Wonderful Expresso maker if you want to spend time to understand it.
Positive Product Points
Beautiful Brass Apointments Sturdy Constuction Good Steamer
Negative Product Points
Group Head Heats up too quick Limited quantity/quality of shots before too hot to use Very touchy in regards to expresso grind and tamp Small portafilter (wish it had a 58mm group) Not easy for a novice to learn
I purchased this brass beast at a yard sale in Michigan. The owner had bought it 8 years ago and was not able to make good Expresso with it. Upon inspection at home I noticed that the boiler was full of scale and flaky crud. My 1st task was to de-scale and clean the unit.
After cleaning I ran a couple tanks of water through the grouphead-Nice and clear. I took the group head apart and lubed the piston with some food grade silicone grease and re-assembled. Ran 1 more tank of water through the group head. I was ready to rock-except for one crucial item, I didn't have a small enough tamper to fit the portafilter. After spending 30 minutes calling the various coffee services in Michigan I began to think that I had to order a 48mm tamper via mail order.
"Lars to the Rescue" Later that evening, a nice guy named Lars called me from one of the local coffee services in town. He had a tamper that would fit the Microcasa a Leva. An hour later and $25.00 gone I had a solid stainless steel 48mm tamper. Lars had one left over as a sample from a tradeshow in Las Vegas. The tamper wasn't pretty, but it's heavy and has a knob on the top the size of a tow hitch ball, a good fit for my thick fingers.
The first shot: I turned the unit on and let it heat up, it took 14 minutes to get to presure and have the thermostat cut off. I flushed the group head with about 5 oz. of water and then an additional amount to preheat an Expresso cup. The portafilter was dosed with Expresso ground on my Rocky at a bit past 7. That SS tamper is great, a couple light tamps and then a firm press and twist-Ready to go. The lever was pulled down and I heard a "whoosh" as water filled the cylinder. I counted to 10 (one Missippi, Et Cetera) and let the lever go. At first it moved slowly, then seemed to move a bit faster. The shot came out in a fine stream-then dribble. Total time of 29 seconds. I was impressed. The crema was dark with a darker eye in the center. The shot was a "WOW" shot, better than my Silvia. I was impressed.
Next, I made one for my wife, same technique, grind, tamp, Et Cetera. She wanted a double so I pulled the lever, let the portafilter pre-infuse and let the lever go. This time the lever went up at a steady pace-I didn't time it. Once it got almost to the top of it's travel, I pushed it town again and let it go. The lever was traveling slower this time. I watched the shot come out of the filter, it was a quick dribble with small streams forming. The crema looked wonderful, fairly dark, with some lighter flecks. Near the top of the levers travel, the crema began to turn light brown, then beige.
The wife drank the double and told me I could keep the Elektra. She had vetoed a number of machines before I bought the Silvia. She said that she liked the Expresso from the a Leva better than the Silvia. Perhaps because she watched me make the shot on the a Leva, but I think her opinion matters in Expresso, she is full-blood Sicilian.
We've been using the Microcasa a Leva for about six months. In the morning I make a double for me and the wife a latte for my son, then turn it off. I have never made more that 3 double shots with it, the last of the 3 shots usually goes into a Latte for my son.
I like the ritual of making Expresso with this beast. After six months, I think I have my variables of grind, tamp, and temp worked out. In reading review of this machine I noticed quite a few comments about the machine's inability to pull multiple shots beyond two or three. I agree on those points. The Microcasa a Leva is not designed for shot after shot, rather a more intimate machine for one or two people who don't slam shot after shot.
You can't go wrong finding one of these at a yard sale or estate auction. I originally bought the machine to clean up and re-sell. The brass was scratched up, the eagle had one of it's wings broken. Quite frankly, it looked as if it was used for a while and never cleaned-internally or externally.
Would I buy this beast for $900.00+? Possibly, but I think people buy this unit for it's looks as much as the quality of Expresso. If I came along another one at a yard sale, I'd pounce on it, even if it was $500.00
I was very satisified with my find. Ya Just had to be there......
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
I have mastered the Elektra microcasa a'leva. It has taken a while, but I have my grind, tamp, and infuse times set. I can consistently pull shots with thick crema. The learning curve has been long, but I think it blows my La Pavoni out of the water. I have changed the gaskets once including the shower screen. The boiler has stayed fairly clean since i use water run through my reverse osmosis filter (I think that the RO filter is one of my best investments). I bought this unit at a yard sale, but I would buy one new if I had to. For low volume expresso and cappucino, it is a super machine.