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My name is Brian and this blog is my baby. I love coffee - I love espresso - and I also love all those awesome coffee accessories to my wife's chagrin.

Please subscribe to the blog and make sure to check out the following sections of the site below. These are topics I have covered in great detail over the past year... and thanks so much for stopping by!

What Interests You Most?
Home Coffee Roasting Health Benefits Of Coffee Coffee Brewing Methods
Product Reviews Accessories & Equip How-To Coffee Guides

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Five Most Famous Places To Get Coffee In Seattle


Not too long ago I hit up Seattle for the first time - May actually. I was in coffee heaven.

In the United States it would actually be hard for you to find a city with a more widespread coffee culture than Seattle.

Maybe it’s the weather, there may be something in the water, but either way, truth be told, Seattle is a coffee town and I'm here to show you where you should go to get your daily dose of Joe if you, like me, are a coffee enthusiast in the area.

Tully's Coffee

This specialty coffee retailer and wholesaler is based in (you guessed it) Seattle, Washington and it is known for having expanded by opening stores right next to those owned by Starbucks. This tongue-in-cheek strategy is one of the reasons why this is a great company but definitely not the only one. They specialize in coffee, baked goods, espresso, pastries and they also sell coffee-related merchandise. Its first store opened in 1992, quickly developing into a strong regional coffee retailer in an area where coffee loyalty is a thing (there is allegedly just one coffee house for every 4,000 customers). More recent reports state that Tully’s has changed its business perspective, no longer making competing with Starbucks its main goal, but looking to serve first quality hand crafted coffee while also expanding into the wholesale market.

Café Allegro

Located in Seattle’s University District, this coffee house is well-known as being the first espresso shop to ever be based in Seattle. The building where Café Allegro has its headquarters is an early 20th century structure that was chosen by the café’s founder, Dave Olsen, because of its proximity to the University of Washington’s campus. Olsen bought, owned and managed Café Allegro while buying its coffee from Starbucks. A business relationship developed and Olsen ended up creating what is, to this day Starbucks’ standard espresso offering. Café Allegro has a bohemian feel to it, catering to the University’s students and offering a wide range of coffee and coffee related goods. It’s a Seattle staple and a must-go if you’re in the area.

Seattle’s Best Coffee

Technically a subsidiary wholly owned by the giant known as Starbucks, this coffee retailer has stores in more than fifteen states and its sub-stores can be found in many college campuses and within other stores such as Subway restaurants. Seattle’s Best Coffee is, generally speaking, cheaper than that of its parent company and is publicized and marketed as more of a working class coffee when compared to the more upper-class Starbucks. To be fair, Seattle’s Best Coffee’s association with Starbucks is fairly new, having been bought in 2003. The café itself is an institution that goes back as far as the seventies that has earned a right to stand on its own, with a proper history and a strong, faithful clientele.

Espresso Vivace

Founded in 1988, this coffee shop and roaster also calls Seattle its home. Famous for its high quality coffee and roasting practices, its owner and founder, David Schomer is internationally recognized for his coffee-making abilities, and its innovative ideas. His customizations on grinders and espresso machines have been known to achieve more constant water temperature and, in the end, a better cup of coffee. He is also highly credited with being the responsible behind what has lately been known as “latte art”. Baristas all over the world now create little works of art in every latte cup thanks to him. This artistic and innovative take on coffee has gained a lot of followers, and many more traditional coffee houses were forced to recreate themselves in order to stay in business.

Victrola Coffee Roasters:

Last but definitely not least, this roaster is another classic in the Seattle coffee scene. Also a coffee house, Victrola was founded in the early 2000s. But Victrola is not your old-fashioned, run-of-the-mill coffee roaster. What sets Victrola apart is their policy of teaching their patrons all they know about coffee. Cupping classes are taught weekly, and they also regularly publish tutorials on their website (http://www.victrolacoffee.com/). Some critics have gone as far as calling the Victrola model an art form and, whether you agree with this description or not, its undeniably high quality products and their amicable staff make this roaster and coffee house another place you wouldn't want to miss when in town.

If you are going on a trip and plan on hitting some of these spots than please take the time to learn a bit about coffee. A few days back I posted a comparison of single origin and blended coffees. Give it a read as all these roasters emphasize the beans origins - you don't want to be lost when talking to an experienced barista. :)
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Single Origin Coffee Vs Blends: What's The Difference

Let’s be real. Normal, regular coffee drinkers don’t pay a lot of mind to this characteristic. But you are no normal, regular coffee drinker and you do care where your beans came from. The thing is, though both sides have their detractors and their advocates, both coffee types have their blessings and their curses. T

he real coffee aficionado should know these, not only to impress other coffee drinkers but to make an informed decision whenever the time comes. Sometimes you will think a single origin cup of coffee is what you need; other times, a blend. The variety of flavors available is almost limitless, and you will be glad you made the choice to open your mind (and your taste buds!).

Let’s take a look at some of the more general characteristics of each group. You draw your own conclusions, and trust me, you will not be disappointed.

