Slowly slowly we're starting to actually learn about espresso.
Over the last week or two, I've had the chance to work more extensively with the so-called "Scace Thermofilter Device." This is a rig to scientifically measure espresso machine brew temp. It's being used to evaluate machines for use in the WBC; it's in use by various machine vendors for calibration purposes; and most top machine techs seem to have one for doing quick adjustments to the machines they maintain. It's not cheap - but it's very good at what it does.
As a result of the time I've spent with this device I have learned a number of things. Most importantly, I've had to radically re-evaluate my perceptions on optimal brew temps.
For example - using the old school methods (pioneered by Schomer et al) for measuring brew temp I had the idea that the Hairbender was best at around 199 or 200 F. Using the Scace, I've determined that the optimal brew temp is more like 197 or 198 F. This is a big difference.
Interestingly, this has lead me to discover that, when brewed at the optimal (for my tastes) brew temp, the Hairbender is actually better at a lower brew pressure than I'd thought. At brew pressures of below 9BAR the crema persistance becomes noticably weaker - but the flavour and mouthfeel improves. I'm really liking the results at around 8.5BAR right now.
And this has lead me to discover that, when brewed at this temp and pressure, the Hairbender tastes best (to me) at 3 days out of the roaster rather than at 4 days.
I've also been playing around with a super-fancy borrowed pH meter rig. I'm finding some unusual things about coffee.
Oh... and we're a month away and counting from the mighty Northwest Regional Barista Championship. This is always a fun event - but this year should be even better than usual. It's being hosted by Hines and Stumptown - so you can assume that it is going to be fun, wild, crazy, intense... all the usual stuff you'd associate with those two companies. I'm starting to hear about the plans and all I have to say is BE THERE. Seriously. 27-29 October. Seattle.
finally - on a non-coffee note - it turns out that i have to have ankle surgery after all. pretty much a total drag. so i'll be laid up and on crutches again. and then back to PT. seeming a bit never-ending right about now.