To this day, one of the best shots of espresso I've ever had, has come from this machine: the Elektra Microcasa a Leva. A beautiful spring piston lever espresso machine.
These machines are pure works of art. Elektra polishes and coats every surface so they gleam, shine, and look awesome. But you're also seeing all the "guts" of the machine when you look at this - the tower at the back of the machine? That's the boiler. The polished round thing up front? The exposed grouphead. The tube on the left? That's the connected sight glass to show you water levels.
This is not a "smart" machine. No real electronics save for the most basic thermostats and safety devices to keep it from blowing up. No PID, no rotary pump, no dual boiler action. The boiler tower is a single boiler and drives both the espresso brewing water and the steam pressure for frothing your milk.
Instead, it's a pure manual machine. It is a spring piston, meaning that you cock the spring by pulling down on the lever, and releasing it so the spring itself pushes water through your bed of ground coffee you packed into the portafilter. You can even operate the machine turned off and unplugged after you let it heat up to brewing temperatures.
That manual control lets you control the preinfusion time. Hold the lever down longer and you get longer preinfusion, using just the boiler's pressure (around 1.2bar). Release the lever and the spring's initial 9bar of pressure force does its job, and over the shot, reduces the pressure to finish at around 3 or 4 bar of pressure. Grab the arm again during the shot, and you can bring the pressure down yourself.
It's not without flaws: the drip tray is horribly tiny, for example. There's not hot water ability for americanos (steam your water up to boiling). There's no cup warmer.
But as pure elegance, and manual espresso preparation, this is the tip of the top for home in terms of looks and old school function.
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