Flow Control vs Spring Lever

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
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#1: Post by corffee_beanz »

Almost ready for an upgrade, I'm pretty torn between the lelit bianca and a Londinium R24. The features of the Bianca (cup warmer, matte black aesthetic, included accessories, FC, warm up time) make it a really attractive buy. But as we all know, its price raised to just over 3k USD with the V3.

On the other hand, you have the Londinium R24 who's workflow and maintenance can't be beat, plus the fun of the lever experience; and not to mention its reputation for amazing espresso. Downfall here is the lack of newer features: the boiler inside isn't insulated (which I'm not sure if that should be a concern or not) and of course costing about $1k USD more than the Bianca all in.

I originally had my eyes set on the bianca, but then the LR24 caught my eye. I've read as much as I can about the two but the LR24 conversations tend to delve down to temp stability/variability arguments and veer more off topic.

I am upgrading from a Bambino Plus and want the first properly dialed in shot to give me a night and day difference in the cup, a real wow moment. I usually drink medium to light roasts, but am moving towards full city simply because I can't get rid of the acidity in those lighter roasts with my current set up (niche zero and bambino plus). Is one of these machines going to have a noticeably smoother cup than the other? Or would you pocket the 1k difference and not think twice about it?

I know affordability and taste are all subjective but it still would help tremendously to hear from people with more experience on either of these machines.

Thanks in advance!

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#2: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

I suggest that you take your time to make the 'right' decision for you.
In your position, I would choose the Londinium, if you feel you can safely navigate a spring lever machine.
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

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#3: Post by Primacog »

Im biased but it will always be a spring lever in fsvour of most pump machines for me.
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#4: Post by spressomon »

Flow control is just another tool in the tool box. Having said that, I love my Slayer...having come from a Londinium LI as my primary machine with a couple other levers thrown in the mix over the years. Many lever fanatics talk about the simplicity, reliability and low maintenance from a lever machine; hasn't been my experience.

So for me, given the two choices you presented, I'd take the Bianca. But, I'm not an e61 fan...I suggest looking at the LM Linea Micra (based upon the reviews I've read as I don't have direct experience using one) for another choice.

I have made incredibly tasty espresso from all my espresso making machines/devices as well as some of the worst tasting espresso. Some of the most notably tasty shots came from a well tuned old-school La Marzocco Linea Classic by an experienced barista who thoroughly knew his way around it.
No Espresso = Depresso

corffee_beanz (original poster)
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#5: Post by corffee_beanz (original poster) »

I appreciate the level headed answer. Can I trouble you for a bit more details as to your experiences that led you away from levers? The Slayer is a gorgeous machine btw!

As for the LM, I love the build quality and simplicity, but I know my upgrade-itis won't be satisfied with a flat pressure profiled machine

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#6: Post by spressomon »

For the tinkerer, based upon reading only, there will be flow control aftermarket coming to the Micra (similar to the LMLM).

I prefer the temp stability of saturated/semi-saturated group design vs passive radiating of e61 & lever groups for back-to-back shots (or work arounds to get the group temp stabilized). Ditto dual boilers: Separate water temps for steam & brew w/o compromise or one has to deploy various techniques to resolve one or the other.

Seal maintenance on the LI, the PV Export was too much for me. My Cremina with a 2016 group, OTOH, just worked; wonderfully simple & reliable. But, once again prone to over-heating unless you let the group shed heat or forced temp down by cold rag on group, etc. When the Cremina is set for wonderfully tasty espresso, the boiler pressure is low enough not to be ideal for steaming.

You're probably not going to find much consensus about the above comments. Given how subjective all things espresso can be, you're probably just going to need to experiment to find your own path. But now you know mine :lol:
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#7: Post by mrgnomer »

Jim Schulman's '2nd Look' review of the Strega caught my attention.

Bezzera Strega - Second Look

In the video he likened the extraction profile control you can have with a Strega to something you can only find in much higher level pump machines like the Slayer or Hydra.

I have no experience with a Slayer or Hydra and no experience with an e61 modified for flow control.

I have a lot of experience flush temp surfing a plumbed in rotary pump HX e61 that had some line pressure preinfusion control. Using what I learned and applying it with much more control with Strega's pump hybrid HX I'm getting consistently more wow extractions from light to classic dark roasts. Temp control is still ballpark flush rebound and so is pressure control but after getting a feel for it I can adjust for very light or dark roasts to get what I find is the best out of them. Jim's, 'Who Should Buy' video shows the Strega's potential.

If you're ok with the slower, more involved, analogue nature of a lever the control extracts really good shots. Feature wise a lever with adjustable extraction temperature control through the group and a pump to boost up preinfusion pressure when you need the control ability would be capable of great shots.
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#8: Post by philosli »

I have a E61 single-boiler heat exchanger with modified flow control device that behaves like all other E61 flow control devices. I read this excellent post "The Espresso Machine MOST of You Should Buy" on flow control. After reading that and a few weeks of playing around my modded E61, I bought an ACS Vesuvius Evo Leva.

As far as I can tell, there are two main uses of the flow control mechanism on an E61 group: control the pre-infusion in terms of pressure and time, and control the flow rate after the brew starts. And in both use cases, most of the time one tries to mimic a lever machine.

The problem of E61 flow control is it is hardly repeatable. For example, reducing the flow rate in the later brew phase is purely by feeling and mood of the day. Without repeatability, there isn't real control. And even though it can mimic what a lever machine does during the pre infusion phase, it's still not the same: on a lever you get a flush of water right away with the pressure built up in a very short period. On flow-controlled-enabled E61, the water arrives slower, and the pressure builds up also slower, and you need to turn the flow down to minuscule level to control the pressure, otherwise the pressure will always go all the way up to 9 bar (or whatever the pump is capable of).

And on my single boiler heat exchanger, things get worse since with the add-on pressure gauge, I lose the group head thermometer so I also lose the temperature monitoring and control.

So this experience leads me to a lever machine. Why mimicking if you can get the real thing? The ACS Vesuvius Evo Leva is a modern lever machine like the LR24 that allows one to control pre-infusion pressure (ACS uses a gear pump; LR24 uses a rotary pump). Unlike LR24, it has a heated group head with PID control, and two PID-controlled boilers, one for brewing and one for steaming. So I have all the control knobs I can imaging one day I'll play with, but much more repeatable.
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#9: Post by jgood »

No experience with levers (although my next machine will probably be one!) but I wanted to weigh in on the comment that E61 flow control isn't "repeatable". I have an E61 with Coffee Sensor's flow control added -- I kept the original spring as I wanted the preinfusion to be consistent and stay as it was with the stock E61 design. I can pretty accurately repeat my tapering pressure profile by slowly turning the control knob starting when the output is at 12 grams and continuing the flow control adjustment until the pressure hits 7 1/2 bars. I stop the shot at my normal 30 gram output. It's not automatic but is quite consistent. Obviously only works if you weigh your output. Coffee Sensor's flow control is "fine treaded" so it's about 1 turn and a half to make the above adjustment which I think is a good feature. I measured the flow from the stock setup before I added the flow control so I could match the normal flow at my starting position.

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#10: Post by philosli »

I also have Coffee Sensor's flow control device. You raised a good point that you can decide when to start to ramp down the flow rate during the brew phase based on the weight of the already extracted coffee on an E61. But you still have to determine how fast to ramp down, or how fast to turn the knob.

I've played around this over a period of 2 weeks and determined the increased variability is beyond my capability.
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