Decent Espresso DE1+Pro Review
Once upon a time, John Buckman found himself drinking too much bad coffee. “Alas,” he said, “why is it so hard to find a decent espresso?” And from that, a company was born.
The founder of Decent espresso machine took a different tack from all other manufacturers. He decided to use technology rather than tradition to create the easiest and most reliable way to make a perfect espresso.
Did his gamble pay off? Read this Decent espresso DE1 pro review to find out.
Summary: The Decent Espresso DE1+Pro
- The software-based operation allows for easy flow profiling, pressure profiling, etc.
- Commercially-rated espresso machine with sleek design and excellent build quality.
- Steam wand with exceptionally dry steam guarantees silky microfoam for latte art.
It's a perfect machine to learn on. Some of the “easy” profiles make it easier. The graphs help you diagnose shots, and it's fun to tinker with other profiles when you get the hang of it.– Customer
A Full Review of the Decent DE1 Pro
There are three Decent models: the DE1Pro, the DE1XL, and the DE1XXL. Home Grounds reviews the DE1 Pro because it is the most popular (and most affordable) option. Previously, the DE1+ was the model targeted at the home barista, but Decent discontinued it as the brand continued to evolve (1).
Thanks to its operating system, a Decent espresso machine can do things others can’t, including commercial and prosumer machines that far exceed its price. But are they things you need or just marketable gimmicks? Read this detailed review to find out.
Brewing Capacity – 4/5
When it comes to brewing capacity, the Decent DE1 Pro can do things no other machine can match – even significantly more expensive ones. This machine is unique, even among the best prosumer espresso machines. That doesn't mean it's for everyone. It is the rare home espresso lover who will be able to exploit this machine's capabilities to the fullest. But those that do will be rewarded with some great coffee.
Let's dig into it.
The idea of a Decent espresso machine is to use software to pull a shot of espresso rather than manual manipulation of levers.
As a result, you get much more precise control over all parameters, not to mention impeccable reproducibility. However, many espresso lovers appreciate the more tactile, hands-on feel of using a manual lever, E61 group head, or flow control paddle. This is not for them.
Using the software, you program the Decent DE1 Pro with a flow profile or pressure profile features becoming increasingly common in espresso machines at this price (2). But you can also do more unusual things, like programming a temperature profile.
Just as exciting, you can monitor temperature and pressure data as the shot progresses. This is priceless information to understand the nuts and bolts of a perfect espresso truly. No more watching the needle on a tiny pressure gauge to see if your puck prep is on point. And once you pull the ideal shot, you know exactly how to pull it again and again and again.
The DE1 Pro comes preloaded with pressure profiles designed to mimic the operation of popular espresso machines. You can pull an espresso like a Slayer, a manual lever machine, an E61 group machine, or the best La Marzocco espresso machines. Or you can use the touch screen to adjust the flow rate or pressure on the fly. It's like having every kind of espresso machine all wrapped up in one.
Are you a tea drinker? Or are you trying to convince your tea-loving spouse to let you buy this machine? Then you'll be happy to hear it also comes preloaded with special profiles for brewing different teas.
Most premium espresso makers offer an automatic or programmable preinfusion time. But the Decent DE1 Pro takes it one step further. Knowing that different coffees require different preinfusion times, it detects when the puck is saturated and then automatically ramps up pressure to start the shot.
How does it stand out?
Now, let's talk about the elephant in the room. The Decent DE1 Pro doesn't have a boiler. You read that right.
Most machines in this price range would have two boilers or a heat exchange boiler, but the Decent has neither. Instead, it uses proprietary technology to achieve highly stable brew temperatures. But you won't be able to pull a shot and steam milk simultaneously, which many users will take exception to at this price point. However, this isn't like using a single boiler dual-use machine because you can pull a shot and steam with no wait time.
User Friendliness – 4.5/5
Decent DE1 Pro is the most foolproof high-end espresso machine in many ways. Because it is software-based, there is much less room for error when brewing espresso than with an E61, heat exchanger, or manual lever espresso machine.
The software is very straightforward. It even has a “teaching mode”. John Buckman, the founder of Decent Espresso, says one of his aims in the design was to use software to mimic the mentoring experience (3).
Instead of the craftsman sitting there watching you, could I have a machine that shows you what's going on? And could we add sensors in there?
While just about anyone can get a great espresso from a Decent espresso machine, there is no denying that lovers of software, programming, data analysis, and small details will truly exploit this machine to its fullest. The software is entirely open source, and there is an ever-growing and enthusiastic community of Decent users always adding updates and new recipes.
If you don't want to mess around with the Android tablet, the Decent coffee maker can be operated with buttons, in which case it will run a standard recipe like any good espresso machine. But if that's all you want, you needn't spend your money on a Decent unless you especially like the aesthetic.
The Decent DE1 Pro is classified as an automatic espresso machine, meaning that once you start the shot, the machine takes over. In what is known as volumetric dosing, the shot will stop automatically once a set volume of water has passed through the group head.
Even more impressive, you also have the option of gravimetric dosing. Many top brands are compatible and can connect to the DE1 Pro via Bluetooth, and it will stop the shot automatically when it reaches a specific espresso weight has. This is a more accurate system usually only found on expensive commercial models, like the La Marzocco Strada.
You can opt for the optional Drainage Kit to up the user-friendly features, which takes water management out of the equation. No more worrying about filling the water tank or emptying the drip tray. However, if you don't plumb in your Decent, refilling the water reservoir can be a hassle as you have to remove the drip tray each time. This seems like a design flaw that you should rectify.
