La Pavoni Europiccola EPC-8 Lever Espresso Maker Review
Desiderio Pavoni began producing commercial espresso machines in 1905, and for years, La Pavoni was the espresso machine to have. Today the Milanese company is known for a product line with different appearances and capacities, but they are commonly respected as some of the top lever espresso makers in the world.
What’s so special about a La Pavoni? And with all their offerings, what makes the La Pavoni Europiccola such a popular choice? We’re here to lay it out for you. So pull a shot, sit down, and enjoy while we give you the details.
Summary: La Pavoni Europiccola Espresso Machine
- Triple-plated chrome construction for great looks, durability, easy cleaning
- Sight glass for viewing water level inside boiler
- Lever action puts you in charge of the shot 100%
This machine is largely constructed of cast brass and is built to last. The large boiler ensures that limescale deposits have minimal effect, meaning minimum maintenance is needed.– La Pavoni
The La Pavoni Europiccola Review
Design – 5/5
Constructed of triple-plated brass, the La Pavoni Europiccola shares the styling of its more luxurious cousins, but in a sleek, modern chrome finish. The central boiler, manual lever and left-handed portafilter are all shared design elements with the visually stunning (and much more costly) La Pavoni Professional Copper and Brass.
Taken as a whole, the design is both industrial and Art Deco, with a hint of steampunk. The sight glass (which allows you to see the water level), the steam wand, and of course the group head bolted to the front of the gleaming silver boiler call to mind a 1930s sports car or streamlined railway engine. The six-lobed knobs for filing the boiler and operating the wand are a step back to “a better vanished time,” as the song says.
Brewing Capability – 4.5/5
But of course, none of the Jules Verne goodness of the design would be worth a devalued franc if it didn’t make great coffee. And it does – once you master it (1).
Everyone needs benchmarks and feedback. We don’t have to be a slave to the data, but to entirely throw it out is foolish.
The keys to getting the best out of your La Pavoni are having a meticulous nature and noting every step in the process. You start by weighing your dose – that’s the amount of espresso you put into the filter basket. As with other La Pavoni espresso machines, the Europiccola comes with two 51mm baskets: one holds 9g, and the other holds about 13 (14 if you really mash the tamper).
In practice, most espresso devotees use the larger basket. (It’s worth pointing out that the 9g basket fits ESE pods – though it’s hard to imagine someone who wants pre-packaged ESE pods and a manual lever espresso machine). We’ve found that the larger basket is ideal for pulling shots of about 30g to 45g – that is, a 2:1 or 3:1 coffee-water ratio. With a sufficiently slow hand on the lever, you can get a beautifully balanced extraction at about a 40g yield.
And that’s another bit of meticulous nature that goes into operating a manual lever espresso machine: the time you spend pulling the lever, and the extra step of weighing your yield (that is, the amount of espresso in the cup after you pull it).
Pulling a shot involves three phases (2):
- Preinfusion – raise the lever till it latches into position, then wait about 6 seconds till the first drops of “free run” espresso trickle from the portafilter.
- The “pull” – slowly pull the lever down, aiming for about a 30-second pull. (When the lever is flat, you’re halfway, so if you reach that in about 15 seconds, you’ve got the right pull rate.)
- The finish – as the lever reaches the lower stop, wait for a few seconds till the coffee still in the portafilter finishes dripping. Note that you’ve already extracted everything; this is just letting the portafilter clear itself.
Now taste it. If it’s too sour, you are underextracting, which could be from a low temperature, too fast a pull, or too coarse a grind. If it’s too bitter, you are overextracting, which could be due to too high a temperature, too long a pull, or (rarely) too fine a grind.
Looking to make milk drinks? The Europiccola has you covered in two ways.
If you want to do it #baristastyle, use the wand. Dip the surface just into the top of the milk for a high, stiff head of foam, or place it well into the liquid at an angle to swirl the milk and give a lighter froth. (Want to know more? Check out our article on steaming versus frothing milk.)
Just want fluffy milk in your cappuccino (or latte or whatever drink you like)? The included auto-frothing attachment does it for you. Just remove the wand (line up the post on the boiler with the notch in the wand), then put the auto-frother in its place. (To latch it, just turn it till the notch lines up with the post. Trust me, it’s obvious once you look at it.)
Making a cappuccino with the auto-frother takes nothing more than putting the end of the flexible tube in a container of milk, holding your cup (with your shot of espresso already pulled) under the auto-frother, and then turning the steam knob. In a few seconds, suction pulls milk up the tube and the attachment mixes air with hot, steamed milk to make a very creditable froth. It’s not quite as silky as the microfoam from a commercial espresso machine, and because it spritzes directly into your cup you aren’t going to be able to draw a panda with it, but it tastes great and the foam is deep and has great structure. We’ve found it’s dense enough to hold up a sugar cube on the surface.
One minor negative: the Europiccola does not come with a pressure gauge. Since the gauge only displays pressure in the boiler (held between 0.7 and 1 bar), not at the group head, it’s not really a hindrance to pulling a shot. Remember, with a lever espresso machine, the pressure on your puck comes from how hard you pull the lever down.
Cleaning & Maintenance – 4/5
Let’s face it: this is not an automatic espresso machine. There’s no warning light or program button to make the Europiccola clean itself. You have to do it by hand, both inside and out. We deducted a point for this.
But frankly, cleaning these things isn’t very involved. The triple-plated finish means that all you have to do is wipe it down with a damp kitchen towel to get rid of coffee and milk splatters. In a pinch, you might need to use a sponge with a little dish soap, if you’ve let something stand on the finish overnight.
