The first of the new temperature-profile machines by Rancilio has made its appearance in a British coffee house. The third Rancilio Xcelsius off the Italian production line has been installed at the Bermondsey Street coffee bar in London.
The machine allows the taste of an espresso to be adjusted by changing the temperature of the brew water during the 25 seconds it takes for the extraction and pour. The concept of ‘pressure-profiling’, which means the pressure of the water can be changed during the shot, is now extremely familiar – the theory of changing the temperature is new and has not yet been embraced as a workable concept by many machine manufacturers.
Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that temperature does make a great difference to espresso. As one well-known machine distributor put it: ‘not many people will be able to tell the difference between two espressos brewed half a degree apart… but at one degree, most people will tell a difference.”
“This may be seen as a novelty, and it may be a niche market – but everybody notices the differences!” agrees Bill Davy of the Coffee Machine Company, which distributes Rancilio.
“Many operators looking for a machine this good would look at a La Marzocco, but Adrian Jones at Street has always wanted to buck the trends, and when he heard about Xcelsius eight months ago, he asked to be the first in the UK to own one. He used it first at the Lunch show in September, and now he’s put it into his Bermondsey Street café, which is a very busy site.”
Street is known for an unusual approach to coffee-sourcing – the company buys Ethica, direct from Papua New Guinea, and set up the new machine to test the effect of changing temperature during the shot.
“He had one group running flat, pouring double shots at 92C,” reports Bill Davy. “He had another group starting at 92C and dropping to 88C, and a third group starting at 92C and rising to 96C. The flat setting gave a result that was slightly bitter, and the one that rose became very bitter.
“The one that dropped turned out to be very smooth, so they have programmed all three groups to work to that. This is electronically set – there can be no variations of different baristas using a manual adjustment.”
According to Adrian Jones of Street, he saw immediate differences with the temperature adjustments. “By raising or lowering the temperature of the water during the extraction process we’re able to produce quite substantial differences in taste and quality. We always used to brew our coffee at a flat 92 degrees but since the new machine has been installed we now profile down, from 92 to 88 degrees, and essentially we’re offering the customer a unique coffee experience.
“Why did we go for temperature profiling as opposed to pressure profiling? We have been happy with Rancilio for ten years, and we find this sets us apart from all the other thousands of coffee shops out there.”