*** NOTE: Error on left side of page - This is not a HX (Heat Exchanger) style machine. It is a Semi Automatic Dual Purpose Boiler. *** Excellent machine. Have pulled great shots and makes great milk based drinks too.
Positive Product Points
This machine is very well built. Stainless Steel throughout, large .75 l copper boiler, E61 brew group are all great features. Very simple to use. In the unlikely event of issues it uses standard replacement parts. Components are commercial grade. The boiler size is significant so have yet to run out of steam.
I know many have mentioned not good for milk based drinks, however that is compared to an HX (Heat Exchanger) machine. I have made several milk based drinks any they turn our perfect every time. Steam wand works excellent and makes perfect microfoam.
This machine looks fantastic on any kitchen counter. (i.e. "Counter Candy" appearance)
Negative Product Points
The pressure was a bit on the high side (11 bars) probably because where it was shipped from. Using the adjustable OPV I quickly adjusted down to 9.75 bars and that has been working great for my taste. Took about 15 minutes.
After the first descaling we noticed some small chrome flakes in the water from the E61 internal mushroom cap. This was quickly resolved by removing and soaking the cap in descaler for 30 minutes followed by scrubbing with a scotchbrite pad. Probably should not have chrome plated internal parts, however from what I have read this is common and easily addressed.
I have had the machine six months. We are having a lot of fun and the drinks are every bit as good as any we have had at Starbucks etc.
We usually make milk based drinks and have had no issues with the single boiler. Having to wait the 2 minutes for the Alexia to be ready to steam does not seem to impact taste (at least to me). It is very true what others have reported for Espresso drinkers. This machine is "Best in Class" for espresso shots. Amazing, especially when combined with a good grinder and fresh coffee. I recently tried some Black Cat Espresso and probably the best cup I have ever had. A bit pricey when compared to other single boiler machines (i.e. Silvia), however the quality, durability and E61 group somewhat justify the higher cost.
The temperature stability of the E61 group can clearly be noticed. It gets hot quickly and stays hot for a very long time. You can pull a shot quite quickly after turning the unit on (5 minutes), however for those who are picky and prefer espresso shots best to put the portafilter in place, turn it on and do something else for 20-30 minutes to get everything nice and hot. (Most machines are similar in this regard)
Right now mostly drinking Transend or Black Cat Espresso with a Rocky Grinder and the Alexia, very pleased with the results.
***July 2011 Update*** Recently installed a PID. Made things very handy and can see why so many pair up this machine with a Wattlow PID controller. You can dial in a precise temperature taking one more variable out of the equation. Have it sitting at 94.5C (202F) which seems to taste the best. I can taste the difference between 198F and 204F. Now able to adjust temperature to adjust to taste.
Daily shot pull: 18-19 grams of Black Cat Espresso via a Mazzer Mini E Type B grinder being pulled in 30 seconds at 94.5C.
Purchased from a local vendor "Caffe Tech". Good service and very knowledgable staff. Also contacted Chris' Coffee as they are the importer with some basic questions. In fact Chris himself responded to my emails same day. I recommend both retailers depending on your location.
Three Month Followup
Have used the Alexia everyday since purchasing this summer. Performance has been the same since purchased. Not surprised based on the solid stainless steel construction and E61 group.
Only maintenance has been cleaning (regular group head with Cafiza and two descales with Ascor).
Continue to enjoy 1-2 excellent lattes per day.
One Year Followup
The Machine continues to perform a year later. No repair or service issues. Great machine and used daily. No major maintenance completed yet either apart from cleaning.
It is a "Single Boiler" machine so you cannot brew and steam at the same time. I use mine for a daily latte, sometimes with my wife we make up to 3 or 4 through the day. Only recommendation I can make is if you entertain frequently and see yourself making 3 or 4 lattes one after the other a HX machine would be a better choice, comprimising the brew quality slightly.
I see Chris Coffee Service in conjuntion with Quick Mill have made some further tweaks and improved the Alexia making it even better. Recommend the machine to anyone who wants a daily espresso or latte. I have dealt with Chris Coffee Service and highly recommend them. They have good prices, care about their customers and take the time to get the right answer for you. Chris Nachtrieb and his staff know their stuff.