Lelit Bianca Review: Yay or Nay?
Lelit Bianca immediately stands out from the crowd. It’s the smooth curves and eye-catching walnut accents.
But there’s much more to it than just a pretty face.
This semi-automatic espresso machine is packed with features you’d never expect at this price point. This Lelit Bianca review tells you what those features are and if they fit with your espresso goals.
SUMMARY: The Lelit Bianca
- The least expensive machine to offer manual paddle pressure control with the E61 group
- Long-lasting thanks to smart engineering and excellent build quality
- A stylish machine with smooth curves and walnut accents
I was looking at a few high-end machines and ended up with the Bianca…She’s a gorgeous machine, silent and works amazingly well.– Customer
A Review of the Lelit Bianca
In this section, we’ll dig a little deeper into what you can expect from the Lelit Bianca espresso machine. So, let’s see what makes Bianca special and how it stacks up against the competition.
Brewing Capacity – 5/5
First, the basics.
The Bianca is a dual-boiler espresso maker with the classic E61 group. It uses a proper dual-loop PID, allowing temperature control of each boiler independently. The E61 group doesn’t quite match the more expensive saturated groups in terms of temperature stability. But a wide-diameter thermosyphon pipe keeps temperature fluctuations minimal. Bottom line, your coffee will always be WARM. As simple as that.
Now, let’s talk about what makes Bianca EXTRA SPECIAL.
The E61 group head is equipped with a paddle-controlled valve that lets you adjust the water flow and thus brew pressure as you pull the shot. A pressure gauge on the group lets you track the pressure on the coffee puck (1).
This is known as flow profiling. And know what? The Bianca is far and away from the cheapest machine with this capability. Its operation is actually comparable to the La Marzocco GS3 MP, which runs twice the price. This pressure profiling style gives you yet another tool to optimize your espresso and provides access to more flavour. Just ask barista and cafe owner Fabrizio Sencion (2):
Flow control allows you to target totally new extractions and discover the full complexity of the cup. You can refine existing recipes and potentially find undiscovered ones.
You operate The flow profile manually, so you can’t store profiles or achieve perfect reproducibility. But there are advantages to this design. For one, skilled baristas typically prefer the more intimate control afforded by a manual machine. There is an appeal to pulling a shot “by feel,” using the pressure gauge. But in a more practical sense, eliminating computer control makes it less expensive to manufacture. So it’s less likely to break and easier to repair.
At heart is a rotary pump. As compared to vibratory pumps, rotary pumps are quieter, and they allow for plumbed operation if you’d instead not rely on the reservoir. You’d expect a rotary pump in most machines at this price point, but this one is noteworthy for its excellent noise-dampening engineering.
It is one of the quietest pumps on the market!
The brew boiler pressure and steam boiler pressure are monitored via a single pressure gauge on the front of the machine. The brew pressure can be easily adjusted using a screw on the machine’s bottom, although with the paddle on the grouphead, this isn’t necessarily something you’ll need to do often. You can also choose to turn the steam boiler off if you’re not making milky drinks, a nice energy saver.
User Friendliness – 4.5/5
I really appreciate the user experience here. It feels like a machine that can grow with you. Mastering the basics is no more complicated than with any semi-automatic espresso machine. Still, the flow profiling options will keep you interested as you advance.
For example, the pre-infusion step can be programmed electronically or carried out manually using the paddle, depending on how hands-on you want to be.
You control Bianca’s features using the high-res LCD display of the Lelit Control Center (LCC). Here you can adjust steam and brew boiler temperatures, set the infusion time, and check the dose counter. When you start a shot, the display automatically acts as a PID shot timer.
The other thing you can do with the LCC is set the standby time. This is one of my favourite features, and it’s not seen in any other prosumer machine.
So how does it work?
Big dual-boiler espresso machines take a long time to heat up and achieve temperature stability, often up to 45 minutes. So users tend to leave them on all day, which is a drain on resources. Lelit tackled this problem by implementing a standby mode in which the temperature is dropped to 158 ℉ and the cup warmer runs at 80% capacity.
From here, it only takes 10 minutes to be ready to brew.
Another unique feature of the Bianca is the moveable water tank, which is equipped with a low water alert. You can easily switch it between either side of the back of the machine. With these beefy double boiler espresso machines, this flexibility is convenient for finding the right space in your kitchen. As a bonus, if you decide to plumb into a water line, you can remove the water tank altogether, making the machine even more compact.
Milk Frothing – 3.5/5
The milk frothing system is excellent, exactly as you would expect for a machine of this price. Unfortunately for Bianca, its brewing capacity is so advanced that it is often compared with far more expensive machines. Things like the La Marzocco GS3, the ECM Synchronika with Flow Control, or even the Slayer cannot match these models in terms of steam power.
The Bianca has a 1.5-litre steam boiler compared to 3.5 litres for the GS3, 2 litres for the Synchronika, and 3.3 litres for the Slayer. So you won’t get the same super-charged steam pressure as these machines. However, most home users don’t need to churn out lattes at the same rate as a cafe, so this is a moot point.
