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Coffee Maker Buying Guide

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 8:38 AM
Related Categories: Coffee Maker Guides

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), roughly 50 percent of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis. A large majority of the coffee that is consumed is brewed using the drip method.
Consumers buy more of these dependable, simple-to-operate machines than any other small kitchen appliances –at a rate of 17 million per year. However, many consumers are not using these coffee makers to their full potential. To produce a full-bodied cup of coffee, pay attention to the ingredients you put into the machine and how they are combined. You also need to be careful about how the coffee is kept after it is brewed.

Setting Up Your Machine

Water is the first ingredient that you should place into your new coffee maker. Running water through the system first will flush out any dust particles that may have dropped into the machine during shipping.

There is no other machine preparation needed before brewing that first cup of coffee, unless you have a drip coffee maker that uses a pour over system for brewing. (See Bunn coffee makers.) Pour over systems function like a water heater and hold a full tank of hot water at all times. So initially, the tank needs to be filled with a full pot of water and left to heat up. This process usually takes around 15 minutes, but once it is complete, you can brew a full pot of coffee in three minutes.

Also, there is no need to worry about keeping the pour over system coffee makers on all the time. These machines are designed to do this, and you must keep them turned on in order to maintain their proper brewing temperature.

Ways To Enhance Your Coffee Making Experience
  • If you are going to brew smaller pots of coffee, you might consider purchasing a coffee maker that allows you to control the speed at which the water is applied to the coffee. There are also a few machines that allow you to adjust the strength of your coffee by altering the amount of water that flows over the grounds.

  • Using the right Coffee Filterstype of filter is another key to making a great cup of coffee, so consult your user’s manual to determine what kind to purchase. You can choose to use either paper or permanent filters. Paper filters allow you to use a finer grind of coffee, while permanent filters, which are more porous, will allow more of the oils to escape, producing a more well-rounded cup of coffee. Permanent filters are also economical in that they can be used over and over again. However, make sure they are cleaned after every use.

  • If you are someone who is on the go most of the time, you may want to consider purchasing a coffee maker with a programmable brewing option. With some machines, you can set a brew time up to 24 hours in advance. There are also machines that have LCD and LED displays installed to make programming the machine a bit easier.

  • Another feature available on many machines allows you to pause the brewing so you can remove the carafe for a few seconds and pour a cup of coffee before the brewing is totally completed.
  • Coffee will taste its best within the first hour after brewing. However, for those who don’t have the time to make fresh coffee every hour or so, thermal carafes and hotplates are available. The best way to use a thermal carafe is to brew the coffee directly into one. If this option is not practical, you may want to pour the coffee into a thermal carafe immediately after it is brewed. Running hot water though the carafe just prior to using it will also help the coffee retain its heat and flavor for a longer period of time.

  • As far as machines with hotplates, many of these devices take awhile to kick in and they either do not shut off automatically or the heat source runs for up to 4 hours. To better control the heat generated by these hotplates, consider purchasing one of the machines that has a programmable shut-off option.
  • The way the water is distributed over the coffee grounds also influences the quality of the final product. Drip coffee machines have either a single hole or a showerhead design to dispense hot water onto the coffee grounds. The single hole design results in a very concentrated area of extracted grounds in the center of the filter, while the coffee brewed using a showerhead design will distribute the water more evenly over the grounds. This kind of design provides an even extraction and results in a more flavorful, balanced cup of coffee.

Nearly Care-free Cleaning and MaintenanceDecalcify Express

With very little time and effort, you can keep your drip coffee maker in top working order. Paper filters and their contents need to be removed and disposed of, while permanent filters must be emptied and rinsed out. The filter holder should also be removed and rinsed regularly, and the carafe should be cleaned after every use with warm, soapy water. It is also a good idea to wipe the hotplate with a sponge once it is turned off to remove any coffee residue.

Once every three months, it is a good idea to decalcify your machine. For this process, mix a decalcifying agent with a full pot of water and run it through the machine. Then you will need to run one or two more pots of clean water through the machine to make sure that the cleaner has been fully removed. (Check your user’s manual to see if a decalcifying agent or a mixture of white vinegar and water is recommended for use in your coffee maker. Either way we’ve found a commercial decalcifier is the best product for all machines.)

Find A Coffee Maker That’s Right For You

Drip machines are simple to use, but before you press the button to start the brewing process, consider some of the factors that will enable you to make the best cup of coffee possible.

