Olympia Cremina Temperature Study, Part 1

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tekomino

Postby tekomino » Nov 06, 2011, 9:36 pm

Olympia Cremina is legendary machine, but it does take some time to learn how to get most out of it. One of the biggest challenges is temperature management. Since Cremina's group head is not that large it does not have mass to effectively dissipate heat very quickly. Also you cannot realistically expect to have exact or precise temperature management with machine like this. You can target normal and high temperature range but that is about it. Even then though you can make amazing espresso with Cremina so exact temperature is really not that important...

My goal was to find out how machine behaves temperature wise under normal usage conditions and to learn what can be done to control it and cool down machine effectively since it tends to overheat as you pull shots.

To do this I used Fluke 54-II and K-Type thermocouple calibrated using boiling water and adjusted for my altitude. I also used double Elektra basket with hole drilled in the middle for thermocouple. That looks like this:

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All temperature tests were prepared using 15.5 grams of coffee ground into the basket and pressed with my fingers to tamp them down. The thermocouple head was visible on top:

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Thermocouple height is such that it does not touch the group head screen.

For each measurement I have ground fresh round of coffee to pull. Interestingly enough I was able to pull shot of espresso with thermocouple installed like this and have normal pressure on the lever through the pull.

I think this is one of the best ways (not easiest though) to measure the temperature through the shot since it is closest approximation of conditions coffee puck experiences temperature wise.

My machine is cycling somewhere between 0.75 - 0.9 bars of pressure. I found that lowering pressure does not provide dramatic difference since group head heat sinking capability has much larger influence on shot temperature than small differences in boiler pressure. I did play with it though.

My first round of tests was to see how machine behaves when its up to pressure from totally cold state. I knew that machine is too cold to pull shots at that point, so I did 2 second warming flush by raising the lever for 2 seconds to let water out and that way heat the group head. I suspected that shot would be cold and it was.

My second test of that round was to heat up group until OE Thermal Strip installed on the group head lights up first bar marked 90C in blue. I wanted to see what temperature of the shot will be. And here are the graphs:

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As you can see 2 second flush on cold machine is not enough since shot temperature ended up at about 185°F which is just too low.

Second shot with the group head heated up and first bar on OE temp strip turning blue resulted in shot that is too hot, scorching 213°F.

Interesting thing from these graphs is that temperature through the shot is fairly stable on Cremina. For some reason I expected more variation.

Lessons learned, 2 second flush for cold machine is not enough. Also when OE Thermal Strip lights up first bar in blue (or at all for that matter) the shot will brew way too hot.

Next without turning off machine I waited for it to cool down to the point where first bar on OE temp strip was completely out and then I pulled the shot. Here is what I got:

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Temperature was still too hot since group head did not cool down sufficently.

My next try was to let group cool down again but this time get it to cool down even more by locking in cold portafilter and waiting until group head just above the bottom bell shape was at 165°F temperature. I measured this by pressing thermocouple to group head. I then pulled the shot and this is what I got, much better, brew temperature was at 202°F:

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Round 2

For second round I turned off the machine and let it cool down completely. I wanted to find out how much flushing I need from cold start so I get normal around 198°F (+/- ~3°F) shot temperature. I also wanted to see what is temperature of the next shot I pull 5 minutes later without any cooling down procedure implemented. Same for 3rd shot pulled 8 minutes later.

I decided to do about 5 second half-flush. What is half-flush? Well, if you raise lever all the way up water rushes out violently and in 5 seconds you'd flush a lot of water. To mitigate water loss then, I raise lever so I get about half the flow of the fully raised lever. Its not trickle but its not fully open flush either.

I pulled 3 shots and here is what I got:

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First shot was still bit cool, but acceptable at about 190°F. Cool but OK.

Second shot I pulled without any flushing or cooling down the machine was 5 minutes later and it was at about 201°F. Not bad at all.

Third shot was pulled also without any flush or cool down and was 8 minutes later. Temperature was about 203°F. Little hotter but not bad at all. Since I knew for third shot that group head will be warmer I pulled it at bottom of heat-cycle which is 0.7 bars on my machine.

After this I pulled and measured 4th shot knowing that group head is hot. I turned of machine and waited for 0.6 bars to pull shot. That shot was hot at 205.5°F.

Round 3

For this round I also turned off machine and let it cool down for couple of hours. Then brought it back to pressure. Goal of this round was to get better temperature on first shot and see how subsequent shots behave. I also wanted to try some cooling down techniques and see what their effects are.

I decided I will half-flush this time about 7-8 seconds.

Here is what I've got for first 3 shots:

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This time first shot from cool machine was at about 199°F. Right on target. I was worried how the second shot will come out and as feared it was hotter than second shot in 2nd Round. This run at about 205.5°F.

