|After two years of solid operation, I still really enjoy this machine.
|David Powsner, Feb 4, 2008
More of David Powsner's Review:
After many years of consumer-level automatics and semi-automatics and 1.5 years of a La Pavoni Europiccola, we splurged on the Elektra Microcasa last year. I expected a machine that would be as easy to operate as the lower-class semi-autos we've had...
|The Microcasa perfectly blends the art and science of making a perfect espresso.
|Bliss Ireland, Jan 3, 2005
More of Bliss Ireland's Review:
I purchased the Elektra Microcasa primarily on the strength of CoffeeGeek's exhaustive (1 year) and very detailed review (see CoffeGeek's product review, March 2004); and the pre-customer service I received from 1st-Line - providing me, a novice...
|6 Reviews have been written for the MicroCasa Semi Automatica so far by our members.
This is one of the longest reviews we've done on CoffeeGeek, both in terms of time involved and testing performed. We've had the machine for over a year and have used it for about 5.5 months total, under low, medium and high volume usage. We've purposely left the Elektra Semiauto on 24/7 and not used it for two weeks (note to self - don't do this again without checking the reservoir levels - the water will evaporate over a 2 week period, if the reservoir is less than full). We've powered it up and brewed as soon as the ready lamp goes off. We put the machine through more rigorous paces, attempting to pull perfect God shots of espresso with precisely measured, dosed and tamped amounts of coffee, special attention to the temperatures of the brewing water, all the geeky stuff we could throw at the machine basically. We've used the machines in group sessions, against other machines including a La Marzocco commercial machine, and even against the lowest priced heat exchangers available today.
So what's the result of all this testing? This published document of course. Here's an overview of what we've done and what we present in this Detailed Review for the Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica
- History of Elektra and the Product
We find out the scoop on Elektra the company and the history of the Microcasa Semiautomatica (see it on this page).
- Detailed Machine Statistics
We give you every possible spec we can measure or find regarding this machine. We also give details on how we tested, what tools and products we used to evaluate the machine, and our approximate testing periods.
- Initial Days
Going back about a year, we'll recount our first thoughts and experiences with the machine.
- Operation of the Semiautomatica
The machine can be daunting to people not familiar with it, but it really does work just like any other supercharged espresso machine - we'll walk you through the use of the machine, including some tips and tricks we've discovered.
This machine is slightly higher in maintenance than your typical machine, mainly due to the aesthetics. We give you the full scoop on how to keep it running long time, sailor!
Here's the techie and geeky part of the review, where we talk about the machine's ability to perform at the extreme edges of usability, as well as in normal day to day use. We analyse everything from frothing times to the effect the reservoir water's heat buildup has on shot performance.
The fun part of our review, where we compare and contrast the Semiautomatica against other machines in the HX class. We also get a bunch of guinea pi... uh, extremely helpful testers together and gather their thoughts.
- Long Term Commentary
For this review, I'll be giving my own thoughts on the long term usability of this machine, and how it's stood up after a year's worth of on again, off again testing.
We wrap up our Detailed Review by rounding up our thoughts on the machine, giving our final opinions, and rating the product.
History of Elektra and the Product
Elektra was founded by Umberto Fregnan in 1947 in Treviso, Italy, under the name of La Tarvisium, which was also the name of the first commercial machine produced by the company. It was a spring lever espresso machine, two groups, designed for cafe use.
In the early 1950s, Elektra experimented with various hydraulic espresso machines to bring more consistency to high pressure espresso, but the lever and spring design proved solid and more viable, and with its continued production run of the lever machines, Elektra became known as a small espresso machine company that produced beautiful and highly functional products.
Beauty seems to always a driving force with Elektra, and to this day they make some of the most aesthetically pleasing machines on the market. The Elektra Nivola, for example, is a strikingly good looking, unique machine design. The other machines in the Microcasa series, notably the Microcasa a Leva and Mini Verticale, are literally museum quality machines, while remaining fully functional (and of course, available for purchase).
The commercial machines, including the Barlume (designed to look similar to Elektra's first machine, but also to mimic the look and style of any 1950s style machine, while using state of the art components) and the Belle Epoque (which mimics the look but not the original function of the original "espresso" machines from 1910 and 1920) are designed not only to be highly functional, but also are literal centerpieces for a "high art" cafe or restaurant. Other companies may indeed produce "better" machines, but few if any make more beautiful machines.
Elektra's most notable jump into the home market started with their Microcasa series: a Leva (spring piston lever) was introduced around 1960, around the same time as Pavoni introduced its Europiccola lever machine. The Microcasa had the early Pavoni beat - it was bigger, was a "steam on demand" machine, and featured technology that Pavoni wouldn't even begin to incorporate until 1974 with the launch of their Professional machine. And it was spring piston based, which gave creater consistency to the shots, when compared to Pavoni's direct lever model.
In 1982, the company introduced the Microcasa Semiautomatica, which is (as far as my research can tell) the oldest continuing heat exchanger home machine on the market. A lot of the company's commercial machine knowledge went into this, and the Fregnans saw a potential for this kind of level of performance in the home. Mind you, they didn't sell a lot, especially outside of Italy - it was possibly a machine that came before its time. The company is tight lipped on sales numbers, but some research I've done (and some discussions with oldschool Elektra vendors in N. America) indicate the model was a special-order item that only sold in limited numbers.
This slowly changed in the 1990s. As the decade wore on, the machine became more popular with commercial Elektra owners (the machines they had in their cafes and restaurants), and a few N. American espresso specialist shops started stocking and displaying the machine which is a good thing: to see an Elektra machine is to want one... pictures rarely do the product justice.
And as the big explosion in both availability and demand for prosumer, heat exchanger equipped machines that started at the beginning of this century continues to gain steam, it looks like the Elektra Semiauto is poised for a take off. The oldest continuous heat exchanger machine for the consumer may finally get the attention it deserves.