Buy it, especially if you are upgrading from a disposable machine. You will be happy with it if you take the time to learn the process.
Positive Product Points
quality, well built product, easy to service, consistent machine. makes good foam, allows for small changes to increase quality of shot.
Negative Product Points
requires practice to make good espresso.
I've had my Lelit PL041 and PL53 grinder for about 6 months now and have waited to do this review until I had a good feel for the machine. I couldn't be happier with this machine. It has been reliable, consistent and makes amazing espresso. It does take practice to make good espresso, but I think people tend to blame the machine when the fault is their own. You will learn to make great espresso with this, just be patient and realize that it's a process like any other that takes time to perfect.
First, the machine did begin to leak from the steam tip, but the fix was extremely easy and cheap. Second, I just replaced the portafilter gasket which was also quite easy and cheap. I've been descaling regularly and using cleaner to get rid of coffee buildup every two weeks or so. All of these tasks are simple and good to do. We pull about 4 double shots a day for 6 oz cappuchinos.
We had upgraded to this machine from a Hamilton Beach espresso machine. I wanted something that would not only make good espresso, but would be serviceable and would last for quite a long time. The machine is very solid and so far the servicing has been exactly what I wanted. I felt there was no reason to spend $250 on a machine which would have to be tossed if anything broke. 1st-line does a great job with documenting the servicing. They also were outstanding to send me a replacement part for free when I stupidly broke it.
After getting the machine I went out and bought a bunch of cheap coffee to try and get a feel for the pulls. We bought the combo grinder PL53 and it did take quite a bit of practice to dial it in. I'm sure a veteran barista would have got it quicker than I, but for the newbie it is quite challenging to grasp which aspect of the process is going wrong. It only took a day and about 2-3 pounds of coffee to really get the dial set properly on the grinder and get good at tamping. I highly recommend buying cheap coffee for this as you will waste a lot of good coffee getting everything correct. I felt it took about a month to get consistent and even now I pull a shot or two a week that needs to be dumped. This is not a statement on the machine, but on the barista.
The grinder does an very good job, I do get some clumping, but I use WDT and this seems to take care of any distribution issues (and significantly increased the success of my shots). The grinder is definitely loud, but that is not a big deal to me as the combo price for the machine and grinder was very good. The stepless grinder is a very good feature and one that I think would be tough to live without when making espresso.
Having only one boiler is definitely annoying sometimes. After making your shot it takes about 1-2 minutes for the steam to heat up which might not sound like long but when you are looking forward to drinking your espresso it is sometimes a while. But, for the price of a double boiler to save an extra 60 seconds? I dunno if I can justify spending another $500 for convenience. Learning to steam properly also takes practice, but this machine does make good wet foam. I would not recommend steaming first, my shots all pull poorly when I do it in this order. I think it makes the machine too hot.
It does react to small changes that are made which allows you to dial in to what you want, but if you are not mindful of what you are doing can make poor coffee. I like that level of control, others might not. After dialing in my grinder I rarely change it, and can usually adjust my dose to get the shots to pull properly. All in all an extremely good machine which I think will be around for many years.