Temperature Surfing: Everything You Need to Know

temperature surfing

If you’ve ever been around an espresso machine connoisseur, you’ve probably heard them mention temperature surfing. Temperature Surfing? Don’t worry – you don’t have to wear a bathing suit like regular surfing. Jokes apart, today I’ll share everything you need to know about temperature surfing, and how it helps make the perfect shot of espresso.

What is Temperature Surfing?

Temperature surfing is a process of getting your espresso machine close to your target brewing temp.

Generally, people use a coffee maker or a stove to brew coffee with hot water (or sometimes they even brew their coffee with milk). With these less manual techniques, you don’t have as much control over the temperature the coffee is brewed at. And it usually doesn’t matter. Drip coffee tastes pretty much the same when brewed in a wide range of temperatures. But when you’re making espresso, the temperature can play a big part in how the end result tastes.

The ultimate goal of temperature surfing is to give you the best espresso shot by finding the perfect balance between the boiler and brew group temperature. Sometimes, it takes several trial shots and a trial and error process to get an ideal formula for each shot.

Why Bother with Temperature Surfing?

Man cleaning espresso machine after working day

Author Note: Before answering your question- “Why bother with temperature surfing?” I’ll share my preference. I’m not too fond of this stuff as I like to have a mug of coffee in no time. Often times I can’t tell the difference between one shot of espresso and another one that was pulled at a slightly different temperature

The theory of temperature surfing mainly relies on generally accepted coffee logic. If you pull a shot of espresso with water that is too cold, you won’t get the same flavor as a shot with hot water. The same goes for water that is too hot – the espresso could end up burnt tasting and bitter. The test may also vary for different roasts and blends though you brew it at optimal temperature.

Let’s Understand it Numerically.

To get a tasty shot of espresso, the steam temperature must be near your target brewing temperature.

The brewing temperature is usually perfect around 112 degrees F and the steaming temperature is between 195-205 degrees F.

The temperature will be too high for espresso if you directly jump into the brewing process after steaming your milk. Luckily, you will still get the shot, but plenty of burned coffee may reduce the taste of your tongue.

For perfect temperature surfing, you need a good espresso machine to brew your espresso shot. These machines are equipped with thermostats focused on controlling boiler temperature, while the thermostats of most semi-automatic machines are fixed to regulate water temps.

Check this video on temperature surfing on a single boiler machine, “Rancilio Silvia.”

Now, you have a brief idea about how temperature surfing works on an espresso machine.

But let’s go through the steps in detail just to make sure.

  1. Turn on the steam switch and wait till the lights go off. At that time, you can fill the milk pot and preheat the cup with a hot water tap (more on this later).
  2. Steam the milk and turn off the switch.
  3. Swab down the steam wand to take aside any milk residue.
  4. Place a cup, either short glasses or a cup you usually use, under the steam wand.
  5. Turn on the extraction switch.
  6. Open the steam valve when water flows clear out of the wand, remove the wand and insert the portafilter.
  7. Stop just before the light coming on to time the remaining extraction. You can use shot glasses to count the number of shots you want.
  8. Prepare the wand for the shot (add coffee grounds and tamp).
  9. After reheating when the light goes off, the shot is just about ready for extraction.
  10. And, then load the portafilter into Silvia and begin extraction as per SCG adequate instructions.

The user said she could steam and extract about three-shots using this method.

Does Temperature Surfing Work?

Male hand turning button on coffee machine

As I said earlier, whether you do temperature surfing or not relies entirely on your preference. Temperature surfing will add additional time to your brewing routine, and this isn’t an exact science.

Thus, it may be too time-consuming. You still won’t have complete control over your espresso’s temperature even if you complete the process.

Author Note: If the steam runs too long on a single boiler machine, there is a risk of brewing too hot. Conversely, if you use a heat exchanger, you may run too much water, which may brew the coffee too cold.

This is a part of the art of making espresso; it’s fun and experimental too.

Is Temperature Surfing Bad for Your Machine?

So is temperature surfing bad for your espresso machine? The answer is, no it’s totally fine. Temperature surfing is entirely safe when it is done properly and doesn’t create any negative impact on your espresso machine, according to resident tech experts.

The warranty of your machine won’t be affected under normal circumstances. Before you plan to try temperature surfing, you have to make sure that your machine has plenty of water to prevent a dry boil. A little bit of care may give your machine long life. Otherwise, a dry boil has the potential to harm the unit.

Though temperature surfing may not impact your machine, follow the rules without any exaggeration. Keep in mind that the whole process of temperature surfing is done on single-boiler and heat-exchange machines. The double boiler units like the Gaggia Baby Twin don’t require this kind of process because they are particularly adept at temperature control.

Reverse Temperature Surfing: A New Idea

Let’s try something new called “Reverse Temperature Surfing.” The process is pretty much straightforward, and you will get a different result.

Here’s a short process of how you can do reverse temperature surfing. It’s a new experiment that may give you taste differences. This type of temperature surfing requires lots of patience but can produce the desired results.

  • First, put water in your machine and turn it on.
  • Wait for the heating elements to come on.
  • Count the drop-off in water temperature several times like 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes.
  • Then, the boiler clicks off with the water at the right temperature.
  • After consecutive trial and error, I got an acceptable result at 201 degrees F

If you become impatient, you may not get the perfect taste you’re looking for.

I can’t tell you the accurate temperature to get the reverse result of your likings because the temperature stability differs from machine to machine. Warm versus hot; you have to decide which you like the most. That’s why we recommend buying a good boiler machine that delivers the perfect temperature every time.

Other Ways to Make Your Espresso Taste Great

Banner size of barista working makeing coffee with coffee machine color tone

Temperature surfing and reverse temperature surfing as mentioned above are some of the simplest experiments you can conduct to change how your espresso tastes. I often use some shortcut tricks to improve regular coffee taste and I only use temperature surfing occasionally.

Here are my top 6 simple tricks to make your coffee taste great.

  1. Choose robust coffee beans varietals.
  2. Grind the beans in a burr grinder for optimum size.
  3. Use the proper water and coffee ratio.
  4. Use clean filtered water.
  5. Try different brewing methods until you find one that fits your tastes.
  6. Use natural sweeteners and organic milk products.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do You Make A Coffee Filter Taste Better?

Author Note: This is a tough one – if you can taste the filter you’re using, we recommend buying a different type of filter. Try to use the thinnest paper filters you can find, and if they have been sitting out too long throw them away. Coffee filters sometimes pick up the flavors of how rooms smell.

How Can I Make Coffee Taste Better Without Creamer?

Honey, Salt, Cinnamon, Coconut oil, Cardamom, or other spices can make your coffee taste better without Creamer.

What Is The Healthiest Way To Sweeten Coffee?

Agave nectar has a high fructose level and has a low glycemic index which makes it a great natural sweetener for your coffee. It is derived from agave cactus and patients with type 2 diabetes can easily use it. This makes it popular among health fanatics.

We hope you found this article on temperature surfing informative. It’s a difficult skill to learn – if you don’t feel like messing with it we recommend sticking to drip coffee or getting a more advanced espresso machine. Don’t forget to share your experiences in the comments section below.

Stay caffeinated friends!

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