Question about pressure and flow profile importance

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gavijal

#1: Post by gavijal »

I read a lot about importance of flow and pressure profiling for modern espresso. Straight 9 bars seems bit outdated (when you read on the internet). But if that's so, why all best coffee shops in the world (or at least 90% of them) are using espresso machines with a straight 9,8, or what ever bars? Except of few Stradas, and Slayers, almost everyone using just linear constant pressure thru shot. Couldn't find one famous speciality coffee shop with a lever or Decent (or something similar). Is then a pressure profiling so important for a good shot?

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Randy G.

#2: Post by Randy G. »

In the run of the mill coffee shop, I would have to believe that their top sellers are lattes, and hot coffee milkshakes. I cringe every time I hear, "pumpkin spice latte," or horror orders like, I'll have a half-cafe, triple latte with 4 double shots, 6 pumps of chocolate, 3 pumps of cherry, and 1 pump of vanilla to go." Fourteen syrup pumps? It should come with a stomach pump. In those cases, it matters little about the quality of the espresso, and being able to brew a bit faster in a machine less complicated (and thus possibly more dependable and easier to fix) becomes the priority.
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Auctor
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#3: Post by Auctor »

I've wrestled with similar thoughts since arriving here at HB. I grew up in a traditional cafe environment, making espresso with a medium dark blended roast using a La Marzocco Linea. My shot times were 18-25 seconds, and the product was primarily used in a milk drink, but with the occasional straight espresso beverage.

In learning more about traditional espresso culture (John Buckman of Decent has a ton of great videos on this topic, and there are a ton of new books on the subject), I've come to the conclusion that traditional espresso is still alive and well across the world, and what you find here at HB and a few other places is attempts at innovation in the space.

If everyone here was drinking 8-bar medium/dark roast espresso, this place might turn into a ghost town. Instead, you have flow control, elongated preinfusion, single dose grinders, hyper aligned 98mm flat burrs, saturated group heads, tapered pressure profiles, and the list goes on... all forms of coffee exploration attempting to improve quality in the cup, and possibly evolve how we define espresso.

That said, I think there are limits to this exploration - for instance, a 3.5:1 ratio light roast is not espresso in my opinion, but possibly a new drink yet to be named.

There are still tens of millions of people who share a traditional definition of espresso. But there is a growing enthusiast base seeking to explore beyond that.

TLDR - flow control and pressure profiling is still somewhat avant-garde in the broader coffee community, but over the past few years has become a bit more mainstream in the enthusiast community. It has its benefits, but you don't need it to produce a great shot of espresso. It's just really useful when using light and medium roast single origin coffee to pull a non-traditional shot.

gavijal (original poster)

#4: Post by gavijal (original poster) »

Randy G. wrote:In the run of the mill coffee shop, I would have to believe that their top sellers are lattes, and hot coffee milkshakes. I cringe every time I hear, "pumpkin spice latte," or horror orders like, I'll have a half-cafe, triple latte with 4 double shots, 6 pumps of chocolate, 3 pumps of cherry, and 1 pump of vanilla to go." Fourteen syrup pumps? It should come with a stomach pump. In those cases, it matters little about the quality of the espresso, and being able to brew a bit faster in a machine less complicated (and thus possibly more dependable and easier to fix) becomes the priority.
Im talking about best 3-rd wave speciality coffee shops in the world. I googled at least 50 of them (some owned by world barista champions) and still most of them using Linea PB

gavijal (original poster)

#5: Post by gavijal (original poster) »

Auctor wrote:I've wrestled with similar thoughts since arriving here at HB. I grew up in a traditional cafe environment, making espresso with a medium dark blended roast using a La Marzocco Linea. My shot times were 18-25 seconds, and the product was primarily used in a milk drink, but with the occasional straight espresso beverage.

In learning more about traditional espresso culture (John Buckman of Decent has a ton of great videos on this topic, and there are a ton of new books on the subject), I've come to the conclusion that traditional espresso is still alive and well across the world, and what you find here at HB and a few other places is attempts at innovation in the space.

If everyone here was drinking 8-bar medium/dark roast espresso, this place might turn into a ghost town. Instead, you have flow control, elongated preinfusion, single dose grinders, hyper aligned 98mm flat burrs, saturated group heads, tapered pressure profiles, and the list goes on... all forms of coffee exploration attempting to improve quality in the cup, and possibly evolve how we define espresso.

That said, I think there are limits to this exploration - for instance, a 3.5:1 ratio light roast is not espresso in my opinion, but possibly a new drink yet to be named.

There are still tens of millions of people who share a traditional definition of espresso. But there is a growing enthusiast base seeking to explore beyond that.

