When the matter revolves around a great cup of coffee, nothing can be better than having an ideal espresso. It is indeed a back-patting matter to generate a perfect espresso shot.
There are end-numbers of automatic and semi-automatic machines available in the market. However, if you need total control of the shot, switch to the manual ones. The best lever espresso machines will entertain you with high-grade coffee sitting at the ease of home.
What is a Lever Espresso Machine?
The word ‘pulling the shot’ has a direct connection with the lever espresso machines. These are completely manual, unlike the automatic and semi-automatic ones. While for the latter two, you can program a coffee while for the former one, you have to literally control everything. The shot of espresso in a lever machine is achieved by pulling the lever to generate pressure for an espresso shot.
Now, the question is, is there any difference in shots produced? The honest answer is ‘No’. You can compare both as something that is produced by machine with another made by hand. Both are equally good, but for a barista using the manual machines is an emotion and love for brewing.
You might like to read: Best Espresso machines for home
Types of Lever Machines
There are two types of lever espresso makers – the direct lever & the spring piston:
You will identify a direct lever machine, by detecting the lower position of the lever at the resting position. In this machine, you have to manually lift the lever first to the top position and then slowly bring it down to create pressure and pull the espresso shot. When you put pressure on the lever, the same pressure goes through the water while extracting the shot. It requires years of practice to master the art of making the perfect brew.
On the other hand, this one can be identified with the upright lever at the resting position. When the lever is pushed down, the spring action is activated eventually. Once the shot starts coming out, the lever will lift as the spring releases its tension. Although you may think that the spring here is the providing pressure, an expert barista has a lot to do. For instance, he has to take care of pre-infusion, controlling the amount of water and, obviously, the perfect time to pull the shot.
When we compare the two, the Direct-Lever option requires more practice as the pressure has to be maintained manually whereas, in the Spring-Piston machines, the pressure is maintained by the spring resulting in consistent shots and nice crema.
How to use a Lever Espresso Machine?
The basic working of all espresso machines is to force the near-boiling point water under pressure through the coffee grounds in the portafilter. The main difference is that manual ones do not have a pump to create that pressure. It is the hand-operated lever, that provides the pressure.
There is a water reservoir containing water and a portafilter that holds the ground.
First, you have to attach the portafilter to the machine.
Next, if you have a spring-piston machine, slowly bring down the lever. In a while, you will notice the brown liquid starts coming out slowly. Now we will release the lever and the pressure will be transmitted to the spring inside it. Upon releasing the handle, the pressure from the spring is released and a vacuum is created. It forces the water to move over the coffee grounds in the portafilter.
Alternatively, when you pull down the direct lever in the manual machine, the vacuum effect forces the water to reach the portafilter and run through the ground beans. You have to be consistent in maintaining pressure over the lever for a great shot.
In both cases, the brew is extracted into the cup with crema on the top.
Best Lever Espresso Machines of 2021
Now, as you have a brief idea about the lever espresso machines, here are the best ones that you can opt for.
1. Elektra S1C Microcasa Lever
Type: Spring-Lever Boiler Capacity: 1.8 Liter
The most attractive feature of this machine by Elektra is the Italian retro design with the eagle on the dome. The chrome finish of the Microcasa is definitely going to grab attention and enhance the elegance of the place.
Speaking about the technical specialties, it comes with a pressure gauge. This helps you to understand the optimum pressure to pull a shot. Apart from this, the boiler is quite larger in size. It can hold 1.8 liters of water and comes with an 800-watt heating element.
The water level sight glass is worth mentioning. It allows noting the temperature and amount of water in the reservoir.
This manual espresso machine comes with a spring-piston. Therefore, extracting a brew will be a bit more convenient. The product is almost fully assembled except for the steam wand. Attaching it will not be a matter of a great deal though.
Who is this for
The machine holds a larger volume of water and so, it is not travel-friendly at all. It is perfect for those, who are searching for an old-school espresso machine for their coffee corner of the house to look more charming.
2. La Pavoni Europiccola
The La Pavoni Europiccola is capable of making eight 2 oz. espresso cups with its 20 oz. boiler.
