The Elektra Micro Casa a Leva home espresso blog

The Elektra Micro Casa a leva is a beautiful home espresso machine. But is it capable of making great coffee? Follow my pursuit of ultimate espresso coffee as I learn to use this exciting machine.

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Location: Trondheim, Norway

Wednesday, December 14

Reaching a comfort level

Elektra in black&white Originally uploaded by audunso.

I haven´t been as keen on checking out coffee websites or writing in the blog as I used to be. But tre truth is, coffeewise I´ve never been as content and happy as now. Generally, when you´re really, really into a hobby or an interest, it is the experiences that lift the level of what you do that are fun. I´ve had lots of these experiences since I became a home barista.

But my latest kick is to find a true comfort level. Because I´m not saying that my coffee can´t be better or that I serve the best coffee in town -that would be very wrong to say indeed! But my coffee is really good now; I enjoy it every day, and I have a good feeling when I serve guests. I´ve known all the time that good espresso can be brewed on the Elektra. Now I have come to be satisfied with the coffee every day.

Getting comfortable with the machine took me a few months, and when I was in this process I got my latte art skills to an OK level (thanks to Elektra´s excellent froathing abilities). But it is after I discovered a coffee that will always work perfectly with the machine, and that can be bought freshly roasted and in small bags at a nearby café, that I discovered that now I´m just....happy :-) Things are on track.

Finding a good-working coffee isn´t the end of the story, of course. I will definitely try other blends in the future. That is one of the BIG benefits of brewing espresso at home!

In january I will move into a new apartment in Oslo. When I get there, I will bring my other machine, the la Valentina (a heat-exchanger machine). I look forward to that. And at that time I will definitely do more experimentation with coffee blends. The Elektra, on the other hand, has never made me want to experiment, because you don´t have more than two, maximum three, shots till the machine is overheated. And it´s not that fun to not have at least one good shot per session!

So maybe that is why I´m just happy about finding a comfort level with the Elektra :-)

Monday, November 14

I have found a favourite blend

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I have found my "house" espresso blend, the Tenore blend from Mocca coffee roastery in Oslo. It works very well with my Elektra. The shots have a classic taste, with sufficient crema and a nice mouthfeel. Some months ago I tried Mocca´s Crescendo blend, but the temperature was a bit off with my machine. My Elektra has a brew temperature that is pretty much fixed (no possibility of flushing like with most other machines). Which coffees that taste the best are therefore a bit coincidental, but very much a result of the roast degree. As my Elektra has a high brew temperature (factory setting of the boiler is 1.25 bar), I have found that a light roast works much better than a medium or dark espresso roast. But then again, some espresso blends can be quiet forgiving when it comes to temperature, so it´s all about trying many blends till you find a blend that works well. Last week I decided to try another of Mocca´s blends, the Tenore blend, and that was indeed very successful.

What I want at home is a blend that is good as both espresso and as a base for milk drinks. I want a blend that can produce much crema, because the Elektra produces less crema than machines with electric 9 bar pumps. I have tried other blends that meet these demands, for example the Ottolina Fortissima blend from Temperato, and espresso from Skien kaffebrenneri.

But the one thing that makes the Tenore blend absolutely perfect for me, is that I can buy just 250 grams or 500 grams, and in sealed bags with one-way valve as well! And the roast date is written on the bag. I usually wait four days after roasting before I open a bag. The blend is a bit expensive, but worth every cent. Mocca is just a five minute walk from where I live; a perfect local roastery and café :-)

At times I have been a bit tired from having to cope with a 1 kg bag of coffee. I live on my own and I don´t have visitors every day. It is easier for home baristas with big espresso drinking families. I sometimes feel that I should drink more espresso than I want to, just to get rid of all the coffee before it goes stale. Three shots a day with the Elektra is 3 x 12 grams + a little spill = ca. 40 grams. That is 25 days of coffee from the same 1 kg bag. So with the Tenore blend in a small bag, I can relax totally. I´m very happy now.

The freshness factor is very important to me. You should always support a local mini roastery if you can. The big advantage you get is to know when the coffee is roasted and then to know that you´re drinking coffee at the peak of its taste potential!!!

