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.

Location: Trondheim, Norway

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 ☺