Seeing how group head is already hot I decided to lock in cold portafilter to cool it down. Procedure is basically that you get cold portafilter and lock it in completely. You wait until portafilter is heated up, i.e. it sunk heat from group then you take it out. With this done, 6 minutes later I pulled 3rd shot.

Cold portafilter did trick and I was at 206°F for 3rd shot. Hot but not scorching.

As 4th shot then I tried different cooling technique. I got wide cappuccino cup, filled it with cold water, immersed group head bottom in it and made a half pull with lever to suck water from the cup partially into the group. Hold it like that for couple of seconds.

I thought this should be effective cool-down technique but it was not. Shots I pulled 7 minutes after 3rd shot and with this cool down technique resulted at 208.5°F pull.

It seems that cold portafilter lock-in works best so I did that for 5th shot which was 6 minutes later. I also turned off machine to bring boiler pressure to 0.6 bar to see what the effect was. This pull was at 204.5°F which is much better than previous shot.

Since cold-portafilters work, and I saw that group head is hot, I decided lets do cold portafilter twice. For 6th shot that is exactly what I did and pulled it 10 minutes later. This is what I got:

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About 198°F temp, very nice and worked like charm.

At this point there was only one more thing to test. I wanted to see how machine idles. I let it then stand under pressure as it is for more than 30 minutes and pulled the shot:

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Temperature was about 201°F. Not bad at all. It means if machine was idle for 30 minutes or more you can just walk and pull the shot and its not at bad range at all. No flush needed, nothing. Just walk in and pull.

Conclusions

This really helped me tune-up procedures when pulling the shots and getting them into the desired temperature range. Cremina is really not about exact temperature anyway so as long as you are not overheating you are good to go.

7-8 second half-flush should get your first and second shots into the good range. For 2nd shot you might lock-in cold portafilter and for 3rd shot you should for sure lock in cold portafilter once or twice and for each shot after that I would recommend cold portafilter lock-in 2 times.

If you have OE temp strip then keep first bar unlit at all times before pulling the shot or shot temperature will be too hot. Even if its unlit i.e. it just went out, it is too hot and you need to cool down some more.

When machine is left idle for 30 minutes you can just walk in and pull shot and it will be about right.

Also I found that OE temp strip should have lower range with 90°C/194°F bar being actually last bar. Ideal strip for Cremina should start at 65°C/149°F and go up to 100°C. That will give us very good range to judge the group head temperature. Since group head at 74°C/165°F gets us nice temperature range that would be really useful. If anyone knows where to get such strip please let me know.

I also posted study on my little blog as well... Hope this helps and let me know what you think or if you have questions and suggestions.
Refuse to wing it! http://10000shots.com

samuellaw178
Team HB

Postby samuellaw178 » Nov 06, 2011, 10:06 pm

Thanks Dennis for doing such a service to us Cremina users!I really appreciate that and your results confirm my suspicion previously (that 90C on temp strip in the center is too hot). But it got me wondered though why such a high temp on Cremina doesn't yield burnt espressi.

Where do you place your temp strip? You might have mentioned/posted it somewhere but it takes time to find out. :P I am guessing it's front center right? That's where I put my temp strip previously too and I find that the lowest temp gives me a pretty "hot" shot. My machine cycles at 0.8-1.0 bar because I make a lot of milk drinks.

So, I shifted the temp to the side. This is because I noticed that the temperature of the grouphead isn't evenly distributed. The nearer it is to the boiler, the hotter it is. Makes perfect sense. So I put my temp strip near the boiler as close as possible. It would probably read 95c if you placed on the side, but only 90c when you place in the center.

With the side placement, I am guessing I get about 93+- Celsius for brewing(styrofoam cup) when it's 90c on the temp strip(at side), which is a moderate and also my go-to temp for pulling most shots. If I decided to pull a colder shots, my procedure is to flush it until it's too hot to touch but below 90 Celsius. This usually gives me a nice lower temp shot.

I agree that the temp strip should read lower ranges too. Above 100C+ is hardly useful for any practicality. Unless you're testing how scorched the coffee will be at 110C and at 100C. :P The problem is probably how to find the correct material/crystals for that application. Nonetheless, this temp strip is still useful to monitor the grouphead temp.

Another question I have in mind, does it matter if you pull a shot during the top and the bottom of the pressurestat cycle?It makes sense that at the lower part of the cycle will give lower temp. But I am suspecting the water isn't that sensitive to the temp change, maximum 1-2 Celsius swing between the top and bottom.

Position of Penney temp strip:
Image

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tekomino

Postby tekomino » Nov 06, 2011, 10:25 pm

Thank you Sam.

samuellaw178 wrote:Where do you place your temp strip?


