Excellent value with a lot of potential. Relatively forgiving. Great entry-level or office machine.
Positive Product Points
• Built-in doserless, stepless grinder —stepped model, LEN, can be modded • Surprisingly heat-stable • Heavy brass portafilter • Visible 3-liter water tank • Fast warm up • Intuitive design; total breeze to use, no matter what your skill level (within reason) • Plenty of room for modification • Can be PID'd —though you won't expressly 'need' to • Excellent value • Attractive and compact • Large drip-tray • 3-way solenoid • Powerful steam for its size • Large boiler —same as Silvia— bolted directly to group • Ulka pump —again, same as Silvia • Grinder is comparable to the Le'lit PL053/Lux that kept up with the Robur in Home-Barista's Titan Grinder Project; with a mod to replace the plastic doser shoot with the metal PL053 shoot this can be a budget grinder-seeker's dream
Negative Product Points
• Useless built-in 'Italian' tamp • Non-commercial portafilter and baskets —though 57mm La Marzocco baskets (maybe portafilters?) may work —I'll see what happens • Parts can be hard to come by —1st-line is your best bet right now —this may change as popularity grows • Plastic portafilter holder forks —it's slightly irksome that they appear cheap and fragile —there may be a way to replace them without destroying the finsh • Short steam wand with frothing "aid" removed; 1st-line will have replacements in the 1st quarter of 2010 • Cup warmer won't really heat cups unless you leave it on all day —a quick shot of hot water will do (minor qualm) • Plastic grinder doser shoot may cause static issues • Doserless grinder micro switch is plastic and just shy of being pronounced enough to produce a center-basket mound • Teflon tubing —brass would have been nice • No adjustable OPV; it seems some have tried to install one in-line with no success that I'm aware of • No disperser screw —screen bolted directly to group head
I did my homework on this machine to the point of obsession. I just knew that this machine had a lot to offer for relatively little money and it would make a nice, new user-friendly machine for the girlfriend —as well as a quick fix solution for that morning double pull/latte/macchiato/cappuccino before you head out the door in a hurry.
I was not disappointed.
There's some give-and-take going on with these Le'lit machines, as compared to Silvias, but you just can't beat the price-to-value ratio of these things; and though modification and customizability options seem to be scarce at the moment, we all know that these things can change as popularity and demand changes.
These ladies are surprisingly heat-stable: styrofoam cup, followed by SCASE, readings confirmed an impressively small temp. variance (after the warmup shot) at this price-point. I've some minor complaints about a few things like the steam wand tip having a hairline crack in it, which I hear is common, but for a so-called 'poor man's Silvia' there's a lot to be had here with minimal fuss right out of the box. This, however, may just be me. It may just be that I like spotting potential for greater results in things that may be overlooked. I love a good project. I could have easily bought a Silvia and a Mazzer, as money wasn't my concern; so take this with a grain of salt.
My real goal was to have something that was newbie-friendly with potential for improvement that might get the girlfriend into making espresso at home, as well as buying a new toy to tinker with and improve. I see the potential for great things in this odd little Italian machine.
Note: it doesn't hurt that it has a small counter space footprint with attractive looks —girlfriends/fiances/wives appreciate those things.
eBay can be hit or miss. My experience was very pleasant and smooth going —YMMV.