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decent_espresso

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  1. How to Make a Drip Tray Cover The first photos arrived today from the company casting our drip tray cover in stainless steel. Most companies said they couldn't do it, as those long wires are too delicate to cast regularly, without warping or defects. But one company used a very different approach to casting stainless steel, and I want describe for you here, how that works. First, they make a mold out of aluminum. This is fast and cheap, because aluminum is soft and inexpensive. Traditional stainless steel molds are slow and expensive to make, because the mold material has to be harder than stainless steel. Next, the aluminum mold makes our part out of wax. It looks perfect, but it's very fragile. Then, a dozen wax-made drip tray covers are attached to a pole, and dipped in a thin coat of very fine, wet sand. And then hung to dry slowly. Over the course of several weeks, the wax drip trays are repeatedly dipped in the fine, wet sand and left to dry. This slowly builds up into a thick layer around the wax. After several weeks of this, the sand-covered object is baked in a kiln, and becomes hard like concrete (or plaster, or glass). The wax melts out. Hot, liquid stainless steel is then poured into the space where the wax was. The stainless steel is then left to slowly cool, inside the mold. This is a crucial difference between regular casting, where most cooling happens outside the mold. This slow cooling the mold hugely helps prevent warping. Once the object in sand is cool, then sand is chipped off, cleaned, and polished. I haven't yet seen the "steel aging machine" they've built for us, to repeatedly re-stamp the drip tray covers to ensure they stay flat. I'll post photos of that when I have them. We're currently still in the "covering the wax with sand" step. What's interesting about this process, is how similar it is to the "lost wax" approach that has existed for centuries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost-wax_casting It's not a really good process for mass quantity manufacturing, as it's too slow, which is why I think we hadn't found companies who did it. However, it's pretty ideal for the kinds of quantities we want, as we get to avoid paying for a very expensive mold, and can hopefully avoid warpage thanks to the slow cooling. -john
  2. Group Head Controller Here’s a render of the new “group head controller” that will appear on version 1.3 Decent Espresso Machines. Pictured here is our white DE1XL model. This new controller will enable real time control over flow or pressure, during espresso making. The current flow rate (blue) and pressure (green) will be displayed on the light ring in real time during espresso making, as a moving colored dot. You’ll be able to “drag” to a new value by keeping your finger down. And you will also be able to make small +/- 0.1 incremental changes to flow or pressure, by tapping *near* the current pressure (or flow) values. Each quick tap will cause a precise 0.1 change. Both “tap” (small precise changes) and “finger down” (drag to new value) will be supported. This group head controller will be available to all v1.1 Decent customers (at a modest price), and will also ship by default with all v1.3 machines. Shipping is to start in January 2020. -john
  3. DE1XL White, on a Tabletop Because I'm always promoting countersinking the DE1XL model, many people aren't aware that it's designed to sit on a table. It doesn't need to be countersunk. To help clarify this, we've made some renders, so you can compare. I personally prefer the dimensions of the XL model, as the additional 6cm depth, and 1cm height, seem to harmonize better in the overall shape. One small thing on this model: by enlarging the legs, we also increased the spacing between the drip tray and the match, so as to make it easier to put a scale under the drip tray. With the DE1PRO, we hadn't anticipated that "clever hack" and you have to be quite careful to get the scale/drip tray to not touch the legs, if you want the weight to be accurate. I have a few prototype 3D printed "Skale stands" for the DE1XL in front of me, which I'll be testing next week. They should permit weighing from below the drip tray, more reliably than currently is possible with the DE1PRO. Note that some DE1PRO users have 3D printed their own solutions for weighing, and I'll post more info about that shortly. -john We use ash wood for all our handles, and paint the black ones.
  4. All White We’re working on the final bits of the DE1XL model that is optionally in white. These are renders to visualize our decisions. We think we’ve finally found reliable USB cables (made for us) and we’re going to order them in white as well. And 200pcs of our tablet, in white matte silicone, are arriving in about a month. For people who already bought the white DE1XL, they'll get these updated parts for free, and will have benefitted from the lower price, and having bought from us early. -john
  5. Yes, absolutely, but note that we use a blank portafilter basket with a very small hole punched in it, to simulate coffee. That's how we calibrate our espresso machines for temperature and pressure.