Friday, October 28

Introducing vacuum brewing!

Bodum Santos Originally uploaded by audunso.

What you see in this picture, a Bodum Santos vacuum brewer, is only VERY remotely connected to lever espresso machines.... The only link to think of is the wish to have something that few other people have. This vacuum brewer is also good looking and capable of making very good coffee, just like the Elektra!

A vacuum brewer was hard to get. I ordered it one piece at a time from a glass warehouse (Glassmagasinet in Oslo). Later; I discovered that I could have bought the whole thing $30 cheaper, 200 meters away (Byporten shopping mall). Shit happens!

With a thermometer to measure water temperature, the resulting coffee is really good. I have tried a Blue Java origin, and it tasted awesome.

I use an electric heater, but to improve the esthetics I definitely want to buy a gas heater (butane, preferably). I already have the rack to place on the table with the gas burner (as seen to the left of the brewer in the picture). There are lots of gas burners out there, but none I´ve seen so far are good looking or small enough for the rack. Bodum has one -maybe I´ll order it if I don´t find anything cheaper....

So what is good about a vacuum brewer, except for the fun of the process? Well, the resulting coffee has not been filtered through a paper filter (like with a drip brewer. Paper filters take up some of the aromatic substances), but rather through a plastic filter which lets water and coffee through, but retains the coffee grinds. The coffee has very little or no grit in it, as compared to the french press method. So the result is a clean, tasty coffee!

The procedure: I put the water in the lower unit and place it on the heater. When the temperature reaches 90+ C (I have a thermometer, but with experience I guess I can skip it), I add the top unit with the freshly ground coffee in it. Most of the water is now making its way to the top unit, through a glass funnel. After a while, the coffee start to bubble, as air (steam) is coming from the lower unit. This mixes the coffee very well :-) ,much better than with the french press- or the drip method.

The heat source is now removed, and after some 30 seconds the pressure in the lower unit has dropped, and the coffee is sucked down. The grinds in the top unit is left almost dry after this suction! The coffee now mixes with the water that never entered the top unit. This water was boiling (100 C), but this doesn´t seem to affect the coffee too negatively, as the coffee grinds is in the top unit. But the coffee is very hot when brewing is finished, more than 90 degrees.

With the heater you have control of the brewing time. You just lower the heat when the water is raising to the top unit, and that keeps the water/coffee mixture in the top unit as long as you want without raising the temperature too much. This requires practise, especially with an electric heater. With gas, this will be quiet easy.

The vacuum method is rare these days. I have found a bottom unit in my grandparents house, so I guess they had a vacuum brewer! The method is also a bit too "scientific" as it requires some knowledge about the importance of brewing temperature. If the two units are placed together too early in the process, the brew temperature can be as low as 70 degrees! And if the heat source is removed too soon, the brewing time can be as short as one or two minutes. And lastly.....it is just a question of time before I break the top unit, fragile as it is.... :-( But at the moment, I´m really happy!

Monday, October 24

Flower


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Originally uploaded by audunso.

Heart


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Originally uploaded by audunso.

Monday, September 26

Lubricating the piston

It has been really hard to find and buy a food grease for lubricating the piston. But finally, I found a grease meant for lubricating the steam arm of professional espresso machines. This grease, Molycote White Grease, is also good for lubricating the piston group of my Elektra machine, as it is non-toxic and still viscous at high temperatures.

I took out the piston by removing the two hex bolts. I liked to see that the shower screen and the grouphead looked just fine from the inside as well. That means my cleaning routines are good enough (I have improved the portafilter wiggle since I last wrote about it: I turn off the machine, and after one minute it´s perfect to lower the lever and wiggle the portafilter with a blind filter membrane, since the water flow is now just perfect, and it will be just a minimum of mess. I do not do this daily, but rather now and then).

After greasing the piston it runs like when it was new. This gives a good "feel". Maybe it´s good for the coffee too, but I´m not sure if that can be noticed.

Monday, August 29

Proposing a standard brewing procedure

Originally uploaded by audunso.