Determine how many cups you normally brew at a time and what type of coffee you prefer to use. If you brew small batches, you may want to consider some of the flavor-enhancing features mentioned above. Also, if you decide to always use pre-ground coffee, you will not need to purchase a machine with a grinder.

Also consider the various features that will make your coffee maker a versatile and practical addition to your kitchen. For example, if it is important to have your coffee ready as soon as you stumble into the kitchen, consider buying a unit that allows you to program your machine to start brewing as soon as your alarm clock rings.

By taking some time to choose the right machine for you, and then using the right ingredients in your drip coffee maker, you will produce a fresh-tasting, flavorful cup of java every time you press the button.
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What is an Espresso Machine?

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 8:33 AM
Related Categories: Espresso Machine Guides

What is an espresso machine? The short answer: A machine that makes espresso. Okay, so you probably already figured that out. However, espresso is a specific thing that is made in a specific way, and so to make it, you need to have a machine that produces a specific environment for a proper brew. So maybe we should start with a quick recap of what espresso is. Specifically.

Espresso is a beverage that is produced by pushing hot water (between 190F and 195F in temperature) at high pressure (between 8 and 9 bars, or 135 PSI) through a bed of finely ground, compacted coffee. A normal single shot of espresso is approximately 1 to 1.5 ounces of liquid, using approximately 7 grams of ground coffee. A normal double shot is between 2 and 2.5 ounces, using double the volume of coffee grounds. When brewed properly, the resulting beverage is topped with a dark golden cream, called crema.

Therefore, at its simplest, an espresso machine must do all of the following:

  • Produce brewing water that is between 190 and 195 degrees F in temperature by means of an internal boiler or a thermoblock device.
  • Channel water into the brewing chamber (grouphead).
  • Deliver the water to coffee grounds (in the portafilter attached to the grouphead) at approximately 9 BAR or 135 PSI of pressure by using a pump, a spring system, or a lever.
  • Provide an exit for brewed espresso to be released into your cup.

That's pretty much what an espresso machine is. The result of the above parameters is that using an espresso machine, a shot of espresso can be brewed in under 30 seconds. When you consider most automatic drip coffee makers take 8 or 10 minutes to brew, espresso, which means fast or quick in loose Italian translation, suddenly seems very appropriately named. You should also keep in mind that all espresso machines also include a steam wand that can dispense hot water for tea or hot chocolate or steam so that you can froth and steam milk for delicious cappuccinos and lattes.

But even though espresso machines are similar in all the ways listed above, different types of espresso machines use different means to reach the same end. Let’s take a closer look at these varying methods.

Manual or “Piston” Espresso Machines

Manual machines were the first “real” espresso machines (those that met the requirements above) to be developed, and are still widely popular today. The machines consist of a large boiler that holds and heats all of the water necessary for brewing and steaming/frothing milk. When the boiler is at the correct temperature for brewing espresso, the operator simply lifts the lever, which raises a piston inside the grouphead. Water begins to flow from the boiler into the grouphead and seeps down through the coffee grounds in the portafilter. The coffee begins to drip from the spouts into your cup. When this happens the lever is then pressed down - also pushing the piston down and plunging the rest of the water through the coffee grounds. When the lever is pushed all of the way down, the brew cycle or extraction of espresso is complete and then you can repeat the process to make more espresso. With a piston lever espresso machine, you act as the machine's pump, applying direct pressure by means of the lever and pushing brew water through a finely ground, compacted bed of ground coffee at pressures of 8 BAR or greater.

These machines are not very easy to figure out at first, but they reward the diligent. Those who invest hours or days of practice with the machine can become true espresso connoisseurs that can literally "pull" the most amazing shots possible. As you can see, these machines are not necessarily for weekend warrior espresso fans. These machines are for the diehard espresso lover. But if cappuccino, lattes, or mochas are your thing, then their large boilers provide ample steam for producing perfect foamed and steamed milk.

For the most part, lever style machines have been pushed aside by modern technology and the desire for great espresso with less effort. Electric pump driven machines with sophisticated temperature and pressure monitoring devices and computers are the way of the future it seems, but it will be tough to replace the old world charm and reliable function of the lever espresso machine. La Pavoni and Gaggia continue the hand build the functional work of art to this day.

Semi Automatic Espresso Machines

Semi automatic machines use an electric water pump as opposed to the lever and piston design. They have a separate water reservoir where water is stored until it is pulled into the boiler to be heated and used for brewing or steaming/frothing milk. In short, these machines make the production of espresso much easier and consistent. Semi autos automatically regulate the activity of the water temperature for brewing and steaming as well as the activity of the built in electric water pump.

