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Thread: Overrated high end machines in cafes

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    Overrated high end machines in cafes

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    I had an interesting chat the other day with the owner/head barista of a couple of highly regarded coffee bars about his machines. Heís got two high end machines, a Strada and a KvdW.

    His view was that the non-volumetric Strada has too many variables for an inexperienced barista and that weighing each dose is really necessary to get accurate shot control, given the inherent inaccuracy of the Robur E, or any other high-volume grinder for that matter, but of course weighing each dose is largely impractical in real life for a busy cafe.

    His volumetric KvdW is a bit easier to get good shot control from in the hands of an inexperienced barista, but still far from ideal.

    The upshot of it all was his view that you really canít go past the volumetric Linea for a foolproof high volume machine. Yes itís old looking, no pressure profiling, etc but itís solid as a rock and produces the same shot each time. (Presumably he'd put PB70/80 in the same category)

    Of course there are other reasons for getting a fancy LM/KvdW/Slayer, such as marketing to customers and staff, but it was interesting to hear this view from someone who actually owns some high end machines.

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    I dont really follow the logic there.

    If you have a machine with lots of adjustable variables and you don't fiddle with them, it becomes just like a machine without lots of adjustable variables...

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrJack View Post
    I dont really follow the logic there.

    If you have a machine with lots of adjustable variables and you don't fiddle with them, it becomes just like a machine without lots of adjustable variables...
    I believe his logic was that the Linea is a fire and forget-type machine. Set the volume of water and then all you have to to is worry about dialling in the grinder on a regular basis.

    Whereas with the Strada, the complexity of the group meant that to get a good shot you needed to essentially dial in the machine to each bean.

    It wasn't that the Strada was producing bad shots, but there was a variability to the shots that he might not get with a Linea, or other volumetric machine.

    Just to be clear, he wasn't for one second saying the Strada or KvdW were bad machines, just that, in his opinion, they need a very experienced barista to get shots that matched the machine's true potential.

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    Strada, Slayer et al.

    I seriously doubt that many (any?) cafes have the time to allow baristas to experiment enough on a given day to determine what the optimum pressure profile for a particular bean and environmental conditions might be. In most cases, I'd reckon bragging rights and at best a lever analogue style profile...
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    yes and it has to come from you guys for others to prick up and listen, because when people from coffee roasteries and supply businesses say similar things, they get bagged out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    Strada, Slayer et al.

    I seriously doubt that many (any?) cafes have the time to allow baristas to experiment enough on a given day to determine what the optimum pressure profile for a particular bean and environmental conditions might be. In most cases, I'd reckon bragging rights and at best a lever analogue style profile...
    I thought the ideal machine was one which allowed programming by an experienced barista to deliver as good a shot as could be expected, with repeatability backed by high reliability and consistency. To that extent, any strictly manual profiling (Slayer) is not repeatable. Any lack of consistency in terms of precision and quality of components is also a nonstarter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon View Post
    The upshot of it all was his view that you really canít go past the volumetric Linea for a foolproof high volume machine. Yes itís old looking, no pressure profiling, etc but itís solid as a rock and produces the same shot each time.
    Lineas are known as high volume workhorses, but the automatic (volumetric) versions had an issue with variable brew water temperature. This problem was fixed with the development of the "Piero Cap," which could be retrofitted to the Linea. The Linea's successor, the GB5, came from the factory with Caps installed.

    As your conversation revealed, however, some people still prefer the old-school Linea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    Strada, Slayer et al.

    I seriously doubt that many (any?) cafes have the time to allow baristas to experiment enough on a given day to determine what the optimum pressure profile for a particular bean and environmental conditions might be. In most cases, I'd reckon bragging rights and at best a lever analogue style profile...
    Every time I go to a new cafe with a profiling machine, I ask the barista if they use the profiling capability. About five times out of six they say no, but occasionally a dedicated small or medium size cafe operation takes the time and profiles the shot.

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    Hazel at Gumption declares her favourite machine to be the Linea. I keep hearing that in most cafes using Slayers the baristas tend to just slam the paddle to full flow...

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    The Strada EP will allow for programmed shots but I wonder if there are really any places that have the time and resources to do the research to use these machines as the makers have intended. Bottom line is that 95%, maybe more of their client base probably couldn't pick the difference anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by ASchecter View Post
    Every time I go to a new cafe with a profiling machine, I ask the barista if they use the profiling capability. About five times out of six they say no, but occasionally a dedicated small or medium size cafe operation takes the time and profiles the shot.
    I'm curious as to whether they just do something such as attempt to replicate a lever profile because they think it will work or do they pull a hundred experimental shots to determine what's actually optimum for the bean/day?

