Is brew temperature the most difficult part of the equation to figure out?

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
Beavis

#1: Post by Beavis »

I'm fairly new but don't get this brew temperature issue. How do these posters know that the water hits the puck at exactly a certain temperature? Do any machines have a temperature gauge that shows the temp at the grouphead? Please explain.
I have the grind, distribution and the tamp issues under control. I figure it's all about the temperature now?
Thanks, Beavis

User avatar
HB
Admin

#2: Post by HB »

Beavis wrote:How do these posters know that the water hits the puck at exactly a certain temperature?
For comparison's sake, I use a thermofilter:

Image

It's precisely manufactured and designed to measure the temperature at the same point beneath the dispersion screen. It's an excellent comparison tool. Another tool is Eric's E61 / Silvia thermocouple adapter. It doesn't indicate the precise temperature at the puck's surface, but give you reliable feedback on the temperature of the incoming brew water. It's especially effective at eliminating the guesswork of HX flushes.

Image
E61 adapter with 1/16" sheathed thermocouple
Beavis wrote:I figure it's all about the temperature now?
I think the difficulty of temperature management is frequently overstated. Even the La Marzocco GS3, which is the current Holy Grail of brew temperature control, didn't magically transform my espresso (see One week with the La Marzocco GS3). In my opinion, getting the correct dose / distribution and diagnosing taste flaws are far far more difficult than temperature surfing whatever piece of espresso equipment you happen to have in front of you. My leading theory on why we obsess over it... because it's a lot easier for engineer types to measure brew temperature than the "quality" of an extraction.
Dan Kehn

User avatar
lblampman

#3: Post by lblampman »

HB wrote:I think the difficulty of temperature management is frequently overstated... My leading theory on why we obsess over it... because it's a lot easier for engineer types to measure brew temperature than the "quality" of an extraction.
Dan,

You really need to frame that one. Excellent. And thank you.
Les

Beavis

#4: Post by Beavis »

What machine for around $1000 brews at a more consistent temperature? How can the temp be measured on these more expensive machines? This temp issue seems so "nebulous"!
I have thought about upgrading but thought the PID would be a less expensive option.
Thanks, Beavis

User avatar
HB
Admin

#5: Post by HB »

Almost all espresso machines above entry level produce consistent brew temperature with proper operation. For Silvia, that means temperature surfing, for E61 HX machines, it means flushing using the water dance or the thermocouple adapter I posted above, for double boilers it means a quick warm up flush (as opposed to the variable flush amount of HX espresso machines).

One value of the site's reviews are clear, step-wise documentation of how to operate each espresso machine, confirmed by long-term use, direct measurement, and of course taste. Although I use a thermofilter and the like to shorten the "getting to know you" phase of a review, taste is a faster and more accurate means of adjusting the brew temperature. Adding a PID to your Silvia will conveniently manage the brew temperature, but in the end its LED display is just a number.

So to answer your questions directly:

Q. What machine for around $1000 brews at a more consistent temperature?
A. Lots of them, just pick one.

Q. How can the temp be measured on these more expensive machines?
A. Taste.
Dan Kehn

User avatar
Compass Coffee
Sponsor

#6: Post by Compass Coffee »

HB wrote:So to answer your questions directly:
Q. How can the temp be measured on these more expensive machines?
A. Taste.
Not really true and you know that Dan. The results in the cup of varying the temperature measured by taste yes, but not an actual shot temperature. Now if someone was very familiar with a particular coffee they could taste a shot and then say with a fair degree of accuracy what the shot temp was, but not so for a newbie or maybe even the average. While also and most importantly true if a shot is bitter and hence needs lower shot temp do what is necessary for given machine to pull next shot slightly cooler, or conversely if sour pull hotter. But that's not the same as someone posting pull blend X at 201f and a newbie with no measuring device having a clue how to get that same 201f for blend X on their machine. Then again depends on point of view I suppose, because they of course can bracket in the shot temp for blend X strictly by taste and whether the shot is actually at 201f or not is irrelevant if the taste is right. Ok. Semantics. Never mind. In a sense I suppose it is true!
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

User avatar
HB
Admin

#7: Post by HB »

Compass Coffee wrote:Then again depends on point of view I suppose, because they of course can bracket in the shot temp for blend X strictly by taste and whether the shot is actually at 201f or not is irrelevant if the taste is right. Ok. Semantics. Never mind. In a sense I suppose it is true!
Right, I bracket temperatures and don't think about the actual number, other than in terms of cool / medium / medium hot / hot, roughly corresponding to 198, 200, 202, and 204F. In other words, repeatability is the key, not the "absolute" temperature. I remember my lesson from One week with the La Marzocco GS3:
HB wrote:Comfort in digital readouts is false comfort. Our tastebuds were yelling the answer and we ignored their calls because an LCD display said it wasn't so. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." :oops:
Dan Kehn

User avatar
Compass Coffee
Sponsor

#8: Post by Compass Coffee »

HB wrote: In other words, repeatability is the key, not the "absolute" temperature.
Couldn't agree more. Repeatability and consistency in every phase of a shot is the key.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

gscace

#9: Post by gscace »

This is the point that often gets lost in this discussion. The right temperature is the one that makes the coffee taste best to you, or even the one that brings out the particular flavor profile from the coffee that strikes your fancy. Once you've found the temperature you're set, until you wanna transfer that knowledge to someone else. At that point it becomes very useful to have a device which can make a decent temperature measurement so that you can relate " I get X taste with Y coffee at Z temperature."

Another often overlooked aspect of this is the idea of process quality control. It's useful to check your machinery every once in a while and to log the results so that you know how your equipment is changing over time. This is particularly true for shops.

-Greg

User avatar
HB
Admin

#10: Post by HB »

gscace wrote:Once you've found the temperature you're set, until you wanna transfer that knowledge to someone else. At that point it becomes very useful to have a device which can make a decent temperature measurement so that you can relate " I get X taste with Y coffee at Z temperature."
Oh, I wonder what device that might be, Mr. Scace. :wink:

If you don't have the same equipment, a thermofilter readout and "cool / medium / medium hot / hot" have equal communicative value. In terms of dialing in one piece of equipment or several of the same machines, it's a huge time saver. What used to take me weeks of equipment evaluation is now a short evening's work.
Dan Kehn