Review of the Decent Espresso DE1+PRO - Page 20

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JayBeck

Postby JayBeck » Dec 27, 2018, 2:49 pm

I wanted to give a 4 month update on my time with the DE1PRO (paired with an SSP Monolith Flat from October 2018).

I think any legitimate review needs to be very honest. If all we paint are roses and sunny skies, we aren't being fair to someone who reads our comments, buys the machine, has a different experience, and then feels mislead. There have been times that I've thought about selling the DE1 and going one of 4 ways:

    1) "I'm going to save the cash and go down to a BDB. It's really all I need." At times this gets even crazier: "I'm gonna sell the Flat as well and just get an Oracle Touch!"
    2) I'm going to side-grade to a Bianca. I want the 'hands on' feel of a paddle along with the traditional conviences of a boiler (preheated cups, fast hot water, steam while brewing, and the joy of turning knobs again).
    3) Bite the bullet and get an LMLM (simple coffee) or GS3MP (option to keep profiling!). Live like the 1%ers! Who needs retirement anyways!
    4) Just get a simple spring lever (Pro 800 / Londinium R) and be done with it.

So why would I consider a machine I can be quoted many times on here as saying is the best and others should get it?

    1) I miss seeing my cups on the top of a machine when I walk into the kitchen. I miss them being warm. I'm weird like that.
    2) I like having hot water for tea or instant oatmeal on demand. I even like the sound of the flash steam. It's one of the sounds of the coffee shop.
    3) Sometimes you feel like you have 'too much' control and 'too much' information. James Hoffmann eludes to this in his review. While you can turn off the information overload; let's be honest -- you're not.
    4) I miss steaming milk in 10-15 seconds and the joy of purging a wand by the rapid turns of a knob on and off.
    5) Messy pucks. This will likely always be a thing with the DE1. Updosing helps a little. The v1.1 grouphead may help a little. But I think the puck will always be airy due to the forward flush water flow opposed to a back flush flow.

So here I am at the end of 2018, 4 months in, and I'm a much #teamdecent as I've ever been. So how do I overcome the things I miss from traditional machines and am slowly learning to adapt? How do I keep settling in on the DE1 as the best machine available regardless of price? It's simple really: The DE1 does too many things other machines either can't do or can't do well.

My latest epiphany came last night and was solidified this morning. I was reading the brew recipes for the December 2018 La Marzocco espresso subscription and both are recommended to brew at 7 bar. And I started thinking: If I have a traditional machine (like an LMLM or even a lever) then changing brew pressure is a PITA and not something you'd want to go back and forth from a lot. If I had a manual paddle machine (modified BDB, Bianca, GS3MP) then reliably repeating a shot where max pressure is below 9 bar is going to be difficult. Sure, you may 'learn' where to stop the paddle over time; but with all coffee behaving differently and the variable of human error, you may over shoot or undershoot for several seconds which will impact flavor and make repeating shots harder than it should be.

My second epiphany is on why pressure profiling machines are all the rage. Recently I was pulling coffees from Dragonfly that were the Northern and Southern Italian blends. I decided to pull a few shots with no preinfusion at all and realized they tasted better. This made me 'falsely' conclude (thanks to the help of some things I began reading both on here and other sites) that preinfusion was overrated unless with the lightest of coffees. So I started looking at the LMLM users that were doing 6 bar shots with a 0.6mm gicleur thinking that's all I needed (FTR, the 0.6mm gicleur LMLM is the same flow rate as the DE1 with no preinfusion: ~8ml/s). I started pulling DE1 shots at 6 bar with no preinfusion and really liked what I was getting. So I again falsely concluded that all the flow and pressure profiling abilities of the DE1 were overrated and that I could go back to a traditional machine and simplify things.

