia’s insides are almost identical with the Aroma and functions the same way. But it does have a few more upgrades such as a bigger water tank (98 oz. vs. 80 oz.), steam wand that swivels and a little more clearance between the brew head and drip tray.

#3: Technivorm Moccamaster Thermo Coffee Brewer (KBT741) – Polished Silver – $279.00
Heating up one of the hottest cups of coffee that we’ve tested out (200 degrees F), the Technivorm KBT741 definitely made it on our list of hot items of 2011. It may look old school, but its coffee definitely isn’t of the cowboy variety! Customers have grown to love this Dutch-made machine because it incorporates the ideal way to brew and keep a piping cup of coffee hot without ever changing its formula. It may be a bit pricier than your average coffee maker, but coffee lovers who’ve invested in it understand this coffee maker’s worth.

Under $1,000
#1: Rancilio Silvia – $629.00
The bottom rung and most reasonably priced of our higher end espresso machines, the Silvia has made a name for itself. With a stainless steel case, brass single boiler and upgraded commercial-grade steam wand, once coffee lovers want to make a move from their entry level machines to the big guns, the Silvia is usually first on the list. A bit particular about the grind, pairing it up with a higher end grinder such as the Rancilio Rocky, Baratza Vario or any of our commercial-grade grinders will allow you to extract a velvety shot every time. With an added upgrade option to install a PID, coffee connoisseurs will be able to set the temperature of their boiler to their liking, giving them more control of how they extract that ideal shot.

#2: Jura Capresso ENA 4 Automatic Coffee Center  – Ristretto Black – $699.00
Customers have always loved the modern, clean cut lines of Jura’s line of superautomatic machines. But with the Jura Ena 4 customers have become even bigger fans since it not only offers the ideal look but also a smaller footprint with many bells and whistles. Programmable settings, professional grinder, maintenance notifications and a water filtration system, you’d think the machine had a mind of its own. And while it (and other Jura’s) are known for making the best shots on a superauto, the steam wand design is not our favorite, so if you love lattes and cappuccinos, you probably want to look at a different machine.

#3: Breville Barista Express – Programmable Espresso Machine with Grinder 860 XL – $599.99
With some of the programmable functions of a superautomatic but giving you the capability to control more elements like a semi-automatic, it could be said that the Breville Barista Express is the best of both worlds. With a stainless steel casing, built in conical burr grinder with measured dosage and programmable double & single shot buttons, you’ll still have the ability to control the tamp and pour of your shots. While it’s the hottest of Breville’s single boiler models, it still uses dual thermoblocks so temp consistency isn’t ideal.

Under $1,500
#1: Delonghi Magnifica ECAM 23210B Compact Superautomatic Espresso Machine – $999.00
How can such a tiny machine offer so much?! With the ability to adjust the size and strength of your espresso preference, this machine’s interface is straightforward, easy to use and offers programmable buttons speeding up your drink making process. Easy clean up and no mess to fuss about, it also brews some of the hottest coffee from a superauto.

#2: Saeco Talea Touch – $999.00
Call it your very own R2D2 — the Saeco Talea Touch will leave you sitting back and relaxing as it whips up your favorite drinks for you! As the number of fans for superautomatic espresso machines have been growing, the Talea Touch gives you one more thing to love with its touch-screen interface,  which makes choosing the strength, size and choice of espresso drink even easier. It also possesses notifications that will remind you to give it a good cleaning or when it’s time to fill-up on beans.

#3: Quick Mill Alexia Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – $1,195.00
Bring the cafe into the comfort of your own home with the Quick Mill Alexia. A single boiler machine featuring a commercial-grade stainless steel casing, professional E-61 brew head and the ability to control your machine’s boiler temperature with the optional PID, you’ll reach barista status in no time. Even with a learning curve of dialing in that exact grind and finding what 30 lbs. of pressure feels like when tamping, customers love the look and the quality of shots and frothy milk this machine allows them to create.

Under $2,000
#1: Rocket Cellini Premium Plus – $1,699.00 Rocket Giotto Premium Plus – $1,799.00
As customers walk through our store, the sparkle of the polished stainless steel Rocket Espresso machines are certainly eye-catching. But once they taste the smooth espresso shot it produces, it definitely seals the deal. Encompassing a tank for water accessibility, a heat-exchanger boiler that gives you a faster turn around time to produce your favorite shots and the ability to steam and brew at the same time, both the Cellini and Giotto have become the dream machine for coffee lovers. The only difference between the two are the sleek lines of the Cellini and the angular sides on the Giotto.

#2: Jura Capresso Impressa C9 One Touch Automatic Coffee Center – $1,899.00
Even with a small kitchen you can get the full cafe experience with the Impressa C9. Giving you the ability to see what functions your machine is accessing with the LED interface, you can program your drink’s temperature preference, volume and strength at a spin and push of the knob. Customers enjoy the fact that they have accessibility to use the automatic cappuccino system, where they can froth milk, brew coffee and have it poured all in one cup without lifting more than one finger. Who want’s to do that?!

#3: La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi I Espresso Machine – $1,995.00
Moving up to the big leagues, this double boiler gives you the ability to make drink after drink for parties or expertly feed your espresso craving in the comfort of home! With a professional-grade design and NSF rating, the Vivaldi also offers programmable dosage, easy temperature management, large water tank and an improved steam wand.

No Limits
#1: Rocket Espresso Cellini Evoluzione Espresso Machine – $2,099.00 Rocket Espresso Giotto Evoluzione Espresso Machine – $2,199.00
Why choose? For those who can’t decide whether they want a reservoir or plumbed-in machine, Rocket has a convertible option! With the capability to use the internal water reservoir or plumbing right into a water source, you’ll never debate on whether you made the right decision. Encompassed by polished stainless steel case, you’ll be able to monitor your boiler and brew head pressure with the dual gauge reading and extract ideal shots out of the commercial E-61 brew group.

#2: Saeco Xelsis SS One Touch Superautomatic Espresso Machine – $2,339.00
At the price you’ll be paying, we can vouch that this is one of the best superautomatic machines we’ve tested and seen yet. Unlike most superautomatics that are made of all plastic, folks love this machine because of its stainless steel casing. Its one-touch features are top notch because not only will it froth, brew and pour, but it will also make sure to clean your frother so there’s no milk residue build-up when you use it the next time around. Yummy!

#3: Izzo Alex Duetto II Semi Automatic Espresso Machine – $2,395.00
Doubling the power up, the Alex Duetto encompasses all the favorite features customers love and look for in their high end machines: brass-copper double boiler, stainless steel casing, commercial E-61 brew group, no-burn steam & hot water wands and a multi functional PID to control temperature, amps, degrees, and steam boiler pressure. Control freaks, dig this!

Experimenting with Cold Brew Coffee

Do you really need a fancy, specially-designed gadget to brew up a batch of cold coffee? Or can you just use your trusty ol’ press pot? While we carry a couple of different cold brew options (from Hario and Sowden), we wanted to see if using one of them (namely, the Sowden) produced a better, worse or similar cup to making a cold brew with a La Cafetiere french press.

So we put Allison to the test! Watch as we brew up a batch in each, using the same grind and coffee-to-water ratios, allowing them to sit over night and then giving them a taste test. We also compare how much sediment appears in the cup. So exciting!