Cutting Carbon III

Today I finished testing a new appliance at home. I like to start the evening with a cup of espresso or cappuccino. I'm using one of these stove-top pressure brewers that are one of the most ingenious inventions from Italy. Unfortunately, the diameter of that espresso maker is approx. 8cm (3in), whereas my smallest hot plate measures 15 cm (almost 6in) in diameter. If you compare the footprint of the espresso maker (50 sq cm) with the hot plate surface area (177 sq cm) it is easy to see that two thirds of my hot plate heat the room instead of the espresso. About time to do something.

I managed to locate a tiny hot plate with a diameter of barely 10cm. Needless to say, the hot plate is made in Italy. I've been told that many stoves in Italy indeed have such a small hot plate built in just to brew coffee. In any case, I tried whether the small hot plate was up to the task and if using this thing translates into energy savings.

First I prepared a cup of cappuccino the traditional way. The 1500W hot plate heats the water to the boil in 4 min. As the plate is large enough to heat up some milk (which is then whipped with a small battery-operated gadget) at the same time, this is all it takes in terms of electricity.

Next I used the small hot plate. It takes 6 min to brew the coffee with this 450W device. As the plate remains hot for quite a while, it is not a problem to remove the coffeemaker and use the remaining heat to warm the milk after unplugging the plate (the thingy is so simple it doesn't even have a switch).

Now let's do the math. The traditional way uses 1500W x 0.067h = 100Wh. The new plate uses 450W x 0.1h = 45Wh. That is, using the small plate saves more than 50% of energy. Lets assume I drink 250 cups of cappuccino a year. The savings amount to 250 x 55Wh = 13.8kWh a year. Using my current eletricity tariff (more about this in a later post), this translates into 3.15 kg of carbon dioxide and 7 mg of radioactive waste that I can save each year by simply using a different hot plate. The coffee tastes all the same, as far as I can tell.


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