I was very fortunate to host both Dan (HB) and John of Decent Espresso on a trifecta of chance that had all of us here in the bay area yesterday. John brought two of his machines and his barista kit as well as plenty of toys and tools. It was nice to get to run them thru their paces in the flesh and learn more about the features and options. After they left, I had a far greater positive impression of the DE line than I did initially. It's not that I thought of them as vaporware or over-promising and under-delivering, it's just that it didn't seem like so much could come from something so compact and actually work well. But it did. And it made excellent shots. I took a few pictures and filmed a few short videos on my Instagram
Seeing the details of the extraction in real time is quite impressive. It's not confusing or "too busy" when you're looking at the screen once you become familiar with what's what. Dan and John agreed that it's a very good idea to have a simple screen with nothing more than buttons that say "espresso" "hot water" and "steam" to keep it easy for those who don't geek out on our level.
I wasn't strongly considering buying one beforehand, but that's probably not the case any longer. It looks and feels well built, not a toy by any means. Little details matter and it appears that the entire thing was carefully thought out. I wasn't a huge fan of the shape and look of the portafilter handles, but that's rather subjective. I liked seeing things like very small suction cups on the feet that help anchor it very well to a smooth countertop. The pump makes much less noise in person than it does in videos. The sound is softer mainly. The screen is bright and nice to watch things develop. Its more configurable than anything on the market and it appears those changes can be made in a matter of seconds.
I had several coffees ready as well as some that John brought. We were bouncing back and forth from classic Italian style espresso/cappuccino to light roasted single origin coffees. Seeing the flow thru the group is really a useful feature. On one of the Ethiopians I pulled, I was dismayed that my flow was too fast, but the shot was sparkling and impressive. Sweet, floral and bright.
It's definitely slow to steam milk compared to any commercial boiler, but no slouch in the quality. There's plenty of time for someone to get the whirlpool action right, and honestly, it wasn't that long, I'm guessing about 35-40 seconds to 150°F. The whirlpool came on quickly and easily. I really wouldn't mind owning either one, but since the machine can apparently monitor the shot extraction and reduce pressure automatically if a channel occurs, there's not really any babysitting needed to watch the shot, so I'd lean towards wanting to have the 220V version that lets me do both at the same time.
There's a lot of convenience in that little package. I'd like to have a counter friendly machine that can be programmed to wake up on a timer. I imagine if I dialed in a killer extraction, being able to save it to reproduce later is rather nice. I'd still rather have an enclosed water reservoir, but the machine apparently heats the water tray up to 50°C every hour to prevent biofilm and keep it sanitary. This would definitely be a nice machine to be able to pick up and go when visiting friends and family.
John and the machines are on a big tour of west coast and I believe Canada, so I'd stay tuned to how those folks receive the machines on those stops. All in all, I'd have very little hesitation in buying one. I'll definite be paying closer attention to how things develop for them.