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What Kind of Grind Should I Use?

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:44 AM
Related Categories: Coffee Guides

You’ve made a step in the right direction and purchased a grinder so you can have fresh, flavorful coffee anytime you want it. Your next goal: get the right grind for your brewer. Here’s a quick reference guide that will give you a starting point for your grind based on the brewer you’re using.

French Press

Brewing with a French press requires a very coarse grind. The reason for this is twofold. First off, the time water is in contact with the coffee grounds is longer than any other brewing method (3 or 4 minutes). Having a coarser grind means that less surface area is exposed, thereby reducing your chances of overextracting the coffee. Secondly, the filters in French presses can’t prevent very fine grounds from passing through, so a coarser grind decreases the amount of “mud” you’ll get in your cup. A French press grind is noticeably coarser than the pre-ground drip coffee you can buy in the grocery store, and is similar to the size of unrefined sugar crystals.

Drip Coffee / Vacuum Brewer

The grind that is most compatible with drip coffee makers and vacuum pots is slightly finer than the French press grind we discussed above. In these brewing processes, the water and coffee are in contact for only a few seconds (long enough for the water to pass through the grounds), so there’s less worry about overextraction, and their filters keep out most fine particles. The appropriate grind for these brewers is about the size of table salt. If you’d like to make a side-by-side comparison, most store-bought pre-ground coffees are about the size you’d need.

Espresso Machines

For an espresso grind, the coffee grounds are closer to the size of fine pepper. When coffee is ground this fine, several factors come into play. You've exposed more overall surface area that the brewing water can contact - excellent for a nice, full extraction of espresso. But by grinding this fine, you've also increased the resistance the grind gives to the passage of water. This means that a fine grind may clog up a paper filter in an auto drip coffee maker, but the 8 – 9 BAR pressure of an espresso machine has enough power to push through those grounds and deliver you a rich, full beverage. Keep in mind that although the grind will be very similar, if your espresso machine uses a pressurized style portafilter your coffee will need to be a slight bit coarser than it would be for use with a non-pressurized portafilter.

Ibriks (Turkish Coffeemakers)

Turkish coffee is a very demanding brewing method, requiring a ritual of bringing a pot of water, coffee grounds and sugar to boil 3 or 4 times, and serving it up in special sized cups. Yes, the grounds do stay in the cup, and the key word for these grounds is “fine”. Turkish coffee uses just about the finest coffee grounds you can get – a fine, yet textured powder that resembles the granular consistency of confectioner's sugar.

Every grinder is calibrated a little differently, so the exact grind setting that you’ll use will fluxuate depending on your grinder. But hopefully these visual clues will point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that these are just guidelines – if you find that you prefer your drip coffee a little more finely ground, go for it. It’s all about taste.

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Coffee Grinder Basics

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:35 AM
Related Categories: Grinder Guides

It’s interesting that while coffee lovers are more than willing to spend a lot of money on expensive coffee machines, they forego the grinder, or plan its purchase at a later date. It's equally intriguing that people will spend a lot of their hard earned money buying some of the most exotic and freshest high-quality coffee beans, fresh roasted the day they bought them, and yet get the beans ground at the micro-roastery because they don't have a quality grinder at home. Don’t get me wrong, a reliable brewer and quality beans are necessary for great espresso, but unless those beans are being ground properly and freshly, you’re really missing out on your coffee’s potential.

“Okay,” you say, “I need a grinder. But that’s easy. A grinder’s a grinder’s a grinder, right?" Well, not exactly. First off, there are two different types of grinders – blade and burr – each of which functions differently and is compatible with different types of brewing methods.

Blade Grinders

A blade grinder consists of a small barrel-shaped grinding chamber with a sharp metal blade that spins at a very high and consistent rate of speed. It pulverizes the coffee bean repeatedly until the desired consistency is reached. The fineness of the grounds is determined by the length of time the cutting blades are spinning. These grinders can be found in virtually every department store and kitchen supply shop, as well as most supermarkets.

One of the prime benefits of blade grinders is the low purchase price, but their disadvantage is the lack of uniformity of the coffee grinds they produce. As a blade grinder continues to grind, more powder and irregular shapes are formed. When the grinder is turned off, dust or powder can be seen around the edges, while chunks of varying sizes will be in the center. This can pose quite a problem if you’re brewing with a French press or espresso machine, because their filters will let very fine grinds through and produce a grainy cup. That’s why blade grinders are more commonly used with drip coffee makers, whose paper filters prevent these tiny particles from passing through.

