Elektra Semiautomatica
Materials and Workmanship

The Elektra is not a commercial machine weighing a hundred pounds, nor a semi-commercial espresso machine weighing 50 pounds. It is a home machine tipping the scales at a mere 25 pounds, about the same as a Rancilio Silvia. Yet it costs about three times as much and about 50% more than budget semi-commercial machines. Is the value there or not?

The main quality feature is plainly visible—the striking form and finish of the machine. The machine is mostly made of perfectly aligned machined brass parts. These are first plated in chrome or decorative brass and copper, and then finished in clearcoat. The clearcoat is the same as on automotive parts like tailpipes and alloy or mag wheels; it is quite tough. However, unlike steel, it can chip, and in some instances peel if abused for several years (use only a damp cloth or specialized cleaners, never metal polishes or harsh detergents). The good news is that your local motorcycle shop or car customizer can repair or restore the finish, and several websites sell clearcoat touch up kits that will fill in small chips and hairline scratches.

What about the insides? I've poked around lots of espresso machines and this one strikes me as a very decent deal. Although the construction quality will not compete with stainless parts of machines like the Cimbali or La Marzocco, it is as good or better than standard commercial machines, and better than all the semi-commercials I've seen. The pipes, hose, fittings, mounts and seals are all a cut above what I have on my Isomac Tea, while the electrical components and wiring workmanship are a whole lot better. Despite the small size of the base, the layout is very good and the parts are easy to work on when repairs are required.

Two examples I came upon when making modifications as part of my experimentation in controlling the brew pressure: Compared to the usual brute force overtorquing of fittings on many machines, the Elektra's are sealed with viton pipe sealant and gaskets, and not overtightened. I could open them easily without bending parts or damaging threads and reseal them easily without leaks. The wiring is run in a circle around the rim of the base with frequent tiewraps and high quality connectors. Again, this meant I could disconnect and reconnect with no stress, and without having displaced loose wires with no clue as to where they should go. It's touches like this that make the difference between pleasant and unpleasant long term ownership.

The only semi-commercial components, necessitated by its small size, are the Mater pressurestat and the Ulka pump. The Ulka is very reliable with almost no reported failures. Pressurestats, in general, are failure prone, and the MATER, in particular, has a history of entire production runs experiencing early failures. Unfortunately, the Semiautomaticas delivered around the time of this review have had this problem; refer to the article feedback for discussion of corrective actions. Part of owning any HX espresso machine is the expectation than one will attend to minor repairs; in this case, the occasion came earlier than usual.

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