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    Am I right in thinking with the new strada the roaster can provide a pressure profile on USB or similar to the cafe with each batch of beans that can be uploaded and used to best match the beans?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    The Strada EP will allow for programmed shots but I wonder if there are really any places that have the time and resources to do the research to use these machines as the makers have intended. Bottom line is that 95%, maybe more of their client base probably couldn't pick the difference anyway.

    I'm curious as to whether they just do something such as attempt to replicate a lever profile because they think it will work or do they pull a hundred experimental shots to determine what's actually optimum for the bean/day?
    Here's a photo of barista Christian manually profiling a shot at Sweetleaf in New York City. Sweetleaf is, however, a very unusual place and one of the best cafes in NYC. They actually spend the time to experiment with various profiles, although maybe not a hundred per variety.


    christian_9432b_L.jpg
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    Been thinking about this today. My office is in Melb CBD so I'm surrounded by many great cafes, and many not so great.

    Of the 6-8 cafes close to my office that serve great coffee, here are the machines:
    Linea
    Slayer
    Linea
    Linea
    Strada
    Linea
    FB70/80

    I'd never actually thought of this concentration of Lineas until now!

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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    That's a line up of Lineas ;-D

    They are great machines. Quite a few at airports too, high volume, reliable and consistent, high end workhorses.

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    Perhaps the argument about consistency comes down to the client's requirements? When I am visiting a cafe with a client, usually a CBD-based cafe close to Collins Street, I usually pick a place that produces high volumes of coffee fast (time is money) and with high consistency (if I've told the client that he'll like this cafe I don't want us to be served something substandard on the day because the barista has temperamental equipment). On the other hand, when I'm visiting a cafe alone or with a friend I am typically more adventurous and will try new places or places where I have experienced some variability.

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    The Lineas are what we call in the business the Ferraris. Fantastically assembled and when polished up, it looks mighty fine! I use an FB80 and 4 Robur E's at work. Now when it is quiet, we do indeed weight out every dose! Pretentious and tedious but consistent. But during a rush, you can manually dose pretty accurately using the timer and levelling or topping up as needed.

    With regards to the machine, I know someone who is operating a Strada E. He enjoys playing when it's quiet and such, however during a rush he can't put on a shot and then go take a customers order or get started on another shot because of the profiling. So can a Strada handle high quantity? I'm not too sure when using the classic 1 barista pulling shots, 1 one steam and one pouring set up. However, If we think differently it can be quite feasible. This is greatly shown in Proud Mary in Melbourne. They have a 6 group Slayer and they get pretty busy. When I was there they had one person dosing and tamping and two people profiling and more steaming ect. This is fantastic with a massive machine since you have room, but at my work with the three group during really busy periods we had 4 baristas behind the machine. One dosing (weighing out every dose), one tamping and putting the shots on. It worked! (albeit a bit tight)

    So, what I'm trying to say is these new high end machines are still viable in a high quantity environment. They just have to be used well.

    Michael

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    Quote Originally Posted by mwcalder05 View Post
    The Lineas are what we call in the business the Ferraris. Fantastically assembled and when polished up, it looks mighty fine!
    Not sure I agree with that analogy, other than they're both made in Italy.

    One is foolproof, easy for beginners to operate and if you need it repaired it'll not cost much and just about every repair person will be able to fix it.

    The other needs a highly trained driver to get the best out of it, repairs are astronomical and most repair people will be afraid to touch it.

    Perhaps the Subaru WRX is a better analogy for the Linea? Or maybe GT-R.

    Perhaps Ferrari can be used for Slayers, Strada, etc - machines with undoubtably high potential in the right hands but a waste of money and downright dangerous (in the coffee sense) in the hands of a beginner?

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    mwc05.....Have Proud Mary changed their machine? Last time I looked it was a 6 group Synesso Hydra?
    Last edited by chokkidog; 27th February 2014 at 12:02 PM.

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    Yes- Synesso unless something has changed recently. Don't think Slayers exist in 6 groups- so that means they don't pressure profile...

    4 staff on the machine? Up to $200k/pa staffing alone....The last time I worked on a machine with 2 support staff, we did 90kg in 2 days at an outdoor event.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chokkidog View Post
    Have Proud Mary changed their machine? Last time I looked it was a 6 group Synesso Hydra?
    I haven't been for a couple of months, was still their monster Synesso then.