Many cups have been emptied since the Elektra Micro Casa a Leva came to my house five months ago. Some shots have been suberb, most shots have been OK, and some shots have been bad. I have made lots of observations, but as you sure know: There are many factors to control when brewing espresso. Anyway, I´m about to become pretty confident about how to make a decent double ristretto (ca 30 ml= 2 x 15 ml). These are my "conclusions" up to this point (including lots of basic barista stuff):

Water: Fill fresh water in the tank. Let there be approximately 3 cm to the top of the sight window (and never let there be less than a couple of centimeters of water left in the sight window).

Warm-up: Insert the bayonet (use only the double filter). Let the machine finish its warm-up procedure. The lamp goes out after 10-11 minutes. Lower the lever and run through some water (4-5 seconds) to heat up the group and the empty filter. Take out the bayonet, and dry the filter with a cloth or some paper.

Dose: Turn on the grinder, and fill the filter with enough coffee to get a perfectly even distribution when the coffee is leveled out with a finger. Let the coffee be level with the filter rim (this is too much for some coffees that a harder to compress (see ”dose check” below). If that´s the case, dose less coffee using the finger to take off more coffee). Use the finger in different directions to ensure that there are no gaps along the edges of the filter.

(dose check (not to be done every time!): after dosing and tamping, insert the filter into the group and take it out again. The coffee surface should remain undisturbed. Otherwise, there is too much coffee in the filter. There should be some room below the shower screen to allow for swelling of the coffee)

Tamp: There are different tamping techniques. Mine is to first do a light tamp, focusing on getting the surface horisontal. Raise the filter and give it one or two light knocks with the handle of the tamper, to get rid of coffe clinging to the edge of the filter. Then I do a 15-20 kg tamp, and before releasing the tamper, I twist it around with some pressure applied, to give the surface a polish.

Preheated cup: The cup should be preheated with hot water.

Preinfusion: Lower the lever carefully to the point where you hear water rushing. Now, press down firmly. I have found this to be a good midpoint between being too quick (risking to spray tiny holes in the coffee surface, which would give water channeling), and being too slow (letting in more water on one side of the coffee puck).

Finishing the shot: Wait until espresso comes dripping (or if not, 9-10 seconds). Now, carefully, let the lever go. When a new coffee is introduced it may take a few shots to get he grinder adjusted. First, I aim for a 22 second shot (counting from when the lever is released). This usually gives acceptable shots. Then I do small adjustments with the grinder, and after some shots the grind will be close to optimal.

The machine is capable of making two shots with acceptable water temperature, and maybe a third shot if you´re careful not to let the machine sit too long.

Between shots: Let out the pressure either by waiting a minute or more, or by opening up the portafilter slowly. Clean the shower screen by running water for 1-2 seconds.

Monday, August 15

My first week in Oslo

My first week in Oslo has been very strange indeed :-) I moved in on friday 5th, but I still haven´t really been at home. I have been joining an orchestra to play "Firebird" by Stravinskij and some other pieces, and we´ve rehearsed all the time, 10 am to 10 pm. Great concert yesterday in Oslo University hall! It was also a great experience for me to play classical music and in an orchestra.

I´m happy about my new place, and I´m happy about being in Oslo!

I´m now at a café, "Kaffepikene" (or "coffee chicks"/"coffe girls"). It is a café with wireless internett, to bring your own laptop. Very smart, indeed! The coffee is decent, and it will cost me a cup of coffee, 2 €, per visit. This time, priority number one was to pay my bills, and to see what has happended in the world last week.

I brought my Elektra to Oslo, and it has been fired up a few times. My first espresso in a new place, in a new city, was like heaven. This really proves that taste is also dependent on the situation!!!!

Wednesday, August 3

My caffeinated summer!

Cappuccino and strawberries Originally uploaded by audunso.

This summer I´ve been drinking twice as much coffee as I normally do. I have had time to make espresso or cappuccino three-four times a day, plus I´ve been drinking a lot of freshly roasted filter coffee. Nice! No one should sleep away the norwegian summer nights.....

I have become more familiar with my Elektra machine. It´s no secret that I like the machine a lot. It is a good looking machine, with the possibility to make excellent espresso. I have taken a huge leap in my latte art skills, thanks to the machine´s ability to make perfect milk (+ I have had more exercise than ever before).

