Considering that some of the finest shots I have ever had come from a completely manual (non-spring), open-boiler lever machine, I would take Bud's (Qualin) opinons with a sizable helping of salt. In this matter he knows not whereof he speaks (and tends to overstate the importance of his other opinions, but that's a common failing around here. Been known to do it myself) But I would agree that what you should be pursuing is what ends up in the cup. Doesn't matter what technology puts it there if it ain't worth drinking.
Bud, it takes me five minutes to completely disassemble, clean, lubricate, and put back in service my Caravel. Descaling takes only a little longer and is far less trouble than with any HX or double-boiler machine. If that's passe and outdated, it's also simple, easy-to-use, and requires less attention than any pump-driven machine I've dealt with. I'll take that level of purity and simplicity any day over all the bells and whistles you can summon.
Thx for all your comments so far. The extent of my gratitude is equal to the effort going into your responses and to the value of the insight you offer. All comments are welcome, positive and negative, as they all help steer my efforts.
I like to the idea of actuating a lever, it's a nice way to partake in the ritual of making a coffee.
The lever pull should be as long as the coffee drip from the Porta-Filtro. It should be sensitive enough to create your own pressure profile.
For example, we could have a bar graph display, showing the ave pressure during each second of the pull. These could be saved for future reference.
Therefor, what is commonly referred to as the pre-infusion, is now just a part of the pressure profile of the pull.
Now that we have saved profiles, let's add an electric motor, to repeat the saved pulls in future.
And since we came this far, the user interface would allow you to trace the pressure profile that you want to automate, rather than discovering profiles using the lever.
So now we have a manual machine, that could be automated (motor activated according to a controller) according to a pre established pressure profile if desired.
I would use hydraulics rather than an electric motor, as you'l get a smoother and more consistent pressure. Electric motors can fluctuate too much with voltage fluctuations.
Though I think that's probably a feature that's not extremely useful in a practical matter and only adds complexity and expense. Considering how much coffee can fluctuate from day to day and with changes in atmospheric conditions, a saved pressure profile isn't going to give the same results for very long, especially if your dosing varies, even a little. just a half a gram difference in the dose can make such a big difference.
Before I go any further, I should say that the road you are going down is not the best one. You are asking questions which really shouldn't be asked by someone who is designing a machine for the first time. I don't want to discourage you, but you still haven't even answered my own questions. What do you own right now? How many shots do you drink in a day? How do you prepare your coffee right now? Do you have any mechanical or hydraulic engineering background or experience?
The fact that you have illustrated that you don't even know the basics of how an espresso machine works is kind of irking me a bit. You are doing the equivalent of trying to design a car without even understanding how an engine or transmission works. Everyone wants a 0-60 time of 3 seconds, but they look at the result without understanding everything which needs to fit together to make that happen.
There is a very good reason why espresso machine manufacturers have used certain technologies in their products for the last 80 years. You can't even begin to start down this road until you've reverse engineered at least one of their designs and understand the basics of how to properly make an espresso.
You shouldn't even begin building something until you are drinking your own coffee using someone elses design or machine. This has been said to you many times over. More to the point, the Japanese concept of Kaizen should be followed. Start simple and make gradual improvements until you get to where you want to be, don't pull a GM and make everything complex from the get go and be prone to failure.
Even though I just repeated myself, think about it this way. When the Japanese first started building electronics, they started out by cloning American Manufacturers making transistor radios. The almost literally copied their designs and put their logo on it. As time went on, they observed the concept of Kaizen and started building things which the Americans hadn't invented yet. This is exactly the same kind of philosophy you should be taking.
To reiterate, the Japanese started building things which made them money. Then, they used the money they obtained from selling those things to build better things and the cycle built upon itself. How well do you think the Japanese would have fared if they had tried to build Asimo back in the 1960's?
If I was in your shoes and I was serious about doing this, the first thing I would do is find an old E61 machine and tear it apart, recondition it and put it back together again. Then I'd feel I was qualified to talk about E61's. Then I would do the same with an old used Elektra Casa Da Leva or a La Pavoni. Only then would I be brave enough to start asking engineering and design questions on here.
Now, if you can't answer my own questions posed to you, I'm really not interested in helping you further. I've already spent too much time on this topic.
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
I think there is something to be said for believing in yourself, starting off from scratch, and not knocking off other peoples designs. This approach will more likely produce a novel solution to the problem. All of my undertakings are generally motivated by passion, and I have found that with this approach the finances take care of themselves. Also, not everything is a winner, especially the first off.
Based on my design experience, it takes me three tries to achieve a good design.
1st try is usually an exploration. Once it's done, you usually want to tear it down and start over. 2nd try, the design works better, the concept is proven, but you're not yet proud of it. 3rd try, the design is distilled and simplified, and the result is more elegant.
I do have an engineering background.
Q, can you please explain what you mean by saturated and thermo block.
IMO, a good approach is to study the very best machines operated by the very best baristas. Thoroughly instrument what they do and then try to duplicate that at a lower price point and with less skill.
New technologies (like computers) and new materials often present opportunities for improvements.
You nearly got it right in your quote above, the last 5 words are the ones you should think about.....and probably the best thing you have typed overall.
you cannot design an espresso machine by committee, to design one YOU have to know enough to take all the inputs (and all the stuff you DONT get inputs on), then sift the wheat from the chaff. People don't always know what they want, especially when working within existing paradigms, accepted norms and the relative lack of information on some areas of espresso machine design, function and performance. After this, you actually need to be able to make it, economically, consistently and ensure it's supportable for years to come. The minimum of required customisation is the best idea and then only where it's needed.
Imagine your machine mostly bespoke....who would buy it, I would not. e.g. Bespoke group...where would I get spares, you, what would I pay...whatever you wanted to charge. If you go out of business....I'm screwed.
To make something better, you have to know better than the manufacturers, but this I mean the manufacturers of the parts that go in machines (that's not too hard), but producing it is.....Even when you have the whip hand with the manufacturers (e.g. won't order until changes), or god forbid, they actually ask you to help them. It's amazingly hard to convince them of the most obvious design requirements. Izzo, believe it or not when they built the first prototype Duetto ever, had fixed temperature control, even though I specified a PID....then proceeded to argue with me about why I was wrong and they were right.
Then you have the good old consumer....you're gonna have to make design decisions, some of which are actually worse, just to satisfy a perception which may be incorrect.....take the "no burn" steam wand as a prime example!
I have many many years experience, have seen over 50 different machines, been involved in design.......and I still can't do the detailed electrical/Technical drawings for the tin etc.. (mainly just the top level specs and some of the thermal calculations etc..). I suspect without even my sort of experience, any design project you start is doomed to fail.
I got a lot of commercial inputs but not enough technical inputs ! Even though you all may not be technicians, try to formulate, the best way you know how, some technical inputs you would want, that is, some machine specs. And, don't worry about being technically correct, I'll make sense of it.
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