Lever espresso machines are all the rage these days. Manual control, while perhaps intimidating to the novice, with practice leads to the holy grail of espresso. The design of lever espresso machines– combined with the right hand– results in a shot that is sweeter and smoother than anything an auto can put out. Yet this espresso ecstasy doesn’t come cheap. Many lever machines run into the thousands. Let’s take a look at the La Pavoni Europiccola, a sub-$1,000 lever espresso machine for the coffee snob on a budget.
The La Pavoni Europiccola: Classic Design
The Europiccola design dates all the way back to the 1950s. The lack of plastic and electronics make it much more durable than automatics and semi-automatics, an important point given the La Pavoni’s price tag.Like all things retro, the Europiccola is beautiful. And heavy. Don’t plan on moving this thing around very frequently. The good thing is you will want to keep this chrome beauty out in the open for everyone to see.
The Europiccola has a two stage heating system and an 8-cup water capacity. One downside is that it can’t steam and brew at the same time. All components are made of brass and its large boiler minimizes the effects of limescale deposits.
The Benefits of a Spring Lever
The La Pavoni Europiccola utilizes a spring lever rather than a direct lever, which generates more pressure toward the beginning of the shot and less at the end. This creates a distinctive flavor profile and results are more consistent. Thus the Europiccola’s spring lever design is perfect for novices who just good espresso without too much experimenting.
Those seeking ultimate control (and willing to hold themselves responsible for a few bad shots) should look at a direct lever model such as the La Pavoni Professional.You can always identify a spring lever by its upward position at rest. Direct levers sit downward.
Many coffee makers are all about style over substance. The La Pavoni Europiccola combines style and substance, but keep in mind manual espresso machines bring out both the best and worst of espresso craft. The Europiccola provides a true hands-on education. With practice and patience, this beautiful classic will churn out shots fit for the gods. It’s an excellent long-term investment for anyone who enjoys tinkering with coffee and wants only the very best.
Be sure to invest in a high-grade grinder, a decent tamper and always buy freshly roasted beans (or roast them yourself).