The Best Lever Espresso Machines For Home

BY BORIS POVOLOTSKY - 09 Jul 2022

How does a lever machine work?

There are two types of lever machines, manual and spring-assisted lever machines. With spring-loaded lever espresso machines, we pull the lever down to raise an internal piston, then water is pushed through the chamber. Releasing the lever creates pressure on the water, which is forced through the ground coffee, resulting in a rich and smooth espresso extraction with a declining pressure. More on the pressure later.

In a manual lever machine, we don’t have a spring to assist us and we rely on the pressure we create with our own force, having more control but more room for error, as well.

Types of lever espresso machines

Brewing espresso at home is perhaps the biggest revelation of the last decades with an uprise of coffee hobbyists making anything from pour-over coffee to french-press to lattes and pure espressos. Being able to control every aspect of the process is an appealing and pleasant experience.

On top of that, using a lever espresso machine is perhaps a step up in such an experience. Manual machines offer greater control and most importantly greater joy. With the OCD-like precisions of machines like Decent DE1, it isn’t about the consistency and repeatability of the lever machines, it is really about the simplicity and the sensational experience one gets when operating a lever machine.

I spent a significant amount of time researching every corner of the internet and have had conversations with lever machine aficionados about various, important aspects. Here’s a list of machines I like and who I think should be buying them.


1. La Pavoni Eurpiccola EPC-8

La Pavoni is a classic easily recognizable espresso brand. Most coffee hobbyists have probably seen or used a La Pavoni, while others may have seen one in a movie.

The internet is largely in love with La Pavoni, and people happily use even very old models. The Europiccola is the entry machine in La Pavoni’s entry lever machine range. The Europiccola is usually cheaper than the Professional, and would probably be a wiser purchase, especially for those starting out. If you can grab a cheaper used Professional model, then by all means, get that model.

The Professional has more presence to it, and it’s considered a better steamer, but other than that there’s no reason to pay more. The Europiccola is a great lever machine experience that has a large loyal following you could easily tap into and get any question probably asked and answered a million times. It’s an important factor to consider because as a beginner, you’ll have lots of questions. Believe me.

That being said, I would like to state numerous reasons why should avoid purchasing the La Pavoni.

  • Exposed boiler - there is no seal or a box hiding the boiler. The big boiler is there, and if you touch it you’re going to get a burn.
  • Easy To Miss Your Shot - If you make the slightest mistake, you might ruin your shot. If you make a cappuccino out of it, you’ll mask your mistakes and wrong flavors, but it’s certainly a point that can frustrate a lot of users, especially the new guys.
  • Lightweight - Its minimalistic and elegant design is a feature as well as a thing to consider.
  • Temperature control - one shot too cold, one shot too hot, unforgivable.
  • Steep learning curve
  • Price. The price is reasonable. Though, it makes you wonder and compare bigger more satisfying machines within this price range.

Other than that, there are great features and a huge community that stands by this manual lever machine. Some of the pros include

  • Minimalistic, durable, and sturdy design. Small footprint. It’ll last forever with relatively small maintenance.
  • Heats up rather quickly
  • Available parts and mods, easily customizable with lots of tutorials
  • Nice steam power (although nothing to brag about)
  • Great community and availability to shop parts online.

Conclusion

If you are up for a challenge, this is the perfect manual espresso machine for you. However, I would personally avoid this machine, especially as a beginner. I think it’s a great add-on if you can get it used for a cheap price to experiment with your primary machine.

Find a La Pavoni user on a local forum and ask if you could stop by and get a feel of what it is like to operate such a machine. Pull a shot yourself, and see if you’re into it before spending the money.

La Pavoni has a steep learning curve that is likely to frustrate you. You might fantasize about getting a quick cup of coffee before you head to work, but the odds are against it for the first couple of weeks or even months. You’ll have to get good with your puck preparation routine.

2. Elektra Micro Casa

A machine manufactured in the 50s of the 20th century, founded by an Italian family and still run by the same family. The eagle emblemed espresso machine will remain uninterested, this will be a conversation starter even for those who aren’t into coffee. All things aside, how does this machine fare in the levers category?

Well, it’s a great machine, but within its price range, there are lots of other machines adding up which unsurprisingly complicates your buying decisions even further. The best HX machines and even some Dual Boilers enter the competition in the price range of the Elektra. Unless you’re committed to getting a Micro Casa, it’s not a simple decision, and depending on where you’re located, the price isn’t cheap at all. If you’re interested in this machine, the advantages may very well outweigh the disadvantages, because after all, if all one’s looking for is the best, precise, correct, best value for the bang, one should go with the Decent DE1.