Semi autos are named as such because there is still a bit of work that you need to do in order to brew. Just like manual espresso machines, semi autos have a portafilter – an attachment that holds ground coffee during the brewing process. Before brewing, the portafilter will need to be filled with ground coffee. Then this coffee will need to be tamped, or compacted, in order for the coffee to fit properly and to create additional resistance during brewing. Then the portafilter is attached to the machine. To start the brewing process, you simply push the coffee brew switch causing the electric water pump to draw water from the boiler and force it under pressure through the portafilter and coffee grounds. When the proper amount of espresso has been brewed, just turn off the brew switch and you are done.

In the same family of semi automatic machines are automatic espresso machines. This term confuses most people because they may think automatic implies the machine does everything including grinding, tamping, and disposing of the used coffee grounds. This type of machine does exist, but is called a super automatic (you can read more about these machines below). An automatic is essentially the same as a semiautomatic except that it automatically controls the volume of water that is dispensed through the coffee grounds. As a matter of convenience you can choose among two to three programmable brewing buttons. The buttons can be programmed by you to tell the machine to run a certain amount of water though the coffee grounds in the portafilter, then automatically stop. Since it can take up to 30 seconds to brew two shots of espresso this automatic feature frees you to prepare other ingredients for your beverage while the machine is brewing the espresso. Many commercial machines use automatic systems such as this to give the drink better consistency and to allow the Barista to prepare other beverages in a timely fashion. However, all of the steps of preparing the coffee for brewing, including adding and tamping the coffee grounds, will still be the same as a semi automatic model.

Super Automatic Espresso Machines

Simply put, super automatic espresso and coffee centers are amazing. Yes, they make espresso, café crème, and they are capable of making all coffee house drinks like lattes, mochas, cappuccino and more. But most of the preparation for brewing is completed automatically by the machine – all at the press of a button.

A super automatic machine has all of the same basic components that semi and automatic espresso machines like an electric water pump, boiler, water reservoir, steam wand, and a variety of dials and switches. What makes super automatics different is that they have an automated internal brewing system and a high-quality burr coffee grinder built in. All of these components come together with the help of an onboard computer to quickly and effortlessly produce perfect and consistent espresso without the mess and guesswork that one might experience with either a semi or automatic espresso machine.

When you push the coffee brew button, coffee beans held inside the machine will be ground and placed into the internal brewing system. The pump will automatically start the flow of hot water through the coffee grounds and then result in espresso being automatically dispensed into your cup from spouts located on the front of the machine. Immediately after brewing has finished, the internal brewing system will take the used coffee grounds and discard them into the onboard waist box for later disposal. From start to finish you can have a fresh cup of espresso or café crème in 30 seconds.

One shining ability of super automatic espresso machines and the reason they are dubbed “coffee centers” as well, is that they can produce a coffee beverage called café crème. This coffee is brewed in the same manner as espresso. However, where espresso is brewed relatively slow (about 15-20 seconds for 1.5 ounces), cafe crème is brewed at a faster rate. Espresso brews slower because the coffee grounds are required to be very fine, which restricts the water flow through the grounds. This helps give espresso its intense flavor and strength. For café crème, simply make a small adjustment to the coffee grinder to make the coffee grounds coarser. This in turn will allow the water to flow more freely through the coffee grounds as required. The result is a wonderfully aromatic and flavor-rich coffee that is a smooth replacement for the same-old drip coffee.

As you can see, espresso machines can be rather diverse despite their similarities. Figuring out which type will suit you best will mainly come down to how involved in the brewing process you’d like to be. If you’re a really hands-on person, a manual or semi automatic machine is probably for you. If you’re into quick and easy, a super automatic is something you should consider. But no matter which type you choose, you can be sure that your machine will be perfectly equipped to make those espresso drinks you’ve been craving.

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The Simplicity of Espresso Pods, Nespresso Capsules and K-Cups

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:23 PM
Related Categories: Coffee Guides, Single Serve Machines

Pod, K-Cup, & CapsuleIt seems like nowadays everyone is looking for an easier way out – a way to cut some corners and make things more manageable. Industry leaders have caught on to this idea and have developed several espresso machines and coffeemakers that utilize pre-packaged Espresso Pods, Capsules or K-Cups that make the brewing process even more efficient.

