The Leva, being a lever machine, is a fun machine, but is an ongoing project, and is good as a second machine unless you have a need for ritual and expeimentation. I used it often, and after learning it's quirks, and having learned to live with them really enjoyed it. A lever machine is an experience, and anyone who is really into the espresso experience should have one at one point in time. I previously had a Pavoni 16, and although I also enjoyed it, I found that it was much more of a hassle, and was not really a serious tool for making espresso on a consistant basis. It really too was a lot of fun, but it was very much more difficult to use and get any kind of consistancy because of the added variable of having to supply the downward pressure in pulling a shot.
My experience with the using the lever on this machine is that the whole unit is a balancing act when pulling down the lever. Because of the pressure required to pull down the lever, you must really be careful with angles and leverage. If you were to just pull down the Lever, there is a good chance you could have the whole unit slip out from under you.
This unit is very dependant on the tamp and grind. If it is not perfect and consistant your shots will suffer.
The steaming is as good as it gets, and it can produce delicious real micro foam very easily.
The extemly small tray size is not as much of a problem as many feel as long as you place a container over the tray when flushing or cleaning the head assembly.
The two rubber gaskets in the piston head should probably be replaced about once a year. This is not really too much of a big deal after you learn how to do it, and can be done without having to take apart the whole piston head and heavy spring. It is quite easy to pry the old gaskets off over the piston. By heating up the new gaskets, and some finess using a couple of thin screwdrivers, the new gaskets can be worked in over the piston and seated into place. It is important to note that the two gaskets are different and there is and up and down side to each gasket. Check out the old gaskets before removing them. Removing the piston head assembly is quite easy. Just remove the wto allen screws on top and slide the whole assembly up.
There seems to be one quirk that really makes no sence. There always seems to be more brew coming out of the left hand spout on the Portafilter. After playing with leveling the unit, there seemed to be no way to correct this. After posting to the GC Forum, it seems that they all do this. Why it happens is curious since when the head chamber is filled with the heated water, there is nothing diverting the water at all. Since I aways produced double shots into one cup it did not seem to make a difference. It would matter though if you were trying to pull two single shots at the same time.
In order to produce a double shot, you must pull the lever down twice. You would pull it down and release it the first time, and before the lever reached the top position, would pull it down a second time, and then realease it again.
The Copper and Brass units have a clear coat over the finish and the finish is quite fragile and easy to scratch. The chrome is quite easy to care for and is quite tough. Although the Copper/Chrome and Copper/Brass units are the most beautiful, if you are at all obsesive/compulsive about the looks of the machine, I would opt for the all Chrome unit, or at lest the Brass/Chrome one.
Parts are a problem, athough if you search the archives of the CoffeeGeek Forum for posts about the subject, parts can be obtained at reasonable prices.
It is a much easier unit to use than the Pavoni or Gaggia Lever units, and can produce a far superior shot since the piston spring assembly removes one of the biggest variables.
I had this unit for over a year and thoroghly enjoyed it. I got sold it when I bought an Elektra Micro Casa SemiAutomatica, which is just as beautiful, but a bird of a different feather. If I had the room I would have kept this unit too since I so thoroughly enjoyed it.
All in all it is a wonderful machine but would think twice only if it was the only unit I owned if I had to produce many multiple shots for guests, etc. If you produce just a couple of shots at a time, it is fine as a primary machine. It is the only unit I have seen (outside of my current SemiAutomatica) that always made a great shot, and made me smile at the same time.