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Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Le'Lit PL41EM:...  
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h3yn0w
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h3yn0w
Joined: 28 Oct 2010
Posts: 158
Location: Canada

Posted Thu Oct 28, 2010, 1:01pm
Subject: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

Here's my situation. I have a Lelit PL41EM (i.e. the one with the pressure guage). I also own a Vario grinder. I use fresh beans (2-14 days from roasting).

My shots have been on the bitter side, and I think it related to two challenges with this machine.

1/ Boiler temp is very hot. I've never measured it, but I get a lot of steam coming from the group head when I run water through.
2/ OPV on this machine is set around 11bar, and it not adjustable.

Regarding #1, I think I can work around this with a 2-3 second cooling flush. It's #2 which I am more concerned about, and here is why.

Let's consider the perfect double shot to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-2.5 ounces in 25 seconds, with 9 bars of pressure. If I dial in my grind and tamp to get 9 bar (which I read off the built in pressure gauge) , I get a shot in under 20 seconds. If I grind finer and/or tamp harder to get that time up to 25 seconds or so, suddenly my pressure also goes up to around 11 bar.

The problem with 11 bar? Well, I think it's making it much harder to avoid channeling. Also, I get bitterness in my shots which I can't seem to work out. Some of this is due to issue #1 above, and the cooling flushing is helping.

So I guess my question is, is it possible to pull a 25 second 2-2.5 ounce shot out of this machine WITHOUT using 11 bar of pressure?  Is it my machine that is limited, or is it my technique? I'm hoping it's the latter in which case this thread can be moved to Q&A:)

Thanks.
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Rob55
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Rob55
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Location: Canton, Ohio
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Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
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Posted Thu Oct 28, 2010, 2:34pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

I am going to follow this with great interest. I have 2 threads on here...1 asking for help picking a machine and grinder, the other with somewhat the same concerns, although it sounds like you know far more about this then I do. It sounds like you are encountering the same things as I am in terms of .... grind and tamp and time... I have no clue what pressures I am getting since I have the QE. I did get 4 consecutive excellent shots earlier this week although not at 25 seconds. I was down dosed to around 16.5G and probably had the grind almost too fine.

As far as the temp.... and I suppose it is stupid for me to give any sort of advice since I am so new to this ...... I found that if I open the steam wand a let off any steam that has built up, then run a second or 2 through the grouphead and portafilter... the ready light goes out... I then grind and tamp... the ready light comes back on while I am doing this...when I am all set to pull the shot I again open the steam wand letting off any built up steam then shut it and pull the shot. When I time it right the light goes back out about 2/3 of the way through the shot and I get a much better tasting shot.... if I don't let the steam out I get bitter.

I get the same thing though...a fast shot and or sprays (which I guess is channeling) or slower with a finer grind and again channeling. The 4 very good ones I got were all around 16.5G tamped pretty firm and pulled in 22 or 23 seconds. Wish I could get adjusted back to that... sigh.

BTW... I also have the Vario
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h3yn0w
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h3yn0w
Joined: 28 Oct 2010
Posts: 158
Location: Canada

Posted Thu Oct 28, 2010, 9:23pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

Thanks Rob.

I'm pretty new to this as well, so I appreciate all the help I can get. I'll give the steam wand/temp process you describe below a shot to see if that helps dial out some bitterness.  

Let me know if you make any progress. I'll do the same:)

I've read differing opinions on the OPV pressure. Some say a cutoff at 9 bar is what you want it set at, others say it's better higher and let your grind/tamp control the pressure. If the latter is true, I suppose that makes the Lelit capable but sensitive to user error. I just want some confirmation that the machine is capable of "perfect" shots. And by that I don't mean the elusive "god shot", i just mean a technically perfect shot.
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Rob55
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Rob55
Joined: 6 Oct 2010
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Location: Canton, Ohio
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
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Posted Sat Oct 30, 2010, 12:54pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

well Dan... looks like no one wants to comment. I had a little trouble drawing comments too. Its strange because its obvious this is a very helpful group. I am not sure if its that we are so new to the espresso thing that its really hard to be of much help OR if not enough people own the Lelit to be able to address the problem. I hope you are having better luck with the temperature. I seem to be getting consistent pulls if I make the ready light go out.... and when it comes back on opening the steam wand....this bleeds of the steam made during the reheat..... then draw shot right away. I have had 3 shots in a row today that A) didn't spray and B) were not bitter.... all were right at 17G and took a little longer at 35 seconds to get my shot....very dark then tiger stripped, then lightning up and shut down just at blonde.... all 3 were excellent leaving me wanting another ... LOL

patience ... someone will eventually chime in ... and I have found all the info posted to me very useful.... BTW... I had better luck as soon as I went to the WDT method.
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h3yn0w
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h3yn0w
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Posts: 158
Location: Canada

Posted Sun Oct 31, 2010, 1:01pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

Thanks Rob. Maybe we need a PL41 owners thread for everyone to share tips and tricks with this machine.  
I've had more success the past couple of days with my shots. Nice crema, not too bitter or sour. I still find the extraction a bit too fast if I grind/tamp for exactly 9 bar pressure. But I'll keep tweaking and experimenting.

A couple of questions for you...

I've been trying your steam wand suggestion and I'm liking it so far. How long do you run the steam wand before your shot? Is there a specific amount of time or do you just wait for the steam to stop?

What is the approximate volume of your 35 second shot? I noticed that if I run the steam just before my shot, it takes a couple of seconds before water starts to exit the group head when I start the shot. This could be why your time seems a bit long.

