Coffee Cup
"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2021 - All rights reserved

Coffee Cup
166
Plumbing the Decent DE1XL
Thursday, May 13, 2021

all text and photos 2021 - All rights reserved

    I finally received my Decent Espresso machine after a lot of planning and head scratching and relatively short wait once I made the payment. Being that I am on a private well which delivers delicious but untreated, hard water to my home, I needed to install a new water treatment solution. Reverse osmosis would have been the best choice with a post, re-mineralization cartridge, but the wasteful nature of RO is not acceptable to me so I chose to go a route similar to my previous installation of the Chris Coffee two stage softening system in the old house [See my "Coffee College" chapters: Plumbing in an Espresso Machine - Part 1, and Part 2].
    The best way to start a project such as this is with a plan. It saves effort as well as expense. As with the above-linked plan from my previous system, I drew out what I had in mind. The following was the final drawing I made after a few preliminary sketches as well as some shopping and inquiries on Home-Barista.com.

water supply plan for Decent Espresso
If you have never had a new home built from scratch, it is a nearly endless series of head scratching and wonderment. The following is an excellent example as to why being on site and supervising the construction is a good idea.

cabinet1 - what is wrong with this?

    Above is my coffee bar while still under construction. I took this photo before the granite counter top was installed. You can see where the two cabinets meet that there is a dead space between them. Looking into the right side cabinet you can see the waste drain exiting the wall along with a round pipe with an "X" piece in it. That it a plug, later to be discarded, in what will be the cold water valve to supply the bar sink.
    Look in the dead space area. What is that similar pipe below the over-text? That is the hot water access for the bar. In the dead space. Where it will be inaccessible once the counter top is installed! Fortunately I caught that in time and alerted the company building the home. The plumber was summoned and came to rectify the problem. Here is his solution:


A professional at work

    Yes, that massive hole was cut by the plumber to allow him to move the hot water to a location where it was actually useful (red plastic pipe is the hot water plumbing). Note that the hole I cut shown here was just after using a jig saw and before I squared it up and cleaned up the edges. That hole is where the various plumbing pipes from the Decent exit into the dead space.


viewed inside the sink base

    Finally, here is the inside of the sink base cabinet. The hole I cut there is, once again, before being cleaned up and hand sanded. This is where the Decent plumbing exits the dead space and enters the sink's base cabinet.

    Once the parts were in hand and the tools brought out, a total of an hour or two produced the following:

Decent DE1XL water system

    As you can see, there were a few minor deviations. For example, I found I could connect the water supply to the manifold more efficiently from the bottom due to hose lengths and flexibility, and I added a pressure regulator. The filter head's design was also a bit different from that which I originally envisioned. Here are the details:

The braided hose labeled "source" comes from the cold water shutoff valve which is out of view in this photo.

    1) One line feeds the sink's faucet on the coffee bar and the other goes to the cup washer which drains into the sink. While difficult to see, they are attached to a manifold system consisting of two brass 3/8" compression Tees. Between them is a John Guest (JG) 3/8" male to 3/8" female compression to 1/4" JG quick connect. The white plastic body of that part can just been seen. It features a shut off for the JG output which leaves the remainder of the system available. This assembly is held securely in place by the black cable clamps screwed into the cabinet's side wall with wood screws.
    2) The JG Tee feeds a water pressure regulator which is from Chris Coffee. The body is metal as opposed to some of the less expensive plastic regulators. The adjustment is simply made by pulling an attached 'cap' away from the body, turning in the desired direction to adjust the pressure, then pushing the cap back towards the body to lock the adjustment in place. I have it set to about 10PSI which is sufficient for the Decent. The pressure from the line only serves to feeds this reservoir. The pumps are not fed line-pressurized water.
    3) The HCWS filter cartridge is an all-in-one particulate filter, softening, and carbon treatment to reduce general hardness and improve flavor. Because the Decent has no 'boiler' in the traditional sense and makes use of small water flow channels, it is important to prevent scale from forming. I chose the single-cartridge solution because of the limited space in the cabinet.I prchased a test for KH to keep an eye on the filter's life.
    4) The Homeland cartridge head I chose has a built in bleed valve to which I have attached a short length of 1/4" quick connect tubing. I wanted this to make bleeding of the system and flushing of the cartridge easy. remove and manually fill the ceramic reservoir. The cartridge is easy to change. Shut off the source valve, bleed the pressure into a separate vessel using the bleeder valve, and a quarter turn without tools removes the cartridge. Replace the cartridge and run a couple of quarts of water through the bleeder hose to flush out particulate matter and I am ready to go!
    5) Water then travels to the Decent plumbing kit control box which is an option that eliminates the need to manually fill the reservoir which is a bit more trouble than I care to go through. It involves removing the drip tray, removing the magnetically-held rear cover, lifting the filler mechanism using the metal 'post' on the back of the machine supplied for that purpose, then sliding the reservoir tray out through the front. Fill the tray and slide it back into place reversing the previous steps. Keep in mind that both the drip tray and the reservoir are very high quality glazed ceramic vessels, but it is a bit scary doing this over a granite counter top. The shallow reservoir also makes it easy to spill water which makes the reservoir slippery, revisiting the scary part of this.