    From memory, they reserve each group for specific beans, maybe at most having 2 groups for their regular espresso, so in effect they don't have any more capacity than other cafes...they're just damn good at their process. As are League of Honest Coffee and Cup if Truth, both of whom slam out a serious volume of coffees very quickly at rush hour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lukemc View Post
    Am I right in thinking with the new strada the roaster can provide a pressure profile on USB or similar to the cafe with each batch of beans that can be uploaded and used to best match the beans?
    This is correct Lukemc

    Just curious here but how many replying have actually used a Strada/KVdW in a working situation?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    Don't think Slayers exist in 6 groups- so that means they don't pressure profile...
    Can't you pressure profile in a similar manner with a synesso as a slayer?
    It's my understanding that the synesso uses line pressure pre infusion then engage the pump, while the slayer uses a set pressure peri fusion then pump pressure

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    Pressure profiling implies you can do pretty much whatever you want with pressure at any time.

    In domestic- Vesuvius. Commercial- Slayer, Strada, Rocket RE8V et al.

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    Must be the newer slayers. The first ones are only 2 stage

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    It seems that the Slayer has not changed as far as I can see.
    A mechanically adjustable valve controls the pre infusion (tho not in real time). So for me at least, it's not real time pressure profiling but a clever use of marketing words.

    FWIW I am a fan of the Strada and have pulled my fair share of shots on two different machines.
    One shop profiles everything, so that was a fast learning curve.
    And the other is up to the barista, with the roasters profiles programed in.
    Cycling through the different programs for different size coffees can be painful but this is what I chose in the second cafe during the busy period to reduce variables, and during slower times I profiled just to keep it interesting, and I have had a good play with profiling with a group of more knowledgeable people than myself.

    Pros and cons of either way, just different variables that need to be watched.

    I did find that using the paddle reduced the soreness I get in my hands from pushing buttons on other machines.

    Also used a KVdW Mistral. Shots were good but the steam arm was in a strange position for me. Couldn't get use to it.

    And finally I don't think I'd buy either, but a linea or an FB80 (for styling preferences) would be in my cafe. I do prefer the Synesso/Slayer style steam leaver though.
    In a roastery I would be a Strada for marketing purposes and play time.
    At home I have an E61 machine and one of the first paddle machines.

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    Checked out a new cafe in camden today, ryan let me have a quick play with the new Strada. They are working on profiles and aren't officially open yet.

    Looks like it would be a handful to get the profile right manually every time! but once they program profiles in it would be great

    the steam was crazy powerful (just watched, didn't try to use it!) but what a sexy machine! Would love to have plenty of time and plenty of beans to play with it and see how the results vary with different profiles

    IMG_1236.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronin View Post
    It seems that the Slayer has not changed as far as I can see.
    A mechanically adjustable valve controls the pre infusion (tho not in real time). So for me at least, it's not real time pressure profiling but a clever use of marketing words.
    Thoughts...?

    Pressure profiling, flow profiling, and a new rule of thirds - Espresso Machines • Home-Barista.com

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    Interesting thread. Thanks for the link.
    Covers a number of things, what did you want my thoughts on?

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    Overrated high end machines in cafes

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronin View Post
    Interesting thread. Thanks for the link.
    Covers a number of things, what did you want my thoughts on?
    The thread claims that the flow of pre infusion has a large effect.

    More eager to hear the thoughts of some one that has used the EP (pressure control) and the Slayer (pre flow control).

    I haven't spent any significant time on either so can't comment

    And for relevance to this thread. Maybe there is a place for high end machines trying to get the best possible out of the bean...it just takes a little playing and I know as a customer, I'm happy to pay a little extra for that...

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    Quote Originally Posted by thebookfreak58 View Post
    The thread claims that the flow of pre infusion has a large effect.

    More eager to hear the thoughts of some one that has used the EP (pressure control) and the Slayer (pre flow control).
    I admit to being rather shocked at that thread because it seems to claim as a new insight that controlling preinfusion influences later flow rate. Yet this had been talked about for years....

    But to answer your inquiry, yes, a gently ramped preinfusion will allow one to grind finer and increase extraction yield.

    One doesn't need a Strada or Slayer to experiment with this. Any machine capable of doing a line-pressure preinfusion will suffice. Even my old Silvia, equipped with a rotary pump, would vary its flow rate later in the shot based on how fast one throttled the initial ramp up to full pressure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thebookfreak58 View Post
    The thread claims that the flow of pre infusion has a large effect.

    More eager to hear the thoughts of some one that has used the EP (pressure control) and the Slayer (pre flow control).

