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

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.