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JustAcoffeeDrinker
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Jul 2010
Posts: 35
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Sun Sep 2, 2012, 11:29am
Subject: Thermometer for making coffee
 

In the following thread, I was advised to get a thermometer (with a candy thermometer being mentioned more than once):
"Brewing coffee at the right temperature"

At the time, I was not really setting out to accumulate yet another gadget (how on earth did former generations make good coffee??) and especially didn't want to spend the time to source down a good thermometer.  But I got a change in heart with the ongoing hit-and-miss results of my coffee (more miss than hit).  When I eventually got a bean grinder, I decided that a thermometer was a must in order to make the entire effort worthwhile.

Well, I think I made a mistake in my first foray into kitchen thermometers.  I thought "if everyone spends the time that I do to vet a product before getting it, people lives would be spent online reading and divining the quality assurance of vendors and they generally wouldn't have much of a life outside of that".  I thought this despite numerous experiences in which not spending the time resulted in getting something unsuitable (and hence, getting junk).  This is irrespective of whether I am searching for a high or low end gadget.

The story is no different with this kitchen thermometer.  I visited the local emporium for kitchen goods -- very specialized, catering to chefs, and spoke to various staff.  One staff member (supposedly a chef) tried to settle me on a thermometer which I found didn't even dial up to the boiling temperature of water.  After looking at them all, I settled on Trenton International's Milk Frothing Thermometer, which had a dial reading up to boiling temperature.

Well.  The dial was misleading.  Sticking it into boiling water (100 celsius, or 100C) didn't push the dial beyond 80C.  So I googled "milk frothing", and sure enough, one does not go up to 100C for that.  Dam-a-nation.  At least the first thermometer didn't misrepresent the fact that it didn't go up to 100C.

The chef that tried to settle me on that first thermometer said that digital was more accurate (though at least twice as expensive, and not necessarily equipped with clips that clip to the side of a pot/cup).  Now, having gotten too many academic degrees in technology, I know that this isn't true.  Digital merely takes an analog indicator and digitizes it.  And besides, precision isn't really my problem, range is (though accuracy would be nice even if analog dial didn't permit precision in the fractions of a celsius).

I will spend some time trying to source down a suitable thermometer at some point, but I was wondering if the coffee community might not already know of good candidates.  Something with a clip would be nice, though given a choice between unusable due to inadequate range versus inconvenient due to the absence of a clip, I would of course take inconvenient (but usable) over unusable.

In recommending the model that you do, I would be curious as to whether you actually check the accuracy of the device?  Not a full blown calibration procedure, but perhaps at room temperature and boiling.

Thanks.
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JKalpin
Senior Member
JKalpin
Joined: 28 Dec 2008
Posts: 816
Location: Thornhill, Ontario Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Aerobie Aeropress
Grinder: Baratza Maestro Plus
Vac Pot: Yama 5-Cup
Drip: Krups Moka Brew, BraZen
Roaster: Freshroast+8, Behmor 1600+
Posted Sun Sep 2, 2012, 12:34pm
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

The thermometers used by baristas when frothing are analog.  I'm not sure how they work.  I believe they are not too accurate (+/- 10%?) and they don't have to be accurate.  They do have a clip.  

The higher-price electronic ones have batteries and thermistor elements.  They are SIGNIFICANTLY more accurate and usually have a range below freezing and above boiling, to the point that you can check accuracy at the ice point and boiling point.  

My favorite thermometer is a Taylor 9847N, click here.  Caynes Housewares store in Toronto discounts them to $15 and I'm sure you can find them where you live.  There is a mistake on their web-page:  The bottom of the range is actually -40.  I have mine sitting in ice-water right now reading 32.2F.  I have also checked it at the boiling point and found it to be accurate, although I did not factor in a correction for elevation.

The other thing about a thermistor-based thermometer is that they are very fast.  So I use it for lots of things besides coffee, such as air conditioning and computer discharge air ...etc.

 
Jerry
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JustAcoffeeDrinker
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Jul 2010
Posts: 35
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Sun Sep 2, 2012, 2:08pm
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

Thanks, JKalpin.

