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Measuring Coffee Strength With A Brix Meter
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yakster
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yakster
Joined: 25 Feb 2009
Posts: 1,033
Location: San Jose, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Factory / La Peppina...
Grinder: Vario / Kyocera
Vac Pot: Yama 8 + Pyrex Lox-in Rod
Drip: Brazen / Kalita / Chemex /...
Roaster: Behmor
Posted Thu Oct 15, 2009, 2:22pm
Subject: Re: Measurements (Brix, Mass, Temperature...)
 

Once my gram scale comes in, I'll try and find the hydrometer.  

I know what you mean about the large quantity required... and you'll want to cool it down so it seems like a waste of good coffee that I could be drinking, but if the cylinder diameter isn't too large relative to the hydrometer, it shouldn't be too bad.

-Chris

 
-Chris

LMWDP # 272
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Enkerli
Senior Member
Enkerli
Joined: 1 Aug 2004
Posts: 723
Location: Montreal, Qc
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: (At cafés, not at home)
Grinder: Hario hand grinders
Vac Pot: (Moka Pot) Bialetti Brikka
Drip: Steep and release pour-over
Roaster: iRoast-2
Posted Thu Oct 15, 2009, 7:10pm
Subject: Re: Measurements (Brix, Mass, Temperature...)
 

I've been using some inexpensive (10$) gram scales, for brewing and for coffee. Been working rather well.
The quantity of coffee needed for a hydrometer reading probably isn't too bad for some of the larger coffee drinks, but it really wouldn't work with espresso or with Brikka. IIRC, my hydrometer tube contains something like 150ml (about 5 fl oz.).
Still, it's worth a shot.

 
Alex
http://enkerli.com/
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JKalpin
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JKalpin
Joined: 28 Dec 2008
Posts: 796
Location: Thornhill, Ontario Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Aerobie Aeropress
Grinder: Baratza Maestro Plus
Vac Pot: Yama 5-Cup
Drip: Krups Moka Brew, BraZen
Roaster: Freshroast+8, Behmor 1600
Posted Sat Oct 17, 2009, 9:07am
Subject: Re: Measuring Coffee Strength With A Brix Meter
 

I have been watching this thread with great interest (but some confusion).

I understand why Alan Addler would set up a lab to determine how changing variables throughout an appropriate range would influence 'extraction' and thereby coffee strength.  I would do that too if I were planning on investing (say) $500k in injection-moulding tools to produce his wonderful Aerobie Aeropress.  As I said in a previous post, when I stopped 'experimenting' and just followed the instructions in the manual I got excellent coffee, cup after cup, to this one ...that I'm drinking right now.

But why would I want to invest in a Brix Meter to determine strength?  In fact, my Bunn drip brewer makes almost as good coffee, slightly less strong, a bit more 'bite', similar good aroma.  

My 'strength measuring system' works as follows:  I put a splash of 18% cream in the cup.  If it looks like dishwater, it tastes like dishwater.  If it looks too dark and I put a bit more cream in and it's still too dark, it's too strong.

"But I don't like cream..." I hear someone responding.  That's OK.  Don't drink it.  But what about 18% cream and a measuring spoon and printed colour patches?  Remember, most of us are just trying to find the right brewing conditions for correct (more or less) strength.

 
Jerry
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yakster
Senior Member
yakster
Joined: 25 Feb 2009
Posts: 1,033
Location: San Jose, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Factory / La Peppina...
Grinder: Vario / Kyocera
Vac Pot: Yama 8 + Pyrex Lox-in Rod
Drip: Brazen / Kalita / Chemex /...
Roaster: Behmor
Posted Sat Oct 17, 2009, 12:06pm
Subject: Re: Measuring Coffee Strength With A Brix Meter
 

JKalpin Said:

I have been watching this thread with great interest (but some confusion).

...But why would I want to invest in a Brix Meter to determine strength?  In fact, my Bunn drip brewer makes almost as good coffee, slightly less strong, a bit more 'bite', similar good aroma.

Posted October 17, 2009 link

For me, I am interested in this thread to determine if I'm getting strong coffee by overextracting too little coffee or underextracting too much.  I guess I'm looking to fine tune my brewing methods with the right amount of coffee.

I'm not looking to invest in a Brix meter, though, although I'm tempted to buy gadgets (it was the same with home brewing, but now that I have kids, I limit my expenditures on my hobbies).  I already have a triple-scale hydrometer in the garage and a graduate cylinder in a cupboard (up high where the wife can't reach behind all my coffee filters) and I think it would make a cool experiment and look all sciencey and stuff.

I think maybe it'll help me understand the coffee extraction chart more too, with the relationship between contact time, extraction, total dissolved solids, etc.  

I'm also playing with using Vac Pot and pour-over so I keep changing my brewing processes.

I've already ordered the gram scale for espresso purposes, so I'm not out anything extra to do this experiment.

I can see also in a cafe environment wanting to fine-tune procedures to make sure that the coffee is properly extracted for pour-over, vac pot, or chemex or what have you.

-Chris

 
-Chris

LMWDP # 272
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AlanAdler
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AlanAdler
Joined: 31 Dec 2005
Posts: 708
Location: Palo Alto, Calif
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: AeroPress
Grinder: Baratza - Virtuoso
Roaster: Fresh Roast SR-500
Posted Sat Oct 17, 2009, 12:43pm
Subject: Re: Measuring Coffee Strength With A Brix Meter
 

Hi Yakster,

I note you're in San Jose.  I live in Los Altos.  Perhaps you'd like to meet for lunch some day and yak (sorry I couldn't resist that) about coffee.  Call my office if that's of interest.

