Before I jump into the full blown comparison stuff, I should point out that while I have had extensive experience with all the machines discussed below, none of them got the same in-depth look that the Nivola did during this test period. Also, the Nivola does target a rather unique market - those who value the look and feel of a product as much as the results it produces. Elektra has never shied away from this aspect of the Nivola's purpose in life - in fact, they are proud of it, and justifiably so. That said...
This is where the Nivola ranks worst, so I'll get this out of the way first.
|Steaming Performance Comparison|
|Solis SL-70||Pasquini Livia||Elektra Micro Casa||Elektra Nivola|
|7oz/155F||41.5 seconds||23.8 seconds||37.0 seconds||76.8 seconds|
|10oz/155F||56.6 seconds||31.0 seconds||47.5 seconds||94.5 seconds|
Notes: The Nivola really started to lose power by the time I got close to 155F with the 10 ounces of milk. The Micro Casa may seem slow, but I believe the tip actually restricts the flow a bit too much - this is a boon because the Micro Casa is the most turbulent steamer in the test batch, but also a bust because it's a tad slow for a 1.8 litre boiler. it goes without saying the Micro Casa could probably steam for an hour if you wanted to - the nature of its design.
This comparison isn't completely fair; one of the test machines (Nuova Simonelli Oscar) can have its brewing temperature easily adjusted via the pressurestat inside the heat exchanger machine.
|Brewing Temperatures in Grouphead, 50ml|
|NS Oscar||Solis SL 70||Saeco Via Veneto||Elektra Nivola|
Notes: I measured roughly 50ml of water per test, and ran the test 4 times on each machine, and averaged the results.
This comparison isn't nearly as important as the previous two, but is provided none the less for informational purposes.
|Flow Rate, 10 seconds|
|Solis SL 70||NS Oscar||Pasquini Livia||Elektra Nivola|
Notes: The Oscar had the best flow rate, but really, anything between 75ml and 100ml is normal. This is mainly a timing issue, but the slow flow rate also leaves hot water touching the grinds for a longer period, potentially damaging the grinds, extracting unwanted bitters. It could also be a plus, adding in pre-infusion.
Head to Head General Use
It probably isn't fair stacking the Nivola up against machines like a Pasquini Livia or Nouva Simonelli Oscar, but when the retail price of the machine is much closer to the Oscar's price than it is to a Solis SL70, it is expected. That said, I recognize that the Nivola doesn't target the same kind of consumer market that the other machines do.
For actual shot performance, the Nivola is definitely capable of greatness, if it decides it wants to. I've had some spectacular shots from the Nivola, and I don't think I've had a better shot yet from, for example, the Solis SL 70 machine I'm also evaluating. But I have had better espresso from the Livia, and much more consistently better espresso. Ditto for the Oscar, though I'm still early on in my evaluation of that product.
Steaming, as mentioned many times in this review, is a let down on the Nivola, but not everyone will think of it this way. For one test group I had over to help evaluate a few of these machines, a couple of people were perfectly satisfied with the steaming speed of the Elektra machine; in fact, one of them thought it was fast, especially when compared to the machine they had at home - a Krups Novo 2000 something.
When I showed this test group the steaming prowess of a machine like the Livia or even the Elektra Micro Casa, the two who thought the Nivola was "fast" quickly changed their mind. Mind you, they were also completely amazed at the speed of the Livia and Oscar. That's what you get with a gargantuan boiler (hey, this is all relative, here - I know a 2 litre boiler isn't necessarily gargantuan - but it's as much as 8 or 10 times bigger than the Nivola!).
| Where the money goes - see the intricate metal work evident? (pod version shown). Click to Enlarge |
In operation, some of my test groups liked the ease of use and hand holding the Nivola provided. One of the testers (the same person who though the steaming was fast) felt it was one of the most intelligently designed espresso machines he ever saw. Fair enough commentary - what I see as green, others can see as blue, if you know what I mean.
In the looks department, and build, the Nivola had maybe one competitor - and that machine was the Elektra Micro Casa I also have for evaluation. Almost every person who saw the Nivola during my test period (about 12 people total) thought it was one of the most amazing appliances they ever laid eyes on. As an art piece, it has no real competition - it's stunning.