Elektra A3
Conclusion


Chris' Coffee Service Research into this report was spread over more than four months, and yet the first day's impression and final conclusions are essentially the same. That's a first for me, since generally my appreciation for an espresso machine improves as I learn more about its operation. In the A3's case, I was impressed with it straight out of the box and despite my varied attempts to find faults (sorry guys, but that's my job!), my high opinion only solidified over time.

OK, I'm very pleased with the Elektra A3, what's the problem? Why such a long evaluation if everything was going so swimmingly? Call it an overly cautious nature if you like, but when I struggle to nitpick, I start questioning my own observations. Maybe my appreciation of its beauty unconsciously weighed into my assessment in other performance-related areas? For my own comfort with the evaluation, I reached for my smallest mental tweezers and methodically looked for issues. And yet I found only nits.

For example, I recall the early days of the review, which weigh heavily into the "morning after" score. Plainly stated, dialing in the temperature and extraction was too darn easy. In retrospect, I realize that I carried an unstated assumption into the evaluation: Fast pressurization means poor preinfusion (wrong!). This bias originates in my experience with vibration pump E61-type machines, which pressurize much slower than a rotary pump's blink-of-an-eye 2-3 seconds.

Consistently obtaining the desired temperature is the easiest of any heat exchanger machine I've tried or reviewed. Elektra trumpets the transition from "overheated water is exhausted" to the beginning of the "temperature surf countdown" so loud and clear that recognizing it is trivial. The Espresso Performance section shows one of the first extractions and it was even, striped, and persistent. With the exception a slight tendency to underextract directly beneath the dispersion screw, the quality of the extractions have been dreamy. Heck, even a video of a "bad" extraction that I took for diagnostic purposes was still pretty good! Among heat exchanger machines, Elektra rules the morning after score with an 8.0.

While the scores aren't meant to be applied with scientific precision, I believe they aren't linear, especially as the scores approach the elusive "10." Nowhere is this more evident than the exceptional espresso score. Subjectivity comes into play, as does the barista's skills (or lack thereof). The ease of producing an even, consistent extraction earns big points for Elektra and her predictable temperature control regime rewards good skills with better espresso, leading to a top score of 9.0. With time and practice, baristas and the A3 will crack the 9.0 ceiling, pulling shots meriting a higher score of 9.25.

It's official, I'm a big boiler lover. The A3's steaming power is off the charts compared to typical prosumer equipment. And once again the ease of use bonus comes up. Like her little sister the Elektra Microcasa a Leva, big sister knows just how to balance volume, velocity, and dispersion pattern. Milk frothing newbies nailed great microfoam with a short five minute lesson. Love it, love it, love it. Elektra bags HB's first perfect 10 for the cappuccino lover's score.

Speaking of 10's, the only other machine to earn this unattainable is the Cimbali Junior for its materials & workmanship score. Elektra won't knock Junior off that perch, but this machine is built for the long haul. Lots of room, good arrangement, smart protections in place. Although the A3 didn't shake Junior's boots for the internal build construction, when it came to the fit and finish of the showpiece exterior, Elektra was looking at Junior through her rear-view mirror. In terms of style and exterior finish, Elektra makes excuses to nobody. Together the interior and exterior build earn the Elektra A3 an overall 9.5 in this category.

The convenience and features score encompasses the external features and those under the covers. Although cups need a "ladder" due to the distance between the grouphead and the driptray, I came to really appreciate the extra room, especially when it came to diagnosing extractions with a bottomless portafilter. The expansive super-hot cup shelf, quiet operation and convenient direct plumbing compliment the great ergonomics of the fingertip controlled steam and water tap toggles. Getting inside for minor adjustments was a snap and there's lots of room to work in. The Elektra A3 joins good company in the +9.0 club with an impressive 9.5. By the way, some home baristas prefer the convenience of programmable buttons for the cooling flush and metering espresso; the model A3 is semi-automatic (brew activation lever) rather than the automatic model T1 (volumetric dosing). However the differences between these two models weren't considered for this score.

Exceptional
Espresso

Morning
After

Cappuccino
Lover’s

Convenience / Features

Materials / Workmanship

Elektra A3

9.0*

8.0

10.0

9.5

9.5

Cimbali Junior

8.0

7.0

8.5

9.75

10.0

La Spaziale S1

8.0

9.0

9.5

9.5

8.5

Andreja Premium

8.5

7.5

9.0

9.0

8.5

Note: Home baristas with solid skills can expect a Exceptional Espresso score of 9.25.

OK, I confess that I'm an Elektra fan. It began long ago when the Microcasa caught my eye as an espresso objet d'art, quelling my interest in a La Pavoni. While the size and boxy shape don't evoke the same sense of delicate elegance of the Microcasa, many visitors commented on the A3's attractive styling (the polished sides and woodgrain handles earn lots of compliments, of course in addition to the espresso itself). I've had a long list of heat exchanger machines spend some time in the family kitchen, some of which you can read about on Home-Barista.com, some of which I borrowed from friends purely for the fun of it. However none has really tempted me to replace my own semi-commercial heat exchanger machine. Some were stronger in one way or another, but each time I concluded another heat exchanger was a small lateral move that couldn't justify the cost or inconvenience.

Well, that was until the Elektra A3 showed up. Combining the ease of use, great espresso, impressive steaming capacity, quiet operation, and styling to name a few, and she's easily beaten my setup. This ain't no lateral move. Sadly my lobbying for Elektra to stay post-review hasn't convinced the master of the kitchen, in which I am a frequent and well-tolerated interloper. Despite my wife's agreement that the Elektra A3 is the most attractive machine to pass through her kitchen doors, she feels its size is out of proportion with the rest of the room. For those who have the funds and space, the Elektra A3 offers an unadulterated commercial experience in your kitchen. It's simply the best heat exchanger machine I've had the pleasure to evaluate. Now if I only had an espresso bar...

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Chris Nachtrieb of Chris' Coffee Service (website) for the evaluation machine. I would also like to thank Steve Robinson for his valuable contributions to the evalution and Geoff Corey for hosting our informal shootout. As always, the peer review comments from Chris Tacy and Jim Schulman were insightful and succinct. Thanks again gentlemen!