What about it?

The Elektra Micro Casa is a manual spring piston espresso machine. Coming from a pump machine requires a little bit of learning, but in general, the operation is rather simple.

  • You pull the lever, and water pushes through into the portafilter wetting the puck (pre-infusion)
  • Once you see some drops, you release the lever. Pressure is now applied and you’ll see espresso extraction.
  • For a double shot, when the lever rises halfway you pull it down again and release.

Micro casa properties

The Elektra micro casa lever machine has a fantastic build and finish. It features a large 1.8-liter boiler with 850 watts of power that brings the machine up to working temperature in about 12 minutes. The micro casa has a vacuum breaker which means you don’t have to purge air during the startup time (unlike the Ponte Vecchio Lusso). The stock machine is pretty much ready and straightforward. The factory pressure is fine for most medium-dark roasts and can remain unchanged. A simple flushing operation can adjust the temperatures according to your needs. Lock a cold portafilter to chill the group for darker roasts.

People around the web mention a relatively good manual that is delivered with the machine, however it doesn’t include all necessary operating instructions like purging air and flushing routines.

Conclusion

The Elektra is another machine for those who are up for a challenge and those who might enjoy the vintage look of this elegant, romantic masterpiece. I don’t quite like it for similar reasons to La Pavoni. The internet is full of useful personal experiences that lay out very specific guidelines on topics related to the Elektra Micro casa. Despite that, you’ll probably develop a routine that suits you, and perhaps you only.

Love or hate relationship. If you manage to overcome the daily frustrations that occur using this machine, you’ll eventually learn to love the machine and most importantly, the coffee it’ll brew for you. However, I do not think this machine is a wise consideration for someone who expects to make cappuccinos back to back, have guests who like milk drinks, and so on. The steaming capabilities on this thing or certainly good enough for most home users, it is nowhere near a commercial machine so don’t expect to steam a jug of milk in 20 seconds. The steam power depends on the boiler pressure which is adjustable by the user.

The Elektra micro casa is a perfect espresso machine for those who primarily make coffee for themselves and love the full control aspect of brewing espresso.

Personal note: At this price point, I simply cannot help but think I’m better off with a commercial spring lever machine like the Londinium, Profitec 800, Strega, Quickmill Rapida, and others.

3. Ponte Vecchio Lusso

Now that’s a machine that is different almost by definition from the manual levers. It’s a spring lever which means it’s not a manual lever, which also means it’s a magnitude easier to use. The Ponte Vecchio Lusso is a machine that is based on the SAMA Lusso, which has an identical body and overall looks. In recent years, the company tried to modernize the look and added colored casings to the machine. The Ponte is an optimal solution for those who lust for a lever machine but can’t afford or justify a huge expense. The Ponte has a (relatively) small footprint and comes with either 1 or 2 groups. You might consider getting the 2 group if you can for even easier operations for scenarios where you might want to combine two shots for a big double shot, or you want to pull back-to-back shots.

The Ponte features a massive 3L boiler, which offers great steaming power and temperature stability for consecutive shots. Steaming milk takes around 40 seconds which is decent. However, the large boiler capacity also means it takes time to heat. Some online discussions mention a 20-minute warm-up time, but I think it isn’t as optimal. The machine itself is a really small footprint petite-like relative to almost any other lever machine. It looks fairly large in the images, but in reality, it’s very small and appeals to all of those who have space issues in the kitchen cabinet.

The Ponte Vecchio Lusso, like many other levers, produces soft and creamy espressos, less harsh and less bold compared to traditional pump machines.

The process of operations with the Lusso is quite similar to most spring-lever machines:

  • Prep the puck and lock the portafilter
  • Pull the lever down, it’s pre-infusion time.
  • Release the lever to apply pressure. Pressure is decreased gradually and linearly, although not as manual, we do like it, it’s easier!
  • Halfway up pull the lever down again for a double shot.
  • Pull away your cup once you notice blonding.
  • Hurray! Sip your coffee or steam milk for cappa/cortado. Yeah, this isn’t a Latte machine due to low-volume shots.