And then I got a bag of Cafe Lusso GMC to share with the family over Christmas (I've learned not to use 3rd wave stuff around family that thinks specialty coffee is Starbucks). Being a Northern Italian blend I thought I'd pull it just like the Dragonfly stuff. I started at flat 9 bar, no preinfusion. Then I tried it at 6 bar, no preinfusion. Both were good but I thought, "What the heck...I have time and plenty of coffee, let's go back to a traditional DE1 shot.' So I used my slightly modified version of the 'default' pressure profile: 4ml/s preinfusion to 4 bar; rise to 9 bar and hold for 10 seconds; smooth decline to 4 bar over the next 25 seconds. HOLEY MOLEY! You would not believe what I was missing! I did a side by side taste comparison just to be sure. Yep. No doubt about it: The profiled shot of a very traditional blend was not only sweeter (as it should be, given the declining pressure) but it had a much bolder and more pronounced chocolate (something that profiling the dragonfly coffee reduced hence why I used a flat 9 bar with it)-- oh MY was it delicious!!! This was the exact opposite way the Dragonfly version of this type of blend behaved. It just goes to show what we all know: All coffee is different and may need to be extracted differently. That's why everyone is pushing to profiling machines to begin with.

So that has for sure settled it for me. If you want the most out of coffee then you need a profiling machine. You can do tricks with traditional machines to profile a little bit (up dose / under dose to change up head space which will impact the pressure curve); however, it will be very limited and comes with other compromises. The DE1 does profiling easier and more repeatable to most machines. It offers more information to properly dial in a coffee than any machine with all the graphs.

So how do I make up for the other 'short comings' I listed above?

    1) You can still sit cups on top of the Decent. The tablet will block the view some but even it doesn't HAVE to sit on top of the machine. Some DE1 users have made rails and still sit cups on top and have a more classic look. It will hold 2-6 cups, depending on size and arrangement. To make up for the lack of preheated cups, when doing a milk drink I simply steam a little longer and when doing straight espresso I just flush some water quickly into my cup. On my old machine I steamed to 130-140F. Now I steam about 10-15F hotter. Milk tastes the same and the drink temp feels the same. Some DE1 owners have purchased the Jura cup warming device that is very narrow and looks perfectly at home beside the DE1.
    2) With the considerable space savings on your counter the DE1 provides, I purchased the Variable Temp Stagg Kettle. It perfectly matches the color and design aesthetic of the DE1. The only downside is you have to plan a few minutes in advance for hot water. But you gain temp control (which you need for teas anyways) and water quality (you're drinking fresh water that hasn't been in a boiler for who knows how long). This is actually a better solution anyways if you are maximizing quality.
    3) While the DE1 is a very good steamer, we all know it's not a very fast steamer. This is fine. All you have to do is rework your workflow and the total time will be about the same as a 'traditional' machine once you account for clean up. What I do is first dose and grind my coffee and prepare the basket. Same as any machine. Then I pull shot. I now use a SKALE for gravimetric dosing (wow, that's a nice feature BTW!!!). I've always watched the bottomless pour develop because I find it beautiful as much as it is informative. Once the pour is fully going, I open the fridge and prepare my milk. I come back to the machine towards the end of the shot. Once the shot is over, I immediately begin steaming milk. Since the DE1 has a timer, creating perfectly consistent milk is super easy. Once the vortex is going I introduce air for about 15 seconds. Then I set the pitcher on the drip try and position it to keep the vortex going without introducing any more air. Then I clean the portafilter. My steaming is set to 50 seconds (that gets me around 150F milk for the 6-7 ounces I froth). By the time the portafilter is ready for the next shot, the steaming automatically ends. I wipe down the wand, it auto purges (great new feature!), and then I pour latte art quality milk into my shot. What I've learned is that if you adopt a similar linear work flow then by the time you account for preparing a milk pitcher and clean up, you end up with a similar overall drink time.
    4) While you can't fix messy pucks you can make sure it doesn't make a mess on your counter. I bought the Decent Knockbox to replace the knockdrawer I had been using. It has really made for a better overall experience. I simply knock hard into the Decent Knockbox. Its design prevents anything from going all over my work space, and then I simply use a brush to wipe the basket clean. Again, its large design helps keep stray coffee from going all over the counter.

I know this was long but I felt it was overdue to keep people considering the DE1 up to date with user experience. I feel as confident as ever in recommending this machine to anyone who is on the forum. In fact, I'd be as bold to say that if you've reached a point in your espresso making journey to decide you want to have a profiling machine, there is no greater machine for these reasons (and many others I may detail later, like temperature control) to experiment with until your heart's content.

