brianl Senior Member Joined: 1 Dec 2012 Posts: 480 Location: Chicago IL Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Quick Mill Vetrano DB Grinder: Baratza Vario Drip: chemex Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Fri May 9, 2014, 7:24am Subject: Thoughts About Repeatability
This isn't as much a cry for help as an observation about my espresso making. I get a subscription service, usually around the 3rd day post roast, and will pull an espresso first thing (afternoon). I warm up the machine for about 30 minutes, sometimes 40 (the time isn't that consistent). Almost every single time the shot is near heavenly and i think this batch is going to be amazing. I set my Vario to what the subscription service's roast level usually is.
The next day, in the morning, I have an auto timer in the wall socket and have it usually come on about 30-40 minutes before I wake up and pull my shot. The follow up day, 4th day post roast is always a downer and find it hard to reproduce the first day's results.
This just blows my mind as I set my PID to the same temperature, don't adjust the grinder the next day, extraction is a similar mass in the same amount of time.
Anyone else experience this? It almost seems mental to me, ha.
I have a kill-a-watt coming. I'll have to see if it can determine how long my machine is really heating up in the morning since it's a mechanical socket timer.
Posted Fri May 9, 2014, 8:22am Subject: Re: Thoughts About Repeatability
Espresso is not like most brew methods. Because of the finer grind and pressure extraction, espresso reveals a lot more about what's in the bean than other brew techniques. Espresso is very sensitive to changes in the beans, as they settle, mature, and finally stale.
There are a lot of changes during the first five or six days post roast. Even if the coffee is perfectly dialed in (temp, grind, dose) daily, you can expect it to change character in the cup as it matures and settles down.
Remember that technique does not produce an "absolute," but serves only to get the best out of the bean -- whatever that is.
As the coffee matures, the ideal dial-in dose is less variable than grind or temp; while temp is usually less variable than grind. In fact, since the ideal dose is largely a function of head space and basket, it shouldn't vary much at all.
If you let your coffee rest longer than three days post roast, say six or seven, before dialing in, your dial-in grind and temp will need less adjustment during the remainder of the coffee's "fresh" window.
Try and dial-in your grind by flow rate, and your temp by taste. Once you've got the coffee temped, you can start fooling around with grind -- but if you're in the right flow-rate range with a reasonable dose for the basket, chances are pretty good you won't be able to improve your results by much.
From a pure technique standpoint, and as a sort of general rule, the better the grinder the less adjustment for aging you'll need to perform to get optimal dial-in. For a lot of reasons Varios aren't terribly stable, and you should expect to dial-in yours frequently.
During the three to five day period, plan on dialing-in grind and temp, almost from scratch, daily.
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