High quality, doesn’t require much counter space, comes with standard and automatic frothers, easy to keep clean
Negative Product Points
Can be very hot to the touch, no cup warmer, does not accommodate taller cups
We’ve all seen photos of “God shots” with wispy adobe clouds skimming the dark pool of coffee below. With the Europiccola, it’s possible to create these beautiful and good tasting cups of espresso with great regularity – but only if you concentrate on what you’re doing.
The La Pavoni Europiccola and the larger Professional are the polar opposites of the “super automatic” espresso makers. The Europiccola is sensitive to the heat of the unit, the grind, the tamp, and the pull. It’s only when these are balanced that the perfect cup of espresso appears. For the espresso aficionado, the LaPavoni provides both a tactile and a taste reward.
The unit comes with baskets for both single and double shots. I use singles for the most part. There is no pod filter available. The unit heats the water to temperature in about four minutes (a little less if the reservoir is less than half-full, a little more if it’s full), and I’ve found that it pays to hold a cup under the filter spigots and run some of the heated water through before I load the coffee. I use a large-diameter cup to control the splash. This step helps in getting the head and filter warm.
The machine is very sensitive to the temperature at the head and basket. You’ll notice the difference between the first and second shots that you pull. Everything “tightens up” once the group is thoroughly heated. The initial drip of coffee that you see with the first pull will be significantly reduced in volume and will take longer to appear with the second pull. The second pull will take longer, even though your pressure on the lever is consistent.
This change in behavior, in turn, affects the way you set your grind and you should expect to do some experimentation. When I got my Europiccola, I found that I had to invest in a new grinder (I got a refurbished Solis Maestro) to obtain the consistency with the finer grind that worked well with the La Pavoni.
As you get more experienced in using the machine, you’ll find that you’ll also become more consistent in tamping the grind in the basket. Both the feel of the pull and the flow of coffee through the filter will provide feedback about variations in the grind and tamp. The La Pavoni takes a tamper that is unique in size – 51mm with the Millenium head (The older models of the Europiccola have a smaller diameter – 49mm). The plastic tamp that comes with the unit is useless, but you can get the proper tamper from espressoparts.com.
Bottomless portafilters are now available for the Europiccola and I expect to purchase one in the coming months, if only to obtain clearance from some of my favorite cups. It’s a little crowded under the filter now, with only about 2 and 3/8 inches of clearance, which accommodates many classic cups but without a lot of room to spare.
When you make your pull, the key is steady pressure and patience. The design of the machine helps in this regard because it will begin to tip forward at the base if you are pressing too hard. If you’re addicted to ristrettos, you’ll need to put your other hand on top of the filler knob at the top of the heating chamber to steady the unit.
The filler knob is tall, keeping your hand away from the heating chamber. That’s a good thing because the chamber can get hot enough to give you a nasty burn. If you have inquisitive small children around, you’ll need to find a way to keep them under control when you’re making your coffee. It’s a minor inconvenience that all the heat can’t be directed to some sort of cup warmer, but the small footprint of the La Pavoni makes up for it in terms of freeing up counter space. It’s not a bad trade off.
Keeping the unit clean is straightforward for the most part. The chrome shows fingerprints and smidges, but they’re easy to polish up. You might want to get some pipe cleaners for the space between the sight tube and the boiler body.
The automatic frother is convenient (just drop the tube into a cup of cold milk and get warm froth out of the nozzle) but I prefer using the standard wand and a pitcher. There’s a small plastic knob that controls the flow of milk through the automatic frother and I haven’t yet mastered it – not that I’ve tried all that hard.
If you're primarily focused on drinking your espresso once it's in the cup, the Europiccola may not be for you - you can't just hit a button and drink. But if you relish the whole experience of crafting excellent espresso and want to directly control the process to the greatest extent possible - this is the machine for you. It really is like no other.
I purchased a refurbished unit from Porto Rico Coffee on Bleeker Street in New York City. Their service department installed a pressure gauge (it comes standard on the Professional) on my Europiccola and it provides good feedback on the readiness of the water in the boiler. Service has been first rate from Porto Rico – good people to deal with.