Its at the bottom:

Image

samuellaw178 wrote:Another question I have in mind, does it matter if you pull a shot during the top and the bottom of the pressurestat cycle?It makes sense that at the lower part of the cycle will give lower temp. But I am suspecting the water isn't that sensitive to the temp change, maximum 1-2 Celsius swing between the top and bottom.


I think it does but how much I have not studied. I will however put that on list to investigate. I did notice that you get biggest swing based on how hot group head is.
Refuse to wing it! http://10000shots.com

samuellaw178
Team HB

Postby samuellaw178 » Nov 06, 2011, 10:27 pm

Oh ya, I hope you don't mind me flooding you with another question. I wish I could do those tests. :P

How fast was the flow of the espresso in your test?I believe that might give an impact on the temp reading also.

It'd be great if you could try moving the temp strip to the side and test it. :P But I figure you would need a break before carrying out another test. It must've been exhausting.

User avatar
tekomino

Postby tekomino » Nov 06, 2011, 10:29 pm

samuellaw178 wrote:How fast was the flow of the espresso in your test?I believe that might give an impact on the temp reading also.


It was normal shot flow. If you look at total show time with preinfusion in graphs its about 35 seconds. How fast shot goes though does not influence temperature in my observations.
Refuse to wing it! http://10000shots.com

User avatar
Chert

Postby Chert » Nov 07, 2011, 12:04 am

Also I found that OE temp strip should have lower range with 90°C/194°F bar being actually last bar. Ideal strip for Cremina should start at 65°C/149°F and go up to 100°C. That will give us very good range to judge the group head temperature. Since group head at 74°C/165°F gets us nice temperature range that would be really useful. If anyone knows where to get such strip please let me know.


I agree.

Great study and also useful to Pavoni lever so thanks for posting. After the first shot, I cool the pavoni with a bowl of water until only the lower bar is lit. I use the lever to draw the water up into the group, sometimes 2-3 times until the temp comes down. But I have not done the work you have to see what that maneuver does to the actual brew temp or its profile. I don't find the cool PF does it as well for my taste. Relative to the location of your strip, mine is lower on the pavoni group.

Thanks again for sharing.

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farmroast

Postby farmroast » Nov 07, 2011, 12:10 am

Dennis
nice work, I'll have to mull through everything a few times.
A few months ago I played around with a temporary for testing TC on the group. I have some fancy teflon tape that held a fairly fine bead tip pretty well.
My thought was if I know group temp. can that guide at what bar reading I need to start the pull to get a good temp in the basket. Combining that with what you are learning about managing the group temp.
I also tried snaking another fine wire tc up a bell pf ear slot and into the basket and carefully locked in. I didn't get a pressure leak and readings were working but was a pain to fiddle with.
I never have gotten around to doing the actual testing. :(

ps. were the best shots in the basket temp. range you expected?
LMWDP #167 "with coffee we create with wine we celebrate"

bigstormgirl

Postby bigstormgirl » Nov 07, 2011, 12:45 am

What a great post Dennis!

I have come to the same conclusion about the temp strip. My shots have been bitter using the strip as a guide (pulling the shot when the first box blue, then pulling another shot when first box is green. All were too hot).

Thanks for doing this study. This has been very informative.
Cindy
LMWDP #348

Paolo

Postby Paolo » Nov 07, 2011, 3:21 am

What an interesting thread!

When the first square on the temperature strip is green and I raise the lever on my '67 to pre-infuse, the first 3 temperature squares on the bell change colour. ie. the bell temperature rises.

When I do the same thing on my 2011 Cremina, the temperature strip doesn't change like it does on the '67.


I have set the pressurestat on the '67 to turn the heater off at 0.75bar. It idles with the first square coloured green. The 2011 Cremina is set to turn off at 0.8bar. It idles with no squares lit. I use a naked portafilter with both, so I assume that both would idle cooler than with a factory (non-naked) portafilter .

I haven't had any burnt/bitter tastes on either when I do the same ritual. Does anyone have an idea on why there should be such a difference evidenced by the temperature strip on both?

summer

Postby summer » Nov 07, 2011, 5:01 am

Very interesting thread indeed!
Just for reference Dennis, is your Cremina a 2011?

I do not own a Cremina myself yet, but will acquire a 2011 model in December - a little present for myself - so threads like these sweetens my waiting.

Check out the writings below regarding warming up the group. I'm curious to what you all think about this...

http://londiniumespresso.com/blogs/londinium-espresso-blog/4389432-how-to-warm-up-a-dipper-design-espresso-machine-group

and this:
http://londiniumespresso.com/blogs/londinium-espresso-blog/4392492-a-bit-more-about-the-olympia-cremina-group

-jon