    I haven't spent any significant time on either so can't comment

    And for relevance to this thread. Maybe there is a place for high end machines trying to get the best possible out of the bean...it just takes a little playing and I know as a customer, I'm happy to pay a little extra for that...
    And I can't comment on the Slayer as I've spent minimal time on it, only a few shots. And FWIW the only person I know who has a Slayer has moved to KVdW Spirits ( which are a large machine, bench space beware) and a Mirage.

    The problem for me with these profiling machines is for staffing. There just isn't enough people wanting to really learn, but lots wanting the assumption of knowledge that goes with working on one.

    I agree with ASchecter that it can be done at home with a lot less cost. Most E61 group head manual machines can preinfuse to some extent and cut the pump off for tailing the end of the shot too.

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    Fair call.

    I have spent a fair bit of time behind a Cyncra, and can play with the time of line pre-infusion. It's the flow rate of said pre-infusion that I think is the key to the thread above...

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    Dalla Corte, does anyone have any thoughts about it? I'm starting to see it in some cafes.

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    I've been working behind a Strada for 18 months now. They are great machines.

    From a barista's perspective the key features for me.
    - exposed groups (makes it much easier to see extractions going into T/A cups)
    - Shot timers - Why doesn't every coffee machine have these?
    - Temperature stability and ease of adjustment
    - Pressure profiling/pre-infusion control
    - I understand pressure better now, even if i've reverted to fairly standard profiles.
    - The unforgiving nature of the machine, has made me improve my distribution and dosing accuracy, forced me into learning about extraction recipe's etc which is a good thing.

    I experimented a lot with pressure profiling in the early days with it, initially making coffee like the slayer videos where you pre-infuse until it starts dripping and then ramp up the pressure. Doing this manually on the current versions it's extremely hard to do consistently. Humans can't react fast enough or accurately enough to get the pressure you want at the stage you want using the paddle only, it's touchy and you need to anticipate feedback ahead of time.

    Some shots were amazing, but other shots that looked great tasted horrible. Manual paddles give you the ability to make shots that give all the visual indicators they will taste good, but then don't. I also found that very long pre-infusions seemed to considerably narrow the window on shot times that would taste properly extracted. sometimes I would get shots that exhibited characteristics over being over and under extracted at the same time. Shots also got incredibly short in order to maintain body.

    I experimented a lot with Lever style profiles, this also seemed to lead to unusual extractions. My current hypothesis is that lever pressure profiles need to also be matched by a reducing temperature profile or they can lead to over extraction. On a temperature stable machine, stable pressure delivers the most predictable results.

    For our house blend I have a profile that reduces from 9.5 bar to 8.5 but for anything new or single origins its a flat 9 bar with a pressure ramp up of around 6-7 seconds.

    As Chris has said, finding time to experiment properly in a cafe that runs 7-5 7 days a week is really hard. Exploring pressure isn't as simple as trying it out on different profiles. If you are doing it properly you are going to dial into every pressure profile with grind/dose/time/yeild/temp until its tasting as good as possible.

    It's only once you have done this that you can put two pressure profiles next to one another and say one is better than the other. If you don't do it methodically it's impossible to isolate pressure as the key variable because when you alter pressure you also alter other variables.

    To do this you need two matching grinders with the same coffee in them. Opportunities to do this are rare.

    Creating profiles accurately using the manual paddles is really hard, it takes practice, when trying to record something new It would often take me a few goes. If you are trying to limit ramp up time and overshoot it gets really hard almost impossible as you'll need to pre-empt everything perfectly.

    I find it much more accurate to create the profiles as I imagine they should be in the software and load them onto the machine. The software is clunky and inflexible and doesn't let you re-edit/re-view curves and profiles. If you need to remember what you did the only way to save it is via a screen shot. You have to always make them from scratch. You still need to pre-empt overshoot when you draw profiles but it gets easy because its repeatable. It would be really impractical to ever create new profiles during service or even during dialling in.

    I need to know that the coffee is tasting good throughout the day, we change singles origins regularly, palate exauhstion is a thing. So keeping things simple makes it much more workable.

    Most coffee's roasted for espresso are cupped on machines at a standard flat 9bars, thats what the roaster intended for the coffee, the roast profile has been tailored to this, so it makes sense to me that in many cases its also the very best profile to use, regardless of the possibilities fancy machines might give you.
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    Wow, after all that I can understand why you normally just revert to a standard flat profile. I'm curious about the "unforgiving nature of the machine." Is it more unforgiving than other machines you've used? If so, why do you think that is?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ASchecter View Post
    Wow, after all that I can understand why you normally just revert to a standard flat profile. I'm curious about the "unforgiving nature of the machine." Is it more unforgiving than other machines you've used? If so, why do you think that is?
    Because the pressure v flow relationship on a strada is reversed. On a typical espresso machine. If you attached a blind filter or choked a shot and measured the pressure at the same time you would see that it is somewhere above 9 bars. Likewise if you had channeling or a gusher, the pressure would be below 9 bar because the puck isn't providing as much resistance. This is because you set pump pressures and opv's at a static point. They can't compensate for flow variation. This is a good thing generally as it help to reduce variation in shot time/volume, ie improves consistency.

