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Dialing in a Lelit PL041
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shawndo
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shawndo
Joined: 5 Jan 2010
Posts: 106
Location: NYC
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: LM Shot Brewer
Grinder: VL M3/Compak K10 Pro
Posted Sat Jan 23, 2010, 9:56am
Subject: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

Just received this a few days ago and I think I finally got the grind right.  
Now I'm working on the temperature surfing part and I'm getting a bit confused.

I'm imitating the process as described in the Mark Prince video that's in the Rancilio Silvia First Look:

- I flush for one sec, then check if the temperature light comes on. If not, repeat, If so, then wait until it heats all the way.
- After it heats all the way, I flush it until the steamy spitting stops and the flow of water is smooth (1-2 ounces)
- I load the portafilter and as I reach for the brew button, the heat light comes on again!

I'm brand new to this whole espresso game, but if I'm understanding the whole process correctly, this means that either
A - the thermostat is set too high and the bottom of the dead-band is right where I'd want to start brewing
or
B - the boiler capacity is too small to do this flushing stuff so too much room temp water is screwing with the boiler temp

According to 1st-line, the boiler capacity looks to be 7.43 ounces (0.22 liters), which is a few ounces less than the Silvia.  The heating element might take a bit more off of that too.    Now that I reach the end of this, I'm guessing the answer is B.  

I'm guessing temperature surfing needs to be done with patience and a clock instead of flushing.
Can anyone offer a suggestion or confirm my hypothesis?
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,376
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Sat Jan 23, 2010, 12:36pm
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

OK, Shawn, I know I told you to stop reading ;^) but read this:  "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love HXs," by Dan Kehn -- and remember, it's more difficult to describe than it is to do!

I don't time; I flush.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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cappuccinoboy
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Joined: 27 Jun 2009
Posts: 798
Location: MILANO
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Milano pod, Milano fully...
Grinder: grind on demand
Posted Sat Jan 23, 2010, 1:46pm
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

shawndo Said:

Just received this a few days ago and I think I finally got the grind right.  
Now I'm working on the temperature surfing part and I'm getting a bit confused.

I'm imitating the process as described in the Mark Prince video that's in the Rancilio Silvia First Look:

- I flush for one sec, then check if the temperature light comes on. If not, repeat, If so, then wait until it heats all the way.
- After it heats all the way, I flush it until the steamy spitting stops and the flow of water is smooth (1-2 ounces)
- I load the portafilter and as I reach for the brew button, the heat light comes on again!

I'm brand new to this whole espresso game, but if I'm understanding the whole process correctly, this means that either
A - the thermostat is set too high and the bottom of the dead-band is right where I'd want to start brewing
or
B - the boiler capacity is too small to do this flushing stuff so too much room temp water is screwing with the boiler temp

According to 1st-line, the boiler capacity looks to be 7.43 ounces (0.22 liters), which is a few ounces less than the Silvia.  The heating element might take a bit more off of that too.    Now that I reach the end of this, I'm guessing the answer is B.  

I'm guessing temperature surfing needs to be done with patience and a clock instead of flushing.
Can anyone offer a suggestion or confirm my hypothesis?

Posted January 23, 2010 link

some confusion in the air.....
You need to flush HX machines because water in HX tends to get overheated when machine sits idle : boiler steam temperature is about 120C (actually steam temperature varies according to boiler pressure, that you control with pressostat, water is still 100)and the same situation tends to be transmitted with time to the HX (WHEN  thermal siphoning is not enough to keep temperature around 93C), so a flush will re-establish correct temperature in HX (and you may flush to speed up overall heating time of components like portafilter and brew group.....) : you DO NOT flush a single boiler machine because that situation does not happen (and the boiler content is so small as not to give any thermal balance): what you should actually do in SB machines is to open (and close..) the steam tap to discharge some heat overpressure that might have built unwanted.......
Do not compare the Lelit boiler and the Silvia : they are totally different situations where the few ounces difference mean DOUBLE size........
Ciao, Pietro
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billherbst
Senior Member
billherbst
Joined: 6 Jul 2006
Posts: 114
Location: Florence, Oregon
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Expobar Brewtus II
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Ascaso iMini
Vac Pot: Melior French Press
Drip: Melitta Cone
Roaster: Behmor 1600, Poppery II
Posted Sun Jan 24, 2010, 2:56am
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

shawndo,

I used two Le'Lit PL041s (the first was stock, the second professionally PID'd) for 2 1/2 years. Here is the distilled essence of my experience pulling 3,000 shots on those machines. Of course, what follows is Just My Opinion.

