Proud new owner of a 1997 Elektra Microcasa a Leva!

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.
nismo270r

#1: Post by nismo270r »

Found this beauty at an estate sale and was floored at the condition it was in after seeing the plate on the base that said 1997. The group and baskets looked brand new and the sight glass was crystal clear. It also came with the wooden base where the baskets, coffee scoop, & plastic tamper were hiding. I was worried at what kind of shape gaskets would be in and if the lever was going to have any issues if it had just sat. There was some sun fading on the lever handle, so I think this may have been someone's decoration. After filling it up, it held pressure like a champ. No leaks, no drips, and best of all...the lever was smooth as buttah!

I'm fairly sure there was water in the boiler previously at some point, because there was a few flecks of what looked like scale along the inside of the boiler, but thankfully no funkiness. Should I just do a quick flush with a mild citric acid mixture to clean up the insides? Should I just replace the gaskets to be on the safe side even if they do seem okay now since the age? Unfortunately, I don't know any history on it, but from the condition it was in, I can't imagine it was used hardly at all.

Overall, I'm super stoked to get into the lever world! Now if I can talk the wife into replacing the Appia with a Londinium...muahahaha! :mrgreen:




Chris
LMWDP #509

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drgary
Team HB

#2: Post by drgary »

Congratulations! If the seals work, why replace them?
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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rpavlis

#3: Post by rpavlis »

To me gaskets should be watched and only replaced when they need replacement. I have had a much newer machine than this for well over a year. Elektra seems to produce these machines with some care. They have few disintegrating plastic parts. It does have a couple of vulnerabilities in my opinion:

(1) The top of the piston is open to the air. Water that gets in the pores of the metal of the cylinder walls or that leaks by the piston gaskets evaporates. When this water is contaminated with chloride it becomes contaminated and can lead to pitting. Use decent water with this machine.

(2) The lever has a roller that rolls during each shot. When this roller does not turn freely, it will slide rather than roll. This can cause damage fairly quickly. Just watch it from time to time to be sure that it is not sliding.

(3) The base is copper plated steel. It should be kept clean and dry at all times when the machine is not in use.

Another point: To check inside the boiler you can use a LED rifle bore light. (The diameter of the theads into which the cap is placed on is small, 3/8" BSTP.)

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kaldi61

#4: Post by kaldi61 »

Congratulations, that's quite the find. Looks pristine. I wouldn't tear down for service, it's such a relatively new machine and gasket materials in 1997 were fairly robust. Holding pressure with no leaks, would wait until it gave you cause to service. or until the mood struck you.
-Nelson

LMWDP #506 "It's not just for breakfast anymore."

nismo270r (original poster)

#5: Post by nismo270r (original poster) »

Thanks and thanks for all the tips! I'll definitely leave the gaskets as they are for now. Bore light is a great idea, I had never thought of that. Also, I'm glad to hear about the base. After seeing the boiler cap that looked like just copper, I wasn't sure if the base was plated pr solid.

As for the boiler, should I just flush it out with clean water or use a mild citric acid solution? It's more to just wash it out than actual descale anything. I've been keeping up on Dave's custom wood thread for awhile now and am excited to have something that would look great with his work! I always thought the Appia would just look strange with a wood handled portafilter, but this on the other hand... :D
Chris
LMWDP #509

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rpavlis

#6: Post by rpavlis »

I would look into the boiler to check for calcium carbonate deposits. Should you find it clean inside, I can see no reason to do anything more than perhaps rinse it with water.

One thing no one has mentioned here is that this is the brass and copper model. I prefer that a LOT, a majority of other people however seem to dislike it. I discovered relatively recently that one extreme advantage of this is that you can buy an inexpensive infrared thermometer and scan various parts of the machine to measure temperature. The infrared emissivity of the polymer used to protect the metal is quite high. (I have found not quite as high as on my 1999 La Pavoni.) You can instantly measure temperatures without wires everywhere. You cannot do this with a chrome plated machine.

The piston displacement is rather low, and you can make multiple short pulls by allowing the lever to rise only perhaps a fifth the distance each time to get more espresso. Elektra seems to recommend two full pulls for more volume, but I always have had problems with the puck breaking doing that.