I should be honest when problems come up. As I said, the downside of this machine is not the espresso or the milk. The problem is overheating, which only allows for the preparation of three espressi. There are sometimes more than three people in the house. Many times, I have had to decide who gets coffee now and who gets coffee later..... I make three shots at the most. This is because the water lever indicator says that´s the max, and, most importantly because shot number three is too hot. I can turn the machine off in between shots, but anyway the third shot is less good than the two first. And, when making a milk drink, the crema of the third shot start cracking up before I get to pour milk. A bit frustrating, really. It seems to be a two-shot machine + a third ”emergency-shot” that has to be enjoyed with milk.

A few days ago, I was out of coffee when a friend called me and said she was thirty minutes away and wanted espresso! So I had to turn on the machine, open a new coffee bag, try to dial in the grinder, turn off the machine and then use a cloth and LOTS of cold water to cool the group. I somehow succeeded, but next time the same happens, I´ll make filter coffee instead. It´s too big a job to try a quick ”tyro-fix” on the warm group. Every time I get a new batch of coffee, I have to spend two or three shots to dial in the grinder. It´s a pretty narrow grinder setting that gives the optimum coffee. So one ”making” goes away to adjust the grinder to near-perfect, before any really good shots can be enjoyed later. I guess that only a true Elektra-lover will like or accept this routine. As you will guess, I have nothing or little against it ☺

How should one handle these small problems? Well, when people see the machine they usually comments its style, beauty or uniqueness, and they have no problems accepting that its a very special machine. They understand when I explain its old technology and the overheating issue, and so they accept that some people get coffee now, and some get coffee later....

But most of all it´s a machine for maximum two or three people and not for family gatherings ☺

Friday, July 22

Moving to Oslo

Two weeks from today, friday the 5th, I will move to Oslo. I don´t have a job yet, but I have anyway decided to move to the capital (isn´t that what people without a job have always done? ☺). I will live close to the royal castle, that means I will have a very short distance to just about any café or concert scene in the city.

Oslo has coffee places like Stockfleth´s, Mocca and Kaffefuglen. I guess I will become a regular at the Stockfleth´s branch in Prinsens Gate(street), where they have the only commercial lever espresso machine that I know of in Norway, a Mirage Idocompresso Triplette. I´ve been there a few times, and I am taken by the style of that machine. I hope to write a report from Stockfleth´s Prinsens Gate one day.

I will also be close to the store where I bought my Elektra, actually my flat is located just 200 m from Cortado. My Mazzer Mini is bought at Temperato, which will be ten minutes walk away from my place.

So, coffeewise, going to Oslo will be just fine. Other motivations for going there is the job marked and the very nice location of the city. But most of all it is about doing something new, and to get closer to a few of my best friends.

I wonder what Thomas will think of my Elektra? He hasn´t seen it yet, but I know he´s interested :-)

I look forward to the 5th of August!

Wednesday, July 13

Espresso machine test

Todays morning cappuccino Originally uploaded by audunso.

Elektra Micro Casa a Leva has been a subject of comparative testing at kaffe.no (norwegian article). 47 different espresso machines have been tested.

What is "Norsk Kaffeinformasjon" (NKI)? They are giving out information about coffee, every subject being covered or mentioned. They are also the organisation for the norwegian coffee business, and its members produce or sell almost all coffee in Norway. The members are coffee bars, cafés and also the big industrial roasting companies. NKI dates back to 1962. Drip coffee machines that are approved by NKI are equipped with an NKI sticker. They do an important job for improving the quality of drip coffee, in particular, but also for other types of coffee being served all around Norway. Their information brouchures are found in every coffee store, and they do a good job informing customers.

This new espresso machine test is only half good, I would say (I think their drip coffee machine testing has more to it). NKI is an organisation for the entire coffee business in Norway. For this reason they sometimes "hide" information that they could have stated more clearly (e.g. about the quality of industrially roasted and preground coffee). In this espresso machine test, they do not say it out loud that owning a grinder and using it correctly is a must for producing good espresso. But they DO say that preground coffee is ground too course for proper espresso. They have also tested the machines with a finer grind quality, but in the case of Elektra Micro Casa a Leva this grind quality is too course (12-15 s brew time), and they judge the espresso a 3 out of 6. They have noticed that the temperature starts out from "perfect" and ends up too high for later shots, as is true.