Even with this negative aspect, freshly ground coffee from a blade grinder will be better than store-bought pre-ground coffee that may have been sitting on the shelf for a long time. If your budget won't allow for a burr grinder, consider a blade grinder as a temporary step in your elevation to quality coffee.

Burr Grinders

The burr grinding design and method is the most recommended way for grinding coffee, ideal for almost any brewing application depending on the individual grinder’s range of grind fineness. When shopping for a burr grinder, it is necessary to make sure that the grinder has the capability to grind as finely as you need – some grinders are more compatible with French press and drip coffee brewing than they are with espresso brewing. On Aabree’s website, the range of capability for each grinder is listed in the product’s description, as well as in the specifications in our Compare Products section, so you’ll easily be able to find out which grinder will work for you.

A burr grinder strips off slivers from the coffee bean, exposing the cellular wall structure and providing a lot of surface area for the water to extract all that coffee goodness from. Burr grinders also produce a lot less heat in the grounds when compared to a blade grinder, which helps to preserve the aromatics and oils that promote great tasting coffee. In the coffee lover's mind, there is little doubt that a burr-based grinder offers a much better grind consistency and quality compared to the results from a blade-based grinder.

Burr grinders come in two basic formats for the consumer and light commercial market - a flat open hole disk known as a "flat burr", and a cone shaped layout known as a "conical burr". Both feature two metal parts - a top and a bottom. Only one of the two parts actually revolves, while the other remains stationary.

With either conical or flat burr grinders, the coffee bean falls from the bean hopper through a chute into the grinding chamber inside the machine (gravity provides the push here). Here they are milled into a uniform size. The distance between the spinning disk or cone and the stationary cutting surface determines the size of the grounds. When you adjust the coffee grinder's fineness setting, you are actually adjusting the height between the two metal parts that make up the cutting surfaces of your grinder. The closer they are, the finer the grind.

Finely, I Understand.

What do I hope you take away from this guide? Keep getting that fresh roasted coffee. Keep researching the market, magazine articles, friends' opinions, and informational websites about what the best espresso machine or coffee-brewing device is for your price budget. But also learn that a grinder must be part of this budget, at least if you’re seeking the best possible cup of coffee or the richest, sweetest shot of espresso. Move the grinder up to the head of the class, and make it the star of your quest for a rich, full, and satisfying beverage experience.

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Tackling A Dirty Super Automatic Grinder

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:31 AM
Related Categories: Cleaning and Maintenance

Come in close, a little closer…too close. I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret; chances are you really don’t need to clean your super automatic grinder as often as you think. If you’re not a big flavored or oily bean user, you’ll probably never experience a dirty-grinder related problem. However, if your coffee flow isn’t what it used to be or the machine is telling you to fill a bean hopper that’s already full, a good cleaning is in order.
Don’t worry; just follow the few simple steps listed below and you’ll have a squeaky clean grinder in no time.

  1. Remove the bean hopper cover and take a vacuum to those beans!
  2. You should see three screws holding the hopper in place, a Phillips head screwdriver will take them off without problem.  Make sure you put the screws in a safe place; you don’t want to be scrambling to find them later on!
  3. Detach the rubber gasket from the top of the grinder. You’ll notice a lot of parts at this point, but, don’t worry; you’ll only be dealing with two pieces. The inner ring is the first piece of the equation; it’s the rubber gasket that sits on four visible tabs. The other part you should look for is the outer ring, which has teeth on it and covers half of the grinder’s circumference. .
  4. Rotate the outer ring 180 degrees counterclockwise and you’ll be able to lift it right out. (Hint: the red mark on the outer ring should be in the 9 o’clock position when you’re removing the part.)  
  5. Take up your trusty vacuum, again, and suck up any left-over coffee grounds.
  6. Hopefully, you have a pipe cleaner handy at this point. Use the pipe cleaner to clear the pathway to the front of the machine. That’s it! You’re done; the rest is just putting everything back into place.
  7. Put the rubber gasket back, making sure to line it up with the four tabs on the inner ring. At this point, you should rotate the outer ring, so that the red and blue marks line up with their respective colors on the inner ring.
  8. Make sure the dosage control, located to the right of the grinder, is all the way back. Then, put your bean hopper cover back in place and reset the grind knob to “0” and the dosage knob to “+”.
  9. Reattach the bean hopper cover with the three screws you removed earlier and you’re back in business!

See, it wasn’t that hard, was it?

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Don't Forget To Backflush!

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:30 AM
Related Categories: Cleaning and Maintenance

If you haven't backflushed in a while, you're doing yourself a huge disservice. Wait! Perhaps I should stop and explain! "Backflushing" is the process used to clean the brew group and three-way valve of an espresso machine. Ideally, machines that experience heavy use (10 or more drinks a day) should be backflushed on a weekly basis. If you use your machine less than 10 times a day, we usually recommend that you backflush every week and a half or so. Deviate from the schedule too much and you could experience bitter, rancid-tasting coffee and a clogged shower screen.

