Exceptionally beautiful machine - be prepared to spit-and-polish. Repeated pressurestat failures is a big caution though.
Positive Product Points
Unusually attractive appearance Excellent build quality (except pressure-stat design) Superior foaming for cappachino excellent espresso
Negative Product Points
very small drip tray pressure-stat failures. This is the sole reason I would caution a prospective buyer. Yearly replacement for my machine.
There are 2 excellent multi -page 'pro' reviews of this espresso machine readily available. There is one by Mark Prince at this website. There is another review, more recent, by Jim Schulman at Home Barista.com. It was after reading these two reviews, (while my Isomac Millenium was in the repair shop) that I decided to purchase the Semiautomatica from !st-line which had a demo chrome model for sale.
Overall those 2 reviews seem accurate. This Electra is very handsome, makes excellent coffee, is built exceptionally well, but you need to take extra care not to burn your fingers, and it has a small drip tray - so you better have a sink or container nearby. It does not have a hot water tap like my Isomac Millenium - but I consider that a positive since I never use one anyhow. I also spend more time wiping it down and also flushing and cleaning its grouphead than I did the Millenium - which somehow seems natural for this machine with all its gleaming chrome beauty - (the Electra Semiautomatica was compared to a 'motorcycle' in Jim Schulman's review.) It also does not have a boiler auto fill -so you have to pay attention to maintaining the water level in the 'sight glass' but I do not find this to be any inconvenience.
I have had this Electra now for two months and my daily coffee making is going smoothly - with very few sinkshots. However, for the first week and a half this was not the case; either the espresso came out to fast or too slow, and I often had trouble getting the portafilter into the grouphead when using the single basket ( I was overfilling the basket slightly -and this grouphead has tight clearance for the portafilter). But part of those early problems could be due to the fact that I was also breaking in a new grinder ( a Macap M4 stepless/doser model) purchased at the same time as the Electra Semiautomatica- so there was a 'double device' learning curve to deal with. (I am now also happy with this new grinder.)
All in all, after 2 months I quite like this espresso machine - and hope to use it for many years.
I got a good price for a demo model at 1st-line Equipment- (Which also included a full year warranty.) I also bought a new Macap M4 grinder at the same time as the Electra Semiautomatica which qualified me for 1st- line's grinder discount . Overall a very good equipment deal. Both machines were well packed and arrived promptly. I e-mailed Jim Piccinich at 1st-line a lot during those first 2 weeks and he e-mailed answers to my questions. Overall, I am satisfied with this buying experience.
Three Month Followup
This is a 1 3/4 year followup. It looks like my latest Mater pressurestat is beginning to stick and fail. This is after 13 months moderate home use, and I only used distilled and purified water in the boiler. I really like this machine - but I feel this problem with short lived pressurestats should be addressed by Elektra. I am not the only one that is having this problem with failed pressurestats in the Semi. I would only recommend this machine if the buyer was willing to replace pressurestats on a fairly 'regular' (yearly?) basis.
One Year Followup
Nearly a 3 year followup : I am on my 3 or 4th pressurestat now; I tried a Jaeger last time - it lasted 13 months. I have just learned to accept this problem with the machine. So, If you can accept the yearly replacement of the troublesome Pressure-stat design -then I would recommend the machine. The quality of coffee - both in its espresso, and as a milk foamer is superior; Better than my Isomac Millenium. Probably, even better than my Olympia Cremina (though I never had a really good grinder when I owned my Cremina)