A terrific, affordable semi-auto that makes darned good espresso.
Positive Product Points
200ml brass boiler heavy chromed brass portafillter quick 5-minute heat-up ample steaming power 3-way solenoid stainless steel skin solid aesthetics, good weight, small footprint makes espresso as good as any machine in its class
Negative Product Points
non-commercial size portafilter (57mm rather than 58mm) no third-party upgrades (meaning no triple baskets) steam wand is a bit short without frothing wand
I own two Le'Lit PL041s. The first was scored on eBay in 2006, used but perfect, for $230. The second was bought new in 2007 from HiTechEspresso as an upgraded PID unit, for $400 (discounted as first one sold). Update as of June 2009: I've upgraded to an Expobar Brewtus double-boiler and will soon sell one or both Le'Lits.
I love both of mine. They are sometimes referred to as the "poor man's Silvia," but that's not true. While Silvia uses heavier-duty commercial parts, the lighter group head on the Le'Lit heats up much more quickly, in part because the group head is bolted directly to the boiler, rather than offset as in the Silvia, and also because of the 1050-watt heater. Though the "ready" light goes on after about 2 minutes, the portafilter isn't too hot to touch until the 5-minute mark, still blazingly fast from a standing start.
The design is tried-and-true, and the Le'Lit makes delicious doubles with its 14-gram basket (can be up-dosed to 18-20 grams, however). The 3-way solenoid makes backflushing easy.
The only problem I've had with either of my Le'Lits is that they tend to eat through portafilter head gaskets quicker than I'd like -- about a year -- so I keep spares on hand from 1st Line. I drink 2-3 double cappuccinos per day, and the mechanics remain flawless after three years of constant use. The fill hole on the 2-liter (68 oz.) plastic reservoir was a bit small, so I cut mine larger. The easy-view water level on both sides is a nice feature.
Steaming and frothing milk is amply powerful, although not up to the instant on-demand or raw strength of HX or DB units. Good microfoam is possible, however, if that's your thing for cappas or lattes.)
The PL041 has the same kind of squarish industrial design as the Silvia, with a mirror-finish stainless-steel skin and nicely rounded corners (no sharp edges). Very pleasing aesthetically, with a remarkably compact footprint that will fit in most any kitchen. Same scale as my Ascaso i-Mini and Roma grinders.
No problems at all with eBay seller or Dave at HiTechEspresso.
Three Month Followup
Not a 3 month followup, but some additional info about PIDs and temp-surfing on the PL041.
When I first got my used Le'Lit, I tried temp-surfing. Using high-quality home-roasted fresh beans and a good Roma grinder (essentially the same as an Anfim doserless), I didn't notice any difference in shot quality, temp-surfed or not.
When I got the PID'd Le'Lit, I ran some informal comparison tests: PID vs. temp-surfed non-PID versus no-temp-surf non-PID. For whatever it's worth (perhaps very little), my nose and taste buds couldn't tell any substantive difference in shot quality. Oh sure, there were differences in individual shots, based on dosage, distribution, beans, etc., but nothing consistent or repeatable.
Does this mean that the Le'Lit is more "forgiving" than the Silvia? I don't know. I never used a Silvia. Are the temp swings less with the smaller boiler (7 oz. Le'Lit versus 10 oz. Silvia), higher-wattage heating element, and direct-bolted group head on the Le'Lit? Again, I don't know. I can attest that the PID on the Le'Lit drops about 20° during a 25-second pull.