Backflush Like A Pro!
To begin the backflusing process, remove the filter basket from your portafilter and insert a backflush disc (usually included with your machine). Then, put approximately ½ a teaspoon of backflush cleaner into the basket, reattach your portafilter to the brew group, and turn on the pump. After 20 seconds, the pump will become very quiet as pressure builds up, at this time you should turn the pump off. You'll then hear a whooshing sound as the cleaner gets injected into the brew group, through the three-way valve, and empties into the drip tray.

Repeat this process until the foam coming out into the drip tray is clean; remove and rinse the portafilter once the backflushing has been completed. Now, you'll want to put the handle back into the machine again and flush your machine a few more times, using only water.

Any prosumer or commercial machines such as the ECM, WEGA or Pasquini should be backflushed on a regular basis. If your espresso machine is being used in a commercial setting, it should be backflushed at the end of every day. Home users who are especially particular about their espresso, could backflush their machines every day for best results.

Special Note: There are a few home machines that have three-way valves, but the manufacturer recommends that you do not backflush them. These include the Gaggia machines and the Rancilio Silvia. If you're unsure of whether your espresso machine can be backflushed, please consult your user manual.

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History of the Espresso Machine

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

Espresso as a beverage and understood term dates back to 1901 when Luigi Bezzera patented the world's first "espresso" machine, a giant steam driven thing with two groupheads called the Tipo Gigante. Luigi's machine had been developed to help reduce the time his employees took for a coffee break. The owner of a manufacturing company, Bezzera needed to increase the production of his employees, so a faster "coffee maker" was the key, he thought. His invention yielded a coffee maker that used a combination of water and steam, forced under high pressure through coffee grounds, to rapidly brew the coffee. It was dubbed the "espresso machine".

However, there was a downside to Luigi's machine. Brewing with a combination of steam and hot water under pressure did produce a cup of coffee faster than other brewers of the time, but the resulting brew was bitter. Desiderio Pavoni, who purchased Bezzera's patent in 1905, was the first person to realize that the bitterness was the result of the steam and the very high temperatures it imposed on the coffee grounds. So, Pavoni began experimenting with various temperatures and pressures, and eventually concluded that brewing at 195 degrees with 8-9 BAR of pressure produced the best results. This is the basis for espresso as we know it today.

The modern day espresso machine dates back to 1947, when Gaggia introduced the Gaggia Crema Caffe machine. This was the first machine capable of consistently introducing pressurized water (8 BAR or higher) into a bed of coffee, and easily and cheaply enough for normal commercial use. Before that, almost every commercial and consumer espresso machine was steam driven and therefore, more akin to the modern day moka brewer.

Here are some other milestones in the history of the espresso machine and the resulting beverage.


Espresso Machine Time Line

  Luigi Bezzera patents his Tipo Gigante, the precursor to what would become espresso machine technology for the next fifty years. Luigi wanted to reduce coffee break times so he made a machine that brewed “coffee” much faster using pressure. Espresso (in a loose translation) means “fast” in Italian.

  Desiderio Pavoni buys Bezzera's patents. La Pavoni was the first manufacturer of espresso machines to be used in coffee bars. Also, Pier Teresio Arduino founds Victoria Arduino, the company that would do more to spread early espresso culture than any other with its advertisements and philosophy behind the drink.

  La Cimbali founded. They are makers of fine high-end home and large capacity espresso machines.

  Universal enters the espresso machine business and soon becomes the leading machine maker with a wide range of products through the 1920s and 1930s and beyond. (They have since disappeared from the market).

  La Marzocco founded. The first espresso machine comes to America as NYC's Regio's Bar installs a La Pavoni two-group machine that is still on display today.

  Rancilio founded by Roberto Rancili.

  La San Marco starts a 10+-year trend towards total Deco design in machines with the introduction of the La San Marco 900. Every company would move to this design style.

  Simonelli founded, who later became makers of medium to heavy-duty espresso machines.

  M. Cremonesi developed a piston pump that forced hot, but not boiling, water through the coffee. The piston pump was quite an improvement as it eliminated the burnt taste of coffee, which occurred in the Pavoni machines.

  Faema founded by Ernesto Valente.

  Gaggia introduces the revolutionary piston lever Crema Caffe machine and modern day espresso in the commercial establishment is born. Many will follow.

