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Launched

1

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” 2

Well, here it is: the missive I’ve been promising for quite a few years now – the one in which I announce the price and the pre-sale. This is it; the moment has finally come. Sort of.

Very short summary if you aren’t interested in / don’t have time for the medium-long read:

1st thing: This is new. There may be problems. Or there may not.
2nd thing: I’m giving them away (ish).
3rd thing: The pre-production Founders’ Circle Edition Lapera DS machines will cost $8888.88 CAD plus shipping.
4th thing: The next ones will be more expensive.

Before we unpack all of that, please indulge me in a minor digression.

Not too long after graduating from architecture school I put a perfectly good career designing bridges and office buildings on hold and maxed out my credit cards to go on tour with the band. The band in this case being the first work that I had created with another artist: the Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers3, a half-hour long orchestral performance for obsolete office equipment. Fast forward twenty years, after many art projects that investigated questions of technology and obsolescence, and an awful lot of time spent looking for good coffee while on tour, it occurred to me that coffee is one of the very few areas of everyday life where steam engines, i.e. technology from the 18th century, are still considered cutting edge. And so began my third career.

Actions, or so the aphorism goes, speak louder than words. Whatever you may think of his actions, you must allow that Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush (remember him?), has a way with words. His quote about the “unknown unknowns”, possibly a bit long to be an aphorism but getting there, neatly encapsulates and conveniently compartmentalizes all knowledge and identifies a distinct category of events which are, by definition, unforeseeable. The lesson being that you must plan for every eventuality knowing that you cannot know all the eventualities. Given who he is and how that all went, the irony of the implicit caution against hubris is, to me at least, rich.

The new Lapera machines have been tested, very thoroughly and rather strenuously, in the controlled conditions of our atelier. I have tried to anticipate all of the problems, from bad water to cosmic rays, before they arise. But what will happen when they venture out on their own into the wide and wonderful and dangerous world? What will happen when they are left alone with your ten year old nephew (no, don’t do that, bad idea – “oooh, a catapult!”). What will happen when someone leaves a pound of butter to soften for baking on the cup warmer and then gets distracted by an Oprah re-run? It is possible, as with all designs entering this Rumsfeldian world, that something not immediately apparent may present itself at some point in the future. Or it won’t. Who knows? At this point there is only one way to find out.

At the beginning of 2016, sitting by a pool in California, I drew the design for the main casting of the Lapera group in my sketchbook. Because, well, that’s what you do when you sit by the pool right? I started with the group casting because it is the most difficult component to make. If I could make that, the rest, I thought at the time, was eminently doable. I also thought that it would take about eighteen months or two years to complete the project. Since then, other than some short breaks teaching architecture and showing at art exhibitions, I have done nothing but work on realizing the DS. Five years is a long time: more than 10,000 hours working a regular nine to five – which of course this job is not. Five years of running costs of my studio. Five years of investment in the materials and labor necessary to iterate the design. And what is that all worth, what did it cost? Suffice it to say that even if I were to charge ten times the amount that I am asking for this first edition, I won’t come any near to recouping my costs. But that is not really why I am doing this. This is not a sensible project. Nor am I, it would seem, a sensible person. Who quotes Donald Rumsfeld in a product launch and suggests that early adopters are potential canon fodder? What you are buying is not so much a coffee machine as it is a love letter to a way of making things that is exceedingly rare today. A work of art. A piece of me.

So this release, the Founders’ Circle Edition of nine single digit serial numbers, fully functional prototypes if you like, is for the risk takers, the early adopters, the beta testers, the kind of people who are willing to put their faith in me. And it is priced accordingly. Of the nine single digit machines, two, I am very proud to say, have been sold into some of the most important private collections of coffee machines in the world. The remaining seven pre-production DS models are available for purchase at the initial price of $8,888.88 CAD (that would be Canadian dollars, U.S. Dollar’s baby brother).

I obviously work very slowly and it is not my intention to scale up the production to the point where I have to forego the level of quality I need in order to get out of bed in the morning. It is unlikely that production volume will exceed the dozens for the next year or two. This means that this price is not sustainable over the long term. Consequentially, the price of the next edition will start with a one and may or may not have any eights in it at all.

