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Updated for 2021
“Not only are you able to control the different variables of your coffee depending on the flavor and style of coffee you’re going for, but you’re totally in control of brewing your favorite coffee, exactly how you like it, and that’s something you just can’t get at your local coffee chain.”
Flow control has been a hot topic of discussion here at Whole Latte Love. We’ve been experimenting with pulling shots with our Dalla Corte Mina, ECM Synchronika, and Profitec Pro 700 and have found that it’s really an amazing tool that’ll help home baristas and professional baristas to extract more flavors and aromas out their coffee — even pull barista-style shots in their own kitchen or cafe.
We’ll be sharing with you some details about flow control, how it works, and why you’ll love it. But I know you’re excited to dive right in so let’s start off with why flow control is a big deal for coffee connoisseurs and what it can do for you.
Flow control is all about controlling the flow rate of water during pre-infusion and during extraction as water passes through the coffee puck. By controlling the flow rate of water, you have the ability to bring out all of the nuances of your coffee. For example, with a very fresh or "overly fresh" coffee, you can set a flow that will allow the coffee to off-gas and bloom so you can get a nice extraction. This profile can be saved in the Dalla Corte Mina App for later use.
With the ECM Synchronika and Profitec Pro 700, you can change the flow rate setting based on the shot timing on the machine, so you can consistently repeat the profile next time. Check out our blog on how to set up the flow control device here!
With flow control, you’ll also have the opportunity to simulate the results from a lever machine like the Profitec Pro 800. When you pull the lever on the Pro 800, the group fills with water to pre-wet the coffee, when you release the lever, the spring puts pressure on the coffee puck and begins extraction. This technique is well sought-after by espresso lovers and is now an option for baristas to implement into their espresso routine with the flow control device.
Flow control is an innovative technique that allows coffee connoisseurs and pro-baristas to experiment with the different flavor profiles and aromas of their coffee, whether you’re looking to tease out that rich chocolatey flavor or if you need to tone down the acidity of your coffee.
As you can see, flow control can really change the game for home and professional baristas looking to pull barista-style shots in the comfort of their own home or experiment with their favorite whole bean coffee to increase or tone down the different flavors, aromas, and characteristics on their coffee. It’s not just about how you can control the flow of water and change the flavor of your coffee, but you can also brew filter style coffee, AKA a "coffee shot," if you’re looking to switch up your routine, or if someone in your household isn’t a fan of espresso.
For example with a filter coffee, you can grind your coffee coarse and set a low flow to make a full cup of coffee. If reading this is getting you excited about flow control, great! We’re just getting started, let’s go over exactly how flow-control works.
Getting the right flavors and finding the sweet spot is as simple as following a formula. Set the flow to 9 grams per second, dial in your shot, and then make adjustments to the flow according to your preferences. Using the flow control knob, turn the knob back and forth to increase and decrease the flow rate of water while monitoring your shot time and the pressure gauge, which will tell you the water pressure against the puck.
By monitoring the pressure and time, plus adjusting the flow, you’ll be able to adjust the acidity, sweetness, and body of your coffee. See below for some ideas on how Danilo Lodi, a World Barista Championship (WBC) Certified Judge since 2011, World Coffee Events (WCE) Representative since 2013, as well as a roaster, barista, instructor, and coffee consultant since 2004, experimented with flow control using different roasts.
Light Roast - Light roast coffee has more of the original characteristics found in pre-roasted coffee, including high acidity and original sweetness. To tone down these characteristics, start your extraction with a longer pre-infusion between 5-8 seconds with a slow flow, 2-3 g/s. This will break down the acidity and bring out the original flavors of the coffee. From there, increase the flow for 5-8 seconds until you achieve 5-7 g/s of coffee.
Medium Roast - Medium roast coffee is a great stepping stone for many entry-level baristas exploring the different flavors and aromas of coffee. It’s well-balanced, not too pungent, and has just the right amount of pleasant flavors that any coffee lover can enjoy. To get the most out of your medium roast coffee and bring the caramelized sugars and oily flavors to life, start with a gentle, 5-second pre-infusion, at 5-6 g/s. Then, increase the flow by 30% at 6.5 to 8 g/s. This will extract more of the natural oils and create more body in your coffee. Taper off the flow by slightly decreasing the stream of water for a boost in a delicious aftertaste in your coffee.
Dark Roast - Dark roast coffee has strong and bold flavors with little to no acidity. If you’re a dark roast lover, you know that the coffee can be quite bitter depending on extraction. Thankfully with flow control, you can still keep the dark roast flavors but tone down the bitterness for a naturally sweet and pleasant coffee.
Start by increasing the flow so you’re extracting between 10-12 grams per second for up to 4 seconds to increase pressure in the portafilter. From there, lower the flow rate to 4 grams per second to extract the oils and sugar. The result is a delicious and naturally sweet coffee without harsh bitterness.
💡Quick tip: For a bolder coffee, go for a longer pre-infusion. If you’re looking to tone down the bitterness of your coffee, taper off the flow off the water at the end of your shot.
You can access all of your flow profiles via the MINA app where you can customize the profile, save extraction variables, and adjust the variables to suit your taste preferences.
As you’ve seen, flow control opens up a new world of possibilities in the coffee and espresso world. One of the most impressive aspects of flow control is having the ability to create filter-style coffee if you’re looking to switch up your normal espresso routine. You’ll have the opportunity to replicate barista-style shots, control the length of pre-infusion, and increase water flow through the coffee puck while still getting a delicious and flavorful end result.
Not only are you able to control the different variables of your coffee depending on the flavor and style of coffee you’re going for, but you’re totally in control of brewing your favorite coffee, exactly how you like it, and that’s something you just can’t get at your local coffee chain.
Flow control is the newest tool in the market for getting a true barista-style shot of espresso or coffee. If you’re looking to dive into experimenting with flow control, check out some of our favorite machines with flow control below!