  Gaggia introduces the Classica, a 2-group version of the Crema Caffe; La Pavoni, other companies introduce new brewers based loosely on Gaggia's revolutionary system. True espresso, as we know it today, becomes common.

  Elektra experiments with hydraulic pressure machines.

  (circa) Officine Maffioletto makes one of the first machines capable of brewing real pressure espresso, but in the home. It was a piston model with a 1-liter capacity.

  Piston operated machines, both spring action and direct pressure, many direct copies of Gaggia's ground breaking Crema machines, flood the market and make modern day espresso common.

  (circa) Gaggia Gilda machine, not marketed for, but suitable for home use is brought to the market - a dual lever piston single group machine.

  La Marzocco Crema Espress single group lever machine is introduced.

  Faema introduces a very revolutionary machine, the E61 - the first heat exchanger, rotary pump driven espresso machine. Elektra Micro Casa a Leva and La Pavoni Europiccola Lever machine for the home are introduced. Micro Casa had "steam on demand" ability.

  Alfred Peet opens first Peets Coffee in Berkeley, CA later serves as inspiration for the founding of Starbucks by visiting Seattlites.

  Starbucks first opens in Seattle as a roastery.

  La Pavoni Professional Lever machine for the home is introduced. Pavoni introduces "instant steam" and brew machine.

  SCAA founded. Originally called the Specialty Coffee Advisory Board or SCAB; they would soon change their name to something more pleasing to the ear.

  Howard Schultz of Starbucks travels to Italy and becomes immersed in espresso culture.

  Starbucks installs the first espresso machine in their Seattle shop.

  Acorto brings to market the world's first truly complete and marketable commercial super automatic machine, including groundbreaking features such as the self-contained refrigeration system for milk, and different frothing choices on demand.

  Rancilio introduces the Rocky Burr Grinder - a grinder that blurs the line between commercial and home grinding appliances.

  (circa) Saeco brings out the world's first super automatics designed specifically for home and small office use.

  Illy collector cups first introduced, bringing artistry to the cup itself, as well as what's inside the cup.

  Solis brings the SL-90 consumer espresso machine to market, one of the first successful automatic espresso machines for the home.

  Rancilio introduces the Rancilio Silvia, which raises the bar in the home espresso machine market and starts a trend towards better, more professional machines for the consumer. Pasquini markets the Livia 90 (made by Bezzera), one of a new wave of prosumer, heat exchanger-equipped machines for consumers instead of commercial businesses.

  Aabree Coffee Company goes on the web.

Of course, this list is by no means complete. It is presented to give you an idea about several things, including the fact that espresso existed long before the big coffee chains were around. And even though those chains and espresso are somewhat reliant on one another, I'd wager that espresso will far outlast any of the chain coffeehouses you and I know so well. With its unique culture and growing number of devotees who are ultimately dedicated to the betterment of the brew, I'm ready to see what the next hundred years has in store for espresso.
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Coffee Tasting: Drip Coffee

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:11 AM
Related Categories: Coffee Guides

Wine tasters religiously follow what I call the S³ Routine: Swirl, Sniff, and Sip. This ritual is meant allow the taster to fully experience the flavors and aroma of the wine; coffee tasting is a little different, but the emphasis on the senses is still there.

Ideally, the tasting experience begins way before a hot cup of Joe is placed in front of you. The first time you’re exposed to the grinds, take a minute to inhale its fragrance—this should give you some indication of what to expect. Once water is introduced, the essence of your grind should begin to reveal itself and give off an alluring aroma to whet the palate. Then, there’s the fun part—trying your beverage for the first time.

Coffee connoisseurs deliberately slurp the brew and slide it around the entire surface of the mouth and tongue. This allows their taste buds to sort out the different nuisances of the brew. Most experts tend to concentrate on three fundamentals at this stage: body, balance, and acidity.

Body refers to the texture of a brew. A full-bodied coffee will have a nice, rich, creamy texture. Wide variations can be found in coffee, ranging from thin and watery to thick and creamy. The second element, balance, refers to blend of flavors inherent in your brew. A well-balanced coffee may be complex, but the flavors should be evenly distributed and not overwhelming to the palate. While some people prefer a well-balanced blend, others enjoy strong flavor characteristics and may not seek balance in their coffee. Acidity, our last term, does not deal with the pH level of the java, but rather the dry, tangy sensation the flavor characteristics of your brew. Lighter roasts should exhibit more acidity than dark ones.

Once you’ve swallowed your first sip, you should experience an aftertaste that lingers on the palate. This is kind of like the finish in wine tasting! Coffee aftertastes can vary considerably, depending on the body, balance, and acidity of your java.

