It's Beautiful, What is it?
The basic design of the La Pavoni Europiccola Lever Espresso machine has remained essentially unchanged since its debut in 1961. The alterations along the way have centered around improving functionality and performance. With it you can make espresso, cappuccinos, or lattes that rival the finest coffee shops in the world. The machine itself has a long, fascinating history and comes with a list of accomplishments that few appliances can lay claim to.
The La Pavoni Europiccola not only revolutionized coffee at home, but appeared in a James Bond film (Live And Let Die, 1973) where it was used by 007 himself, and secured a permanent position in the New York Museum of Modern Art. How many coffee makers can say that?
Upon seeing a La Pavoni manual lever espresso maker for the fist time, many people have a similar reaction.
"Wow, that looks awesome. What does it do?"
"Gorgeous! How does it work?"
"Nice! What is it?"
I think those types of initial reactions are a testament to the beauty and design of the machine itself. Even someone who has no idea what it is or what it does will readily admit that it looks cool. It does look cool.
For the barista or coffee connoisseur the sight of a La Pavoni lever machine can make one's heart race faster than a triple-tall-espresso-macchiato. The widespread love and appreciation of this machine is almost automatic. Using one, however, is anything but.
In our modern world of kitchen gadgets quality is often associated with ease of use and convenience. Single serve coffee makers allow us to brew a cup with throw-away pods and never even see the ground coffee, while national fast-food coffee chains sport drive-thrus and pay-by-smartphone scanners.
The La Pavoni Lever machine is different. It harkens to a time when espresso was an art. Steam puffing out reminds us of a romantic era. The process of creating something with skill, love, and talent is celebrated as you use this machine. The results, when you get them right, are delicious and rewarding.
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So How Does It Work?
(Fair Disclosure Of Reality)
Okay, so the romance of espresso and the joy of steampunk gadgets in your kitchen. Awesome. How does the bloody thing work?
Please understand that this is not a "press-one-button-and-get-a latte" type of machine. This is a fine example of Italian craftsmanship designed for the barista or home coffee enthusiast to indulge in the art of espresso. You can expect to spend some serious time and effort learning and perfecting the techniques and skills it takes to properly use this machine to create espresso, cappuccinos, and other espresso based beverages. So here is my down and dirty explanation of how the La Pavoni Lever espresso maker works.
Basically the machine works by boiling water in a pressurized chamber. Finely ground coffee is compressed into the portafilter (that little coffee basket in the removable handle). The lever, when down, seals off the boiler and allows pressure to build. When the pressure is at it's desired state, the barista (which literally means coffee bartender) lifts the handle allowing hot water to enter what is called the group head. This is the chamber above the ground coffee. The barista waits about six seconds, or until they see a few drips of coffee exit the spout, then they pull the lever down at a rate that will find the lever bottomed out again after about twenty-one or so seconds. All of these nuances create variations in the final espresso product and become part of the art of using the machine.
Factors that affect the quality of the espresso you make with this machine include roast, dose, grind, extraction time (how fast or slow you lift and pull down the handle), and temperature. Each of these elements is critical and be prepared to experiment with combinations of them to get the espresso to come out right.
Using a La Pavoni Europiccola is a true combination of science and art. It demands finesse, patience, and skill. It takes practice and time to develop a "feel" for the way the machine does things. Remember, extreme heat, pressure, electricity, and boiling water are all present when this machine is being used. Failure to proceed with cautious patience could be regrettable.
Video: Pulling an espresso shot with a La Pavoni Europiccola Machine.
Careful, It's Hot
My Experience Using The La Pavoni
First of all let me say that the best place to find safety and operating information is in the La Pavoni Europiccola User's Manual. But in this section I have included some things to be aware of, based on my personal use of this machine.
All metal parts of the La Pavoni Europiccola become very hot in use. Do not touch any part of the heated machine that is not one of the black (or wooden depending on the model) composite handles. "Ouch!"
Also remember to let the machine cool down before opening the boiler chamber to empty it after using it. By, "let the machine cool down," I mean walk away for an hour, unplug the machine and go to work, something like that.
Also be sure that the lever is completely in the down (closed) position before removing the portafilter to make another shot. Boiling water under pressure is what fills the group head. You don't want that in your face just because you were in a hurry and left the handle up two inches.
Steam is hot and fast. This goes for any espresso machine that has a steam wand. The La Pavoni Europiccola steams as good or better than any machine I have ever used, but use with caution.
All of this is not to detract from the equipment, but simply to give you an idea of the technical nature of using it.
La Pavoni Boiler, Grouphead, Steamknob, and Sightglass detail
The La Pavoni Europiccola Lever Espresso machine is one of the most beautiful examples of machinery ever created. The basic design has remained essentially the same for over fifty years, which says something in this fast-changing modern world.
The La Pavoni Europiccola revolutionized coffee at home, was used in the movies by James Bond, and gained a shelf in the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Owning one of these machines will give you a a piece of espresso making history that will likely last for years, be admired by all who see it, and make your kitchen counter look like the home of a rock star. In addition to that, if you are willing to learn, patient, and have the desire to experiment and persist, the La Pavoni Europicola will reward you with the most delicious, amazing, powerful beverage known to mankind: a perfectly pulled shot of espresso.