In my opinion this is the ultimate HX machine for home use for less than $2,000 US Dollars.
Positive Product Points
*The Lyra has a larger boiler than most prosumer HX machines available today, so it has very good steaming power.
*The brewing HX tube seems larger than most I have tried, so it has more stable temperature characteristics.
*The machine also has another HX tube for hot water, so the hot water in virtually unlimited and doesn't deplete the boiler.
*(EDITED to add that the Lyra has a valve on the boiler underside that makes it easy to empty and/or refresh boiler water)
*Mine is fully plumbed-in with a rotary pump and drip pan drain so it's quiet and convenient.
*Inside it has a clean and open layout, so it's easy to work on. I'd say it has a high-quality build overall compared to other prosumer machines I have used.
Negative Product Points
*The drip tray is a little short, so water will come over the edge during portafilter wiggle flushes. And the drip pan has some sharp edges inside on the grille (cover), but those are completely hidden during use.
*The standard pressurestats these machines come with are inadequate and unsafe. My first one (MA-TER) lasted about 6 months and my second one (CEME) only lasted 8 months.
Really now, what can I say that hasn't already been said?
Some of the other detailed reviews of this machine are VERY complete, and include things like the history of the company and the operating specifics of the machine. I found those reviews very helpful in making my decision to buy this machine. Another thing that spoke volumes to me is that some very senior CG members have this machine but you never hear any negative comments in the forums like you do with almost every other popular HX machine.
So what can I say about the WEGA Lyra that hasn't already been said?
After over a year of ownership I am still VERY pleased with this machine and it's performance. That's a pretty tall statement coming from someone like me.
OK, so I will go ahead and give my impressions overall and I'll comment on my decision process since those are the things I am most frequently asked about.
Boiler: The Lyra has a 2-liter (square!) boiler for good steam power, I have to be careful when steaming 5 ounces for a cappucino because it tends to blow the milk right outta the pitcher. It can steam 8 ounces for a latte beautifully and in a more controlled fashion which I think makes latte art easier, too bad I rarely make drinks that large!
Heat Exchanger(s): The Lyra has 2 heat exchangers: one for brewing and the other for hot water. That means that drawing hot water doesn't deplete the boiler for brewing, I consider that a great advantage especially if you have a tea-drinker in the house! Also, the brewing HX seems larger than the HX from other machines I have used . That means that I need more volume of flush to get to temperature, but it also gives the machine a favorable brewing characteristic. By saying "favorable brewing characteristic" that I mean it seems more forgiving for flushing techique, and it really seems to do extremely well for tight ristretto shots without the "intra-shot temperature rise" I have noticed on machines with smaller HX volumes.
Steam Wand: The factory steam wand has a nonstandard thread/tip connection so the tip is not interchangeable, but the wand itself has exactly the same 3D-swivel-ball-joint connection to the machine as the LaCimbali Jr. so I immediately replaced mine. That is, my WEGA has a LaCimbali steam wand on it so I can easily use different steam tips.
Plumbed in with Rotary pump: I love this feature. The supply and drain are both plumbed in so the operation is very convenient and the rotary pump is so freakin' smooth and quiet. It has been said many times that there is no discernable difference in taste between rotary and vibe pumps and I tend to agree with that, but there is also no substitute for the quiet and smooth power of a rotary pump (I love it).
Drip Pan: The drip pan is a little shallow, but that's not an issue because I have it plumbed in. However, if you get a pourover version then I imagine the constant emptying would get very old very fast because it has a relatively small volume and it's not easy to remove (you have to lift the front end first, then slide it out).
Another niggle about the drip pan is that it's a little short. It's fine for cooling flushes but when I do a "blind filter PF wiggle" to rinse the group then some water will come over the edge. This is no problem for me, I have taken to folding a hand towel under the front edge for this operation and then use the dampened to wipe down the machine - but that is compensating and some might find it bothersome.
Above, I mentioned that the interior edges of the drip pan cover (grille) are sharp, but I do not consider this operationally signifigant in any way. I only remove the drip pan about once a month for cleaning when I do my detergent backflush. The sharp edges are completely hidden during use so it's a non-issue for me.
