Profitec Pro 800 Espresso Machine Review: A Modern Day Lever Machine
Using a lever espresso machine might not be the easiest way to make an espresso. However, most experts agree that it produces the softest, smoothest, and sweetest shot. If you want the best of the best, and you don’t mind putting in a bit of elbow grease to get it, the Profitec Pro 800 will blow you away with the quality of espresso you can produce.
Want to learn more? Keep reading for all the details.
SUMMARY: The Profitec Pro 800
- Spring lever espresso machine with PID temperature control
- Exceptional build quality and thoughtful design, both inside and out
- No-burn steam wand with quick and powerful milk frothing
The machine and accessories are super high quality with a perfect finish. If you can afford the machine and have the space, you will be happy with the results after a little practice.– Brian S., customer
A Full Review of the Profitec Pro 800
The Profitec Pro 800 is a spring lever machine that pairs the best traditional and current design. The lever mechanism harkens back to espresso’s earliest days. But, the vibratory pump, PID, and internal engineering are thoroughly modern.
This section will break down just what that means when it comes to owning and operating this unique machine.
Brewing Capacity – 5/5
It’s rare to get top marks in the brewing capacity category, but the Profitec Pro 800 is capable of producing some incredible espresso, provided you know what you’re doing. As you’ll see, the trade-off comes in ease of use.
The most noticeable feature of this espresso maker is, of course, the huge lever adorning its front. Why opt for a lever espresso maker? Well, there are several exciting advantages.
First of all, lever machines like this allow for true low-pressure pre-infusion, a key component of optimising extraction (1). When you pull the lever down, only the boiler pressure of about 1.5 bar is applied to the puck.
They also allow for pressure profiling. These days, brew pressure profiling is a growing trend among automatic espresso machines. But in its early days, it was devised as a way for any espresso maker to mimic the natural pressure profile. Go figure (2)!
Under their design, spring lever espresso machines have a natural pressure profile. After pre-infusion, the pressure starts high, around 12 bars, and then gradually drops to zero as the shot progresses. According to well-known industry professional Scott Rao, this high-to-low pressure profile is valuable because it maintains a steady flow rate even as the coffee puck inevitably degrades (3).
With such a pressure profile, if the grind setting and puck prep are skilfully executed, the result will be a relatively constant flow rate and minimal channeling.
But you aren’t confined to this one profile with the Profitec Pro 800. Adjustable brew pressure is possible by starting and stopping the motion of the lever as you pull a shot. This intimate control provides another important variable to optimise extraction.
The Pro 800 has a massive 3.5-litre copper boiler. For the boiler material, designers chose copper over stainless steel for a good reason. Because it’s more malleable, it can better conform to the pressure exerted by the lever and grouphead when pulling a shot. A professional-level boiler pressure gauge on the front of the machine allows you to monitor the action.
Typically, when looking at prosumer machines that can both steam and brew simultaneously, we’re talking about a heat exchanger or a double boiler. But the Pro 800 is neither! The massive lever brew group is a 17-pound behemoth, and its huge thermal mass acts as a heat sink to bring the water down to the correct brewing temperature. The boiler is equipped with a dipper. When water leaves the boiler via the dipper, it is way above brew temperature, but it begins to cool as it approaches the group head.
So why do these technical details matter?
Well, the dipper system, though uncommon, has been around for over 50 years. Its longevity is because it’s simpler, more reliable, and easier to use than a heat exchanger.
You control the boiler temperature by PID, modern addition to an old-school design that allows for stable and accurate brew temperature.
However, Profitec designers have cleverly opted to hide the PID control for regulating the boiler temperature behind the drip tray, so the traditional look of this machine is maintained. A powerful 1500 Watt heating element heats it, but you’ll still want to give this model a long time to warm up (4). The lever group head must achieve temperature stability.
The Profitec Pro 800 is equipped with a vibratory pump type, but the pump is only used to fill the boiler because the machine is lever-operated. This brings me to another reason that lever machines are so great: they are silent when you’re pulling a shot. In fact, the Pro 800 is even plumbable to a water line, in which case you will never need the pump, and it will never make a peep.
User Friendliness – 3/5
Let me say right off the bat that the Profitec Pro 800 lever espresso machine is not user-unfriendly. If you know anything about the Profitec brand, you know that their machines are always impressively well-thought-out. The relatively low score in this category reflects the fact that lever machines inevitably require a bit more skill and effort than automatic machines. Think of it as driving a car with a manual transmission instead of an automatic.
