The London Coffee Festival is always the place where the coffee industry and manufacturers come to show off new equipment in a kind of wide-eyed but peaceful arms race. One of the more innovative and interesting pieces this year was shown in a little more depth just before the festival at Prufrock cafe. Specialty coffee celebs and nerds (like me) have been following the progress of the Decent Espresso DE1+ espresso machine for a while now and Mat North of Full Court Press in Bristol brought the current version for a demonstration.
With the current, polarising swing towards automation, the DE1+ is a fascinating combination of barista control and tech smart. This may explain some of the excitement surrounding it. The three main innovations on the DE1+ are:
Brewing temperature. Most commercial machines measure the water temperature from the boiler, meaning that by the time the water reaches the coffee grounds heat has been absorbed along the way by the portafilter, basket and grounds. The DE1+ measures the temperature of the water just above the grounds and mixes hot and cold water to achieve a preset brewing temp, also keeping it steady throughout the shot.
Smart pre-infusion. Pre-infusion is used to effectively bloom the puck, saturate all the grounds and lessen channeling in the shot. Usually it is guesswork when it comes to how much water should be used for pre-infusion and how long to do it for. The DE1+ takes care of this for the barista. You set a flow rate (eg 1ml per second) and the machine achieves that. It only begins pre-infusion when everything is up to temperature. Then using a pressure sensor, as soon as it detects a change in water resistance, the pressure ramps up and the shot begins. Baristas can now precisely dial in their preferred preinfusion.
Flow profiling. Pressure profiling is really useful when it comes to making great espresso. As a coffee shot is pulled, with every passing second more and more of the coffee is dissolved, losing around 20% of its mass. The constant water pressure means that water travels much more quickly towards the end of the shot. This is not ideal because if the water doesn’t spend enough time with the coffee, the resulting coffee shot will be under extracted. The DE1+ has a flow priority mode that allows the desired flow to be manipulated throughout the duration of the shot, and the machine adjusts the pressure accordingly. The level of control on this machine is incredible and the ability to “Flow profile” really offers something different to any other espresso machine.
The current version of this machine has the feel of something that would be at home in a training lab. Using the tablet interface, the pressure, flow rate, temperature and time are all tracked in real time. Making it possible to see fluctuations in pressure and flow flagging big or small channels caused by poor distribution, strange and over complicated puck prep or odd tamping techniques.
Mat stated that, over time, the DE1+ will change the way he makes espresso. How it will change is still unclear at the moment as the information on the display still needs to interpreted and it will take time to connect what you taste in the cup to what you see on the screen. For me personally, this is the most intriguing part. That despite having made a tonne of coffee, for a tonne of people, for a tonne of time, we can still find ourselves in a position of having more to learn and discover all over again!
NB* you can also remove the tablet, so the customer could start their own shot, which is nice.
Other interesting pieces of equipment at the London Coffee Festival:
Bubblelabs: An automated V60 brewer which literally pops out of the counter, prepares the brew and retracts back under the counter and is just about the most futuristic look piece of coffee tech I’ve ever seen. It is a great statement piece but the proof is in the pour-over. Perhaps it has come a little further than Danny’s RoboCup ™.
Mazzer Robur S: This feels like a long time coming, but Mazzer are releasing a brand new grinder presumably to compete with the very popular Mythos One. The headlines are: 50% less retention than the previous model (not hard), cooling fans, wifi connection and alerts when burrs need changing (cool). It will be interesting to see the demand on this one as my only requirement is that it doesn’t have a flimsy piece of plastic that renders the whole grinder pointless when it breaks. And breathe.