Microfiber cloths are great for wiping down the surface. Used wet or dry, these things pick up everything and leave a super shiny finish.
Cleaning the inside is just about as simple: you can either buy commercial descaling solution or make your own (we like a 50/50 mix of distilled white vinegar and water). Fill the boiler with descaling solution, let it come to temperature and pressure, and then pump it out with the lever. When you get near the bottom of the tank, dump the remainder out the top (warning: it will be hot!), then run a couple of tanks of clear water through to flush out the descaling solution. That’s one reason we like white vinegar: the scent is unmistakable, so it’s easy to know when it’s clean.
Build Quality – 5/5
We’re friends with a small network of home baristas who use vintage La Pavoni espresso machines on a daily basis. These things are built to last: many are still brewing gorgeous shots decades after they were built. There’s a cottage industry devoted to the restoration and maintenance of these beautiful devices, and most parts are easily available (3). Gaskets and seals, in particular, are easy to replace if they wear out after years of use.
Current La Pavoni models have this quality, but in addition, they benefit from improved electrical parts, especially the thermal safety mechanisms such as the manual reset safety thermostat on the modern Europiccola. Some older models (in the 1960s and ‘70s) were protected by fusible links – that is, a section of wiring designed to melt if it got too hot, and shut off electricity to the heating element. On the plus side, this prevented you from burning your house down. On the minus side… no espresso. Tough choice in our book.
Value For Money – 4.5/5
See, here’s the thing… The Europiccola costs just about half what the La Pavoni Copper and Brass Professional does — we reviewed it in this article, by the way. Yes, you give up that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea copper and brass look, but the lever, the group head, the portafilter, the wand, even the auto-frother attachment are exactly the same. That’s why the Europiccola gets half a point more in the value category than its gorgeous copper cousin.
But they’re both pretty spendy. And if all you really want is a great espresso a few times a week, you can get that without maxing out your credit cards. (If that sounds good to you, keep reading. We’ve got your back.)
Do Not Buy The La Pavoni Europiccola If…
You don’t want to work that hard for a damn cup of coffee – Look – not everyone wants to be this involved with the simple act of getting a thimbleful of espresso. If measuring the dose, timing the pull, and weighing the yield seems like a lot of fuss for a few sips of strong coffee, you might be in the market for another kind of espresso machine – perhaps an automatic or super automatic. Our roundup of the best espresso machines includes dozens of options at a number of price ranges.
Your budget is being awkward – We’ve all been there: you’re convinced a Ferrari would be darling, but that Vespa is a lot friendlier on the bank account. If this is the case, check out the Flair Espresso Maker and the ROK Manual Espresso Maker. These two options should keep you in the good graces of your bank manager. And both of them produce surprisingly delicious espresso for a fraction of the price of this Italian classic.
If you’re ready to take on the challenge of a manual espresso machine – if the thought of weighing and tamping and pulling and frothing makes your heart race – if you quiver with anticipation at the thought of perfecting your technique and pulling consistently delicious shots of espresso that carry your own inimitable style… the Europiccola will give you all that. It’s not the cheapest, nor the most expensive, but it carries the charm and heritage of more than a century of Milanese design and passion.
And boy, do these things make a dynamite espresso.
If you think the La Pavoni Europiccola isn’t right for you, perhaps you would do better with one of these manual espresso machines instead.
You get foamy bubbles at the end of the pull because you are either pulling too quickly, or your dose is too small or not properly tamped. Bubbles at the end of the pull happen because the water is going through the puck too quickly, and air is being forced through the grinds. Try adding another gram of coffee to your dose, and pull more slowly. Shoot for a 30-second pull, and of course, adjust to taste.
You can brew more than 45g of espresso from a single shot if you use something called “the Fellini maneuver.” It’s named for Italian film director Federico Fellini’s movie Orchestra Rehearsal, which includes a scene in which a barista pumps the lever more than once (4). With a La Pavoni, the Fellini maneuver involves preinfusion as usual, then pulling the lever just to the halfway point. Once there, you raise the lever back to the top and do a full 30-second pull. This will get you about 50-60g of espresso; it will be a little less strong than a 35g shot, but if you’re looking for a larger yield to make a latte or an Americano, this will do the trick.
The Europiccola can steam milk while pulling a shot – if you have four hands. That is, the Europiccola will produce steam while brewing espresso, but you’d have to pull the lever, turn the steam knob, and hold the milk pitcher under the steam wand, all at the same time. Just brew your espresso and then steam the milk. Trust us.
You can use any kind of coffee beans you like. Traditionally, Italian espresso uses a slightly darker roast, but many modern third-wave cafes make espresso with medium roast coffee beans. The most important thing is to grind them very fine. One suggestion: if you’ve just taken your first step into the larger world of lever espresso machines, consider buying preground espresso (we know, we know) from Illy or Lavazza, as these are the correct grind for your La Pavoni. Use these to perfect your technique; when you’re ready for something exotic you’ll know what grind to use.
- B, Craig. (2019, September 5). Espresso Extraction: A Conversation with Scott Rao. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@CraigB./espresso-extraction-a-conversation-with-scott-rao-e426b687ee20
- Santana, C. (2019, August 5). Pressure Profiles, Pulsing & The 3 Phases of Espresso Extraction. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2019/07/pressure-profiles-pulsing-the-3-phases-of-espresso-extraction/
- La Pavoni Europiccola, Pro. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.orphanespresso.com/La-Pavoni-Europiccola-Pro_c_200.html
- Home-Barista.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.home-barista.com/levers/is-fellini-move-really-advisable-europiccola-t12159.html