Most coffee machines look very similar; they are more or less a metal box with a handle on. Some have a few gauges, others have a color. Even thehigh-end machines for home use look fairly identical and quite boring (Isomac, Vibiemme…). Elektra is the exception; they make beautiful machines full of character and style that brings back the best of the Belle Epoque.
When I first saw the Elektra Belle Epoque at Brass Goggles, I thought it was a prop or something custom made. It turns out that it is a very real product from an Italian manufacturer of coffee machines, Elektra, who produces a range of retro and contemporary professional and high-end domestic machines. The Belle Epoque is a €7300 professional machine.
More affordable and even more beautiful is the €760 manual Micro Casa a Leva, particularly in Chrome/Brass trim. This spring-loaded (manual lever action to cock a spring that provides constant pressure) machine performs very well according toCoffeegeek, although the lever operated mechanism makes it more difficult to use and limits the capacity compared to semi-automatic machines. What it makes up by being manual is the purity of the machine. The entire machine is on display, nothing magic behind the screens is made. It’s your skill that shines when it makes great coffee, and your failure when it doesn’t.
The Microcasa Semi Automatica is basically a scaled down Belle Epoque for high-end home use. Equally beautiful but smaller, cheaper and without automatic refills and such features, the €1450 machine still produces coffee equal to or better than its competitors (like the VibiemmeDomobar Super).
Although not from Elektra, one of the oldest and most classic designs (from the company which created the expression “Espresso” in the early 1900′s) which also fit in this category is La Pavonis Europiccola first launched in1961. The piston-design only uses a lever (i.e. the user has to provide the correct amount of constant pressure) which puts it one step higher on the required skill level than the Micro Casa a Leva. The even simpler constrution and slightly less costly construction means that it can be found for around €410.