Lelit Victoria Review: The Best Entry-Level Prosumer Machine?
If you’re looking to break into the world of cafe-style espresso at home, you’re probably considering the Lelit Victoria PL91T. And if you’re not, you should be.
With a few surprisingly high-end features, like a PID and digital display, it’s a strong contender for the top entry-level prosumer machine.
In this review, I’ll dig into the details, so you’ll know if this machine is the proper first step on your espresso journey.
SUMMARY: The Lelit Victoria Review
- Single boiler dual use semi-automatic espresso maker
- PID control of brewing and steaming temperatures
- The most digital control of any machine in its class
We bought the Lelit Victoria after getting over pod coffee. The machine is beautifully made and produces consistently good coffee.– John C.
A Review of the Lelit Victoria
The Lelit Victoria PL91T is an entry-level espresso maker. It’s perfect for anyone starting to get serious about home espresso. But as a model in Lelit’s VIP line, it has a few features that put it a cup above the competition.
Keep reading as I break them down.
Brewing Capacity – 3.5/5
When I describe Victoria as entry-level, I mean that it’s an ENTRY POINT TO PROSUMER espresso machines. It’s still a huge step up in quality, capability, and price from an appliance-grade machine.
It falls in the category of Single Boiler Dual Use (SBDU), which means that you can’t make espresso and steam milk at the same time (1). After pulling a shot, you need to wait as the boiler heats up to a steaming temperature. This is a downside if you plan on making a lot of lattes, but the trade-offs are that SBDU machines are considerably less expensive and more compact than double boilers.
Another advantage to a smaller single boiler machine is that it can heat up very quickly, in this case, about 10 minutes. And the saturated group head ensures ideal temperature stability once it’s hot.
The Victoria has a 300 mL brass boiler that refills automatically. So, you can easily pull 2 or 3 shots in a row without delay.
As with most machines in this class, Victoria uses a vibratory pump with adjustable pressure. Compared with rotary pumps found on higher-end models, vibratory pumps are smaller and less expensive. Still, their pump pressure is a bit less stable, and their vibrating operation is louder. They are also incompatible with direct plumbing, so you have to run this machine from the ample 2.7 L water reservoir.
Does it stand out from the crowd?
Two factors make Victoria stand out from its primary competition: models like the Gaggia Classic Pro, Rancilio Silvia, and ECM Casa V.
The first is the programmable preinfusion, not offered by the competitors, making for better extraction and thus more flavourful espresso, according to all-around coffee expert Michael Teahan (2).
Pre-infusion is a method of pre-soaking all the water that’s in the puck at a reduced pressure so that the grounds are evenly saturated to mitigate any effects of channelling.
The second is PID temperature control (3). Using a PID instead of a pressure stat means a more accurate temperature with fewer fluctuations. With the Victoria, you can set both the brew and steam temperatures separately with the PID.
User-friendliness – 4/5
Like all VIP line models, Victoria uses Lelit’s proprietary electronic control system, the LCC. This gives it the most digital control of any machine in its class, which means you’re getting a lot of functionality in a small and easy-to-use package.
With the LCC, you can set the PID temperature for both brewing and steaming and program the pre-soak. When you pull a shot, the high-res LCD screen automatically acts as a shot timer. This is a feature you wouldn’t necessarily think you need, but I guarantee you’ll be glad to have it.
There’s a handy pressure gauge on the front panel so you can monitor the boiler pressure, and it’s even backlit, in case you’re brewing on a dark early morning.
Milk Frothing – 3/5
As with any single boiler machine, milk frothing is not a priority for Victoria. That doesn’t mean it isn’t totally capable of steaming cafe-quality microfoam; it is. But this machine isn’t designed for a latte lover for the simple reason that latte lovers don’t usually opt for SBDU espresso machines.
That said, it only takes about 2 minutes for the machine to reach steaming temperature after pulling a shot of espresso, which is plenty quick enough in most cases.
The stainless steel steam wand is fully articulating and comes with a 1-hole tip. It’s not double-walled, so be warned that it will get hot like most machines with a compact design, the steam wand doubles as the hot water tap. However, Victoria has a nice added feature where you can set the water temperature using the PID. This is a surprising bonus in a machine at this price.
The steaming system isn’t the most powerful in its class. It won’t keep up with the ECM Casa V, for example. But you’re still looking at only about 30 seconds to steam enough milk for a latte, which I’d say is just fine in an average home setting.