If, after doing and saying all of this, I am fortunate enough to have more than seven people still interested, the criteria for deciding who gets one will be thoroughly unscientific: first dibs will be given to the insiders who have been following the project since its beginnings as a series of posts on a coffee forum, the people who have lent a hand and offered encouragement along the way, and the people who I think will take good care.

So who wants one? Just say so and, this time at least, words will have the upper hand.

Thomas


(1) Dream Boat, Monastir, Tunisia, 2018. Available as an NFT for $69,346,251
(2) Donald Rumsfeld
(3) You can look it up. It won a bunch of awards.

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If it ain’t Baroque…

If it ain’t Baroque… don’t fix it.

This morning, I re-read Adolf Loos’s monumentally amusing 1913 essay “Ornament and Crime”. Loos of course, didn’t intend to entertain: the colonial and classist condescension was most emphatically ernsthaft. Eurocentric, racist and chauvinist (to the point of effacement) it may be, the essay nonetheless looms large in contemporary design’s collective unconscious. As Wikipedia puts it (with more than mild understatement): “The essay is important in articulating some moralizing views, inherited from the Arts and Crafts movement, which would be fundamental to the Bauhaus design studio, and would help define the ideology of modernism in architecture.” The central thesis is that ornament is not only wasteful (and therefore immoral) it is also culturally backward: the more ornament you like, the less civilized you are.

Aaron McGruder The Boondocks 1999

A particularly howl-worthy passage:

“Tattooed men who are not behind bars are either latent criminals or degenerate aristocrats. If someone who is tattooed dies in freedom, then he does so a few years before he would have committed murder.”

Lot of, errr, degenerate aristocrats about these days it would seem.

One can’t help thinking that Loos wouldn’t have been a particularly fun guy to be around. Quite apart from hating the heart shape of heart-shaped gingerbread:

“The vegetables [twentieth century man] likes are simply boiled in water and then served with a little melted butter. The other man doesn’t enjoy them until honey and nuts have been added and someone has been busy cooking them for hours.”

Tell that to Jamie Oliver.

Now where am I going with this? Anyone who has been following this thread will know that my design aesthetic is, shall we say, somewhat austere, and that ornament is, more  or less, anathema (less being more and all of that).

Separated as we are by more than a hundred years from Loos’s century, it is both unfair and conceptually fuzzy to judge him by the morals of ours. In short, he is a product of his time and I’m sure that in addition to being a pompous ass he was a good dad. Or not. What is certainly true is that his thinking both presages and underpins a large part of twentieth century design. Without Loos there is no Mies.

To be continued.

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Houston, we have interlock

© NASA, SpaceX, & that Elon guy no doubt, but he steals art to put on his coffee mugs, which he sells, so I feel OK about this.

Houston, we have interlock. “Interlock”?. Interlock is an engineering term which refers to two mechanisms that are mutually dependent. That is, one mechanism must be in a particular state if the other one is to operate and vice versa. A good, reasonably high stakes example of this would be, say, not being about to push the un-docking button while the door of your space capsule is open. There are many ways to achieve interlock, the un-docking button in question may be programmed to do nothing until a certain set of conditions are reached, but in its simplest and, for me, most elegant form, it is achieved through mechanical design and topology. For example: a dangerous machine that requires the operator to activate two separate switches simultaneously, thus ensuring that both of his/her hands are clear of the mechanism. Or the so-called “dead man” switch which must be actively maintained in the on position by the operator in order to keep the engine engaged, thus preventing runaway trains if the operator falls asleep or, er, dies.

At a more this-is-not-rocket-science level, how do you ensure that an electrical device is safe when you remove the cover? Of course, you can put a warning label on it…

…or, you can design the topology such that it limits or eliminates the possibility of error.

