Monday, May 01, 2006

Schecter's Device: Dare I say "Third Wave"?

Home espresso enthusiast and shade tree engineer Andy Schecter had something to show at the SCAA conference in Charlotte. It was an air compressor powered piston pump outfitted with the ability to modify and sculpt pressure profiles. Attached to the Synesso Cyncra in Gimme! Coffee's booth, the device drew mixed reactions. Spectators seemed either completely indifferent to the impractical innovation or enthusiastic about the possibilities of pressure sculpting for optimizing coffees.

This device appears to be very significant for two reasons:

1.No more pulsating pump pressure. The piston pump pushes water straight through with nary a flutter. Other online coffee blogger types have claimed that constant pump pressure increases clarity and mouthfeel. After tasting a really fantastic shot off a lever machine, its hard to disagree.

2.Complete control over pressure profiles. We have experienced a gentle brew pressure decline from lever group machines, but what about a gentle upward ramp in pressure? What happens if pressure completely falls off halfway through, only to ramp back up full blast? We can only guess, and the truth is that a lot of time could be devoted to experimentation with this variable.

So what I imagine is this: Each group on an espresso machine very much like the Synesso (but with different pump activation controls) is fitted with one of these pumps and an easily accessible user interface screen much like that on the Clover 1s. Using the interface the operator can set, on the fly, the group to optimize for different coffees. Somebody wants a shot of the Guat Huehue Finca Huixoc? No problem. Turn the dial to set for "guatemala", and the preset pressure profile and temperature for that coffee is dialed in. Wait for the light to turn green (to indicate the group is at correct temp) and you are ready to rock. With small dedicated boilers for every group, it wouldn't take long for the temperature to increase, nor would it require much surfing to cool the group down.

If you need to adjust the settings for different coffees, a simple laptop terminal connected with USB or firewire allows you to dock into the machine's central brain, tweaking extraction parameters from there. Of course, the operator would still be able to make simple temperature and pressure adjustments without presets using the interface on the machine.

Or if you are a wholesale roaster, and your espresso changes and extraction parameters need to be adjusted, you can email your clients the update, which they can easily load into their machine with a laptop.

Crazy control over the extraction environment. Is this third wave?


Blogger Nick said...

Did you mean... Fourth Wave?

6:59 PM  
Blogger ben s. said...

it's been said ... but i'm confounded that there's no robust thread discussion somewhere with people experimenting, theorizing, tweaking, bonging, etc.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Billy Wilson said...

I would like the idea of a blue tooth device, therefore I could mess with the barista when I'm not working, all with a few simple clicks on my scrollpad

It'd be like, "what the eff? where'd my pressure go... this thing is effed".

10:39 AM  
Blogger onocoffee said...

Okay, I'll admit it, I haven't said too much about Soy Boy's Wild Creation because I just don't understand what is going on. I get it that it's a piston pump and I remember Tacy talking about this kind of thing, and I get the notion that the piston offers a constant pressure, but I don't know anything else. On top of that, because I don't know much about the unit, I don't even know where to begin with questions or discussion!

It's cool, it looks cool, seems like it works cool. I'd love to learn more about it and how it can help advance our coffee.

And, of course, how to retrofit the Linea with the thing.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Kyle Glanville said...

Ahhhhh, there's the rub. You could retrofit a one group Linea with one. But to utilize the profiling aspect of the pump, you can only run one group at a time.

I think the only path to implementing this device in a commercial setting at this point would be performing a (costly) upgrade to a Synesso, dedicating one pump to each group.

P.I.D control, pressure profiling, and the emergence of this strange "third wave" phenomenon present a pretty good argument for redesigning the whole espresso machine box from the ground up.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven’t seen any reports on the pressure profiling effects of this machine. Anyone seen it posted somewhere?I’m curious as to what they have found pattern of the profiles wise, and the differences seen on different blends.

My own findings are that the real fancy moves don’t make a positive effect in flavor. Too slow a ramp in front, or a dip down, then back up seems to make the shots taste winey, fermented, and even down right sour if exaggerated. Mouth feel does become better, but just being flutter less makes that better anyway.

Pressure ramp down at end does seem to make a more favorable effect. It seems that blends with fruity flavors come out more, and become extremely light, maybe even airy.
Some blends seem better with the fastest ramp in front, and pull the shot(no ramp down at end) out from under the PF. Vivace blends to me taste best this way.

There will be a whole other element of subjectivity when this gets mainstream, and IMO the only way baristas will be able to take a request(efficiently) for a customized profile from one customer to the next will be with a very accurate grind / dose system.

I got as far as I could with my Synesso set up this way, 3 group, 2 stock with rotary, the third separated, and customized for profiling. Don’t know what to do with it yet. Maybe keep it, maybe sell it? I’m almost finished with my new custom machine, also PP, but temp profiles as well. Everything about it got more technical, but at least now I can see live exactly what’s going on in the group and PF.


11:12 PM  
Blogger Kyle Glanville said...

I don't think it would be possible to take orders from customers for different profiles.

I am suggesting the ability to dial in a coffee's profile in the lab, then make that profile easily accessible on the floor.

Someone says, "I would like a shot of the Kenya". You then scroll through the settings til you hit your Kenyan coffee's preset, then pull the shot as normal.

Thank you for posting, John. I am realizing that I lapsed in reporting that you had outfitted your Synesso with a similar rig down in SF. I'd be interested to hear more about your experiences with the device as I've only tried a dark air roasted blend off of it.

kyleglanville (@) gmail (.) com

12:10 AM  
Blogger Chris Owens said...

Dammit! Why didn't I post this? I had the exact same thought after working the Gimme! booth for a couple days. I suck at this blog thing. Nice post Kyle.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Kyle Glanville said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

If you've ever worked on a commercial lever machine, you'll know the advantages to spring pressure - when the temp is on, the shots are a revelation. When the temp is slightly off, the machine seems quite a bit more forgiving compared to rotary.

The funny thing is, most comm. spring machines pull shots at lower pressures (AFAIK) than most people set their rotary pressures at. If I were to set a rotary machine at a similar pressure, the flavour characteristics differ. On paper, this shouldn't be so - and there must be another variable - likely micropulsations at work.

7:46 PM  
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