If you love espresso—as in, consider yourself a true connoisseur—then you may already know La Pavoni. They sold the world’s first espresso machine back in 1905, and with the 1961 invention of the La Pavoni Europiccola, the first espresso machine for domestic use. The manual lever machines we carry are the Europiccola, La Pavoni Professional Lusso, and the La Pavoni Esperto Abile and Esperto Edotto. We also carry three La Pavoni semi-professional machines.
What is a lever coffee machine?
A lever coffee machine, quite simply, uses a lever mechanism to pull a shot of espresso. In fact the verb ‘pull an espresso’ comes from the lever model. How it works is that to make coffee, you have to pull down a lever in order to send water through a ‘puck’ of tightly packed ground coffee beans. This motion helps facilitate the minimum nine bars of pressure required to extract coffee and make espresso. To learn about how to use a lever machine, read our comprehensive guide.
Which La Pavoni espresso machine is best?
There’s no such thing as the ‘best’ La Pavoni espresso machine—only the best La Pavoni espresso machine for you! Our favourite as a team is the La Pavoni Professional Lusso, which provides more feedback than the La Pavoni Europiccola, thanks to a pressure gauge on the boiler, but less than the La Pavoni Esperto Abile or Edotto, which has two pressure gauges: one on the boiler and one on the group head, which shows the pressure of your pull. With the single pressure gauge, the La Pavoni Professional Lusso provides just enough feedback to pull excellent shots of espresso.
If you would like consistent-tasting shots of espresso, as opposed to espresso that, albeit excellent, may vary in taste, then the La Pavoni Esperto Abile or Edotto is more suitable for you. That’s because you can best monitor the two gauges to measure the variables and conditions to make espresso as you like it. If you already have a good, intuitive understanding of making espresso, then the La Pavoni Europiccola—a favourite among professional baristas and home coffee experts—could be best for you. To shop La Pavoni manual espresso makers, click here.
Traditional lever machines like the above are not designed to make more than two espressos at a time. It’s really a tool for people who enjoy the process of making coffee as much as the final cup. If you are somebody who appreciates a fantastic cup of coffee, but want the ability to make several drinks in a row, or froth milk or release hot water for tea at the same time, consider a semi-professional machine.
We carry the La Pavoni Cellini Classic, La Pavoni Cellini Evoluzione, and La Pavoni Botticelli Specialty. The key difference between the Cellini Classic and Evoluzione is that the Evoluzione can be plumbed into the infrastructure of your home or small business, rather than needing to be refilled via the tank when empty. The Evoluzione also has a rotary pump, which is extra-durable and quieter than standard espresso machines. The La Pavoni Botticelli Specialty, also with the ability to be plumbed and a rotary pump, has a BPPC system—just like the La Pavoni Esperto Abile and Edotto. This lets you control the pressure in the group head in real time for consistently smooth coffee. To shop La Pavoni semi-professional machines, click here.
How do you use a La Pavoni espresso maker?
There is a learning curve when it comes to making espresso in a manual La Pavoni espresso maker. Once you master this formula, you can play around with grind size, dose (the amount of coffee grounds), length of pull, how hard to tamp, and so much more, to find what’s right for you. But to start (and be set up for success), follow these instructions:
Bring to Pressure: Before you turn the machine on, unscrew the knob on the top of the tank and fill it with water. Screw it back on, switch on the machine, and wait for it to come to between 0.5 to 1.2 bars of pressure, which is marked green on the pressure gauge. If you’re using the Europiccola, you’ll know the machine is at pressure when the green light turns on. Attach a clean portafilter to the machine.
Purge & Eliminate False Pressure: When the machine comes to pressure, clean out any residue by 'purging' the machine of old water into an empty espresso cup. Just lift the lever for a few seconds, let the water fall, and discard the water. This warms up the portafilter and the espresso cup. Now, you have to eliminate something called ‘false’ pressure, which will make your espresso watery. The best way to do this is to place your cup or a tea towel at the base of the steam wand. Open the steam by unscrewing the steam wand’s cap, and wait for the spurts of water to turn into cloud-like steam. You want to hear a consistent hiss.
Prepare the Coffee: Fill the portafilter with 12 to 18g of ground coffee, about three tablespoons; in the office, some of us measure and some of us eyeball it. Freshly ground beans are absolutely crucial here, and they should be ground finely. We recommend the second- or third-finest setting on your grinder. Tamp down the coffee grounds in the portafilter. You want to make it tight and uniform, or else water will gravitate towards ‘channels’ that will result in uneven extraction. To get a nice layer of crema, we found that at least 15g of coffee, fresh coffee beans ground finely, and a hard (but not too hard) tamp were key.
Pre-Infuse: Place your coffee cup under the portafilter and lift the lever up slowly. If you go too fast, it will disrupt the coffee in the portafilter and lead to uneven extraction (the enemy!). When you’re at the top, you’ll hear a click. Wait 10 to 20 seconds, or until you see the first few drops of coffee, then...
Make Espresso: Pull the lever all the way down in a slow, steady motion and watch the espresso fill the cup. We like to pull for about 30 seconds, with the lever horizontal at the 15-second mark. It is deeply satisfying to see your espresso fill the cup, watching for a nice layer of crema. Enjoy.
For more information on how to use a La Pavoni manual espresso maker, including how to froth milk and use the cappuccino automatic attachment, read our full guide.
How do you clean a La Pavoni espresso machine?
It’s very simple: Just rub it with a soft, damp cloth after each use. This is especially important when you froth milk with the steam wand and cappuccino automatic. Empty the residual coffee collection basket at the base when it gets full. Every six months, it’s worth descaling the interior of the machine. We like to use a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar, fill the tank, and purge the solution completely. Repeat the process with water to remove any residual taste of vinegar. You can also use a store-bought solution.
How long does a La Pavoni machine last?
These espresso makers, including the semi-professional machines, are built like tanks and meant to last a lifetime and more. The science and craftsmanship behind every machine is exquisite and one-of-a-kind, which is why these machines last forever. There’s a whole cottage industry dedicated to refurbishing old La Pavoni manual lever machines because every part is easily replaceable.