March 24, 2008

Starbucks - Big Relaunch Plans


As a part of their brand and product relaunch, Starbucks is buying the company that makes the Clover coffee machine; a new brew method that we reported on here at SingleServeEspresso back in January. We also reported that Starbucks was testing the Clover in a few locations around the country, which must have been pretty successful, because they must have decided that the machine was so good, it was worth buying the company.

Starbucks also announced that they are building their customer loyalty program to include free flavor shots for their members, free soy milk in prepared coffee drinks and free refills on brewed coffee. PRetty cheap ways to say "Thank-you" to the loyalists, but the costs have to add up. In the end though, all you need to do is get people to come in a few more times a month, and you'll pay it out fast.

Starbucks also launched the crowdsourcing site MyStarbucksIdea where people can suggest ideas, and others can comment on or build on them.

Starbucks - "Pay Back Tips" - $100 Mil.

In other news, Starbucks was ordered to pay millions to baristas who were short changed when tips were distributed every week. It was Starbucks' policy to pool tips and pay the tips out on a weekly basis to all workers, from baristas to supervisors who worked that week. You got your share based on how many hours you worked, and it added up to about an extra $1 per hour; which can add up.... to about $100 Million. That's the amount of money a California Court wants Starbucks to pay back to baristas in tips that they lost out on.

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March 18, 2008

Handpresso Available in the US - Still Great

Handpresso Wild, the uber-cool Bike Pump looking portable espresso brewer is now available in the US allowing folks on this side of the Atlantic to enjoy this Euro originated brewer without the hassle of overseas ordering. We enjoyed getting our Handpresso in January, covering it with an Unboxing of the Handpresso, and then a First Impressions post quickly after that.

Still Great
I continue to use the Handpresso on a regular basis at work, and really think that it's a great way to enjoy espresso away from the coffee shop or my army of brewers at home. I get a fair amount of strange looks, but the little break is a great way to enjoy an indulgent little pick-me-up in the afternoon. I usually hit the office coffee maker for some hot water to pre-heat the cup, and Handpresso reservoir to make sure I get a good shot. The office brewer does not put out terribly hot water, so I need to nurse out every bit of heat that I can before brewing. I pour out the pre-heat water, add the brew water, the pod and I am ready to go.

I have been using a few different pods, especially some of my favorites like the Lavazza Grand Crema and the Mokarabia Strong ESE Pods.

The $149 is not a cheap price to pay for such an indulgence, but you get what you pay for, and in this instance, it's a very solidly built unit. Better to pay the price for something that will work well and last, versus paying a cheap price and having the unit fall apart.

The whole thing comes in at over a pound, and is made of aluminum, with a high quality feel and action. It comes with an extra "o" ring, but in the couple of months I have been using it, I haven't seen any issues.

So, while it might be great for camping, it is also a great brewer for a quick brew at work, or anywhere else good coffee is scarce.

At Amazon - The Handpresso Wild

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March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day - Irish Coffee Anyone?


Happy St. Patrick's Day
, and with that comes a whole lot of celebration around the world, or maybe just in a few select places like here in Boston, where we also know it as Evacuation Day; the day the Redcoats evacuated Boston under the watchful eye of George Washington.

We enjoyed a little warm Irish Coffee in front of the fire this past weekend, and hey maybe it's not too late to grab a little whiskey and enjoy some yourself.

Basic Irish Coffee
1 Shot Irish Whiskey
6-8 ounces of strong coffee
Cream, Milk to taste
Whipped Cream - That spray can stuff makes it easy!

In an Irish Coffee Glass combine sugar and irish whiskey and stir.
Add Coffee
Add Cream or milk and stir
Top with Whipped Cream

My preference is to substitute an Americano, Espresso mixed with Hot Water, for the coffee portion above.

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March 12, 2008

Coffee Prices on the Rise

tullyslogo.jpgCoffee prices are on the rise, and two favorites in our house are not immune. With the costs of the raw material - quality green coffee going up, the cost to me, a big coffee consumer are going up too.
Recently the cost of my Nespresso capsules went up; a whole 3 cents, from $0.49 each to $0.52, but hey it's an increase. I think that I can afford it though, especially if it keeps me away from Starbucks for just one day, I'll be good for a few months. I brew in the Nespresso Essenza C100, shots of espresso mostly.

Long time readers also know that we run on a Keurig B-70 in our house and for us, it's allowed everyone in the household to get a cup of what they want. I mean hey, I like the regular stuff too, it's just got to be a pretty hefty roast. Our sister site, just reported on some price increases coming for K-cup coffees too. I went over to Coffeewiz and picked up some Tully's French Roast; a pretty popular flavor in our household.
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March 11, 2008

Should I Tamp My Espresso?


