Profitec Pro 500 PID: Initial results & questions

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
Bluenoser
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Postby Bluenoser » Jun 16, 2018, 9:58 pm

I'm pretty novice to espresso, having had a much lower quality product for about 6 months. A week ago, I received my Sette 270 and Pro500 with PID and will share some initial comments and ask a question or two, if anyone can help.

First, the idea of the PID in this HX machine is to reduce cooling flushes and get more consistent brew temp. I think this happens. I do not notice any flashing of water when I turn on pump, even after 60 minutes of warm up. My first problem is in determining brew water temp, as is common in HX designs. I thought I'd be able to use a foam cup in my bottomless portafilter, fill with some coffee, put drain hole in bottom and stick fast thermometer in side and it would be accurate. But I can't seem to get a 'real' reading. Machine came with PID set to 248 which the manual says will give 200F brew water. I only measured 170F in my foam cup, but my pressure was only 4 bar and water was exiting the cup too fast. I think the whole thermo-syphon system relies on water temp being dependent on a normal extraction flow rate. Since this flow rate was too fast, it was likely pulling water too fast which didn't spend enough time in the steam boiler to heat up properly. I tried a few things to slow down water but my conclusion is that 248 PID setting is too low. When WLL did tests on this machine they upped the PID to 252 and scaced 200 at brew water, so that's what I did and it upped my tests to give 185 (water still exits too fast so this is still not accurate). Huge difference in brew temp, with small changes in PID. If I could borrow a scace that would be great, but am in fairly remote, rural area, and so that is unlikely. I tried measuring water as it enters cup from an actual extraction, but it cools down much too quickly to get a really accurate reading.

I made two espressos (PID 248 and then 252) and the one with the PID at 252 was unbelievably better. I know I can get Eric's thermo. but that is another $200 here.. so will wait a bit. If anyone has a cheaper, easy method to measure brew temp, let me know.

I bought a bottomless portafilter and that is crucial for a new person starting out. I found that grinding & filling the basket up about 2/3 full and tapping sides, bottom to get level and then filling rest, tapping, and then tamping almost always gives a good extraction profile when looking underneath the portafilter. The Sette is really great for single-dosing. Very easy to measure beans, dump in, grind and I can count on .2g lost and be within .1g of what I want to enter the portafilter. (If I want 16g, I add 16.2g to grinder) I almost never get spurting or channeling now. I chose the Sette over more expensive models mainly because of its ability to single-dose. I'm only setting the grinder to a setting of 10 (1-9 is finer) on the coarse ring, so I have lots of 'headroom' as the burrs settle in or if the beans are quite different. (there also a second fine adjustment ring)

I use 16 gram in the double stock basket and have been extracting some Lavazza Crema I bought (not super fresh, but seems to work well for learning) to 32 g out. I am getting 32 seconds from turning on pump. About 5-6 seconds to first drip. That seems to be in ballpark of what is desired. I did notice that the pressure is about 9.7 bar. (machine set to 10 bar from company); just under the max. My question is: would someone attempt to get the extraction pressure down to 9 bar? And would one set the grind a bit coarser? If I do I would worry my extraction rate would go up too much and I'd get slightly under extracted result. Any comments on extraction data above appreciated.

So I've been tasting espresso for about 6 months; on my old cheap machine, at cafes in a city a few hours away, and with the Pro500. But I really have little idea of how to describe espresso at this point. My latest results taste about the best I've made so far, so I think I'm close to getting a decent extraction. Yeah.. 'best' is all I can come up with now.. hopefully 'balanced', 'chocolate' and 'mayberry' will enter my vocabulary in the future.. :D

The machine is extremely repeatable. I pulled 3 shots and they all tasted pretty close. The Lavazza beans were very rich and creamy. More so than I expected. (actually tasted better, I thought, than some espressos from the city)

I was a little worried about low steam pressure, with newer mods on the Pro 700 moving the steam boiler up to 2 bar, but no one should worry about that. Even at 248 my steam is over 1bar (now at 252, I have 1.3bar). This steams (even at 248) reasonably quickly for someone new. I do about 6-8 oz in about 10-20 seconds with the 2 hole tip. Any faster and I would not have the skill yet to get great foam. There is a good roll and the knobs on this machine work super. The spring-action is really nice. I had been steaming milk on a steam-block Delonghi but it was no where near powerful enough to incorporate the air into the entire milk. In the Delonghi, I had to add more air so the top was too foamy and to ensure I had some foam at the end, when pouring Latte art. With this machine, I stretch less, and the foam gets incorporated much more evenly in the entire milk. Latte art is easier.

