I reckon this takes the coffee bean as far as it can go
Positive Product Points
This is a wonderful machine. A commanding presence on anyone's countertop. Shiny. Heavy. No need to hold onto the side when locking in a portafilter. Runs very quiet. Large 2-liter boiler. Frothing ability is night-and-day relative to my previous machine. Using a single-hole Brewtus steam tip, any novice can turn skim milk into meringue with no trouble at all. To my knowledge, this is the only rotary pump-driven machine with an internal reservoir. That's a huge plus for renters like me. Optional drain kit for the drip tray. The absence of an electric solenoid means this machine will continue to function when Mars attacks.
Negative Product Points
Some might call it aesthetically dubious. Too bad the optional wood-panel siding isn't available in the US. Big. This thing has the footprint of a small fridge. Squat. Only 2.5 inches separates the bottom lip of the portafilter spout from the drip tray cover, so I hope you're not too attached to your tulip-style espresso cups. Filling the reservoir is a bother. The entire cup warming tray must be lifted off, and then you either lift the reservoir out (as directed) or else tempt fate with a funnel.
These are just quibbles, though.
For me, it boiled down to this or the Brewtus. In the UK, where the Alex has been available for some time, the Alex costs significantly more than the Brewtus. Here, it's the other way around. Does that mean the Alex is the better value in the US?
Sure, the Alex lacks a Teflon-lined no-burn steam wand. And baked-on milk residue is annoying. But unlike perfluorooctanoic acid, baked-on milk residue isn't a known carcinogen.
The owner's manual indicates that the boiler pressure is set to 1.5 bar at the factory. That would make for protracted cooling flushes, which deplete the water tank in no time. Unless you intend to plumb Alex into the water mains, I would suggest a lower setting. Mine is set at 1.1 bar, which seems fine.
Chris' Coffee was very helpful. Shipping was expedient and product arrived in a pristine state.
Three Month Followup
Trouble-free. Cooling flushes are easy to get the hang of with this machine; thanks to the quiet rotary pump you can practically "hear" when the water temperature is correct. With every espresso as perfect as the next, I've had to find other things to worry about. The steam wand takes 2 seconds to clean, so "no-burn" would be a pointless upgrade. I am a little disappointed at how long it takes to make frou-frou milk drinks for friends. It's not that Alex ever runs out of steam, it's just a lengthy process to put together 2 or 3 lattes on a manual machine. (And then my guests wait for them to go stone-cold before drinking them. Sigh!) I suspect an automatic machine like the Vivaldi would make comparatively quick work of multiple frou-frou drinks. But the Vivaldi needs to be plumbed in. So, there you have it. If you require pourover capability, the Alex is your best bet.