Hi All! Our cafe just opened, and we decided to go with an Astoria Gloria Lever-driven espresso machine. While she's very sleek and very sexy, we have many questions about just how much control we have over several aspects of extraction. So far, it seems that all we can do is adjust the water temperature, which is now correct. For one, can you change the amount of water that is dispensed? Surely you must have the option of long and short shots. I mean, the machine came with a single shot portafilter insert, as well as two doubles. As it is, our shots fall just short of the white line on the shot glass, which I believe is for a 1 1/2 oz. shot. Maybe a longer pre-infusion? Also, I'm having a very hard time finding the sweet spot with the steaming wand pressure. It's either not enough, or it's spinning the milk out of control, making a pitcher full of sudsy-looking mess, and making me look like a clumsy fool in front of our customers!! I'm sure this will come with practice, but any advice would be helpful. Also, any links to discussions, etc., on Lever-driven machines are greatly and humbly appreciated! Cheers!

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Come on now, I know someone can help me!
a normal single espresso shot should be 30ml +/- 5ml. so just short of the white line would be ideal. are you getting any blonding?

other than that, don't know much about lever machines. sorry.
Sorry, but I truly know nothing about them.
Who sold it to you? If you bought it new, the seller should help you through everything; if you bought it used, did they also have an owner's manual for it?
Someone on here must know something.
Whoever services them will too.
Cool. I appreciate you guys for responding to my whine! We have not been getting any blonding since we adjusted the boiler temp (except when the grind is too coarse and the shots too quick). The shots just looked short to me. But I've since found other forums that have answered a few of my questions, and unfortunately, it looks like the answer is usually "no" when dealing with these machines. For example, can you adjust the volume of extraction? No. And most painfully, can you release the pressure and stop the brewing when you discover that the grind is WAY off, and the shot looks like it may take an hour to complete? Sadly, no. You just have to patiently wait or gingerly attempt to remove the portafilter without getting blasted with molten espresso grounds. So far, I'm not a big fan, but my cohort in this cafe project decided we needed a lever machine because neither of us had ever used one "so it'll be fun!" I liked his reasoning at the time, but looking back, maybe that wasn't the best way to come to a decision. Anyway, you live and learn.
We'll contact the manufacturer/distributor for any more questions that arise.

Thanks guys!
A while back I was in touch with two people who used them with much success. However, they have since both moved away to work elsewhere.

I'm always of the opinion that a good starting point is with the seller of the product. They often don't have the finest understanding of their products, but they'll get you moving in the right direction.

Keep us posted.
So this is really random but if you try an email to someone at Portland Roasting you might ask them who was pulling those WONDERFUL shots from their lever machine at Coffee Fest. It was a guy pulling the shots but I dont know who he was. He seemed to have a really good grasp on using that lever :)
Might also try Coffee Geek they have a lever espresso forum.

http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/leverespresso
Jennifer, I have recently purchased a 1-group Gloria and had the same problems with it. I can't believe how little information there is out there about commercial lever machines.

I don't know if this is totally kosher, but one way I have found to increase shot-volume is by actually pulling twice (first a short pull just until you get some flow going, then a full pull to extract). It's a bit tricky to get everything balanced just right, but you can eke out a few more drops if you get it all set perfectly.

Don't give up on the lever! I was frustrated with the Gloria when I first got it up and running as well, but I've stuck with it for a few weeks and have gotten to a point where I can reliably pull drinkable espresso out of the thing. And it's so fun once you get the hang of it...

The steam wand IS crazy powerful. I think the key is to put a new tip on it with smaller holes. I tried adjusting the pressurestat way down, and even at .5 bar it was still extremely powerful.
Esssentially the lever chambers on Astoria machines (Gloria and Rapalloi) are standard commercial lever systems. The lever is pulled down and the piston opens under pressure, fills the chamber and then as the lever is released the shot is poured. Think of the machine as an semi rather than auto- ie you can not dial in specific doses of water for extraction. In Italy shots are pulled when they get to 30ml or 45 ml respectively- even if the lever has not finished ascending into the full vertical position. The good news is the pressure system generally begins around 9bar and reduces to 6.5-7 bar at the end of the shot. This means it is almost impossible to get blonding from a quality espresso blend that is ground and tamped correctly.

The Astoria machines all run the more old fashined HX system- where a cartridge HX delivers hot water to the group. We use a 3 group Rapallo lever in store, and I think the quality of shots, once mastered, are excellent. I think there are at least half a dozen BX'ers- including ones in Singapore, Australia and Taiwan that are using levers to good effect.
I've never used a commercial lever, but have experience with half a dozen home lever machines, both manual and spring like the Astoria.

You can increase shot volumes both through active preinfusion to an extent (as you suggest) - which is to say by varying the time you hold the lever down before releasing.

But then there is additionally the the so-called Fellini move, named after the technique of a barista in a Fellini film, which was and still is in fact popular in Italian bars using lever machines. This involves letting the spring start the pull but then pulling it back up to the top. This further increases infusion and shot volume, just be careful not to reverse the lever too quickly since this can disturb the puck.

There's some discussion of this move here http://www.home-barista.com/levers/fellini-does-espresso-t1106.html - technique will vary depending on whether the lever machine has a preinfusion position or not etc.

Here's a sequence of pictures showing this in the film: http://www.home-barista.com/levers/fellini-move-in-pictures-t1213.html commented by Jim Schulman.

You can take this further of course, by allowing a few drops to come through before taking the lever back. You can also repeat the move. And of course as Alun writes, you can do more than one pull - as always being very careful about reversing the piston so as to keep the puck intact - 1 1/3, 1 1/2, 1 3/4 or even 2. People generally prefer the fractionw because the closer you get the piston to the puck the greater the danger of sucking bits of it out when the piston reverses.

This probably all sounds a little voodoo, but you'll likely get the hang of it pretty quick. IN the end you'll find you have an enormous amount of control over what's going on in there.

These machines are of course designed for "Italian standard shots" and baristi there will sometimes simply pull the cup away for ristrettos or when blonding starts etc.

Regarding your other question: If the grind is way out and the machine is choking or whatever and half-way through the shot, you can just pull the lever, but not all the way to the end so that no more water is let into the piston chamber, this takes off the pressure on the basket so you can remove the portafilter without an explosion and then just let the lever come back with some water maybe coming out. You will of course get a soggy puck.

Hope that helps, albeit quite a while after your initial post.

Cheers

Mike

Hi, I just purchased an Astoria Gloria AL2. I'm having all the same problems described by you Jennifer Graham. Please tell me it gets better.... I've been playing with it for a couple of weeks now and I feel like the shots are so unpredictable. They seem short. They seem lacking in creme. They seem lacking in depth. They seem lifeless. They are drinkable but, I am not wowed. I'm hoping its just a few adjustments in temperature or pressure that I don't know about. And, yeah, the steam wand. I feel so ridiculous. It's embarrassing and I'm just in my kitchen with my boyfriend so far. I open in a week and I'm getting worried. Again, please tell me it gets better....

Oh I've been looking to purchaser the same machine...  Please keep us updated on your progress.   Is the lever a pain to pull?  I talked to one of their re-sellers recently and he tried to talk me out of this machine based on how it can be a real workout pulling shots for 8 hours!

I then contacted the company directly and they said that it's not hard at all.   

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