When all is said and done, coffee is a highly subjective beverage. What appeals to one person may not interest another. We’ve simply given you the tools to identify your preferences, what you choose to brew is completely up to you.

Flavor Characteristics
Below is a list of some flavor characteristics often associated with certain types of coffee…If you’re a newbie, or even seasoned coffee drinker looking to try a new brew, this list can help guide you to the perfect java.

  • Bright, Dry, Sharp, or Snappy brews typical of Costa Rican, Guatemalan, Kenyan coffees
  • Caramel, candy-like or syrupy brews are typical of Colombian Supremo.
  • Chocolate, with an aftertaste similar to unsweetened chocolate or vanilla, is typical of Costa Rican, Colombian Supremo, and the House Blend.
  • Earthy characteristics are typical of Sumatran coffee.
  • Fragrant with aromatic characteristics ranging from floral to spicy are typical of Costa Rican, Sumatra Mandheling, and Kenyan coffee.
  • A mellow, smooth taste is typical of Colombian, Sumatra Mandheling, Orgainc Mexican.
Wine-like with an aftertaste reminiscent of well-matured wine - typical of Kenyan and Guatemalan coffee
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A Variety of Ways to Brew Coffee

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:02 AM
Related Categories: Coffee Guides

Brewing coffee has come a long way since Cowboy Pots and Parisian Percolators. There are so many ways to brew and enjoy coffee nowadays thanks to a variety of brewing methods. Whether it's with a traditional drip or vacuum pot, stovetop or French press - brewing coffee is anything but run-of-the-mill. Coffee lovers have an almost endless variety of roasts and grinds to choose from - as well as several ways to brew the delectable drink, depending on your individual taste.

Drip Coffeemakers

The most common way to brew coffee is with a traditional drip coffeemaker. This tried and true method brews great tasting coffee if used in conjunction with somewhat coarsely ground, good quality coffee beans.

Drip Coffeemakers With most drip coffeemakers there is an internal heating element that brings the water to the ideal brewing temperature of 196-204°. The near-boiling water is then to some extent evenly distributed over the coffee grounds that are contained in either a paper or gold-tone filter basket. Depending on the size of your pot, a drip coffeemaker can take up to 10 minutes to brew.

Many drip coffeemakers have features like automatic timers and partial pot brewing settings – allowing you to program your brewing times as well as control the quantity. Features like these are indispensable for those on the go!

And several machines on the market come equipped with stainless steel carafes, rather than the traditional glass carafes, which keep fresh brewed coffee hot for hours.

Drip coffeemakers are ideal for those of us who have become accustomed to purchasing pre-ground coffee and enjoy the familiarity of a traditional coffeemaker.

Vacuum Style Coffeemakers

Many coffee connoisseurs agree - coffee brewed with a vacuum style coffeemaker tastes noticeably different. Is it because of the brewing style? Yes!

Vacuum Style CoffeemakersA vacuum style coffeemaker utilizes steam and vacuum pressure to brew at the ideal temperature. W ater is heated rapidly in the lower chamber by either an internal or external heat source. Once boiling is complete, the water is forced into the upper chamber where the medium ground coffee is contained. The heated water will infuse with the coffee grounds for several minutes before it returns to the lower chamber through the siphon using gravity. Once all the coffee returns to the lower chamber, separate the two pots and use the lower pot for serving.

Many of the vacuum style coffeemakers come equipped with a hot plate – which will keep your coffee hot, as well as an automatic timer. In addition to being a conversation piece, the vacuum style coffeemaker brews with renowned accuracy – so your coffee is full of aroma and flavor.

Stovetop Coffeemakers

Cousin to the vacuum style coffeemaker, the stovetop is making a resurgence - popping up in kitchens everywhere! These eye-catching pots have the familiar two chamber brewing system with an internal siphon.

Stovetop CoffeemakersBut unlike the vacuum pot, the lower chamber on the stovetop holds both the water and coffee grounds in a small basket.

To brew a thick, rich pot of coffee, start with grounds that are somewhat finely ground. As you heat the water and grounds together on the stovetop, the blend is siphoned from the lower chamber through the metal filter and into the top chamber.

Because many of the stovetop coffeemakers are made with 18/10 stainless steel, they retain heat very well. The stovetop has been a staple in Italian kitchens for years because of its resilience and ability to brew delicious tasting coffee easily.

French Press

Also known as a cafetière , the French press was developed to simply produce some of the richest coffee imaginable.

To make coffee using the French press, just fill the glass, plastic or stainless steel cylinder with coarsely ground coffee – a good guide is one tablespoon for every cup of hot water. The water you add to the cylinder should be just about boiling; then let it steep for roughly three to five minutes depending on your personal preference. Push the plunger down and the wire mesh filter will force the grounds to the bottom – separating them from the liquid and produce some of the most robust coffee around.

