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Appropriate Accuracy

May 15, 2012

A quick example of the importance of appropriate accuracy with measurements.

I’ve been brewing a syphon at home on a pretty frequent basis since christmas (wonderful present 🙂 ), and have got my method down and had some very tasty results. I use a standard food probe type thermometer to measure temperatures, and have found this very helpful in getting the best from coffees.

In the last couple of weeks I have brewed a syphon at work for the first time. This has some new challenges – a different grinder, for example – but one of the most interesting has been to do with measuring temperature. At work, I have used a Fluke temperature probe. This is a more accurate measuring device than my home thermometer, yet less useful when making a syphon. This is because the Fluke is too accurate.

As with any heated mass of liquid, the heat distribution is not homogenous and changes throughout the process. The fluke is sensitive enough to give very frequent and misleading (though accurate) readings. It’s difficult to look at it and judge the average temperature of the water. In contrast, the home thermometer gives an ideal indication of this. There are still visible variations and misleading readings if it is moved around, but generally the less frequent and specific information provided is more simple to understand.

It’s an important issue if you want to measure your coffee making, that you use measurement methods and precision which are appropriate to your needs – more isn’t always best.

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