Machine Comparison: Profitec Pro 400 vs. Lelit Mara X vs. ECM Mechanika VI Slim
Heat exchange machines exist in a space for home baristas that desire a lot of steam pressure, a small footprint, and a tactile user experience. Heat exchangers have always concerned themselves with feel and participation in the brewing process that is a little more manual. This is opposed to dual-boiler machines that tend to be geared toward more automation of variables to facilitate precision and/or experimenting with said variables.
Let’s look at three similar heat-exchange machines on the cutting edge of espresso machine technology—the Profitec Pro 400, the ECM Mechanika VI Slim, and the Lelit Mara X.
A quick heat exchange machine refresher
To quickly recap, a heat exchange machine operates on a large steam boiler, granting instant access to steam without waiting. You can pull shots and steam milk simultaneously; however, HX machines notably lack a dedicated brew boiler for brewing coffee, utilizing a heat exchanger—a tube inside the steam boiler that pulls fresh cool water from the reservoir and exchanges it through the boiler. Check out more detailed information in our How to Choose a Heat Exchanger blog. Because there is no dedicated brew boiler, there is an indirect relationship between pressure and temperature; thus, you don’t have direct control over your brew temperatures.
What makes these three newcomers different from the rest of the pack?
What the Pro 400, Mechanika VI Slim, and Lelit Mara X lack with a dedicated brew boiler, they all gain a three-way temperature switch, which includes three pre-set temperatures to tailor the outcomes of your coffee’s roast level. While this is not as accurate as a dual-boiler with a PID, it gives the home barista more control and flexibility at a more affordable price point. Compared to other heat exchangers, the cooling flushes are more consistent, and back-to-back shots vary less, eliminating the need for temperature surfing.
The Lelit Mara X and its versatile ‘X’ modes
The Mara X comes in three handsome color variants with wood furniture, a professional 58mm portafilter, and a wood tamper to boot. Apart from its generous accessories package and the machine’s aesthetic, the Mara X employs a rocker switch on the right side of the machine, letting you prioritize milk steaming back to back (Steam X mode) or Brew X mode, which provides excellent temperature control for a singular espresso shot or many in succession. This feature is advantageous for home baristas who love the versatility of having on-demand steam and who don’t use the steam wand often but still need it at a moment’s notice. The Steam X and Brew X modes leave the Mara X virtually unmatched in terms of versatility and precision in the heat-exchanger category.
The Profitec Pro 400—fun, affordable, and colorful
Taking its cues from the Lelit Mara X, Profitec hit a home run with the Profitec Pro 400, reinvigorating the heat-exchanger category from outdated outliers to fun and romantic contenders—but at a more affordable price point. In keeping with tradition, Proriftec kept the bones of the machine simple, sleek, and compact, letting you add pops of color with the interchange steam and hot water knob inserts.
The Pro 400’s automatic pre-infusion cycle helps with even espresso extraction, while similar to the Lelit Mara X, the three-way temperature switch lets you select from three pre-set brew temperatures. The Pro 400 does not have a Steam X mode like the Mara X, so even though you can steam milk and pull shots simultaneously, we highly recommend pulling your shot first and then steaming for the best possible temperature consistency for your espresso shots.
The Mechanika VI Slim & VI Slim Heritage Edition: renowned German design and build-quality
In direct comparison to the Pro 400, the Mechanika, internally, is extremely similar since Profitec and ECM are sister companies. The Mechanika VI Slim is essentially a Pro 400 with a higher-quality fit and finishes with more solid build materials and touchpoints. Markedly, the Slim VI is the most compact of the three machines, without compromising performance or features. This is highlighted the most in the Heritage version of the VI Slim, with its brushed stainless steel finish, copper gauges, and steam accents. Even overlooked parts on a machine are finely finished, like the bezel on the e61 drain valve and the inside of the drip tray. ECM aims to wow us with their attention to detail and performance.
Heat exchangers have long been bridge machines between single-boilers and dual-boilers, but these three make your decision less of a compromise and more of an intentional choice. The Mara X, Pro 400, and Mehcanika VI Slim let you have your cake and eat it, giving you more temperature control and amazing steam pressure. These three are still relevant due to their small size, affordability, performance, and tactile workflow.