company - education - coffee

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pressure profiling, flow rate profiling, and the future of temperature profiling

We admit being hesitant to get involved with pressure profiling. Simply put, there were too many problems we had to deal with in accounts to add one more major variable.

Our opinions were refined and changed by first working with Ben and Cora at RBC during a guest stint where we got a few coffees really dialed in using pressure profiling. It was an experience that has continued to get us good feedback on how the coffees come out when the pressure is tweaked. This was further cemented by experiences at Worldbean.

If pressure profiling is the future for a certain market segment, we have to wrap our heads around this a little more and see how it develops. What it points to for us is how the technology in our industry is about to get much more tech very quickly. Keeping up with what is happening and discerning which advances are quality may take some time.

When Clover launched, we were one of the critics of the brewer. The silty metal filtration, the heat wrap issues, and the new brew method it created. We always noted however they were really cool people working there but from a coffee standpoint, we didn't like it. Our opposition to the clover though left us out in the cold in a lot of community discussions because it was what had been trending and everyone was rushing to adopt it so they likewise flamed anyone who disagreed. It took nearly a hundred units being out there before a larger voice of opposition formed and the sale to Starbucks cemented it for many. Now, there are plenty of people against it and still more looking for a new design that doesn't reinvent how we brew coffee, only aids making it.

I am wondering this aloud because as the Lb-1 launches soon, I realize it will take time to seep in exactly the implications of this technology and how it will change how we brew. Sure, we've had versions of this over the last two years and fully get where it's coming from, but there will be many naysayers and many would be early adopters to take that leap.

The fact though is, Luminairecoffee technology will open the door to flow profiling with precision temps. The ability to control and tune flow rate throughout a brew in pour over methods. The following higher capacity version will offer an ability to bulk brew. There's also a top secret project that may show up in a top secret shop opening soon in Cambridge that will be a potential vision of where espresso may go if some of this technology were converted. The current version of the Lb-1 has temperature controls that are unheard of. While the forumphiles and keyboard warriors talk about their different metrics for measuring extraction, we've been lucky to be geeking on something that has precision, repeatable volume/temperature controls making measuring results less useful that observing the inputs. We can even stop and adjust temps mid brew where the pause is only how long it takes to hit a small button sequence. At some point, temperature profiling will be a very real addition, though the requirements to implement it would require much more user interface and would slow production considerably.

So, it could be said, I've had a glimpse of the future. The real revelation is what comes next. These first generation versions of Luminairecoffee technology that will be far surpassing anything else on the market will be the first of a new control that goes beyond previous inventions. While the old engineering maxim of 'fast, cheap, and quality pick two of three' usually applies, this is the exception. Using technology that is cheaper to make and costs less to run (high energy efficiency=cheap), has a zero refresh time (so fast!), and actually produces more consistent and precise temperatures than existing PID'd small boiler technologies(quality).

So some people were commenting how it looks good on paper and how they were skeptical or how it compares it to the boilers out there. I'll file that with the list of things where people have been against something we were exploring, championing, or working with just before it became big in the larger community. Be it as early adopters of specific brew methods, championing progressive packaging, challenging transparency in blends, or the other things we have had detractors line up against, you develop a very thick skin after a while. It all seems to eventually make it main stream or at least catches on enough in small segments that we no longer hesitate to move to back what we believe in.

If US coffee is facing a renaissance of sorts then pressure profiling, flow controls, and temperature profiling are the inevitable. How we get there will either take a long time or be on the backs of small bits of genius that change our entire industry. Here's hoping we are seeing the latter.