A perfect test set-up would imply a more active use of the grinder, and a serious effort to get the best from every machine. I have never seen that being done, other than at Coffegeek.com. But NKI is not running tests for the coffeegeeks, but mostly for people who don´t know much about espresso and are likely to go into the glass warehouse and buy whatever they are told to buy by people who don´t know what espresso really is. In this case, NKIs test is good and quiet appropriate in its choice of parameters. Every norwegian newspaper is going to quote this test in the coming years.

The Elektras steaming abilities gets a 5 out of 6, which is good. Rancilio Silvia gets a 6 out of 6, and I can´t really see why Elektra doesn´t get a 6, then, since its steamer has very much the same qualities as Silvias, but is always ready to steam.

The winner of the semi-automatics category is Rancilio Silvia and Isomac Zaffiro. There´s nothing wrong about that conclusion; those espresso machines are great :-) I have owned a Silvia myself. Price is not a test parameter, but this would have favoured Rancilio Silvia even more.

The Elektra will never win such a test. Elektra Micro Casa a Leva is for the very interested enthusiasts, who emphasize the machines elegance and who have enough interest to do an extra effort to make it perform well, admitting or even appreciating its eccentricities.

Wednesday, July 6

Roasting coffee at home

I bought an Imex CR100 coffee roaster a couple of years ago. I am happy about this simple and robust roaster. I fill it with about 140 g of green beans, and end up with typically 120-125 grams of roasted coffee.

Home roasting is fun; it allows me to have many different kinds of green beans in storage, and I can roast little by little, depending on how much I consume. My friends also like to take part in the roasting, and everyone think it´s great to drink coffee that was just roasted!

The Imex roaster is a simple device. The beans move slowly around, and are roasted partly from hot air, and partly from the heat from the metal container. The beans reach the first crack after 5-5 ½ minutes, and I use to roast just a little further, 6 ½ -8 minutes. I listen to when the beans are definitely through the first crack, and I pretend ☺ that I can smell when the second crack is right around the corner, and I don´t want to roast that far. The beans are easily observed through the glass lid. Color is also an important roast indicator, especially when you already have some experience with the particular bean.

Roasting to medium brown in 7 minutes might be a little fast, but I think that it is slow enough to avoid too much acidity. With my first roaster, a popcorn popper, the roast was done in 4 minutes, and I think the acidity was too dominant. In my opinion, the taste of an Imex roast is better.

And you know what? Fresh coffee, 0-5 days after roasting, is a taste bomb that I have become addicted to :-) Almost all the filter coffee that I drink is home roasted. I recommend everyone who cares much about coffee to do the same. I buy my green beans mostly from Skien Kaffebrenneri, sometimes from Stockfleth´s Prinsens gate, Ottolina Classica espresso blend green beans from Temperato, and when I had the popper I bought the green beans from Stavanger Kaffebrenneri (when I´m into links –let me mention www.sweetmarias.com, a great site for info about home roasting. The best book about the subject is Kenneth Davids´ “Home coffe roasting –romance and revival”).

My approach to roasting hasn´t been very scientific so far. The good news about home roasting is that it doesn´t have to be very advanced. The Imex roaster is simple, and do not have adjustable roast profiles –it just roasts….. Some beans roast very well, according to my taste, and some beans end up a little flat or dull or with lacking sweetness. I usually don´t buy enough of each type to do experiments, but I try to adjust roast times when it seems to be necessary. But 4 out of 5 times, I´m really thrilled by the coffee I get!!

I don´t roast for espresso. I have tried, but I think it ends up being too acidy. I really want to buy a drum roaster, with a slower roast that can develop the body that espresso needs, and diminish the acidity. I´m surfing the www these days, looking for a nice roaster. A Hot Top, maybe? But it should wait till I get a job. It costs.....

