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.
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!
As the national obsession with greening our lives grows, examining how the things we love impact the environment has become a common topic of discussion. Up now: How green are different coffee beans?
The folks over at Greenopia devised a Leaf Awards rating system that is used to evaluate a coffee company’s overall greenness by gauging its percentage of organic, ethically sourced, naturally decaffeinated, eco-friendly packaged and efficiently produced and transported beans. They also looked for sustainability and environmental impact reporting. They then assessed 25 different brands from all over the US to determine how they measure up.
We can’t help but feel the findings a bit disheartening: Of the brands they evaluated, nearly half of them didn’t rank at all! Coffee that we love by the likes of Illy or Lavazza didn’t get a single leaf, while large American brands like Starbucks or Stumptown got just a couple of leaves.
One ranking that shined was Bellevue-based Kalani Organica, coming in at 3 leaves! We have a personal connection to this truly lovely coffee: In the mid-to-late ’90′s, we cut our barista teeth slinging java at the Speakeasy Cafe in Seattle’s Belltown district. The cafe was a devout supporter and server of Kalani Organica until the cafe was closed by a fire in 2002 — despite the fact that we regularly had small competitive roasters try to convince us to switch. We stuck with Kalani because of the founder Karen’s commitment to organic, ethically-sourced coffee — something that is talked about a lot these days but wasn’t seen as particularly important 15 years ago. We’re thrilled that her work is getting recognized and hope that a rating like this will help expand Kalani’s availability around the country.
We don’t know about you, but a 94 means a big ol’ A where we come from! The seminal coffee connoisseur and touted founder of the gourmet coffee movement in the US, Kenneth Davids, recently reviewed local roaster Velton’s Bonsai Blend and gave it a 94 out of 100!
This is an excellent rating and speaks to the artisan skill with which Velton hand roasts every small batch in his Everett, WA, location. We’ve been fans for a long time and were thrilled to learn about this excellent rating. The tasters noted the chocolatey and lemony notes in the coffee, and praised its ‘suave presence’ in milk. If you haven’t had a chance to try this delicious, medium-roasted and bodied blend, we definitely recommend you pick up a bag and treat yourself to its handcrafted sweetness.
We often see folks struggling between two points: Which is more important, convenience or flavor? It’s the base notion in the semi-automatic vs. superautomatic debate and is one of the main questions we try to understand when helping a customer find the machine that is best for them.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be! We were lucky enough to get our hands on the new Quick Mill Superautomatic espresso machine, which sought to marry the convenience and excellent flavor factors in a prosumer-level home espresso machine. While it took us some time to dial in the machine and we wasted quite a bit of coffee (and a couple of hours) in finding the right balance between bean and machine, the shots we ended up with are the best we’ve ever tasted on a superautomatic — most likely due to the fact that it’s internal workings are not plastic, so temperature regulation is definitely superior.
We also love the traditional — and powerful — steam wand, although getting used to it’s position on the right side takes a bit of ergonomic adjustment if you’re more used to working with a wand positioned on the left. The high-quality stainless steel design, while bulky and taking up perhaps a larger footprint than many might want to sacrifice to their java needs, is sleek and definitely built to last.
All in all, we think this is a great first outing from Quick Mill in the superautomatic space and look forward to its continued evolution — we’d love to see more programmability in the future.
The team recently got together to analyze the cost and benefit of making your espresso at home and we released this study last week that details relative savings associated with each drink.
It’s kind of surprising, but we found data to support the fact that the average American coffee drinker can spend about $2800 each year on their daily coffee. This is based on the average cost of a latte at $2.45 and the average number of coffee drinks consumed per day of 3.2. Obviously, lattes can be significantly more expensive (we often shell out nearly $4.50 for a grande soy latte) and your daily consumption can vary, but we figured the averages balance each other out.
If you’re looking for ways to cut your expense budget but don’t want to give up your daily joe, strike a compromise between your hedonism and pragmatism by investing in a home espresso machine.
Lavazza is renowned around the world for some of the best coffee available, and we’re often asked about the differences between their six main whole bean blends. So, we took these guys to the tasting lab and came back with a comparison chart that should help you pick the blend that’s going to taste best to you.
Some of the highlights are the smoky chocolate and loam undertones of Grand Espresso and Super Crema‘s sweet & earthy fruitiness. Our descriptions might not do them full justice, however, so why not have a tasting party yourself? You’re sure to find a favorite among them.
If you never had the personal joy of working as a barista during your halcyon days of youth, Discovery Bay Games has developed a close second: Barista – The Game. Well, okay, it’s not that close to the real thing, but it is a lot of fun.
You and up to four of your friends can battle it out, trying to match orders and messing with your opponents’ ability to complete them before you do. It’s fast paced, compact and fun — plus, you don’t have to deal with any cranky customers!
The Rancilio Silvia is one of our best sellers and we think we know why: It’s an excellent mid-range machine that balances professional quality with economy.
To help you during your decision making process, here is our crew’s review on the pros and cons of this machine:
- Steam Wand – Includes a traditional steam wand generally seen on higher end machines and does not have a pannarello frothing attachment
- Case & Components – It’s stainless steel with a brass boiler and brew group, connected by copper tubing, which results in less mineral (scale) build-up and a
consistently maintained temperature throughout extraction
- 3-Way Pressure Release Valve – After you pull your shot, this valve will release the steam and dry the espresso in the portafilter, resulting in a dry ‘puck’ that is less messy to dispose
- Requires a Quality Burr Grinder – As with all non-pressurized espresso machines, consistently ground
espresso is required; some low-end grinders can’t grind evenly enough, which can result in frustration when first using a Rancilio Silvia
- Single Boiler – Since brew temperature and steaming temperature are different, using a single boiler means you’ll have to switch back and forth between these temperatures
- Poor Pod Adapter – We have received many returns of the Rancilio’s pod adapter with reports that it doesn’t work very well and doesn’t allow you to switch easily between grounds and pods without uninstalling the adapter