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Reports From the Road
SCAA Long Beach 2007 Day 2
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: May 6, 2007
Article rating: 7.8
feedback: (18) comments | read | write
 
Elektra Second Visit
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:55pm Permalink to this blog entry
Click for larger image
Dr. Fregnan and Instaurator
Talking up the new grinder.
Click for larger image
The new machine
Very usable and impressive.
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Getting into the panel
The hyper control panel.
Click for larger image
Modifying Temps
Nice way of managing temps - set a baseline, and let the barista do incremental changes to that.

My second visit to Elektra's booth came with Instaurator, who I talked up Elektra's grinder to - he was pretty excited to see it.

But mainly, this time around, I got more info about Elektra's other huge product for the show - a brand new machine with a hella lot of features. The machine is designed for the 90% of the market that features PBTCs (persons behind the counter) vs. the 10% with real Baristas, but the machine has a lot of "3rd wave Barista" stuff too. I have some notes, but the following is mostly off the top of my head. I just left Inny at the booth to write this.

I guess the feature they're most proud of is the water system built into this thing. It has a reclamation system for water purification, much simplifying the need to maintain excellent quality water. In fact, water is a big part of this machine's "smarts". You can actually bring in a water expert, and have the machine set up to automatically calcify and mineralize the water to your own specs. And it cleans and maintains things, preventing buildup. Pretty freakin' sweet.

I was much more interested in two aspects - very precise temperature controls in the grouphead, even though it's a heat exchanger machine. Dr. Fregnan of Elektra would not go on the record with some of the magic and science happening inside, but it's obvious a lot of 'geering has gone into this. I'd love to run a Scace on this to check the temperatures, but I believe him when he says its stable.

Control in temps is easy to access via the main panel, going in .25C jumps off the nominal setting. In other words, the tech or cafe owner can set "nominal" at say 96.5C for the grouphead, and then the barista can, on the fly, modify up or down from that spec as the day progresses, and the ambient conditions change how the shot is performing. NICE stuff.

But that barely tips the iceberg. This machine has a LOT of stuff going on inside, and on the panel. It's almost AI -like in its interpretation of "the situation" as the day goes along. Dr. Fregnan showed me one example of this. He underdosed a portafilter, puttin in about 2/3rds the normal coffee volume. He then locked in, and pressed the auto button for "2 short".

Of course, a gusher came out. Normal for that - the volumetric setting programmed for that button would dose out 50mls (or whatever volume they programmed) then stop. And the machine did just that - brewed out into two cups, 25mls each. But it did it in about 13 seconds. And as soon as the shot was done... the panel read "shot underdosed - check dosage / grind on your espresso".

Woah.

Sure, maybe easy enough to program (ie, the machine knows if 50mls comes out in under 20 seconds, show that message), but in a real world cafe, that's gold - the PBTC can call the manager over and say "hey, we have to change the grinder". Nice. I don't know of any other machine that does that.

There's a lot more about this machine. Programmable pressure. Temperature controlled. Really tons of attention paid to usability (ie, mechanical auto buttons; nice lever system for steam and hot water; hot water mix valve; adjustable tray heights; and so much more).

Oh and one other thing I found out at the booth. This year UL changed their requirements for how heating coils in espresso boilers are mounted. This is one of the reasons why La Marzocco's GS/3 is delayed. But Elektra was on top of this - so all their consumer machines - from the Micro Casa a Leva to the Nivola, have gotten a retool. And the Micro Casas have become more end-user friendly. No more situations where if the therm goes, you have to send the machine in - a new safety reset is built into the bottom. And the design inside the base is much "cleaner" now, and easier to service.

Article rating: 7.8
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: May 6, 2007
feedback: (18) comments | read | write
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