Perfect espresso, great steamer, and it makes me smile every morning and evening when I look at it.
Positive Product Points
Beautiful, rock solid construction, great coffee. Italian baroque industrial design.
Negative Product Points
Expensive, intimidating to the timid, dominates small spaces.
I bought the micro casa a leva after reading CoffeeGeek's review. I was tired of replacing pump machines every couple of years and the Elektra strongly reminded me of NYC's Little Italy cafes where i first learned about espresso, cannoli, and life. Opening the package was an instant trip in time and space.
My first shots were a disaster, but I got the grind and tamp pretty quickly. The supplied tamper is awful, of course, and I didn't achieve any consistency until I got a decent and proper-fitting tamper. Since then, shots are easily kept consistent. The steam wand is perfectly located, even for a lefty like me, and does a better job than my Solis.
I generally only make one or two cups at a time, so the issue of overheating the head hasn't come up. The second cup, and third on the occasions when I've made three at a time, is as good as the first. If you're making shots for a party, I don't know if there would be a noticeable deterioration in quality. On the other hand, everyone gathers around to watch it in action which you can't say about any of the pump machines.
Much was made in the review about the intimidation factor -- how hard it is to pull the lever, etc. I'm neither big nor strong but I think the point is overemphasized. If you're tiny or have a shoulder problem, it may be a problem. Otherwise, pulling the lever is not a big deal, requiring no more strength than tamping the shot. For stability, you do have to get above the lever and push down, rather than lowering your elbow and pulling. If you're under 5' 6" or so, this may require some ingenuity (or a step stool).
Finding counter space is more of a problem since the eagle doesn't fit under normal cupboards! Elektra has a different eagle (with lower wings) on their semi-automatic. I'm trying to get one so I can push the micro casa back when it's not in use.
I've been removing the piston assembly (two metric socket screws) once a month or so for cleaning. So far, a quick wipe inside and rinsing outside have kept it working well. I tried lubricating it after the orginal grease wore off, but haven't found the right stuff. It doesn't seem to matter as long as it's clean. There's a little wear on the lower piston seal and the chrome around the lever mechanism after a year's use, but no leaks.
And finally, the cable guy was really taken by the machine. I made him a ristretto (his choice) and he was so thrilled, he removed the filter from the cable as a thank-you. I now get dozens of extra channels for the basic rate. No other machine would have paid for itself like that!! (And I hope his boss doesn't read this.)
After checking prices and availability, I ordered from Chris Coffee. Chris took the order himself, talked with me about the machine, and was generally great. It was shipped promptly, arrived intact and on time. Since then, I've talked with him about maintenance and he went out of his way to get information to me. Not only no complaints, I'd say he's the best.