While all of these brewing methods have the ability to make delicious coffee, each have a specific grind that enhances the flavor. For instance, with a drip coffeemaker, a medium grind produces the optimum flavor - anything else would be too strong. The filter on the vacuum pot and stovetop allows for a finer grind, producing a smoother taste. While a French press requires a coarser grind to prevent any sediment from forming - giving you a truly bold taste.

Flavor and Taste Comparison Chart

There are many elements that, with time, you can adjust to your own personal preference. Whether it is the bean, the grind or the brewing style - the object is to find a method that works for you.

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Key Ingredients In Perfect Espresso

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 10:53 AM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

Making coffee is a lot like baking a cake. There are specific ingredients and parameters that are required in order for the creation to be considered cake, but the requirements for making a Tunnel of Fudge cake are a lot different than making a Carrot Cake. The same goes for coffee – basically anything that involves combining coffee grounds with hot water is considered coffee, but there are specific requirements for making the espresso type of coffee. In this article, we’re going to take an in depth look at these key ingredients and parameters, and how to put them all together to make a proper espresso.


Espresso is brewed using water that has been heated to between 190o F and 195o F. A thermostat in the boiler brings the temperature of the water to the proper level and maintains it while the machine is on. As you begin to brew, the thermostat will turn on again in an effort to heat the water that is being drawn in from the reservoir as the already heated water is used for brewing.

Although espresso is brewed with water temperatures exceeding 190 degrees F, it doesn’t necessarily mean the temperature of your espresso will be that hot when you go to enjoy it. Generally, the temperature can be quite less, with an average 160 degrees F to 165 degrees F in your cup. The large drop in temperature is largely contributable to whether or not your portafilter, brew group, and espresso cup have been fully pre-heated. We always recommend pulling a “blank shot” to remedy this problem. Before brewing, just attach the empty portafilter to the machine, place your cup under the portafilter, and press the brew button. Hot water will be dispensed through the portafilter and brew group and fall into the cup, thereby heating all three elements at once. Proper temperature is also a large contributor to the quality of the crema that tops your espresso. Crema dramatically impacts the flavor of the shot, making temperature even more important to the overall success of your espresso.


When we’re talking about pressure in relation to espresso, there are actually two different things we need to address: tamp pressure and brewing pressure.

Tamp Pressure
This is the amount of pressure used to compact the coffee grounds in the portafilter prior to brewing. As a general rule, we recommend consistently using 30 lbs of tamp pressure. If you’re not sure what that feels like, drag out the ol’ bathroom scale and try it out – it won’t feel nearly as heavy as you’re expecting. By always using the same amount of pressure, you’re reducing the number of variables involved in brewing, so it’s easier to target and resolve an issue. We’ll talk more about possible problems you’ll run into and how to solve them later in this article.

Brewing Pressure
In order to brew a proper espresso, hot water must be forced through the coffee grounds at around 8 or 9 BAR of pressure – roughly 135 PSI. The pump inside every espresso machine is designed to produce these exact measurements of pressure, so this isn’t something you’ll need to control yourself. Some machines advertise they are able to produce pump pressures of 15 to 19 BAR. However, this doesn’t mean that they will they produce better espresso than those of lower pressures. As described above, it is only necessary to have about 8 to 9 BAR of pump pressure to produce good espresso. The pressure ratings on these units pertain to the maximum pressure or BAR the espresso machine is able to produce, not what it will actually brew the espresso at. Just remember that it isn't important to buy an espresso machine with the most powerful pump. Any pump driven espresso machines we carry provides more than enough pressure to produce fine espresso.

Coffee, Water, & Extraction Time

So we’ve talked about temperature and pressure and set the stage (or greased the cake pan, if you will) for the down and dirty “this is how you do it” part of brewing espresso. Yes temperature and pressure are equally as important to espresso as the things we’re about to discuss, but they’re a little more abstract to you budding baristas out there. This is the part you actually get to put your hands on and find out what brewing espresso is all about.

Most commonly, espresso is brewed as either a single or double shot. This terminology references the amount of coffee and water that are used. To brew a single shot, you will use 7 grams of coffee and pull between 1 and 1.5 oz of water. For a double shot, you’ll basically double those quantities – 14 grams of coffee and 2 to 2.5 oz of water. No matter if you’re brewing a single or double shot, you should be able to extract the espresso in 20 to 25 seconds.

