Lelit Bianca Espresso Machine Overview
Until now, flow profiling was a feature only available on a select few commercial espresso machines. The Lelit Bianca has changed that. Built entirely with the home barista in mind, it brings this incredibly helpful technology within reach in a powerful and versatile package. Watch the overview video below for a quick peek at this machine.
First impressions are important and Lelit has ensured the Bianca makes a good one. It comes fully equipped with wood knobs, paddle, and portafilter – something almost no other espresso machine includes. In fact, when you unbox the machine its premium included accessories are immediately notable. It comes with a steel tamper, a microfiber cleaning cloth, and even a walnut-handled bottomless portafilter. All of this ensures that every step of pulling a shot both looks and feels premium. The machine’s frame is comprised of polished stainless steel, matching the mechanical beauty of its classic E61 group head. Inside it has a rotary pump, which means it’s nearly silent and can run on either its attachable reservoir or be direct plumbed.
Speaking of the reservoir, we think the fact that its modular is pretty clever. First, because it allows you to attach the reservoir to not just the back but either side of the machine. For certain kitchens, particularly with overhead cabinets, this can make refilling the reservoir considerably more convenient. Second, if you plan to direct plumb the machine you can simply remove the reservoir making the machine a few inches less deep, allowing it to fit comfortably on just about any counter.
Inside the machine, you’ll find its reasonably sized 0.8L brew boiler and 1.5L steam boiler. Both are large and powerful enough to supply a steady stream of espresso and steamed milk for a sizeable dinner party. Both boilers are temperature controlled by a PID which is controlled through the display on the face of the machine. Crucially, this gives you precise control over brew temperature, allowing you to further dial in coffees of any roast level. The steam boiler’s 1400W heating element matches those of competing high-end dual boiler machines and will allow you to rapidly heat milk for larger lattes without running out of steam.
Now let’s focus on what makes this machine especially interesting: the flow control paddle. Neatly located atop the E61 group head, this paddle gives you direct control over the flow. It does this by controlling the opening of a small valve. All the way to the left gets you the smallest setting and the slowest flow. The further you turn it to the right the larger the opening gets, resulting in a greater flow. The group head pressure gauge gives you a real-time readout of the pressure at the puck. Together, these two features provide a superb level of control over your extractions.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working with a La Marzocco GS3, you’ll find the operation pretty similar, and indeed the effect is precisely the same. Here at our office, we primarily use the paddle to perform an extended, ramping pre-infusion. Starting with a slow flow, allowing the pressure to build to about 3 bar for a few seconds, and then slowly ramping up to 9 bar to finish the shot. To an even greater degree than pre-infusion, this helps reduce channeling and ensure even extraction from the entire puck of coffee.
Out of the box, the paddle is calibrated for a good range of flow rates that maxes out around the standard max flow rate of most commercial espresso machines. If you find you’d like to change it the paddle can easily be recalibrated to be centered on a different range of flow rates.
The Lelit Bianca goes out of its way to impress and the effort is well worth it. As a premium dual boiler E61 machine that brings flow-control to an entirely new price point, it’s hard not to love it.