The new 500PID has the ECO mode that is on the new PID upgrade for the PRO700 and Synchonika. This will turn your machine off after 30/60 minutes. I was secretly hoping they'd leave in the shot timer s/w even though the tray was hiding the PID, but they didn't. No shot timer.

I do go through a bit of water. But the cooling flushes are really minimal. In fact, I really just do 'screen cleans' to get rid of the last grounds that might have attached. 1 oz max. For my setup, plumbing in was going to be too big a task. I'm willing to use RO 5 gallon jug and add a package of 3rd wave water crystals. Once I get used to machine, I don't think I'll mind the water filling. I water back-flush daily and will do cleaning backflush every few weeks.

I have one of those electronic plugs that I use with Apple's HomeKit. About $40, I think. Nice 'cause I can tell Siri to turn on my machine while leaving work and it can be all warmed up by time I'm ready for a drink. 30 minute warm up seems to give consistent results.

I did a ton of reading/watching over the past 6 months, but this machine seems pretty user-friendly.

I only wish manufacturers would find a way to add a thermocouple in the actual brew chamber so the user could attach a meter to measure brew temp. Changing the PID temp had a big effect on my taste test.

sirajgb

Postby sirajgb » Aug 14, 2018, 3:57 pm

Just order the same machine! I have read tons of info but I feel that most of the threads focus on whether the machines need a cooling flush or not.

I am upgrading from a Gaggia Classic so I should, hopefully, get a richer espresso and start getting some good notes on the lighter roasts.

Have you found any tricks. nuisances with the machine over your time using it?

JayBeck

Postby JayBeck » Oct 20, 2018, 6:37 pm

Any updates from Pro 500 PID users?

Bluenoser
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Postby Bluenoser » Dec 02, 2018, 1:55 pm

Since I started this thread, I'll give a 6 month update. Now take this as my large sample of 1 unit of the Profitec Pro 500 PID. Other experiences might be quite different.

I've learned a lot about espresso and about HX machines.. I think I consider this an 'eternal truth'

You need to be able to measure the brew water temperature from ANY HX design to get a feel for how your machine should be operated.

So that can mean a group thermometer, SCACE, etc. and I think manufacturers have been very negligent in not providing this essential feature on their HX designs. Especially in this age of technology.

My Dad once bought a 'deer whistle' that he attached to his motorcycle to ward off 'deer' who crossed the road from time to time and posed a hazard to motorcyclists. The whistle is in the "you can't hear it" frequency. I once asked him how he knew if it worked. [Silence]. Then he said.. "I'm still alive".

So how do you know your thermosyphon is working properly?

So I had doubts about mine. The manual provides a table between PID setting and brew water temperature. It isn't even close and might not even be worth including. At the recommended 248F setting, all my shots were incredibly sour. I tried measuring using a foam cup but got reading so low (170) that I thought "this can't possibly be right". I finally brought it up to 252 and tastes were much better. But when you are just starting out, you don't really know what is an optimum taste. It was just so much better that I stopped there.

A few months later into the journey, I tried measuring the brew water with a fast, probe type of thermometer and it always read 'low' (185-190F) and thought maybe it was just my technique. (I used the cut off foam cup). I recently got a thermocouple and meter (cheap on Amazon) and I think I'm now able to read the first parts of the shot correctly. Again, they were all low. I cranked the PID up to 257 which put my steam pressure to the recommended max of 1.4. At first I continued to read brew water temps of 195 and below and was concerned I would not be able to reach 205F if I used a light roast.