Even though the controller for the machine doesn’t have too much to do, it is still a mains-powered device. The two connectors on the bottom row are for power and the solenoid coil for the auto-fill, both of which are mains AC and therefore potentially dangerous. The top row is for the sensors and the interface, which are low voltage DC. The first thing to notice is that the connectors for the two rows are different. There is no way to plug a high voltage plug into a low voltage receptacle or the other way around. The green connector sets themselves are made of up two gendered halves: a female receptacle with male pins and a male plug with female sockets.

The male pins are exposed and could, at least potentially, come into contact with your hand, while the female sockets are completely enclosed by their plastic housing. It is the topology of this paring that determines the way in which it is employed in the design: the male plug with the female socket is the live half of the connection. The male pins in the receptacle cannot be live unless the female plug is in place – and of course, once they are plugged in and are live you can’t touch them.

Finally, the cases are machined with discrete openings for the AC power connectors. This means that the power connectors must pass through the wall of the box when they are assembled and that, conversely, the enclosure cannot be opened, exposing the live circuits inside, if it is plugged in!

Of course, that only lasts while those two tiny strips of plastic that increase the genus of the surface topology of the enclosure by two are intact. And all bets are off if you use the machine in the bath; idiot-proof being a relative term.

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hot porridge

Hot Porridge, Hannah Clarke Preston MacGoun, 1910

[Ed: re-post from Nov 17, 2018]

The new results in my ongoing quest for Goldilocks porridge (aka boiler-group thermodynamic interaction and stability, but porridge sounds much better) are in and I have to say that I’m rather pleased.

What are we testing?
This is temperature profile of the new boiler with diagonal HX and injector. The boiler and the HX chamber are both made of stainless steel but, unlike the previous Horseshoe HX prototype, the brew reservoir is now bronze (for reference, stainless is roughly 20 times less thermally conductive than copper and copper-based alloys). The diagonal HX configuration eliminates the separation between the HX chamber and the brew reservoir and they both form one single volume of hot water at a lower average temperate than the boiler water. Cold water is injected directly into this volume and the resulting mix, now at a lower temperature, moves on into the group during a shot.

Methodology
Methodology is similar to previous tests: the machine was turned on several hours in advance to make sure that everything is at its ultimate idle temperature. The probes are K-type thermocouples placed in the same spots as prior tests – the only difference being that the brew reservoir now has a dedicated threaded thermocouple socket – no more tape coming unstuck or clamps falling off. Shots are simulated by using a flow restricting valve placed on the outlet of the portafilter.

Shot simulation procedure is:

  • Pull
  • Pre-infusion 7 seconds (lever in down position) –
  • Shot 20-25 seconds for lever to return to the cam inflection point (lever just past straight up and down)
  • Post-flow 10-30 seconds (lever returns to rest position)

Various timings between the shots are tried: 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 3 minutes.

Comments
The pseudoScace™ device (puck temperature readings) has too large a thermal mass to give meaningful results for peak puck temperatures when inserted cold. I therefore left it in place, before, during and after the test to minimize its impact. The one second sampling time period is too long to give reliable readings at the moment of the pull. On a few of the shots there is a significant drop seen at the puck at the moment of the pull. I believe that this is due to the piston creating a vacuum as it is raised and drawing cold water back up through the pseudoScace from the waste line. A change in equipment would be required to eliminate this if this hypothesis is correct.

Conclusions and observations
The original Aurora diagonal HX I profiled back in May demonstrated uncanny thermal stability at the brew reservoir, but the group suffered per-shot heat-gain and was slow to return to its baseline idle temperature. These results show that the brew reservoir temperature is dipping significantly but the group and the puck temperatures are, by comparison to the antique machine, rock steady. The maximum overall delta at the puck is 3.1 C (between the walk-up and the third shots) but the inter-shot maximum delta is 1.8 C (the minimum inter-shot delta is 0.5 C for 2 minutes between shots).

Summary
So, to summarize: best performance at 2 minute intervals, significantly lower puck temperature fluctuation than the antique machine and little to no group heat-gain. This, I think, may be a slightly better mouse trap – though not really by design, rather by accident of the thermal interaction of the materials. I’m not going to complain.

