Yamamoto European Blend Drip Coffee

So my employer has good coffee at work. But as a coffee snob, I get bored easily, so I enjoy bringing in Japanese “pour over” coffee packets. With these, you place a pre-packaged filter in a cardboard holder over top of the coffee cup, pour hot water over it, and presto, coffee.

My favorite brand is Ogawa coffee, which is based in Kyoto, but the only seller of it I have found is on Amazon and it takes a million years to get here. So while I’m waiting for that, I found an acceptable substitute at one of the local Japanese markets.

It’s called “European Blend” drip coffee, by Yamamoto. My one big problem with Japanese drip coffee packets is they don’t pack enough punch! The big offender here is the ubiquitous Key Coffee brand. Alas, this is the easiest to find in the United States.

The European Blend Yamamoto brand doesn’t quite have the bitter punch of Ogawa’s Kyoto-roasted beans, but it is stronger than Key Coffee, so it’ll do.

Alas, I could not find an American distributor of this, but you can find the coffee ground version of it at Amazon, here.

Of course, if you want to purchase the actual drip packets on amazon.jp, go here.


Saeco X-Small Espresso Machine

As posted on Costco.com, which is where I bought it.

This machine filled my needs and desires as a coffee lover perfectly: a machine that creates a perfect shot of espresso, while using actual beans that you provide; ground fresh with each shot you make. At this, the X-Small delivers.

However, you should understand about this machine:
1. It will not make a pot of coffee. Single shot, double shot, and a full single cup are the options you get here. If you need to make coffee for many people (regular drip coffee), you’ll need something else to address that.
2. There is a very small learning curve to using the machine. Mostly, this involves the water supply; sometimes the machine will give you a red light error; in my experience, this is mostly because the water supply hasn’t gone into the control circuit (see the manual): all you have to do is turn the knob to the steam setting. Sometimes after doing this, the red light persists, and I’ve had to turn the machine on and off again.
3. This machine is not meant to hold huge amounts of water and beans, so it really isn’t something you are expected to “set and forget.” You’ll need to refill the water depot every 4 shots or so (less if you pull double and full cup shots). You’ll need to empty the used coffee grounds bin every 5-7 shots. It holds more beans than it looks, only requiring more beans every few days if you use the machine 4-5 times per day.
4. The milk frother wand might seem intimidating to use at first, but it’s incredibly easy. You’ll love it. Submerge that wand in the milk and let it rip.
5. This is not, like many fancy coffee machines on the market, a “jack of all trades” type machine that is meant to do lots of stuff. This is actually why I’m rating this five stars. It was built to make espresso from fresh beans that are ground “to order,” and it does an awesome job at that. It gives you *just enough* options: you can adjust the grind setting, you can make a double shot (which can also be used to make two servings at once as you see in the picture), and you can make a “full cup” of coffee, which will fill about one half or so of a standard coffee cup (this tastes different than drip coffee, but I like the flavor; it’s a somewhat watered down espresso shot basically. I’m surprised how often I use that feature). You can also dispense just hot water for tea, etc.

My only legit gripes:
1. The machine outputs some waste water with every use, and pumps a bit of hot clear water every time the machine is turned on (to prime it, I’m sure). You’ll need to empty the waste water tray often, and clean it often as the coffee sediment creates a gunk. Would suggest Saeco think about a different way to eject the waste water (perhaps a tube one can run to a sink?).
2. It’s a little disappointing that you can’t use “oily” beans, which limit you to light to medium roasts (darker = more oils, which is bad for the machinery). This is common, however, for machines of this type.
3. My coffee snobbery is now at an all time high, since the quality of my home coffee is now sufficient that I strongly dislike coffee most everywhere else!


Negative reviews of this machine focus on the small water quantity being held and the bitter taste.

The whole point of the X-Small is “small footprint.” Remember: this isn’t some crappy auto coffee machine that uses pods (which I detest), but a legit, Italian made pump based espresso machine. So for it to take as little space as it does (it’s still bigger than your standard drip machine though) requires some engineering. Just fill up the freaking reservoir!!!

Re: the taste, come on now, that is purely a function of the beans you use and the style of coffee being made. Espresso is going to have some kick: you are forcing super hot water through beans at a fast rate. To get a smooth cup of coffee, you’ll want to use either a drip machine, or, as I do, a pour over funnel placed on top of a cup.