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Discussions > Coffee > Machines > Brikka Theory  
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SirCharles
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Feb 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Oregon
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Fri Feb 10, 2012, 12:29am
Subject: Re: Brikka Theory
 

All I mean is that the bottom line is if it makes a cup of coffee that tastes good, and many people seem to feel that way.

Perhaps these are more objective?
Brikka on Amazon.com
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SirCharles
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Feb 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Oregon
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Fri Feb 10, 2012, 12:55pm
Subject: Re: Brikka Theory
 

OK, I have pretty much cracked the code here and it is very exciting.

As little as 1 teaspoon (5ml) of water affects operation. Symptoms of the valve "sticking" are actually due to an insufficient relative water level because one brewing starts and the water is forced up the tube there needs to be enough water left in the bottom chamber to superheat and produce enough pressure. The value isn't sticking, there just isn't enough pressure.

With the new 2 cup Brikka, you measure the water level by filling the top chamber up to an H2O mark, then pouring that into the lower chamber. With the older Brikka's, you use a plastic cup. Doesn't matter, because you can measure the water level to the tenth of a ml and still have improper operation because it is the relative water level that matters, which is a function of the amount of water, the coffee, the grind of the coffee, how much coffee, the moisture content of the coffee, and the pack of the coffee.

I have the newer Brikka, and "up to the H2O mark" has a fair amount of play in it. For the first time, I estimated on the higher side of the amount, and for the first time, not only did the valve release a few seconds after coffee first appeared (as described in the instructions) but the valve also released after 2 minutes (the instructions read 2-3 minutes).

This was with:
Cold water to the high side of the H2O mark (still "at" the mark)
Bodum Bistro Electric Burr Coffee Grinder set two clicks more coarse than espresso
Aroma AHP-303 Single Hot Plate set to the "o" of "Low" (waiting until light clicks off)
Grounds heaped in with a spoon and then cut with one pass of a sharp edge (no tapping/settling whatsoever; think of the way you measure sifted flour for baking)

I highly recommend the Aroma Hot Plate to anyone with a Brikka. For US$16 at Amazon.com you really can't go wrong. It gives you very accurate, repeatable temperature settings. Also "Low" is pretty freaking hot given the aluminum making direct contact with the plate, which is some sort of metal or ceramic with high heat retention. Besides, the valve popping in 2 minutes fits the Bialetti spec.

I can also highly recommend the Bodium Grinder. Again, for ~US$80 at Amazon.com it is a great value. There is that 20 second limit thing but it has not been an issue for me.

So, the way to proceed with the Brikka seems to be to grind, spoon, and knife the coffee as above, measure the water as above, and try to brew. If the valve does not pop in 2 minutes, increase the water level, but not past what you (and a lawyer) would consider "at" the H2O mark (top chamber or cup). This is important, because you do not want to defeat the safety valve with too high of a water level!

If in doing this the valve still does not pop in 2 minutes, you need to make a judgement call on the heat source you are using. But from experience if the relative water level is correct, the heat source can be modest with good results. Again, the Aroma Hot Plate on Low is pretty freaking hot and a lot of heat transfers pretty quickly to the wide base of the aluminum water container.

If in fiddling with the heat source within reason you still cannot get the valve to pop in 2 minutes, you need to increase the relative water level. I'd suggest you do this by leaving the water you added alone, leaving the way you are adding/knifing the coffee alone, and decreasing the grind but not to the point of an espresso grind. With the way you are adding the coffee (no tamping) a finer grind will have less air in it, which will increase the relative water level. Note that a finer grind will also absorb more water which will decrease the relative water level, so there is a certain amount of magic here.

If you still cannot get the valve to pop in 2 minutes, increase the relative water level by increasing the amount of coffee you are using by packing it more. Here, again, the moisture content of the coffee, your grinder, etc. are all going to come into play, so we are entering the area of magic again here, but with the steps above, I am curious as to how often this situation will occur.

If you still cannot get the value to pop in 2 minutes, and the value is clean, try popping the valve manually with something safe; I use a chopstick. Somewhat sacrilegious, I know, but I've gotten good results if everything else is within acceptable tolerances, and by that I mean the coffee/crema explosion.

With all of this fiddling around, I'm hoping you can get a cup with crema that you can drink. If so, then you can work backwards to improve and/or simplify the procedure. If not, I guess I don't really know what to tell you other than to make a cup of coffee some other way, sit back, and rethink life.

Finally, you may be wondering what will happen if the relative water level is too high. In that case, the valve will pop OK, but a lot of superheated water will pass through the grounds and burn the brew, assuming of course that the grounds aren't plugging the screen, etc., etc.

Damned if you don't; damned if you do; damn good somewhere between the two.
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SirCharles
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Feb 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Oregon
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Fri Feb 10, 2012, 11:14pm
Subject: Re: Brikka Theory
 

UPDATE: I've gotten better results using the Aroma Hot Plate as follows:

Set the control to the "i" of "Medium".
When the light goes off, set the Brikka on the plate and then turn the control to High.

