The review sponsor, 1st-line equipment, provided two Bianca units for evaluation, so I'll be adding some "color commentary" to complement Jim's already excellent writeup.
It's worth re-emphasizing a point he made earlier: The Bianca is ridiculously
easy to dial in. No design has been more thoroughly represented in the reviews
than the E61 group. I honestly thought that after the last 10+ years of manufacturers tweaking them with electronic temperature controllers (PIDs) and carefully fine-tuned brew temperatures, there was nothing left to be wrung out from this more than half-century year old design. After a week with the Lelit, I joked in an offline discussion that we may need a new superlative to describe how forgiving the Lelit Bianca is since "ridiculously easy" seems to understate it.
Of course, this assumes you know what you're doing... newbies without a firm understanding of brewing concepts may find the ability to avoid mishaps in grind, dose, and prep with pressure manipulations yet another thing to screw up.
With that caveat, I initially thought the announcement post Pre-order this game changer home espresso machine
from 1st-line was marketing hyperbole. Maybe not?
Is the Bianca the Ludicrous Speed
If so, all we're left with going forward is "Plaid Speed".
Jim's prior post compared the Lelit Bianca to the Bezzera Strega. How about the Elektra Microcasa a Leva? I don't know if it's a fair comparison since the doses are different, but the results were consistent.
I attempted to match a Microcasa-like pressure profile with ~1.5 bar preinfusion and 6 to 4 bar declining pressure at ristretto brew ratio for the first round. Then I opened up the grind a bit. In both cases, it was a very good showing of Lever Craft Coffee's Ethiopia Guji Single Origin
. The Bianca had more body and more acidity in the finish. The Microcasa, as usual, was the king of clarity and even finish.
The differences were easy to spot, but less than I'd expect from a Strada versus Bianca, even with the Strada's poor man's pressure profiling
. So, another day, another round: La Marzocco Strada versus Lelit Bianca.
Since the La Marzocco Strada doesn't have the precise control of the Bianca, I used the 4-9-6 bar profile that's fairly easy to reproduce on the Strada. It was only two rounds, but the Strada eked out a win on both body and complexity, basically the opposite of yesterday's results with the Microcasa. It's worth noting that the comparisons were not blind and all espressos were quite good
For another comparison, today I did the same side-by-side, but with a different coffee: Counter Culture Coffee's Jabanto
. This time around, the two rounds were maddeningly close, with the Bianca edging out the Strada on balance and surprisingly on wonderfully viscous mouthfeel (where La Marzoccos typically dominate).
It's worth noting that producing the 4-9-6 bar profile on the Bianca was trivial; it required surgeon-like precision and Ninja-like reflexes on the Strada, demonstrating the difference between "by design" (Bianca) and "by hackery" (Strada). That difference in ease of profiling heavily favors the Bianca, compared to the degree of chance when trying to replicate it with the Strada.