Thats It!

What you should have is a dark and steaming perfectly extracted espresso, topped with a thick layer of crema formed from extremely fine bubbles that is tan to dark red in colour. If you sprinkle some granules of sugar on the crema, it should be buoyed by it for a second or two before sinking. Now, taste it!

Your drink should be rich and aromatic. Or as my father-in-law would say, “it is like an angel pissing on your tongue” (whatever!) If it is sour and watery, the grind may be too coarse and the heated water isn’t staying in the grinds long enough. If bitter and sour, the grind may be too fine and the coffee is being over extracted.

Good luck and most importantly, HAVE FUN with your La Pavoni. Once you “get it”, you’ll wonder how it was possible that you once didn’t.


{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

John Liammari September 5, 2010 at 09:31

Loved the step by step instrictions mand insite. I was given a La Pavoti (Carina Grande) Pro and despiratly needed a first hand explanation of the process.

Graci ,

John Liammari

Jim Roue September 7, 2010 at 13:34

I have a Gaggia Factor 106. This is made by La Pavoni. One thing you did not mention about pulling process that concerns me. I need to do at least two full pulls to obtain a 2 oz. double shot. One pull does not even reach the 1 oz. level. Is having to do two full pulls normal?

Daniel September 12, 2010 at 10:14

Yes, a single pull with a bit of pre-infusion drip is around an oz. You’ll need to pull again to get around 2 oz.

Daniel September 12, 2010 at 10:15

Thank you for reading. Glad it helped. Let me know if you have any other questions with the process.

Steve wooldridge October 2, 2010 at 02:51

Many thanks for your efforts on this most informative www!

Sadly my La Pavoni machine is not the delight you suggest it could or should be?!

When folioing your instructions I raise the lever for 10 seconds and tepid water escapes through the grind to create the worst tasting coffee I’ve ever tasted. Of course I’ve tried over and over again but with no success,can offer any help?

Daniel October 2, 2010 at 07:22

Hi Steve,

Thanks for writing. Which version of La Pavoni do you have?

After the machine comes up to pressure, when you run some water through the machine without coffee in the portafilter, is the water hot?


Massimo October 5, 2010 at 21:02

Just got my La Pavoni Pro 16. You mentioned using Illy coffee which is available everywhere. Should I be able to pull a decent shot of espresso using this coffee? I’ve tried a few times and haven’t had any luck yet.


Denise McDowell October 19, 2010 at 19:47

Wow. What a great story. You certainly have inspired me to get going. I’ve only had espresso once and that was on my trip to Rome and fell in love with the perfect little drink. I hope I can master the production of it all, you have made it sound fun and somewhat easy enough. Wish me luck!
Thanks for sharing

Anders Lund October 24, 2010 at 12:03

I just got a La Pavoni. Look forward too use your instructions

KL October 31, 2010 at 01:14

Hi Daniel,

Your step-by-step instruction was so detailed!! It helped so much.

As a new user to La Pavoni, I had followed your instructions and the golden rules : freshly ground coffee, excellent coffee beans.

but unfortunately, the crema wasn’t thick, and the pressure needs to pull a shot wasn’t that strong….
perhaps you could advise?

Daniel October 31, 2010 at 09:40

I would check to see that the temperature wasn’t too high, and that the coffee grinds are fine enough. Good luck!


Daniel October 31, 2010 at 09:41

Good luck and have fun! Thanks for writing and let me know how you make out on your adventure…


Daniel October 31, 2010 at 09:43

Using Illy just eliminates one of the variables while you’re learning how to pull a shot. What problems are you having with your shot?


Daniel October 31, 2010 at 09:44

It sounds like the temperature of the water is too low and the grinds are too coarse. If you send me a video of your pull, I may be able to diagnose remotely.


Daniel October 31, 2010 at 09:45

@Kenneth Thank you for your kind words. Good luck with your machine. Have fun!


Kenneth November 9, 2010 at 06:33

Great review and instructions! I have owned this machine for about 5 years and love it!
I have noticed that raising the handle doesn’t allow the water into the group head. I have to pull the lever up and the push it back hard. I then feel a little “kick” through the lever and water begins to flow. Is this normal? Seems like it’s always done this.

John December 8, 2010 at 02:22

Your comments on water were very interesting. Do you ever empty out the old water in the machine between uses or do you just top it off with each use?