TLDR - flow control and pressure profiling is still somewhat avant-garde in the broader coffee community, but over the past few years has become a bit more mainstream in the enthusiast community. It has its benefits, but you don't need it to produce a great shot of espresso. It's just really useful when using light and medium roast single origin coffee to pull a non-traditional shot.
To be honest, best espresso I ever had was made on Linea PB, but barista was really good. Coffe too

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Jeff
Team HB

#6: Post by Jeff »

Cafes need reliably good shots for every shot. One bad one and you may lose a customer. Even one great one, with the customer's next being your normal, may lose you a customer. The better commercial machines are very repeatable. Pick a bean and roast that pairs well and every shot tastes close to the same. People want to have their expectations met, even if that isn't the "ultimate experience". This is one of the reasons why beers like American Budweiser and Coors do so well.

Throw in extraction profiling, unless automated, and your variability goes up, as does your labor costs per shot.

At home, the constraints are different. A "bad" shot can be brushed off. Most "espresso roasts" don't need profiling. It's only the wackos that are trying to make espresso from drip-intended coffees. (Yes, I'm one of those.) If you're pulling a classic blend, grab an on-demand grinder and any of the repeatable machines, dial it in, and enjoy.

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Peppersass
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#7: Post by Peppersass »

Doing things like weighing the dose and flow/pressure profiling can more than double the time between receiving an order and serving. Fewer drinks produced per hour, less production per employee-hour. Deadly for cafe profitability and customer satisfaction.

Only a tiny percentage of coffee drinkers are willing to extend wait time for flavors in the cup that many people can't discern and quite a few don't even like (e.g., acidic coffee.) I have relatives who vastly prefer the Dunkin' drive-through to any of the high-end cafes in their area, even the really good ones.

An exceedingly small number of high-end cafes are able to pull off using advanced espresso preparation techniques. Joe's Coffee in Chelsea and Cafe Volan in Asbury Park come to mind. I don't know how they do it. Maybe a very loyal clientele keeps them afloat.

gavijal (original poster)

#8: Post by gavijal (original poster) »

Jeff wrote:Cafes need reliably good shots for every shot. One bad one and you may lose a customer. Even one great one, with the customer's next being your normal, may lose you a customer. The better commercial machines are very repeatable. Pick a bean and roast that pairs well and every shot tastes close to the same. People want to have their expectations met, even if that isn't the "ultimate experience". This is one of the reasons why beers like American Budweiser and Coors do so well.

Throw in extraction profiling, unless automated, and your variability goes up, as does your labor costs per shot.

At home, the constraints are different. A "bad" shot can be brushed off. Most "espresso roasts" don't need profiling. It's only the wackos that are trying to make espresso from drip-intended coffees. (Yes, I'm one of those.) If you're pulling a classic blend, grab an on-demand grinder and any of the repeatable machines, dial it in, and enjoy.
Can't you have repeatable consistent shots with a decent or lever machine?

gavijal (original poster)

#9: Post by gavijal (original poster) »

Peppersass wrote:Doing things like weighing the dose and flow/pressure profiling can more than double the time between receiving an order and serving. Fewer drinks produced per hour, less production per employee-hour. Deadly for cafe profitability and customer satisfaction.

Only a tiny percentage of coffee drinkers are willing to extend wait time for flavors in the cup that many people can't discern and quite a few don't even like (e.g., acidic coffee.) I have relatives who vastly prefer the Dunkin' drive-through to any of the high-end cafes in their area, even the really good ones.

An exceedingly small number of high-end cafes are able to pull off using advanced espresso preparation techniques. Joe's Coffee in Chelsea and Cafe Volan in Asbury Park come to mind. I don't know how they do it. Maybe a very loyal clientele keeps them afloat.

I don't know how is in the States or Australia, but in most of the speciality coffee shops in Eu (and most of them are low to medium volume at best) time is not so crucial. In Croatia (where I'm from) maybe 10-15% of coffee is a take out (maybe less). When you come to speciality coffee shop or most of the coffee places in general, you gonna spend at least 30 min there put to few hours. Soo I don't think that a 30 sec more per shot is crucial. My favorite speciality coffee shops also serving vegetarian dishes and barista is weighting portafilter, coffee, timed shoots etc. and I'm glady to wait for that

K7

#10: Post by K7 »

With a right grinder and technique (resting, dosing, basket, ratio, etc.), I don't believe most 3rd wave specialty coffees require extended preinfusion and profiling. Profiling (especially "on the fly") helps if you change beans frequently and don't have patience dialing in perfectly, but in a cafe setting, I think it's quite doable without it.