Decent Plumbing Kit solenoid valve


    Seen above, the plumbing kit's black box has a valve which is solenoid operated much in the same way a washing machine or dishwasher controls water flow. The large white hose feeds the Decent espresso machine directly. The flat, white cable exiting the top of the control box operates the solenoid. The cable is a standard CAT6 cable which connects to the back of the Decent. The machine decides when water needs to be sent to the reservoir and it controls the flow; the level in the reservoir is user-programmable in the software. I had to order a longer length of the supply hose as well as a longer data cable for this installation. The one which came with the machine were designed to mount the box behind the Decent so both too short for my remote installation.
    6) The hose and data cable are secured with additional cable clamps and tracing them back to the Decent, they travel out of this cabinet through the hole I cut, into the dead space, through the thole I cut above the butchered opening the plumber cut, and up through the bar's wall, then out through the back-splash directly behind the Decent.

Plumbed2


    The final step was to sanitize the back-splash where the cables pass through. When the back-splash was being installed I had the craftsman leave one tile out where I had planned the pass-through. When the bar was finished I cut through the wall board and had a few back-splash tiles saved from the installation. I bought a 1 3/8" diamond hole saw at Home Depot and the job of cutting a hole through the tile a very simple job. The corrugated black cable wrap was left over from a major wiring job I did on my RV when I replaced all the coach battery cables. The black, smooth tube is the drain hose from the drip tray (read on for details).
    Yesterday I finished the full installation of my DE1XL. It is now fully plumbed in and plumbed out. The installation went well and now, after a few weeeks use use I can now make some comments based on my initial experiences.


bumpers
    The non-plumbed ceramic drip tray is very easy to dislodge since the very smooth, high-quality ceramic tray's bottom has nothing to engage into the frame. It is designed to easily slide out, but at times it has the potential to slide out too easily. I applied small, clear vinyl(?) cabinet bumpers to the frame and it makes it nearly impossible to accidentally bump it out of place.
    The plumbed drip tray presents a couple of difficulties for home use:
A - The 'nipple' on the center-bottom of the tray is quite short and tapered. The short length give little purchase for the silicone hose included which has a tight, ninety degree angle to direct the flow towards the back of the machine. Unfortunately, the nipple's taper decreases towards the tip instead of getting a bit wider towards the tip. It was a challenge keeping the hose in place on the nipple while I used two tie wraps to secure it. It popped off a couple of times before I was successful. A flare at the tip of the nipple, or maybe just a groove at the point the nipple meets the tray might solve that problem.
B - In a home, custom installation a sanitary installation of the drip tray will be difficult because a sufficient length of drain hose must be left to allow the drip tray to be slide forward. The tray needs to be moved to allow removal of the reservoir for filling or, if the Plumbing Kit is used, for ocassional cleaning. The adhesive nature of silicone tubing makes sliding of the drip tray out without pulling the hose off the fitting difficult. So a bit of excess hose needs to be used to eliminate the need to detach the hose from the other end and to try to avoid dislodging the hose from the tray.
    If you are plumbed with a recessed installation with the drain hose going straight down into a cabinet from the exposed bottom of the machine, much of the above may not be a problemat all, and that installation style seems to have been the focus of the overall design of the plumbed drip tray. The solution to run the hose out the rear of the machine under both the drip tray and the reservoir is a bit of a second-best solution, particularly in terms of maintenance convenience.
   
drip tray plumbing

    As you can see above, there is very little room between the bottom of the reservoir (the black ceramic tray above the hose) and the drip tray hose itself. The barbed connection fitting can be see, and it actually is slightly wedged between the counter and the reservoir making it necessary to lift the reservoir slightly to move the hose. The adhesive nature of silicone makes keeping the drain hose clean impossible as you can see from the dust stuck to the tube (and I just cleaned the counter for this photo!).
   
New Bar

    I do not know if one who is addicted to this culinary hobby can ever justify saying so, but in the photo above
Here is my final coffee setup!
    Left to right: Behmor Brazen drip brewer, Arzum Okka semi-auto Turkish coffee maker, Kafetek MC3 grinder, (on top level) La Pavoni Europiccola lever, TheForce Tamper, and the Decent DE1XL in white, fully plumbed.

    Beyond all that and the two decades it took to get here, the espresso my wife and I have been enjoying the last few weeks has been excellent and the control I have has been quite remarkable. Finally! Genuine control over the process!

What a long strage trip it's been.

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