The Elektra A3/T1 is a pretty popular machine here, so I figured I'd write up a little review on a comparable machine that isn't mentioned much here, the Nuova Simonelli Appia.
I recently bought the 1 group automatic version off CL. According to the previous owner, it was used for a few months in a home, then was sitting in a garage for a year. The machine was in excellent shape when I received it. Just needed a good cleaning, descaling, and I need to replace the silicone 3-way drain tube that looks like a small rodent had for a snack. When I first saw the size of the machine, I was sure I would flip it and use the extra cash for a prosumer machine, but after using it for a month or so, it's a keeper. Right now it's plumbed in through a softener, filter, and regulator set to a little under 3bar. For draining I have a bowl under the machine I empty all the time. It'll eventually get nicely built into my new kitchen.
5L copper boiler
Large (maybe 1L) HX
Plain 115 volt, 15 amp plug (cheap timers welcome)
1500 watt heating element
2-way lever controlled steam valve that can be locked on
Must be both line and drain plumbed-in
Also available in semi-auto form, or with auto-steamer, with more fancy side panels
The Appia is very big, probably too big for a typical kitchen, even by our standards. This is mainly due to its height (20" at a bare minimum, with holes drilled in the right spots in your counter). Without holes in the middle of your formica, it's probably 21/22" plus cups.
The non-shiny, brushed SS is really easy to keep clean. Adjustable feet, also including super-tall NSF ones. Even with all the plastic panels, it weighs almost 100 lbs. The group has a lot of space under it, and NS includes a nice little wire shelf for our little cups. Dual dial for pump pressure and boiler pressure. Boiler water level sight, helpful for descaling. Very easy to clean drip tray.
Lots of empty space. High quality all around. Seems easy to service. Easy to adjust pstat and pressure. I'll insulate the boiler at some point.
NS has a lot of information available online: part diagrams, prices, etc. It appears the Appia uses a different, but similar group to the Aurelia. Appears to use flow restrictors (on both hot and cold HX lines?) and maybe a preinfusion chamber in the group. My guess is this group suffers less from a "cold nose" problem than E61 types due to its mounting inside the machine and bulk of metal on the top of the group. 1 layer dispersion block, with 8-holes towards the center of the screen. I don't think a convex tamper is recommended for the Appia. I don't think there is much headroom between the screen and block. I don't have a Scace device, but here's a video showing another Appia's impressive temperature stability:
The dosage buttons are easily programmed. The hot water button can also be programmed. The blue LED brightness can be adjusted. You can also select whether you want the pump to come on during autofill, or just use line pressure. It sometimes intentionally leaves the pump running during anticipated quick repeated autofill cycles, like when using hot water, to maybe reduce the on/off cycling of the motor. I keep the pump off for autofill, for noise reasons. The power is soft-button controlled, but when the plug is pulled, it remembers its on/off state, so timers can be used. Nice. Takes about 20 minutes for the pstat to first turn the heater off. I think it's about stable at 45 min.
Espresso & Steam:
I've been using a non-PID Silvia/Rocky for the past 2 years, and the Appia certainly is an improvement. I'll try to hold back on comparisons since I'm relatively inexperienced, and I'm still using the Rocky. I'm currently shopping for a much better grinder. I was getting pretty good at using the Silvia: WDT, temp surfing, even opening the steam wand for ghetto preinfusion. For what it's worth, the Appia is a dramatic improvement in consistency. Huge reduction in channeling, blonding comes later. The aroma and certainly the body of shots are improved. It was rare to get a decent single out of the Silvia; the Appia makes it much more possible. Steam dance ending easily heard with the PF out. Its steam performance is what you can imagine with 5 liters of superheated water and steam. It is a pleasure to use such a solid appliance.
It's natural to compare this machine to the other 1-group beast HX machines, the Cimbali Junior and Elektra A3/T1. I have zero experience with the others, so pure opinion and speculation follows. Looks wise, the Appia is pulling up the rear, though it really is easy to keep clean. The Appia's modern HX and group were designed for excellent temperature stability. The internal plumbing of the Elektra and Appia are very similar, except the Appia uses a solenoid for hot water. I don't know much about the Cimbali's. Drink quality-wise, there probably isn't much of a difference between the three machines. Temperature stability and ergonomics may go to the Appia, while looks and size go to the others. No idea of the relative pricing. Someone send me a Scace and I'll get some hard numbers on stability and recovery.
Whew! Well, I hope this was helpful for those curious about this monster.