Exclusively ESE Approved Pod Machines

An Easy Serving Espresso Pod, commonly referred to as an ESE approved pod is a single-serving pre-packaged espresso pod that has been specifically shaped to fit perfectly inside the chamber of an espresso machine. The amount of coffee, its grind and the degree to which it has been pressed is all specifically defined to ensure a perfect cup of espresso. So all the grinding, dosing and tamping is streamlined! The hassle and mess often associated with a grinder is gone and replaced with a simple pod.

Espresso machines like the FrancisFrancis! X6 Trio and Espressione Grace Auto come with a portafilter that exclusively uses these ESE approved espresso pods. The X6 Trio has a three-position portafilter that allows you to brew a lungo, ristretto or standard shot of espresso, while the Espressione Grace Auto has an attached hinged portafilter. Although these machines have differently designed portafilters, they both have the look and feel of a regular semi-automatic with a chrome plated brass portafilter and stainless steel accents.

Versatile Pod and Ground Espresso Machines

Some machines by Capresso, Espressione, Gaggia, Saeco, FrancisFrancis! and la Pavoni have the ability to brew delicious tasting espresso using either pre-packaged ESE espresso pods or ground coffee. By simply swapping out the included filter baskets or portafilters, you can easily switch back and forth between ground coffee or espresso pods on some machines.

If you enjoy making espresso at home, you may find using espresso pods like Illy a quick and easy way to brew espresso while giving you the taste and consistency you are looking for. While most pods are sold in fairly large quantities, many of them now come individually wrapped in oxygen free, foil sealed packets for extra freshness. Both Lavazza and Espressione Pods are individually sealed.

Lavazza Pods, Illy Pods, & Espressione Pods

Nespresso Capsule Only Machines

Capsule machines are just as convenient as machines that use espresso pods because they too come in single serving portions in two sizes. The entire line of Nespresso machines operates exclusively with Nespresso capsules. Nespresso capsules are available in 12 different types of coffee strengths and characteristics – making brewing a variety of coffees extremely easy. The Nespresso Capsule System creates a precise and tidy brewing experience s ince ground espresso and other brands of pods or capsules cannot be used to make espresso with these machines.

K-Cup Machines

Keurig K-Cup System & K-CupsKeurig, a Dutch company known for single-cup coffee brewers, offers a coffeemaker that brews the perfect cup of gourmet coffee using a K-Cup system. A K-cup is extremely similar to the Nespresso capsule system, however, a K-Cup is unique in its shape. While the end of a Nespresso Capsule is pointed, a K-Cup is flat on the bottom. These single-serving brewing cups are easy to use and dispose of, and come in many varieties of coffee from roasters like Green Mountain, Gloria Jean's, Timothy's and Van Houtte.

While all of these machines not only save time and energy, they also control the consistency and quality of your coffee, so there is no more guesswork! And because these machines are so user friendly anyone can look like an acclaimed barista instantly.

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Types of Burr Coffee Grinders

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:22 PM
Related Categories: Grinder Guides

Much like espresso machines and coffee makers, burr grinders are available with a variety of features and functions. And the key in deciding which of these grinders is right for you and your machine is to have a full grasp of what each feature actually does. In this article, we’ll cover these features and by the end, you’ll emerge and burr grinder expert.

Dosing vs. Non-Dosing Burr Grinders

Dosing Grinders

A dosing grinder has a compartment on the front that catches all the grounds as they are dispensed from the grinder. This compartment contains separators that divide it into even sections, like pie pieces. As these sections are filled with ground coffee, the user pulls a lever on the side of the compartment, which turns the separators and the ground coffee contained within. One or two lever-pulls later, the ground coffee ends up over a hole in the bottom of the compartment, allowing it to be dispensed, or “dosed”.

There are a couple of reasons why this type of grinder is beneficial for use with espresso machines. First off, each section in the doser holds about 7 grams of coffee – enough for a single shot of espresso. Secondly, dosing grinders are usually designed so that you dose your coffee directly into your portafilter. They only provide a couple of inches of clearance between the bottom of the doser and your countertop, and usually have what we call a “portafilter fork”, which holds your portafilter in place. These two features generally make it a little more difficult to fit a drip coffee filter or other container underneath the doser.

