The grouphead is arguably the least understood component of espresso machines. That’s because people tend to focus on flashier things and manufacturers tend to draw attention to other, more “visible” features.
Groupheads are there for your portafilter to be attached to. Essentially, they are a very sophisticated water spout: they deliver hot water at high pressure, and they do so evenly through the many holes on them which you can easily see when you detach the portafilter.
However, not all group heads are the same. There is one in particular that has achieved a sort of legendary status: the E61 grouphead. Experts and baristas from all around the world seem to agree that an E61 is the best of all group heads and contributes to better aroma, flavor, and even crema.
Let’s take a closer look at it.
This grouphead is actually named after an espresso machine: the Faema E61. This espresso machine was released in 1961 and it is largely credited with revolutionizing the way espresso machines work, as it was the first machine incorporating an electromagnetic pump among other things. There’s even a reworked model, the Faema E61 Legend
Amongst the other things was its group head, which stopped being just a simple group head and incorporated several different features that helped the machine create even better coffee.
The E61 achieved mythological status in the coffee world and you can see today reinventions of this classic model, like the Jubilée.
Main characteristics of the E61 group head:
- They are quite heavy (around 9lbs.), which helps conserve heat better.
- A siphon feeds water from the boiler to the group head continuously, even when not brewing, to keep the group head hot.
- Small lever to the side for opening and closing water flow. This is used as an alternative to button or switch operated brewing.
- It has a pre-infusion chamber. This allows you to let your grounds bloom before brewing, if you need or want to.
What are the benefits of the E61?
At first glance, there are definitely several benefits to using these, the E61 groupheads, over regular group heads. Let’s start by the most important:
The main goal of the E61 seems to be maintaining a steady temperature. This is achieved via two ways: first, by increasing the density of the grouphead overall. It uses a lot more material, a lot more metal, which retains heat fairly well.
So yes, the group head is rather heavy, but that serves a purpose, as you can see.
Then we have what is called thermosyphoning, which is the mechanism that we mentioned before. It siphons water from the boiler and into the group head. It circles and then it goes right back into the boiler. This is a continuous process, meaning that water is constantly going in and out of the grouphead.
You might think: why all this effort to keep the group head hot? Well, if your group head is cold, or warm, or even not hot enough, there will be a loss of temperature when the brewing water passes through it. And even a couple degrees can make the difference between good coffee and great coffee.
Attention to temperature is undoubtedly the main reason why the E61 is considered to be one of the best group heads in the game.
We also mentioned the lever, which is used to operate the group head. It works as an open/close mechanism: when closed, no water comes through the brewer. When open, you start brewing the shot.
The lever actually has three positions: closed, pre-infusion, and open.
The pre-infusion opens the valve halfway, and this lets water into the chamber. This does not pull the shot, and the pressure of the water only reaches about 1 bar, compared to 15 bars when pulling a shot.
Although a very important part of the E61, the lever isn’t talked about as much as it should. It is a great way to operate a grouphead and it gives you much more room to play with than a regular espresso machine.
Not to mention, the lever is a great asset for baristas, as it allows them to flow better in the workplace: pulling the lever up and down has more synergy while making coffee than pushing buttons and checking to see if they’ve lit up or not. A lever does not malfunction, it does not lie.
The E61 is to many the definitive group head, and it’s not hard to see why. It offers several perks that you just can’t find in other products; and they will most definitely elevate your game, helping you brew even better coffee.
What are your thoughts on this legendary piece of espresso technology? Let us know below! You can also browse all of our E61 espresso machines by clicking here.
Interesting, would like a demo.
Very informative thank you!