How to Use a La Pavoni Manual Lever Espresso Machine

shinypavoniOk, so you have a La Pavoni espresso machine. You’ve read the espresso FAQ’s and know everything about espresso…but you still can’t pull a shot worth a darn? This “how-to” is dedicated to you.

When compared with almost any other home espresso production method, La Pavoni Manual Lever-Piston machines are spartan, expensive, labour intensive, and requires an enormous investment in training. Most “normal” people wonder why anyone would bother with a lever machine at all (Infidels!)

Well, my answer is this…you may not believe it right now, but what you have in your possession is nothing shot of pure magic! The skilled operator of a lever machine can attain a level of control over their shot of espresso that no other home machine user can possibly hope to reproduce. However, there IS a problem. Although the result of a perfectly pulled shot is pure heaven–a badly pulled shot is undrinkable drek!

Despite carefully going through the plethora of material currently available on the Web, and my espresso books, I just couldn’t make drinkable espresso with my La Pavoni. Being a geek, once something like this gets a hold of you, you just can’t think about anything else let alone giving up!

Embarrassingly, it took me almost a solid week of spare time thinking about espresso, making a mess in the kitchen (my wife was VERY happy about this…), making people crazy with my incessant e-mail questions, buying a new espresso grinder, and about 5 pounds of various beans to work out how to make good espresso with my La Pavoni. This site is the distillation of my efforts. You will have to practice, but hopefully this will make your learning curve less formidable.

This is an updated version of the guide I first wrote in 1998. The response to this simple guide has been overwhelming. I’ve had emails with questions from all over the world and have formed many friendships that have started with La Pavoni. In this version, I’m updating the look of the site, and plan on adding more images and videos as time allows.

If you find this helpful, feel free to send me beans worthy of the magic machine or any other coffee paraphernalia to support my caffeine habit. For those of you feeling even more generous, you may wish to donate to my retirement fund. With all the time wasted on playing with the machine and working up this site, I have a LOT of income to make up…people have always suspected it, but now they have proof that I’ve finally lost it!

Anyway, here is my story…

Next…

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

beth gagnon November 30, 2010 at 17:02

how do I service my machine???? it is leaking from the bottom?????please help!

abdul patel April 6, 2011 at 02:53

hi i m start planning to open mobile espresso back of my car and sale around the london , la pavoni lever machine is my choice . but I don t know where to start yet , can you help me out . please

Daniel May 2, 2011 at 10:13

Not sure if the La Pavoni is the best choice for this. It is designed as a home machine and it take some time to pull a good cup + refill water etc. If you are going to have an electrical hookup anyway, I would go look at a commercial/prosumer machine with the plumbing to draw water from a water bottle…

JP November 10, 2011 at 15:08

Hi, I will try your recommendations!

BTW, I have a problem with my La Pavoni Europiccola. The pressure valve keeps going off because the pressure builds up too high and the heater is not shut down pressure building too high. It is an intermittent problem, but with time it now happens pretty much everytime. I had my gaskets replaced and when I brought back home the issues started. I brought it back to the store (Faema, Canada’s distributor) 3 times and every time it starts acting bad again. Have you had this problem? Thanks, JP

Phil Tarlton November 29, 2011 at 05:58

I have a brand new Pavoni Professional. Love the coffee, but it continually drips s the from the steam wand and flood the place.
Anybody any suggestions.
Phil

James O'Donnell February 11, 2012 at 10:58

Hi, I have recently acquired a Europiccola (84-87 from what I can tell) and it keeps shutting off when the pressure or the temp starts rolling. I can’f find any information on an auto-shut-off switch on the europiccola. I’m not sure if the gasket seals could play a part this but I am planning on replacing them soon. Please advise.
James

Sophia February 21, 2012 at 09:33

Hi there,

I’m wondering if you can recommend a decent seller in the UK region?

There seem to be a few dodgy sellers out there selling what look like factory seconds – what should I be checking for when the machine first arrives, apart from visible damage?

Bill February 27, 2012 at 12:22

What is the best grinder for the la pavoni manual. I hear the pavoni grinder is not.
Thanks
Bill

coffee grinder reviews May 7, 2012 at 17:23

Working with this machine is a pure art
Best write up ever. It’s a shame it took forever to find this gem!

cin June 23, 2012 at 20:46

could you recommend where to send la pavoni europiccola for repair in the boston , ma area?

thanks
c

Angus August 17, 2012 at 20:31

I have the seals to do my own service.
Can you advise me on replacement of the safety valve seal as I cannot get into the machine to stop the inner nut spinning.
Many thanks.

Chris Gwynne September 3, 2012 at 05:39

Just inherited one of these beauties and I’ve been pulling several shots a day for a few months and just love it.

But I think something may be broken. When you turn it on, is it supposed to stop heating and building pressure at a certain point?

I leave it on for a few minutes and pull a shot when it gets to around 1 bar, but am forced to shut it off because the pressure gauge will simply keep climbing into the red zone. It’s not clear to me from the reading I’ve done, but aren’t the heating coils supposed to shut off automatically around 1 bar?

Is this something I can fix? I’m in a part of Asia that may not have a Pavoni service center, and I’m engineering inclined.

Thanks for any tips
Chris

mariana September 24, 2012 at 09:47

my machine leaks from the bottom!!! why is that?? can I fix it myself?