The valve pops in about 1:30.
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SirCharles
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Feb 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Oregon
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Feb 26, 2012, 2:27pm
Subject: Re: Brikka Theory
 

Another update: There are lots of posts about not packing the coffee "too tight", but that is pretty relative.

What seems to work very well is packing the coffee as if you were measuring flour. Grind the beans a little bit coarser than espresso, then spoon the grounds into the funnel, absolutely no compression whatsoever, until they are a little but higher than the edge, then use something with a straight edge and cut the grounds level, then wipe the grounds off the edge of the funnel. I am having great luck with this approach.
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SirCharles
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Feb 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Oregon
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2012, 10:28pm
Subject: Re: Brikka Theory
 

Well, I believe I've cracked the code. With the proper amount of H2O the 4 cup performs well, though I don't think it can outperform the 2 cup; maybe just as good, because the AL mass has to go up more than the H2O mass. The 4 cup is HUGE compared to the 2 cup.

If there is too much water (and that is relative water, a function of the grounds mass and absorption, which seems to be calculated at measure as if you were sifting flour, no tamping) then when the water hits the valve (the valve is watertight, not airtight) then the funnel is still under water, which results in (a) over brewing, because the valve takes too long to pop, and (b) burning, because superheated water goes through the grounds at the very end. You can tell this happened due to the Guinness crema, dark brown. Also, tastes like crap.

If the water is just right, the water hits the valve and the funnel is just above the surface of the water, because the water travelled up and then the coffee absorbed water and the steam pressure is keeping the water in the tube of the funnel. The water is just below boiling on the grounds, and the funnel is made of SS and just the rim is touching the AL of the base, so the grounds are protected from the heat. So freaking clever. Eventually, the steam makes its way though the grounds to the valve, where it pops it, The water is forced through the grounds, and the superheated steam is as well (but no superheated water) and that is what makes the crema.

If there is too little water, not sure what happens. I think it is pretty forgiving in this regard, but I haven't tried it, but obviously you get less coffee.

You do have to have the ground right, not as fine as espresso for sure, It depends on the resistance of the grounds to control the rate of the coffee coming out when the valve pops. For sure if the grounds are too fine, the water can't make it through, and it over extracts. Also for sure if the grounds are too coarse, it under extracts and tastes very weak.

The measuring point for the water is just up to the H2O shelf. The 3rd gen Brikka does not come with a measuring cup, you measure the water by pouring it into the top, then pouring the top into the base. I fill the base and use that to pour. I was filling until the water covered the H2O shelf, but the correct amount is right to the edge of the shelf. Yes, it is a shelf, not a line, Well, actually it is like a rectangular solid formed into the top itself. I think it is just for artistic reasons, or perhaps people can't read sideways.

With measuring the water right, it seems a lot less finicky. With the 4 cup I let the hot plate warm up to right between Medium and High, then I put it on top and turned it to High. I always lift and drop the valve out of habit, though I don't think it is necessary. The indicator that you have things right is the length of time between when you see coffee leaking into the top, and when the valve pops. From my experience a 30 second gap is idea and a minute is starting to push it. You can always just pop the valve with a chopstick, or just jiggle the pot to pop the valve.

The 4 cup came with a silicone gasket, the 2 cup came with the regular gum gasket. Silicone gaskets for both are $2.99 for 3 shipped, so not an issue.

I think the 2 cup has physics on its side to make better coffee, but Amazon does not sell it. The Bialetti Shop does, and they seem to have good service. It was $65 shipped, the 4 cup from Amazon was $70 shipped. I ordered the gaskets from a third party. Parts for the 2 cup might be hard to come by, but I don't think there is much to break, unless you dropped the funnel on concrete and dented it. The 3rd gen has a much better funnel design, SS for one, and no gasket. Earlier models had funnel gaskets and were prone to leaking, I've had no issues whatsoever in that regard. You do want to make sure there aren't any grounds on the lip of the funnel, but that is just common sense.

You can cool the pot by running water on it. It will be impossible to open until you pop the valve and release the vacuum. People have waited for days to try and open it, kind of funny. Once releasing the valve I can get it open with a towel every time.

You have to brew 3-5 pots and toss them to season it. You also are not supposed to wipe the coffee buildup from the inside, just rinse with water and let dry; sort of like seasoning a caste iron pan. You are never supposed to use anything on it to clean it other than water, never, ever put it in the dishwasher (not that you would).

With the Brikka and the FrothPRO I can make a dry cap better than any I have ever purchased. I can also make a great Americano, my usual. I've also had it straight, pretty damn like espresso to me.

Definitely requires more patience than the AeroPress, and definitely not as consistent, or quick. Uses much less coffee, though, I'd say a half to a third less.

Two Jittery Thumbs Up.
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