A solid machine that takes some getting used to, but the results are very satisfying indeed.
Positive Product Points
Once mastered it produces great coffee, steams brilliant milk to frothy heaven. It looks great in the kitchen, and you'll look great pulling coffee from it.
Negative Product Points
Takes a lot of practice to get right. Requires every part of the coffee making process to be right, there is no tolerance for error. Grind size, quantity, tamper, pressure exerted on lever, expulsion of hot air from boiler, all make a difference. Use a poor grinder, or buy the wrong grind coffee and all will be wrong.
Build quality is let down a little by two problems -- is a little leak of water from the steam wand tap needed to be fixed with a spanner/wrench, and the lever wobbles a little laterally.
The supplied tamper is also rubbish. Buy a new one. 51mm for a new machine, 49mm for an old one.
This is a design classic. I saw it, or the pro version, in Michael Corleone's kitchen in the Godfather III. Though this is not why I bought it. Really. It has been around for ages and this is testament to its greatness. It also appeared in The Talented Mr. Ripley. When Hollywood places a product on set, they are either being paid for placement or see the beauty of its design.
However, this is not a machine for the casual drinker. It requires practice in use and a great coffee grinder. You'll need to spend the same amount of money, at least, again in a grinder to use this baby. You'll need the coffee to be ground consistently and neither too fine nor too coarse. You'll need a good coffee doser, that accurately and consistently delivers the right amount of coffee. You'll also need to get a good tamper. The supplied tamper is cheap plastic, poorly sized, and not a good shape. There are discussions on which tamper to use, but I have not started experimenting on this yet.
Grind, dose, and tamper all fit together to produce the resistance against which you pull the lever. Too little resistance and the water slips past the coffee. Too much resistance and you wont get water past the coffee. When learning to use this machine you need to adjust one variable at a time.
The europiccola does not contain a thermometer to ensure the water is at a consistent temperature, rather it controls the pressure of steam above the water. (Pressure x volume is proportional to temperature.) It is therefore very important to expell all the air from above the water before using this machine, if there is air above the water then the pressure of the air above the water will push hot water through the coffee. You do not want this, you want to push the water past yourself. I have found the best way to expell all the air is to leave the steam wand open when turning the machine on and letting the steam escape for a good minute or more before closing the wand and pulling coffee. A few seconds is not enough. Each pull of the lever gives 1 fl. oz. of hot coffee with a lovely crema.
The machine was updated a few years ago. There used to be two power switches, but the new machine has only one switch. Despite commentaries on the old machine, there is a perfectly adequate temperature regulating mechanism in this machine. The only significant difference in this regard between the Europiccola and the Professional is that the Professional actually shows the boiler pressure on a barometer mounted above the water fill gague. In the Europiccola as soon as the pressure drops, either due to opening the steam wand or due to a fall in boiler temperature, the heating element is switched on again to return pressure, and hence temperature, to the set level. Simple, and effective.
The machine gets hot, really hot. Keep it well away from children, or the elderly too. Also do not burn yourself on escaping steam by opening it to refill when still hot. Use the steam wand to expell all steam after turning off.
The steam production is marvellous. My cousin, who works for a very large coffee company, could not believe how much steam such a little machine could produce. It froths milk brilliantly. Heats up a mug of water for tea quickly. Try making hot cocoa with it too -- brilliant.
I do not know if lever machines really do produce better coffee, but once mastered they are pleasing to use. They are very controllable, but it takes time to get used to each variable. Until I got a decent coffee grind, I could not get a good pull of coffee from this machine and was close to admitting defeat and giving up. However, it is very satisfying to pull an exact fluid oz. of espresso with a luxurious crema on top.
I would buy another lever machine again, if not this maybe one with a larger tank of water or an electra machine which may be a little more solid.
An internet search led me to buy the machine in Italy. However, I am not full of praise for the vendor. I ordered a machine with a UK plug, it was supplied with an European plug. They also charged me for a seond item that was not delivered nor ordered. They did not reply to my emails asking them to correct this error. However, my credit card company resolved this for me.
The machine was shipped, new, boxed, and quickly.
Three Month Followup
After three months I was starting to pull a consistent good quality shot of espresso. Hot, rich, with a really thick crema on top. Heaven.
One Year Followup
It is still running, but needed a change of all gaskets which cost too much (they are only plastic/rubber rings after all.) But I have learnt a few things:
The machine gets too hot to produce coffee. Turn it on, bleed the air, flush the group head, wait five minutes and then make your coffee. This is not a precise science, but the water is hotter than the magic 92C and the group, basket, and filter handle are cooler hence it works out about right. If you leave the machine on for hours then the group and handle will be too hot and the coffee will come out at 100C+ -- burnt!
If you leave the machine on for hours on end I think the gaskets will expire early as happened with me.
The base of the machine gets warm and will kill a real wood kitchen surface. I put mine on a few spare tiles.
It makes beautiful coffee, and steams a treat.
I still believe use of this machine teaches you how to make perfect espresso. The effects of grind, tamp, pressure, time, temperature, etc. can all be noticed on this machine very easily.
Easy to maintain -- every part can be purchased. I suspect anyone with a little time and a good toolkit could dis-assemble and re-assemble this machine safely.
Cost of spare parts can be high, though I hope these should not be needed too often. I think my repair was needed due to my abuse of the machine.