Expobar Brewtus III
Performance


Espresso that says 'bottoms up!' A number of things come into play when looking at the espresso performance of a given machine. First and foremost, does the machine produce fine tasting espresso? Does it favor a heavy or light bodied espresso? Does the espresso offer clarity of individual flavors? Can the machine produce solid shots consistently across a number of coffees and grinders? Does the machine favor specific types of coffee? Does the machine perform well with singles and double espressos? Are there specific doses and grinds that work best? The answer to these questions lies in tasting a lot of coffee. Singles, doubles, tight and loose grind settings, short and long volumes, bright coffees, full bodied coffees, coffees pulled at low temperatures and coffees pulled at higher temperatures. You get the picture—lots of coffee.

The coffees tested ran the gamut from the sweeter heavier espressos such as Counter Culture Coffee's Toscano and Intelligentsia's Black Cat through lighter blends such as Counter Culture Coffee's Aficionado and Cafe Fresco's Ambrosia to very bright citrusy single origin coffees such as Counter Culture Coffee's Finca Mauritania Pulp Natural and PT's Ethiopian Sidamo.

Mechanically, espresso needs predictable temperature control and brew pressure to perform well. The Brewtus does well on both of these accounts, and performed quite well across a broad range of coffees, temperatures and shot volumes.

Brew temperature profile The Brewtus uses an E61 group. There are a number of group designs on espresso machines today, but the E61 group has a recognized history of solid thermal performance and reliability. Faema first introduced the group back in 1961. Two key features of the E61 group are:

  • Built-in preinfusion allowing the brew pressure to ramp up more slowly than some other designs
  • Thermal siphoning that brings heated water from the boiler to circulate around the heavy brass group head,

Both of these factors contribute to consistent performance. For the mechanically inclined, Lino Verna posted interior schematics of the E61 group that show its preinfusion mechanism. There has been considerable debate around which espresso machine group design is the "best", but the longevity of the E61 group certainly ranks it in the top tier. That said, there are many factors that affect espresso extraction and the group is only one of them. The graph on the right show the results of four shots pulled two minutes apart with a target temperature of 200°F, demonstrating how well the Brewtus III delivers repeatable brew temperature profiles.

Espresso Performance

Espresso from the Brewtus III is consistently good provided you pay attention to grind and dosing. The Brewtus needs sufficient head space to avoid distrupting the puck's integrity by crashing it into the dispersion screen when locking in the portafilter. Weight varies from coffee to coffee, but a good starting point is 17 grams for a double and 8 grams for a single. That is about a level basket before tamping.

The Brewtus III performed best with the heavier bodied blends. Body from these coffees was rich and creamy with very distinct base notes of caramel and chocolate and poured like warm honey. Both Toscano and Black Cat performed well at 202°F. It took a small drop in temperature to bring out some of the nuances in the more complex blends. The Aficionado finally gave up its wonderful hazelnut at about 200°F and the cinnamon I remembered from classic Ambrosia appeared in the 198°F to 200°F range. I have tried Aficionado on a manual lever espresso machine and the hazelnut is more pronounced, but the Brewtus came pretty darn close. Single origin coffees were good; I could easily pick up the fruit and citrus notes, but they did require more temperature management. Being able to drop the temperature to precise set points helps with these more finicky coffees. I would have to say that the clarity with these coffees failed to match my experience with the Elektra A3, but I had no trouble getting some delicious citrus notes from the Ethiopian blend and the Finca Mauritania Pulp Natural was a favorite of mine. Both these coffees needed to be pulled in the lower 195°F to 197°F range to really extract the citrus and fruit flavors. The heavier blends did well with the 17 gram dose, the lighter blends performed well with slightly less coffee but a tighter grind.

Overall, the Brewtus delivered impressive consistency day-to-day across most coffees—the heavier blends being the most forgiving temperature wise and the lighter single origins more demanding from a temperature perspective.

Steaming Performance

No burn steam arm When measuring steam performance, I look for two things: sufficient steaming power to heat the milk quickly and dry steam injection to control the development of a silky smooth foam. On these two accounts, the Brewtus fares well on control but falls short on power. The Brewtus III's no burn steam arm is a pleasure to use; the steam arm moves freely on a swivel joint. The steam arm reaches to the bottom of a 20 ounce pitcher, but is easy to direct into a smaller pitcher with good control. Since water condenses in the longer wand, it is wise to open the wand with a short blast of steam to blow out any accumulated water before steaming. Make sure you point the arm into the drip tray and not towards your floor! The steam knob opens with a couple of quick turns and provides for precise control of steam pressure.

A few hints on how to get the best microfoam out of the Brewtus:

  • Make sure the steam wand is under the surface of the milk before turning on the steam
  • Turn on the steam and bring the tip up to the surface just enough to pull some air into the milk
  • Stretch the milk until the volume increases by a third (about 10 to 15 seconds depending on the tip)
  • Plunge the tip into the milk and angle it to get a good roiling boil of milk; with the stock single hole tip this means angling it to one side of center
  • Turn off the steam when the pitcher walls start to feel too hot to hold your hand on
  • If you are using a thermometer turn off the steam at about 150°F.

The stock one-hole tip makes wonderfully silky smooth microfoam. As mentioned in the above hints, the steam tip works best when pointed slightly to the side of the pitcher and level with the surface of the milk to get air in during the stretching phase. Once the milk has sufficient volume, moving the tip deeper will start a good rolling whirlpool effect that evenly incorporates the small air bubbles into the milk. The power shortfall results in a longer effort, but for a single cappuccino this is no problem. Enough milk for two cappuccinos takes longer, but a cappa party isn't in the cards. You can get faster steaming by using an optional two-hole tip, but it demands more skill to create smooth silky microfoam while not inadvertently creating bigger bubbles. The larger tip also rapidly depletes the steam boiler pressure when steaming larger quantities of milk.

The table below summarizes the performance of the Brewtus III in heating water of varying volumes from 40°F to 160°F.

8 ounces

10 ounces

12 ounces

Brewtus III Stock Tip

60

74

84

Brewtus III Two-Hole Tip

38

49

60

La Spaziale VII 1.2mm Tip

23

27

30

Vibiemme Domobar Super

28

33

45


As you can see, the Brewtus III is no speedster in the steaming department. Although the impact on the preparation time for a single cappuccino is minimal, it would be tiresome to roll out a slew of lattes back-to-back at a coffee party. If you are impatient and want something faster, but struggle with the larger two-hole tip, a good compromise is the Gold Pro tip from 1st-line equipment. You'll also need an adapter to mate the female threading of the wand with the male threading of the tip. The Gold Pro tip is faster than the stock single hole but doesn't deplete pressure in the steam boiler during steaming.

The Brewtus III also has a hot water tap that delivers water from the steam boiler. Americano lovers will be thrilled. Be careful when first pulling water from the tap—the water is superheated so it will flash boil until the pressure drops. For most home baristas, the water in the steam boiler is depleated slowly for steaming, so you will need to regularly refill the boiler with fresh water if you want to avoid a stale Americano. Also note that dispensing the water for a couple of Americanos drops the brew boiler temperature and it will take a few minutes to recover. Either draw the water after brewing your espresso, or heat fresh water in a microwave or an electric hot pot instead.


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