This week is the official opening of the Lever Espresso Machines Smackdown, but I've been informally preparing by exclusively using my Elektra Microcasa a Leva the last few weeks. Although I've owned it for years, it sees irregular use as a weekend and travel kit (More signs of ECD
is the story of one such trip). After this extended go-around, I could end up a lever convert, it's been pulling more nuanced, flavorful shots than the usual E61 suspects. Intelligentsia sent some Black Cat, which packs quite a punch, but Elektra manages it quite nicely. Never would I have thought of descriptors like "fruity" could be applied to that blend, but it was this morning's welcome surprise.
With some practice on the Microcasa under my belt, attention turned to the first arrival of the Lever Smackdown, the one group Ponte Vecchio Lusso. It's been written about extensively in the forums, perhaps most notably introduced by Tim's Initial impressions
thread. Subsequently there were few surprises, though I intentionally didn't review past comments to help preserve my experience of the discovery phase.
OK, back to Mr. Lusso. Unlike the others in the lineup, the Lusso's grouphead is actively heated by a thermosyphon. And it certainly works fast! The grouphead was hot to the touch in less than 10 minutes. The Microcasa's group is in direct contact and it wouldn't be that toasty for another few minutes. The first shot was nearly a choke, the second was close, and the third was pour speed wise similar to the Microcasa.
(I'll try to post some lever tips as I remember them, e.g., don't push the lever down too fast, it breaks the puck/basket seal. Some guys go as far as to keep the portafilter shy of locked in tight as they raise the lever, then tighten down before releasing; I haven't bothered.)
The first two espressos weren't pleasant, the third was in the ballpark (well, more like the parking lot of the ballpark) of this morning's Microcasa. The second pulls from this machine were disastrous; I'm usually a one pull guy on the Microcasa, but it can handle two without a waterfall. The Lusso's flooded fast on the second pull, indicating the puck was compromised after the temporary pressure release.
Greg Scace, creator of the famous thermofilter, plans to machine one specifically for the Lusso. Once it's done, we will create plots of the Lusso's pressure profile with it. I expect it to look like this:From Olympia Cremina 2002: The evolution of design
Though I'm not sure about the height of the peaks. The piston is much smaller than the Microcasa, but the spring seems to pack about the same punch. It should put out more brew pressure. I'm not willing to pop THAT spring out of the group, the end isn't a bolt-in like the Microcasa! I'll have to ask Jim if he minds me tapping a hole in the side of the Microcasa's group to plot the brew pressure. I've always wanted to do that...
All the espressos tasted too hot. The pressurestat is set at 1.5 bar; it will have to come down a few pegs next chance I get.
A no nonsense lever machine. Surprising to have a steam and water tap in such a small package. The fittings choices are respectable, the refill cap has a safety hole for idiots who forget to depressurize, the driptray cover has a flipped up edge that hooks behind the backsplash. Good simple design, but it lacks the polished refinement of the Elektra. The valves have a strong rubber compression fitting feel to them. I would expect them to go drip drip over time.
A big boiler means no refilling and the steaming looks strong; Elektra's steam seems drier and the dispersion pattern more natural, but that may reflect my familiarity. The Lusso is compact and looks tough enough that I would not hesitate to toss it in the back seat with nary a towel around it to protect it from scratches. The Microcasa, in sharp contrast, never goes anywhere without its hardcase cocoon. The Microcasa chrome/brass model will scratch if you even look
at it hard.