After help from many posters, I found some procedures I was doing that could introduce air into the thermosyphon and create a 'stall'. I think I've cured that. I can now get initial brew water temps up to 205 for the first pull. They seem to reduce on successive pulls. I continue to test.

But I now question if Profitec (or any company) can manufacture thermosyphon loops in all machines that behave exactly the same. I realize that ambient temperature, altitude, drafts in the house all affect the group head temp and ultimately the brew water temp. The fact that Profitec thinks a PID of 248 (1.1 bar steam) can produce 200F brew water, and I find that 257F (1.4 bar steam) produces 200F brew water shows there can be a significant difference in performance from one machine to another. And it makes it much more difficult for an inexperienced user to optimize extraction.

I have Erics Thermometer on order and that should tell me what the group is idling at and give me a better idea of how the who unit is working.

Originally, I naively thought I'd be able to set the PID, and just pull shots at any temp I wanted. It is sooooo not that easy.

I will say that I do find the shots from one to another very consistent in taste. So I do believe the PID is allowing me to more easily make the brew water temp consistent and it does not require any flushes. I'll make another post when I have installed a group head thermometer and have had a month to 'play with it'..

vecchi della seattle

Postby vecchi della seattle » Dec 30, 2018, 7:33 pm

I've had my Pro 500 for about a month. I thought I would plug it in and be pulling shots just like on my 20 year old recently retired Silvia. Wrong oh. The Pro 500 PID came set for 10 bar and 251F. My old Silvia shot was an overstuffed basket (20 grams) double tamped ending in a 33 gram shot. Very 90s. That was just too syrupy on this obviously much more efficient machine. I have bought a number of different baskets, 7 gram single, 7 and 14 gram microfine (espresso resource), 2 different 14 gram baskets from espresso parts, 10-12 gram, 15 gram, 18 gram pro Barista precision baskets (Whole Latte Love) all in an effort to get back to my old sweet tasting pour of Peet's Big Bang which I mostly settled on because it tastes great and is only $7 bucks a bag out here in Seattle. Every shot tasted burnt. I lowered the Pro 500 to 9 psi and then back up to 10. Whole Latte Love says it drops 1 psi from the gauge to the PF hence the 10 bar setting. I went as low in temperature as 246 and was rotating through the baskets looking for the sweet spot. I tried lots of cooling flushes processes. I think what I am finding is that for this particular coffee, supposedly medium blend but Pete's isn't known for it's light hand at the roaster, the machine needs to be at around 243-244. I'm interested in other user's experiences learning this machine and if someone has found a good single basket. I have a LM single in the mail that I'm looking forward to trying out. In retrospect I should have stuck with the Profitec double basket (18 grams) and worked out the temp setting and just thrown out half the shot. I only want a 21 gram shot. I also got one of those cheap Chinese knock off levelers from Amazon and that definitely improved the tamp. Anybody out here in Seattle have a favorite medium roast Italian style blend roasted locally?

Bluenoser
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Postby Bluenoser » Dec 30, 2018, 9:13 pm

You will have a lot more experience than I do.. Although I've had my 500 for about 6-7 months.. I have come to the conclusion that one needs to have a full time temperature monitor to troubleshoot and learn. I tried everything to avoid buying more add-one.. foam cups.. temp probes, thermocouples.. all to find out what was happening with the brew water. But I am firmly a believer that on *any* machine; manufacturers should provide a way to determine the water temperature at group exit. So I broke down and bought a thermometer to install in the group. I've now learned much more about my machine.

My PID came set at 248 and all my shots were sour.. Not until I got up to about 253 were things tasting better. But then when I did multiple shots, at about shot 3 they were tasting sour again. I suspected brew water temp issues.. but had no idea if I was having air in my thermosyphon or what was giving me problems.

I think the thermosyphon is a finicky design and can vary significantly from one machine to another. I currently have mine set for 255 and my group idles at about 200F. I do find that after just one shot, it drops 5F and can take 5-10 minutes to recover. That is a long time. I was pulling 3 shots in 10 minutes and the TS just couldn't handle it. I saw a video from WLL where they pull 5 shots every 2 minutes and get 200F +/- 2 degrees on their 500PID (set to 252). Mine won't perform that way. So either there is something wrong with mine, or the TS can differ significantly from unit to unit. I am thinking it is the latter.