    Strada's on the other hand use a gear pumps that vary their speed and adjust in real time in order to maintain the pressure that the profile has asked for (lets call it 9 bar for the sake of the example) The result is that when you choke the machine you don't get the handy compensation of a conventional machine as strada's have computers that try very hard to make sure it follows the pressure profile exactly. It will give and only give the programmed pressure regardless of what the flow and the puck is doing.

    The result is that choked shots choke harder, and gushers gush faster.

    We've had to get a lot better at dialing in, and a lot better at dosing consistently. All Single origin and short black doses get weighed out to within .2 of a gram

    Nick Cho talks about it in much better detail here. @nickcho • Strada EP Pressure Loop Modification
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    Thanks muppet_man... some fantastic insights into a top flight machine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by muppet_man67 View Post
    Because the pressure v flow relationship on a strada is reversed. On a typical espresso machine. If you attached a blind filter or choked a shot and measured the pressure at the same time you would see that it is somewhere above 9 bars. Likewise if you had channeling or a gusher, the pressure would be below 9 bar because the puck isn't providing as much resistance. This is because you set pump pressures and opv's at a static point. They can't compensate for flow variation. This is a good thing generally as it help to reduce variation in shot time/volume, ie improves consistency.

    Strada's on the other hand use a gear pumps that vary their speed and adjust in real time in order to maintain the pressure that the profile has asked for (lets call it 9 bar for the sake of the example) The result is that when you choke the machine you don't get the handy compensation of a conventional machine as strada's have computers that try very hard to make sure it follows the pressure profile exactly. It will give and only give the programmed pressure regardless of what the flow and the puck is doing.

    The result is that choked shots choke harder, and gushers gush faster.

    We've had to get a lot better at dialing in, and a lot better at dosing consistently. All Single origin and short black doses get weighed out to within .2 of a gram

    Nick Cho talks about it in much better detail here. @nickcho • Strada EP Pressure Loop Modification
    Thanks for providing us with these insights muppet_man67.

    If you have the luxury of time and patience to really play with the pressure profiling and you "get a lot better at dialing in, and a lot better at dosing consistently" I am wondering where this has led you to as results in the cup over and above what a standard 9 bar machine like the Linea delivers.

    Cheers,
    Paolo

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    Got it, muppet man, thanks.

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    The ability to pressure profile opens a whole new book on what you can do with coffee.

    My experience so far is limited to the Ambient&spresso Vesuvius, but I understand the logic (the boards) are pretty much identical to those in the Strada EP.

    Agreed that if you miss the mark on dosing consistency, you pay- but the ability to play profiles is great:
    • straight 9 bar shot
    • 9 bar with preinfusion
    • as above but with waning pressure
    • preinfusion to 11.5 bar and then waning (more trad. lever profile)

    We are really only just scratching the surface. So much more to learn. I really feel that this new machine is going to have a profound influence in the prosumer market. The next 5 years will likely bring more change in what manufacturers are doing than in the last 20.

    I'm very much looking forward to a Strada EP play.

    Chris

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    The ability to pressure profile opens a whole new book on what you can do with coffee.

    My experience so far is limited to the Ambient&spresso Vesuvius, but I understand the logic (the boards) are pretty much identical to those in the Strada EP.

    Agreed that if you miss the mark on dosing consistency, you pay- but the ability to play profiles is great:
    • straight 9 bar shot
    • 9 bar with preinfusion
    • as above but with waning pressure
    • preinfusion to 11.5 bar and then waning (more trad. lever profile)

    We are really only just scratching the surface. So much more to learn. I really feel that this new machine is going to have a profound influence in the prosumer market. The next 5 years will likely bring more change in what manufacturers are doing than in the last 20.

    I'm very much looking forward to a Strada EP play.

    Chris
    Does it use a similar pump? Noticed it's using an E61 group? Does it have a pre-infusion chamber or has that been removed for this model. Doesn't seem like it would make much sense. Also curious about have an E61 on a dual boiler does this result in a temperature profile that increases through the shot, imo this is likely to play into the kinds of profiles that will work well.

    It's going to be really good to see home users on machines that can do this, hopefully it will help build a bit more consensus on what the effects are.



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