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.