"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2003 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Nice Pair of Bunns
All is not espresso in the land of coffee, and other tastes abound if sought. Recently I was the proud and happy recipient of a couple of old Bunn brewers.
One of which was a very nice A-10A pour-over drip machine seen here. If you are not familiar with the Bunns, they are an interesting lot. Inside is a tank with an immersion heater, much like an espresso machine's boiler, except this tank is open to the atmosphere through two openings- one to fill with water and one to release hot water- an "in" and an "out."
To brew coffee form one of the Bunn Pour over machines, the machine is first filled with water until some water comes out the shower head. Then the machine is plugged in (and the newer ones turned on). The immersion heater now heats the water, and just like an espresso machine, when the water reaches a set temperature a thermostat turns off the immersion heater. The tank is then kept near that temperature by a resistive-wire heater wrapped around the tank. When you want a pot of coffee, you load a filter cone with the ground coffee, place it in the machine, and pour the desired amount of water into the top of the machine. This displaces the already-heated water which is forced by displacement through a copper tube on the top of the boiler to the shower head over the grounds. In this way the tank is always full and ready to brew another pot in just minutes.
The current models of the home Bunns ("B-10" in various color and case-material choices) are readily available. They make a wonderful cup of coffee but do have a few drawbacks. They work best with around a half pot or more being brewed and to some people they aren't the best looking machines for the kitchen. They also tend to flow water rather quickly, but Bunn offers a replacement showerhead that gives better dispersion as well as a flow reduced which goes into the water tank at the water inlet (I think) that slows the transfer of water through the tank. If you have one of the older Bunns, go to the customer service for home machines at the Bunn website and fill out the form.
Most Bunn home models come with a pre-set thermostat that works much like the button thermostats on a modern, home espresso machine. The A-10A had an internal, adjustable thermostat that used a capillary bulb immersed in the water tank. Unfortunately, the access to the adjustment was inside the machine which involved removing the water loading tray on top. I replaced that thermostat with an identical one, except the replacement has a longer shaft with a knob which, after drilling a hole in the side of the machine, is now accessible from the outside (Seen in the photo above), with the added benefit that I can turn off the main heating element if I wish.
I disassembled the machine and found that the previous owner had been using some sort of purified water as there was almost no evidence of hard water deposits on the tank, and only a small amount on the capillary bulb. After cleaning it I ran some test water through it and then the pot of Guatemalian HueHue was made. It was roasted about ten days ago, just up to the beginnings of second. Well.. The water poured a bit too fast, I used a bit too much coffee, and it was evidently ground a bit too fine, or some combination of the above. Whatever the reason, with the original shower head, the flow was too fast and....
After I cleaned up the mess from all the water that poured out from over the top of the filter cone along with some of the grounds, I went to pour out the test pot to get rid of any possible cleaning-solution residue. Even though I had rinsed the machine out I wanted to make sure. Well, on the way over to the edge of the hillside (I was working in the garage, thankfully, making the spill-over less of a clean-up hassle) I got a whiff of the aroma from the pot. Hmmm.. that smells good.. I stopped, hesitated, and sniffed again. Well, I couldn't resist. I took a sip and swirled it around in my mouth. Unbelievably smooth, sweet, and delicious. Now, I didn't swallow it, but it was some of the best coffee I have had in some time.
A pot of coffee the next day, with a HueHue from a different plantation was a bit less satisfying. It was roasted just a bit into second which was too dark for drip, the dark taste coming though and it was not as sweet as the first pot. Additionally, I should mention, I roasted this coffee the same day as I had attempted to brew it , and being excited to brew another pot, I couldn't wait for the beans to mature.
Even though I pored the water slowly in two portions, waiting between, and even though it was only a half pot of coffee, the filter still overflowed a bit. Hope that flow reducer gets here soon! Even so, the house smelled great for hours after making that pot of coffee!
I have learned that the roast I like for espresso is much different than the one that I seem to prefer for drip. A darker roast, well into second , is my preferred espresso roast, but a roast that is just out of, or mid-way between first and second seems best for the drip. Still, one variety is not a great test, and, admittedly, I have a lot to learn concerning drip coffee. My roaster friend is already talking about getting me a hygrometer and setting me off on sugar-content analysis of my roasting and brewing. I can't wait to try some Sumatran Mandheling!