The support from Decent / John continues to be unparalleled. v1.0 users will be getting a 'free' update pack soon. John has sourced a very accurate flow meter that will be in all future machines but is making available as a 'free upgrade' in this pack to v1.0 users if you want it. Flow is really accurate now using the pump pulse algorithm that came with the latest firmware; however, using the flow meter in conjunction or with other to be developed uses gives the machine better options long term. How cool is it that John is standing by v1.0 users when at all possible?

So quit waiting and buy the DE1. The more people using it, the more information we'll get to really dial in coffees, and the faster we all get to fully experience a whole new level of coffee making.
★ Helpful

RyanP

Postby RyanP » Dec 27, 2018, 5:41 pm

I'm definitely interested to pair one next to the Strietman CT1. It does the pressure profiling and variable preinfusion with ease, but I want to play with a machine where you can see the data and change variables with the click of a button. Maybe I'm missing out on better espresso? More consistently excellent espresso? Better understanding of good and bad espressos by reading the data after a shot? Or maybe not, but only one way to find out!

vit

Postby vit » Dec 27, 2018, 7:23 pm

JayBeck wrote: Being a Northern Italian blend I thought I'd pull it just like the Dragonfly stuff. I started at flat 9 bar, no preinfusion. Then I tried it at 6 bar, no preinfusion. Both were good but I thought, "What the heck...I have time and plenty of coffee, let's go back to a traditional DE1 shot.'


I'm not getting this flat 9bar no preinfusion, as you can't have "no preinfusion shot" with this machine. Can you post a diagram of that ?
As I understand, you replaced shorter preinfusion with flow limited to 6ml/s with longer one with flow limited to 4ml/s ....

JayBeck

Postby JayBeck » replying to vit » Dec 27, 2018, 8:10 pm

DE1 has max flow of 8ml/s. With no preinfusion, this equates to max pressure being reached between 5-8 seconds depending on coffee, dose, etc. This is the same exact pressure curve that the 0.6mm gicleur LMLM or the commercial machines using the same gicleur. Actually what will happen is pressure will overshoot to around 10 bar for a second or so before it evens out. You can call that pressure curve whatever you want but it is in line with most machines where preinfusion isn't being used.

FWIW, the stock LMLM with 0.8mm gicleur has max flow of 12 ml/s and most E61s rotary's are somewhere around 9 ml/s.

If I do a traditional DE1 shot that does a 4ml/s preinfusion to 4 bar, them what will happen is it will take 10-15 seconds (again, depending on coffee and dose) to hit 4 bar them another second or two for max pressure. The rise will be very smooth and it won't overshoot the 9 bar limit.

The two shots will taste very different.

I can take some pictures in the morning of what the curves looks like.

I know levers and some machines try to hit 9 bar in 2-3 seconds for certain shots. This seems to be rarely used based on things I've read in here and other places. It is likely this type of shot will be available on the DE1 in the near future once Ray sorts out how to manipulate the valves to create a hammer of water at the start of the shot.

vit

Postby vit » Dec 28, 2018, 3:56 am

Ok, so it's a newer model with flow limit 8 ml/s
Yes, diagrams would be nice

JonF

Postby JonF » Dec 28, 2018, 8:52 am

I appreciate the detailed comments! I am strongly considering a DE1+ Pro to upgrade my Vivaldi. I like the ability to easily adjust parameters, even it I can do some on my current machine. The difference being I would not have to find the manual to change temp, remove the front to change brew pressure, or crawl under the sink to change the line pressure to change the line level preinfusion! If I was going to question DE on one thing, it would be the odd implementation of the plumbed in water. But I would guess this pertains to temperature control, as the incoming water needs to be controlled.

I also appreciate comments on the actual result--the espresso. I have read a lot of reviews of all the options with DE, but I could not fine many comparisons of espresso taste as compared to other machines.

MrEd

Postby MrEd » Dec 28, 2018, 9:53 am

vit wrote:Ok, so it's a newer model with flow limit 8 ml/s
Yes, diagrams would be nice

Not a newer model. A combination of firmware and software updates to the existing machines allows the higher flow limit.