Daniel December 8, 2010 at 14:43

@John Once every month or so, I dump out the water. Otherwise, I just top it off…


Daniel December 8, 2010 at 14:45

@Kenneth Mine is pretty much this way too. The water starts to flow at the very top of the stroke when you pull it up. I don’t have to pull up back hard though…

I guess as long as it works. 🙂


Jack Socha December 12, 2010 at 15:04

I am a bit of a low-budget coffee fanatic who happens to teach a non-credit class on eBay selling at a local college. My standard joke to my wife and to my students is that I hope some day to find a La Pavoni at a garage or thrift sale. I even show the students a piocutre of one, “just in case.” Last week, after donating a lot of household goods and digital cameras (I teach a class on them, too) I walked into a church thrift store and BINGO! There was one for $40! This was says 0,210 gallon and I measure 28 ounces. It has no pressure gauge and the single switch has a I/II and is 200/800 watts. I use the hissing of the secondary tube to indicate when it it ready. Any idea which model this is? Thanks!

Daniel December 12, 2010 at 15:33

@Jack Socha Wow, nice find!

This sounds like the basic/standard La Pavoni Europiccola. When you get a chance, send me a snapshot of it. How’s it going with the coffee making?


Jaime December 25, 2010 at 18:37

Hi there… I just received my La Pavoni for Christmas. I am very nervous about this whole process, it seems way over my head… hopefully by reading your detailed report I will get the hang of it… It will be worth it when I do get it right! Thanks

Zach January 2, 2011 at 00:39

Nice to come across this summary. I remember stumbling on your original treatise when I bought my Europiccola back in ’99 — it helped me greatly in perfecting the method. I actually came across this site while trying to find your old one, to make sure I hadn’t forgotten any steps. I seem to remember, though, that after packing and loading there was a step where you would raise the lever half way and wait for the green light to come on, allowing the group to warm, then put the lever down and wait for it to go off prior to doing the full pull. Has this step been discarded?

elena January 4, 2011 at 17:23

Thank you for the wonderful detailed explanation. I was looking at the Pavonis for the past three years and finally bought one off ebay lat month.

Unfortunately, I am yet to pull that perfect shot. In fact, anything remotely close to decent.
I have tried three various grinds (espresso fine and a notch or two down) and when I raise the handle of the Pavoni (I have the Milenium Europicolla, not Pro) the water just starts pouring through the spout without lowering the handle bar… when I start lowering the handle it comes down without any resistance whatsoever.
The water that comes through the machine is hot, so is the steam.
Tampering – I’ve tried doing what I believe is enough pressure.
At this point I’m officially lost… I thought the espresso should not start dripping before lowering the handle bar at all… which does not seem to be the case in my machine…
any thoughts?

elena January 4, 2011 at 17:27

oh, and let me add that there is not even a remote sign of crema and two out of eight shots the espresso tasted sour… otherwise the taste is ok.

I used a Delonghi Coffee Mill and a Medium Kicking Horse Cliff Hanger certified organic fair trade beans…

Matt Hoffman January 14, 2011 at 04:38

Hi, I have a La Pavoni Europiccola and a Starbucks Barista grinder. I usually get a decent espresso from this combination, although I didn’t until I began to paying attention to getting the machine hot enough before pulling the first shot. What I’m wondering about is this: from time to time, I change the coffee that I use, and I find that I have to readjust the grinder settings quite a bit to get it right. That is, I don’t change my tamping pressure, the amount of coffee in the filter or the way I use the machine. But if I don’t adjust the grind, the coffee comes out of the machine either too quickly or too slowly. But why should different coffees require different grinds?

Jon Hunter January 14, 2011 at 20:02

Kenneth, the piston is on a threaded shaft which over time can wind down if not set correctly. This happened to me but I found that it was relatively easy to disassemble the group head and adjust.
There is an external adjuster at the top of the lever base but in my case after disassembly I found that the piston had loosened at the attachment point on the shaft.
If you are going to do this then it is an ideal time to replace the seals, available as a seal kit.
As to the kick, I find that by slowly raising the leaver 75% and then slowly lowering several times before pushing up all the way eliminates this, this seems to pre-preasure the Groupo body.