A lot of people wonder if they should tamp their ground espresso in the portafilter before brewing. Sure the baristas at the coffee shops do it, so should you? The answer is yes, but for potentially a different reason. To start, you need to understand the difference between a professional portafilter and a consumer portafilter.

In a professional machine where the portafilter has only a screen on the bottom, and the pour spout. When the brewer starts pumping, it's the cake of espresso that needs to provide the resistance so that proper back pressure is developed and all of that coffee goodness is extracted from the grounds.

In a consumer machine, portafilters typically only have a very small pin hole in the bottom of the portafilter. They sometimes mask it by putting a waffle pattern on the bottom of the portafilter, but look closely, the outlet is only a pinhole. The back pressure if created by this pinhole, and the fact that the machine can pump more water than the pinhole can let out in the same amount of time - the result; pressure.

So if the back pressure is created by the pinhole in a consumer machine, why tamp? It's about channeling and weak brews. If you just drop coffee in without tamping, you'll still get some decent extraction, and decent crema, but when you tamp, the water will not cut channels through the coffee grounds as easily and it will be forced to go through the coffee instead of around it.

The other day I brewed up 10 shots of espresso just dropping a scoop of espresso into the portafilter of the Cuisinart EM-200 that I have on my counter top, a nice unit with a consumer portafilter design. Each one had a nice overall crema, but lacked a bit in flavor and intensity.

I also brewed up 10 shots of espresso and tamped them lightly with a simple tamp that came along with the EM-200, and brewed those; same amount of coffee, same coffee. I alternated to get pairs of shots to taste them essentially side by side. I did my best to get the shots as close as possible in brew time, and in amount of water. I brewed them into a pair of Bodum Pavina glasses - double walled glass to minimize heat loss.

The extraction was better overall with the tamped shots; fuller body, better flavor. You don't need a ton of force to tamp these, but give it a little tamp, seat the coffee and enjoy a better shot.

This Espresso Hand Tamp has a clear top to the handle and is 49mm is diameter, just a bit under 2 inches. Check your portafilter diameter to make sure this works. Otherwise there are other tamps available for different diameters.

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March 10, 2008

Starbuck's Honey Latte - Less than 300 calories


Don't know if you've tried one of these, but I did on the way through town the other day and if you are looking for a sweet treat, it's not a bad choice. Not exactly for the expresso purist, but for folks who might love the other fun Lattes in their line, and don't mind the extra calories that come with this sweet treat, it's worth a try. Of course you need to like honey, and if you are watching your weight, I would jump on the No Whip version; it will save you 70 calories on a Grande size. Go no fat milk and you're now under 300 calories on the Grande size.

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March 6, 2008

New NYC Gimme Coffee Location

No surprise one of the best coffee shops in the country is opening up another shop in the city. Their new address is at 228 Mott St, NYC, and it's been open since January. The spot just North of Little Italy, allows them to access a few more thousand people at change how they think of quality espresso.

If you're in the city, go find them and get a great espresso drink. Or you can just visit on the web.

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March 4, 2008

Lavazza Crema e Aroma - Subscription, 15% off


I've had this blend in the past and liked it for its solid robust flavor; dark, but not too dark.

AmazonSubscriptionBox.jpgWhat I think it interesting is that now Amazon is offering it to be shipped to you on a regular basis, in a "subscription" format through their Subscribe & Save (Information), that gets you free shipping and a 15% discount off the regular price. Not bad. See the box at the right as an example of what the set-up looks like.

This Subscribe & Save program is not limited to just the Lavazza Crema e Aroma; it's available on a whole bunch of Whole Bunch of Coffee & Espresso. Makes total sense if you just want to sign up, and forget. The free shipping totally clinches the deal.

Lavazza Crema & Aroma at Amazon

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February 27, 2008

Get Stok'd - Extra Shot of Caffeine

Stok Coffee Shot

So the folks who came up with Stok must have had late night study marathons in mind or those overnight road trips where a cup of hot brown coffee stuff just wouldn't beat back the on-coming sleep. Stok is a tiny shot of black coffee with 40 mg of caffeine; equivalent to a shot of espresso. Stok in a bit of marketing hype claims that you should have a 2 per day limit - I mean when was the last time that any espresso shot drinker could deal with less than 2 per day! Maybe given that these are designed to be tossed in on top of another cup of coffee, you could get the jitters pretty quickly without even trying. Available in regular and sweet versions in those little creamer cups.

Check out their Website - Stok


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February 21, 2008

"Espresso Maker" - $12.99


Yea, I don't know if this thing is for real, but it caught my eye as much for the price as for its lack of any specifics on its features. Maybe because It doesn't have any to speak of?

"This compact countertop wonder brews two perfect cups of European-style coffee with the flick of a switch." - Not so sure this really means espresso.

At Amazon - the $12.99 "Espresso" Maker

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