What About Coffee Blends

As it may be easy to imagine, one of the strongest arguments against blends is that producers may use this as a strategy to “hide” poorer quality beans. This is why it is strongly advised to taste and try the different crops that make up one blend in order to be able to enjoy each type separately, which will also make you able to differentiate which characteristics each individual crop brings to the blend.

But blends are definitely not all about hiding and suspicion. Roasters who specialize in this area of coffee making are genuinely looking into giving the costumer the greatest flavor possible. By taking advantage of one bean’s body, another’s aroma and a third one’s flavor, roasters and baristas are able to offer their clients a unique blend that represents their particular style and can even be a signature for their specific coffee houses.

How About Single Origin Coffee

On the other hand, a strong critique that has been made against single origin beans is that they often lack one or even more characteristics that are wanted when looking for the ultimate cup of Joe.

As I said before, blends are used to counteract this flaw, but many coffee purists affirm that the beans are not to blame. Their argument, which I find is pretty coherent, states that this weakness can be attributed to people applying the same process to every bean without leaving room for experimenting and trial and error.

It is considered a fact by most coffee drinkers that every crop is different, so using the same exact brewing method for all seems a bit counterproductive. If you are brewing with a quality coffee grinder then it should be easy to change your grind and use a different coffee brewing method to maximize the beans potential.

Is One Better Than The Other

So I think it is safe to say that the best thing about blends is how customizable they are. You can adjust almost every aspect of your coffee by purchasing different beans and mixing and experimenting. Of course this is a recipe for many failed cups but I promise you the final result is priceless and you won’t be able to get it over the counter.

When it comes to single origin beans, their strongest suit is their honesty. You will be able to taste every little facet of the bean in a much purer way, and once you learn which method works best for a specific bean, you are set.

Personally, I don’t think one type of coffee is better than the other. I am a coffee fan and I acknowledge that specific blends adjust better to specific needs but I can appreciate all the different little characteristics that come up when tasting a single origin cup of coffee. What is true, though, is how different both styles are, but I see that as an advantage rather than a competition. If you open your mind a bit, you will find that what you have been missing is much better and richer than whatever prejudice was holding you back.
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Whats The Best Nespresso Machine For A Latte


Which Nespresso Machine Makes The Best Lattes?

Nespresso makes some really awesome single serve coffee and espresso drinks. They are on par with Keurig in the single serve coffee department but set themselves ahead by really nailing the espresso drinks as opposed to the coffee drinks.

Two of the most popular espresso based drinks are the latte and the cappuccino - both of which Nespresso machines excel at making. Depending on your love of automation any of the Nespresso machines will make fine espresso but the Lattissima will make the best Lattes and Cappuccinos without the need of human intervention.

What I like most is that you can hook you milk compartment up and hit a button and it makes the mixed drink without you actually having to dirty up anything else. The wand that steams the milk is then easily cleaned, again, at the push of a button. I love that!

The Nespresso Lattissima Vs The Aeroccino
The Lattissima costs more but it will froth your milk for you. You can buy a Nespresso U plus an Aeroccino and save some money but you'll have to combine drinks manually to make a latte.

The Lattissima Plus & Pro

Fully Automatic Lattes Made Easy

The Lattissima Pro is the best option possible for the home barista that wants to make a great latte at the touch of a button. The machine will heat and froth your milk for you and then add the espresso all at the touch of a button for maximum convenience.

 DeLonghi Silver Lattissima Plus Nespresso Capsule System DeLonghi EN680.M Nespresso Lattissima Single-Serve Espresso Maker, Metal

One thing worth noting - the original Lattissima is a bit old and not worth getting. The plus is great but the pro model will give you more space to use bigger and wider cups.

Nespresso U Or Pixie Plus Aeroccino Frother

If you want to save $100-$200 then you should go for the Nespresso U or the Nespresso Pixie which both make really excellent espresso shots at the touch of a button. You can then also use the separate Aeroccino frother to heat and froth your milk for you to add to the espresso for your drink. This creates a manual set of steps but it also gives you full control on the volume of milk and/or froth you add to any of your drinks which in my opinion is a big plus.

 Nespresso U D50 Espresso Maker with Aeroccino Milk Frother, Pure Black Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker With Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother, Electric Titan

Make A Latte With The Lattissima

Here's a video demonstrating how it's done.

What Do I Prefer?

I always want full control over my drinks. Yes the Lattissima allows you to program the machine to make drinks the way you like it best but I like to switch things up from time to time and experiment.

I also like to have the freedom and flexibility to make drinks differently every time especially if I’m preparing drinks for friends or family. I know that if my sister comes to town then I need to have more milk in the cup. My wife? She wants more foam than milk. Me? I want less milk in the morning and more milk in my drinks later in the day.

The basic machine makes great shots for me and the separate frother lets me make drinks however I please… all while saving me money in the end. I like that.
Read full post »

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are Contigo Travel Mugs Dishwasher Safe?

Kind Of... Let Me Explain

I've used many a travel mug in my day and there's always one thing I wish I could do with my mugs - I want to be able to throw them in the dishwasher without damaging them.

I have plenty of experience in putting cheap mugs in the dishwasher and finding them not too long down the road leaking. Some seams on some mugs have started separating and you start getting weird swishing water accumulating in between the walls of the mugs. This water never comes out for some reason. It's pretty disturbing.

