Andy Schecter’s Andy, runs a specialty tofu factory in upstate New York. As Andy explains in his interview with us in the following lesson, the tofu industry had been using PID technology since the 1990s.
On February the 3rd, 2001, Schecter posted on the alt.coffee forum about his successful attempt to install a PID controller on this Rancilio Silvia prosumer espresso machine (above). Controller readings: ‘211.0’ is the brew boiler, ‘172’ is the boiler water preheater, ‘213’ is the group head heater, ‘80.0’ is the flow-meter controller (for metering shots like an automatic machine), and the gray box is a grinder timer. In the background is a brass pressure gauge for the rotary pump (which replaced the original vibe pump).
Barista Hustle – Do you know any of the backstory behind alt.coffee? (When and by whom was it founded? Was there anything else like it at the time? It’s still around as a Google group, though it includes no articles dated before 2010, as far as we can see. Is the format still similar to the way it was in 2001?
Andy Schecter – Well, I’m not an internet technogeek, but as I understand it, alt.coffee was a ‘Usenet Newsgroup’. In the early days of the World Wide Web, newsgroups were typically unmoderated text-only discussion forums that (remarkably for the time) brought together participants from around the world. This was the early days of third wave coffee, and information about how to make good espresso was extraordinarily scarce. Fortunately, there were many serious alt.coffee participants who did their best to share, collaborate, and figure things out. Sadly, after some years alt.coffee became overrun with trolls, haters, and sociopaths; soon it became unpalatable. Google was doing the hosting, but the newsgroup area seems to have disappeared from view. That’s a shame for those of us who valued its pioneering role.
BH – After you announced your successful efforts to fit a PID onto your Rancillio Silvia,