the basic boiler insulation job: not the results i thought. should have done this long ago, of course, but now that i’ve wrapped the flaming canister in a rubber-and-foil parka, it seems to hyperventilate. “please. not so much heat that we can’t breathe.”
which was the point. coat the thing in a thick thermonuclear layer and mother tay-AH would cycle through heat-and-cool, heat-and-cool a little less often, eh? i supposed this would keep the boiler from stealing precious voltage while the pump was hard at work on its 30-second sprint. it always happens: flush routine, lock and load, pull the lever, annnnnd just as preinfusion segues to full-on shottage the boiler pressure dips below the Prescribed Levels and the heater kicks in. this steals precious power from the brew pump, of course, and the pressure gauge bobbles like a shortstop on shock (winner, 2006 SCAA Booth of Thickest Irony!).
insulation, thought i, would be the poor-man’s clarity crutch, a stopgap way to ensure that pump pressure was, at least, as constant as i could get it and the resulting espresso as overtly characteristic as possible. but you knew this would happen, didn’t you? instead of slowing down the boiler cycles, the boiler thermostat seems to know that the thing is now retaining heat longer, thus giving only the slightest nudge to the heater, which pushes the pressure just barely into the Optimal Range before cutting off again. the heat-and-cool cycles are actually more frequent due to the heater’s reduced workload — the boiler now constantly idles much closer to the heater’s on/off point, making for more consistent boiler pressure (excellent!) and less consistent pump pressure (blah).
essentially, we’re talking new layers of process management the pros don’t have to worry about. it’s ok. bring it on. we want to be that good. by the time i’ve become thoroughly intimate with the indiosyncracies of brew temp precision, boiler cycles and pressure stability, my eyes will blink green-and-red and the hands will resemble star-shaped knobs.
on the other hand, this blog strongly suspects that people unaccustomed to such carnal man-machine knowledge are driven to monkey about with cruelly impractical concepts like cigar-steeped novelties and spuma.