For a month now I'm a happy owner of the Strietman CT1 number 14. In the past I've owned several espresso machines (pump and lever) and after switching to levers a couple of years ago I knew there was no way back. I tested and drank espresso from lots of different machines varying from Rancilio to KvdW over the years. The levers I owned in the past are 2 Bezzera Strega's, a new Olympia Cremina and a La Pavoni. The last one was the Strega which gives a really nice taste but a "real" lever provides you with an even smoother and softer tasting espresso. As an espresso-only drinker I was looking out for a machine which would give me that nice traditional lever espresso with a minimal amount of maintenance and short heatup time. For this reason I bought a brand new Cremina 3 years ago but due to the production issues they had at that time (returned it 6 times the first 6 months) that didn't work out very well. It gave me the great shots I wanted but not the build quality one expects so I went back to the Strega which I also owned before the Cremina.
After I forgotten all about the Strietman ES-3 for a while my friend and fellow HB-member bobbee mentioned the Strietman CT1 and I contacted Wouter Strietman to have a look and try it out. The ES-3 is a beautiful machine but just not suitable for my kitchen due to the soft walls. The CT1, on paper, was the machine that looked to be perfect for me. After just two days I drove to Eindhoven and met Wouter Strietman in his workshop and we talked for a while and had some really great espresso's from his ES-3. Wouter is a real nice and knowledgeable man. I was lucky that the guys at HB where too busy testing and just postponed testing the CT1 for a couple of month. Due to this the last CT1 of the first batch came available right at the time I visited Wouter and I ordered it right away. I was really lucky for not having to wait several months but just 2 weeks.
The CT1 just looks astonishing and the detail on it is great. It's a true masterpiece of engineering. The only piece of electronics in the thermostat. The CT1 is built to last and made out of SS and raw brass and copper with nice wooden handles. It came along with a tamper with wooden handle. Every aspect of the CT1 is well thought out to make it a superb functioning lever combined with a beautiful package. The filter baskets are made by the company that makes the IMS baskets and screens. Everything is thought out. The CT1 has 49mm filter baskets so you can also use other manufacturers filter baskets although the provided ones are really well made. I takes only 10 minutes to fully heat up the CT1.
The design with open boiler means it works the same way as a fully saturated commercial group. The group and all the water are the same temperature which makes it incredibly temperature stable. The intake of the water isn't like a normal lever on the backside of the group but is built into the piston with a seal. If you pull the lever up the seal in the piston opens from the middle and once you pull it down it closes. This means there won't be any air in the brew chamber. You slowly pull the piston up which moves the water down. This gives great feeling in the lever. Combined with minimal play in the lever (not the wobbling like a La Pavoni but the perfection of a Cremina) it is so much fun to work with. The thermostat heats the group from the back and the group in it's turn heats the water. You don't have a heating element which breaks down if there is no water in the espresso machine. Combined with a thermal protection with reset the CT1 combines and oldschool lever with modern technology and all the safety function you want to make it completely safe. Behind the group there is a knob to adjust the temperature of the thermostat for full control.
And finally the most important part of it all, how does the espresso made with a CT1 taste. It took me a couple of weeks to get used again to a manual lever but now that is over I'm becoming more consistent again. I can only subscribe the taste as amazing. The fully saturated group combined with great thermal stability and the innovative designs make for a superb extraction of your fresh coffee. Paired with the HG One it makes espresso's which are on par with a KvdW Irdocompresso in a professional coffee bar. Compared to the CT1 it made all the machine I ever tested and owned look bad. It is that good in a very small package. If you're an espresso-only person and lever lover than the ES-3 or CT1 are great machines to own and enjoy for many years to come.
I quickly took some pictures to add to to my story