This little equation is what we call the Espresso Rule of Thumb, and it acts as a guideline for brewing espresso. If the results you’re getting don’t meet these parameters (for instance, you get 3.5 oz of espresso in 20 seconds), you’ll know instantly that something isn’t right and that you need to alter one of your variables to meet this target. We’ll look at some specific scenarios and how to correct them in a minute, but let’s look at the Espresso Rule of Thumb one more time.

The Espresso Rule of Thumb

Given that water between 190 degrees F and 195 degrees F is applied at 8 – 9 BAR to finely ground coffee that has been tamped at 30 lbs of pressure:

A single shot is made with 7 grams of coffee, and should yield 1 – 1.5 oz of espresso in 20 –25 seconds.

A double shot
is made with 14 grams of coffee, and should yield 2 – 2.5 oz of espresso in 20 –25 seconds.


The next question out of most people’s mouths is, “What do I do if my shots don’t meet these requirements specifically?” Well, the good news is that because you’re keeping the amount of coffee and tamp pressure the same in each attempt, there’s only one thing to alter in order to get different results: the fineness of your grind. This is one of the main reasons why a grinder is such an essential element to brewing espresso and why we always recommend that you purchase one to accompany your semi-automatic machine. Beyond the obvious advantages of the freshest coffee possible, using your own grinder makes it much easier to troubleshoot a problem if one arises.

The two main problems people run into are that their shots are either too slow or too fast. If your shot is slow (it takes longer than 25 seconds to brew the correct amount of espresso), it means that the water is being prevented from coming through the grounds at the appropriate rate. You can fix this by adjusting your grinder to a coarser setting. On the other hand, if your shot is fast (it takes less than 20 seconds to brew the correct amount of espresso), it means that water is passing too easily through the grounds. This is remedied by adjusting your grinder to a finer setting. Every time you adjust your setting, just remember to keep your tamping consistent and time your shot to make sure you’re on target.

We know that not everyone can spring for the semi auto and matching grinder right away, so some of you may be using pre-ground coffees. The Espresso Rule of Thumb still applies here, but if you’re not hitting your target extraction times, you’ll want to alter your tamp pressure to compensate. Tamp harder if your shot times are too fast, and lighter if your shot times are too slow. If you’re getting similar results regardless of the tamp pressure, it may simply be that the grind setting will not work well with your machine.

Other Things to Keep In Mind

Although the Espresso Rule of Thumb does apply to all semi automatic espresso machines, the strict parameters we’ve set are a little different depending on what type of semi auto you’re using. Those machines that have commercial style portafilters are a bit more sensitive to these guidelines, so you’ll want to keep with them specifically. However, pressurized style portafilters are more forgiving when it comes to tamp pressure and grind setting. You’ll want to aim for a lighter tamp as well as a slightly coarser grind if you’re using a pressurized portafilter, but the other requirements will remain the same.

It is also important to remember that you may need to make adjustments to your grind setting when you try a new type of coffee. Beans can differ in roast level and density, both of which can affect how the grounds perform. So, it may be necessary that you “dial in” your grinder again if you notice that changing beans affects your brewing time.

If you ever have any brewing issues that you just can’t seem to solve using the troubleshooting tips we’ve given you here, please feel free to call our Customer Care Center at 888-280-8584. We’ll give you any further advice we can and get you on the path to perfect espresso.
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Decalcify for Better Brews

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 10:51 AM
Related Categories: Cleaning and Maintenance

Calcium, good for bones…bad for espresso machines. Over time, calcium and mineral deposits can take its toll on your beloved espresso machine, clogging up water lines and valves, even corrupting the integrity of the boiler—lowering capacity and, yes, even jeopardizing your warranty!

Not decalcifying or descaling, as it is some times called, would be like running your car on old, grimy oil. Believe me, neither is a good idea. And, if you value your taste buds, failing to decalcify is akin to playing Russian roulette with your java. Excessive build up can have a negative impact on the taste of your coffee, as well as your ability to froth milk.

Besides, dirty machines are just gross! Have you seen those commercials for Drano? Those “before” drains…yeah, imagine drinking coffee made from that!

Now that I’ve got your attention, or scarred you for life, whichever, let’s go over some decalcifying basics.

Cleaning? Descaling
Washing your car isn’t the same as getting an engine flush. Cleaning your machine has little to do with descaling.

Cleaning an espresso machine usually involves removing coffee oils and old grounds from the unit. Decalcifying refers to removing minerals from the boiler, interconnected tubing, and other internal components. To keep your machine running in tip-top shape, we recommend descaling every three months.

How to Decalcify According to Different Types of Espresso Machines
Before we get started, it is important to note these descaling processes only apply to super and semi automatic home machines. Most commercial units, with exchangers, operate a little differently. So, if you’re a home user, read on!