It is extremely easy to remove the piston assembly from time to time to lubricate it. Just remove the two allen screws and pull it out! Check the bore each time. When I have mine apart I sometimes polish the bore. Pits indicate improper water. The documentation I got with mine says that Elektra's guarantee is void when damage is caused by using improper water. (For some time now I have used 1.0 mMolar potassium bicarbonate, probably the ultimate water mixture for maximum stability that also buffers the pH. It will NOT produce scale because potassium bicarbonate is soluble and potassium carbonate is extraordinarily so. This means the concentration of bicarbonate in the water coming into the group is constant, eliminating another variable. When calcium is present, bicarbonate is constantly changing to carbonate and precipitating causing a constantly varying concentration of both calcium and bicarbonate. Simply add 100 mg of pure potassium bicarbonate to each litre of high quality deionised or distilled water to get this. I add this amount by adding 1 mL of a 10% solution of KHCO₃ per litre. There will be just as much calcium and magnesium in your final espresso because the beans have huge amounts of both Ca and Mg.)

nismo270r (original poster)

#7: Post by nismo270r (original poster) »

There was very minor flakes and scale, so I used a mild citric acid solution and flushed it out. Got that lovely blue/green water after letting it sit for 1 hour and just kept flushing until clear.

I had never heard of using a water mixture like you mention. Definitely something I'll look into. Is this the same potassium bicarbonate used in home brewing?

Also, earlier you mentioned the roller on the lever. I'm not 100% sure if it's rolling or sliding. It almost seems to do a little of both. Here's a video to demonstrate what it's doing. Sorry for the poor cell phone video, but it's all I have:
Chris
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rpavlis

#8: Post by rpavlis »

Potassium bicarbonate is used in brewing because brewers do not want to add sodium ions to the final product. Coffee, like all plant products, has amazingly high concentrations of potassium. (Roughly 2%!) I like using potassium bicarbonate rather than sodium bicarbonate (or using hard water) for four reasons: (1) Potassium bicarbonate does not add ions that are not already present in coffee in high concentration. (2) Potassium bicarbonate does not decompose when heated creating solid deposits and creating constantly changing concentrations of bicarbonate. (3) I can start with water that is pure so I know what I have! I do not want the entire periodic table in my espresso. With the MCAL I am esprecially concerned with chlorides. (4) Potassium bicarbonate is very soluble in water. I make a 10% solution of it by taking 10 grams of potassium bicarbonate and adding water to make 100 mL. This solution is stable so I can keep a bottle of it ready to use as required. One can do this is many modern measuring cups that have multiple types of graduations. I have a 1 mL pipet, and simply add 1.0 mL of the 10% solution for each litre of water that I am compounding. The "good" component of hard water is bicarbonate. Unlike hard water contaminated by contact with limestone and similar minerals, that are Ca and Mg carbonates, this is added in a controlled amount so there are no fluctuations.

Because you never develop scale with the counterion of bicarbonate being potassium, you do not have to add descaling solutions that tend to remove the protective copper oxides. The oxide coatings that protect the metallic surface are most stable around pH 7.5. This weak bicarbonate solution tends to bring the pH to very near this level. One must remember that when descaling produces green or blue descale water that blue or green colour is due to the walls of the boiler going into solution!!!!!

You might consider using the following test to be sure the roller is turning correctly:

Roller bearing surface of new Elektra Microcasa a Leva showing wear - normal?

Double Shot

#9: Post by Double Shot »

How have you been finding the shots on your machine? I just picked up a 1991 MCaL and am a little underwhelmed to be honest. The shots I pull on my Cremina, using the MCaL double basket, are great but when I try them on the MCaL they aren't great at all. It may be a temperature thing and there is most definitely some operator error happening. I've run out of good coffee so am waiting for some Red Bird, as I know I can get that dialled in nicely. I was using Counter Culture Hologram, dosing 16g and giving it a 10 second pre-infusion. The boiler is running between 1.15 and 1.25 bar. I'm curious to hear what results you're getting.

Cheers.

Mike
LMWDP #480.

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drgary
Team HB

#10: Post by drgary »

Mike,

I think it's a matter of getting it dialed in and perhaps of replacing a worn spring. I had my 1989 MCAL side by side with a 1987 Cremina and the MCAL shots were in its own layered style but comparable. I have a current version MCAL next to the same Cremina currently and sometimes prefer one, sometimes the other, not finding either machine "better."
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!