All Posts By Richard Muhl
In the first part of this article, I described the procedure we follow in the Five Senses R&D lab to produce a standardised basket of coffee for the purposes of measuring the extraction yield of the complete system. The next step in the process is to make an extraction and take a measurement of the percentage or ratio of the total beverage that is actually dissolved coffee.
By now I’m sure you are fully aware that the Synesso espresso machine delivers incredibly stable water temperature. The actual specification is +\- 0.75 degrees Fahrenheit across the length of the shot or, in local currency, that’s around +\- 0.4 degree C. Great for the coffee! We can programme our set point and confidently begin pulling shots knowing the water temperature will be perfectly optimised for our coffee.
One of the main purposes of the R&D lab at Five Senses is to develop and perfect coffee-making equipment and our coffee-making methods using a scientific approach. It could be argued that significant coffee grinding or extraction developments are not really possible without first being able to quantify the test results of modifications or new gadgets.
Anyone keeping an eye on the general goings on at Five Senses would be well aware that we upgraded our roasting capacity at our Melbourne roastery in November last year with the installation of our much anticipated 1947 Probat G90. I call it a Probat — but in actuality it is better described as a Giesen, as it was totally stripped down and fully remanufactured by Giesen with all the latest features and controls that today’s technology can provide.
At this time of the year it is my normal practice to visit the Synesso factory in Seattle for a week before attending the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) trade show as part of the Synesso team. With the notable addition of a visit to Giesen Coffee Roasters in Holland (more on this to follow), this year was no different.
It’s one of the most important parts of your espresso machine. It’s also the one of the simplest, cheapest, hardest working and probably the most mistreated. I’m referring to the Collar Seal, also known as the Group Seal or Group Gasket. They cost about the same as a regular burger meal yet if the collar seal fails to work exactly as designed, the shot is immediately wasted and it’s back to square one.
I’ve been spending quite few hours testing and evaluating various burrs and baskets recently and I have come to realise that a purpose built, highly stable shot brewer would be a useful tool. It may be my metrology background but I am always looking for ways to remove uncertainties and subjectivity from my test procedures so a Precision Shot Brewer is now top of my wish list.
When the shipping container arrived moral was high, just enough to keep everyone enthused throughout the unload of the imposing 5.7 tonnes of precision German engineering. With everything in pieces behind me I felt like an artist looking at a blank canvas. In front of me was a huge, empty room purpose built for all of the Victorian roasting equipment. Clearly space was not going to be a problem.
Throughout the Cold War, the super-secret Lockheed Martin R&D department, famously known as the Skunk Works, laboured to develop cutting edge technologies for use in military aircraft. While we at Five Senses won’t be saving the world from communist oppressors any time soon, we have embraced the same spirit of technical innovation by pursuing excellence in our field. By investing time and resources in Research and Development we intend to develop, refine and commission technologies that will dramatically increase the quality of the services we provide and therefore the coffee we produce.
Recently at the SCAA conference in Houston, Texas, Richard Muhl caught up with Mark Barnett, founder of Synesso, to talk about the birth of Synesso and the Next Generation Machine.
I’ve just spent a few days at Giesen Coffee Roasters in Ulft, a lovely little Netherlands town situated near the Germany border, to check in on how our fully re-built and refurbished Probat G90 is progressing. Giesen’s Marc Weber and his team of engineers have be working hard on our roaster for some months and the results are spectacular.
The Synesso brand will soon reveal its new generation of espresso machines to the Australian market. As the May release date draws near, it seemes appropriate to not only take a look at how Synesso has transcended space and time to become the piece of technological art it is today, but also to spend a few minutes discussing some of the hot new features built into the brand’s new generation of machines.
This photo is the prototype of Synesso’s completely redesigned electronics box. The current relay driver board with separate display board will be replaced by a CPU board that will connect to the SSRs and solenoids through individual relay driver boards (via optically isolated outputs). The operator interface is a four line LCD display that is used for changing the configurable settings and displaying temperatures and error logs etc.
We’ve now had a good week to play with our new toy and I’m pleased to say that the Uber Boiler more than lives up to our hopes and expectations. The newly updated version 1.5 software makes the unit extremely stable and easy to operate. I will give you a brief summary of its theory of operation.
Here are the first photos of the prototype for the new generation of Synesso coffee machine. There are numerous external and internal design changes under development and will be unveiled at the SCAA in two weeks. In this photo you can see the new front panel shape and the piezoelectric timed hot water switch.
I have just installed our first Marco Über Boiler in a stainless steel bench which will serve as a mobile cart for our planned Über Boiler roadshow commencing mid way through next month. After cutting the required 410 × 195 mm hole in the newly purchased bench the unit drops straight in and holds itself in place under its own weight.
Understanding how your espresso machine operates, and the technology it uses, allows you to work with your machine to create consistently brilliant coffee. If you own a heat exchange machine, this video is for you! It’s a short demonstration of some things you can do to ensure an ideal brewing temperature every time you pull a shot. If you’re not sure what type of technology your machine uses, our list might help.
Today I am upgrading a 3 group Synesso Sabre to have a single semi automatic group and two fully automatic groups. Sort of a Hydra / Sabre hybrid, you could say; it will definitely have the best of both worlds. This particular machine is owned by well known Adelaide roaster and cafe owner, Mark Barun (The Coffee Barun!).
This project is really coming together. For the benefit of anyone visiting for the first time, I am nearing the end of the construction phase, combining the complete front boiler assembly from the world’s best commercial coffee machine into the chassis of an Isomac La Mondiale.
Cutting holes in the front panel of a stainless steel coffee machine is always a bit nerve wracking. I hardly slipped at all in the end. About 2 hours with a flat file and I had a nice rectangular hole of the correct size for my PID controller.
Its time to install the steam boiler plumbing connections. The Isomac steam boiler has four 1/4" holes along its top. We actually need to make six connections so I had to add a couple of Tee connectors and mount the Vacuum breaker, Safety Valve and Steam Pressure Gauge off the one point.
The steam boiler is being held in place by a bracket at each end that will support the weight of the boiler vessel and its contents. In the Isomac the same boiler was supported mostly by the various pipes that connected it to the machine. The largest of these pipes, the ones that connected the boiler to the E61 group are not being used in my machine so I have had to make some brackets myself.
Having installed the brew boiler and brew pump we can now install some tubing to connect it all together. The copper tube from the brew boiler inlet to the pump output should be pretty straight forward but I can foresee a possible problem with the temperature stability of the brew system, if we don’t include a method of adequately preheating the incoming water.
The first step is to totally strip everything out of a brand spanking new Isomac La Mondiale. To install the Synesso brew boiler we will need to cut a 90mm wide section from the stainless steel front panel. It would be great to just make it a nice neat square for only the neck of the group to poke out through.
Today I will be commencing a project I’ve been thinking of for some time. The plan is to take a standard issue Italian domestic espresso machine and punk it by installing a dedicated brew boiler and every other refinement I can think of.