Well with Contigo mugs, although the build quality is far higher than normal run of the mill travel mugs not a lot is different. if you want the thing to last you should probably hand wash it. However this is not a hard and fast rule across the board.

The Lids Are Dishwasher Safe But That's It

If you want to throw your Contigo travel mugs in the dishwasher Contigo recommends you only put the lids in the top rack of the dishwasher. The lid is largely made of plastic and it opens up in many of the newer models to allow for deep cleaning. Without a bottle brush like the set pictured below this can be pretty hard. It may be best to clean your Contigo by hand but it certainly isn’t the most convenient in all situations.

How To Clean A Travel Mug

if you are going to clean your travel mug by hand then make sure you have a good set of bottle brushes. It will make your life much easier. The big brush can get all the way down to the bottom of the tumbler and scrub it on all sides far easier than you can shove a sponge down there to clean. And the nooks and crannies of the lid are basically impossible to get to without the tiny brush included in the set above.

Assuming you have the brushes or something relatively similar then all you really need is warm soapy water. Just lightly scrub them down periodically and all will be well. You don’t want coffee oil residue from building up and this is really all it takes to keep the residue at bay.

If you want to minimize coffee odors the occasional soak in a 95/5 mixture of water and white vinegar will do the trick but you’ll have to do this periodically because once that coffee smell sets into the plastic lid it can be virtually impossible to get rid of. It’s what many people recommend buying two mugs. One dedicated to coffee and the other dedicated to everything else. Why else do you think Contigo sells their popular Autoseal line in packs of two anyway?

Cleaning The Lid By Hand

Here’s a good demo of hand washing the auto-seal lids although it's worth noting that older models have a different lid that doesn't open up like this one.

Read full post »

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Many Different Coffee Brewing Methods

In the coffee world everybody has their own preferred coffee brewing method. Some may even prefer two... but only under very specific circumstances.

I for one love making stovetop espresso and french press coffee. These are my favorites by far. I'm fine with drip coffee and I've had good coffee from a percolator too but I know that I just don't like cold coffee, even when it's made well.

Even still I know plenty of people out there love cold brewed coffee so I won't shut them out. Below I've indeed many of the most popular coffee brewing techniques and linked out to other places here on TOMC where I've covered the method in greater depth.

If you are looking for guides or tips on how to brew better coffee then this is the place to start looking.

What Coffee Brewing Method Interests You The Most?

Stovetop Espresso | Drip Coffee | French Press Coffee | Steam Espresso | Pump Espresso | Percolator Coffee | Pour Over | Cold Brew | Alternative Brewing Methods

In the future this site will feature large amounts of information on all these brewing systems. This page will be updated periodically as new posts are published.
Read full post »

The Health Benefits Of Coffee Consumption

Is coffee healthy to drink? There's a lot of data to suggest it is healthy for most people although medical researchers are always testing and learning new things about coffee, caffeine, and related drinks such as teas.

Here on Top Off My Coffee I've blogged a bit on the health implications of coffee. I've answered some related questions and pondered the effects of drinking coffee in large or small amounts every day.

You can see the most important of those posts listed below.

French Press Coffee Can Increase Your Cholesterol - In this post I found out that french press coffee has a slight impact on cholesterol. This is most likely due to the filtration process in that all the oils stay in the cup rather than get filtered out through a paper filter.

Does Coffee Make You Dehydrated? - Coffee is well known to cause a diuretic effect but it's no more significant than the volume of fluids ingested. In short drinking coffee may make you pee but it shouldn't dehydrate you any more than you were dehydrated before having a cup.

Does Coffee Upset Your Stomach? - Some people may be sensitive to poorly processed coffee beans, others may be sensitive to higher acidity in coffee. Still others may find it difficult dealing with high caffeine contents of coffee. Each of these issues however can be managed if you care to.

As more topics are covered this page will be updated. I hope you find this page useful and I'd like to encourage you to share this socially using the buttons provided below or to the left.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Finally! Got My Hands On The Ceramic Slim Coffee Grinder by Hario

I've been talking about this grinder for the better part of a year here on this site. I've been having all my coffee beans ground in the store every time I buy them for too long so I finally broker down and bought the Ceramic Slim Hario that I'm mentioned time and time again here on the blog.

You can see my mention of it on this page featuring the best manual coffee grinders for sale today.

Funny thing is I actually bough the thing a month ago and have been using it all this time. I wanted to post a video along with this post as I announced the new purchase but it took me forever to get around to putting the video together.

For now I have zero intention of reviewing the grinder or giving you any how-tos regarding the grinder but I did want to share with you my unboxing video.

The Hario Slim is one of the most popular grinders you can buy in it's product group but I had a hard time finding personal reviews of what to expect when you opened the box let alone when you used it so for those looking for a manual grinder check out this video to see what you're getting.

If you prefer you can see the video directly on YouTube through this link.

In the near future I'll add some posts to the site summarizing my thoughts using it. Suffice to say it's gong to get my approval but there are a few things about it that should be mentioned. I will however leave that for another post.
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