Build Quality: This machine is terrific for build quality - the best I have ever owned. The components are high-quality compared to other machines I have used (except of course for the POS pressurestats most prosumer machines seem to have). The machine internal layout is well-planned and open for ease of service, the wiring is neat and tidy, and it's very easy to open up the machine and even to remove the cover. The exterior skin is thick polished stainless and has a very quality and solid feel all around.
Pressurestat: Do yourself a favor and replace the pressurestat with a Sirai or other well-proven unit. I would say this goes for any machine that comes equipped with a CEME or MA-TER pressurestat.
Operationally: The WEGA Lyra is a dream to use. Plenty of steam, an easily adjustable pump for brewing pressure, stable brewing temps, fast shot recovery times (much faster than my prep times), and the E-61 type head seems very forgiving.
One thing I noticed right away is that my tripleshot pucks come out whole much more often. I don't think it's signifigant in terms of operation or in terms of taste, but I like that :-)
I wanted to upgrade from my Isomac Relax. I had just gotten a new job with a nice increase in my income and I had upgrade-fever. My Isomac is still making lovely shots for another CG member in New York and I had no complaints, but I wanted MORE features.
I wanted a bigger boiler, and a plumbed-in rotary pump. I would have been tempted to go dual-boiler if I could have found one with a plumbed-in supply and a 58mm brweing group to accept my collection of E-61 accessories (baskets and portafilters). The candidiates on my short list were:
*ASTRA Gourmet - the plumbed in version - highly recommended and American made
*ELEKTRA A3 - gorgeous! big! serious!
*LaSpaziale S1 - dual boilers with temperature controlled brewing
I was considering the S1 even though it has a different configuraton of brew group, primarily because of rave reviews and because I love ChrisCoffee (my RELAX originally came from Chris and his support was awesome). I am still tempted to get a double boiler but I will wait until I see one that has the fully plumbed-in rotary pump and 58mm brewing group.
The ELEKTRA A3 is also from Chris, and was a serious consideration for me. Eventually it lost out because it is roughly twice the price I paid for my WEGA and I would have needed to manage the 20A supply somehow (that's a challenge for me because I'm an apartment dweller)
I probably would have purchased an ASTRA Gourmet if TerryZ at EspressoParts.com had not made me such a sweet deal on my WEGA. The ASTRA come highly recommended by a CG member I respect ALOT and it's backed by a very nice guy who happens to own the company. Like I said, if Terry hadn't been so terrific with me I probably would have gone for it.
Which leads me to the buying experience.....
TerryZ at www.espressoparts.com is a terrific vendor. He has been terrific with his support before, during, and even in the year after the sale. My other machine vendor was Chris at www.ChrisCoffee.com and I also cannot say enough good things about BOTH of these guys and thier operations....I would not hesitate to recommend either of them.
Anyway, I was shopping for my new machine and I was calling around and talking with the vendors of the machines I had interest in. TerryZ was out of stock for the WEGA at the time but he had a shipment coming in within a few weeks. He offered me an excellent deal that included some extra's and I simply couldn't pass it up.
Like I said, my only direct experiences with machine vendors are with Chris and Terry, and I think the world of both of them. I would be very pleased to buy all of my machines and grinders from these guys!
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
Actually - this is a 4-year follow up! I just purchased a new machine (La Marzocco GS/3) so the Wega will be cleaned up and sold soon....and I am feeling a bit nastalgic about her.
This machine has been a solid performer for the last 4 years, and ever since I replaced the original p-stat with the Sirai there have been no troubles at all. Mine is semi-automatic so thre are no electronic controls at all, just old-skool rocker switches. This machine has a wonderfully robust design and build as can be attested by 4 years without a single problem (other than the original failed pressurestats of course).
A couple of weeks ago we had the "Java Jam" at my place and I went through almost three pounds of coffee on this machine during a 4 hour period. The Wega never missed a beat and 90% of the drinks I made were cappa's. I have no doubt that this machine would be right at home in a light commercial (catering) application.