Would you know if there is a strong correlation between whether a thermometer is digital versus whether it has a thermistor (which I take as an indicator of greater accuracy)?  This might validate what the chef said, that digital is more accurate.  I think this knowledge can help in choosing a good model that is available either locally or from online, even though surfing doesn't always reveal whether a product has a thermistor or not.  (Unfortunately, it seems like product info online typically doesn't include this detail, I suspect because it isn't very meaningful to most people).

If possible, I will lean toward a less general purpose thermometer so that the measurement range doesn't include much beyond the freezing and boiling points of water.  It would give me more precision / resolution.
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 2,026
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Sun Sep 2, 2012, 2:27pm
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

I have used the Polder digital from Bed Bath and Beyond.

http://www.bedbathandbeyond.ca/product.asp?SKU=16921963&

Definitely thermistor, and I found it worked about as well as K thermocouple in some applications, below.

http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machinemods/588424

Inexpensive and also worked well.

Click Here (www.harborfreight.com)

I believe most of the sinlge piece units are thermistors.  I looked a few months ago.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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TonyVan
Senior Member


Joined: 24 May 2010
Posts: 276
Location: Pacific Northwest
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: GS/3, La Pavoni
Grinder: Macap M7K, Rocky
Drip: Kone
Posted Sun Sep 2, 2012, 6:54pm
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

I didn't get a Thermapen for coffee, but its amazing read and display speed make it one of the few thermometers that can keep up with, for example, the rapid temperature increases when steaming milk, or learning how to do so.  Really an outstanding product, though unfortunately expensive.  (And sad to say, I'm not sure if I could still grill a steak anymore without one...)  

Here's for the ThermoWorks site. Hopefully you can find discounts there or elsewhere.
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JKalpin
Senior Member
JKalpin
Joined: 28 Dec 2008
Posts: 816
Location: Thornhill, Ontario Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Aerobie Aeropress
Grinder: Baratza Maestro Plus
Vac Pot: Yama 5-Cup
Drip: Krups Moka Brew, BraZen
Roaster: Freshroast+8, Behmor 1600+
Posted Sun Sep 2, 2012, 7:31pm
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

JustAcoffeeDrinker Said:

Thanks, JKalpin.

Would you know if there is a strong correlation between whether a thermometer is digital versus whether it has a thermistor (which I take as an indicator of greater accuracy)?  This might validate what the chef said, that digital is more accurate.  I think this knowledge can help in choosing a good model that is available either locally or from online, even though surfing doesn't always reveal whether a product has a thermistor or not.  (Unfortunately, it seems like product info online typically doesn't include this detail, I suspect because it isn't very meaningful to most people).

If possible, I will lean toward a less general purpose thermometer so that the measurement range doesn't include much beyond the freezing and boiling points of water.  It would give me more precision / resolution.

Posted September 2, 2012 link

Two major kinds of 'analog' are liquid filled (accurate) and bimetallic dial (not accurate).  There are several kinds of 'digital', thermistor (accurate), RTD (accurate)  and thermocouple (less accurate).  

For espresso frothing, you usually find analog bimetallic in use.  For coffee roasting, you usually find thermocouple as they need to function in the range of 500 to 600F.  For other purposes, in range from 0 to 450F, thermistor is probably the best.  It is not uncommon to have resolution and repeatability to 0.1F and accuracy of +/- 1.0F.

When selecting a scale for weighing coffee I went for a Jennings in the 0 - 600gm range, for weighing (say) 45gm of coffee for a brew or 10 oz of greens for a roast.  At one time I used a kitchen scale with a range of 0 to 10 lbs and found it to be inaccurate at the bottom of the range for (say) 45gm.  In that regard you are right:  Choose a scale with a range close to what you are weighing.  However, for a thermometer I don't believe the 'extra range' (i.e. -40 to +450F matters at all.  My Taylor thermistor thermometer is VERY accurate and repeatable anywhere between the ice point and boiling point.  

Please excuse the shuffling between Metric and Imperial (or US) measure; that happens quite a bit in Coffee Geekdom for many good reasons.  Luckily, the thermometers and scales usually read in both.