Also, I'm just curious .. but what settings are you using on  Vario (macro dial, micro dial, timer)?
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Endo
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Posted Sun Oct 31, 2010, 1:18pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

Rob55 Said:

well Dan... looks like no one wants to comment. I had a little trouble drawing comments too. Its strange because its obvious this is a very helpful group.

Posted October 30, 2010 link

OK. I'll bite.

I used the PL41EM for a few days. Nice little machine. Seems to hit a good niche at $500.

I must say though, I was a bit put off by the high temp (steam) and high pressure as well.

Like you, I was able to lower the temp with a 2 or 3 sec cooling flush. Just long enough for the steam to go away. This is one method, and I assume with practice timing the light and using cooling flushes, you could easly live with it. The alternative is to spend $150 and install an Auber PID. Although, that would  be a rather big cost for such an inexpensive machine (although PIDs are great IMO).

And, it still doesn't solve the pressure issue. I'm pretty sure it is not easily adjustable either. On the other hand, I'm not totally convinced you actually get 11 bar at the actual grouphead (as opposed to what the installed gauge says). I would first try making a cheap pressure gauge for the portafilter using brass pressure fittings and and a gauge from Home Depot. I made mine for about $15.

Even if you can't adjust the pressure, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Pressure is not as big a factor as temp. You'll get more variation from coffee freshness and technique as well.
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Rob55
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Rob55
Joined: 6 Oct 2010
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Location: Canton, Ohio
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Cuisinart
Posted Sun Oct 31, 2010, 8:10pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

my machine was $399... the QE model.

What I do with the steam wand.... I draw off some hot water into my cup... and do a quick flush through the group head. This almost always makes the ready light go out.... I grind tamp and get ready.... the light is always back on by then. I then open the steam wand and leave it open until the steam/water is just a trickle or slows significantly. I've never timed it. Anyhow I then draw the shot right away. If the light stays on until at least halfway through the pull I usually get a good shot. My shots are a good 2 ounces after the crema settles at 35 seconds. If I pull to a 2 ounce cup my time is a bit shorter of course and I end up with somewhere around 1.75.

The Vario.... well now I am not sure how this will match with yours. My vario out of the box did NOT have the motor change tone with both macro and micro all the way up.... so according to the instructions I had to adjust it. I did indeed adjust, but I stayed a little away from their suggested setting. I think they want the motor to slow a bit or change sounds with macro all the way up and micro around half. Mine is set so that it doesn't change until around 3/4 up on the micro.

Anyhow.... it seems that either the day the bean is ground from roast makes a large difference... or my Vario doesn't repeat weight very well. The fineness of the grind seems to vary a bit also, so I am constantly making small adjustments. Having said all that. I got 17 grams at 10.1 seconds on my last shot today. The macro is all the way to the top and the micro is on the 8th line down from the top...thats counting the curved line at the very top as 1..... I pulled it into a 2 ounce cup... got it at around 28 sconds with the first drips around 6 seconds...... no spray..centered in the portafilter with the flow slowing down and slightly blonding as the cup filled. Sometimes I get a bit of a bitter taste on the first sip, but then the bitterness is gone for the rest of the cup... the really good ones I get no bitterness at all. I still am not sure what I am getting is the "right" result, but I like the flavors I am getting so I guess it doesn't matter. I always drank cappuccinos before and mine are wonderful from this machine... but I am finding more and more I just drink the espresso.

What are your settings and time on the Vario? Tomorrow I will try and time my steam flush to see how long... but I think a lot depends on how long it took me to get the machine ready to pull the shot... sometimes I take too long and have to make the light go out again.... if you get NO steam from the wand... the light will go out very early in the shot ...and so I think it is too low a temp.

Thank you Endo for your post!!!
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h3yn0w
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h3yn0w
Joined: 28 Oct 2010
Posts: 158
Location: Canada

Posted Sun Oct 31, 2010, 8:47pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

I'm in the same ballpark on my Vario. Macro all the way up and micro down 11 bars I think.

Before getting the Le'lit I had read that PIDs on this machine don't help as drastically as some other machines, most notably the the Silvia. This is due to the narrower "deadband" and slightly more powerful heating element on the Le'lit. I.E. Temperature surfing isn't as important as on the Silvia. I think flushing a bit of that extra hot water out is all it takes.

Pulled a few more very good shots tonight. I'm getting there :)
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Endo
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Posted Mon Nov 1, 2010, 4:07pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

h3yn0w Said:

Before getting the Le'lit I had read that PIDs on this machine don't help as drastically as some other machines, most notably the the Silvia. This is due to the narrower "deadband" and slightly more powerful heating element on the Le'lit. I.E. Temperature surfing isn't as important as on the Silvia. I think flushing a bit of that extra hot water out is all it takes.

Posted October 31, 2010 link

Aren't all these thermastats the same? Perhaps it only seems like the Le'Lit has a narrower deadband only because it heats up quicker? (I'm just guessing here).

In any case, deadband is not the main reason for installing a PID here. It's so that you can lower the temp setting. Also, different beans like different temps. So it adds some flexibility for experimentation as well (one of the reasons I added a PID to my Silvia and also why I later upgraded to a Vivaldi).
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CoffeeRon
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Posted Mon Nov 1, 2010, 4:51pm
Subject: Re: Le'Lit PL41EM: Machine limitations or is it just me?
 

Since I don't have any experience with the Le'lit, I can't offer much in advice. I did want to comment though that replacing the OPV with an adjustable one shouldn't be much of a hassle. Maybe look for one of the Gaggias. Just guessing but I would think there would be plenty of room for the swap so it wouldn't be to big a deal. Just my 2 cents--- Ron
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