If you will permit me, and at the risk of tooting my own horn:

Courtesy of UC Davis, Special Collections
Title: Magazine ad for Bank of America: hammer and nail montage.
Creator/Contributor: Halberstadt, Milton, Photographer

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Goldilocks part 3

The set of the bears. Plate 7, 1664, by Marcus de Bye, after Marcus Gheeraerts I, 1559. Gift of Bishop Monrad, 1869. Te Papa (1869-0001-67)

Though I’ve run out of three bears analogies, I’ve stuck with the story’s structure: first the porridge was too hot, then it was too cold, and finally Goldilocks found one that was just right. This iteration of the HX caused me to take my hat off, yet again, to the Italians. Many months ago, Dr. Pootoogoo brought a boiler from a later-model Brugnetti to my studio. The flange bolts were so badly rusted that it wasn’t ever going to go back into service without replacing them. It happened to be one with a diagonal HX that I hadn’t examined before and it inspired my to try a similar concept with the horseshoe HX prototype. I was quite surprised that the 60ml HX (baby bear) didn’t deliver water that was cooler than the brew reservoir temperature even though the HX volume was close to the 50ml shot volume. I also started thinking about what the ‘correct’ temperature for the brew reservoir should be. It occurred to me it might not be the best thing for it always to be the same. For example: if the group is at 75 C and the water coming in is at 102 C, the resultant water temperature at the puck is 92 C (these are roughly the numbers for both vintage machines) and we know that the group gains heat after a shot, let’s say for the sake of argument it gains 3 degrees and requires about 2 minutes per degree to recover i.e. 6 minutes. It follows then that for the next shot, if it is to be pulled [i]before the end of the recovery time,[/i] it would be preferable to have the brew reservoir water at a lower temperature than 102 degrees so that when it reaches the puck it will be at same magic 92 degrees. Because of the difference in thermal properties of the materials (i.e. the brass group and the water) and their relative volumes (i.e. big thermal mass of brass vs 50ml of water) it isn’t a one to one relationship. But it is linear – i.e. it will be a constant times the temperature rise of the group. So at any given time during group recovery, the required brew reservoir temperature is the reservoir idle temperature minus the group temperature rise times some constant. In math not English:

Tbr = Tbr_idle – K(Tgroup – Tgroup_idle)

In other words if the heat gain curve of the group could be inversely mirrored by the brew reservoir, then water will be at the right temperature when it reaches the puck [i]no matter when it is pulled[/i]. This is really just destructive wave interference:

If the brew reservoir temperature curve is positive (i.e. there is heat gain), then it will compound the problem of heat gain at the group. But if the brew reservoir temperature drops after a shot, then it will compensate.

The diagonal HX design consists of a large diameter pipe which connects directly to the back of the brew reservoir – essentially increasing the volume of the brew reservoir four-fold. In fact, the concept of the brew reservoir is pretty much gone altogether in this design – the group flange actually becomes one end of the heat-exchanger. A small diameter injector tube runs through the middle of the large diagonal pipe. Line water comes in through the injector too fast for the surrounding water to heat it to boiler temperature and mixes with the water behind the group to get the really stable results that we saw in the earlier testing.

I replicated the basic principal minus the diagonal tube and in so doing figured out why the diagonal design ended up that way i.e. diagonal.

The last kink in the 6mm tubing was only way to thread all the larger diameter fittings onto the injector. And this is a one-way operation: once it is brazed together you can’t take it apart again.

Brazed and (sort-of) cleaned.

And here are the results:

Blue – Boiler
Red – Brew reservoir
Purple – Group neck

Now, although the results aren’t perfect, it shows that the concept works. The group heat gain for successive (unnaturally) rapid shots has been significantly diminished and the recovery time for the group is less than half of what it was (less than 3 minutes). The length of the injector plays an important role in how much boiler temperature HX water mixes with the line water and consequently in the temperature of the water that reaches the brew reservoir. But, as I said, this is a one-shot fabrication and is too much trouble to alter. It would be much easier to change and/or maintain if the injector tube screwed into a straight length of larger diameter tube that maybe ran directly to the group right through the boiler, maybe on a diagonal…

Wait – someone already thought of that.

