Yesterday I said goodbye to my Londinium R. Sad day? Possibly, possibly not, but if you're thinking of buying one or already have one, it may (may!) be a semi-interesting read. Here I intend to give an honest, non-biased review from MY perspective as a high-end home user.
If you stumbled upon this thread and either haven't got the time, can't be bothered or aren't really interested, the short version is this: The Londinium R is an EXCELLENT lever machine, undoubtedly the best you can get, however, I didn't find it to be the easiest machine to use or live with, it has its quirks and although will certainly produce excellent espresso, relies on a great deal of care, consistency and patience from the user (and a good grinder!) to get the excellent shots the Londinium is famed for!
Why did I buy a Londinium R?
For a bit of background, and why I chose the Londinium (Lever) please see this thread. I want to try and avoid repeating what I've already posted!
When I first opened the box back in May last year and built the thing, I was very impressed at what is a beautifully elegant machine. I fired it up, and spent the evening pulling some TERRIBLE shots. What could go wrong probably did! Anyway, it took a bit of experimentation, and some huge technique changes (for the better of course) to realise that on the LR, especially with VST baskets, the grind, distribution and tamp weight is crucial to getting a good shot. Once I'd spent a few days experimenting, and once I'd 'got it', the shots then got better, until they were very nice indeed.
At this point (having owned the LR a week or so) I was hugely impressed with the output and very much enjoyed using it.
This was not the time to write an impartial review!
I Stuck with it, gave it a few more months, used it, drank coffee, thought about it and enjoyed it. Once the 'new gadget [rose tinted] owners goggles' had gone I decided to put 'pen to paper' with my thoughts on it! Here goes...
What did I like about it?
Taste of the espresso (10/10) -When the shots came out well, the flavour and taste of the espresso was stunning. Much better than anything you will get from most commercial coffee shops (especially the ghastly chains). However, getting these super shots required regular use and perfect grind and distribution.
Simplicity (8.5/10) -No settings (apart from the pre-infusion pressure) to worry about. I like a coffee machine to make good coffee without lots of settings and constant messing about, and the LR was pretty much there. A pressure profiling machine (like the Vesuvius) would NOT be for me!
Build Quality/Reliability (10/10) -In the 9 months I owned it, it didn't give me a single reliability issue at all. Not one! Also it looks and feels like an exceptionally well built piece of equipment, and the insides are a work of art!
Looks -As previously stated the LR is an elegant machine. It's fairly big (for the home) but the polished finish looks great (although mine usually had a towel over it for protection). No problems here. Not going to give this a score out of 10 as it is entirely subjective and doesn't really warrant one!
What didn't I like about it?
Warm up time -It takes a GOOD hour to warm up fully before good shots can be pulled. I used to test if it was fully warmed up by checking the end of the lever nearest the handle. If this was warm, generally I was good to go.
Joysticks -For the steam and water, personally I prefer valves with knobs that turn rather than the joysticks. I find I have more control over the steam and hot water pressure as it leaves the machine. The ones fitted to the LR are not bad, just not MY preference. I PERSONALLY much prefer valves.
Pressurestat -A PID would have been better IMHO, simply because the constant (loud) clicking of the pressurestat annoyed me. It annoyed me from the first day to the last.
Further Discussion on the things I didn't like.
Right, I'm very well aware there are some HUGE LR fans on here, and some have probably vented some steam from their nose and ears when reading the dislikes. However, let me explain.
I'm trying to make this review as impartial as possible, and give a BALANCED view of MY EXPERIENCE of the LR and how it was FOR ME. What works or doesn't work for ME personally, might be completely different for you or the next person, but please bear in mind it is purely my thoughts and feelings about it, not anyone elses.
Warm up Time
As stated, and is fairly common knowledge, the LR takes a good hour or so to warm up fully, dependent on ambient conditions. I was not prepared to turn it on every morning on the 'off chance' that I may feel like a coffee at some point, and certainly wasn't prepared to leave it on overnight on the 'off chance' I got called to work. I also wasn't keen on leaving it on when I wasn't in the house, although on the occasions I did it was absolutely fine. This said, once it had been turned on it stayed on until the end of the day, as there is no sense in turning it on and off.
This meant for me quite often I didn't have time to wait for it to warm up (as I work on call, and get 1 hour to get to work from getting said call) and secondly a lot of times when I wanted to use it (mainly for friends who turn up unannounced or at very short notice), it would be turned off and waiting 1 hour for it to warm up simply wasn't convenient. In both of these situations I resorted to a V60 pour over and the LR didn't get used.
As time went on, especially after the novelty had worn off, turning the LR on and warming it up to then make 1 or 2 espressos, seemed a bit pointless. Again, unless I had a reason to make more than 1 or 2 drinks, I'd resort to using the V60. I am someone who REALLY enjoys a good espresso, but certainly don't chain drink coffee all day like some. I like to go for quality over quantity!
So the last month, the machine was turned on maybe 3 or 4 times, and MAYBE in that time was used to make 12 espressos (around 250g of coffee or 1 bag, allowing for dialling it in). I'd thought a lot about it, and although I loved the machine, with this amount of use it wasn't getting it was just wasted with me, so after much deliberation I came to the conclusion that it would be much better going to a home where it got the use it deserved.
When I was looking at getting a high end espresso machine, people raved about the joysticks (as opposed to turn-valves). Personally they're not for me. I would choose turn valves over joysticks every time as I feel I get more control over what I'm doing, and can more easily have them half open rather than all-or-nothing.
This, however, was not the primary reason for selling the LR, as they can be changed, and if this was the ONLY dislike, I would have installed turn valves for sure.
Regular and Frequent Use
In the 'pros' section, I mentioned that to get the best out of this machine, you need to use it regularly and frequently.
I found, in the last 9 months if I used the machine every day, all that would be required as the beans and ambient conditions (temperature, humidity etc) changed would be a very small tweak to either the grind or tamp weight, which usually entailed tightening up the grind slightly as the beans aged, depending on the beans, and tamping slightly harder. This meant that most shots were very good and even the first one of the day was perfectly drinkable if it wasn't always perfect.
However, if the machine was not used every day, I would find that there would be a much bigger change in the beans and conditions, which would essentially necessitate dialling in the shot again from scratch before getting quality coffee. Using the 'last known good settings' after a week of the machine and beans being stood, didn't usually work! This meant a bit much messing about and a lot of wasted coffee.
This infrequent use, as mentioned above, ultimately came down to the warm up time from cold.
If you're reading this conclusion, you've either skipped straight to it, or managed to stay awake long enough to read the whole review (if you didn't, you need more coffee!!).
So to sum up, the Londinium R is a SUPERB machine, and Reiss has done an excellent job developing something quite unique to the market, that works well, is well built and produces stunning coffee. However, at the moment it is not the machine that works best for me, and I would much prefer a machine with a quicker warm up time, that would get more use than the LR got.
If anyone has any questions I'll answer as best I can!!