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La Pavoni Professional Manual Lever Espresso Machine Review 2022

After working as a professional barista for many years, Arne Preuss founded Coffeeness.

The La Pavoni is the most widely known manual-lever espresso machine on the market. However, it's also quite controversial. There are some people who claim you simply can't make good espresso using it.

The La Pavoni is the most widely known manual-lever espresso machine on the market. However, it’s also quite controversial. There are some people who claim you simply can’t make good espresso using it.

That’s definitely not true, but using a La Pavoni espresso machine is certainly challenging. There’s a steep learning curve and quite a few tricks that you’ll need to master. 

In this detailed review I’ll share my experiences using the La Pavoni Professional. I’ll also take a look at some of the manufacturer’s other manual offerings, as well as share some tips for getting the best out of a La Pavoni espresso machine.

My favorite La Pavoni Espresso Machine!

The La Pavoni Professional is a work of art!

A beautiful manual-lever espresso machine.

Heats up in under 10 minutes

Sleek design

Small footprint

Comes with a boiler and pressure gauge

Must cool down before water can be refilled

May overheat after some time

The La Pavoni Espresso Machine Overview

Here’s a list of the La Pavoni Espresso machines I’ll be looking at today:

Product List Image
  • High-quality materials
  • Looks amazing
  • Built-in pressure gauge
  • Easy to clean and maintain
Product List Image
  • Easy to clean
  • Compact size
  • Makes excellent espresso
  • Looks great on Instagram
Product List Image
  • Beautiful design
  • Doesn't require much maintenance
  • Makes awesome espresso
  • Built-in pressure gauge
Product List Image
  • Built-in group temperature indicator
  • Pressure gauge for boiler and group
  • Comes with bottomless portafilter
  • Makes incredible espresso

Which La Pavoni Espresso Machine Did I Get?

The Amazon box containing my new manual espresso machine from La Pavoni arrived soon after I’d placed my order. Opening it was a special moment. I’m sure this machine will be with me for quite some time, so I wasn’t just unpacking an espresso machine, but a life partner.

Overall Look

The machine sparkles and shines, reflecting a distorted image of my joyful face. It’s an incredibly beautiful espresso machine that’s much smaller than I’d imagined. Sure, I’ve seen it many times before, but it still takes up surprisingly little space in my kitchen.

Taste is famously always a question of personal preference. However, I think in the case of La Pavoni, the manual-lever espresso machine walks a fine line. After all, madness is pretty close to genius. 

There are many models available in gold and featuring eagles but, personally, I don’t find them attractive.

Wooden Grips

I got the version with wooden grips, but the higher cost involved doesn’t provide any technical advantage and is purely aesthetic. It would be more sensible to choose a less expensive option – but sense doesn’t really factor into things when buying a lever espresso machine!

The great thing about a solidly built espresso machine without a lot of bells and whistles is that not much can break. Not only that, there’s a good supply of spare La Pavoni parts available.

A large screw cap on top of the machine seals the boiler. There’s also a sight glass that shows the water level. This is especially important because the machine has to cool down completely before you refill it.

Pressure Gauge

The Professional model has a built-in pressure gauge, which displays the pressure inside the boiler. Other models, such as the Europiccola, have lights that blink when the machine has created enough pressure.

But would I actually be able to use this beautiful machine? I watched plenty of coffee professionals on YouTube successfully preparing espresso with a La Pavoni.

Still, the endless questions and comments below each video seem to suggest that most people are a little overwhelmed by this machine. I’ll share my experiences a little later.

In the meantime, let’s get down to business by looking at some of the best La Pavoni manual espresso machines on the market.

La Pavoni PC 16 Professional Espresso Machine

La Pavoni Professional Espresso Machine. Buy Now on Amazon

The La Pavoni PC 16 Professional is the espresso machine that I bought to test out. It costs $1,169.14 on Amazon, although I couldn’t resist spending a little more for the version with wooden handles.

As I already mentioned, the shiny chrome looks awesome. There’s also a pressure gauge and a cool sight glass for keeping an eye on the water level. 