But roasting for espresso would be a natural development of my hobby. My Elektra, like all espresso machines, performs much better when the roast is at its optimum freshness. There are two ways to actually know which day the coffee was roasted -to buy from a micro roaster or to roast the coffee yourself.

Tuesday, June 28

Finding inspiration in top quality espresso bars

I just spent a few days in Oslo where I visited several of the best coffee bars (there´s a pattern here: When I visit other cities, I always end up looking for great coffee and DVDs!). I had three or four shots of espresso at the Stockfleth´s coffee bars (there are four of them in Oslo). A couple of these shots were just great. The richness of taste and the mouthfeel was just amazing. These shots were prepared on perfectly tuned la Marzocco machines, and the guy in charge of the roasting, the barista training, the machine settings and the daily quality is Tim Wendelboe, the 2004 World Barista Champion. At its best, this espresso is a 10 out of 10. We´re so lucky to have places like this in Norway.

It is inspiring to taste coffee that is a notch better than what we may ever be able to make at home. It is amazing what a professional and dedicated barista can do on a la Marzocco machine after months of experience with the same blend.

But we can brew truly great shots at home, and we can change the blend when we want to, unlike what our favourite café can do. Trying a new blend is lots of anticipation and fun ☺ Today I bought a half kilo of the ”Crescendo” blend from Mocca. It was roasted yesterday, so I´ll wait at least one more day before testing it on the Elektra.

Sunday, June 19

How the lever machine was invented

A couple of days ago I received a postal parcel containing two books by Kenneth Davids (ordered from Amazon.com). Kenneth Davids has written several books about coffee. I already had his book about home coffee roasting, which I would say is excellent reading. Now I also have ”Espresso –ultimate coffee” and ”Coffee –A guide to buying, brewing and enjoying”. I think his books are inspiring ☺

The historical parts of ”Espresso –ultimate coffee” are informative reading. I will retell what he says about the development of espresso machines. Kenneth Davids starts by giving the background for the events leading to the invention of espresso as a brewing method.

Coffee came to Europe in commercial quantities through the port of Venezia (Venedig) in the seventeenth century. The first European coffeehouses started in Venezia, and they most certainly served strong, heavy-bodied coffee, prepared Turkish-style in an ibrik. So this taste for strong coffee, made from finely ground, dark-roasted beans, came as a result of influence from arabic coffee culture. Later, in the eighteenth and the nineteenth century, influence from Austria also became evident. The Austrians had developed a taste for filtered coffee, often served with milk.

My own ibrik

So it is filtered coffee, combined with a taste for strong, darkly roasted coffee, brewed by the cup, on demand, that is the very idea behind the development of espresso. The rest of the story is about improving technology.

The filter pot that existed was a slow brewing method, especially if the coffee was ground too fine. Using only gravity to pull water through the ground coffee wasn´t satisfactory, especially in a commercial environment.

Many inventions throughout the nineteenth century focused either on vacuum or steam pressure to force water through coffee. The well-known mocca pot, among others, was invented. The first commercial machine, made in 1855 for the Paris Exposition by E.L. de Santais, used steam pressure to raise water to a considerable height. The weight of the water applied the brewing pressure. This machine could prepare coffee at high speed.

Luigi Bezzera, from Milan, should be credited for coming up with the idea (in 1901) of machines having “brewing groups”, where coffee was brewed directly into the cup. This machine configuration stays the same today.

The need for improving speed of preparation by applying force seems to have been just as much of a driving force behind espresso technology, as the idea that pressurizing coffee might extract more flavor compounds (that is a surprise to me).

But none of the earlier method of applying pressure could break the 1 ½ atmosphere ceiling. Some of the inventions (1920s and 1930s) that could break this barrier used the pressure of tap water, which was heated with electric elements before reaching each brewing group. In 1938, Francesco Illy, built a large machine, “Iletta”, that used compressed air to raise the pressure.

