Lelit Bianca Review - Page 2

Behind the scenes of the site's upcoming equipment reviews.
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HB
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Postby HB » Nov 04, 2018, 4:40 pm

Brewing isn't the only thing the Bianca does easily; it's nicely balanced steaming makes microfoam a breeze:

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Not bad for my mediocre latte art skills and skim milk!
Dan Kehn

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another_jim
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Postby another_jim » Nov 14, 2018, 1:49 pm

We had a get together of Chicago HBers with the Bianca on display. Unfortunately, there was a glitch with the Strega, so there was no chance to repeat the comparisons I have done. The best laid plans of mice and men, etc, but in this case, there was a silver lining.

Many of the group were lever users. Devon, a first timer to the meetings, owns a Slayer, and the others own commercial or semi-commercial pump machines. So it was interesting to get everyone's hands on impressions. The paddle was intuitive and easy for everyone to use; and like me, the other lever users were right at home. Devon, who had been expecting a toy, or a steep learning curve, was quite impressed. The regular pump machine users had varying reactions, since they remain to be convinced that having to be proactive during shots is really a good thing.

This means that there is one unanimous takeaway among reviewers and users so far. When it comes to good ergonomics, intuitive use, and fine grained manual control, the Bianca wins easily compared to other profiling or lever machines.
Jim Schulman

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another_jim
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Postby another_jim » Nov 17, 2018, 2:40 am

Who Should Buy

For normal volume espresso shots, a lever machine can do everything a profiling machine can, and just as well. For heavy use, making one kind of coffee at a one grind setting and dose, an automatic profiling machine that can optimize the extraction for that set of parameters is the right tool. So where does the Bianca fit in?

A story: I have the sample box from Gesha Village, an Ethiopian coffee coop that purportedly grows the original version of the famed Finca Esmeralda Geisha. One of the samples smelled amazing early in the roast, so I ended the roast faster and lighter than usual. This turned out to be a bit of a heartbreak, since the coffee tasted flat as espresso, as pourover, or as French press, even with all the usual variations and adjustments. With the sample running out, I pulled two singles on the Bianca, the first at a 1:4 brew ratio, the second fine tuned at a 1:5 ratio, both at a fine but not superfine grind, and at about 25 seconds of soft preinfusion. Finally, the coffee showed more than just toasted sugar and a mild whiff of flowers; almost all the promise of the dry aroma was in the cup (I've never had a great coffee where **all** the promise of the dry aroma gets into the cup).

The moral is simple. If I had to find the tastiest way to prepare a coffee new to me; I'd find it faster using the Bianca than any other combination of brewing gear. The unparalleled ease and precision of the needle valve control allows it to make shots with any grind and at any brew ratio. Think of an espresso machine, a mochapot, a Steampunk, and a Clover brewer all rolled into one, with a Chemex and French Press thrown in for good measure. When the word gets out, I expect to see the Bianca, or more likely, a way more expensive knockoff by a higher profile manufacturer, at every self respecting third wave brew bar in the world.

But I'm still not exactly sure who should buy the Bianca. The machine could have been custom built for me. I like to walk up to a shelf full of coffees and decide which one I want, and how I want it. I don't refer to recipes when I cook, nor when I make coffee; instead I improvise depending on my mood (or fall into well oiled routines in the early morning). I have no idea how widely shared this style of coffee making is. Judging by the market growth of exotic coffees, single dose optimized grinders, and profiling or otherwise workable espresso machines, it's a growing group. So if this improvisational style of Home Barista-ing appeals to you; this machine is well worth your consideration.
Jim Schulman

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HB
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Postby HB » Feb 10, 2019, 1:44 pm

Traditionally, the reviews include a group taste test. Once again, the good folks at Counter Culture Coffee in Durham hosted an informal shootout. They have an excellent training center filled with the latest and greatest coffee and espresso equipment. Penelope Hearne, our training center host, initially suggested pitting the Lelit Bianca against the La Marzocco Linea Mini. That would make sense since it's a popular high-end espresso machine among the HB membership. The other choice was the La Marzocco Linea PB, their primary espresso machine for training. Since we've paired the latter with review contenders in the past like the Profitec Pro 800, we settled on the PB.

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The grinders were their usual training setup, two Nuova Simonelli Mythos. In past shootouts, we often chose single origin espressos, reasoning that they'd be more revealing of differences. This time, we decided to go with Hologram as the test coffee, since it's a popular blend with modest fruit notes:

Counter Culture Coffee wrote:Hologram is our update of the classic Mocha Java flavor profile. Fruit-forward and chocolatey coffees combine to create something distinctly complex.

Our thinking was that teasing out a difference for a mainstream coffee would be more revealing since the assessments of brighter, fruiter coffees may be more prone to reflect strongly-held taste preferences than actual equipment differences.

Penelope and I agreed to a basic brew recipe of ~19 grams in, ~36 grams out. Since the Bianca features pressure profiling, I followed a modified lever espresso machine-like brew pattern: Start at 4 bar until 6 grams has poured, increase to 6 bar until 12 grams have poured, increase to 9 bar until 24 (ish) grams. Then slowly reduce to 4-6 bar, depending on how it's pouring.

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Lelit Biana with manual brew pressure profiling via handle atop the grouphead

My thinking was that this brew pressure profile would produce less body, but could eliminate astringency in the finish without crushing the fruit-forward taste. I used their fancy Acadia Pearl scale and Penelope used the Linea PB's built-in scale to monitor the beverage weight as it poured.