Enough porridge already.

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Goldilocks part 2

Illustration by Pervprude

It is high time for more porridge!

Several days after I did the first tests, it occurred to me that the horseshoe tube that I had made when I built the boiler was not the same as the one in the Brugnetti boiler. I wasn’t really thinking that hard about how a heat-exchanger actual works while I was making it. So I took apart the boiler (again). This is the original tube, nicely blackened after a few months of service:

I measured the interior volume of the ‘Papa Bear’ version and compared it with the volume of the vintage HX horseshoe (modeled in CAD): 115ml for the vintage and 135ml for Papa Bear. So I put Papa Bear to the bandsaw, and cut him down to make Mama Bear.

Blue – Boiler
Red – Brew reservoir
Purple – Group neck

(The data for the neck was very noisy for some reason that day – the rapid deviations do not reflect what is actually going on.)

Despite having the same volume as the vintage tube, ‘Mama Bear’ doesn’t behave the same way. The peaks in the brew reservoir temperature are similar to Papa Bear, i.e. around 5 degrees, and recovery times are about the same. It should be noted however, that with adequate recovery time, the neck temperature shows a high degree of stability.

I then modified the horseshoe again, lowering the volume to around 100ml (Auntie Bear??) – but the results didn’t change significantly. So I decided that drastic measures were called for: ‘Baby Bear’ – roughly 60ml volume which is about half of the vintage.

Though the results are better, there are still spikes in the brew reservoir temperature.

Time to alter the Goldilocks plot line.

Introducing ‘No Bear’! Partly to make sure that I wasn’t entirely out to lunch but also to measure the other extreme, I connected the supply to the brew reservoir directly to the mains, bypassing the HX and injecting room temperature water into the reservoir. Unsurprisingly the results are dramatic!

Very cold porridge indeed.

Interestingly however, while the neck temperature rises by a few degrees initially, it recovers quickly (less than a minute) and then drops to 2.5 degrees below idle.

Where does this leave us? The concept of the HX is of course to inject (fresh i.e. non-boiler) cold water through the hot water in the boiler in order to raise it to the ‘correct’ temperature to feed the reservoir. If the machine has been idle for any length of time, the water in the HX will be at the same temperature as the boiler. Subsequent shots will draw cold water into the HX, which, depending on how it is designed, will consistently bring room temperature water up to a specific temperature (either boiler temperature or slightly lower), as long as the heating element can keep up with the demand. So some not very earth-shattering conclusions:

  • Changing the design of the HX will determine the temperature ‘profile’ of the water delivered to the brew reservoir.
  • Somewhere between 60ml and 0ml of HX volume, the water delivered to the reservoir will offset the heat gain and result in equilibrium.

There is one additional question that results from the three bears test: why do identical horseshoes in the vintage and new boilers not exhibit the same thermodynamic behavior? My hypotheses is that materials used for the brew reservoir and boiler are playing a much bigger role than I first thought. Both of these parts on the prototype are made from stainless which is roughly 20 times less thermally conductive than copper and bronze. To test my theory, I put the prototype group onto the vintage machine: compared to the all-stainless boiler assembly, the new group runs around 12 degrees hotter on the copper/bronze boiler. The stainless brew reservoir is slow to acquire heat from the boiler and the water in the reservoir and reluctant to relinquish it to the air or pass it on to the group.

SO…. two rather more significant conclusions:
1 – There should be (or rather, spoiler alert, there is, as will be seen in an upcoming episode) an HX design that meets the requirements of stainless boiler and group combination.
2 – It is time to make a new boiler – using the bronze brew reservoirs that I received a few months ago.