Build Quality – 3.5/5
Lelit espresso machines are Italian designed and built, so you can trust that the quality is high (4). Of course, for an entry-level model, some sacrifices are always made to balance quality with price. But an excellent job has been done here in choosing what to prioritize.
The outer casing is an elegant and durable brushed stainless steel, which is easy to keep clean. Often manufacturers will skimp on the drip tray, using iron that eventually rusts, but Lelit has wisely opted for steel here as well.
The footprint is very compact, at just 22.5 cm wide by 27 cm deep. And at 38 cm high, it will fit easily under your upper cupboards with enough room to spare to make use of the top cup warmer.
Compared with some of Lelit’s lower-end models, a big selling point is the commercial-size 58 mm diameter portafilter.
A standard-sized portafilter makes it much easier to buy those must-have accessories like a tamper, leveller, or naked portafilter.
The portafilter is equipped with Lelit’s proprietary Coffee Slide spout, which has earned raves from coffee lovers. The unique design is beautiful to look at and claims to contribute to a richer crema atop your espresso.
There are a few things I’d like to see upgraded on this model. The knob for the steam/water wand feels a little shoddy when compared with the rest, though it works just fine. Also, because of the vibratory pump, the drip tray tends to shake when you’re pulling a shot, so much so that an unattended espresso cup can dance its way right off.
Then there are the accessories, which, as I mentioned, are easy to purchase thanks to the 58 mm commercial filter basket with an ergonomic handle. The Victoria only comes with a double basket, and it would be nice to see a single included as well. It also comes with what the company describes as a “temporary plastic tamper.” I’d love to see them offer a “permanent metal tamper” instead.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
Because you can’t plumb to a water line, the main day-to-day maintenance is managing the water systems, which is very simple. Just keep the water tank full and the drip tray empty. The LCC will warn you when the reservoir is getting low, and at 880 ml, the drip tray is large enough you’ll probably only need to empty it once a day.
As with all espresso machines, you’ll want to use filtered water and backflush regularly to avoid more costly maintenance down the road. It comes with a backflush disc.
The Victoria is equipped with a 3-way solenoid valve, which avoids pressure build-up behind the portafilter. If you’ve ever pulled out a portafilter only to have it sneeze sloppy coffee sludge all over you and the counter, you’ll appreciate this feature. Your coffee pucks will be dry and easy to knock into a knock box.
Besides offering more precise temperature control, using a PID instead of a pressure stat has the bonus of better longevity. While PIDs are solid-state, pressure stats are mechanical components that can break and often do. Indeed, this is one of the first parts to fail on older machines.
Do Not Buy If…
You make a lot of milk drinks: This is the obvious one. If you plan on making a lot of lattes and cappuccinos, you’ll regret buying a single boiler machine. Instead, consider spending a little more for a heat exchanger like Lelit’s Mara. or go all-in on a double boiler like the Lelit Bianca or Elizabeth.
You want something with a built-in grinder: Grinding your coffee fresh is critical for a great espresso, but we don’t all have space or budget for a separate espresso grinder. Rather than buying ground coffee, check out the Lelit Kate, which is very similar to the Victoria but with an integrated burr grinder.
You don’t care about the PID: If you don’t think you’ll taste the difference from a PID, there are wiser ways to spend your money. The ECM Casa V is the same price as the Victoria but with the arguably better build quality. Or save money by opting for something like the Rancilio Silvia.
The Lelit Victoria PL91T is a beautiful and compact single-boiler espresso maker well worthy of your attention. With PID temperature control and programmable pre-infusion, it distinguishes itself from others in its class. As long as you’re not a latte fiend, it’s one of the best options for breaking into prosumer-grade espresso machines.
- Haydon, M. (2018, December 10). Understanding the Different Types of Espresso Machine. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/12/understanding-the-different-types-of-espresso-machine/
- Joseph, H. (2019, December 10). Longtime Espresso Pro Michael Teahan on Pre-Infusion, the Problem with SO, and Much More. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/12/10/longtime-espresso-pro-michael-teahan-on-pre-infusion-the-problem-with-so-and-much-more/
- Soper, M. (2017, July 27). What is a PID loop? Retrieved from https://www.setra.com/blog/what-is-a-pid-loop
- Greaves, E. (2016, April 19). A short history of the Italian Espresso. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2016/04/the-history-of-italian-espresso-do-you-know-your-coffee-history/