Doserless Grinders

Manufacturers are savvy to the fact that people use their grinders for more than just espresso, so they also offer doserless grinders. Instead of a doser, these grinders either have a chute that comes out of the machine and dispenses coffee right after it’s ground, or an internal grinds catcher that is removable after grinding is complete. The chute version allows you to use just about anything to catch the grounds, be it a portafilter, filter basket, or whole French press carafe. With an internal grinds catcher, you can easily dump the grounds into a filter or French press, or scoop out what you need to fill your portafilter. The only drawback we find with doserless models is that they tend to be a little messier because the coffee grounds can sometimes miss their target and land on the counter.

Stepped vs. Stepless Grind Adjustment Mechanisms

All burr grinders have some sort of mechanism for you to adjust the grind setting. This is what allows you to use the same grinder for everything from a Turkish to a French press. (Please note that not all burr grinders have this wide range of grinding capability.) Simply put, stepped grind adjustments have prefabricated settings for you to choose from, whereas stepless grinders have “infinite” grind adjustment capability.

Stepped Settings

There are two types of stepped setting grinders: self-locking and variable locking. Self-locking mechanisms allow you to either turn a knob or the whole bean hopper to make adjustments to the grind setting. As the setting is moved from fine to coarse you will hear a click. Each click represents one level of adjustment. These are the most popular systems because you can simply turn and “click” your way to the desired setting and once you reach that setting the adjustment will stay locked in that position. On the other hand, variable locking adjustments require that you push a release lever or button while you turn the hopper to the desired grind setting. Holding that lever or button “unlocks” the grind adjustment system and allows movement in either direction. The overall advantage to a stepped setting grinder is that you can easily toggle back and forth between settings. If you do happen to forget the particular setting you were on, it’s also pretty simple to narrow it back down to the correct one.

Stepless Settings

This method of adjusting the grind setting is nice because it allows for an infinite number of settings and the fine-tuning of your grind. It allows for the slightest movement between settings if you need that perfect grind for espresso. Stepless grinders are usually adusted through either the use of a lever on the side of the hopper like the (like the Mazzer Mini or by turning the bean hopper (like the Pasquini Moka). Although it’s a little easier to “lose your place” if you change grind settings, the great thing about stepless adjustment is that you have precise control over the grind setting. These grinders do have markings to guide you, but if, for example, you find a particular grind is a little too coarse and the next notch down is a little too fine, you can adjust in between them to get the perfect grind for your machine.

High-Speed vs. Low-Speed Burr Grinders

When we’re talking about high and low speed burr grinders, the difference is actually found in the motor contained in the machine. High-speed grinders have smaller, cheaper motors that need to turn at a higher speed in order to get the grinding done. On the other hand, low-speed grinders contain more expensive motors that run more slowly, but are more powerful.

Obviously, high-speed grinders are very popular because you get the grind consistency and quality of a burr grinder, but at a lower cost. Low-speed grinders do have somewhat of an advantage though. One of the biggest differences is that because the low-speed grinder moves more slowly, the beans and grounds are exposed to less heat than with a high-speed grinder. Heat begins to extract the flavor of the coffee, so for maximum flavor, you want them to be exposed to as little heat as possible. In addition, low-speed grinders avoid producing the small amount of static electricity that high-speed grinders can generate.

Low-speed burr grinders also come in two different types: gear reduction and direct drive. Each is a little step up from a high-speed grinder, simply for the reasons listed in the paragraph above. What sets these two types of low-speed grinders apart is the way that they become low-speed.

Gear Reduction vs. Direct Drive Burr Grinders

In a gear reduction burr grinder a high-speed electric motor is connected to a gear reduction system or transmission. Gear reduction systems are used to harness the power of a small, lower-cost motor and amplify it so it can handle heavier loads. This type of gear reduction is the same principle used for motors that turn a Ferris wheel at the amusement park. Although it spins at a high rate of speed, the motor is attached to a spinning drive shaft, which in turn is attached to a series of gears that gradually slow the rate of the large wheel you are riding on. Without gear reduction, the rotation speed of the motor (and the Ferris wheel) would fling you out of your seat and into the circus tent roof.

Direct drive burr grinders have a powerful electric low-speed motor that is connected directly to the cutting wheel and does not have any gears. The motor and the cutting wheel are turning at the same speed. This system is the best method to use because the motor and grinding system are designed specifically for each other and they work in harmony to produce excellent results.

Now your grinder training is complete. You know all there is to know about grinders, what their available features are, and what the corresponding advantages and disadvantages are. Arm yourself with that knowledge and take the next big step; take a look at our selection of grinders by clicking here.