I don't find it is necessary to do cooling flushes. In fact if you do a very quick screen flush some say you can introduce air into the TS loop.

I use the stock double basket and a 16g dose. That works well with that basket. My Sette 270 is a good match. I do have a naked portafilter and consider that crucial to determining my distribution. I only single dose and put 1/2 in the basket, rap and tap to settle, then fill and repeat and I've had great luck with even extractions.. Since I make lattes for the friends, a single basket just would wash out in the milk so I only do 32g out extractions. I think singles are tougher to get just right. I haven't even attempted to use the single basket.

If you are in Seattle, then that is the nirvana of coffee in this part of the world, I would think.. should be lots of choices for good tasting beans.

You'll be guessing forever until you are able to monitor brew water.. Either borrow a SCACE or install a group thermometer. I resisted, but in the end I was too frustrated so took the plunge.

shanewiebeftr

Postby shanewiebeftr » Dec 30, 2018, 9:28 pm

I've had my pro 500pid for just over a year now. It came factory set fairly low at 248 and I've now settled at 253 for my temp. I'm a little ignorant at the moment and have been going with what tastes good and do not have a group thermometer at this point. I get flash steam for less than a second after a long warm up(over an hour). I was getting sour shots at the beginning and upped the temp until the shots were bitter and then lowered slightly. I now do a screen flush with pf in place. Wipe pf, weigh, grind, distribute, tamp and pull. It has been very consistent to my tastes. The first shot is always for my wife and goes into a10oz americano. There's a good chance she gets a bad shot every once in a while but I usually don't hear about it. Eric's thermometer is on my list but I recently upgraded my grinder so my espresso budget is on the low side at the moment.

vecchi della seattle

Postby vecchi della seattle » Dec 31, 2018, 1:12 am

I messed around with a thermometer and a Styrofoam cup but didn't get any farther than anybody else using that method. I'm going to assume that the German engineers on this box were pretty meticulous. That temperature chart in the manual is to a 10th of a degree so I'm going to take their word for what the brew temperature is per PID setting. Here is a read on what an Illy person thinks about brew temperature. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/arch ... sso/56621/

Bluenoser
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Postby Bluenoser » replying to vecchi della seattle » Dec 31, 2018, 7:14 pm

Hell no.. no one I know that uses this machine uses the recommended 248F setting. I think they used a SCACE and a few machines and took some measurements that produced that table. If you look at videos by WholeLatteLove on this machine, you'll see they set their PID to 252-254 and they used a SCACE to measure 200F of brew water out. When you engineer a loop of water using a tiny pinhole as a restrictor, I'm not sure you can guarantee anywhere near exact duplicate performance from machine to machine. If you read Profitec's manual, they don't guarantee any precision in their numbers (+/- 5% for instance) and simply have an asterisk that says your brew water temps may vary.

And the way you operate the machine has a huge impact on the brew water temp. Is the portafilter hot or cold when you pull?; are you pulling shots back to back?, or 3 minutes apart?; etc. Only by having a thermometer can you determine the thermal state of the machine.

The PID design change, I think, was recommended by WLL in the US and it does reduce the necessity of cooling flushes for this HX boiler design. Without it, you'd go through much more water which would be a pain as this is not a plumbed machine. But I think Profitec would have been better to provide better brew water temperature monitoring, over a PID; since even with a PID you need to know the brew water temp to troubleshoot extractions.

The article referenced mentions the temperature range of 190-200F for espresso, which I think is generally true for medium to dark roasts. But for lighter roasts I read that 205 is required. Most info I see recommends using a brew water range of 195-205F. When I drop to 190, all my espresso roasts shots sour.

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Jake_G
Team HB

Postby Jake_G » Dec 31, 2018, 7:23 pm

Remember, according to Illy, none of us are drinking "espresso". :?