As mentioned, Decent machines don't have boilers like other espresso machines. A significant advantage of this is an ultra-fast heating time. The Decent DE1 takes less than 5 minutes to be ready to brew, something unheard of among prosumer machines. A large dual boiler can easily take 30 to 45 minutes to reach a stable temperature.
The Decent relies on a water-mixing technology to achieve its brew temperature. This proprietary system allows you to brew and steam back to back, pull consecutive shots at different temperatures, and take advantage of temperature profiling during a shot. All of this is unique to the brand.
Milk Frothing – 3.5/5
The Decent DE1 Pro steams milk way better than you expect for a machine without a boiler. For their frothing system and steam wand, the team at Decent has adopted the same strategy of using advanced technology rather than traditional design.
The steam from this espresso maker is very dry due to being heated with far more energy. And as a good espresso geek, you know that drier steam means less dilution of the milk with water – i.e. perfect silky smooth microfoam for your lattes and other espresso drinks.
This espresso machine's steam wand has a one-hole steam tip, which is unusual in high-end espresso machines. But it makes sense here because you can use software to slow down or speed up steaming by adjusting the flow rate in the app.
You can also use the tablet to customize the hot water tap by setting both the temperature and volume of hot water delivered. The ability to set a specific water temperature is a feature very rarely seen, even on top espresso machines, but it should be more common. An Americano and a green tea certainly don't succeed at the same temperature, and with a Decent, they shouldn't (4).
Build Quality – 4/5
Although the Decent DE1 Pro doesn’t have the same chrome box aesthetic of many prosumer espresso machines, the quality is just as good – or in some cases, better. And the sleek modern look will appeal to many. The matte black chassis is all metal, and both the water tank and drip tray are made from glazed porcelain, a nice upgrade from plastic.
Since the release of the original Decent espresso machines, the internal components have all been upgraded. The DE1 Pro is certified for commercial use and rated for 200,000 shots.
The Decent coffee maker remains lightweight and compact compared to most prosumer models, even with premium components.
It weighs just 30 pounds and measures 12.6 inches tall (or 16.5 inches with the tablet installed) by 14.5 inches deep by 9 inches wide. This small size and lightweight, made possible by the absence of a boiler, make the DE1 Pro one of the most portable prosumer espresso machines. Each one comes with a custom wheeled suitcase, perfect for catering jobs or a coffee cart.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
Generally, all prosumer espresso machines are created equal when it comes to cleaning, but as I said before, the Decent is unique. Without a boiler or standard E61 group head, a lot of the regular cleaning and maintenance isn’t needed – no backflushing, no regular lubricating of gaskets, no worrying about the build-up scale in the boiler. Every removable component, including the water tank, is dishwasher safe.
When it comes to service, Decent now has its service centers in many countries – the USA, Australia, Canada, Korea, China, and Hong Kong. However, bear in mind that if you don't have access to one of these centers and something goes wrong with your Decent, you will likely have to ship it for repair. More traditional espresso machine technicians likely won't have the expertise to deal with this software-based machine.
Things we liked:
- Allows pressure AND temperature profiling
- Impressively dry and powerful steam
- Can upgrade machine simply with software updates
- Very fast heat-up time
Things we didn't like:
- May be hard to service if things go wrong
- Demand usually exceeds supply
Don’t Buy the Decent DE1 Pro If…
- You want something with a more traditional look and feel: If you want the more tactile experience of a classic espresso machine and aren’t interested in graphs, software, and profiles, check out the ECM espresso machine models. The top-of-the-line dual boiler Synchronika is in a price range similar to the DE1 Pro but offers a very different user experience.
- You want something more affordable: If flow profiling is a priority, but you can't justify the cost of Decent's high-tech design, consider the top-rated Lelit espresso machines. For example, the dual boiler Lelit Bianca has built-in flow control and is about two-thirds the Decent price.
- You’re looking for a larger scale commercial machine: Decent machines are rated for commercial use, but in a busy cafe, you will need more than one to meet demand. If you'd instead go the more traditional route of a multi-group espresso machine, you may be interested in the Unic Mira, a commercial workhorse available with 1, 2, or 3 group heads.
Decent DE1Pro is a fun espresso machine, and the nerdier you are – about espresso, data, and programming – the more fun you will find it. If you like to tinker with your espresso, there is no other machine (at any price point!) that gives you the options you have with the DE1 Pro. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more traditional espresso machine experience, you would better spend your money elsewhere.
- Rodriguez, A. (2015, September 2). Decent Espresso ”In Your Kitchen, for Less Than $1K ”Is Here. Retrieved from https://www.baristamagazine.com/decent-espresso-in-your-kitchen-for-less-than-1k-is-here/
- Prestidge, J. (2015, August 18). Pressure Profiling: The Key to Perfect Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2015/08/pressure-profiling-the-key-to-perfect-extraction/
- Farache, E. (2021, September 8). Worldwise: Decent Espresso Founder John Buckman’s Favorite Things. Retrieved from https://www.barrons.com/articles/worldwise-decent-espresso-founder-john-buckmans-favorite-things-01631130472
- Rao, S. (2017, February 16). Don’t Use the Water from Your Steam Boiler. https://www.scottrao.com/blog/dont-use-the-water-from-your-steam-boiler
My fear with anything like this is that in 3 years time, the operating system of whatever it is running on dies/needs an update/has a bug/space aliens or whatever. For that reason I am out BUT I think it is a fantastic idea. See also a vid of Hoffman discussing the “forerunner” to this on YT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKA2COJRt6M