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Goldilocks part 1

Illustration: Arthur Rackham

[Ed: Re-post from May 12 2018]

I imagine everyone remembers the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

I love the painterly references on the wall – a Degas ballerina on the left, an old master on the right, an enameled reproduction of a Greek vase in blue? But I digress. Apart from carrying a wee bit of Freudian baggage, it is also perhaps not the most pertinent of fairy tales for our times (how would you react if you came home and found someone sleeping in your kid’s bed?). Anyways, what I wanted from it for today’s post is the porridge. You know, the three kinds of porridge that are too hot, too cold and just right? You see where I’m going with this… Except that in my story there are four bears, or rather three bears and no bear, but neither of those versions scan very well, so we are going to stick with the original title. First up is Papa bear’s porridge.

This is one of the first temperature profiles that I took of the prototype machine. The methodology is very similar to the tests on the Brugnetti [Auroras] that I posted previously. As always, the Scace-values are not terribly useful except for comparison.
A reminder of the colors:
Blue – boiler wall
Red – brew reservoir
Purple – group neck
Green – PF receiver on the group
Yellow(ish) – Scace puck

Observations:

  • The boiler temperature curve is sinusoidal as opposed to saw-tooth and has a delta of 0.7 C between minima and maxima. This performance was obtained using only the P term of the [PID] algorithm. It could probably be improved with some additional tuning, but I haven’t bothered because it is already pretty good.
  • Brew reservoir temperature is stable at idle and shows no trace of the boiler temperature variation.
  • Recovery times for a shot are about 2 minutes per degree for the group and 1 minute per degree for the brew reservoir.
  • Group temperature at idle (~70 C) is quite a bit lower at idle than the Auroras (~80 C and ~83 C for the horseshoe and diagonal versions respectively).
  • Don’t touch the probes.

Conclusions:

  • Job (pretty much) done on the PID boiler control.
  • Plenty of room for improvement on the brew reservoir temperature stability which is gaining too much heat after a pull.
  • The whole shebang has to be hotter.

Next up: Mama bear and No bear.

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temperature profile diagonal HX

1987 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

[ED: Re-post from May 4 2018]

This is a longer test (over an hour) on a 1987 diagonal HX machine.

Methodology:

The same methods as were used for the horseshoe HX machine were used with a few minor differences.

  • This machine is on 24/7 so there is no warm-up period.
  • It had been at idle for at least a couple of hours.
  • The same pseudo-Scace device and needle-valve was used to simulate shots.
  • The period between simulated shots is generally longer and I did not repeat the faster than commercial usage of the previous test, rather, I waited for the group to recover between shots.
  • At minute 3 and 32 there are cleaning flushes – i.e. pulls that were significantly larger in volume than an actual shot.
  • At minute 23 a PF filled with real coffee was locked into the group and a shot pulled.
  • At minute 25, the steam wand was used to foam milk for a cappuccino.
  • The additional orange line that starts at minute 46 is another K-type thermocouple that was placed on top of a puck of coffee before the PF was locked into the group.

Observations:

  • This machine has the same pressurestat as the horseshoe HX machine from the previous test and consequently we see the same saw-tooth wave for the boiler temperature.
  • With the exception of the cleaning flushes, the brew reservoir is [b]remarkably[/b] stable – exhibiting almost no discernable trace of the fluctuation in boiler temperature. The temperature drop for the outside of the reservoir after a shot is pulled is less than one degree and the recovery time is between two and three minutes.
  • The group as a whole exhibits the same tendency as the horseshoe HX machine to gain heat with each shot.
  • The recovery time for the group is a little over a minute per degree C of heat gain i.e. essentially the same as the horseshoe machine. As the groups are identical this is unsurprising.
  • The shot test with real coffee plus the additional thermocouple starting at minute 46 shows a 90 C peak shot temperature and is quite likely to be accurate.
  • At minute 40 I removed the PF to prepare for the next shot and the preparation time is longer than usual because I was fussing with the thermocouple. Removing the PF has a fairly significant effect on overall group temperature as the neck falls to the same 83 C that it was when the machine was at idle.

