New Jersey-based high-end espresso equipment retailer 1st Line Equipment has widened the availability of kits that enable flow profiling on standard E61 espresso machine group heads.
1st Line’s E61 flow profiling modification kit is a spin-off of the company’s 2018 collaboration with Italian espresso machine manufacturer Lelit, through which the retailer’s feedback contributed to the development of the Lelit Bianca PL62T, a PID-controlled dual-boiler prosumer machine with a wooden paddle on top of its E61 group head for manual opening or throttling the flow of water to the coffee.
That machine, which started shipping to customers late last year, also included an additional pressure gauge mounted on the group head for displaying the pressure inside the brew chamber as ground coffee resists the flow of water, which is information baristas can use in profiling their shots in real time.
“In 2015, I went to the HOST exhibition in Milan,” 1st Line Founding Business Partner Jim Piccinich told Daily Coffee News of his inspiration. “I stopped in a booth to try their espresso. The espresso tasted 100% like lemongrass. Upon speaking to the barista, the extraction was pulled at 6 bar pressure. This had me wondering about the ability to change the pressure at the puck on the fly. In essence, change the flavor profile of the espresso extraction, using the same ground espresso coffee by changing the flow/pressure of the water.”
Discussions of these experiences and ideas with engineers from Lelit led to the development of the Bianca flow control paddle, which 1st Line has now made available to owners of any compatible E61 machine. Pre-orders for what 1st Line calls the Bianca Kit are open now for shipments slated to begin this month.
The kit includes the flow control internal component assembly, the walnut wooden paddle, a Lelit-branded pressure gauge and all necessary screws and gaskets. Piccinich noted that while this kit will fit the majority of E61 group heads, variations in manufacturing from brand to brand means it won’t fit all. It will definitely not fit Vibiemme machines, for example, because the Vibiemme E61 group head is thicker, and its “mushroom” is secured with bolts, whereas the Bianca kit requires threading.
An online video by Lelit and another one soon to come from 1st Line are available to assist with installation of the kit that can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of results even with individual coffees, according to Piccinich.
“One customer’s favorite profile was a 114-second espresso shot at 2 bar,” said Piccinich. “There was blonding in the cup, but the flavor was sugar. My favorite is a 41-second shot which includes five seconds of pre-infusion with an incline to about 6 bar on the group head gauge, a three-second soak, and then the remainder 33 seconds at 2 bar. There are others where a spring-loaded lever group head can be mimicked with a declining pressure profile.”
Among other features, the Bianca is also notable for its patent-pending exterior water reservoir that can be mounted on either side or the back of the machine, or removed entirely, thereby saving space on narrow or crowded home kitchen counters. Piccinich said that an external reservoir that stores water at room temperature outside the machine also turns out to have benefits in maintaining water temperature stability inside the machine. Earlier this year the Bianca won 3rd place in the competition category of Best New Non-Consumable Product at Coffee Fest New York.
“We look at innovation at two distinct levels: incremental innovation and breakthrough innovation,” said Piccinich. “Our recommendations for continuous improvement provides for incremental innovation. Thinking out of the box for a game-changer espresso machine like the Lelit Bianca is considered breakthrough innovation.”
1st Line has so far shipped “a handful” of Bianca Kits already, though they sold out quickly. More units are prepared to ship soon. Pre-orders are being taken at the 1st Line website for the next batch of kits expected to arrive later this month.