But the great breakthrough of technology came when Signor Cremonesi before World War II patented a piston, which, when a horizontal lever was turned, was forced downwards in a screwing motion. Another Milanese, Achille Gaggia, was experimenting with similar technology at the same time. The war made experiments stop, but in 1947, Gaggia came up with the “lever group”, where a powerful spring was compressed by pulling a long lever. When the spring expanded, a piston forced hot water through the coffee at a high pressure. In 1948, the first machines were produced. Espresso in its modern form, rich in taste and topped with a layer of insoluble substances, became the new standard.

All espresso machines since then, and the introduction of pumps and better temperature control, are really only refinements of Achille Gaggia´s patent of 1947 (as most people know, Gaggia is a well known italian brand, and their newest lever machine, is actually named "achille"). Because this blog is about a lever machine I will end this fascinating story here…

Monday, June 13

A short summary after three months with the Elektra

My first machine, purchased in 2001, was a Rancilio Silvia with a dual purpose boiler. The Silvia is a very good machine, and it was the Silvia that really triggered my interest in espresso coffee. I never reached the full potential of that machine before curiosity made me buy a heat exchanger (HX) machine, a la Valentina arte di Vittoria. I still own my la Valentina, and I won´t sell it.

Originally uploaded by audunso.

But I bought an Elektra Micro Casa a Leva, again out of curiosity. So, am I happy with the lever machine after three months? A little summary of things that I find important:

Taste (Remember that little of this would hold true if I didn´t have a proper grinder!)

-The taste profile of the shots took me some time to truly appreciate. The taste is very clean, but with less flavour than I was used to. It is a little like being used to press pot coffee, and then be introduced to filter coffee. It tastes less because it is less. But it is a matter of taste and habit, and making espresso is about extracting the taste compounds that are desirable, not as many of them as possible. The result with the Elektra is a very pleasant-tasting brew.

-The Elektra generally produces less crema than with a pump driven machine. Robusta coffee gives more crema, and blends with a high robusta content taste MUCH better on the Elektra than they do on a pump machine. There are other ways that may lead to decent looking crema –to use fresh roasted coffee, just after it has finished its resting period, is an obvious one.

-If the Elektra is operated without introducing more water into the brew chamber halfways into the shot (by lowering the lever once again 5-10 seconds into the pull) it will in fact be a ristretto machine, rather than an espresso machine, because it produces 2 x 15 ml espresso coffee and not 2 x 30 ml which is the «standard» espresso volume (from 14 grams of coffee). There´s nothing wrong about that -a more concentrated shot can be really wonderful and sweet, and in my opinion it really suits the taste profile of a lever machine.

Milk

-Getting the milk perfect is easy with the Elektra. Its steamer is as good as Rancilio Silvia´s, actually better, because it is always ready to steam. The resulting milk is very sweet, sweeter than with the Valentina. Is this because it is quicker? I don´t know, but it sounds reasonable because a fast warm-up of the milk may lead to more degraded sugar chains, giving more mono- and disaccharides.

Daily use

The machine warms up really fast, 10-11 minutes, making coffee preparation quiet spontaneous. But if you want a second cappuccino a little later, well, than the machine is too warm and you should wait a couple of hours till it has cooled down. All other machines than lever machines don´t share this dilemma. If your coffee drinking habits have turned italian style, a quick espresso now and then and a cappuccino by the counter in the morning, this machine is right for you. But if drinking two or three milk drinks or americanos while reading the newspaper or watching TV is important for you, then buy a pump machine (or do like me: Own two machines :-) ).

Cleaning the Elektra seems to be fairly easy -just run some water through after use and use a cloth to get rid of grinds clinging to the gasket. Every two- or three weeks it will be necessary with detergent cleaning, a ritual that takes 15 minutes.

Operation

Needless to say, operating a lever machine is fun, much more fun than operating any machine with only buttons.

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Originally uploaded by audunso.

So far, I am glad I bought the Elektra, and I believe I would think the same if I had only one machine. Because it warms up fast, I prepare and drink more coffee than I ever did before (my espresso drinking habits have become very italian).

I have fun operating the lever. And I like what the coffee tastes like.

I look forward to move to Oslo in August, and introduce the lever machine to my friends in Oslo. I´m really curious what they will think ☺

The apartment I have bought in Oslo is just 200 metres from Cortado, the store where I bought the Elektra. I look forward to visit the store for a chat ☺