The La Pavoni PC 16 Professional has a hefty 38 ounce boiler capacity, which means you can prepare 16 two-ounce shots of espresso.

What’s confusing is the included “Cappuccino Maker.” It’s a complicated contraption that I ended up leaving in the box.

After all, there’s a perfectly good steam wand, and anyone who is willing to use their muscle power to prepare espresso is likely to want to foam their milk by hand, too.

PROS

  • High-quality materials
  • Looks amazing
  • Built-in pressure gauge
  • Easy to clean and maintain

CONS

  • Quite the investment
  • Can overheat

La Pavoni EPC 8 Europiccola Eight Cup Espresso Machine

La Pavoni Europiccola Espresso Maker. Buy Now on Amazon

Available for $969.00 on Amazon, the La Pavoni EPC 8 Europiccola is a more compact and affordable option.

However, in my opinion, the 20 ounce boiler just isn’t big enough, so I’d recommend spending a little more and getting the Professional.

That said, the Europiccola is still a great espresso machine. It shares many of the same features as the Professional, including sturdy construction, chrome plating and an automatic milk frother for making cappuccino

There’s no pressure gauge on the La Pavoni Europiccola, but that isn’t a huge deal. After all, the Professional’s gauge measures boiler pressure, not pressure at the group head. You’re the one creating the pressure for espresso extraction, by pulling the lever with sufficient force.

The La Pavoni Europiccola has a light which lets you know when the boiler has reached the correct pressure. It may not look as cool as a gauge, but it does the job!

PROS

  • Easy to clean
  • Compact size
  • Makes excellent espresso
  • Looks great on Instagram

CONS

  • No pressure gauge
  • Has to cool down before being refilled

La Pavoni PSW 16 Stradivari Espresso Machine

La Pavoni Stradivari Espresso Maker. Buy Now on Amazon

The La Pavoni PSW 16 Stradivari was released in 2005 to celebrate the manufacturer’s 100th year producing espresso machines. 

Featuring a gracefully curved lever, the machine’s design was inspired by the famous violin maker Antonio Stradivari.

Quite what violins have to do with manual espresso machines is anyone’s guess. Then again, when have the Italians ever shied away from making something functional and beautiful?

Aside from the way it looks, the PSW 16 Stradivari is virtually identical to the PC 16 Professional. Of course, there’s a higher price involved – you’ll pay $1,355.35 on Amazon for the privilege of having that curved lever.

PROS

  • Beautiful design
  • Doesn't require much maintenance
  • Makes awesome espresso
  • Built-in pressure gauge

CONS

  • Comes with a flimsy tamper
  • Quite expensive

La Pavoni ESPED 16 Esperto Edotto Espresso Machine

La Pavoni Esperto Espresso Maker. Buy Now on Amazon

Part of the manufacturer’s competition series, the La Pavoni ESPED 16 Esperto Edotto takes things to a whole new level. This is the La Pavoni espresso machine you purchase when you’re really serious about manual preparation of espresso.

Anyway, the Esperto Edotto costs a whopping $2,459.00 on Amazon, so I can’t see casual dabblers buying it.

The La Pavoni Esperto Edotto features gorgeous handcrafted wooden handles. It also comes with a bottomless portafilter and a 20 gram “competition filter basket.”

Like I said, this is a serious machine. I’ll pass on the decorative eagle, though. It serves no purpose and just isn’t my style.

What’s really cool about this model is the addition of a group temperature indicator and a dedicated group pressure gauge. The gauge allows you to create repeatable pressure profiles, making it easier to get precise and consistent results from the machine.