Everything about the PL041 is customized toward a single end: to produce reasonably good espresso at home, affordably and dependably. Not perfect espresso, not god shots, but good espresso. And it does that extremely well, with a tried-and-true design using off-the-shelf, consumer-quality components and decent construction, all unified around a modest retail price point.

The PL041 is NOT, however, much improved by user modification of the machine or by altered barista techniques. Want to remove that silly plastic tamper? Knock yourself out. A longer steam wand without that stupid frothing aid? Yes, that will be a real improvement. Anything beyond that, though, is generally useless---including up-dosing, WDT, and (most of all) temp surfing.

The Le'Lit "likes" making doubles (not singles) that use 14-16 grams of ground beans. It "prefers" a middle-of-the-road espresso grind, not too coarse, not too fine, with about a 15-25# tamp depending on the grind and age of the beans. Moving outside that narrow but close-to-standard range of variables fails to improve the quality of espresso produced.

Because of its heavier-duty components, offset boiler/group head, and very wide thermostat deadband, the Silvia may benefit substantially from temp-surfing (or reverse temp-surfing, whatever). I've never owned or used a Silvia, so I can't say. The Le'Lit, on the other hand, is a very forgiving machine from the get-go. Just follow basic procedures (give the machine 10-15 minutes to warm up, or enough time that the portafilter and group head are too hot to touch, then use freshly roasted high-quality beans that are nicely ground with good puck prep), and finally---pull your shot.

Don't worry about where you are in the boiler cycle, or whether the heater element light is on or off. Just pull your shot and enjoy.

Now you can ignore everything I've written, because 1) I may be wrong, and 2) I have a hunch that you're quite enjoying the challenges of mastery and perfection in your new world of espresso.

--Bill
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shawndo
Senior Member
shawndo
Joined: 5 Jan 2010
Posts: 106
Location: NYC
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: LM Shot Brewer
Grinder: VL M3/Compak K10 Pro
Posted Sun Jan 24, 2010, 6:58am
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

I'm looking at this as a learning machine.   At least for now, more than quality, I wanted to eliminate the machine as a reason for inconsistency and make sure it really was me to blame (should the need arise)

I'm inferring from your post that the Lelit has a small deadband and is relatively temperature stable, so I'll just concentrated on my grinding and tamping technique and forget about temperature.

Speaking of, I am getting a pretty soggy puck. I'm putting 16-17 grams in the double basket.  I read the various reasons for this and one of them is that some machines just have soggy pucks.  Is that the case for the PL041 ?  

Great info guys,
thanks
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billherbst
Senior Member
billherbst
Joined: 6 Jul 2006
Posts: 114
Location: Florence, Oregon
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Expobar Brewtus II
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Ascaso iMini
Vac Pot: Melior French Press
Drip: Melitta Cone
Roaster: Behmor 1600, Poppery II
Posted Sun Jan 24, 2010, 10:37am
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

Both my Le'Lits had slightly "stiff" 3-way solenoids. While I never had a portafilter sneeze, my pucks were all over the place from very dry to soggy or covered with 1/8" of water. How long I waited after turning off the pump made some difference. Immediately pulling the portafilter after a shot usually revealed a wet or watery puck. Waiting another 20-30 seconds resulted in a drier puck.

I'd theorize that the state of the used puck is likely a function of grind, dose, tamp, and elapsed time of extraction more than the machine's plumbing. That's true even with my Expobar Brewtus II. Not that there's a simple correspondence between great shots and dry, solid pucks. Some of my best shots ever have been accompanied by messy, soggy pucks.

As for the deadband, my PL041 with PID made it easy to see the temperature drop during a shot---through the temperature of the water inside the boiler isn't as telling as the water temperature inside the puck. I forget the exact numbers, but somewhere around a 15 drop does float through my memory for the Le'Lit.

All SBDU machines with small boilers experience a significant drop-off in temperature during the shot pull (including Le'Lit, Silvia, and the Gaggias, but NOT a machine like the Izzo Alexia). The Silvia is worse because of its offset boiler and group. The relatively weak 800-watt heater on earlier-model Silvias didn't help stability, either. Even the combination of a fast heater and smaller boiler (as in the Le'Lit) can't provide sufficiently quick recovery to maintain temp stability during a shot. This is part of what what makes HXs and double boilers so terrific, among other improvements (like steaming/frothing milk while pulling the shot.

