Learning with inherited Elektra Microcasa a Leva

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#1: Post by muranomike »

Hi everyone. I've been lurking as a non-member for a while, but I just can't get this working well.

So my situation is I have a 1997 Elektra Microcasa which I inherited. It was hardly used, but when I first fired it up there was water leaking out of the group head. I ordered a bunch of parts from Stefanos, and replaced the piston seals. Now I have it working I think. The pstat is working, and it heats to 1.2 BAR. I also inherited the matching Elektra grinder, and I replaced the burrs on this with brand new 58mm burrs. On the finest setting (burrs touching) I get essentially coffee icing sugar so this grinder is quite capable. It can grind much finer than I think is necessary!

My technique. Double basket. I have used from 14-20grams of finely ground espresso from the finest ground to quite coarse. I have tamped from 5-40+ pounds. I have used a variety of coffee that is of high quality and freshly roasted. I use a fellini type technique of pulling. I preinfuse and get coffee dripping, then release handle (it wants to go up fast so I hold her back a bit and then half way up do a second pull). At this point I'd like to let go of the handle but if I do it would just go straight back up so I usually just guide it up. I can make shots take from 20-40 seconds depending on what I've done.

Problem a) the lever rises very quickly after releasing it, no matter how finely ground or how much I tamp. There is basically no way to get the handle to rise slowly. b) I never get any crema.

This being said the shots are usually tasting pretty good no matter what I do.

Why does my lever go up so quickly? Is this a spring issue? I would think an old spring would be the opposite problem (ie not go up at all). Could this be a seal issue with maybe the shower screen o-ring (although it doesn't appear to be leaking). I have literally tried everything..


#2: Post by caeffe »

I have a 1993 MicroCasa with the matching grinder - although I also have a Mazzer Major; so I can somewhat speak from experience

With 15g of grounds, a normal pull for me yields ~25-35g. A single pull. I haven't really timed it but I count ~ 20-30 mississippi's usually. This was using the matching Elektra grinder which BTW I have yet to replace its burrs albeit I have rarely used it due to my Major.

Upon initial turn on of the machine, do you open the steam valve to release false pressure? If you don't release this initial false pressure your gauge may read 1.2 bar but the real pressure is really low. You'll know by how quickly the pressure drops once you upon up the steam valve.

How are your seals? When 1st turning on the machine does water leak out of the grouphead or out of the weephole in the back of the group? If not, your seals are probably ok. If they do leak initially then after a while it stops leaking - they should probably be replaced.

When you load it with 15-20g at the finest setting of your grinder - how long does a pull take after waiting for the initial drops?
With your grinder, at the finest setting are you able to "choke" the machine? ie the lever won't even go up.

How fresh are your beans? If your beans aren't fresh - say 7-20 days post roast this can affect how well you can get crema as well as how easily the water will pass through the puck.

1. Try getting some beans from your local shop - maybe even have them grind 1/4 lb or so to the finest setting. You can use this to see if it'll choke Microcasa.
2. See if you grind even finer to the point of choking - then back off 1 or 2 settings on the grinder.
3. Ensure you really are at 1.2 bar by releasing the initial pressure then allowing the machine to go back to 1.2 bar.

Let us know the answers to these and how it goes.
Good luck.
LMWDP #162


#3: Post by muranomike »

Thanks for reply.

My machine has a vaccuum release, so although I have and sometimes do release the pressure, it doesn't actually change the gauge. I have tried both ways and really no difference.

My seals are brand new as described, and no leaking since I replaced them.

It takes about 6 seconds for initial drops. I cannot choke the machine, even with sugary icing grounds tamped very hard, and a rock hard puck.

Beans have been every age. I have tried about 15 different roasters. I have had roaster grind at 'finest' setting which is no where near what my grinder can grind to. There is no way to choke my machine that I have found so far....... and that is frustrating.

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#4: Post by peacecup »

Sorry, but if you grind fine enough the machine will choke unless the beans are very old or very dar roasted. So keep grinding finer. Double grind the coffee if needed, just to test it.

A further possibility is that the downward facing piston seal is damaged. This is the seal that creates pressure on the downstroke. Rarely, some damage to the piston wall or extreme buildup of scale/gunk could also cause failure of the downward facing seal to create pressure.

These latter two seem unlikely, since you are getting liquid output from the piston stroke. So it's probably either beans or grinder.
LMWDP #049
Hand-ground, hand-pulled: "hands down.."


#5: Post by muranomike »

Thanks for reply.

Yes I agree in theory I should be able to choke it, but I really can't. I have got EXTREMELY find grind, packed extremely tightly (I'm 6'0, 220lb and benchpress 315lb). The handle just whips up like nothing. I have checked the (brand new) seals, and relubed them and they look good. The machine seems to work well, and the product tastes good -- but the lever action just seems wrong...

I guess at this point does anyone know any other reason even in theory that the lever would go up without resistance IF you can make the assumption I'm actually grinding and tamping properly...


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#6: Post by IamOiman »

May I see a pic of the top of your boiler with the domed cap off? I thought vacuum valves were added only in 2005 for MCaLs. Another question I have for you is does the lever go up pretty quickly during extraction then get 'stuck'/becomes very slow after the halfway point?
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612

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#7: Post by jwCrema »

I'm sorry if I missed this, but what is the volume of the shot after the lever has returned?

These machines are closer to a violin than a sledge hammer. Once we figure out what the root cause is you probably laugh at the pressures you're exerting.

You should be seeing 30 ml in the cup. I use a 15g dose, I'm sure others may be higher, 16-17g. For now, I'd just pick one, 16g for instance, and stick with that until you get a normal shot.


#8: Post by muranomike »

Again thanks for replies everyone. I really appreciate the input.

I have thought it was weird this one has a Vacuum relief valve when it has 1997 printed on the bottom - see pictures. I only recently acquired it and do not know the history other than the person before me got it about 12 years ago and rarely used it. It was hardly used I believe based on when I was servicing it.

In terms of shot size, I get anywhere from 30 to 40 cc from my 14 to 20 gram shots. Again I have tried every combination and cannot get the handle to rise slowly. And again the shots(for the most part) are pretty good espresso shots in terms of taste..

The lever rises effortlessly with no sticking point. Its almost like the spring is TOO powerful.
It rises at the almost the same rate as if I lever it down and release with the machine off and no portafilter attached - and this is under any situation no matter how fine the ground / tamped it is.

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#9: Post by jwCrema »

With the information you've supplied, I suggest pulling the piston/lever assembly and send us a picture. They need to be installed in a particular way in order for them to seal properly.

Piston gasket replacement on Elektra Microcasa a Leva


#10: Post by muranomike »