Tag Archives: espresso machine

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!

SCG’s Most Popular Coffee Gear – 2012

Even if you don’t buy into New Year’s resolutions, there’s nothing wrong with thinking about little ways to improve your quality of life and that of those around you. (We know what you’re like without your morning coffee. It’s okay, this is a safe place.) Why not start with a commitment to make better coffee in 2013? Here’s a list our best selling gear from last year to help you get started!

new-years-resolution coaster

Under $500
Saeco Aroma Black – $229 Stainless Steel – $259
Compact and durable, the Aroma is a great entry-level espresso machine. It’s extremely easy to use, and the pressurized portafilter and included pod adapter will have you brewing with E.S.E. pods, pre-ground espresso, or freshly ground beans with ease.

Saeco Via Venezia Black – $299 Stainless Steel – $349
The Via Venezia and Aroma share the same internals therefore they function almost identically, but the Via Venezia offers some slight improvements: larger capacity water reservoir (98 oz), steam wand with more mobility, and more clearance between the drip tray and brew head so you can brew into larger cups. This little workhorse will keep you caffeinated with no problems.

Breville Infuser BES840XL – $499.95
The Infuser is the only espresso machine in this price range to offer an internal PID, and while it’s not programmable, it stabilizes the brew temperature for perfect shot extraction. With built-in pre-infusion, commercial style steam wand, and compact stainless casing, you’ll be proud to have this on your counter top.

Under $1000
Rancilio Silvia – $629 with PID – $879
Simple, reliable, durable. The Silvia is one of the best sellers in the home espresso market and it’s a great machine on which to hone your craft since you’ll need to be precise with your grind and tamp. Upgrade to the installed PID version for programmable temperature control.

Saeco Syntia SS Superautomatic – $849
The Syntia is a compact and stylish superauto that offers the convenience of automatic espresso brewing paired with manual milk steaming – perfect for folks who order extra-hot lattes. With Saeco’s removable brew group and Intenza water filter system, it’s also easy to maintain and a great option for those who need a little extra help in the morning. ☺

Crossland CC1 – $699 (now 10% off!)
A PID comes standard with this single boiler, which let’s you customize brew and steam temperature, pre-infusion time, and volume. We love the stainless steel casing, thermo-block enhanced steam to switch quickly between brewing and steaming, and the programmability for this price point.

Under $1500
Breville Double Boiler – $1199.95
When you’re ready to brew and steam simultaneously, you’re ready for this bad boy. With an easy to use interface, you can program the electronic PID with extraction temperatures, volumetric control, and pre-infusion duration.

Nuova Simonelli Oscar – $1050
If you think you need a dual boiler for simultaneous brewing and steaming, think again. Heat exchangers like the Oscar provide similar benefits at a lower price point. This machine has great steam pressure, a large water reservoir, and is also available as a direct connect machine. It’s available in a sexy metallic red as well – vroom vroom.

DeLonghi 23450SL -$1499.95
This is one of DeLonghi’s newer superautomatics on the market, and if you are a bleary eyed zombie before your morning java, you will appreciate its one-touch functionality. It produces some of the hottest coffee we’ve seen from superautos.

Under $2000
Saeco Exprelia -$1899
This one-touch dual boiler is streamlined and compact, and we love that if offers both one-touch functionality for auto-frothing milk or manual steaming with a stainless steel steam wand – no panarellos here. Right now we are offering a year’s supply of coffee with the purchase of a new Exprelia!

Rocket Cellini Premium Plus – $1799 Giotto Premium Plus – $1899
Hand craftsmanship, a commercial grade E61 brew head and high polished stainless steel seduce many an espresso lover to bring the Cellini or Giotto Premium Plus into their lives. You’ll be extracting delicious shots and impressing all your friends with this one.

Sky’s the Limit
Rocket R58 – $2699
You’re ready to take it to the next level with this powerhouse. The dual boilers work independently to stabilize the espresso boiler, and maximize steam pressure without compromising shot quality.

Saeco Xelsis – $2999 or Xelsis ID – $3199
The only thing missing from these superautomatics is the ability for them to read your mind…coming in 2015 (Just kidding!) Right now you’ll have to be satisfied with the ID’s fingerprint recognition technology to access your drink profile and create beverages at the touch of a button.

Izzo Alex Duetto II – $2250 Duetto III – $2495
This dual boiler has commercial quality components, electronic PID control, and the option to plumb into your water line. It’s new older brother, the Duetto III offers an upgraded fit and finish, larger drip tray, and stainless steel cup rails. Both solid performers can take your java to the next level.

Compare: Rocket Espresso R58 vs. Quick Mill QM67

Dual boilers are where it’s at when it comes to controlling the temp of your shot while also sporting steaming functionality that is almost embarrassing in its ferocity.

These little babies come in variety of formats and price ranges, and Gail shows us models from Rocket Espresso (the R58, what!) and Quick Mill (the QM67, what!) to show you how their form, function, tech specs, internals and performance compare.