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Penelope Hearne, barista on the La Marzocco Linea PB

Prior to the tasters arriving, Penelope and I had about 30 minutes to dial in the coffee. We didn't compare each others espressos, but had no trouble dialing in to our satisfaction. The blind taste protocol was simple: Each cup was discreetly marked with an "L" or "B" on the bottom. Tasters were presented the two cups simultaneously and asked to place their preferred drink on the left ("winner") and the less preferred drink on the right ("loser").

The turnout was light (5), so most tasters had time for two rounds. This photo was near the end of the shootout:

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Heads you win, tails you lose

At the end of the session, we turned over the cups to reveal the win/lose count:

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Lelit Bianca wins over La Marzocco Linea PB, 5-3

A very close competition! Of course, as with nearly every shootout, some will question our methods (e.g., "Did you measure the TDS? Were the two machines calibrated to the same temperature? Was the same grinder used and if not, were the burrs similar?"). I'll simply say that it's not meant to be taken as the final word on how these two espresso machines compare, but rather another data point to consider.

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In my opinion, what this informal test does demonstrate, for the n'th time, is that spending more on the espresso machine doesn't necessarily move the needle, taste-wise. While it certainly wasn't a WBC-level calibrated test, it was a blind comparison, so I think it was fair enough to be considered meaningful to home baristas.

Below are comments from some of the participants:

Ian wrote:Both shots were excellent. Both shots tasted like they came from the same roast. One shot was brighter on my first try. One shot was slightly astringent on my second try. Easy to tell the difference on a side by side but I couldn't have done it 15 minutes apart. Enjoyed it!

Jesse wrote:I thought both shots were delicious each time and honestly it came down to choosing the shot with a touch more sweetness over acidity. I'm not clear exactly which machine my preferred shots were off of, but I enjoyed all the coffee I tasted off of each machine.

Penelope wrote:I completely agree with Jesse and I would like to add that I actually preferred the shots from the Bianca. I was surprised to find that the shots were very similar. I'm of course a huge fan of the PB, so I was shocked that the Bianca shots had a slightly less acidic finish. However, I do think the crema might have been more pronounced from the PB.

In addition, I would like to note, each shot had a variance of sweetness and acidity, so the taste test wasn't based on comparing all shots against all shots but more so based on comparing the individual pairs. It would be interesting to mix up the pairs and see if we could tell the difference between the shots from the Bianca and from the PB.

Lastly, it would be cool to do the test again and have one barista pulls shots from both machines and I wonder how other coffees would hold up against the test.

Anyhow, it was a fun exercise and I'm a new fan of the Bianca.

Thanks again to Penelope and the other participants!
Dan Kehn

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another_jim
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Postby another_jim » Feb 10, 2019, 10:39 pm

That wraps up our part of this review; the thread is open for all comments.
Jim Schulman

Theodore

Postby Theodore » Apr 18, 2019, 3:54 am

Hi another-Jim.
I have found this video,



So can you comment, please, on this video, especially in the not very stabilized temperature of the E61 group? Can we overcome this flaw?
Thank you.
Espresso uber alles.

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another_jim
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Postby another_jim » Apr 18, 2019, 1:47 pm

I withdrew the video, since when it made it, the offset was 4C too low. I replaced it with the calibration video. Calibrate the group so you get an instant flash boiling when the temperature shows 100C (or with a Scace, so that it shows the right temperature at the start of the shot - i.e. with the usual 4-5 second time to heat the device). Thermosyphons seem to be "chaotic," since the flow varies from machine to machine, even in the same production lot.

After I corrected the offset. I've had no problem with brew temperatures. Brew accuracy roughly is +/- 1.5C over all circumstances; which is par for the course on an E61. If you want more accuracy, you need a go to flooded group or a fine tuned NS Aurelia.
Jim Schulman

Tonefish

Postby Tonefish » Apr 19, 2019, 3:47 pm

Theodore wrote:Hi another-Jim.
I have found this video,

<video>

So can you comment, please, on this video, especially in the not very stabilized temperature of the E61 group? Can we overcome this flaw?
Thank you.


Yea, this was a really poor selection of thermocouple locations. You can see from the scace-like values, which have a lot more to do with the brew water temperatures, that the one on the bell is not valuable and is more of a distraction from what would be meaningful. Even the one on the group is in a sub-optimal location. If you follow the path of water through the group you'd know that the most representative location for the water temperature is as close as you can get along the path of the water, as does the erics thermometer in the direct water path of an E61. Follow the path of the water and you'll see where to put your thermocouple. I've shown in a separate thread the 1-to-2F correlation you can get with an external thermocouple relative to one in the water path like the erics. You can get good correlation from an external thermocouple if you think it through and don't confuse things. This correlation is also essential to maintaining your temperature while using the plug location for a pressure device rather than the erics TC, such as in the Bianca, or retrofitted Mara. :wink:

E61s will always have the boiler on the hot side and the bell on the cool side with the coffee magic happening in between, so your focus on the brew water temperature is the key. Cheers!!
LMWDP #581 .......... May your roasts, grinds, and pulls be the best!

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ddr

Postby ddr » Jul 31, 2019, 12:35 pm

Thanks for the review folks! A friend asked about machines and I sent them here. It was great to see / hear you in the video @another_jim ! I was remembering all the shots we drank comparing the Vario to your other grinders. Have a good one!
Dan
LMWDP #242

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another_jim
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Postby another_jim » Jul 31, 2019, 2:49 pm

Hi Dan; good to her from you. Hope your friend enjoys the site.
Jim Schulman