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Coffee Makers: Brewing Advice

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:21 PM
Related Categories: Coffee Maker Guides

It Takes Two To Brew: Coffee and Water

There are only two ingredients needed to make a great cup of coffee in a drip machine: coffee and water. The quality of each of these will drastically affect the final outcome.

Choosing the Coffee
Fresh-ground coffee is the best choice for your drip coffee machine, rather than the canned, pre-ground coffee on your supermarket’s shelf. Coffee GrinderCoffee begins to gradually lose its flavor after it’s been ground, so stick to freshly ground beans.

If you decide to use whole bean coffee you will also need to purchase a grinder, unless your machine has a built-in one. Of course, for those who don’t wish to spend the money for a grinder, you can have your beans freshly ground at the local coffee shop or another establishment. Just be sure that you order the appropriate grind for your coffee machine, and remember nothing can beat using whole bean coffee if you want the most flavorful cup of coffee possible.

Balancing the right grind with the freshest coffee is the key to producing the best cup of coffee possible. Drip coffee is generally ground to a medium or coarse setting similar to the texture of unrefined sugar. If the grind is too coarse, water will flow through the grounds too quickly and produce an under-extracted, watery coffee. Coffee that is too fine can seep into the pot and result in a muddy, over-extracted coffee; or it can prevent water from flowing through at the correct rate, resulting in an overflow.

Water Affects Taste Too

The kind of water you pour into your machine greatly influences the quality of coffee produced. Tap and well waters often have a high concentration of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and these elements can build up on the inside of any coffee machine, altering the flow of water. By using high quality carbon filters, you can ensure that most of these harsh elements are removed and only those particles needed to make a great-tasting cup of coffee will remain.

Neither deionized nor distilled water are recommended for use in drip coffee makers. Using deionized water will eventually cause pitting of the metal components that come in contact with the water. Distilled water also produces similar results and can cause your coffee to taste flat. However, you can avoid these problems by adding a cup of regular tap water to either of these types of water.

The Right Brewing Formula

There is more to brewing with a drip coffee machine than just dumping coffee and water into it and then pressing the button. Before you start your machine, take a minute to consider how much coffee and water you should use and what size filter is appropriate.
Brewing Formula
The number of cups of coffee you want to make determines how much water and coffee to use. The recommended proportion is 10 grams of coffee for every 6 ounces of water, however if you are brewing smaller pots, you may notice some flavor difference by following this formula. That’s because you are using fewer grounds, but the water is flowing at the same rate of speed as it would over a larger amount of grounds and you have a shorter extraction time than you would have with larger batches. For smaller batches, use less water and more coffee to produce a stronger brew, and more water and less coffee to decrease the strength. Remember it’s all about your individual taste.

For more information on Coffee Makers read our Coffee Maker Buying Guide.
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The Espresso Rule of Thumb

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:19 PM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

To get the best shot possible, keep the following brewing parameters in mind:

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.

When you’re grinding your own beans for this process, it is also helpful to keep your tamp at a consistent 30 lbs of pressure (or a bit lighter if you have a pressurized style portafilter). If you’re not sure what 30 lbs of pressure feels like, we recommend “practice” tamping on your bathroom scale to get the feel of it. The reason to keep this pressure consistent is so that if your shots aren’t falling into the 20 –25 second range, you will only have one variable to change: your grind setting.

If you’re grinding your own beans and find that your:

  • shot is too slow (more than 25 seconds), adjust your grinder to a coarser setting.
  • shot is too fast (less than 20 seconds), adjust your grinder to a finer setting.
However, not everyone has a grinder. If you’re using preground coffee, your grind setting will remain consistent, so if your shots aren’t brewing between 20 and 25 seconds you’re going to change your tamp pressure instead.

If you’re using preground coffee and find that your:

  • shot is too slow (more than 25 seconds), apply less tamp pressure.
  • shot is too fast (less than 20 seconds), apply more tamp pressure.
To learn more about what goes into making that perfect shot, read our article titled “Key Ingredients in Perfect Espresso”.
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Coffee: Your Secret Weapon Against Skin Cancer?

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:18 PM
Related Categories: Coffee and Your Health

I admit it; I’m a sun-worshipping summer baby. In the dead of winter, I’m a fake n’ baker—pit stopping at the local tanning salon on a semi-regular basis. In warmer weather, I brazenly bask in the sun’s glory, as often as my schedule permits. But, I’m not completely irresponsible; I know the havoc that UV rays can wreak on the skin and begrudgingly carry a bottle of sunblock in my purse, as a result. With over a million Americans diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancers every year, I, for one, will take all the help I can get. But, who knew that, of all things, coffee could lend a helping hand!

