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Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,368
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Thu Dec 27, 2012, 9:55pm
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

Hmmmm . . . . .

JasonBrandtLewis: otto.gif
(Click for larger image)

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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qualin
Senior Member
qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 653
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Mon Dec 31, 2012, 4:50am
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

Perhaps, I should probably just put forth an analogy.

Automatic and manual transmissions in cars.

When a car with a manual transmission stalls or jerks, it isn't because it is the transmissions fault, it is because of the operator. As the operator became more proficient driving the vehicle, the ride got smoother and safer.

When automatic transmissions first hit the market, they really sucked. Read about the Buick Dynaflow, for example. Or the wonderful 2-speed automatic GM put in the Bel Air. (Which drag racers
today use a descendant of that transmission, surprisingly enough.)

Despite improvements in technology, even modern automatic transmissions suck in one way or another, but we put up with it because they're convenient. The 4 speed automatic in my 2003 Hyundai Elantra loves to hesitate
between shifting gears at times. Going to pass someone can be aggravating because it can take two seconds for it to downshift. Sometimes it likes to downshift with a jerk. Such is life. It isn't perfect, but it beats having to
ride a clutch pedal in rush hour traffic. Reviewers complain about how some automatic transmissions like to "hunt" for a gear. My Elantra does that on occasion when it is on just the right kind of hill at the right speed.

For the record, I also own a car with a manual transmission and there just isn't any comparison between the two vehicles. With the manual transmission, I have full control. I decide when I want power to the wheels.
I decide which gear I'm in, which gear I'm going to shift to next and how long I want to stay in that gear. You just can't get that level of control from a manumatic or a DSG. (For arguments sake, while there is gear control
with a DSG, there is absolutely zero clutch control.) Sometimes I do end up in a situation where I'm experiencing gear hunting with a manual transmission, but it is all my fault in that case. :)

The point I'm trying to make is..

Using a super-automatic removes a lot of the control from the operator. Ever seen a barista use one? They push a button and that's it. There's nothing to control, so even though they've been removed
from the equation, the machine will always get it wrong because the machine can never know the exact conditions the coffee needs to be brewed in. It can only guess and make an approximation.

The barista has been reduced down to almost a button pusher instead of someone who is skilled, knowledgeable and educated on what really makes a decent coffee. Just as much as someone who knows how
to drive a car with a manual transmission is also considerably more skilled than someone who only knows how to drive an automatic.

Every skilled barista I know tastes an occasional shot to see if the parameters are to their liking.. It isn't just about Input Dosage, Extraction Duration, Extraction weight and Extraction Volume. It's also about
what the barista thinks is the best taste they can get out of that coffee. With a Super-Auto, all of that is removed out of the hands of the barista because all they can do is say, "It sucks" and there isn't much
more they can do to fix it, short of messing around with the parameters on the machine until they get something which is somewhat drinkable.

It would take considerably more technological refinements before a super-auto could even approach that of a semi or full auto when it comes to the quality of the coffee. Super-Auto technology is still very young
yet and just like automatic transmissions, it took decades before the auto manufacturers could build something that got better fuel economy than a standard transmission.

The thing you need to keep in mind is that unless you are a real serious electronics engineer, hydraulics engineer, mechanical engineer and computer programmer, you would have to break every convention in
the book and design something that nobody has thought of yet that in all honesty, doesn't suck.

What a lot of people forget was that Achille Gaggia was just an ex-aircraft mechanic who figured out a way to brew espresso. His invention transformed the entire coffee world and turned it upside down. The bar
has been raised much higher since. The key thing though was that Achilles looked at a previous patent, got an idea and ran with it. He didn't know anything about espresso machines either at first. :-)

So, rather than talk about it, do it. Build it and see what works and doesn't work. If large coffee equipment manufacturers haven't been getting it right, find out why, learn from it and build something like what
Achilles did to turn the entire coffee world around on its ear.

I'm going to say right from the heart that if you just do what everyone else is doing, you won't get anywhere. The first place to start is find out what people are doing wrong first. Take a broken super-automatic apart.
Then, find out why a semi-automatic or fully-automatic just works so much better.

If you are truly passionate about this, you will take the time to learn how everything works and fits together. Read what you can, learn what you can, then make informed decisions and run with them.

Besides, every coffee equipment manufacturer is looking for a way to make their equipment better. The Quickmill Monza is a testament to that. It is a way to stay competitive in the market. If you think you can do
better, by all means, we're not stopping you. :-)

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,368
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Mon Dec 31, 2012, 9:57am
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

qualin Said:

Perhaps, I should probably just put forth an analogy.