Mubarak October 30, 2012 at 05:25

Tell me the simplest way of handling this machine

Tony Daddario January 28, 2013 at 10:18

Yes there is a fix to stop the pressure building until the safety valve is activated. “Usually” it means there is a blockage in the tube that connects the regulator and the boiler, unblock this and that should solve this particular problem.

Any “dripping” requires a seal replacement.

Tony Daddario January 28, 2013 at 10:20

BTW if your machine is of a certain age it wont have a regulator and you have to manually switch off.

Carl February 28, 2013 at 14:46

Bought a new chrome base Europiccola in Rome in 1983 ($125!!!!), left in storage in US until 1991, then started using it. Main complaint: cost of repair can only be properly called EXTORTION. A simple set of rubber gaskets for the section above the base is $32, and labor is $60. A friend of mine with absolutely no practice did the job in 30 minutes. I have no doubt that a practiced person with the right tools could do it in 15/20 minutes. The bakelite handle on the portafilter broke apart in less than 3 years. I put tape around it because I’m not going to spend $80 or $90 for a simple replacement. I don’t need any new filter basket, but it’s crazy to charge $25 or $30 for a tiny filter basket. The heating element finally blew after 23 years, and the repair people want to charge $335 to replace it, the wires, and ALL gastkets, even though only the bottom was leaking and probably caused a short circuit.

Arnoud March 4, 2013 at 08:21

Great instructions! I will digg out my PavPro. Haven’t used it for 14 years or so because I lost the fun of it. Now I will retry (after servicing the machine :-)

Tony Daddario April 13, 2013 at 05:29

Don’t forget to descale the machine, that’ll also usually release the blockage causing the pressure regulator to fail.

Rand June 9, 2013 at 18:42

I have a very nice La Pavoni Europiccola, used but in fantastic condition, with 3 double and two single portafilter cups I would like to sell..If anyone may be interested feel free to contact me at bluesman6999@yahoo.com
I am sure you will be happy with the price. I JUST replaced the switches on the side and she is working smoothly and efficiently with no problems whatsoever. I apologize but I did drop and step on the tamper and it broke. I was about to purchase a new one but decided I simply haven’t the patience to pull a good shot.

robint June 12, 2013 at 09:46

Hi

Thanx for a very incisive operating guide on the temperamental Pavoni (like a fractious young filly)

I am puzzled by your temperature/pressure figures
quote

Pavoni Profession should peak out between .7 to .8 bar. Let the machine heat up, let some steam out of the steaming wand for 5-10 seconds, wait for the pressure to build up again, and then take a reading.

Although suggestions for the standard temperature varies from 89 to 95C (192 to 203C), mine is set to 91C or 195F as per Dr. Illy, with the boiler 3/4 full.

uq

At 1barg the sat steam temp will be 120C in the boiler. So how does this get down tom 95C brew temp in the group head a short distance/time away?

your temp setting quoted would never give you steam or pressure

Pls advise

Lisa Allen July 4, 2013 at 18:56

I bought my Pavoni (with brown base) in 1980 and have just taken it out of storage after 15 years. I cannot remember what the bottom button is used for (under the on/off)….it has “I” on the left and “II” on the right side. I have been using Nespresso Machine and although it is easy to use….the capsules are very expensive and hard to find unless I order them from the internet. I would like to go back to using my Pavoni. Thank You
Lisa Allen

Daniel July 8, 2013 at 23:14

Here’s a nice post I found that describes the descaling process quite well: http://sebastiaanswinkels.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/descaling-a-la-pavoni-professional/

Kevin Cov July 10, 2013 at 16:48

I have the same question as Lisa above. How due you use the dual switch model. Switches marked I and II

Thank you

Andrea January 20, 2014 at 11:06

Hi I have a new Pavoni, which my husband traded in for the older one we had as a gift.
I am really having problems getting crema with this new machine!
It has not pressure gauge just the red switch. I also do not feel pressure when I press down. I have extra fine grind but what else can the problem be?

Sebastiaan February 12, 2014 at 07:52

@Andrea:

Either of two things could’ve happened. Did any fluid come out of the portafilter? If not there’s a problem with the 2 seals on the piston. You’ll have to get those replaced.

If fluid did come out all you can basically do is adjust the grind and tamping pressure, when fluid passes through the puck too easy you set the grind finer or tamp down harder. If you can’t see any fluid and can’t pull the lever down you need to set the grind coarser and/or tamp lighter.

Also, if you buy pre-ground coffee you will notice that your La Pavoni 9 out of 10 times will throw a fit. It simply doesn’t like any pre-ground off the shelf grounds, even though you might be able to get some sort of espresso out of those grounds you can forget about getting any sort of actual crema.

Tomas February 12, 2014 at 13:51

Hi! I’ve recently bought a new LaPavoni Europiccola. After 10 minutes waiting it doesn’t give “hot” coffee. My second problem is that recently the coffee comes out only from the right side of the spout.
please advise

Allison February 13, 2014 at 00:51

Hi – We’ve had a La Pavoni Professional for over a year now. LOVE IT! But this morning coffee started pouring out of the basket while the lever was up. Help! Is it in need of repair? Hoping it is simple as we live in Australia and I am not sure where to get it serviced. TIA!

Sian March 6, 2014 at 09:40

Hi does any body’s else coffee machine trip out?

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