Conclusion

I dig this machine the most. It’s probably the cheapest. There are quality control issues even with new units that are shipped from suppliers, mostly cosmetics, loose valves, etc. Most of the time you’ll be able to sort this out yourself, and for the price you’re paying, it’s not a big issue at all. You do get a machine that’ll last a long time and will outlast many modern machines.

As many levers, you’ll be required for maintenance that includes replacing the seals and pistons every once in a while. Pistons and gasket removal and general maintenance aren’t too hard and can be done without a technician with the proper tools. There is a piston removal factory tool that can be found in some online shops, another option is to contact Ponte Vecchio company through its website, or email.

The last and most important note: is the low coffee volume. The maximum amount of coffee you can expect is about a 28g double-shot after performing a Felini move, without a Fellini, you get a ristretto. Theoretically, you can get a 2G version, pull one shot, and then pull another shot and combine them to have a double-shot espresso like you’re used to.

4. Profitec 800

The Profitec 800 is an end-game espresso lever machine. Recently, Profitec updated this model with niceties. There’s nowhere to upgrade from here unless you’re into commercial 2-3 group machines for a restaurant/cafe. This machine’s build and finish are top-notch, and its design and engineering are of the highest level. The Profitec 800 uses a dipper design mechanism, which largely involves a huge single boiler and a huge brass group head. A tube transmits water from the boiler to the group at a very high temperature that isn’t suited for brewing espresso (over 120C’), but thanks to the group head design, the water cools down significantly in the group head just before it reaches the cup. The Profitec 800 is a rather simplistic, highly forgiving for newbies machine.

Worthy Features

  • Top-notch build quality. Everything is accessible and easily serviceable
  • Includes a single spouted, double spouted, and bottomless portafilter
  • Direct water (plumb) or use the machine’s water tank reservoir
  • 3.5L insulated copper boiler
  • No burn steam and water wands. Stock four-hole steam tip. Joystick wooden valves (superb!)
  • Plenty of steam power (it’s a 3.5 L boiler!)

Conclusion

The Profitec 800 is an incredible espresso lever machine. Unfortunately, it is not spoken enough about in the forums worldwide for reasons I can only speculate. This might be the best espresso lever machine out there, at one of the top places with other beast contenders like the Londonium R24, Bezzera Strega, Quickmill Achille, and perhaps some others I forgot to mention.

The German build quality is outstanding. The copper boiler is perhaps an engineering decision (why not stainless steel, right?) that is mindful of the way this lever works. The lever applies an enormous amount of energy to the boiler and requires the flexibility of the copper boiler. This machine provides a low-pressure pre-infusion if I am not mistaken the lowest of the bunch, which probably differs from the cup taste test. Is it for the best? You be the judge of that.

5. Cafelat Robot

The Cafelat Robot is a manual no-plug-no-power lever espresso machine. But let me tell you that: it makes a great espresso, and no machine produces ‘better’ espresso than this one. It’s a cheap alternative if you don’t need a huge tank with a massive boiler that also steams milk. You’re going to have to use an external kettle to use the Robot. Arguably, the Cafelat Robot and the Flair are top choices today for users who want a small, portable, manual lever machine.

The design of the Cafelat Robot is an outstanding science-y look and feel machine. The biggest advantage of the Robot over say a manual lever like Flair, is that you don’t need to mess up with pre-heating the portafilter. Robot’s components are built in such a way that the brew temperature doesn’t cool off because of a cold portafilter. Additionally, cleaning up is arguably easier in comparison with the Flair.

There are some disadvantages to the Cafelat Robot:

  • The Cafelat Robot is usually more expensive than Flair’s basic models.
  • No steam wand. If you primarily drink milk-based drinks, the cost adds up rather quickly. Your best bets are Bellman, French Press, or get an espresso machine!
  • Not portable. If you’re looking for a travel espresso maker, this isn’t as compact and nice as the Flair or the Wacaco Nanopresso
  • Kettle. You need a kettle to boil water for your Robot. It’s another expense if you don’t already have one, and it’s another thing you have to manage when making espresso.

Let’s Sum It Up

Yes, I did not include so many lever machines: Cremina, Londonium (how could I?), Strega, and Achille. They are all great and have their place. This is not an exhaustive list. This does not mean those that aren’t on the list aren’t great machines. I simply haven’t put enough effort and research into each of those machines to include them here. There are plenty of resources online that you can use to conduct your own research.

