How-To: Temperature surf on the Starbucks Barista (or any other single boiler machine)

This post is a repeat from 2011 on a former blog. Hope you enjoy!

Over the last year in experimenting with my Barista, I have been trying valiantly to nail in the perfect method for obtaining an adequate brew temperature. I figured that I would pass on what I have learned to you.

There are many different ways and various articles online about how to temperature surf, but this method has given me good and (most importantly) consistent results.

  1. First, let the machine warm up fully into steam mode with the portafilter engagedOn the Barista, this is only a few minutes, but on a bigger machine it may take much longer. Let the machine warm up for a few minutes even after it tells you it is ready, to allow everything to heat up (grouphead, portafilter, etc.).
  2. Remove the portafilter, grind, dose, tamp.
  3. Place a cup underneath the grouphead (perhaps the cup you will use for the drink to warm it up) run water through the group with the portafilter disengaged. You should hear water “hissing” and should see steam. This means that the water is at 212 degrees F.
  4. Here is where things vary from machine to machine. On the Barista, given the small 5 oz boiler, you want to stop the water immediately after the hissing stops, engage the portafilter and pull the shot. On a bigger boiler machine, like the Rancilio Silvia, run water for 2-3 seconds after the hissing stops to pull the shot. Play with different times to nail down that perfect extraction.
The perfect extraction should give you espresso that is reddish brown in color, with even darker red specs called “mottling” or “tiger-striping”, in 20-25 seconds. If the extraction takes the 20-25 seconds, but the color is still more yellow than reddish brown, decrease the amount of time that you run water through the group to increase the brew temperature. If the espresso is overly dark, tastes extremely burnt and bitter, but still comes out in 20-25 seconds the brew temperature is too high and you should increase the amount of time that you run water through the group.  See the pictures below for examples.

Temperature too low or “underextraction”

Perfect temperature

Temperature too high or “overextraction”

Pictures courtesy SweetMarias.com

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