There is also a subtle distinction in how the DE1 treats what is called the preinfusion mode during the first step of the shot. With preinfusion turned off (it's a check box) the machine will pump water at its maximum flow rate for a user-defined amount of time, then move onto the next step. With preinfusion turned on, you can set the flow rate to that same maximum (or anything up to that value). However you now have the option to make the transition point to the next step conditional: you set a maximum amount of time, but can add an arbitrary pressure trigger for the transition. Thus for example you can have it transition when the pressure at the puck reaches 4 bar, or 8 bar, or 0.5 bar, even if the timer has not maxed out. Turns out the different trigger pressures can have a significant impact on the way the rest of the shot plays out.

JayBeck

Postby JayBeck » Dec 28, 2018, 12:49 pm

JonF wrote:I appreciate the detailed comments! I am strongly considering a DE1+ Pro to upgrade my Vivaldi. I like the ability to easily adjust parameters, even it I can do some on my current machine. The difference being I would not have to find the manual to change temp, remove the front to change brew pressure, or crawl under the sink to change the line pressure to change the line level preinfusion! If I was going to question DE on one thing, it would be the odd implementation of the plumbed in water. But I would guess this pertains to temperature control, as the incoming water needs to be controlled.

I also appreciate comments on the actual result--the espresso. I have read a lot of reviews of all the options with DE, but I could not fine many comparisons of espresso taste as compared to other machines.


The DE1 needs water from the tank to be a certain temperature in order for the water mixing to be consistent so that's why the tank is always used, even when plumbed. It's actually a cool process. Now that it's winter in North America, most kitchens are cooler than they were earlier in the year. The DE1 can tell that the tank water is cooler and it will do some quick heating cycles of water in the tank to get it up to a standard room temperature before the machine can be used. It's all automatic but is cool to know your machine is 'smart enough' to calibrate itself in the warm up sequence.

I think 'taste' has been uniform: 'It's very, very good.' Taste when comparing to other machines is hard because not everyone has multiple machines to compare it to. It does its best to emulate other machines, yes; however, the problem is other machines 'lie' to us so it's hard to really know what their pressure curves are (more on this in another post). I will fully disclose this: There are 2 active users on the private forum who chase mouthfeel and both believe their Rotary Pump E61 and Vivaldi machines produce a thicker shot. Again -- it's not that when they try to emulate on the DE1 that the shot tastes bad; its just not as 'creamy.' What they are referring to is the lack of fines in the cup. Fines are what create mouthfeel and the DE1 (for whatever reason, several theories are being tested) doesn't push as many fines into the cup. I had a BDB briefly alongside my DE1 and I couldn't tell a mouthfeel difference between the two. So it may be specific to rotary pumps on E61s and Vivaldi's. But like I said, it may be a puzzle that is 'solved' soon.

FWIW -- Scott Rao believes excess fines in espresso ruin the flavor (I've emailed him specifically about this mouthfeel debate). But nonetheless, if thick, creamy mouthfeel is your thing, other machines can likely do a better job. Not that you can't have wonderfully thick shots on the DE1, mind you. But other machines can push more fines through if you prefer that type of shot (again, mouthfeel, not taste).

JayBeck

Postby JayBeck » Dec 28, 2018, 1:02 pm

MrEd wrote:Not a newer model. A combination of firmware and software updates to the existing machines allows the higher flow limit.

There is also a subtle distinction in how the DE1 treats what is called the preinfusion mode during the first step of the shot. With preinfusion turned off (it's a check box) the machine will pump water at its maximum flow rate for a user-defined amount of time, then move onto the next step. With preinfusion turned on, you can set the flow rate to that same maximum (or anything up to that value). However you now have the option to make the transition point to the next step conditional: you set a maximum amount of time, but can add an arbitrary pressure trigger for the transition. Thus for example you can have it transition when the pressure at the puck reaches 4 bar, or 8 bar, or 0.5 bar, even if the timer has not maxed out. Turns out the different trigger pressures can have a significant impact on the way the rest of the shot plays out.


DE1 defines 'preinfusion' as a set flow rate for a set time up to a set pressure in its standard format. 'Default' in these settings is a 4ml/s flow for up to 20 seconds until 4 bar of pressure is reached. At this point the machine will do all it can to hit the max pressure on the next step and then do any declines thereafter. This profile generally correlates perfectly with when first drips appear on most coffees, which is why John chose this method as the 'default.'

'Dumb' machines define preinfusion as a 'pump on' for several seconds and then pump off for several seconds before going to full pressure. This wets the coffee and allows pressure to build. Then it soaks briefly and then goes to full pressure.