Conclusions:

  • The diagonal HX is about as good as it gets as far as temperature stability of the brew water reservoir goes. The reservoir recovers from what little variation there is in less than half the time that the group takes to recover between shots.
  • The slower, more realistic, pace of shot pulls in this test is illuminating. The actual temperature gain seen at the group is between 4 and 5 C per shot. This translates to a group recovery time of five to six minutes – possibly a little slow for a commercial setting, but definitely fast enough for home use and entirely manageable with a cooling strategy such as a cooling flush of a known volume.
  • 1987 was better than 1982.
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temperature profile horseshoe HX

[Ed: Re-post from April 29 2018]

So, if a pressure profile is a cat among pigeons around here, here’s a fox in the hen house:

What are we looking at? This is a multi-channel temperature log of my early 80s [Brugnetti Aurora] horseshoe HX machine over a period of about half an hour.

Methodology:

Five K-type thermocouples were installed on the boiler, the side of the brew reservoir, the group neck (i.e. extension between the bolt flange and the body of the group), the outside of the portafilter holder on the group and the puck inside the pseudo-Scace. The machine was turned on at roughly 10am and was at idle for at least one hour before the test. The pressurestat is set so that the average boiler pressure is in middle of the recommended band (the green area on the Brugnetti gauge) at 0.9 bar.
At 5:30pm the portafilter was inserted cold into the holder and 6 simulated shots were pulled with the needle valve set to give 20-30 seconds of flow per shot. The spacing of the shots is very quick – about 30 seconds apart – much faster than a ‘worst case’ scenario of constant use in a commercial setting.
At 5:34pm the machine was left to idle for 3 minutes then a further 5 shots were pulled.
At 5:40pm the machine idled for 5 minutes and 3 shots were pulled.
At 5:59pm the portafilter was removed.

Limitations of the methodology:

A) The pseudo-Scace is by no means a perfect analog to actual coffee for a number of reasons:
First, the Acetal puck, although vaguely similar, does not conduct heat in the same way as coffee grounds.
Second, the puck gains heat from shot to shot unlike coffee, which will always be at (close to) room temperature.
Thirdly, the flow rate through the needle valve is not very repeatable.
Fourthly, fluid flow through real coffee is unlikely to be linear, and this non-linearity is not modeled with the needle valve.
So temperature readings “at the puck” should be taken with a grain of salt.
That being said, for comparative study of different machines, Scace-like instruments are a valuable tool.

B) Also, with the except of the pseudo-Scace, these measurements are surface temperatures not actual water temperature.

Observations:

  • The roughly triangular wave of the boiler (blue line) is from the pressurestat controller with roughly 0.2 bar of hysteresis (dead band). Total variation is approximately 4 degrees C.
  • The (red) brew reservoir temperature (and by inference also the water inside it) correlates closely with the boiler temperature but the variation is considerable damped. Total brew reservoir variation is less than 1.5 C.
  • Average (or baseline) temperature of the brew reservoir is affected only very slightly by continual use rising from 100.5 C at idle to 102.5 C after intense activity.
  • Neck temperature (purple) seems to be a better analog to puck temperature than the outside of the portafilter holder.
  • The group gains heat with each shot if not left enough time to recover and (based on a small sample of only two points on the group) the heat gain is uniform throughout the group.
  • With the exception of the walk-up shot with a cold PF, the temperature gain of the group is between 1.5 C and 2.5 C per shot.
  • Group recovery time – that is, the time it takes for the group to cool from any given temperature gain – is about 67 seconds per degree C of temperature gain.
  • Puck temperature (bearing in mind the caveats above) is lower than expected, especially for the walk-up shot – but the results in the cup are known to be good with this machine at these settings.

Conclusions:

  • Brew reservoir temperature demonstrates a relatively high degree of stability even with a dead band of more than 20% of the operating pressure setpoint.
  • Group temperature should be stable if correctly managed. If the machine is left to idle between shots for a reasonable amount of time (between 2 and 3 minutes – i.e. not inconsistent with the time it takes to prepare a shot), it will return to its initial temperature and provide repeatable shot temperatures.
  • The methodology should be changed for future tests to reflect a more realistic real-world usage with a sufficiently long period of time between shots.
  • Not bad for 1982.