A gorgeous, high-quality machine for those who prefer a manual espresso experience.
Positive Product Points
- Gorgeous - High-quality - Fully manual - Doesn't take up much space
Negative Product Points
- Small drip tray - Takes time to get used to - Makes small quantities of espresso at a time (not good for preparing large quantities at a time) - Cheap plastic tamper - Not much room for cups
I love everything about the espresso process; from the grind, to the tamp, to pulling your shot of deliciousness! With 2 of my previous automatic Breville espresso machines, I've never fully had the full manual experience from pulling a shot of espresso - hence the reason for purchasing the La Pavoni Professional. Now I'm able to manually produce a shot of espresso from start to finish, with any errors in the process being blamed on no one but myself.
As a way to ease the costly blow of this machine to my wife, I let her choose the color of the machine. I ended up ordering the Professional PLH model which has a gorgeous chrome finish accented by wooden knobs and handles - the model that I had my eye on in the first place! I also ordered a custom matching wooden tamper from Reg Barber (http://www.coffeetamper.com) as the tamper that comes with the machine is plastic and definitely not up to the machine's standard in my opinion. A 51mm size tamper fits this machine's basket perfectly.
Although most complaints on this machine come down to the difficulty of use and the countless number of attempts to perfect a shot of espresso, this also happens to be one of the reasons why I love this machine! I value the fact that not anyone can simply walk up to the machine and produce a decent shot of espresso and that it takes practice to fully master this machine! Although not yet accomplished, I can assume that a feeling of mastery and fulfillment will be felt once I master the art of making the perfect shot of espresso on this machine. The drip tray doesn't hold much water & needs to be emptied after each use (not a huge issue as the tray is always kept clean). Because this machine gets so hot, I'm only able to make 2 seperate shots of espresso at a time before having to shut her down to cool off. I have a vast collection of espresso cups but only a few types are short enough to fit under the grouphead. I'm a bit bummed that my favorite double-walled glass cups don't fit without removing the drip tray (I prefer clear cups so as to be able to see the various layers of espresso).
As of writing this review, I've owned this machine for less than a day and although my first shot was far from perfect and lacked crema (my beans weren't fresh), I can honestly say that this first shot was equivalent or better than any shot I've ever pulled on my previous automatic machines. I can't wait to practice on this machine to master the art of creating the perfect espresso!
After spending countless hours on the web searching for the best deal on the La Pavoni PLH Professional (with wooden knobs/handles) that shipped to Canada, I came across a review on here that pointed to La Gondola in Italy (http://www.lagondola.it/). I was surprised to find out that La Gondola carried the North American voltage (110V/60Hz) model as this model was hard to find amongst most vendors in Europe.
All my emails were quickly answered within 24 hours and the price far exceeded the prices from any other vendors within North America (even with the $110 duty fees)!
The only negative point that I'd like to add to my buying experience is that on La Gondola's website they state that all orders are processed within 48 hours. Unfortunately, due to lack of stock of the 100 volt model after the Christmas season, there was a week and a half delay before my machine was shipped. However once it was shipped, it arrived to me in Canada after only 4 business days!
Overall, I'm very satisfied with my buying experience from La Gondola who were by far the cheapest dealer and great to deal with!
Three Month Followup
With the addition of a scale, Aluminum Portafilter Dosing Funnel from Orphan Espresso, and SLIM Single Hole Steam Wand Tip (Stainless Steel) from Orphan Espresso, I'm finally able to produce consistent shots from this machine. Prior to measuring each dose by scale, I simply filled the portafilter to the top, leveling it off with a credit card...apparently I was waaaay overdosing which consistently resulted in very strong ristrettos. Since obtaining a digital scale, I've been dosing between 17-18g on the double basket (I haven't tried out the single basket yet). On a single pull, this results in a very decent double ristretto. However, I prefer doing a 1.5 pull (lift handle when pulled 1/2 way down) to produce delicious 50% ratio espresso shots. Usually I get channeling on a double pull that results in a mediocre lungo.
I pre-infuse for 7-10 seconds & grind between 5-7 (depending on the type/age of the beans) on my doserless Rancilio Rocky. I always do the WDT directly in the portafilter basket using the aluminum portafilter dosing funnel from Orphan Espresso to reduce spilled grinds. Living an hour away from the closest coffee roaster, I'm subscribed to an online coffee order where I receive a fresh shipment of beans every month which is as convenient as it gets. I use the Iphone app, "Perfect Shot" to document/take photos of every shot I make which has helped to perfect my shots...I've tried out dozens of different apps & this one is my favorite!
Prior to purchasing the single hole steam wand tip from Orphan Espresso, I had a difficult time producing the silky frothed milk required for latte art. I only make cappuccinos on the weekend so don't get to practice too much on my latte art. However, last weekend I was finally able to create a delicious cup of cappuccino with heart latte art. I use a thermometer to ensure I don't overheat or under-heat the milk.
The first week of owning this machine, I tried to adjust the pressure release valve as it was sticking. Unfortunately I didn't research before taking out my wrench to loosen the WRONG bolt. I loosened the bolt below the pressure valve instead of the actual pressure valve. Needless to say, every now & then I hear a whistle noise when the boiler gets pressured up due to a slight leak between the boiler & the bolt I wrongly loosened. I tried to tighten it up but I still get the odd whistle. Doing research after the fact, I took the pressure valve apart & lubed the o-ring with olive oil to resolve the sticky pressure valve issue.
After 3 months, I'm still very satisfied with this machine & am happy that I am finally able to produce consistent delicious espresso shots, cappuccinos, americanos, etc. that taste better than most coffee houses I've visited. I also still love the fact that I'm able to control all aspects of the extraction process with this gorgeous lever machine.