Wonderful kitchen art; looks great on countertop, presents a well-built appearance. Easy to pull decent shots, and with a little effort and study, can make fantastic espresso. Has been around for many many years, so parts, accessories and advice are plentiful. Having control over every possible variable is fun to play around with.
Negative Product Points
Gets hot! Keep kids and pets away. Quirks: small (49 mm) portafilter, odd placement of portafilter into group head, small boiler capacity. Watch out for the dreaded "La Pavoni sneeze." Did I mention that it gets hot?
This craigslist bargain was an upgrade to my espresso experience; my previous machine was a $bucks Barista. I had read online about some of the difficulties of learning to use a lever, but I decided to take the plunge. This pre-Millenium example had been well taken care of, and I started pulling shots immediately, noticing that the quality of the espresso, even before I knew anything about the intricacies of the Europiccola, was much better than anything I'd ever gotten out of my previous machine. With time, this would improve to the best shots I've ever pulled, and close to what I could get in a good cafe. A few points: this machine has no temperature or pressure gauge (although one can be installed, see orphan espresso), so you are mostly on your own trying to pull at the right temperature. This probably bothers more experienced baristas more than it does me: I'm comfortable with not having perfect repeatability, in fact, I find it fun to keep learning as I go along. Also, this machine gets hot--practically every metal part of this machine becomes too hot to touch, so watch out! The limited boiler capacity (and overheating) means that if you want to pull shots all day or for a party, look elsewhere. Three or four shots at a time are about all you should expect, although some people do things to prolong this (e.g., wrapping cool wet towel around group head). Letting the shot preinfuse by holding the lever up at top position for 10 seconds is an effective technique, as is the so-called "Fellini" move (hint: it's like a partial double pump of the lever). The Europiccola likes a very fine grind and a light tamp, and don't overfill the basket. I purchased an MCal double basket which had more capacity than the OEM one from orphan espresso, and it improved the quality of my shots by quite a bit. Beware of the "sneeze": an explosion of hot water and coffee grounds from the grouphead when the portafilter is removed too quickly, or while the pressure is still high. Solution: ease the portafilter off slowly, and be very careful at the end.
The Europiccola has transformed my espresso experience. I like it so much that I frequently make espresso in the afternoons, which I've never done before. One of the reasons I was attracted to the Euripiccola was the ready availability of parts and accessories, since it has been made for many years. At the price I got it, this machine is excellent. I certainly would think twice before paying full retail for it, though, as I understand that it now goes for over $700 new. Somewhere around $350 is about right, in my estimation. The potential of this machine for great shots at a reasonable price is just enormous; there's nothing even close to it, if you're willing to spend some time beyond "plug and play." And really, isn't that what we're all here for?
Craigslist....keep looking and you'll find your reward. Nothing like a local sale where you can examine the machine, watch it work, and bargain with cash.
Three Month Followup
Well, after quite a few shots, I noticed the little dragon was leaking somewhat from the top of the grouphead (where the lever meets the grouphead). Since the description I had of prior maintenance was vague, I used this as an excuse to order up a full set of replacement gaskets from Orphan Espresso. Really, disassembly is quite easy with basic tools, and the replacement of gaskets is simple as well, validating my initial impression of the La Pavoni as one of the easier machines to maintain. Updating the gaskets made the lever action much smoother, although there is still a slight leak from the same place as before (I may not have replaced the tiny metal clip quite right, not sure). At any rate, I can still highly recommend the Europiccola as a wonderful entry into the world of fine espresso.
One Year Followup
During the year, I made two additions to my EP which made a huge difference in pulling shots: a naked portafilter and a pressure gauge from Orphan Espresso. Of the two, the pressure gauge made the most difference; I discovered that I'd been pulling most of my shots after the machine overheated. I'd have never been able to realize that without the information the gauge provided. In my opinion, its a must for fine tuning your shots on this machine. The naked portafilter also gave me quite a bit more feedback on the quality of shots I was pulling. It also cut down on the incidence of "Pavoni sneezes" that this machine is noted for. I continue to absolutely love this machine; I don't think at this point I'd ever be happy with a non-lever.