The Reluctant Barista: Xelsis SS One Touch Espresso Machine

xelsisIs there more than one coffee drinker at your place? How do you decide on an espresso machine that works for everyone? For this review I enlisted my significantly caffeinated other, Chris, to take a look at the superautomatic Saeco Xelsis One Touch for home use. [Ulterior motive alert! It’s holiday time and mama wants a new espresso machine.]

First off, Kat and Gail’s video covers how quick and easy it is to make drinks and to clean up on the Xelsis.  I brought Chris into the Seattle Coffee Gear store in Lynnwood to show him the features and hopefully win him over with one-touch espresso.

The Xelsis is a really attractive machine, something we wouldn’t mind leaving on the countertop.  Our upper cabinets are 18 inches from the counter and the Xelsis is 15 inches tall, which means I’d have to scooch it out to refill the water tank. It has a good size water reservoir, but I use fresh filtered water each time as Gail has mentioned for best shot flavor.

We turned it on and the Xelsis menu buttons were easy to navigate. I placed a cup under the spout and turned the milk carafe spout to point into the pre-warmed cup as well. After pushing the cappuccino button, hot frothed milk filled the cup and then, after a brief pause, the espresso followed. I like mine a bit stronger so I added an extra espresso shot — at the push of a button!

Next, we used the attached steam wand and a frothing pitcher to see if we could get a latte with hotter milk and a finer microfoam than the milk carafe provides. This produced the type of latte we prefer but took more time and effort. There are also ways to dial in the shot flavor to your preferences on superautomatics, which Kat and Gail explore here.

We sipped our drinks and considered what factors were important to us.  We have a small semi-automatic at home now, which is not as quick to make drinks. This comes into play because Chris works early and does not always have time in the morning for a mid-week latte. Also, there is a little bit of ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’ since Kaylie has an Xelsis espresso machine at home.

What is important to you? For us it boils down to budget, time and milk foam quality. Your needs may vary. How does the Xelsis compare? It’s got stylish looks, a high quality build, an easy user interface that remembers how you like your favorite drink, great coffee quality and push button convenience. For us, a mid-level semi-auto and espresso grinder is more budget-friendly, though. Perhaps one that is compatible with E.S.E. espresso pods to save time on weekdays. As much as I really really really want a superautomatic, I will reluctantly — and with much complaining — continue pulling my own espresso shots (for now!).

Brewin’ with Brandi: Pumpkin Espresso Smoothie

Brandi’s recipe this week is both delicious and healthy — woah! We know, we know. It’s a rich, smooth and creamy smoothie that features real pumpkin and an espresso shot for a little kick. Watch her blend it up!

Ingredients

Directions

You’ll need to begin with frozen pumpkin, so it’s best to put the pumpkin in the freezer the night before you’re going to make your smoothie. Once you’ve completed that, throw all of the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth! Garnish with crushed cinnamon graham crackers, if desired.

Crew Review: Nespresso U Capsule Espresso Machine

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: When it comes to convenience and cleanliness in the java makin’ world, the capsule system by Nespresso is where it’s at.

Often sporting several different features and functions — like steam wands or automatic frothers — the U is a streamlined version of their capsule espresso machine. It’s small, incredibly intuitive to use and, since it’s using the same brew technology and capsules of its pricier counterparts, produces a great cup of coffee with minimal work on your part. Plus, it incorporates magnets and you know how much we love that. The future!

Want to see it in action? Check out Gail’s walkthrough and demo of the Nespresso U.

Playing with Preinfusion on the Breville Dual Boiler

It’s fun to play with parameters! If you didn’t learn that in the 2nd grade, life has probably been pretty rough for you — but now is your time to shine.

One of the elements you can control on the Breville Dual Boiler is both the pre-infusion pressure and the duration prior to shot extraction. Factory setting is 60% of the overall pump pressure for 7 seconds, but what happens when you change the pressure? Or if you keep the pressure the same and change the timing? Of course, all coffee will react differently to these settings, so we decided to experiment with Equator’s Espresso Blend to see how making changes to this parameter affected the overall flavor of the shot.

Watch Gail try different pressures and different pre-infusion times to determine if the factory settings are the best bet for Equator Espresso.

Crew Review: Jura ENA 4 Superauto

One of our favorites in terms of straight up shot appeal, the Jura ENA 4 is a simple superauto that’s designed for smaller kitchens. While its steam wand functionality leaves a bit to be desired, making rich espresso shots and Americanos at the touch of a button make this machine one of our favorites in this product set.

Watch Gail take us through its features and specs, then demonstrate how it functions.

Compare: Saeco Poemia & Saeco Aroma

If your kitchen counter space is at a premium, an espresso machine with a small footprint is likely your first consideration. Saeco’s Poemia and Aroma models are great options to consider, as they pack a lot of simple functionality into a relatively small punch.

Watch Gail talk us through their features, how they compare and why you might choose one over the other. Then she demonstrates making a cappuccino on each so you can see them in action.

What it is!