Over the year plus that I had this machine, I've put it head to head with a lot of different devices, and I've had a lot of commentary from a lot of different testers and evaluators. So much so that it will be a challenge to present it all here. In one test session, I had the evaluators all score various aspects of the machine, and I'll list that below. For most of the evaluators, I have comments on audio file, and I'll quote some of the most notable ones below.
The scoring test group
I had one session early on with the Elektra Semiauto that were asked to provide scores for the machines they evaluated. This test group was made up of Toby Mitchell, Chris Haywood, Jeanette Chan and Adam Loukanas. The Microcasa Semiautomatica was stacked up against the Isomac Millennium, the Pasquini Livia, and the Expobar Office Pulser.
Usability and Aesthetics
This test was very subjective. Each participant was asked to rate the machines on several common features - ease of use, intuitive usage, how the person felt while using them machines, overall experience, and a judgment on aesthetics. The numbers shown are the average of all participants.
|Usability and Aesthetics|
|Ease of Use||7.6||8.2||8.5||8.2|
Notes: I feel that the Elektra got a higher score than it probably deserved on the intuitive and ease of use scales - all my testers were fairly intimidated by the machine when they first saw it, and this isn't reflected in the scoring. Once I gave a brief demonstration of how the machine worked, things settled down. The Expobar lost out for looks (not many thought it looked good compared to the other three test machines) and the ease of use scored low due to the lack of a pressurestat gauge.
For this evaluation, we used the same grind, same beans, and same relative brew volumes (to the basket sizes) to evaluate the shots. Yours truly brewed all the shots. I made traditional doubles; that is, two 1oz shots per brew. I asked the evaluators to take notes during the test, but not to score any shots until they tried samples from all machines. I also asked them to make one shot their "10", then base the other shots off that.
|Ranked Shot Quality|
Notes: All testers save for Adam noted the Millennium and Expobar shots were "bitter" and slightly too hot. These are both heat exchanger, e61 machines that I gave a full 7 second "flush" before brewing the test shots. All except for Adam ranked the Elektra as being the best or near the best, but Jeanette gave a slight nod to the Livia shot.
This one took into account dryness of steam, the ability to microfroth, the speed and also the usability of the steam functions on all four machines. The Livia has my own custom modified steam tip, and the Millennium has the aftermarket special tip that everyone considers an upgrade. The numbers shown are the average of all participants.
Notes: It was agreed by all that when it came to steam dryness and microfoam ability, nothing came close to the Elektra. It lost out on usability (non movable arm, angle of arm, etc) and the speed. The Expobar got high marks for the usability because of the 360 degree swivel of the steam wand.
General comments about the Elektra
The following are select comments I've amassed from a variety of testers and observers of the Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica.
Bronwen Serna, Pro Barista, 4th place USBC
"That's so cool!" (first reaction to seeing the machine).
"I think this is a machine I can definitely work with (after brewing a shot)."
Aaron DeLazzer, CG Author, Consultant
"What surprises me is the quality of the shot(s) I got from the machine... it's some of the best shots I've had (in the CG lab). This is the machine that made me think a bit different about home machines." (DeLazzar's "distain" for home machines is well known).
"The design and function of the steam wand is nice. It's slow, but you have control I wished all home machines had."
Jon Lewis, Pro Barista, 2nd Place, USBC
"The look of the machine is definitely sweet."
"I am surprised this shot came from a home machine. I am impressed."
Sammy Piccolo, Pro Barista, Latte Art Champ, Canadian Barista Champ
"This machine matches up well with Black Cat (espresso). I like the way it looks, and handling it is nice. This machine looks serious."
"The microfoam from this is very sweet and consistent. It's slow but it produces excellent microfoam."
Stan Wizcowski, CG Tester
"I don't agree (with the other testers, on another product evaluation), I don't like the look of this machine. It looks too contrived and dangerous. I'm not into exposed plumbing"
"The shot quality is good, but I don't like operating the machine. It moves around too much and it is hard to put the (portafilter) into the machine."
"Steaming is slow but I like the microfoam ability."
Dana Leighton, CG Moderator
"The best shot I've had (from several machines in one sitting) came from the Elektra".
"I like the look, but I don't like the way this slides around the counter."
"The steam arm position is a bit tough to get used to."
Doug Weibe, CG Tester
"The machine is beautiful. It is a work of art."
"These are some of the best shots I've had from an espresso machine."