 
Jerry
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JustAcoffeeDrinker
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Jul 2010
Posts: 35
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Mon Sep 3, 2012, 8:13am
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

DF4, TonyVan, JKalpin,

Thanks for your suggestions.  I couldn't wait, and I wanted a decent cup of Joe this morning (Labour day in Canada, no chance of getting anything today).  Last night, after normal shops closed, I whipped down to Walmart and looked for a Taylor thermometer.  It is a dial thermometer, which I assume is bimetallic and hence inaccurate.  It is a candy making thermometer, but I confirmed that it was accurate at the boiling point.  I am told that it easily becomes uncalibrated.  My plan is to simply read the thermometer when the water is at boiling, and take that reading to be 100 C, even though it may not read as 100 C.  Since I'm interested in the target temperature of 92-94 C, I'll simply subtract 6 from 100 C to get 94 C.  The water temperature drops so quickly after removal from the stove that there doesn't seem to much point in trying for greater accuracy, as long as it drops from above 93 C to below 93C when it is in the pour-over cone.

Despite the pointlessness in going for an accurate temperature, the thermometer has helped tremendously.  Prior to yesterday, I assumed that it took several minutes for 100 C water to drop to 93 C.  I would wait several minutes, still see mist rising from the surface of the water, and assume that it is still "somewhat" boiling.  So I would vigorously agitate the water before using it.  It was probably down to 70 C or less.

Coffee results using the thermometer?  Hard to tell.  I'm making my coffee differently than normal.  I just got a bean grinder (blade, not burr) Click Here (www.amazon.ca) so I'm not getting the quantity right just yet.  I'm using more ground coffee per cup than usual, so I have to back up on the quantity of beans to grind next time.  Pretty yummy, though, strong coffee is da-bomb.  I only make coffee at home on the weekends, so it'll be next weekend before I give it another go.

Thanks again!
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,949
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Wed Sep 5, 2012, 6:35am
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

I suppose that "grinder" (it really is a bean masher/beater/smasher) is better than nothing but a step up to a real burr grinder (about $150 U.S. minimum new) from Click Here (www.baratza.com) will make a HUGE improvement in your coffee, as much or more than getting the water temp correct.
The bean beater you have will make everything from boulders to dust of the beans. The big chunks will never start to give up their goodness while the dust will over extract and get very nasty LONG before your coffee is brewed. This is why we are so jumped up on grinders here.
Sometimes you will find a referb deal http://www.baratza.com/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?listcategories in their online store section but the selection changes day to day so you will  need to check in often.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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JustAcoffeeDrinker
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Jul 2010
Posts: 35
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Sat Sep 8, 2012, 10:12pm
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

I did some web searching before buying, and yes, burr grinders are much preferred among the picky (of which I am one).  I was all set to get one from Amazon base on user reviews...but a recurring thing about burr grinders is the time it takes to clean them.  While I'm willing spend some time, the reality is that I have a low tolerance for that before it becomes untenable, and hence a deal breaker so far as options go.  Just based on reviews on epinion and Amazon, the blade grinder I got seemed to hold its own in the view of users compared to the burr grinder that I was eyeing.

I've also read what you described, that the fine dust over-extracts while the large chunks under-extract.  For that reason, I haven't ruled out a burr grinder in the future.  But not too soon, as I don't want to become a person who simply whips through stuff.  It's not so much the money (though it's a small part) but we've become a disposable consumer society and we *are* constantly looking for landfill area.  Whatever burr grinder I do find in the future (whenever that happens) has to be quick to clean.
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JKalpin
Senior Member
JKalpin
Joined: 28 Dec 2008
Posts: 816
Location: Thornhill, Ontario Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Aerobie Aeropress
Grinder: Baratza Maestro Plus
Vac Pot: Yama 5-Cup
Drip: Krups Moka Brew, BraZen
Roaster: Freshroast+8, Behmor 1600+
Posted Sun Sep 9, 2012, 10:09am
Subject: Re: Thermometer for making coffee
 

We have half a dozen Baratza Maestro, Maestro Plus, Encore, Percisio (etc) in the family.  We don't clean them often.  Last time I cleaned mine was a year ago.

Cleaning for me is:  Remove the hopper, the seal, the outer bur assembly, brush them out, run the brush into the discharge chute, put it all back together and ...done.

Is 15 minutes too much time for you?

 
Jerry
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