A study, recently published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, reveals that caffeine actually helps to kill UV-damaged skin cells—responsible for causing a number of skin cancers. This finding seems to echo several earlier studies, showing that those who regularly consume coffee or tea are less likely to develop nonmelanoma skin cancers. One particularly promising report comes to us courtesy of the researchers at the University of Washington. They followed over 90,000 Caucasian women and the results were astonishing. The women’s risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer dropped by 5% with every cup of caffeinated coffee they consumed! But, it’s important to note that decaffeinated coffee had no effect on the participants and tea was only half as effective as regular coffee in preventing the development of skin cancer.

Scientists are just as excited about the studies’ results as the rest of us. There’s been talk that these findings could lead to the development of caffeinated lotions, with the ability to safeguard against certain types of skin cancers and reverse the effects of UV damage. Until then, I think I’ll pack a cup of Joe with me the next time I hit the beach!

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Easy Banana Coffee Muffins

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:08 PM
Related Categories: Recipes

I’m not a cook; my culinary skills begin and end at the microwave. But, this banana coffee muffin recipe seems pretty straightforward; it should be doable for even the kitchen-challenged, like me.


  • 1 cup of chopped pecans (they can be raw or toasted)
  • 4 ripe bananas (you’ll want to smash those suckers up)
  • 1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of strong coffee (check out our coffee selection)
  • Pinch salt

Baking Directions
When you’re ready to get started, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you grease a muffin tin that has at least 12 cups or, if you prefer, use paper liners.

Throw your butter, bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla, and coffee into a big bowl and mix it all together. Then, add the salt and baking soda and continue to mix. After that, pour the flour into your bowl and mix until the batter has a good consistency and add the pecans.

Pour your batter into the muffin tin, divvying it up into equal parts. That’s it; throw that baby into the oven for 20-30 minutes and you’ve got some killer banana coffee muffins!

Hint: Let the muffin tin cool on a rack after it is done baking. If you’re not sure whether the muffins are ready, stick a toothpick into a random muffin, if the toothpick comes out clean, then you’re good to go!

Michael’s Banana Coffee Muffins from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/michaels-banana-coffee-muffins-recipe/index.html

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Top 5 Grinder Buying Tips

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:07 PM
Related Categories: Grinder Guides

Brewing a double shot of espressoBuying a coffee grinder seems like a simple enough process, but we've found that when people start doing a little research, they quickly realize that it's a bit more involved than they originally thought. This guide will help you organize what you want – and more importantly, what you need – into a simple list of parameters that will narrow down your selections and lead you to the perfect grinder.

1. Consider what you'll be using your grinder for.

If your main objective is to use your grinder with one machine, then your concern should lie in finding a grinder that will produce a grind coarse or fine enough for your machine. However, nowadays it's fairly common to have a few different brewers at home, be it a French press and a vacuum pot or an espresso machine and drip coffee maker. When you're going to be using your coffee grinder for a range of machines, you'll need a fairly comprehensive range of grind settings as well. Each of our product descriptions states the types of machines the grinder is compatible with, so make sure to verify that the grinder you're researching will be able to handle the full load before making your final decision.

2. Consider each of your brewers' requirements.

A big thing to keep in mind is how much leeway your brewer affords you in the grounds department. For instance, when you're brewing in a drip coffee maker with a paper filter, an even and consistent grind isn't quite as important because the paper filter will prevent any tiny particles from making their way into your cup. In this case, you can even get away with using a blade coffee grinder. However, permanent filters let more of the little stuff through, so you should stay away from blade grinders and go for the consistency that burr coffee grinders provide. You're looking at a similar situation with French presses and vacuum pots as they have permanent filters that let the smaller sediments through, which can lead to a muddier cup.
Different Types of Filters
With espresso machines, you need to consider the type of portafilter that's included. Portafilters will fall into 2 categories: pressurized and non-pressurized/commercial. Although both types require the grind to be consistent to avoid channeling (water finding small paths to flow through instead of saturating the ground coffee evenly), pressurized portafilters are less picky about the fineness of the coffee grinds you're using. There are some coffee grinders that are compatible with pressurized portafilters but don't grind quite fine enough for the commercial style, so check out your espresso coffee maker (or the one you're planning to buy) before choosing the grinder.

