NobbyR Senior Member Joined: 10 Jul 2011 Posts: 2,046 Location: Germany Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo Vac Pot: N/A Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe Roaster: N/A
Posted Sat Apr 21, 2012, 12:19am Subject: Re: Why a lever machine? Which one to start with?
Before the advent of pumps and the E61 brew group, lever machines used to be the only way of making espresso the way we understand it. Even though there are still commercial machines of that kind available, nowadays lever machines are more or less exclusively for home use. Making coffee with such an espresso machine is like a work of art, because unless you have a spring lever machine, it takes a lot of practice to get the brewing pressure right. Here are some typical characteristics of lever machines:
usually no waiting for frothing milk, because the boiler is on steaming temperature and pressure;
practically no parts subject to regular wear, because they have neither a pump nor a magnetic valve;
quiet operating, the grinder being the only thing really making noise;
interesting design (i.e. you have to like them);
not suitable for continuous use, because the brewgroup tends to overheat after a few shots.
This temperature instability is what can make it difficult to pull shots of consistent quality. Each espresso tends to taste (at least a little) differently, and after a few shots it might get burnt and bitter. Those who only brew a couple of shots each time they turn on the machine, who are willing to go through the pains of learning how to handle it, and who are looking for an eye-catcher will fare well with such an espresso machine.
*** "This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
Posted Sat Apr 21, 2012, 1:17pm Subject: Re: Why a lever machine? Which one to start with?
^That. In addition, you can control an aspect of extraction that you can't control on pump machines aside from a few expensive ones: pressure. This doesn't apply to all spring levers, but it does to every direct lever that I know of.
A La Pavoni machine won't cost you much and would be a good way to get into levers. If you want a spring machine, you could go with an Elektra Microcasa or a Ponte Vecchio Export.
Posted Mon Apr 23, 2012, 7:42pm Subject: Re: Why a lever machine? Which one to start with?
Also take a look at the Arrarex Caravel. It is a different sort of lever. Painfully easy to control the temperature. No steam wand. Absurdly simple design. Pulled well, capable of perfection. You can find out in the ethersphere somewhere a blind comparison between it and a top-notch commercial pump machine.
And yes . . . the ability to pressure profile . . . takes some experience with espresso and some oneness with the process, but I'd say it is one of the major advantages over pumps.
Posted Tue May 1, 2012, 8:00am Subject: Re: Why a lever machine? Which one to start with?
Here are my reasons... It does everything I want it to do. It makes the shots I really wanted all my other machines to make, but couldn't. It makes 2 - 3 shots at a time, but I don't drink more then 3 shots in a row. It cannot entertain a crowd, but we rarely have that many guests. It doesn't need to be plugged in 24x7 or be on a timer since it warms up in 8 min, 1 of which takes me to prepare the basket. It doesn't waste water like my heat exchangers and doesn't recycle re-heated water like a double boiler. So, it does everything I need it to do...but I am still intrigued by a La Marzocco.
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