Best,

Alan
Aerobie, Inc 650-493-3050
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JasonBrandtLewis
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JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,380
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Sat Oct 17, 2009, 7:20pm
Subject: Re: Measuring Coffee Strength With A Brix Meter
 

JKalpin Said:

But why would I want to invest in a Brix Meter to determine strength?

Posted October 17, 2009 link

Well, I wouldn't . . . I use the refractometer to measure the Brix in grapes as I walk through a vineyard, but I wouldn't use it for coffee.

Consistency is key to making great coffee, just as it is for making great espresso.  Measure the coffee, measure the volume of water, wait a few minutes before pouring the water (thereby taking the temperature down from the boiling point), and there you go . . .

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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andys
Senior Member
andys
Joined: 10 May 2003
Posts: 852
Location: NY
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Speedster, Londinium 1
Grinder: EK-43,Robur, HG One, M3
Vac Pot: Yama
Drip: various
Roaster: PIDed Popper
Posted Sun Oct 18, 2009, 12:18pm
Subject: Re: Measuring Coffee Strength With A Brix Meter
 

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

Consistency is key to making great coffee, just as it is for making great espresso.  Measure the coffee, measure the volume of water, wait a few minutes before pouring the water (thereby taking the temperature down from the boiling point), and there you go . . .

Posted October 17, 2009 link

Not really. Many people are using expensive, top-flight beans, yet they are making coffee that is "consistently" worse that it could be -- without knowing why.

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

I use the refractometer to measure the Brix in grapes as I walk through a vineyard, but I wouldn't use it for coffee.

Posted October 17, 2009 link

I suspect you are voicing an opinion based on ignorance. If you had a refractometer of the required accuracy, and you knew how to use it for coffee, your opinion might be different.

 
-AndyS
picture page:  http://flickr.com/photos/andy_s/sets/
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,380
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Sun Oct 18, 2009, 7:47pm
Subject: Re: Measuring Coffee Strength With A Brix Meter
 

andys Said:

Not really. Many people are using expensive, top-flight beans, yet they are making coffee that is "consistently" worse that it could be -- without knowing why.

Posted October 18, 2009 link

Which does not mean that using a refractometer is the answer.  Furthermore, using "expensive, top-flight beans" is, in and of itself, no guarantee of quality.  Just as anybody can pull a bad shot of espresso and/or beans -- regardless of equipment -- so, too, can anyone brew a bad cup/pot of coffee, regardless of equipment and/or beans.  Indeed, lots of places -- let alone people -- make consistently bad coffee.  Just look at Starbucks . . .

Then again -- all wordplay aside -- consistency is the key to making good coffee.

andys Said:

I suspect you are voicing an opinion based on ignorance.

Posted October 18, 2009 link

Let's not presume what of us know and do not know, shall we?

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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yakster
Senior Member
yakster
Joined: 25 Feb 2009
Posts: 1,033
Location: San Jose, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Factory / La Peppina...
Grinder: Vario / Kyocera
Vac Pot: Yama 8 + Pyrex Lox-in Rod
Drip: Brazen / Kalita / Chemex /...
Roaster: Behmor
Posted Sun Oct 18, 2009, 9:25pm
Subject: Re: Measurements (Brix, Mass, Temperature...)
 

yakster Said:

Once my gram scale comes in, I'll try and find the hydrometer.

Posted October 15, 2009 link

The gram scale came in, and I found my hydrometer... in pieces.  I found the Drakes Tube (a sort of wine thief that keeps your hydrometer captive so you can easily make measurements of your brew) and a floating thermometer, but the box with the hydrometer in it was crushed.

I'm still tempted to stop by a beer and wine making shop and pick one up just for kicks.

-Chris

 
-Chris

LMWDP # 272
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andys
Senior Member
andys
Joined: 10 May 2003
Posts: 852
Location: NY
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Speedster, Londinium 1
Grinder: EK-43,Robur, HG One, M3
Vac Pot: Yama
Drip: various
Roaster: PIDed Popper
Posted Mon Oct 19, 2009, 5:04pm
Subject: Re: Measuring Coffee Strength With A Brix Meter
 

JKalpin Said:

when I stopped 'experimenting' and just followed the instructions in the manual I got excellent coffee, cup after cup, to this one ...that I'm drinking right now.

But why would I want to invest in a Brix Meter to determine strength?  

Posted October 17, 2009 link


If you can measure coffee strength -- with precision -- and you are careful with your measurements of ground coffee and water, then you are able to calculate your extraction yield. (Extraction yield is the amount of the original dry coffee that ends up in dissolved in your cup). And numerous studies over many decades have concluded that the best balanced cup results when your extraction yield is in the 19-20% range, although this may vary according to the coffee and your personal taste.

Nobody needs a refractometer; it just makes the process of dialing in a coffee faster and easier. When I got one, my coffee immediately improved. If you're following the very non-standard instructions that Alan recommends in his manual, I believe that proper use of a refractometer will make an immediate improvement in your coffee, too.

 
-AndyS
picture page:  http://flickr.com/photos/andy_s/sets/
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