The Slayer is simply a 2-step flow machine. 'Pre-Brew' flow that is restricted by a needle valve (comes stock around 2ml/s but can be adjusted to anything) and then full pressure up to the max pressure limit (usually 9 bar). Slayer users use pre-brew until drops appear then full pump. Sometimes they end shot back in prebrew.

Manual machines (Bianca, GS3MP) do pressure differently. Most Bianca videos will use either a low flow or a max flow until a certain pressure, hold that pressure (say 3 bar) until drops appear then increase flow to build pressure to max desired and go from there. GS3MP shots usually just start at the low flow, hold, then go to max pressure since its not as 'elegant' at shutting off flow (it just dumps excess water to drip tray since it doesn't have a needle valve to stop flow and hold pressure.

In advanced mode, the DE1 can be set up to 'hold' pressure or shut off flow. The infamous 'Scott Rao' shot where he gets insanely high extraction yields is a max flow to 4 bar shot, then a pause for 'bloom' for 30 seconds where pressure slowly declines back to around 1 bar over that time and drops start. Then it is a flow of 2.5ml/s thereafter which creates a beautifully soft rise in pressure to 6-9 bar and then a soft decline to around 2 bar for the shot (looks like a bell curve).

We can go on and on but it is good to 'define' terms on what we mean, which usually comes down to what machine we are using and what it is capable of. The only thing (right now) the DE1 can't do in preinfusion is switch the step based on weight in the cup (say 2g like Jim Schulman suggests in his Bianca thread as the end of preinfusion) and a manual mode (where the user and not the computer advances it). I say right now on both of those as both are being worked on but don't have definite timeliness for when they may be implemented. Gravimetric advancement may come soon through an update to the Advanced Mode. The manual mode may come later primarily because they don't want it to be half baked. It may be an addon that we purchase that is a dial where the user can turn the dial back and forth for adjust flow and when you find the 'god shot' the machine can 'save it' much like the Rocket R9 is doing.

More to come.

JayBeck

Postby JayBeck » Dec 28, 2018, 1:56 pm

So you guys asked me for graphs. So here you go:

First, a picture of my 'lab.'

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DE1PRO, SKALE (gravimetric dosing), Decent Tamping Stand, Decent Funnel & Kafatek WDT Stir tool (stowed inside tamping stand), Barista Hustle Tamper, Kafatek WDT Leveling Tool, Stagg Variable Temp Kettle, Custom LevTamp (DLC & Wenge Wood), Espro Convex (rarely used but sometimes I try a convex tamp), Decent Knockbox, big brush to clean portafilter, small brush to clean grinder, Monolith Flat w/ SSP, catch cup, triple basket to measure out single doses, Kafatek RDT spray bottle, and Kafatek funnel for grinding. Not seen is a Decent 400ml frothing pitcher w/ analog thermometer and a Motta 17oz frothing picture.

Both of these shots were 19g of Cafe Lusso GMC in an 18g VST. Same grinding setting for both shots (important as you see the impact of preinfusion).

Grind, WDT, and tamp:

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The Pressure Profiled Shot (aiming for a 1:2 brew ratio. 4.5ml/s Preinfusion, 9 bar hold for 10 seconds; pressure decline to 4 bar over 25 seconds):

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Notes: 4.5ml/s preinfusion. It took 11 seconds for my 4 bar 'limit' to be reached. Pressure hit 1 bar around 8 seconds, 2 bar at 10 seconds, 3-4 bar at 11 seconds, and smoothly hit 9 bar at 15 seconds. Around 21 seconds the decline phase began. This decline helped slow the natural rise in flow that occurs as a puck erodes. My brown and blue lines came together quickly, indicating that preinfusion was successful (i.e. the puck was fully saturated so all water in resulted in coffee out).

What I'd change and why for the next shot:

1. I'd probably raise my preinfusion exit to 5 bar (up from 4 bar). This will tighten the pressure / flow lines and help the first drops better coincide with the pour. What you see in this graph is that the machine ended preinfusion before drops were hitting the cup. If I raise the exit to 5-6 bar, it should end about the same time and given me an even more uniform pour.

