learn to extract not only espresso but soul and heart from your coffee.
Positive Product Points
Makes excellent coffee from even the worst beans. Simple, no pressurestat, thermostat, pump or other parts to malfunction. portable, It is very popular at parties. Flexible, you can easily adjust every aspect of the brew process. Looks great on the counter. easy to maintain. If you buy a used one you will get the best coffee for the dollar under $800.
Negative Product Points
Cant pull more than 2 good shots without a cool down period. requires a serious commitment of time to get consistently great coffee.
When my Europiccola arrived at my doorstep I was excited to see what I had bought. Upon inspection I could tell that it would indeed need the rebuild I anticipated. All the rubber was hard as rocks, it leaked in several places and it was missing the shower screen. Despite all that I couldn't resist firing it up and pulling a shot. As expected it was the worst shot I have ever had!.
$80 bucks and a week later I fired up my completely rebuilt and throughly cleaned Europiccola and pulled my first shot. It took me a few tries to get the grinder (a Gaggia MDF) dialed in but pretty soon I was pulling drinkable shots.
Over the next few weeks I went through many pounds of coffee that I procured everywhere from Starbucks to Cosco to EccoCaffe in california. Slowly I started understanding the reasons that sometimes my Europiccola produced undrinkable swill and sometimes glorious espresso. It was this discovery process that has taught me all about the art of brewing espresso.
On this machine every shot is an act of balancing the extraction time, pressure and temperature. From the moment you lift the lever and hear the water rush into the group you are using all your senses to control the variables in order to extract the best cup possible. By the sound of the water flooding into the group head and by touching the heavy brass with a wet finger I can tell exactly how hot the water is. No, I cant tell if it is 195 or 205 degrees but I do know if it is too hot or cool. After waiting a few seconds I gingerly pull the lever to feel how tight the puck is and if the preinfusion is complete. If I get a stiff springy feel i know that I better start pulling the shot because it will be a long extraction. If I get little resistance and no spring I let it infuse a bit longer in hope that the puck will expand, I might even coax a little more of the super hot boiler water into the group with a short pumping action to heat up the puck in anticipation of a too fast pull. But when the grind, dose and tamp are perfect I feel a spongy spring-like resistance that tells me the pull will be a perfect 18 second extraction (not counting the pre-infusion time). Once I commit to the pull I am watching the drip or stream of espresso curl from the portafilter and I am feeling the resistance in the lever. Sometimes pulling harder will speed up the extraction, and sometimes it will over pressure the puck and choke the basket. If I find that the puck is too tight and the stream of espresso is anemic, despite putting more muscle into the lever, I can usually back off and tease the puck into a faster pull with less pressure. Is the brew pressure 8.6 bar or is it 11 bar? I don't know; but I do know if it is too much or too little and that is what matters. Finally the handle reaches the end of the stroke and the last bit of my effort drips into the cup. Looking into the cup I don't just see espresso, I see the result of a process that i am inextricably connected to. When i lift the slight cup to my lips the aroma, taste and texture paint a picture of the events that defined that moment. I can taste the edge of overly hot water, the dull spice of an over extraction, the flatness that results from a loose pull and the sharpness of too much pressure.
Using a lever machine you cannot separate temperature, grind, tamp, pressure, pre-infusion and extraction time the way you can on a automatic machine. When you are pulling a shot you can simultaneously adjust and compensate for all the factors that go into making espresso. Of course this becomes a double edged sword when you are learning to use the machine. However, those who invest the time and soul will not only be rewarded with excellent cups of coffee but an intimate knowledge of the espresso process that will carry over to any machine they use in the future.
As for the build and mechanics of the machine. At first I thought that there would be no way possible that it could maintain any kind of temperature control (my older model does not have any means of temp or pressure regulation other than the hi/low switch and the pressure release valve), but make no mistake whoever designed this thing got it right. After the pressure valve releases steam and the "false pressure" is bled off with the steam wand I switch it to the "low" setting and pull a blank shot (no coffee). This puts it at just the right temp for most blends. After some experience I have learned how to vary the temp by using the "hi" setting on the element or by letting more hot water flow through when preheating the group. The lever arm is solid despite the weak looking riveted connection. The chrome is thick and doesn't chip. All the parts are made from the right materials for the job. The castings are not perfect but all the mold seams are ground smooth and the mating surfaces are machined flat. The few plastic parts are very durable and despite the 30 plus years of use they have no cracks or discoloration.
I bought a Europiccola because i was convinced (mostly from reading on this site) that I would not be able to find a semi-auto machine that would satisfy me for under $600. I am happy to say that I think I made the right choice. If you only have $300 to spend and really want the best espresso you can get an Ebay Europiccola is the way to go.
I bought it on Ebay and I got what I expected; a worn out, aged Pavoni that needed a complete rebuild. The only surprise was that the shower screen was missing. I disassembled and soaked every part in descaler then reassembled with all new rubber. The all the rubber and gaskets cost around $50 and the shower screen was $20. If you buy an Ebay espresso machine I think you should expect to have to rebuild it.
I am basing this review on the premise that it cost me $250 to $300. New these machines sell for $650 to $900. At the new price I would have to say that it is horribly overpriced and could not in any way justify its cost.