Type: Direct-Lever Boiler Capacity: 20 oz
It will be unacceptable not to include La Pavoni lever machines in the list. It is a well-known Italian brand with a good reputation for espresso machines.
The Europiccola is not an exception. This can be described as a vintage machine with a hint of modernity. The coffee maker is sturdy and is made of stainless steel. Although some parts are made of plastic, the boiler is a special mention because it is nickel-plated chrome.
However, the eye-catching feature of the product is a dual frothing cappuccino system and can make two cups of espresso at a time with the 20 oz. boiler capacity.
Although it is a complete direct lever machine, the modern touch lies in the addition of internal thermostats. This restricts excessive heat buildup and keeps an eye on the pressure.
In the present time, when automatic machines are flourishing, an instructional video about the operation is extremely necessary. As this machine is user-controlled, the video is going to help a lot.
- The machine has a sturdy and durable design
- It is perfectly priced compared to others having the same features
- The package comes with a lot of accessories
- The presence of an extremely useful instructional video is worth it
- The company provides a 1-year warranty
- The temperature of the steamer is slightly lower than other machines
- Due to modern touch, electricity is required
Who is this for
This machine is perfect for experienced users of manual espresso makers. The thermostat takes care of the pressure and temperature while the video for the instruction guides the users perfectly.
3. Flair Signature Espresso Maker
- HANDCRAFT SHOTS OF ESPRESSO - The Flair is a 100%...
- CUSTOM PRESSURE GAUGE - Allows for immediate visual...
- EASY TO CLEAN - The Flair Espresso Maker is the only manual...
- FULLY PORTABLE - All Flair Espresso Makers come standard...
Type: Direct Lever Water Capacity: 2 oz.
Now, this is the lever espresso machine with a really stylish look. Flair Signature can make expert shots anywhere. The price of the product is also much less than other makers.
The coffee grounds need to be inserted. The water chamber placed above the coffee should be filled with boiling water. Next, is the final masterstroke of pulling the lever. The pressure gauge shows the visual effect of 9 to 16 bar pressure to get the proper espresso shot. The extract thus received, is strong with a bittersweet flavor and rich crema on the top.
The brewing head is detachable. The parts are easily separable for easy cleaning. Besides, the design of the machine is so crafted that you can carry it anywhere. The brewing head is made of stainless steel while the press stand is made of aluminum.
- The design is very simple and user-friendly
- Lever creates the perfect pressure for the espresso shot
- The padded and well-protected carrying case is extraordinary
- The brewing head and press stand comes with a 5-year warranty
- It is indeed travel-friendly
- Small removable parts make it easier to wash
- Not too durable like Italian machines
- Needs dissembling every time for cleaning
Who is this for
The stylish lever espresso maker by Flair is an absolute choice for travelers. The padded case makes it perfect to carry over long distances without any harm to the machine. Besides, the low price point is an added advantage.
4. La Pavoni Professional Copper & Brass
A unique blend of design and features in a professional way.
Type: Manual Lever Boiler Capacity: 32 oz.
Desiderio Pavoni was the first man to bring commercial espresso machines into the market. The Professional machine is one example, why Pavoni is still a love brand for baristas. The elegant design made of brass and copper is one of the best things on the countertop.
The notable fact in the machine is the large boiler. It holds 38 oz. of water, which can make approximately 32 single espresso shots. Besides, the water level gauge helps to look at the quantity of water inside. There is an internal thermostat that takes care of the boiler temperature.
However, the machine does not have a spring lever. Instead, it depends on a manual piston, which means the situation can be a bit tricky. You definitely have to be an expert in the pre-infusion stage. The beauty of the coffee maker is enhanced by the addition of antique wooden knobs and a piston handle.
- The stylish product is highly durable due to the presence of copper and brass
- The water reservoir is of very large capacity
- It includes both a standard frothing wand and an auto-frothing one
- The presence of the temperature safety switch is advantageous
- Completely manual piston based espresso maker, so, brewing can be challenging
- The lightweight base is not convenient to pull shots easily without holding
Who is this for
This old-school machine is a charm to the coffee corner. If you are willing to have it, make sure that you are ready to accept the challenge of brewing perfect shots. This espresso maker is great to go for small parties as it can brew 32 single shots with a large reservoir.
5. La Pavoni Professional Expo
Another piece of marvel from La Pavoni that brings out the espresso craftsmanship at home with manual action.
Type: Manual Lever Boiler Capacity: 38 oz.
The Expo from La Pavoni is yet another special addition to the list of lever espresso makers. With proper use of the product, you can get the butter smooth and full-bodied espresso in the cup. The proper combination of steel and golden color gives it a different type of look. It is indeed elegant and beautiful with the eagle on the top.
In terms of function, the first thing to mention is the large boiler, which holds 38 Oz. of water. This means it is large enough to prepare 16 double espresso shots. The solid brass boilers are nickel-plated. Besides, the presence of a dual frothing cappuccino system is undoubtedly an added advantage.
The beautifully mounted pressure gauge augments the style of the machine. An internal thermostat regulates the pressure in the product. However, the uniqueness of the espresso maker lies in the new ‘Millennium’ brew group. It has heat diffusers that manage the unnecessary build-up of heat.
- The sleek and stylish design looks awesome
- Comparatively larger boiler
- A demonstration video is included for easy operation
- The ‘Millennium’ brew group controls excess heat
- A dual frothing cappuccino system is an added benefit
- The internal reset switch stops overheating
- Direct lever based espresso maker; requires control and expertise to craft the perfect shot
Who is this for
Like the La Pavoni Professional Copper & Brass, it is for those who want a large water boiler. Additionally, the sleek design is easily adjustable on the countertop. In other words, this espresso machine is perfect if you are searching for a combination of function and appearance.
6. La Pavoni Esperto Competente
A cutting edge technology in manual espresso shots with a group-head pressure monitoring as well as boiler pressure monitoring.
Type: Manual Lever Boiler Capacity: 38 oz.
If you see La Pavoni Esperto Competente, it will look more like the twin sibling of the Professional. In fact, there are huge similarities between the two.
The brass and chrome design with wooden handles gives it a beautiful and subtle look.
The large boiler can serve 16 double shot espressos. Like the other La Pavoni machines, it has a pressure gauge. However, the presence of group-gauge is worth mentioning. There is no spring and is a completely hand-pulled lever without any electricity.
Two portafilters are included in the package – bottomless and one standard with twin spout. In addition, you will get three filter baskets of 9, 16, and 20 grams capacity. Apart from this, the presence of an internal thermostat and internal reset switch are few characteristics of the machine. It also has dual frothing cappuccino systems.
- Elegant design with durability
- The group gauge requires special mention
- The large capacity allows to brew more espresso
- The temperature strip on the group is an additional gain
- Demonstration DVD included with the package
- It will take time to learn the controlling mechanism to get the perfect shot
Who is this for
This machine is a direct lever machine. Therefore, it is best for the ones, who can give time to learn the control for an appropriate beverage or those who have the knowledge to pull an ideal shot using a manual espresso maker
7. Elektra Micro Casa Semiautomatic
- Bakelite handle on portafilter wooden handle, as shown, is...
- Three red switches power, coffee brew, & boiler refill.
- Brass eagle situated on dome with wings up.
- Water level sight glass with pressure gauge.
Type: Semi-automatic Boiler Capacity: 2 Liter
The semiautomatic machine by Elektra is brilliant chrome finished espresso machine with a bit of twist. It is built-in with a heat-exchanger boiler system, which keeps the water brewing at a steady temperature and finally extracts a full-bodied and flavorful espresso shot. So, it’s actually a look of a manual machine combined with a semi-automatic functionality and also has a frothing system in place.
The sturdy brass boiler has a capacity of 2 liters. Also, it offers exceptional dry steam for crafting microfoam. The machine has an operational pressure relief valve on top of the boiler. It ensures protection. Besides, a fitted safety thermostat averts the excess heat.
It also has a pressure gauge that illustrates boiler steam pressure. The needle in the green zone points out the best time to pull the shot.
Another interesting feature is the powerful vibratory pump, which helps to get the utmost flavor from the grounds.
The control panel of the Elektra Micro Casa Semiautomatic is very user-friendly. It has three red switches dedicated to power, brewing, and water refill respectively.
The three-way solenoid valve in the product releases the pressure and this pulls out the water in the group head after extracting the espresso. Therefore, the portafilter is easily removable to refill in no time with coffee and brew the next cycle.
- The heat exchanger helps to brew and steam simultaneously.
- A pressure gauge helps in monitoring the boiler pressure.
- The safety valve releases pressure whenever needed.
- The boiler is much larger in capacity.
- The machine is not a fully manual one.
Who is this for
Elektra’s semiautomatic machine is a must-buy for beginners in the world of espresso. As it is not completely manual, you can operate it without being a professional barista. Modern technology is mixed with the vintage model for easy operation.
8. Izzo Alex VIVI 3 with PID
Automation combined with the perfect level of manual control.
Type: Semi-manual Lever Boiler Capacity: 3 Liter
Packed with loads of features, Izzo Alex VIVI is a combination of simplicity with effectiveness. Although the design of the machine is not too elegant, it is durable and most importantly functional in nature.
The massive 3-liter insulated stainless steel boiler is the first thing to mention. This heat-exchange boiler provides steady steam pressure and temperature.
PID Controller is the USP of the machine. Temperature is supervised by electronic means, which means it offers more proficiency than the manual models having similar specifications. During the time of brewing, the front-facing PID twofold as a suitable shot timer.
The polished double-wall side panels and a long-lasting stainless frame improvise extra durability to the already strong coffee maker.
The rotary pump in the machine provides the option to plumb in unswervingly to your water line for a regular source of water.
E61 Group looks specifically into the temperature stability so that each cup of coffee tastes awesome.
- Highly durable and sturdy design
- The large quantity boiler enables perfect brewing and steaming
- The front PID makes the machine extremely user-friendly.
- The size of the machine matters; it is indeed a chunky one.
Who is this for
In terms of functionality, the price of the coffee maker is pocket-friendly. Therefore, if you are searching for an economic manual espresso machine with PID, this will be the ideal purchase.
Why Use a Manual Machine
To be very honest, there is no such technical uniqueness of the lever espresso machines. However, if you are obsessed with espresso or want to be an expert in the field, you definitely want one. It is really interesting to experiment with the variations factors affecting espresso, which is never possible with the automatic ones.
A manual machine can be a great vintage collection. One thing about the machines is that they are long-lasting. Therefore, investment is one time and furthermore, if you need parts, that will be quite affordable for sure.
What to Consider Before Buying
As we have discussed the best lever espresso machines, you must understand the factors before purchasing them. If you get the positive notation with the facts considered here, choosing the best one will be quite easier. The following three questions are what you should ask yourself to select the one of choice.
First, how difficult is the machine to use?
Second, what is the size of the machine and will it matter?
Third, is the machine long-lasting?
If the size is not a matter for a sturdy machine, we will suggest not to hesitate about the difficulty. Obviously, it will take time to learn to craft a perfect shot with a manual machine. However, it will be rewarding in the end.
The lever espresso machines have a wide variety with permutation and a combination of features. It is obvious that you will not get all the things in one. Again, purchasing all is also not possible. In such a case, understand your priority and do not be reluctant to learn the perfect “pulling the shot”. In case you are not comfortable with learning, you can switch to the automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines that we have discussed in our other sections.
- What is the best pressure for an espresso shot?
The industry-standard pressure for an ideal espresso shot is 9 bars. the approximate pressure in lever espresso machines is kept between 7 to 9 bars.
- How do lever espresso machines work?
Lever espresso machines are the basic and traditional ones. Water is heated inside the boiler with the help of a heating element. The barista then pulls the lever to force the hot water through the coffee ground-filled portafilter. This creates pressure and the shot is extracted.
- What is the best grind for espresso?
The fine coffee ground produces the best espresso. Specifically speaking, it should resemble a mix of fine sand and powdered sugar. However, care should be taken that the grounds do not become dust or they will impart a bitter taste.
- Are Lever espresso machines worth their cost – https://www.javapresse.com/blogs/espresso/are-lever-espresso-machines-worth-it
- Lever espresso machines vs Automatic – https://www.liminicoffee.co.uk/lever_automatic