PROS

  • Built-in group temperature indicator
  • Pressure gauges for boiler and group
  • Comes with bottomless portafilter
  • Makes incredible espresso

CONS

  • Unnecessary eagle
  • Very expensive

La Pavoni Espresso Machine Comparison Chart

 La Pavoni ProfessionalLa Pavoni EuropiccolaLa Pavoni Stradivari La Pavoni Esperto Edotto
ManufacturerLa PavoniLa PavoniLa PavoniLa Pavoni
NamePC-16 ProfessionalEPC-8 EuropiccolaPSW-16 StradivariESPED-16 Esperto Edotto
Boiler Capacity38 oz20 oz38 oz38 oz
Boiler pressure0.7-0.8 bar0.7-0.8 bar0.7-0.8 bar0.7-0.8 bar
Boiler pressure gaugeYesNoYesYes
Group pressure gaugeNoNoNoYes
Group temperature sensorNoNoNoYes
Power Output1,000 watts1,000 watts1,000 watts1,000 watts
Portafilter TypeDouble spoutDouble spoutDouble spoutBottomless
Weight13.2 lb12 lb13.2 lb13.6 lb
Dimensions16.1 x 14.6 x 9.8 in11 x 12 x 7 in16.25 x 12 x 4.5 in14.4 x 11.4 x 7.8 in
Current price on Amazon$1,169.14$969.00$1,355.35 $2,459.00

How to Use a La Pavoni Espresso Machine

Pulling a shot with a La Pavoni espresso machine.

The La Pavoni isn’t for everyone. You really have to take the time to engage with a manual espresso machine. You must be willing to experiment and also be ready to persist if things don’t work out right away.

If all that sounds like too much work, check out my super automatic and espresso machine guides – you’re sure to find your dream machine in there somewhere!

Making a good espresso with a La Pavoni manual lever machine is quite a job – but it’s worth it

No other espresso machine gives you such accurate insights into the influence of the different factors involved in espresso preparation.

The lever gives you a direct understanding of how much ground coffee to use and how grind size and tamping pressure correlate with the amount of pressure needed to force the water through the coffee puck.

Anyone who can get good results from a La Pavoni would have few problems using any other espresso machine. So, if you want to push your barista chops to the limit, you can’t go wrong with a La Pavoni espresso machine.

Here’s what you simply won’t be able to do without:

  • A coffee grinder suitable for espresso
  • Patience
  • Time
  • Very fresh espresso beans

Do note that I burned through some inferior Illy beans before moving on to more desirable coffee beans from a private roaster. In all of my years working with espresso machines, I’ve found it worthwhile to start off with less expensive beans when learning a new skill or technique.

Tips for Using A La Pavoni Manual Lever Espresso Machine

La Pavoni Explained.

I’ve heard from many La Pavoni owners that it’s difficult to produce a good espresso using this machine. That’s why I want to describe how to achieve the best results. If it saves you some time and frustration, all the better!

  • I only ever use fresh espresso once I’ve gotten in some initial practice, meaning no beans roasted more than four weeks ago. Of course, that means supermarket coffee is completely out of the question.
  • Compared to what I use with other espresso machines, I stick with a relatively fine grind for most espresso extractions – but not all. There are also instances when I increase the dose and get great results. This means testing, testing and more testing.
  • Always begin with a trial run. Otherwise, the brewing group won’t be hot enough, and you’ll end up with cold espresso. That said, be careful not to let the brewing group overheat. As you can see from my awesome diagram, the brewing group is only heated by a narrow connection to the boiler and the incoming water. That’s good because the water for the espresso needs to cool down from around 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 Celsius) to the optimal range of between 194 and 201 degrees Fahrenheit (90 and 94 degrees Celsius). Still, this can be hard to achieve if the brewing group gets too hot.
  • If you push the La Pavoni’s lever upwards, you’ll hear hot water flowing into the brewing group after a while. This happens automatically due to the buildup of pressure in the boiler. The volume of incoming water is limited to the amount needed for one espresso. Therefore, if you want a double espresso you’ll need to lift the lever twice
  • Start with a “pre-infusion.” This means that you don’t press the lever down immediately. Instead, let the hot water come into contact with the espresso puck first. This often reduces the resistance when you pull the lever down. The first drops of espresso appear after just a few seconds, which indicates that the lever is definitely ready to be pulled.
  • After two or three espressos, the brewing group will become too hot. You should turn off the machine and let it cool down. You can use a thermometer to measure the brewing group’s temperature, which should be between 158 and 176 degrees Fahrenheit (70 and 80 degrees Celsius).