Michelle Hallam January 30, 2011 at 01:43

Took me four hours without your instructions to pull a decent shot. Thanks for helping others to avoid this messy, frustrating situation, although it’s almost like you really earned it after four hours. My best tip through all of it is the same as your; the coffee and the grind. I finally read that a fine.grind is equal to powder sugar consistency. Bing went the light bulb. Didn’t realize what fine meant. Ground to powder sugar consistency, tamped and viola a beautiful shot. Good thing I didn’t give up after the first three hours.

Daniel January 30, 2011 at 10:06

@Michelle Hallam Thanks for the tip. Yes, now you’ve EARNED it! 🙂


Daniel January 30, 2011 at 10:13

@elena I think you may need to grind finer. The latest comment on the blog says pretty much the same thing. Properly ground espresso that presses together is almost the consistency of powdered sugar…


Daniel January 30, 2011 at 10:18

@Zach It’s been so long that I truthfully don’t remember. You could run some water through the shot before the first pull to warm up the group, As the group is bolted right into the boiler, this isn’t absolutely necessary. But, then again, it couldn’t hurt…


Marcos Molina March 9, 2011 at 17:19

Hello. Thank you for such a detailed article about the Pavoni lever machine. I am buying soon one of them —La Pavoni Professional—, the chromed one with the pressure gauge and I found your site most useful and interesting. I have been using an old Vibiemme (no lever) & a Mazzer grinder, as well as Lavazza, Illy & Izzo grains. I have been through much of what you explain but now I will face for the 1st time a lever operated machine! Hope it goes ok, sounds terrific! Many thanks for sharing. Marcos/Palma de Mallorca – Spain.

Steve March 26, 2011 at 08:55

Thanks for pulling back a curtain into the mystery of making a good cup of espresso. My first cup satisfies me, not perfect but pretty good. But I am having trouble making a second cup immediately after making the first. I find that water does not flow into the cup and pulling the handle requires much more pressure than that used in a first cup. Is that normal and is there any reason for it that I am not seeing?

Dawn Marie April 15, 2011 at 15:45

Hi! I have a La Pavoni Europiccola espresso machine that I am trying to get into use. Mind you, I have no idea when the last time it was used. After attempting to run clear distilled water through it twice, it smells weird, like there is “patina/rot/corrosion” in the chamber. Also, after the water has reached the set temperature (I don’t know what that is) when I raise the lever, it immediately expresses hot water. So, two questions:

1) Can I use a vinegar or “Dip It” or something like that to try to clean out the water chamber?
2) Why does it immediately release water when I raise the lever? Is this even an issue?

I am excited to get this into use and be able to pull a good espresso as I frequently entertain Italian vendors and would like to be able to offer them a little taste of home. Or some semblence of it. 🙂

Thanks for any insights, great blog Daniel.

Dawn Marie

Daniel May 2, 2011 at 10:10

Hi Dawn Marie,

1. Yes, use a coffee machine cleaner to clean out the water chamber and flush it through the system fully with a few tanks of water. What I tend to do is to wait until the chamber cools and the rise it out by filling with cold water a few times before the flushing.

2. The water is supposed to release when you raise the lever. It is the downstroke the introduces pressure to the coffee puck and makes the espresso…

Check out the link on the side and join the Facebook pages. Not sure why I never thought of it before this. 🙂


Daniel May 2, 2011 at 10:14

You are repeating exactly the same steps and using fresh coffee? If so, the 2nd shot should be pretty much the same as the first shot…

Daniel May 2, 2011 at 10:15

You’re welcome. Enjoy the machine in health!

Dawn Marie May 13, 2011 at 15:05

Daniel – great news!!! I got the machine pristinely cleaned and we have been using it for a few weeks now. Wow…it’s amazing that the beast could be resurrected after the abuse it endured – it took multiple “flushings” of vinegar water, coffee machine cleaner and a batch of hot water with baking soda. Finally, got the crud and the stink out.

The perfect pull is still not something I have mastered 100%. I’m still trying to consistently get a perfect crema on the top, but that is half the fun. 🙂 So far, the flavor has been there, just not always the crema.

Thanks again for your great resource!


