Nice machine, a bunch of smaller pluses (size, quiet, cost, build, support) and one big one : good espresso with relative ease.
Positive Product Points
Makes good espresso (first shot was improvement over best effort with Gaggia) Relatively Quiet Relatively Compact Temp & Pressure Adjustable Great support (if needed) & buying experience from Chris Coffee Good value
Negative Product Points
Not designed to adjust temp on the fly or even blend to blend (you have to take the top off to make adjustments - PID probably a good option if you want to adjust often)
From what I've read, not the best choice for making many milk drinks - or any : if other pluses don't interest you an HX or double boiler is probably a better choice.
Pressure gauge was not straight when I got it, I twisted it around, made me a little nervous but a year later it seems fine. A foot bolt came loose, took a couple of tries to figure how to put it back - seems fine now. (these seem trivial to me but the web form encourages full disclosure)
There is a fantastic detailed review by more expert users at Home-Barista.com so Iím going to try to stick to my personal reasons for buying and my own non expert experience in hopes of maybe helping someone in a similar situation.
Iíve had the Alexia for about a year and have really been enjoying it. I upgraded from a Gaggia Espresso. The other machines I most strongly considered were the Expobar Pulsar & a PID Silvia. Silvia seemed a little loud, and has a reputation for being difficult, I thought the e61 group on Alexia was a possible plus for me. I liked the idea that Alexia was simpler than an HX (not sure if that's true - I liked the idea...) and thought build might be better then the Expobar. I also liked the idea of buying from Chris Coffee.
I ended up with a returned Alexia. The price was a stretch for what Iíd budgeted but I thought it was a fair deal and in retrospect, I think the Alexia is just about ideal for me.
There were some superficial aspects that appealed : relative small size, (relative) quiet, simple to maintain (I was intimidated by the idea of descaling an HX, turns out my water is too soft to scale and Chris doesnít recommend chemical descaling). I donít know if the differences would have been big; a few inches here or there, a tiny bit more or less noise, but thatís what I was thinking about.
As it turns out, the quality of the coffee and pleasure of use have been the main pluses. I know itís grinder first but the first shot I made with Alexia was among the best Iíd had, after around 2 years (I thinkÖ) working with the Gaggia.
Although Iíve been too lazy / busy to open the machine up recently to adjust temp. I made some adjustments early on, not a big deal but not something Iím doing from blend to blend. Being able to adjust temp to a set temp (around 199, I think) is, however a great step up from my Gaggia. I also messed with pressure early on too, also easy to adjust once you get the top off.
I get a variety of espresso blends / SOs just about every time I buy and often have two open at once, for only around 3 shots a day in the evening Ė but if you have a couple of favorites it would probably be reasonable to remember a couple of temp settings and adjust for whatever blend youíre using. Iíll sometimes do a little bit of lazy temp surfing Ė brewing sooner after a short flush for a cooler shot or going for the top of the cycle for hotter.
Iíve had some what seem like small, odd problems and have called Chris Coffee. Iíve come to believe that most of my trouble is simply not flushing enough when, on occasion the thermosyphon stalls or the machine cools from sitting all day on the weekend; My idea of a long flush was less than 2 oz and usually that's enough.
I donít like calling for help but the technicians at Chris Coffee have been very nice and very patient with what they must know are odd ball questions.
I sometimes wish I had on the fly temperature control. I bought a returned machine for a good price before CC was selling PID Alexia directly. Iím very self conscious and would have been hard pressed to spend the extra $ even if the PID option was available at the time. That said, I would gladly pay someone $300 to come add the PID to my machine (I have the older model without the cut out). So if youíre thinking you might like on the fly temp adjustment, Iíd suggest considering the value over the expected life of the machine rather than the just the price. Iíd also suggest taking a look at that review at HB, to see if youíd be up for adding it later, it looks like a bit of a job to me (Iím not handy) but if you are, CC now sells the PID and the new Alexiaís have the cut out, so you could try without and add it later if you wanted.
Two of the reasons I went for Alexia and not a low end HX were Chris Coffeeís reputation for quality service and what I read about the build quality of the Alexia, I donít know how it would have gone with another choice but I feel like I got a good machine for me.
Very good experience with Chris Coffee. Everyone was very easy to talk with (I don't like talking on the phone). They offered a fair price on a returned machine. A billing error was cleared up quickly with no fuss. Machine arrived fast and well packed. I've called a few times with questions, support is excellent; helpful and patient.