Astra espresso machines are a top of the line brand for commercial enterprises and individual consumers who are very serious about their espresso. As American produced machines, Astras are designed for 110 volts, putting them at an advantage over many European machines.
There are two features that really set the Astra espresso machines apart: the sought after Sirai pressurestat and the Procon rotary pump, which is much quieter than the vibration pumps that are fitted in most espresso machines. In addition, there is heavy duty wiring, quick on/off steaming and hot water valves, and the machines work both with ground coffee and with espresso pods. Another good thing about getting Astra espresso machine is that the company is willing to customize it for you if that’s what you want. For example you have an automatic milk frother or a pump pressure gauge installed.
You can order your choice of standard panel colors, or the company will match any color upon request – should you wish to paint your kitchen chartreuse and violet, your espresso machine can be created to match. The boxy shape of the Astra receives mixed reviews. The few exceptions to the basic aluminum box can be found in their classic line, which feature options such as brass, hammered copper, and gold plating – not to mention a decorative eagle that seems to fly over the top of the crowning dome.
The Gourmet series machines are compact, yet contain a 4.2 liter boiler, resulting in a virtually endless supply of dry steam. They can produce up to 180 shots of espresso per hour. Customers report the steamer needing less than 20 seconds to steam milk for a large latte. The excellent stock tip can easily steam small quantities of milk with control. Astras can be hooked to existing plumbing or to a water reservoir, such as a five-gallon jug. The shower screen is easy to remove and clean, which is not always possible in many other espresso machines without removing the grouphead gasket. Astra Gourmet machines are popular with small businesses and also with home buyers who are serious about their espresso.
The Astra Pro is highly rated by individual consumers. It produces reliably excellent espresso and a thick, dark crema. One note of caution: it takes a while to warm up, upwards of twenty minutes. The machine can get very hot if it’s in use for a while, making it a poor choice for household with pets and small children. The self-tamping system takes a while to master. After getting the hang of this machine, it’s well worth the effort. The Astra Pro has a single gauge that displays both boiler pressure and pump pressure. It fits into an 18″ space, unlike many of its competitors.
Of the many reviews of these machines available on the web, it seems impossible to find a complaint about the durability of Astras. The manufacturer offers a two-year limited warranty on parts, and a one-year limited warranty on labor. In general, the company is very helpful on the phone, even to buyers who purchased their machine second hand. Should you decide to buy an Astra, you’ll get the best value by buying it directly from the company or from a secondhand source such as eBay.