Isaac July 3, 2011 at 08:31


It’s Sunday morning and the Angel’s have finally visited my tongue (your father was right, btw) and my La Pavoni. Thank you for the marvelous and meticulous instructions. Happy Brewing

hester August 2, 2011 at 22:37

Thinking about buying one without all the bells on.i love the design but i also love a good it even possible to make one with the most simple one? Do i need the little meter or what you call it to at least give myself a fair chance of ever tasting good espresso again?

Joshua August 26, 2011 at 00:58

I’m having a lot of trouble with my La Pavoni. It is a pre-mill edition. What is the proper way to test the water temperature? Just pull a shot with water and test the temperature?

Jeffery September 16, 2011 at 09:06

I found a rustic brass La Pavoni machine at a tag sale for eight dollars. It didn’t work, but took it to a fantastic shop in Jackson Square in San Francisco and got it fixed for eighty dollars! Thrilled with my recycled purchase, I’m just now firing it up again and giving it a go after it being in the garage for two years. Thank you for the tamp tips and coffee lead. I may be blasphemous, but I’ve just ran some regular French Roast off-the-shelf for a fair cup of coffee. I’m sure my content and form will improve with experience. Cheers! JH

daniel September 19, 2011 at 11:43

Hi Jeffery! What a great story. Which store did you bring it to? Also let us know how it goes…

Have fun and follow us on Facebook as well:


Anders November 2, 2011 at 05:50

Hi, I have the same problem as Elena, what am I/we doing wrong?:

I have tried three various grinds (espresso fine and a notch or two down) and when I raise the handle of the Pavoni (I have the Milenium Europicolla, not Pro) the water just starts pouring through the spout without lowering the handle bar… when I start lowering the handle it comes down without any resistance whatsoever.
The water that comes through the machine is hot, so is the steam.
Tampering – I’ve tried doing what I believe is enough pressure.
At this point I’m officially lost… I thought the espresso should not start dripping before lowering the handle bar at all… which does not seem to be the case in my machine…
any thoughts?

Peter November 23, 2011 at 21:56

Thank you for the tips and great love of the Pavoni. I am a new owner and can’t wait to make some glorious lattes. Where should I go to find replacement seals/parts etc. Thank you for all of the help, Peter

Amy December 28, 2011 at 11:02

Thanks so much for this post, Daniel — it’s very helpful! I just received a La Pavoni Europiccola Millenium for Christmas, along with a fantastic grinder, though this is really my first true foray into the world of espresso. The machine is daunting, to say the least, but I’m having fun, and this article has really helped me to understand some of the machine dynamics. My question sort of mirrors Jim’s up there (waay up there): I have been using the double-shot portafilter as suggested, and using two pulls to get a double shot. However, I’m always a little sad with that second pull — it provides little to no crema, and usually sinks the beautiful crema from my first pull. Additionally, while I time it the same (about 10 seconds up, about 20 down), the second pull is usually a little smaller. Is there any good way to get a nice 2-oz double with the beautiful crema of the first pull, other than doing two single shots with the single portafilter? Or is this simply the name of the game, and I should get used to my “ristretto-esque” shot?

Can’t wait to get home and try some more shots after reading this.. a little nervous about my tamping now.

Fredrik April 20, 2012 at 03:29

I Amy. I don’t use a “proper” second pull, but I also need more water to get it right. Understand your problem with the second pull.
I pull down the handle with pressure until I got the first dripping coffee, then I pull up the handle again and quickly back and then finish the “first pull”. I get more water that way without doing a “proper” second pull. Works for me and I get a big nice crema. Right now I use a blend with both Arabica and Robusta (20-30% Robusta).
Have a La Pavoni Europiccola and a Rancilio Rocky grinder.
Good Luck!

shaun June 3, 2012 at 10:18

I have the same problem as elena and Anders. I am using the finest grind on my grinder (Il Macinino), and tamping HARD. The coffee drips before pulling the lever, and when I do pull the lever, it offers little resistance.

Please help me! It’s driving me crazy!

Michael September 16, 2012 at 11:20

I have a vintage La Cara Graziella that seems to work well (just got it at a flea market). It is a La Pavoni under a different name Can anyone explain the use of the minimo and Maximo settings on the switch? Not sure how to calibrate the settings with the pull process. Thank you.

Grant September 19, 2012 at 11:36

I would like to learn more about coffee blends , could you point me in the right direction?

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