It is hard to believe that espresso were use to be made without the help of automatic machines like Nespresso. If you go into any modern cookware or coffee shop, all you would see are the electronic automatic machine. Because of this, most people don’t even know that espresso can be made with a traditional hand lever. La Pavoni Europiccola is the original Italian hand lever espresso machine that has been in production for over 50 years.
The company is one of the original espresso machine manufacturer. Looking at it from a far, people will assume that this is a steam punk machine. But little do they know, this will turn out delicious espresso for those who learn how to use it. This review will go over the many iteration that the machine has over the year and talk about the pros and cons of this machine.
How to use La Pavoni Eurpoicola Espresso Machine
This is something that I struggled with when I first got it. The instructions that I see online are in Italian and it varies with the model. I will give you the instruction on how to use the model that I have.
1) Fill the container until the water reservoir is full. The sight on the left of the machine will tell you how much water should be added. Do not go over the amount, pressure will build in the machine and you do not want to overfill it.
2) Turn on the Power. My machine has two level setting, low and high. I set the low power setting initially to warm up the machine while I prep the coffee.
3) Put the coffee inside the basket and use a tamper to tamp the coffee. For my model, I got a cheap 49 mm model to fit mines. Although, it is not a perfect fit, it is good enough for my purpose. Some higher end one, will have little to no gaps when tamping it.
4) Switch the power setting to Level II until you start to hear it hiss like a madman.
5) Put the basket in the portafilter and clip it onto the machine.
6) Raise the lever and hold until you see some drips of coffee come down.
7) Gently lower the lever, if your grind is correct there should be a good amount of resistance.
8) Enjoy your coffee.
Some trouble that I had was that there was not enough pressure when lowering the lever. That is most likely due to the grind of your coffee. Unless you get a high end model, it wont be fine enough. What I did was I used the Hario Mini Slim and I attached a drill to its end. I am not going to do it by hand, it takes forever. My setting was 3-4 stop from the lowest one.
The video it will give you a visual idea on how to use it.
The Design of the La Pavoni Europiccola Espresso Machine
Electrical Component and Fuses
There are very few electrical components on this machine. From what I can see, it draws power straight from the power outlet and run it through the fuse in case it over heats. The fuse is a fail safe so when the machine reaches a temperature threshold, the machine will cut the power out. I had this happen to me before when I accidentally left it on. The machine ran dry and it wouldn’t turn on anymore. All I did was replace the fuse and it started working again.
Looking at the picture, you can see that the white wires run toward the heating element, the power switch and to the fuse. That’s it, pretty simple for a machine isn’t it!
Brass Base and Copper Boiler
Depending on the year you get, the base of the machine can be either copper or some other metal that tends to rust. If possible, try to get one that is brass, those wont rust.
The boilers, from what I read are all made out of Copper. Some models like the silver one, is a copper base that was painted silver. I honestly prefer the color of copper. Finally, the model that I have is covered in a plastic like coating to preserve the color. If it isn’t covered in that, the machine color will patina and lose its luster. You can see in certain parts of the machine where the coating is flaking off.
Milk Frothing Stick and Pressure Release
To the left of the machine there is a knob that can release steam. The steam wand is used so that you can froth milk. To the right of the copper boiler, there is a weird cylinder that sticks out. That cylinder will release steam if the pressure gets too high. Do not attempt to try and block out the steam release, pressure can and will build up to dangerous level. You can buy a pressure gauge that attaches to the water level gauge. This will tell you when to start depressing the lever. Some models already have that attached when new.
How the La Pavoni Europiccola Works
I can only make an educated guess on how the machine works. When the power goes to the heating element, pressure will start building in the boiler. Once it reaches a certain threshold, water and steam will shoot upward. At this point, the machine is pressurized with steam. By raising the lever, it opens a chamber to the group head so that it can be filled with water. When you depress the lever, you are pushing a certain amount of pressure (hopefully above 9 psi) through the coffee ground.
My coffee has no Crème
If you coffee has no Crème, make sure that your coffee grind is fine enough. Grind that is too coarse, wont let push enough pressure through it. Secondly, make sure that your coffee is fresh. Be sure to grind your own coffee. Also make sure that the beans are as freshly roasted as possible. The one that are just roasted before are the best! If you really want, you can buy some green beans and roast the coffee yourself in a frying pan.
9 bar of PSI
There is a lot of misconception on what a espresso really is. A true espresso is an extraction of coffee that was done under 9 bar of pressure or higher.
The Moka Pot by Bialetti is often time mislabeled as a an espresso machine. What it does is that it builds pressure by boiling water. When there is enough pressure, water is shot up through the basket of coffee grind. Although it does make a stronger coffee than what you get from a drip or French press, it does have enough pressure. The Moka Pot needs to be in an enclosed system to reach the proper pressure.
Aeropress is a similar coffee maker that simulates pressure to make a faux espresso shot but sadly it falls short. It however is very convenient and makes a great cup of coffee.
People who have tried a true espresso shot straight will automatically taste and see the difference. The aroma and the strength of the coffee is concentrated in a tiny amount of liquid. Just drinking that portion will make your heart palpitate. After experiencing this, you will no doubt see the difference between the two drinks.
What makes a good espresso shot?
Honestly, I don’t know. I am not a espresso nor coffee connoisseur and quite frankly, a lot of these experts are lying to themselves. Everyone has their own preference and everyone will describe each cup of coffee different. There have been scientific studies that found that wine expert cannot tell the difference between the high end wine and the low end one from the supermarket. I can almost guarantee you, that coffee is the same thing. So don’t worry if you do not taste the same nutty, floral berry taste of the coffee. It is probably in their head. What really matters is whether you like the cup of coffee.
Should I buy the La Pavoni Europiccola
Yes, especially if you love espresso machine. Those newer one cost just as much if not more than the La Pavoni Europiccola. The warranties are very short and they tend to be of questionable quality. These machine are very simple, it does not have as much moving part as the newer electronic one so its more durable and reliable. If it does break, you can always source parts either via the company or on ebay.
If you think this machine is too expensive, think about how much you spend on coffee per day. In a year, assuming that you only have one coffee a day, at 5 dollar per coffee, that amounts to 1825 dollars. In just one year, you can recoup your cost.
Finally, there is a bit of a learning curve to using this machine. But like any skill in the world, once you master it, you don’t want to stop. You can impress your friends and family with your barista skill when you bring out this machine.
In my opinion, this machine is worth it for any coffee lover. You can purchase it at Amazon also so you can be assured that your satisfaction is guaranteed!