Posted December 31, 2012 link

Or not . . .   ;^)

JasonBrandtLewis: beathorse.gif

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 963
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Mon Dec 31, 2012, 11:25am
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

shadowsnuzzy Said:

This theoretical machine would dominate the super automatic market and provide quality espresso and convenience without requiring the user to know much about espresso.

I don't know an awful lot about the technicalities of espresso machines, so feel free to add to my list or point out areas of difficulty.

Posted December 26, 2012 link

"How hard can it be?" are famous last words for good reason.  Any person can put together a wish list of features.  Developing and producing a product is something else entirely.  See also: ZPM Espresso.

shadowsnuzzy Said:

The machine will have a built in burr grinder, something around the quality of a Rocky

Posted December 26, 2012 link

If you're going to daydream, aim high.

qualin Said:

Perhaps, I should probably just put forth an analogy.

Automatic and manual transmissions in cars.

Posted December 31, 2012 link

I get where you're going but it's not quite the same these days.  There are automatics that can shift faster and smoother than any person could.
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shadowsnuzzy
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Joined: 8 Jan 2011
Posts: 70
Location: Pleasanton
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Dec 31, 2012, 3:17pm
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

Why do the shots on even a quickmill come out in 6 seconds instead of 25?
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,368
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Mon Dec 31, 2012, 4:12pm
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

Uh . . . a) because the grind wasn't dialed in properly; or b) because it's a super-automatic.  Take your pick.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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shadowsnuzzy
Senior Member


Joined: 8 Jan 2011
Posts: 70
Location: Pleasanton
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Dec 31, 2012, 4:14pm
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

Well yea I'm talking about the Superauto Quickmill, but why isn't it made so the shot comes out in 25 seconds like a real semi auto and barista?
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SStones
Senior Member
SStones
Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 474
Location: Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Giga 5, ECM Giotto, Rocket...
Grinder: Anfim Milano-Best
Vac Pot: No  :(
Drip: Some $30 thing from Walmart
Roaster: I buy pre-roasted.
Posted Mon Dec 31, 2012, 6:02pm
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

shadowsnuzzy Said:

Why do the shots on even a quickmill come out in 6 seconds instead of 25?

Posted December 31, 2012 link

Traditional machines are using the ground coffee trapped in the portafilter as a restriction to flow. This restriction is necessary to have the hot water properly extract the flavour and oils from the grinds. Above the grounds, the water is nearly boiling and about 140PSI above atmospheric pressure. At the bottom of the portafilter the pressure is only atmospheric pressure (Of course, it's falling from the dispensor through atmosphere). This pressure drop through the grounds begets a drop in temperature, and somewhere inside that puck is the perfect extraction layer, with a thin layer of too hot above and a thin layer of too cold below. So now that you're picturing that puck as a tool in the pressure-control of the brew process, it becomes clear that trying to increase make it faster is just increasing the pressure on the top layer and narrowing the amount of sweet-spot in the middle (The bottom will always be zero above atmospheric).  
(Most) Superautomatics use preset checkvalves at the brew-unit outlet to induce a pressure drop AFTER the nearly boiling water has already left the puck, making the whole puck a potential "Sweet spot". The grounds are much coarser so that they won't create much of a restriction and thus a pressure drop.
So, because the pressure drop over that final checkvalve can be set to determine what the rate of flow for expresso extraction COULD be, it is set low enough that the flow rate can be increased...  And the label on the box can say "Bean to Cup Espresso in 9 seconds."  Or actually, it will probably say "Perfect Bean to Cup Espresso in 9 seconds" because that's what consumers want to see.

Machines with pressurized portafilters are using this "Post-extraction" pressuredrop, too.
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shadowsnuzzy
Senior Member


Joined: 8 Jan 2011
Posts: 70
Location: Pleasanton
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Dec 31, 2012, 6:08pm
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

But even if the whole puck is a sweet spot, why does the espresso come out worse than a standard semi auto's espresso?
What's the point it straying from the semiauto pressure model if the espresso brews faster but taste worse?
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Chivalry
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Apr 2004
Posts: 33
Location: UK
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Vivi
Grinder: Eureka Mignon
Posted Tue Jan 1, 2013, 2:26am
Subject: Re: Challenge: Build the world's best Super automatic
 

lost credability when you mentioned mazzer and rocky in the same sentence as if they were equal... :)
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