From the Team HB review of the Bezzera Strega:
Back in the days when the world first began changing too quickly, when train stations, malls, and department stores were still new and sparkling; people wanted a quick shot of fresh coffee without interrupting their metropolitan promenades. And Luigi Bezzera was happy to oblige, creating the world's first espresso machine in 1901. Today's generation of Bezzeras continue this tradition, producing capable HX espresso machines for the home. Of these, perhaps the most deserving of wide recognition is the highly refined BZ07, an espresso machine with stunningly good performance at an entry level price. This review, however, is about an HX espresso machine with a twist: the Bezzera Strega.
The Bezzera Strega is a commercial lever group espresso machine in a small, pourover package designed for home use. Bezzera's goal for the Strega, as for all their home machines, was to make it so its owners could produce shots far superior to any capsule or superauto with only a minimal learning curve. But the application of this design philosophy to a lever espresso machine had an unintended and entirely spectacular consequence: they produced a lever-pump hybrid that, with a few simple operating tricks, can make some of the world's best espresso, especially when using lighter roasted coffees. These shots have a level of clarity, body, and wine-like sweetness that is only equaled by the most advanced double boiler, pressure profiling machines.
ESPRESSO: The Strega's espresso chops come from design features that control the temperature and the pressure in unique ways. The combination of heat exchanger and stored heat in the cylinder of the lever group produces a hot start/cool finish temperature profile. The higher initial temperature ensures a properly heated puck and a full extraction, so that the slower dissolving caramels and oils add sweetness and body to the faster extracting, aromatic fruit acids and Maillard reaction compounds (which create the toast, wood, and nut flavors). The lowered finishing temperature prevents overextraction, avoiding the muddy and highly bitter flavors one gets in bad ristrettos, in coffee left too long on hot plates, or in instant coffee.
The Strega also produces the flavor clarity of classic lever machines, since the declining pressure of the spring, coupled with the dropping temperature, completely prevents overextraction and its associated muddy or bitter flavors.
STEAMING: All the Bezzera home machines, including the Strega, have 1.5L upright (BZ07) or 2.0L horizontal boilers (Strega), along with precise four hole tips which produce superb steam at a full commercial clip for about forty five seconds before needing to recover. This means you can steam milk for a perfect six ounce cappuccino in under ten seconds, and for a pair of twelve ounce lattes in about forty. People who use commercial steamers will find it a joy it use, people with less experience will face a learning curve to get used to this fast pace. Once they are used to it, they will find that steaming with just about any other home machine is a drag. The steaming pace means you can steam and make the shot at the same time, even for a pair of lattes.
CONCLUSION: The ability to make master class espresso with an espresso machine requires a high level of manual control. But the ability to make shots without paying a lot of attention or having a lot of expertise requires a well thought out machine that does the right thing on its own without a lot of gyrations. Bezzera has put a lot of thought in making a line of conventional machines that, when paired with a solid grinder, will knock the socks off any superauto or capsule machine even when used by complete beginners. The Strega, like all the Bezzera espresso machines, is very easy to use, and makes an excellent machine for a beginner who is drawn to using a lever machine.
The Strega is a breathtakingly good steamer, so it's no problem to make great cappas. However, while high speed and high quality milk steaming is one major factor in using a machine for entertaining or catering, quick recovery between making shots is the other. In this respect, the Strega is limited to one shot every two minutes is the maximum pace. This is fine when making a few shots for other espresso lovers in a small get together, but not great for parties where you want to put out as many drinks as quickly as possible.
The "who should buy question" that goes to the heart of this review is this one: "Is the Strega an espresso machine for lever purists?" No, it's simply for those who want class espresso without a lot of fuss.
Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (no reviews)
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