Theoretically, temp surfing should help on the Le'Lit. Pragmatically (and for me at least), it didn't, which actually made me happy. One less variable to worry about and minimize.
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Frost
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Frost
Joined: 26 Jul 2007
Posts: 2,085
Location: Sierra
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Isomac Venus
Grinder: Lelit PL53
Roaster: Poppery I w/variac, MET, BT
Posted Sun Jan 24, 2010, 10:52am
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

Get a thermometer and styrofoam cup. Look up 'styrofoam cup temp test' or some such, and do some tests for yourself to figure out what will get you a reasonable brew temp. Small single boiler saturated group will have significant temperature drop during the shot, so I recommend to always have the heater on during the shot (turn the steam switch on) to help compensate for this. In this regard, the Silvia is likely better behaved as it starts with a much higher boiler temp (to compensate for the cooler grouphead) so .... as the group is heating up, the water from the boiler is dropping... making a delicate (and hopefully predictable ;^) balancing act.

One reason doubles generally pull better than singles is pressure. Without an OPV regulating brew pressures, doubles will be at too high a pressure while singles will be way too high.
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godofgwar
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Joined: 26 Aug 2009
Posts: 147
Location: San Francisco
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Expobar Brewtus
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Drip: Single Dripper/Aeropress
Roaster: Hottop B
Posted Sun Jan 24, 2010, 1:12pm
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

The PL041 is my first machine, and I've been using it for about 6 or 7 months, every day combined with the Lelit grinder. It was a rough learning period of about 2 months, but I agree with what most people have said in this thread. Here are my general tips, which help me pull very good shots on a day-to-day basis:

  • Don't overfill the grind in the portafilter. The screen will get too grindy if you overfill. I usually dose a little bit over the top, then level off. Regardless, make sure you have a good brush, and keep that screen scrubbed.
  • Like others have said, temp surfing doesn't matter all that much. I usually do flush until the light comes on, and start pulling the shot about 5-10 seconds after the light goes off, but that's only because I don't want the light to pop back on at the start of the cycle. It always comes back on during the cycle, but usually not until closer to the end.
  • Don't over tamp, and make sure you crank the portafilter well past 90 degrees. Notice where the sweet spot is and keep it there every time.
  • Remove the frothing aid, throw it in the trash (you've probably done this already). I highly recommend getting a Toroid pitcher. The short wand creates a high curve for microfoam, but it's definitely possible and that pitcher really helped me turn the corner. I might upgrade to the new wand, though I hear it's not much longer. The steam wand is the biggest downside to the Lelit, IMO. Takes a lot more patience. But I do think it's a good machine to learn on because you'll understand exactly what factors go in to getting perfect microfoam.
  • Wait a few minutes after the shot to dump the puck, and it will be nice and dry.

My two cents. Hope this helps!
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mini
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2009
Posts: 98
Location: Atlanta, GA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Le'Lit PL041
Grinder: Mazzer Super Jolly
Drip: (Aerobie Aeropress)
Posted Sun Jan 24, 2010, 1:43pm
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

The Le'lit is my first machine as well.  I've had it since Christmas.  I made the decision early on to not worry too much about temperature, at least until I control some other variables.  Seems to be working pretty well so far.  I'm under the impression that the deadband might be smaller than other comparable machines.

I think that since the boiler is so small, you should definitely not "flush" room temp. water in to adjust temperature.  I think a much better technique, if you really wanted more control, would be to time out a wait period after the light comes on, like you suggested.  I find my shots to be a bit harsh if I pull right after the boiler light turns off.  I'm assuming this means the temperature is too high for my blend.  I usually start grinding right after the light goes off, and things seem to work out pretty well with the timing and temperature.  The light comes back on mid-shot, but I don't think it's a problem.

My pucks are always wet.  I stopped trying to knock them out right after brewing.  After I finish steaming they seem to be dry enough.

I have to crank the PF handle really far.  Like 105 degrees or something.  Seems to work fine though.

Oh, and microfoam is definitely possible with the stock wand (minus aider).  The main problem with it is how milk dries in all the corners.

 
Matt
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shawndo
Senior Member
shawndo
Joined: 5 Jan 2010
Posts: 106
Location: NYC
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: LM Shot Brewer
Grinder: VL M3/Compak K10 Pro
Posted Sun Jan 24, 2010, 5:58pm
Subject: Re: Dialing in a Lelit PL041
 

Shot diagnosis..  
Flavor first.  It's more bitter than I like, but the only good espresso I have to compare it to is Ninth Street and Stumptown and various other big names in town, so maybe that level of espresso isn't realistic on this little guy.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxsBVugaiqg

I'm getting a lot of crema, but I'm not sure if its just light in color, or if it's blonding really early.  1st-line is out of portafilters and I can't think of a way to get a bottomless for better diagnosis.  

Can someone take a look and offer an opinion on if this is a typical Lelit shot?  The coffee is Moore's Palermo, ordered last Monday, received on Thursday.  It was raining outside today and the grind was a little clumpy.  I'm blaming that on the rain! (wasn't that a milli vanilli song?)  

anyway, thanks for any help!
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