Top of the line home espresso, OK for occasional milk drinks.
Positive Product Points
- Able to make incredible espresso - E61 grouphead with standard portafilter - Pressure adjustment and pressure gauge - Professional PID from Hi-Tech Espresso - Very large tank and drip tray - hi-limit breaker works well thankfully - Easy on the eyes - Knobs, switches, levers all feel totally solid, a tactile joy - Built to last
Negative Product Points
- Significant cooloff time for back to back milk drinks - You have to be very careful with the steam boil setting to prevent overheating, turn off element during/after steaming and immediately refill boiler... don't ever leave it on - I managed to loosen the steam wand to the point where it started leaking just by moving it from side to side over time, but it was easy to tighten again. Steam wand is only somewhat agile. - Pricey
I nearly always drink straight espresso, and I make 1 or 2 a day for myself. My partner usually likes americano, cappucino or iced drink, 0-2 a day. This machine is perfect for this amount of use. It has an amazing capacity for back to back espresso shots, but once you are making more than one steamed milk drink (when company comes over, etc) the downtime is a little annoying. You really need to let the machine sit for awhile after getting hot enough for steaming to go back to espresso. Since I don't usually drink milk drinks I tend to get more annoyed with the operation and hassle of steaming milk than is probably warranted. This machine performs very well for a single milk drink and I think I would go on strike trying to work with anything less. I have not tried to steam more than about 8oz of milk at a time but I don't think doing so would be an issue, it's very powerful.
I went straight from the DeLonghi EC155 ($100 machine just barely capable of making espresso) to this, skipping the Silvia level of machines entirely. I went more than a year with the old DeLonghi and I got pretty good at making espresso from it, but I could feel the limitations of the machine and I knew I wouldn't really be satisfied with another machine with critical limitations for espresso. I have enough problems getting all of the typical variables in line to make excellent espresso, I didn't want to have to romance the machine as well. The other thing that really bothered me about the DeLonghi was that everything was non-standard and when I read about other people making espresso, nothing translated. The Alexia gave me exactly what I wanted: mediocre espresso because I'M doing something wrong and not the machine. When I do everything right, the machine really doesn't let me down. Standardized E61 grouphead, basically the benchmark to work from, and with the PID it also removes the temperature surfing variable. Super easy to access pressure adjustment and clear to read pressure gauge. This thing is built to last and I know its relatively high up front cost will pay dividends for years, especially in regards to preventing upgraditis.
The PID provided by Dave at Hi-Tech Espresso works very well, professionally installed and looks like it belongs there. This is not a duct tape job by any means. It is incredibly easy to adjust the temperature, actually doing the experimentation and going through a lot of coffee to find the best temperature is the hard part. I don't find myself doing this as often as I expected I would, but on occasion it is fun to try. The bottomless portafilter Hi-Tech included in the package was a rough-around-the-edges sawed off, but I don't really mind; with the DeLonghi I got used to ugly mods. It's just that the rest of the aesthetics of the machine are so professional, it detracts a bit.
I purchased the unit on Hi-Tech Espresso's ebay store. It took a very long time to get my machine and Dave wasn't upfront about why, he did not respond to emails or Ebay messages. I called him on the phone and finally got hold of him. He said that the machine he received from Chris Coffee was damaged in shipping and he had to wait for a replacement to arrive. It would have been nice to hear this as soon as he was aware of the delay, but in the end I received a pristine machine with a professional upgrade and I didn't personally have to deal with sending a damaged unit back to New York. While I was freaking out about not receiving the machine I looked into his online history, pretty amusing but not relevant to my experience.