E61 Manual Flow Control kit - worth it?

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
KCcoffeegeek

#1: Post by KCcoffeegeek »

I've been intrigued with the idea of flow control since the very first Slayer videos on YT. I bought a Quick Mill Carola Evo a little over a year ago and love it, no complaints, but noticed that Chris' Coffee has a Quick Mill-produced manual flow control kit available for $225 and now I'm wondering if I should throw this upgrade in. I'm not the BIGGEST tinkerer when it comes to espresso and I change coffees A LOT because most of the coffee I drink is for reviews on my site, so I am not the type of e-drinker who found what I like and stick with that one coffee. Would this thing just drive me nuts or is it a worthy upgrade?

walr00s
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#2: Post by walr00s »

I have this exact flow control kit. If you're not doing a lot of very light roast coffees, it's probably only going to increase the complexity of variables to keep track of in the espresso making process. It is also very "manual" just as advertised. If you're accustomed to flipping your lever and thinking about or doing something else while your machine makes coffee, this might not feel that great. I was already accustomed to devoting my full attention to my shot and I generally prefer light roast coffee that tastes more fruity or floral, so for me it was worth the sacrifice in convenience and reliability.
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boren

#3: Post by boren »

walr00s, how do you adjust the flow to improve light roasted coffee, and where do you notice the main differences?

Thanks!

walr00s
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#4: Post by walr00s »

There's a lot of flow/pressure profiles out there mainly from the Decent community. I've been experimenting with replicating the pressure profiles of them (obviously I don't have the same ability to separate the flow and pressure the way the DE1 seems to).

The main positive difference that I've found is the ability to grind finer and then hold the flow so that pressure sits around 2-4 bar. I generally do this until I can see beads across the entire bottom of the basket. Now if this takes more than about 20 seconds, I've learned the hard (on my palate) way that it's probably time to kill the shot, go coarser, and try again. But for some of my more enjoyable cups recently, 15-20s of 2-4 bar (including the initial ~5s at full flow but 0-2 bar of pressure), have been an Ethiopian and Honduran that have come out more floral the finer I go on the grinder.

I've had virtually zero luck with the long blooming profiles out there. And that may be because my grinder is nowhere near top-end. Or maybe the coffees that I'm using are not as light roast as they need to be, or some combo. Also, I've found that even the 15-20s of preinfusion on something in the lighter range of medium like Onyx Monarch can really produce an unpleasant flavor. It's definitely not a tool that you need to pull out of the bag for every coffee.
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boren

#5: Post by boren »

This is very helpful, thank you!

I'm very tempted to order the kit (the very similar but somewhat less expensive one from coffee-sensor.com). The only downside I see is that (if I understand correctly) it removes the built-in pre-infusion feature of the E61 group, which means that even when I'm not interested in manual control of the flow, I'll still need to perform an extra step (pre-infusion) that my machine otherwise takes care of. Is this correct?

walr00s
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#6: Post by walr00s »

That's correct. If you want preinfusion, you will have to do it yourself. I suppose you could skip replacing the spring, but you're introducing another complication into your process.

emradguy
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#7: Post by emradguy »

I've been using the flow control since it came to market with my Duetto and just a week ago received an Andreja Premium without it (which has the same pump as the Carola). The Ulka vibe pump in your machine ramps up to full pressure slow enough to not really disturb a well-prepared puck. I honestly doubt you need the flow control device. There's a bit of a learning curve to using it. You have to watch the pressure gauge while you're opening/closing the valve, and micro adjust to get it just right, which is easier said than done. After you pre-infuse, you would just open it up, allowing your machine to finish off the extraction at full pressure. Though, if you really wanted to simulate a spring lever, you could ramp down the pressure towards the end of the shot.

So, yeah, lighter roasts / finer grind settings do better with long pre-infusions and, in my opinion, that's the only place where this device will prove worth its salt. If you don't particularly care for that type of shot, then don't waste your money.

I don't think the practice of jump around through different varietals really matters. It's not about setting up for only one coffee but, rather, about manipulating the extraction to the bring out the best from each.
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Nunas
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#8: Post by Nunas »

boren wrote:...The only downside I see is that (if I understand correctly) it removes the built-in pre-infusion feature of the E61 group, which means that even when I'm not interested in manual control of the flow, I'll still need to perform an extra step (pre-infusion) that my machine otherwise takes care of. Is this correct?
Actually, you don't have to replace the spring. If you keep the stock spring, the e61 will then be like the original e61 patent, which had a needle valve atop. Also, the original ECM/Profitec kit did not include the stronger spring.

With the stronger spring, the inbuilt pre-infusion of the e61 is defeated, like in the Bianca. So, the comments you've already received are spot-on; in other words, it's totally manual process that you perform (or not have pre-infusion). With the stock spring in place, you still have the e61's inbuilt pre-infusion. Moreover, that pre-infusion is now variable. With the needle valve closed down most of the way, the preinfusion takes a long time. With it open a lot, it takes nearly no time. Wide-open, the preinfusion valve shoots to the extreme almost immediately, that is, virtually no preinfusion (and a heck of a lot of brew water debit flow).

Also, you can measure the water debit flow with the stock jet in place, then install the needle valve assembly and mess with it until you find the same water debit (on mine, it's a bit more than one turn, but others have reported almost 1.5 turns). So, if you want stock e61 with its preset infusion, that's where you set the needle valve.

Using the stock spring, once the e61 preinfusion phase is over, then the pre-infusion valve toggles and the flow control now behaves exactly like the Bianca or the ECM with the heavier spring.

This is how I use mine.

walr00s
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#9: Post by walr00s »

emradguy wrote: You have to watch the pressure gauge while you're opening/closing the valve, and micro adjust to get it just right, which is easier said than done. After you pre-infuse, you would just open it up, allowing your machine to finish off the extraction at full pressure. Though, if you really wanted to simulate a spring lever, you could ramp down the pressure towards the end of the shot.
This is pretty much exactly my experience, and I forgot to mention ramping down the pressure. It does reduce harshness in my experience. I also generally keep my needle valve closed enough that I never break 8.5-9 bar of pressure, which can actually be a challenge when you're grinding super fine, even with a long PI.
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stiksandstones

#10: Post by stiksandstones »

How do we tell the difference on this 'spring'?