  6. Sounds defective. Temperature should work: it does on mine.
  7. Rolling out the coffee My coffee cart is now completely built, and I am rolling it around my home. The Niche power cable goes through a 6.5mm hole I drilled in the wood. I had to take apart the Niche to make that happen. And 5mm thick "Forex" PVC printed signage arrived. This material is so thick and strong, I decided to bolt the signage on, as it acts more like wood than fiberboard. I used the Italian company https://pixartprinting.fr and total cost (delivered) was just €60, with 7 days time from order-to-receipt. It'd be better with black bolts (these are M6x20) but I couldn't buy any locally, so I made do with chrome until I do. I had a few guests today for lunch, so I moved it to the main room, that way I could talk to them while making coffee, and not disappear into the kitchen. Eventually, I'll swap the black DE1XL chassis for a while DE1XL chassis, so that it matches better with the white Niche grinder. And yes, that's how they spell it in France. -john
  8. Tools of the Coffee Cart Previous photos have shown a "naked" coffee cart, without all the tools you need to actually make coffee. Here's an annotated set of photos, showing what I actually use. One note: the grooming tool I use is from https://www.bplus.biz/products?query=stirrer but is unfortunately no longer being produced. It's *excellent* because of its super-thin 0.4mm thick wires that don't cause clumping as you work. A metal handle and rounded (not sharp) wire ends are nice touches. I talked to them about their making a set for Decent to sell. Unfortunately, I found out that they were selling them *at cost* at $15 each, as a promotional tool. For me, that effectively has destroyed the market, because now people expect to pay $15 for this item, whereas that's my actual cost, thus a bad business proposition for me. That's also why "Bplus" is no longer making/selling these. With shipping (both to and from us), QC testing, a defect rate (typically 20%), and labor, I'd have to charge $45 to not lose money, and I don't think people buy at that price. So... that's why I've not been selling this tools even though I myself use it. Here's a video of that distribution tool in action:
  9. Keeping the engine running In order to avoid having this “drip tray cover kerfuffle” stop our daily shipping of machines, I'm sending machines out now with "quality control failed" drip tray covers. That will cover us for only 2 weeks, because we have 40 pieces of "qc failed" drip tray covers. I have called on all v1.0 DE1 espresso machine customers for help! All our DE1 v1.0 customers received a free "update pack", which contained a replacement drip tray cover, among other things that we had improved from DE1 v1.0 to v1.1. If a customer received one of these, and they still have it, I’m asking them to post it back to us. I have addresses in the USA, UK, Australia and Hong Kong, to help save on postage. We make 20 machines a week, and I have to hold out for 6 weeks more (after we run out of our own stock). That means that I have a shortage of 120 drip tray covers. What I’m offering to all our v1.0 customers is: in exchange for their helping me out of this tight spot: In 2 months, when I have the new stainless cover, I'll post it to them And I will also include a free digital thermometer or milk jug (size of their choice) for free, in that shipment. I’ve now sent out 223 emails, and 93 of you have replied within 24h, to say you’re sending your tray back to us. Hoorah!! We might just make it… -john
  10. Welcome to the Stainless Era™️ I've been wanting to move off of aluminum for this part, for a long time, and go to stainless steel. We're applying two coatings to the aluminum, and twice polishing it (before and after coating), which is what's making this so expensive to make. Two years ago, four companies each told us that our design was impossible in stainless steel. The wires were too thin, too long, and there would be warping issues. Nonetheless, Ben went searching 3 weeks ago, for stainless steel casting companies who would have an engineering discussion with us. We're willing to change our design, but we need to do in tandem with a metal casting engineer, telling us what's doable. In the end, we succeeded. We're moving to stainless steel for the drip tray cover. The new design is only slightly different at the engineering level, and visually almost identical. Ben specified very tight warpage tolerances. The new manufacturer replied that this was possible, if they made an "aging machine" that repeatedly stamping the drip trays over and over to the flat shape, for **several weeks**. We've agreed and have paid to make this machine. It does add to the deliver time, but it should solve the warping problem endemic to stainless steel. The bad news is that it will take 3 months to get this part, which is still 2 months' away. More tomorrow... -john
  11. I buy a lot from Blue Star Coffee as they seem to really have their e-commerce down pat.
  12. In theory, yes. However, in practice the previous supplier always drags their heels in sending you the mold, and it's often the case that the mold worked with the equipment of your previous supplier, but not with the new supplier's equipment. More relevant in this case, is that we've had a really hard time finding a supplier who was willing to make this part at all, so it would be difficult to find another one quickly. More info on this tomorrow.
  13. No options? Three months ago, we ordered 1000 new drip tray covers to be made, by our regular manufacturer. These are a quite expensive part (about $12/each) and (we believe) very profitable business for this company. We've also had to pay $20,000 for an aluminum casting mould. That makes us "pregnant" with this supplier (that's the actual "term of art" for this situation) Two months after taking our money, this supplier told us that they would cancel our order, if we didn't triple our order quantity to 3000 pieces. They offered us a 5% price discount. Given that we've only made 850 espresso machines in 18 months, that represents 5 years worth of stock. And, since they've waited so long to do this to us, they know that if we refuse, we'll run out of this part, and maybe have to stop shipping espresso machines. CNCing this part costs us $80/each, so that's not an option. They've got us right where they want us. Which is why I walked away. Because: if we say OK to them this time, they know that they own us, and could demand any terms they want. More news on this tomorrow... -john
  14. We’re sorry about your drip tray cover As of today, espresso machines that we're shipping out will have this message printed out, attached to the drip tray cover. I'll explain how this came to happen, in a separate posting. -john
  15. Minor New Accessories I’ve recently been working on my coffee cart, and I’m about to upgrade to the white DE1XL. I’ve needed some new stuff to make it all work, and can now make those parts available to you. I’ve added the “natural wood” portafilter (both bottomless and double spouted) to our web site today. And also the rubber ring that allows you to countersink our knockbox. https://decentespresso.com/new -john
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