You can expect about 1.5 bars of steam pressure at the factory setting, or you can crank up the boiler temperature to get it up to 2 bars. You can froth enough perfect silky microfoam for two large lattes in under 30 seconds, and very few of us home users are more demanding than that.
In fact, many home users find the ultra high-power steam wands on the more expensive machines unwieldy if they don’t have previous commercial experience. The Bianca comes with two steam wand tips, one with a smaller hole and one larger, so you can steam at slower or faster rates depending on your skill level. As I said before, this is a great model to grow with you.
Both the steam and hot water wands are cool-touch designs, so you don’t risk a burn, and they rely on a ball joint for a good range of motion. Their geometry has been redesigned in the latest model to be easier to use and clean, and less prone to scale.
Build Quality – 4/5
Lelit espresso makers are Italian designed and built, and as such, their quality is exceptionally high. Many experts put ECM at the top of the heap for build quality, and I’d put the Bianca just a small notch below.
Lelit is known for attention to detail in engineering, including not skimping on the aspects that the user rarely sees.
Aesthetics are always a matter of personal taste, but you’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy Bianca’s style. Compared to others in its class, it features smooth rounded corners and warm wood accents in certain parts like the feet and the portafilter handle. Most companies offer wood components as an optional upcharge, so it’s impressive that Lelit makes them standard.
It’s a pretty compact machine, especially if you’ve removed the water tank. Bottom line: it won’t overpower the rest of your kitchen. Still, Bianca is quite heavy at over 26 kilos. Good news is, that’s a sign of quality. It’s packed with stainless steel components, including the drip tray and cup warmer.
The wooden feet are height-adjustable, which is handy for getting the machine perfectly level. Or they allow you to tilt the drip tray toward the drain, if you’re using the plumbing kit.
I don’t usually go out of my way to mention portafilters. But I’ll make an exception for Lelit’s patented Coffee Slide spouted portafilter. This unique design actually improves your espresso and crema’s quality while also being stunning to look at, though it does make it a little hard to pull shots into two mugs at once (3).
Additionally, the Bianca ships with a bottomless portafilter included. If you’re keen on espresso, a naked portafilter will be a vital part of your arsenal, but few companies are thoughtful enough to have one. In fact, Slayer is the only other brand I can think of, and they’re about triple the price.
Indeed, this espresso maker comes with a nice assortment of accessories overall, including a hefty steel tamper that you’ll actually want to use.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4.5/5
The Bianca is built using standard parts and traditional manufacturing techniques. This tried-and-true design strategy means things are unlikely to go wrong, and when they do, skilled technicians and replacement parts are easy to find.
It’s not unreasonable to expect 20+ years of service with only minimal maintenance costs if you regularly carry out standard cleaning.
Backflush on a schedule, clean the shower screen and portafilter, and always use filtered water (4).
One of the major fault points in older espresso machines is the pressure stat, which has been replaced with the PID. You’ll also find commercial-style non-compression valves for hot water and steam, which are more durable than compression valves and can be easily repaired instead of needing replacement.
The internals have been designed to minimize risk and facilitate maintenance. For example, the safety valves, which release excess pressure in a dangerous build-up, vent to the outside of the machine, so you don’t risk humidifying any electronics. And there is easy access to the heating element from the bottom, so if you need to replace it, you can do it yourself without removing the stainless steel boilers.
Don’t Buy the Bianca If…
- You’re not interested in flow profiling: If flow profiling capabilities don’t interest you, there’s no point in paying for them. Instead, check out the dual boiler Lelit Elizabeth or the heat-exchanger Lelit Mara, two of the best Lelit espresso machines. The Rocket Giotto Evolutione and the Appartamento, two machines with heat-exchanger, are also good options.
- You want something for commercial use: Maybe you’re buying a prosumer machine with the dream of starting a catering business or running a small cafe. In that case, you’ll need something NSF rated for commercial use. Consider the La Marzocco Linea Mini or GS3.
- You don’t make a lot of milky drinks: If lattes aren’t your thing, you probably don’t need to splurge on a double boiler. The Lelit Victoria and the Lelit Kate espresso machine both include a built-in grinder and are excellent single boiler machines. Or if you still want to play with flow profiling, think about a lever machine like the La Pavoni Professional.
I’d venture to say that the Lelit Bianca is one of the best value home espresso makers on the market. It’s already a gorgeous and well-made dual boiler machine, but the addition of manual flow profiling really puts it over the top.
If you’re looking for an espresso machine that can progress with you from beginner to pro, definitely give this one a hard look. You won’t be disappointed.
- Teahan, M. (2019, July 24). Pressure and Flow: A Guide for Espresso Technicians. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/07/24/pressure-and-flow-a-guide-for-espresso-technicians/
- Grant, T. (2020, July 29). How Flow Profiling Impacts Espresso Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/07/how-flow-profiling-impacts-espresso-coffee-extraction/
- Meister, E. (2018, August 9). Should You Skim the Crema Off Your Espresso? Retrieved from https://www.seriouseats.com/what-is-crema-espresso-coffee-should-you-skim-it-off
- Guerra, G. (2018, November 2). How to Clean and Maintain Your Espresso Machine. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/11/how-to-clean-maintain-your-espresso-machine/