However, to save you from the rabbit hole I “joyfully’ went through before I settled with the Profitec 800, I made this list. For instance, the Strega is a wonderful machine with experts standing by it, from Jim Schulman to many others as well. There is a significant following and maybe even a whole community around the products Londinium’s Reiss builds. The Cremina, is another great machine that stands the test of time perhaps like no other machine, with interesting mechanics that differ from those found in typical spring-loaded levers or manuals. The Cremina is also another small footprint machine that you might want to consider because of space concerns. It’s much superior, and also much more expensive than the Ponte Vecchio Lusso, although still small and nice.

When I started my espresso journey, I couldn’t imagine myself even looking towards such an experience as a lever machine. I sincerely viewed it as a hobby taken too far. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t get the Europiccola I was advised (by my coffee friends) to buy because the inevitable frustrations would easily steer me away from this hobby altogether. However, after a couple of years, of establishing the fact I’m obsessed with coffee making, I cannot imagine myself NOT having a lever machine in my coffee spot.


Check out some interesting topics...

Drinking Black Coffee As A Beginner - Coffee is an acquired taste and getting used to black coffee takes time. It'll always be bitter and intense but you'll love it.

The 3 Best Espresso Machines Under $500 For 2023 - Looking for an affordable Espresso Machine? Explore the Top 3 Espresso Machines Under $500 for the best espresso without breaking the bank.

Best Tamping Station Mat For Espresso Preparation - Checkout how a tamping station keeps your espresso setup clean and precise. Elevate your home brewing game effortlessly

Best 4 Grinders Under 500$ - A good grinder has more impact than a high-end espresso machine. Let's learn about 4 grinders that will up your espresso game for good.

The Best Lever Espresso Machines For Home - We provide you a list of unique lever espresso machines that will hook you into lever espresso machines for good

Best Roast Level For Robusta Coffee Beans - Is Robusta Still Relevant in 2023? Let's understand Robusta once and for all. Spoiler: it is absolutely useful

Best Espresso Machine Water Softener - Learn about the importance of espresso machine water softener and why it's a crucial factor your espresso machine's health and your espresso quality

The Best Black Friday Espresso Machines And Accessories Deals - 2023 black friday is here and this is the perfect time to upgrade your home barista game with the tools you've been longing for

How Many Mg Of Caffeine In A Cup Of Coffee - Find out how much caffeine content is in your favorite drinks based on studies and what factors impact caffeine extraction during the brew

Coffee And Health - How Are They Related - Important correlations between coffee and various health subjects. Enrich your knowledge regarding your coffee drinking habits and their affects on your health

Coffee Ratios For Every Taste, From Classic To Modern - Discover the perfect coffee to water ratios for classic and modern coffee beverages. Elevate your coffee game with our guide on coffee ratios.

Cortado Vs. Cappuccino: Differences & Recipes - Don't worry, after reading this guide you'll understand the differences and similarities between cortado and cappuccino once and for all.

Decaffeinated Coffee: A Brief Introduction - A common myth has it that decaf coffee simply can't taste as good. Luckily, it couldn't be further from the truth and let's see how

Espresso Benefits and Side Effects: A Balanced Overview - All about health benefits and side effects of drinking espresso as well as useful recommendations and guidelines for you.

Double Shot Espresso Caffeine - Discover caffeine limits and content in a double espresso shot. Get insights on espresso's caffeine impact. Learn more.

Normcore Scale Review: Easily One Of The Best Coffee Scales - It's better to get one digital scale for your coffee once than buying a new cheap one each year. This normcore scale might be the last you'll ever need

The Best Heat Exchanger Espresso Machines - An overview of the best heat exchanger machines to up your espresso game in 2024. If you're looking for your first espresso machine or upgrading your single boiler, you've come to the right place.

The Best Starter Espresso Machine For Beginners In 2024 - You can make superb espresso at home in 2024 with ease! This guide will help you choose the best starter espresso machine for you as well as everything else you might need

Long Black vs. Americano - What Are The Differences? Once And For All - Find out what are the differences between a long black, an americano and a lungo and how to make each one of them.

Once And For All: What Is A Single Origin Coffee - Everything you need to know about single origin coffees, why it is so popular, and why you should care.

This Is The Dripping Coffee Experience, All About Making Great Coffee At Home

Everything we write about we write either from personal experience or from great research online. Great coffee at home has never been easier, but with too much information out there, it might be difficult to understand where to start, and we hope to help you with that. Send us an email