1. Why Lelit Elizabeth?
2. Using the Machine
3. Nice Quality of Life features I'm appreciating as I'm using it more
4. Things I wish were different
5. Misc. Observations.
I've had an Elizabeth for around a month now and hadn't noticed many discussions of it. There are a few videos on youtube demonstrating preinfusion control and temperature stability as well as promotional videos about how it works and evidence of it making lots of cappuccinos back to back but beyond that there really isn't much information or owner experience reported yet. I'll be back this weekend to post some pictures and videos as well as answer questions but figured I'd get this out now so people can ask questions, etc.
1. Why Lelit Elizabeth?
- My usage: My general use is 2-3 espresso brews in the morning during the week along with sporadic afternoon usage when I happen to be home during the week. On weekends, the machine might be used at any point during the day, usually for about four drinks in total. The usage is probably about 2/3 espresso, 20% americanos, the rest with milk drinks but that milk drink proportion is much higher on the weekends when I might be making vanilla steamers for kids and cappuccinos. During the week, I'll occasionally make a cortado. As for coffee preferences, this is a fun hobby from me and I pull in coffees from around the country of all sorts of roast levels and origins. I'm really new to espresso and am in love with experimenting.
- My constraints: first, I didn't want to worry about warm up times or, in general, temperature stability; second, while I don't care about steaming large quantities of milk, I want the milk steaming I do to be as easy and quick as possible; third, I want easy control of variables like temperature and preinfusion; fourth, I don't have a ton of counterspace; fifth, I was pretty hard-capped at $2000 for the machine.
- My gear: I have a Robot paired with a Lido-E at my office. I dearly love this combination and it's produced some of my favorite shots I've ever had. At home, the Elizabeth is paired with a 9-month old Sette Wi. My previous home machine was an Ascaso Dream PID. It got me into espresso and actually was quite nice for my purposes—not the least of which was that the machine was good enough looking and small enough for it to be accepted by my wife, which then helped me hook her on that espresso life. However, the construction quality was abysmal (I'll leave that for another thread) and after having numerous unrelated parts fail I just gave up.
- To profile or not: The big question for me was whether to go down the flow and pressure profiling rabbit hole. Personality wise, that's probably where I'm going to end up. I love the idea of tinkering and experimenting and tailoring a profile to a bean. The closest I've got to this is playing with pressure and flow on my Robot which I've had success with. I just couldn't make the money work. The Elizabeth doesn't allow you to pressure profile but you have lots of variables to play with when it comes to preinfusion (more on this below) and temperature.
- Other machines considered: DE1+ (especially once the new ordering infrastructure went in), but it was just too much money. Profitec Pro 300 (no preinfuse control, more $ than Elizabeth), BDB (lost out on aesthetics)). I didn't really consider e61 machines too closely because of their 30min+ warmup times. Once companies started releasing their kits for pressure profiling, the choice between, e.g. a Mara with profiling kit and the Elizabeth became a little tougher but honestly at that point I'd also be throwing in the variable of temperature control on an HX which I also didn't want to add.
- Basics of brewing. You brew with one of two brew buttons. Each can be configured in a number of ways with respect to pre-infusion or total brew time. You can program each button for its own pre-infusion length and shot length (the pre-infusion is not counted in addition to the total shot length but as part of the total programmed shot length). There's no cap on the pre-infusion length. If you set total shot time to zero, you have manual control. That's what I've done as I cut my shots by watching the shot color and texture. So, these are time based rather than volumetric based controls but that doesn't matter for me anyway since I'm cutting my shots manually. My current setup is with one button that brews with no pre-infusion and one with a pre-infusion which I change.
- Pre-infusion: This, to me, was the fun and unique part of the machine. Given the way that the preinfusion mechanism works (lelit has a video on this you can look up), it's done with no pump pressure but instead uses pressure (and hot water, mixed with fresh water) from the steam boiler. So, that gives you an indirect tool for manipulating preinfusion time and pressure.