Super Automatic Machines
Even though all super automatic espresso machines should be decalcified, actual descaling methods may differ from machine to machine.

You’re in luck if your super automatic has an automated descaling cycle! These units are a breeze to decalcify; the machine will walk you through the process step-by-step. If this is your first time descaling you machine, check out the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Don’t sweat it if your super auto requires manual descaling! It’s a pretty straightforward process. First, take a look at your user’s manual, it should tell you which decalcifying cleaner is recommended for your machine. Once you’ve located the correct cleaner, the actual descaling process should take no more than 20 minutes.

Tools Required:
· Decalcifying cleaner
· A container capable of holding the same amount of liquid as your water reservoir

1) Remove the water reservoir and empty all the liquid
2) Fill the reservoir with warm water and add one packet of the recommended cleaner.
3) Stir the mixture until the cleaner is completely dissolved.
4) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
5) Turn the machine on and set your container below the steam wand.
6) Adjust your machine so that hot water, not steam, is emitted from the steam wand
7) Open the steam valve
8) Discard the container once all of the decalcifying solution has been drained from your machine
9) Rinse the water reservoir thoroughly, fill it with water, and put it back into place
10) Using only water repeat steps 4 through 8 until the water reservoir is, once again,  empty.

Voila! You’re done! Your machine is ready to brew. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Semi-automatic Machines

You must descale manually for all semi-automatic machines. Once again, read your user’s manual to find the recommended cleaner for your machine. Then, it’s just a matter of following the instructions listed below:

Tools Required:
· Decalcifying cleaner
· A container capable of holding the same amount of liquid as your water reservoir
· A second, smaller container

1) Remove the machine’s water reservoir and empty all the liquid
2) Fill the reservoir with warm water.
3) Add one packet of the recommended cleaner to the water reservoir
4) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
5) Turn the machine on and set the large container below the steam wand
6) Set the smaller container underneath the brew spout to collect any decalcifying solution that may come out of it
7) Adjust your machine so that hot water, not steam, is emitted from the steam wand and press the brew button to begin the process
8) Press the brew button and open the steam valve
9) Let approximately 8oz of water come out of the machine
10) Turn off the brew button and close the steam valve.
11) Let the machine sit for amount of time specified on the cleaner packaging.
12) Repeat steps 8 - 11 until all of the decalcifying solution has drained into the containers.
13) Remove both containers and discard the liquid that has been collected.
14) Rinse the water reservoir thoroughly and then fill it with water
15) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
16) Rinse out the decalcifying solution by repeating steps 5 through 8 until the water reservoir is empty again.

That’s it, you’re done!

Regardless of whether you have a super- or semi-automatic, don’t let calcium and mineral deposits take over your machine. Decalcify, all it takes is 20 minutes to keep your espresso machine brewing for years to come.

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Orange Cappuccino Rolls

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 10:39 AM
Related Categories: Recipes

I’m always on the lookout for a tasty baked-goods companion for my morning coffee; I have a good feeling about this orange cappuccino roll recipe.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 10 TBS unsalted butter, divided. 5TBS should be well chilled, and 5 TBS softened
  • 2 TBS. strong, brewed coffee
  • 2 TBS sugar +3/4 cup, divided
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 tsp. finely grated orange zest,divided
  • 2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Baking Directions
Grease a 9x4” baking pan and pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the 2 TBS of sugar, the salt, flour, espresso powder, 2 TBS of orange zest, and baking powder into a large bowl. Then, add 5 TBS of chilled butter and cut until the dough forms pea-sized crumbs; you’ll want to turn the dough out on a floured surface for rolling.
 Knead just enough for the dough to hold itself together, be careful not to over-knead, this will cause the rolls to be hard. Roll the dough into a 12x8” rectangle that is about ½” thick and spread 4 TBS of softened butter evenly over the surface.
Combine ¾ cup of sugar, cinnamon, and the remaining tsp of orange zest into a bowl and mix well. Then, sprinkle this mixture over the surface of the buttered dough and pat it into place.
Start rolling the dough up like a jelly roll, beginning at the longer side. Slice into 12 rolls, about 1” thick each. Then, place the rolls slice-side down on the baking pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the rolls are puffy and have a golden-brown color.
While the rolls are in the oven, combine the powdered sugar, 1 TBS of softened butter, and last tsp of orange zest into a small bowl. Slowly add the coffee into the mixture and stir until you get a thick, creamy glaze.
Remove the rolls from the oven, once they are done, and top them off with the glaze. 

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Introduction: Gaggia for Illy

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