After two years of solid operation, I still really enjoy this machine.
Positive Product Points
Beautiful machine that makes a great centerpiece for the kitchen. Relatively easy to use. Flawless operation in first year of use.
Negative Product Points
4"x.25" linear defect in chrome finish near group head.
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 over the years, but with a look that would put the La Pavoni to shame. I am satisfied on both fronts.
As has been said by others, the machine seems fairly forgiving on grind size. I'm using a Kitchen Aid Pro Line Grinder, which seems to lack enough grind gradations. Still, after pulling two or three shots through the Microcasa for each new bag of coffee beans, I'm able to get the Kitchen Aid setting close enough to what the Microcasa seems to want to keep both of us (the Microcasa and I) happy.
I have not been able to get the Microcasa to routinely generate a tiger-striped crema that matches the best shots I pulled from the La Pavoni; however, getting that kind of shot out of the La Pavoni was a once-a-month (at best) event for me. Conversely, the Microcasa gives me a reasonable crema in almost every shot (except if I really blow the grind size).
Many have complained about the small drip tray. I haven't found that to be an issue, once I followed the lead of another reviewer on this site who suggested using a small bowl or low-profile food storage tray to catch excess water when pulling blanks. Part of my morning coffee ritual is to pull two bowls from the cabinet, along with my shot glasses and coffee mugs. I use the smaller bowl to catch excess drippings when rinsing the group or when pulling a blank. I then dump those drippings in the big bowl. I let the Micro's drip tray catch the rest: meaning that only only have to empty it every few days or once a week. This may sound complicated, but (a) it isn't and (b) unless the Micro's drip tray was connected straight into my drain system I'd have to empty it anyway.
The steamer on this unit really cranks out some power. I'm not sure about the issues that have been raised about the steam nozzle angle: I've personally never given it a second thought. My wife's had good luck steaming milk occasionally. I use it daily (indeed twice a day) to (a) heat my shot glasses, and (b) heat cold fresh water that I use to dilute the Micro's shots one a 1:1 ratio for serving. (Simply put, we drink strong "Americano" style coffee, and the Micro does double-duty heating water for those drinks).
Do have any complaints? Only one small one. About 1 month into ownership of the Micro, the chrome finish developed a scar-like blemish that's about 4" long and .25" wide on the left side of the group head. I promptly called 1st Line so that I could return the unit for a more perfect one. Their answer was that they had heard of this sort of thing happening and they thought it unlikely they would "take it back." At first I was miffed. Then I decided I didn't care. I decided that most people wouldn't even notice the blemish (which is a dull gray color), and that what few did (none have, BTW) would know I owned the machine for a while.
Enough said, except this: I would indeed by this unit again. Rather than getting the Art Deco model (chrome with the blue ball at top), however, I'd indulge in the copper unit. That's obviously personal preference and nothing more, of course.
Three Month Followup
(see comments in main review)
One Year Followup
Two years into owning the Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica, I still really like the unit. In fact, we are now using it even more than before. In addition to using it for 2 - 3 cappuccino's per day, we now regularly use it to steam milk and/or water for individual servings of tea, hot chocolate, and oatmeal in the morning. I don't know if that's particularly efficient (though, I bet it is); however, it's very practical and fast, given that the unit is hot long before breakfast begins.
I have not been good about decalcifying the unit and, as a result, had to replace the pressure-stat a few months ago. That's an easy maneuver, simply involving (i) removing the base (take out screw beneath drip tray and carefully pry plastic bottom cover from base of unit with small screwdriver blade), (ii) unscrewing current pressure stat (buy a new one first, so you know what the thing looks like) and removing the electric clips, (iii) reversing the process with the new unit. The only daunting part of the task is deciding how to set the set-screw on the replacement pressure stat: I aligned it just like the one on the old unit and that worked.
In the future, I'll decalcify more often. This too is easy, but not obvious given the paucity of instructions on the web or elsewhere. Here's my advice:
1) Empty the water reservoir and boiler via the following steps via the following steps:
1a) place microcasa unit near sink, stand it upright on a towel to protect finish in the next steps,
1b) remove water reservoir cover and set it aside,
1c) with steam wand open, slowly tilt unit so that the base stays on towel (on edge of sink) and steam wand drips straight into sink's drain,
1d) any water in the reservoir will come gushing out at this point; the bigger issue is getting the water out of the boiler: that's a slow process, hence,
1e) rest the reservoir on an overturned strainer, a piece of wood, or some such that's placed across your sink so that the unit can rest stably and horizontally (actually, I rest it at a slight angle, e.g., 10-degrees from horizontal: it seems to drip better),
1f) let the unit rest in that position for about 1/2 hour to fully empty the boiler.
The unit should not be plugged in and, particularly, it should not be turned on during any of the foregoing steps.
2) After boiler is empty (you'll know because dripping from steam wand will have stopped), do the following
2a) right the unit and close steam vent,
2b) be sure unit is switched off, then plug it in,
2c) mix decalcifying agent (I bought commercial packets and mixed 1 qt per instructions on packet),
2d) fill the water reservoir with the mixed solution and refill the boiler per usual instructions (turn unit on and immediately press the boiler fill pump button, holding it until the gauge shows that the boiler is 2/3 full,
2e) turn unit off,
2f) with wand still closed tip unit to pour whatever caustic solution remains in the reservoir out into the sink and put a little fresh water into the reservoir (I don't know if this step is necessary),
2g) wait 1/2 hour for solution to do its magic inside boiler,
2h) repeat steps 1a - 1f to get solution out of boiler.
3) Now, all you need to do is rinse the boiler a few times. I did this by repeating steps 2 & 1 (in that order) with fresh water (no decalcifying agent) and without the 1/2 hour wait (it's not necessary) three times. This will take a while, but if you rest something across the sink as suggested in step 1e, the time won't be a bother.