Unlike using an automatic machine or a classic E61 group, pulling a perfect shot isn’t just a matter of pushing a button or flipping a switch. For one, you do need to put some muscle into pulling the lever down, although you don’t need to be a bodybuilder. And for two, you can use the lever to influence the pressure during the shot. This is a precious aspect of this machine, but it does take practice to master.
However, the dipper design is easier to use than a heat exchanger, part of its enduring popularity. Thanks to the group head acting as a heat sink, you get a very stable brewing temperature, and you don’t need to do the cooling flushes that are a hallmark of operating a heat exchanger machine.
Using the spring lever machine
As I’ve said before, the Pro 800 is a spring lever espresso maker, which is a bit different from a manual lever like the Flair espresso maker, for example. With a spring lever, you pull the lever down to start the pre-infusion, then let it release back up to pull the shot. In contrast, when using a manual lever, your downward pressure on the lever pulls the shot. So from a purely physical standpoint, the spring lever is easier to operate.
One of the nicest Profitec Pro 800 features is how easy it is switchable from a water tank to a fixed water connection. Often espresso machines can only do one of the other, or they can do both, but switching between modes is a big hassle. In this case, it’s just a matter of flicking a switch behind the stainless steel drip tray.
If you opt for connection to a water line, water drainage is possible from the stainless steel drip tray, which is pre-drilled for this purpose. If you go this route, you’ll definitely be pleased with how little daily maintenance is needed.
If you don’t have the option of plumbing it in, you can use the internal water reservoir, which is a generous size at 3 litres. Likewise, the drip tray capacity is ample at 32 ounces. For regular use, neither of these should need to be dealt with more than once a day.
Milk Frothing – 4/5
The milk frothing capabilities of the Profitec Pro 800 are excellent, as you would expect from an espresso machine with a massive 3.5-litre boiler, anyway. In fact, if you’re coming from an appliance-style espresso machine or even an entry-level prosumer machine, you’ll probably find the steam power a bit overwhelming at first. So, no Breville, Rancilio Silvia or Gaggia Classic experience will help you here.
The huge copper boiler not only provides plenty of steam pressure but also allows you to froth milk for a long time. You can quickly steam for up to a minute without losing substantial pressure, perfect if you have guests demanding a Starbucks Trenta size latte (5).
The steam wand comes stock with a 4-hole steam tip, which is another reason for the rapid steaming pace. If you haven’t worked with a professional-grade espresso machine like this before, I’d suggest you consider replacing it with a 2-hole steam tip, which will temper its power down to more manageable levels.
Both the steam and hot water wands are fully articulated and feature a double-wall no-burn design. This system has two advantages. First, the outside of the wands won’t get hot enough to burn you if you accidentally touch them. And second, you won’t get burnt milk caked on the wand after steaming.
The knob experience
You operate the no-burn steam and hot water wands using knobs rather than joysticks. This is neither a pro nor a con as it just depends on your preference. Many users like knobs because they allow for more careful control of the steam; you can ease it on slowly. This is especially valuable for a machine like this with a ton of steam power. On the other hand, the people who prefer joysticks appreciate that you get steam instantly at the flick of a switch.
Build Quality – 4.5/5
Profitec, like its sister company ECM, combines the best of Italian tradition with German engineering to create espresso machines that are recognised worldwide for their exceptional build quality.
Many prosumer espresso machines, the Pro 800 included, have the same “stainless steel box” aesthetic. But experts know that they aren’t all created equal. The engineering of Profitec espresso machines puts them a cut above. So you can expect to get a lot of years out of yours with minimal maintenance and service.
But what about this machine?
The espresso machine Profitec Pro 800 has a beautiful mirror finish stainless steel wrap. The housing material is also stainless steel for the drip tray, height-adjustable feet, large removable cup tray, and the one-piece interior frame. And as I already mentioned, the Gicar PID display is hidden behind the drip tray to keep the traditional look of this model.
The quality of engineering truly shines in the internal layout. Everything is thoughtfully placed for easy access.
The boiler is well insulated, and the associated plumbing is all copper and braided stainless steel. The low wear and tear rotary valves should last the machine’s lifetime.
