avraptorhal Senior Member Joined: 20 Mar 2014 Posts: 52 Location: USA Expertise: Just starting
Espresso: Gaggia New Baby Twin, OPV... Grinder: Forte AP Drip: Bonavita Immersion dripper,...
Posted Sat May 17, 2014, 3:51pm Subject: coffee refractometer
I just got around to reading Scott Rao's book on measuring espresso extractions. He keeps talking about a coffee refractometer. I know what a refractometer is. It determines the refractive index of a liquid. The refractive index in turn is a function of the density of the liquid.
I have tried to find one at several retailers with no success. I don't even know if it is reasonable for a home barista to concern him/herself with it.
Any thoughts from the coffee geek community. I'm afraid that I'm showing my engineering education and background but when I get into something I tend to like to get as much of the basic technology of the process so I can deviate in creating my own understanding.
emradguy Senior Member Joined: 31 Mar 2011 Posts: 3,433 Location: Houston Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2 Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,... Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Sat May 17, 2014, 6:03pm Subject: Re: coffee refractometer
VST makes one. There have been a few discussions here recently about them, in particular their utility as a useful tool for home enthusiasts. The discussions tend to get a little heated, but are worth reading for anyone interested in exploring the possibility of a purchase. Try using VST Refractometer in the search engine or better yet, google...which will give you home-barista hits as well. I think they go for around $800...but don't quote me on that.
Though it's off topic, I think it's worth mentioning...in my opinion, your money would be better spent on a grinder upgrade and, if you don't have one on your machine already, a PID kit. Those things will likely give you bigger improvement in the cup than a Refractometer will.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
NobbyR Senior Member Joined: 10 Jul 2011 Posts: 2,071 Location: Germany Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo Vac Pot: N/A Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe Roaster: N/A
Posted Sun May 18, 2014, 2:01am Subject: Re: coffee refractometer
To me a coffee refractometer seems like an academic and at $799 quite expensive tool that doesn't really help to improve your espresso at home. After all, brewing and drinking caffè is all about flavor. The parameters messured by a refractometer won't tell you if the taste in your cup is great or not. You can have all the parameters right, and still you don't like the shot for one reason or the other. IMHO, your palate is the best tool for espresso quality.
With respect avraptorhal, please note this topic has been beaten to death in several of the online forums. Here is a recent example.
It is unlikely that you will get any fresh or useful info by starting a new thread.
Since I was a beta tester for VST, and received my refractometer at no charge, I am far from impartial in these discussions. I would simply note that IMHO the people who are most stridently pro or con on the subject of coffee refractometers often have the very LEAST practical experience using one. In many cases, they have ZERO experience.
On the other hand, people who have used a coffee refractometer regularly and carefully find it is an extremely useful tool, although not a substitute for tastebuds or for common sense.
Posted Sun May 18, 2014, 8:42am Subject: Re: coffee refractometer
Just to be clear, my question "What do you hope to learn?" was not argument in favor of nor against using a refractometer. It wasn't value loaded with the idea that there's nothing to be learned from using the tool, it was a simple question.
With respect avraptorhal, please note this topic has been beaten to death in several of the online forums. Here is a recent example. It is unlikely that you will get any fresh or useful info by starting a new thread.
Since I was a beta tester for VST, and received my refractometer at no charge, I am far from impartial in these discussions. I would simply note that IMHO the people who are most stridently pro or con on the subject of coffee refractometers often have the very LEAST practical experience using one. In many cases, they have ZERO experience. On the other hand, people who have used a coffee refractometer regularly and carefully find it is an extremely useful tool, although not a substitute for tastebuds or for common sense.
doublehelix Junior Member Joined: 20 Dec 2014 Posts: 25 Location: Bronx Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Breville 920 Grinder: Breville 820, Olympia (1988)
Posted Fri Jan 16, 2015, 4:14pm Subject: Re: coffee refractometer
I share your desire to know more, especially about the basics. I just ordered a $20 refractometer from Amazon. I have no idea if it will prove appropriate for gauging coffee extraction, but I hope I'll have fun with it. It measures fluid refractive index in Brix units. I see VST offers syringe filters...but Amazon also sells fiberglass syringe filters, I think they may be cheaper. I believe that all the filtration has to do is clear some fairly large coffee particles without severe clogging. Since you need only a small amount for measurement, doubt that this will be a problem given the right filter.
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