La Pavoni Troubleshooting

When you can’t pull down the lever – or only with a lot of force – there are three possible causes:

  1. The espresso grind is too fine.
  2. You’ve tamped with too much pressure.
  3. Your dose is too high.

If you’re using oily (or, less dry) espresso beans, you’ll usually need to use a coarser grind. The lever should be easy to pull down, and you will have to test it. After you push the lever up and wait a few seconds, the first drops will emerge without any pressure. Then you can let loose.

Caution! If you weren’t able to empty the brewing group (i.e., you couldn’t press the lever down), it would still remain pressurized. Be very careful when removing the portafilter. Otherwise, you risk a face full of coffee grounds and hot water.

What if, after playing with all the parameters I mentioned, you still have no luck producing a good espresso? I’d recommend experimenting with different coffee beans: the freshest possible from a small, independent coffee roaster.

Don’t be a crema snob, either. Even an espresso shot without a perfectly formed crema can still taste amazing!

Bottomless Portafilters for the La Pavoni

Many La Pavoni owners recommend using a bottomless portafilter. This could be for educational reasons because it allows you to see the development of the espresso and its crema.

A double-spouted portafilter isn’t well-suited to this machine. It rarely succeeds in letting the espresso run evenly from both sides. That’s why I ended up unscrewing mine.

By the way, the double spout was far from easy to remove. I had to use a long allen key and a lot of force.

It’s not unheard of for technically gifted people to simply saw off the bottom of their portafilter. That seems kind of crazy to me, and I wouldn’t dare attempt it.

A safer alternative would be to simply purchase a bottomless portafilter from Amazon.

Tamper for the La Pavoni

Buying a decent tamper is a must for such a nice machine. There’s only a cheap, plastic one included in the box.

La Pavoni portafilter machines with manual levers – built before 2001 – require a 49-millimeter tamper (for a portafilter diameter of 50 millimeters). However, the current models require a 51-millimeter diameter tamper (for a portafilter diameter of 50 millimeters). 

I bought a 51-millimeter wood-handled tamper, which matches my machine really well. If you have an older machine manufactured prior to 2001, you could buy this slightly smaller tamper on Amazon for $27.00.

Cleaning and Descaling a La Pavoni Espresso Machine

Citric acid cleaner is great for La Pavoni machines.

The La Pavoni’s beautiful chrome quickly becomes marked with splashes and fingerprints. I recommend polishing your machine daily, allowing it to shine gloriously once more. Use a microfiber cloth – we don’t want scratches.

The La Pavoni’s boiler will experience limescale buildup, just like all other espresso machines. Of course, how fast this process occurs depends on the hardness of your water. That said, you should always use filtered water if you can.

I would recommend descaling the boiler with citric acid every three to six months. Also, remember to rinse out the brewing group.

Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to disassemble and clean the brewing group at the same time. If necessary, you can also replace any worn gaskets and grease the moving parts with espresso machine lubricant.

Verdict: La Pavoni Espresso Machine

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think the La Pavoni Professional is a gorgeous machine, but if you prefer curved levers, eagles and violin silhouettes, who am I to judge? Caw! Caw!

Either way, a La Pavoni espresso machine is a feast for the eyes and is fairly low-maintenance when it comes to care and cleaning.

My favorite La Pavoni Espresso Machine!

The La Pavoni Professional is a work of art!

A beautiful manual-lever espresso machine.

Heats up in under 10 minutes

Sleek design

Small footprint

Comes with a boiler and pressure gauge

Must cool down before water can be refilled

May overheat after some time

The challenge is learning how to use it. I had to invest quite a chunk of time before I was satisfied with the results. Personally, I love to alternate between different espresso blends and I’m always tweaking various parameters to observe the effects.

I have to say that I’ve learned a lot more about espresso preparation by using this machine.

A La Pavoni isn’t the perfect espresso machine for families, and it can’t provide coffee for multitudes of visitors. It’s really a shame that you can only pull two to three shots before the machine overheats.

Still, if you’re as much of a coffee nerd as I am, you might not be able to resist this Italian classic!

What are your thoughts on La Pavoni Manual Lever Espresso Machines? Do you own one? Got any tricks to share? Let me know in the comments.

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