Out of the box, the steam boiler is set at 275F. At that temperature by about 5-7 seconds the brew pressure gauge will reach about 3bar and you'll get your first drips for most coffees. When I'm playing around, however, I can decrease this pressure and increase your preinfusion time. When I drop the steam boiler to 260F, for example, I have preinfusions that are just beading at 15 seconds and pressure is a bit under 2bar. So, no, I can't flow or pressure profile with this machine but I can play around quite a bit with pre-infusion.
If you just turn the pump on with no pre-infusion timer set, everything ramps to full pressure in about 5 seconds, which seems fairly standard among machines I've seen.
For darker roasts, I omit the programmed preinfusion. For lighter and/or fruitier coffees I play around with it quite a bit and have had quite a bit of success (for my tastebuds anyway!)
- Steaming: Steaming capacity (for my admittedly limited purpose) has been great. I'll try to get more precise measurements this weekend but my usual routine is to pour 5-6oz of milk into a 10oz frothing pitcher. I've had excellent quality microfoam (my skills are weak but the milk has supported my attempts) and quick heating. I've done two of those pitchers back to back with only 20-30 so seconds between steaming each pitcher.
I haven't experimented with it yet, but since preinfusion works by opening a valve to the steam boiler, it might not be possible to steam well while preinfusing. That's not really a problem for me. If I'm playing around with a long preinfusion, that's not generally the kind of coffee I'm putting milk in. I want to taste it directly!
- The drip tray feels enormous and spacious. Luxurious even. There's loads of room for even larger scales to fit. There's just so much surface area underneath the brew head, water spout, and steam wand.
Speaking of scales, there's terrific space between the group and the drip tray, especially when using a bottomless portafilter. But Lelit have not left you hanging with too much space as they include a little riser that brings espresso cups close to the portafilter. I can fit a coffee mug on a scale underneath the bottomless portafilter easily for pulling americanos.
- The 'coffee slide' spouted portafilter is kind of cool. I like it enough that I often dial in a coffee with the bottomless and then swap over to the spouted.
- The LCC control system is super easy to use and program. The screen is also very nice to read and easy to understand. It doesn't look too techy while being bright and clear. It allows you to change: brew boiler temp, steam boiler temp, steam boiler on/off, button 1 preinfusion, button 1 brew time, button 2 preinfusion, button 2 brew time, and C or F temp displays. It also has a shot counter.
- I wish I could change the OPV easily. One of the really nice things about the Ascaso Dream was that it had an externally adjustable OPV to set a max pressure wherever you want without opening anything up. I wish I could do that on this machine to lower the max pressure. I'm sure it's easy enough if you open up the machine, but it's just something I wish I could do myself.
- My first machine was a thermoblock so the hot water dispenser was delivering fresh water. When I'm using a coffee that I don't preinfuse, and I'm not steaming much if at all, the water doesn't taste all that great coming out of the hot water tap. I've never had a dual boiler machine before so I don't know if that's just part of the deal with a dual boiler. I suppose I could solve that by just not having the steam boiler turn on when I've got that kind of coffee in the hopper (you have individual control over turning the steam boiler on and off). Anyway, I've taken to either heating water for an americano in such cases by steaming it (for some reason steaming the water tastes fine) or just turning on a kettle.
- Given that I'm working under cabinets, I prefer machines with reservoirs that remove from the side rather than top.
- The supplied portafilter is pretty cheap feeling. My Dream PID wood handled portafilter was much nicer. Same goes for the steam knob—cheap plastic.
- Sometimes, especially if I'm steaming quite a bit, I think it might be nice to have a steam boiler pressure indication somewhere to have a clearer sense when it's up to temp or has recovered. There's no indication concerning its status.
- The included (by 1st line? By Lelit? I'm not sure) resin filter replaces the plastic particle filter that's already in one hose, not the other hose which goes into the reservoir.
- I have played with both VST Ridged 15g and the supplied 'Double' portafilter. The ridged VST is a *very* tight fit but works fine. I used it with lighter, fruitier coffees and long preinfusions (15sec) and it works great.
I'm very happy with the machine. I still am drawn towards profiling but I just don't have the resources right now. The machine has made really excellent shots, shots that have made me really smile. I'm drawn back to the machine again and again to make shot after shot, to tinker and improve and tinker some more.
I'll come back this weekend with pictures and hopefully some video. If you have any specific questions feel free to post here and I'll reply.