3. Consider where you'll be putting your coffee grounds.

The place your coffee grounds are going to end up for brewing is a good way to decide what type of dispensing mechanism will be most appropriate and easiest for you to use. If you're going to be brewing for drip coffee, a French press, or a vacuum pot, you'll probably find it easier to use a grinder that either has a chute on the front of the machine that can dispense your grounds directly into the grounds' final destination (like the filter or carafe) or a grinder that has an internal grounds catcher that can easily be removed, allowing you to dump the grounds where they need to go.

On the other hand, if you're brewing for an espresso machine you may find it easier to use a coffee grinder with a doser – a unit on the front of the grinder that catches the grounds and allows you to dispense them in small, pre-measured doses. This takes the guesswork out of filling your portafilter, ensuring that you brew with the proper amount of coffee every time. However, it is important to note that because of dosers' compatibility with portafilters (they generally have portafilter “forks” that hold the portafilter in place during grinding), it can be a little more difficult to dose into a drip coffee filter or French press.

4. Consider where you'll be putting the grinder.

The #1 thing people forget to take into account when purchasing a coffee grinder is where they're going to put it. Why is this important? It specifically dictates how large a machine you can accommodate. Generally, the dimension of most concern is the grinder's height simply because there are limitations on the amount of space between your countertop and kitchen cabinets, but it is wise to take the width and depth into account as well if you're limited on counter space.

5. Consider the kind of control you want.

Up close view of buttons on a Mazzer Mini grinderOur selection of grinders has a wide range of controls to make the grinding process easy no matter what you're grinding for. Several grinders have simple on/off switches that you press once to start grinding and again to stop. But many models also have built-in timers, so after you start grinding, the machine will automatically stop itself after the selected amount of time.

This decision is mostly a matter of preference, but there are a few options that can be beneficial depending on the type of machine you'll be grinding for. For instance, many of the drip coffee compatible grinders we carry have timers that are labeled with the number of cups you'll be brewing. So if you wanted to brew 4 cups, you'd just turn the dial to the 4-cup selection and you'd get the perfect amount of ground coffee. In addition, we have some grinders that have programmable buttons, which you set to grind and dispense a specific amount of ground coffee and then stop automatically when it's been dispensed.

By considering each of these points when you're in the market for a grinder, you'll easily be able to narrow down the field of choices and find the best machine for you. You can find all of the information you need to know about our grinders in their product descriptions or by comparing them side-by-side with our Compare Products feature. To start shopping now, visit our selection of coffee grinders. Or, return to our buying guides and articles if you'd like to continue researching grinders.
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Money Saving Tip — Beat the Recession Blues with Homemade Brews

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 25, 2011 at 5:05 PM
Related Categories: Espresso Essentials

Frugal is the new black. Seriously. With the economy sputtering for the past year and a half, cost consciousness is on the rise among savvy Americans. But instead of quitting our indulgences cold turkey, many of us are looking for ways to cut costs while still retaining our quality of life.

If your routine includes stops at the local café, those daily drinks can add up quickly—and put quite a dent on your wallet. For instance, if you buy a $4.27 Venti Mocha every day, that comes out to be almost $120 a month or nearly $1500 a year! Ouch.

But, we at Aabree would never tell you to give up your java, not with all the health benefits it provides. Instead, consider brewing at home. If you invest in a decent espresso machine, you could make those fancy frappe-cappa-lattes at home and save some big bucks in the long run.

Once you’ve already decided to become a home barista, a great way to save even more cash is by checking out sale items. Aabree has an extensive sale section, featuring everything from machines to coffee and accessories for up to 50% off. You could, conceivably, create your very own home café for half off retail price.

If there’s a machine you’ve been lusting after and it’s not on our sale page, consider getting a reconditioned unit. Aabree has a wide selection of reconditioned machines available for up to 44% off regular price. Our reconditioned machines are guaranteed to be in perfect working condition and all come with warranties, ensuring your complete satisfaction.

Now, if you’re a true bargain hunter, make sure to keep an eye on your e-mail inbox, we send weekly specials and coupons that will save you a ton of dough. So, there’s no excuse to overpay for another a cup of Joe. It’s never been easier to brew your own morning latte, cappuccino, Americano, or espresso. Take a peek at our inventory and discover the money saving secrets home baristas have known for years.

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Introduction: Gaggia for Illy

Posted on 11/29/11 by  Aabree Coffee
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