If you can't afford a Silvia+Rocky, this machine is 9/10ths the performance at 1/3rd of the price!
Positive Product Points
Probably the best price/performance to be had under 500$ (for machine + grinder), now that Silvia's are so expensive. Heats up quickly, and temp stability is good, due to large brass boiler and portafilter. Conical, stepless burr grinder is "good enough" for decent espresso (and almost for free at the above price). Takes up less counter space than separate machine + grinder, and easier clean-up due to grinder placement. Good amount of steam for milk-based drinks.
Negative Product Points
As others have mentioned, the steam wand comes with a froth-aid, with no easy mod to convert to a traditional steam tip (not compatible with Silvia or new Le'Lit wand due to the ball swivel joint). The frother on my model was detachable, however, contrary to older reports. Portafilter is an odd 57mm size, and not quite as hefty as the commercial 58mm that came with my Gaggia. The built-in "tamper" is the wrong-size and completely useless. Replacement parts harder to find than with Silvia.
I've pretty much outgrown my old Gaggia Coffee Deluxe. I can get great shots out of it, but it requires a little dance where I warm it up for half an hour, then watch the boiler temp fluctuate wildly and try to hit it when it's just right. Whenever I get lazy with the surfing, the shots go from great to bitter in the blink of an eye. Gaggia's have really, really hot heating elements on a tiny boiler, so while the steaming can be vigorous, you have to catch the machine before the thermostat trips or you'll run out while steaming an medium latte. Didn't feel like PIDing a low-end Gaggia would be worth it, given that it would cost as much in parts as I paid for the machine in the first place.
Coming from the Gaggia, the temp stability of the Nemox brass boiler is amazing!! K-type thermocouple screwed to the boiler fluctuates slowly from 100-105 degrees C (the group temp is lower of course) while my Gaggia would swing from 88-115 C over just a couple of minutes (i.e. well into the sour range on one end, and into the bitter range on the other). I don't really need to surf or pay attention to my thermometer anymore to get a good tasting shot with this machine! Fantastic!
The larger boiler also means that temperature stability during each shot is better than with the Gaggia (as judged by the thermocouple I put on the boiler). Steam never runs out in the middle of my latte, nor is it critical to time exactly when you start the steaming. The grinder combo is great for my office, as the drip trays catch the stray grinds neatly (nearest sink is on the other side of the building). The hot water setting is nice - I actually use it to rinse/pre-warm my shot glasses. The "free" Lux grinder built-in is a decent performer - slow as with all conical burr grinders, but you can get decent shots with it and it's stepless, allowing lots of control on the grind fine-ness. Grounds are slightly clumpy and not as fluffy as my Bregant E.B. (rebadged La Pavoni Zip) at home, but that is altogether another class of grinder.
The steam wand is a mixed bag, the ball swivel joint is very useful, but it is also an unusual thread size eliminating easy steam wand mods (see cons, above). You can "surf the side hole" of the froth-aid to get OK foam, but it's not going to be fluffy micro-foam without more extreme modification (i.e. getting a silvia wand re-threaded or soldered to the Nemox ball joint).
Lastly, although it looks as shiny as a Silvia, the build quality is noticeably less high quality (I don't own a Silvia, but my boss does and I compared them side to side). The metal construction is thinner, the drip trays are thin plastic with sharp edges, and the portafilter, while containing lots of metal, is noticeably thinner and flimsier-looking than the Gaggia 58mm PF. The most important part, the boiler, however, is a big beefy brass sucker, and the group head is directly mounted on boiler (as opposed to the odd group mounting of the Silvia), possibly explaining the very stable brew temps I have measured. After watching the temperature readings, I'm not at all tempted to PID this, in fact I may disconnect my thermocouple permanently and put it back on my Gaggia where it is needed the most.
Slightly annoyed that I had to buy a 57mm tamper when I already had a nice 58mm one. I have no idea why they think the built-in 53mm tamper is useful to anyone, even the freebie Bakelite clunker that came with my Gaggia was more functional. But that is a minor gripe, no-one expects a freebie tamper to be that useful anyhow.
Keep in mind, however, that it may take some sleuthing and DIY-ness to find maintenance parts and instructions, since Le'Lit (this is nothing but a re-branded Le'Lit) is very, very new to the U.S. market. 1st-line has started stocking some Le'Lit parts, but that's pretty much the only place right now. Hoping Le'Lit becomes more popular so that the US user community grows.
The rave reviews from the Australian Quaha/Imat branded combi models date back almost a decade, and inspire much confidence for the potential long-term durability of this model.
Painless purchase through studioLX and quick drop shipping from distributor Italian Casa in NJ. Note that pretty much any vendor you buy this from, it will be drop shipped from Italian Casa.
This is essentially the same as the La Pavoni Napoletana, Le'Lit PL042 in E.U./U.S., Imat/Quaha combi in Australia/NZ. However, for some reason Nemox re-badged models sell for less than half of the equivalent La Pavoni/Le'Lit models in the U.S. !!! Get them while you still can! Avoid the Nemox Napoletana, it may look the same outside but is it NOT the same as a Dell Opera/LeLit PL042/La Pavoni Napoletana on the inside.
Three Month Followup
see 1 year followup
One Year Followup
A year later and a few hundred shots later (2 shots a day, every day) it still works like a champ, very satisfied with the performance. After many repeated uses, I noticed the temperature band is somewhat wider than I reported in my initial review - the boiler kicks in at exactly 88 Celsius, heating the boiler up to ~105. The temp then falls very, very slowly back down, and I generally get good tasting shots at any temperature above 95. Note these are boiler temps, I have no idea what the water at the grouphead is (although it must be slightly cooler). So it is quite useful to have a thermocouple hooked up, to avoid that 2-3 minute windows every ~ 15 minute cycle that the shot will come out sour. But this isn't the crazy surfing that I have to do on my gaggia, and I still don't think there would be a tremendous gain from having a PID if I was so inclined.
Some occasional water leaks out at the seam between the portafilter shroud and the main body, haven't tracked down the culprit yet, but the group gasket is due to be replaced maybe that will fix it. I actually like the grinder more than I had anticipated - the small hopper with airtight lid and doser-less design is perfect as there is nowhere for stale beans or grinds to accumulate, very convenient since cleaning it is a pain (I keep this guy at work behind my desk). The grind fineness adjustment can seem finicky at times would be my only complaint grinder-wise.
I bought a 57mm blind filter from 1st-line (for the LeLit) and I regularly backflush with cleancaf, seems to do the trick really well.
The best part of the compact nature of this beastie is that you don't have to go espresso-less on your next (driving) vacation, it's so small you can just plop it in a small box and put it in your car, zero hassle. Wouldn't think of doing this with my bulky home grinder and machine setup - too big and too many doodads to pack. Yes, I'm quite addicted to caffeine.