The machine will make 160 cups an hour--I've only been able to drink four or five.
Positive Product Points
After years of trying to get a perfect espresso with bargain machines, we got the Astra for our kitchen remodel. It's great for cappuccino and espresso--everything we hoped for. I understand that Robek's Juices in Los Angeles has purchased some 400 Astras for it's shops.
Negative Product Points
The machine was expensive, but it is a professional machine used in commercial venues.
Since coffee is very important to us, our kitchen designer presented us with three brochures from different espresso machine manufacturers. On the basis of aesthetics and other features, size, capacity,ease of use, (we assumed they'd all work well) we chose the Astra. We also liked the idea that the manufacturer was in Los Angeles county in case we needed service or repairs. The engineer of the machine and the owner of the company was kind enough to open the factory on a Sunday so we could visit, which we did, accompanied by our designer.
The owner gave us a tour of his immaculate factory. Part of the demonstration was his holding a lit match to the brightly colored wires within the machine to show that they would not burn. I was impressed with that. Of course tasting the coffee was the major selling point.
We did the reccomended plumbing which was this: Water (ours comes from a GE filter) enters a small, under-the-sink water softener and then goes to the boiler. The water softener cost was included with the espresso machine, as was the Obel Macinadodosatori small coffee grinder. The water softener requires the addition of salt only every few months as our local water tends to be quite soft. After adding salt, the valves on the softener must be set to "drain" until the water is no longer salty, then the valves are re-set to send the softened water to the machine. It's not too difficult.
The steaming wand makes hot, hot steamed milk quickly and easily, and the espresso that come from the machine is rich, with good crema, and great flavor.
The complete package was the Astra Gourmet, the softener, the grinder, a milk steaming pitcher, a thermometer, a brush, and a detergent container for regular maintainance.
The buying experience was easy--all you have to do is select your model (copper, brass etc.-we chose stainless), select the features (water reservoir or plumbed-in) and write your check.
Three Month Followup
We still love our Astra Gourmet, as do our dinner guests. We had one breakdown but the factory sent a knowledgeable repairman and had it working that same day ($199). If I could have brought it to the factory it would have been cheaper. Now that I roast my own green beans, it's getting a great workout daily.