The E61 Brew Group: How An Italian Invention Revolutionized The Brewing Process For Espresso.

The E61 Brew Group: How An Italian Invention Revolutionized The Brewing Process For Espresso.

Are you thinking about buying a heavy and expensive stainless steel bolide that will spoil you with excellent espresso in your own four walls in the future? Then you’ve most likely stumbled across the E61 brew group and wondered what it’s all about, right?

In this article, we explain why the E61 brew group has become a real success story and why it dominates the market for semi-professional espresso machines. You will also find out how to use the E61 brew group to prepare very fruity, more acidic espresso beans. 

The brew group: the heart of every portafilter machine

The brewing group is known to be the heart of every espresso machine. Your task is to transport the water from the brew kettle to the ground coffee in the portafilter so that the water temperature remains as constant as possible. The brewing group then distributes the evenly tempered water over the coffee grounds.

Constant brewing temperature is one of the most important factors for the perfect extraction of espresso. It is, therefore, not surprising that the construction of the brew group is the secret of every espresso machine manufacturer and that this is where the greatest structural effort is made.

The Faema E61

The Italian company Faema put a lot of effort into developing the Faema E61 espresso machine in 1961. E61 is the model name of the machine. The invention of the E61 is attributed to Ernesto Valente. Faema launched the E61 with the brew group of the same name in 1961. The E stands for Eclipse, the solar eclipse that took place in 1961. 

The E61 has changed the world of coffee significantly: It revolutionized the espresso brewing process. It was easier and faster to operate, and also delivered a much more consistent espresso quality than the hand-lever machines that were widely used up to that point. So it’s no wonder that just a few years after its market launch it replaced the large hand lever machines from the cafés. The E61 is certainly also responsible for the fact that espresso machines became more widespread around the world.

Single-circuit or dual-circuit espresso machine? Which system is better? We will explain and tell you what the differences are.

The E61 has revolutionized the brewing process for espresso

Many other innovations went hand in hand with the development of the E61. We have described the most important ones here.

Thermosyphon system
The E61 went down in history as the first two-circuit espresso machine with a heat exchanger and a thermosyphon system. The innovation was that the brew group was heated by circulating water. The greater the temperature difference between the water in the heat exchanger and the brewing group, the faster the circulation. This enabled the brewing group and the water flowing through it to be kept at the optimum temperature for espresso preparation. As a result, it was possible that freshwater, from the water tank or directly from the water pipe, could also be used for the extraction, which was also noticeable in terms of taste in the cup.

The E61 brewing group is the first brewing group to allow a so-called pre-infusion. Due to the ingenious structure in the brew head, a small amount of water is left on the coffee grounds with little pressure before the actual pressure build-up. The pre-infusion causes the ground coffee to be moistened and saturated, which means that it swells up “gently” and solidifies before the actual pressure build-up begins at 9 bar. The decisive advantage of pre-infusion is that flavorings in the coffee grounds are better extracted.

Here you can find a short video on pre-infusion with an E61 brew group:

Rotary slide pump generates the brewing pressure
In hand-lever machines, the brewing pressure was generated by the lever itself. The E61 was the first machine to have a mechanical rotary vane pump installed. This delivered a constant pressure of 9 bar, which corresponds to the ideal brewing pressure for the perfect extraction of espresso.

The success of the E61 in the 1960s is also due to the fact that the working speed could be increased by the semi-automation of the brewing process compared to the hand lever machines. The exhausting and sometimes accident-prone hand lever could also be replaced by the E61. 

We found a comment on our website on this topic which is particularly interesting. We have cited an excerpt from this below.

“[…] But spending more than $ 1000 on an espresso machine privately is not entirely reasonable anyway. There is a whole lot of psychology involved. Espresso is an expression of the modern. Industrialization. The time of the steam engines and mechanics. […] And in the whole development, the E61 was probably the stroke of genius. A perfect mechanical control loop that reduced the human error factor to a few components in front of the machine. And because the semiconductor industry wasn’t even born at the time and nobody wanted to install a regulator with tubes in a machine with water, this solution shaped the image of the espresso bar for a damn long time. And probably the taste too. I.e. espresso is what came out of these machines today. Everything new must be measured against it. So when I buy a machine with an E61 brew group, I buy the mechanical symbol for espresso. […] ”

E61 brew group for fruity espresso roasts

Step by step instructions

Time required:  2 minutes.

Lighter espresso beans, which have a significant proportion of acid, should generally be ground a little finer than usual before extraction so that the espresso tastes balanced. Due to the finer grind, blockages can occur because the water can no longer penetrate the coffee grounds.

With the options of the E61 brewing group, you can prevent clogging and extract a delicious espresso if you simply extend the pre-infusion phase a little. Simply follow the steps below.

  1. Grind beans

Grind the beans finer than usual and insert the portafilter into the brew group.

  • Start the espresso dispensing

Start the cover by first moving the control lever of the E61 brewing group to the normal 90 ° setting. The pump starts up and the pressure builds up.

  • Wait briefly until approx. 4.5 bar is reached

Now, wait until a basic pressure of a maximum of half the brewing pressure has been reached. Your brewing pressure manometer should now show approx. 4.5 bar.

  • Move the lever back to a 45 ° position

When the basic pressure has built up, turn the lever back to a 45 ° position. The pump switches off, but the return valve is not opened.

  • The pre-infusion phase is extended

Now, wait a moment. The pre-infusion phase is now extended. The coffee puck has become more permeable before the actual extraction.

  • Return the lever to the 90 ° position

Move the lever back to the 90 ° position. The brewing process will now continue normally and the extraction will begin.

The procedure is only suitable for espresso roasts with clearly noticeable acid content. The more acid a coffee has, the finer it should be ground, and the longer the pre-infusion phase can last.

Conclusion on the E61 brew group

You can recognize portafilter machines with E61 brewing group by the optically dominant shape in the front. The massive, chrome-plated brew group is impressive. Machines with the E61 brew group also do a good job under the hood. With the constant brewing pressure, the pre-infusion, and the optimal temperature of the brewing group you can extract an excellent espresso. The E61 brew group stands for typical Italian coffee brewing art. And due to its great popularity, the procurement of spare and wear parts is not a major challenge.  

The only disadvantages at this point are the significantly longer heating-up time (between 20 and 40 minutes) compared to thermoblock machines. 

The success of the E61 meant that all brew groups that work on the same principle are called E61 – including those built by other manufacturers. E61, therefore, stands for solid quality. So you can be sure that the brew group will give you a lot of pleasure. 

We have generally had good experiences with the E61 brewing group and can therefore recommend espresso machines with this brewing group with a clear conscience. Here you can find a selection of espresso machines with an E61 brew group: