pull-lever commercial espresso or standard?

garyrennie

New member
Dec 20, 2006
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0
do pull lever machines such as rancilio or la pavoni produce a comparable cup to the standard machines such as la marzocco linea line, etc.?

advantages/disadvantages?

Thanks.
 

mrgnomer

New member
Jan 22, 2006
149
0
Canada
Depends on the machines you're looking at. The Rancilio Epoca is a good commercial machine and capable of good espresso. I don't know much about La Pavoni's beyond their manual levers which are home machines capable of a couple really good extractions at a time but not capable of any kind of volume.

La Marzocco is considered a benchmark standard. Their machines are designed and engineered for stability, reliability and durability and are a favoured choice for high volume situations. The GS3 is a new 110V home machine offering for serious home enthusiats with about $4500US to spend.

An operator with good barista skills will most likely get better espresso from a semi automatic lever as opposed to a fully automatic machine so the type of machine can make a difference in addition to the manufacturer. Espresso machine manufacturers like La Marzocco or Synesso are focussed more on design and build for a market that wants the best regardless of price. Most other manufacturers compromise on design and build to favour price point.

You get what you pay for especially when it comes to espresso, I think.
 

Chris Kay

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Feb 1, 2005
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I use a commercial lever machine and in my opinion it is fantastic for clarity of flavour. The pre infusion brings out huge body and flavour.
It has the capability of making average coffee very good.. and great coffee fantastic.
Having said that it magnifies everything.
This means that if youre using bright coffee it can bring out too much brightness.
You have to be alittle careful what you put through it

I think it does a terrific job with flavour and body extractions but ts different again to a LM or a Synesso.




Indonesian low acid coffees are especially great when pulled through lever machines.
I would never swap my lever commercial .
 

mrgnomer

New member
Jan 22, 2006
149
0
Canada
garyrennie said:
do pull lever machines such as rancilio or la pavoni produce a comparable cup to the standard machines such as la marzocco linea line, etc.?

advantages/disadvantages?

Thanks.

Oh... I see your question.

I think again that's relative. LaPavoni manual levers don't have a spring while Ponte Vecchio's, Elektra's, LaCimbali are spring lever so even the type of manual makes a difference relative to other manuals relative to pump machines.

Temperature stability, infusion rate, volume potential are important factors. I don't have experience with manual levers but from what I've read manual levers give the operator a level of control over the extraction that exceeds pump machines. In the right hands I'd figure a manual lever can produce shots that would be as good or better than even the best pump machines. You'd have to hit the right brew temp and levers like the Pavoni's are notorious for only being able to offer about 4 or so shots before overheating. Still, for the money, levers offer better espresso from what I know.
 
I would like to revisit this topic. Currently involved in a project where we collectively (and somewhat blindly from my involvement) are debating a lever option vs. pump options. I personally have no experience in lever machines, but talking with Chris K (Kay) this am on yahoo, I am feeling more confident about the quality of shot that could be produced using a lever machine. The debate, I guess, is why use a lever group when a pump driven machine is available- if quality is similar in both instances? Well in Indonesia we are currently experiencing some electricity problems, which has seen several days over the last week where power has been off. The machines my manufacturer supplies have gas options that mean no electricity is needed to run the machine- so that in itself is a plus.

What I would like to know, from anyone with experience with these lever machines, is their comments on shot quality, ease of use etc.
 

Davec

New member
Oct 18, 2006
314
0
Old England (UK)
Alun_evans said:
I would like to revisit this topic. Currently involved in a project where we collectively (and somewhat blindly from my involvement) are debating a lever option vs. pump options. I personally have no experience in lever machines, but talking with Chris K (Kay) this am on yahoo, I am feeling more confident about the quality of shot that could be produced using a lever machine.

Assuming it's Chris K in Australia, he stocks the Izzo Pompeii machines (spring lever), they are gas or gas/electric (dual fuel) options....expensive machines, but absolutely awesome performance. I love the looks and the performance of them.

The Pavonis mentioned earlier, oddly enough a Pavoni is often bought by someone with little experience and a rubbish grinder. This pretty much guarantees they will get poor shots. The La Pavonis need a really good grinder and a bit of experience to get the best out of them. I have used a few lever machines and with the Pavoni was surprised at how fine you have to grind...but of course cheap grinders when dialled in very fine give an inconsistent grind and thus variability in the shot.

I was also surprised at just how hard some people think you need to pull on the lever?...50+ lbs was mentioned by someone....which means around 230+ PSI at the group!
 

mrgnomer

New member
Jan 22, 2006
149
0
Canada
Interesting that this topic has been ressurected. Since posting I now have 2 levers, both non spring assist. One is a vintage Olympia Cremina and the other is LaPavoni's Europiccola.

I like them both. The Olympia gives me espresso closer to what I get from a pump machine. The LaPavoni does need a very good grind and is a bit more sensitive to grind quality and technique. I usually get sweeter, smoother but somewhat shallower espresso from the LaPavoni.

I think lever's are an excellent value and offer a greater level of extraction control than semi automatic pump machines. They're not very difficult to use if your roast is fresh and you've got a very good commercial grinder.
 
Thanks MrGnomer. I am looking at the Pompei and also the Astoria Rapallo . I love the Pompei, the exposed groups and the shear "theatre" of the machine (Quote attributed to an Aussie guy who has a way with words)). The Rapallo is produced by CMA, who we work with in Indonesia. I would obviously probably look a the Rapallo first- as it makes sense to use a machine from our manufacturer partner. All this aside-

Any other useful comments about the technical aspects of a lever machine vs pump?

- maintanence issues?
- ease of learning how to "pull" shots
- little differences that should be noted?
- bigger issues that should be considered?

Many thanks to everyones comments to date.

2553652286_05ec26f3de.jpg
Pompei
img_rapallo_al2.jpg
Rapallo
 

Davec

New member
Oct 18, 2006
314
0
Old England (UK)
Alun_evans said:
Indeed it is Chris K (of Victoria, Australia)I am talking about. He's a whiz on explaining things- we have been on yahoo chat all afternoon. I am assuming you are giving the Pompei a two thubs up, the Pavoni a neutral?

Yeah, there is no comparison, the Pompeii dual fuel is fantastic...you won't regret it (I think you can also use both heat sources at once). It's a little more expensive than some spring levers, but the wow factor and the espresso.

I have mentioned to Izzo on a number of occasions that they should produce a smaller version of the Pompeii, but with exactly the same group, for home use.

Spring Lever Machines:

  • Easy to use
    Full pull on the Pompeii produces a double shot
    Maintenance is easy
    Less to go wrong
    Shot quality is very good indeed
    No backflushing required
    The theatre is fantastic (makes it look as if you really know what your doing)
 

PetitKawa

New member
Mar 31, 2015
1
0
HEllo, I would really like to ahve a Lever machine (e.g. Astoria Rapallo) in my mobile Artisan Coffee Cart... and I want to get proper barrista training to pour great shots BUT I am concerned with what I read somewhere that these machines overheat after a couple of shots and require rest time (how much ?) to cool down, as opposed to HX machines which you can cool flush. That does not seem compatible with commercial use, any experience there ? Nicolas
 

Coffeefix

New member
Dec 17, 2014
78
0
United Kingdom
I really like lever group espresso machines, but some are better than others.
I'm referring to commercial machines though, the ones with the big spring inside, not the E61 group with a lever as fitted to many high end domestic machines and commercial machines which utilises a pump - a very good group but different design.
We have a customer with an Astoria Rapallo and you are correct, this is a very hot group. I found it difficult to set up with some coffees because of the high temperature - quite challenging.
I also serviced a fantastic Faema "Zodiaco" from the 1950's not so long ago. A fantastic machine that has been producing cracking espresso for many years.
We also have had customers with Fiorenzato, Visacrem, Gaggia, San Marco, Futurmat, Izzo and Rancilio's lever machines - my favourite, the Fiorenzato. Exceptional coffee from this machine and so reliable.
Many lever machines have the group bolted directly onto the boiler - often very hot as the main boiler is often around 116-118 degrees Celsius when run at around 1 bar of pressure, others use a thermal reserve.
There have been attempts made to cool the water on route to the group with various valves and pipework by different manufacturers but on the whole they remain pretty similar in design.
Lever group machines are quite different to a "standard" modern machine and make coffee in quite a different way. If you ever have the opportunity to set one up alongside a regular machine you will quickly see that the grinder has to be adjusted quite differently.
When pulling the lever down, a cam of various types will lift a piston inside the group and at the same time, compress a large and powerful spring. When the piston rises past a certain point it uncovers a hole through which water enters from the boiler or thermal reserve depending on design. The water, cooled slightly by its travels and usually under about 1 bar pressure (max hopefully) floods through into the cylinder/chamber above the coffee. Under this low pressure, the water infuses the coffee grounds held in the filter holder and begins to drip into the cup. At this point the lever is released and the spring takes over, forcing the water down through the coffee for a full extraction. Most machines have a chamber about the size of a small or normal shot of espresso when the piston is at its highest so two pulls of the lever will often be required for a double espresso - how long you wait before releasing the lever needs to be practiced to get uniform shots.
The spring that provides pressure during this process is somewhat different to the normal 9 bar pump fed modern group. When the piston is at its highest and the spring compressed the most it provides the highest pressure when released. The spring relaxes when the piston lowers and so the pressure drops. The infusion process and high initial pressure help to emphasise the first and often quite acidic part of the espresso shot and of course the lower pressure towards the end help to suppress the tendency of shots to become bitter.
It doesn't work for all coffees but the results can be very good.
Manufacturers have tried to replicate this action in the modern pumped group. Latest tech using PID systems, electronics, pressure profiling etc are all there to improve the shot and make it more consistent. Many ideas have come from considering the "old" lever group! Some E61 groups have a spring loaded piston that compresses when the group first runs - a kind of mechanical buffer to absorb the initial 9 bar pressure resulting in a pause before the shot runs and give a degree of pre-infusion. Others have experimented with chambers on the group which contain air - this air compresses under pressure giving a similar effect.
The bottom line is that we are starting to realise that the designers of many of the lever groups put a lot of effort into their design... Kinda makes you wonder why we bother with twin boiler machines and PID?
They are reliable... give excellent shots when matched to a coffee that suits... they dose out regular shots... look great... Easy to service (watch out for that spring)... What's not to like?
I'm a big fan of the latest tech too but these old designs are pretty cool and can surprise.
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
1
Des Moines, Iowa
Many lever machines have the group bolted directly onto the boiler - often very hot as the main boiler is often around 116-118 degrees Celsius when run at around 1 bar of pressure, others use a thermal reserve.


Pressure is directly proportional to the absolute temperature. Simply put if you know the temperature of the water you will know the exact pressure of the vessel that contains it.

If the water in the boiler is at 1 bar of pressure then the temperature of the water will be exactly 99.63 Celsius. That is often why we just round up to 100 to make it simpler to remember. At 116 Celsius the boiler would be sitting around 1.8 bar.

Not trying to be a know it all, its just that I had a boiler guy (HVAC certified) beat it into my head about absolute temperature vs pressure. It's the one constant he could depend on. He worked on steam boilers that were pushing as high as a 1000PSI, roughly 69 bar.

I keep a bookmark to a page for quick reference when I want to know a temp/pressure. Might come in useful for you who knows.
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/saturated-steam-properties-d_457.html
 
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Coffeefix

New member
Dec 17, 2014
78
0
United Kingdom
Hi CCafe.
It's a complicated issue... The difference between "normal" boiling pressure (most think this is 100 degrees C) and "standard" at 1 bar for instance. You are right the temperatures I quoted were wrong - this is the expected temperature when doing a pressure test with most safety valves set at around 1.8 bar it makes sense - not the usual working pressure of around 1 bar. What can I say, it was a long day!,
I have had many explainations of the temperature and pressure problem from various engineers and designers.
Most explain like you, that water boils at around 100 degrees, given that boiling is the point that a liquid changes to a vapour and this is when pressure starts to build in an espresso machines boiler it would usually be suggested by them that the temperature is higher than the chart quotes?
Taking a look at the temperature settings on the Spaziale S5 in front of me too shows that the temperature is much higher at a lower degree of pressure? Using the temperature display on the machine, setting it at 115 or so gives around 1 bar on the gauge?
I understand that water boils at 69 degrees on top of Mount Everest!
Playing with an Iberital twin boiler machine this week - setting the espresso boiler to 102 degrees on the display will I'm told by the designer, will give a group temperature of 92 degrees on the coffee, understandable given the design. No sign of steam anywhere.
I guess the important point is that boiling water, under pressure or not, isn't ideal for coffee. Tell that to some of the worlds population and you'll start another debate!
 

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