2. I'd tighten the grind or shorten the length of the decline phase. This shot was programmed to be a 35 second pour (10 seconds at 9 bar and 25 seconds declining to 4 bar). I got a 28 second pour. (or 18 seconds in the decline phase). I would be perfectly fine with the longer shot that the tighter grind would cause to hit my desired 1:2 shot in that fully 35 seconds. Conversely, I could shorten the decline phase (probably start at 20 seconds). That would make the pressure decline steeper and cause the flow to slow. The shot would taste different either way. Almost feels like you need to try both, which I can, thanks for all this information at my fingertips.

BONUS: Notice how DEAD ON the temperature of 201 was. The line you are seeing is the temperature of the coffee itself. The DE1 got the coffee infusion to 201 around the 5-6 second mark. It's able to do this because the first several seconds of the shot were 205+ water to account for the temperature loss of a cool puck prior to settling perfectly at 201. This is about half the time it takes most machines to get there because they can't control temp in real time. This innovative infusion is why you see so many DE1 users brewing at much cooler temperatures. I could pull this coffee from 201 down to 190 and it will still taste really good and not sour at all. This discussion would require a whole new post to discuss fully.


The No Preinfusion Shot (same grind setting as before; 9 bar hold for up to 35 seconds):

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Notes: Max flow of 8ml/s (in line with flow restricted commercial machines). Pressure hits 1 bar around 4 seconds; 2 bar at 5 seconds; 3 bar at 6 seconds; 9 bar at 7 seconds; overshoots to 10.5 bar at 8 seconds; back to 9 bar at 10 seconds. Flow is drips until around 25 seconds (again, same grind as before!). Shot ends with 15g in the cup for a very tight ristretto. Taste was very good but if I want a normale shot I either have to lengthen the shot 7-10 more seconds or I have to loosen the grind. Or put another way, this shows the effect real preinfusion has in allowing one to grind much finer than machines that can't do 4.5ml/s or less preinfusion flow.

You can remove the pressure overshoot by doing a very short preinfusion (say 3 seconds of 6.5ml/s to wet, then full pump). It seems that a gentle initial wetting of the coffee lets the machine more gently arrive at max pressure.

The shot was pretty and very tasty, though!

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Also notice how similar the temperature was between the two shots. You never have to worry about if the temp was the same or not with the 3 temp probes the DE1 group provides. So any taste differences I know where pressure and flow related and not temp related.

Fun Stuff (Look Ma', no hands!!!):

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Picture of what the puck looks like. Balances perfectly on the knockbox with....

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...or without coffee.

Sidebar:

On most machines you think you know what type of shot you're pulling. The problem is, unless you have a monometer on the grouphead (GS3MP, Bianca, etc) your machine is likely lying to you. Thanks to the folks at Naked Espresso, there is now a way for E61s and Levers to measure in a similar way their pressure curves: https://www.naked-portafilter.com/smart ... -profiler/

John Buckman (owner of Decent Espresso) has begun working with the SEP to write software where profiles can be recorded from the SEP and then uploaded to the DE1 so that better emulation is possible. This should make for much better E61 and Lever emulation in the future that will be a lot of fun! Here is some proof about the 'E61' curve. John used a 2-group commercial E61 prior to having working DE1s to use. He pulled that machine out of deep storage and installed the SEP to start this new project. Here is a DE1 style graph on that E61:

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Notes: John used 'Pump On' for around 6-7 seconds; then pump off for around 8 seconds, then pump on until cutting the shot at 34 seconds. You see the effect of the preinfusion chamber filling in the first 6 seconds. Some weird stuff going on at the puck for sure. Then pressure actually drops to 0 in like 2-3 seconds...I didn't think I'd drop that fast doing the pump pulse preinfusion method. Had he not cut the pump, it would have hit 8-9 bar pressure around 7-8 seconds, just like my 'no preinfusion' shot above, but the preinfusion chamber certainly did some interesting pressure things to get there!

Another important thing is that the shot never actually hit 9 bar like it was supposed to. It hit 8 bar and declined to about 7.5 bar. The manometer on the machine said 9 bar the entire time. The machine lied to him and he would have never known it without the SEP. It's nice having this type of information for all shots due to the brilliant grouphead design of the DE1.

You also can see the gentle decline to 2 bar that you can get ending an E61 shot by going back to the midpoint before turning the 3-way valve.

For DE1 owners, the fun is only about to begin.