It should be no surprise to learn that the Profitec Pro 800 is not a tiny machine, mainly when the lever is upright. It measures 13.4” wide by 22.9” deep by a whopping 28.8” tall. And it weighs nearly 80 pounds, a testament to the quality of components used as well as to the large counterweight at the back positioned to offset the force applied to the lever. You won’t be sliding this under your upper cupboards; it needs a dedicated spot in your kitchen.
The Pro 800 is one of few machines to come standard with three portafilters: a single spout, a double spout, and a bottomless. Each is the commercial standard 58 mm diameter and made from chrome-plated brass. The fact that Profitec includes a bottomless portafilter with this machine shows that they know their audience. There is a significant overlap between lever espresso enthusiasts and bottomless portafilter enthusiasts (6).
Cleaning and Maintenance – 3.5/5
Compared to an appliance-grade espresso machine, caring for a prosumer espresso machine takes a bit more work. Then again, they also last much, much longer. So your work is well justified.
As I’ve said, the Pro 800 is remarkably well built. So while day-to-day cleaning is a must, maintenance over the machine’s lifetime should be pretty minimal. And what maintenance is required will be relatively easy and inexpensive.
In regards to cleaning, it’s the same as with any high-end machine. Don’t worry; the lever doesn’t add any extra work.
Keep the outside surface looking its shiny best by giving it a quick wipe down with a microfibre cloth each day. Keep the inside tidy by backflushing regularly with water and less regularly with cleaning solution. And of course, always use filtered water in your espresso machine to avoid the build-up of scale — and to have the best-tasting espresso!
Please note that the single boiler dipper system is better than comparable dual boilers when it comes to maintenance. In a typical steam boiler, water only leaves the boiler as steam. The steam leaves behind any solid materials, causing the boiler to need regular descaling. On the other hand, with the single brew boiler system here, the water in the boiler is constantly refreshed, so the build-up of minerals is far less.
Don’t Buy the Profitec Pro 800 Lever Espresso Machine If…
You don’t want a lever machine: Obviously, if you’re not interested in a lever espresso machine, there’s no need to wrangle the space or budget for the Pro 800. Instead, consider the Profitec Pro 700, which is the brand’s top-of-the-line double boiler. Or check out our Profitec Pro 600 review for a slightly less expensive option.
You prefer a heat exchanger: If the dipper system doesn’t appeal, there are a few fantastic heat exchanger options. If you’re still set on a lever, take a look at the Bezzera Strega. If you want to stick with the Profitec brand, check out this machine, the Pro 500, a best-selling heat exchanger with PID.
You don’t have a ton of space: Can’t accommodate the Pro 800? No worries, there are plenty of smaller alternatives. If you still want the lever experience, look into compact options like the Flair espresso machine or Cafelat Robot. If the lever isn’t crucial, Profitec makes a pint-sized dual boiler that you can read all about in our Profitec Pro 300 review.
If you’re shopping for a spring lever espresso machine, then the Profitec Pro 800 should be at the top of your list. This is a small market, and the Pro 800’s smart boiler design, excellent build quality, and PID temperature control put it head and shoulders above the competition. It’s not small, and it’s definitely not cheap, but the outstanding espresso you’ll produce will justify every penny.
- Joseph, H. (2019, December 10). Longtime Espresso Pro Michael Teahan on Pre-Infusion, the Problem with So, and Much More. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/12/10/longtime-espresso-pro-michael-teahan-on-pre-infusion-the-problem-with-so-and-much-more/
- Prestidge, J. (2015, August 18). Pressure Profiling: The Key to Perfect Extraction. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2015/08/pressure-profiling-the-key-to-perfect-extraction/
- Rao, S. (2018, June 29). Flow Profiling on the De1+. Retrieved from https://www.scottrao.com/blog/2018/6/27/flow-profiling-on-the-de1
- Gunson, R. (2011, October 22). How to warm up a dipper design espresso machine group. Retrieved from https://londiniumespresso.com/blog/blog/2094/how-to-warm-up-a-dipper-design-espresso-machine-group
- Taylor, K. (2019, April 19). Starbucks has a secret size that’s not on their menu, and it’s bigger than a bottle of wine. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/starbucks-trenta-secret-extra-large-size-2017-4
- Prestidge, J. (2016, March 31). Espresso Machine Mods: 4 Reasons to Use a Naked Portafilter. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2016/03/espresso-machine-mods-4-reasons-to-use-a-naked-portafilter/