Heat Exchangers With PIDs: Are They Worth It?

You would think that making the best espresso is simply tampering with the coffee grounds, securing the portafilter to the machine, pressing some buttons, and waiting for your liquid gold to come dripping, but that is not the case. 

A key component to your perfect shot of espresso is temperature, and sometimes inconsistencies can happen, but heat exchangers with PID controllers will help you with that. 

Ready to know all about PID controllers and whether or not you need them? 

Let us get to it!

 

What is a Heat Exchanger Espresso Machine? 

man using his coffee machine

Espresso machines with heat exchange boilers will make your lattes or cappuccinos in no time by brewing the coffee and steaming milk simultaneously. 

Such an espresso machine is functional, especially if you’re rushing to make it out of your apartment in the morning and need a quick caffeine fix before you go. 

It works because there is a feature in the boiler that keeps the temperature cool enough to brew while the rest of the machine stays hot for the milk to steam. 

The process is called thermosiphon and what it does is keep a steady flow of cool water going to the group head that keeps the temperature stable and keeping the water for brewing cooler. 

What is a PID Controller? 

PID stands for Proportional Integral derivative, and it commands how hot or how cold your espresso machine will be. 

PIDs are standard for dual boiler espresso machines; they give stability to your brewing by allowing you to control the temperature to fit whatever setting is ideal for an espresso beverage. 

An espresso machine with a PID Controller will keep your espresso maker at the correct brewing temperature throughout the brewing process. 

On the other hand, traditional thermostats will stop peaking once the desired temperature is reached and will control heating once it does. 

Then, it will heat again to meet the desired temperature resulting in an uneven heat distribution that could affect the espresso shot and give you unsatisfactory results like a more bitter shot of espresso. 

While it’s not always the case, PID controllers will always be visible in the espresso machine.

Espresso makers with PID controllers have control buttons that will let you manually input your desired brewing heat and other options giving you the avenue to experience and experiment with different brew options as you please. 

 

Heat Exchanger versus Dual Boiler Espresso Machine

A similarity between a heat exchanger and a dual boiler is that both allow you to brew your espresso shot and steam milk together and at the same time.  

They are usually grouped concerning that ability. 

Still, there are also many differences between them, and one is that Dual Boiler Espresso machines typically have an edge because most of them have dual PIDs. 

The dual PID signifies that you can control both the temperature of the espresso shot and the milk at the same time separately without affecting the result of the other.

In contrast, on a heat exchanger espresso machine, you will only be able to control the steaming and not the brewing temperature. 

Do I need a heat exchanger with PIDs for my espresso machine? 

espresso machine

Needing an espresso machine with a PID controller can be subjective, and the decision can be up to what you need and what you want out of your espresso machine. 

PID controller is just an add-on, and you can use your espresso machine with or without it. 

If you are serious about advancing your coffee and espresso game, then installing a PID controller or buying espresso makers that have PID controllers on them already will benefit you. 

Consistency in the brewing process will give you optimum flavor notes and aroma every time, and the PID controller will provide you with that. 

If you are not willing to bet an extra amount of money for an espresso maker with a PID controller, an alternative is buying a temperature probe in order to check your yield’s heat. 

 

Benefits of an espresso machine with PIDs on its heat exchanger

  • Espresso machines with PID controllers give you the ability to control temperature. 
  • Espresso machines with PID controllers will provide you with amazing shots every time.  
  • Controlling the water temperatures of espresso machines will unlock different and stronger flavor profiles of coffee beans from different bean origins; all the subtle fruity and sometimes chocolate notes of other beans will taste more visible and more distinguishable. 
  • PID controller stays at the temperature you desire once it reaches it, giving you consistent brewing time for a perfect espresso. 
  • An espresso machine with a PID controller will keep giving you consistent shots every time. 
  • Espresso makers with PID controllers will generally contribute to giving you a perfect cup every time. 

The drawback to an espresso machine with PIDs on its heat exchanger

  • Heat exchanger-only espresso machines need cooling bouts or flushes between heating periods, resulting in an uneven brew that could burn your coffee bean grounds; this won’t happen to an espresso machine with a PID controller.
  • Inconsistent water temperature from heat exchangers in an espresso machine without PIDs will have an unfavorable result on the taste and aroma of your espresso shot. 
  • PID controllers on espresso machines are a premium, and you will be adding a little bit or paying for it a little more if you want to have them. 
  • If you are a casual coffee drinker looking to advance your coffee drinking experience, a machine without built-in PIDs might be better for you since PIDs are usually for more advanced baristas and coffee and espresso connoisseurs. 

 

Conclusion

Acquiring an espresso machine with a built-in PID controller is easier nowadays since commercial espresso maker manufacturers are now making them accessible for homebrewers and not just the baristas and the enthusiasts anymore. 

Essentially, the decision about acquiring one is totally up to you and what you want and need from your espresso machine. 

But if you decide to buy one built-in or if you choose to install one yourself, then you won’t be disappointed by that decision. 

 

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Cuppabean
Charles is the author and managing editor of Cuppabean.com. A self-admitted coffee addict, he drinks 2-4 cups of coffee a day to get his fix. Read more about the site here.

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