I know of a new coffee shop that is looking at saving a few bucks by getting a piston lever espresso machine. What are the advantages or disadvantages of getting one of these over a semi-auto or an automatic like almost every other shop has? Wouldn't they be slower and more labor intensive? I love to hear thoughts!

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there are a lot more pieces in a piston pull machine then semi auto. The semi machine just has a magnet coil that lifts a plunger to allow water to flow. A lever (or piston) machine has a bunch of springs and gaskets that in my experience are a pain to replace. You are right about the less noise and aura part, I love watching a skilled barista pull shots,

Steve Stoneking said:
Hey everybody, to me the advantages of a lever pull is that it has fewer parts and pieces to break, are much quieter and do add to the aura of hand crafted espresso. They are more complicated to use in standard configurations and do take more experience and training. I haven't found them to be any slower and I agree that they do produce less crema, but I have not noticed any less flavor. Ours run off of 110 volts and propane, and you have to use both at the same time, or the recovery time is not adequate. What they may save in capital up front, they will spend on training at the back end. I do like the interactive style of a lever pull over a semi or full auto, to me it is simply more fun to pull a shot on.
How can you go wrong with this beauty? Seriously considering it in the next year to year and a half.


I've been using a nice Olympia Cremina to test various profiles on a lever machine. Granted, the temperature control is even better on the Idrocompresso, but the results in terms of body and depth of flavor have been enlightening.

I love my Synesso, but to me the Idrocompresso will be a new exploration in understanding the espresso.
I am spoiled! I use a Cremina daily , a LaPav occasionally, and an Old Commercial Conti spring lever for charity gigs. I beg to differ with the person who says there are a lot of parts. I can pull down and clean or repair any part of my Conti or other machine in a matter of minutes.
The lever machine was a step in the direction of a pump which allowed the Barista to steam milk or perform other duties while pulling a shot. The profile is different and the crema may, just may, be a bit less. The impact of the shot is to accentuate the first notes of the pull and the deeper flavors.

Since I live in Wisconsin, where is the new shop?

Alun has a great blog post on Commercial lever machines:
http://www.baristaexchange.com/profiles/blog/show?id=1688216%3ABlog...

Cheers All!
-Richard
I have to agree with Richard- I learnt how to strip a lever group at CMA's factory. It is tricky to begin with- mainly because the group is heavier than you would expect. However- once you get the hang of it I reckon it is simpler than working on a group from a semi or an auto. The O rings are perhaps the trickiest to deal with, and the part that wears the most. All in All I think the renaissance these machines are making is great.

John P awesome photo!
Would those of you currently using levers consider this a viable, appropriate choice for a shop in a former pharmacy with an interior design focus of the old pharmacy/soda fountain of the 1930's? I don't want to actually have a soda fountain, but the lever espresso machine would take its place. Possible location is right behind local hospital.
All I can say, is that 'if the throughput is less than two to three a minute per group', it should serve well. They are made with multiple groups for a reason. The pricing is going to be similar to that of a pump HX machine but I would say it requires better training of Baristas. Since you have not given us an idea of your competition, I can only say that it would be useful to see if the lever machine would differentiate you from your competition.
I would also suggest reading the thread here:
Here
Respectfully
~Richard


Paul Yates said:
Would those of you currently using levers consider this a viable, appropriate choice for a shop in a former pharmacy with an interior design focus of the old pharmacy/soda fountain of the 1930's? I don't want to actually have a soda fountain, but the lever espresso machine would take its place. Possible location is right behind local hospital.


Richard Penney said:
All I can say, is that 'if the throughput is less than two to three a minute per group', it should serve well. They are made with multiple groups for a reason. The pricing is going to be similar to that of a pump HX machine but I would say it requires better training of Baristas. Since you have not given us an idea of your competition, I can only say that it would be useful to see if the lever machine would differentiate you from your competition.
I would also suggest reading the thread here:
Here
Respectfully
~Richard


Paul Yates said:
Would those of you currently using levers consider this a viable, appropriate choice for a shop in a former pharmacy with an interior design focus of the old pharmacy/soda fountain of the 1930's? I don't want to actually have a soda fountain, but the lever espresso machine would take its place. Possible location is right behind local hospital.

I'd hope that ALL of our throughputs are less than 2 a minute per group :)

Paul, in addition to feedback you get here, Brent has worked shifts on a lever and would be a good one to ask. Sounds like your shoulders (well, at least one of them) are gonna be pretty buff.

Unlike the shop the OP was talking about, I think you could pull it off. Not sure how much fun it would be for you pulling long shifts though...
The taste difference between a pump and a lever is like night and day if you ask me. Levers tend to put out less volume, but their taste and caffeine buzz are on a totally different level.
In reply to Mr. Penney, only one competitor, a bakery/bistro that serves espresso drinks. And their place is more about the food than the coffee. Food is great! Coffee is so-so. I still go by there and support them. At least they clean the steam wands, even though I don't always hear the grinder.

And yes, Alun's thread was very informative. Thanks.

Brady, I will make a point of talking to Brent about it. I didn't realize his experience with these machines. Oh, and regarding the buff shoulders, I never did struggle with lack of leverage, but any exercise is bound to be an improvement. :)

I don't know of ANY shop in my state, using a lever machine. Everywhere I go, Espresso Southeast has Nuova Simonellis, either Aurelias, or a less expensive option. It's like the default machine. I tend to be a lead-from-the-front kind of guy, so I'm inclined to go for different, more craft-centric. I want people to leave my shop saying, "I've never seen that done before, but it was cool."
I love lever operated machines. I don't think that they're right for everyone, but I also don't think that they require much more training than a semi-auto machine. I've read more than twice that they require more training, but I've never read what's involved in that training. Their tuning is a different story though.

As for control, the barista can reduce the nine bar of pressure produced by the spring loaded group, but the barista cannot increase this pressure. Less, yes, but more, no. It can be both decreased and increased with the La Pavoni Europiccola/Professional lever machines, which do not use calibrated spring rates (or springs at all).

A lever machine does not intrinsically produce less crema than a semi-auto machine does. I agree that the mouth feel of a lever shot is different from that of a semi-auto shot or an e61 shot, and is every bit as enjoyable. My La Cimbali M-15 machine produces amazing crema, every bit as much as my GS2 does. One thing about many lever machines that may affect their crema is their lack of a heat exchanger system, which makes the boiler water temp and the group water temp the same. If the water and/or grouphead temp is too high, the crema suffers.

Temperature surfing/profiling for lever machines is tricky, but rewarding when you get it right. A lower pressure stat setting is a good idea for lever machines that do not use heat exchangers, but the opportunity cost of that is less steam pressure. That usually isn't a problem with the Cimbali's 14 liter boiler... A pressure stat setting of 0.9 BAR gave me a group water temp of 200 degrees after running the group (by holding down its lever) for 12 seconds when done after the machine had been at rest for a while. This gets tricky because flushing the group like that can initiate a non -HX machine's automatic fill process, which will lower the water temperature in the boiler, and screw everything up. If your attentive to the water level, you can defeat the autofill by pulling the two lead wires off the automatic fill solenoid's coil and use the machine's manual fill valve instead. This makes the machine truly "manual". This is a trick that can be used with semi-auto machines too.

I have an Astoria lever group machine from the mid '90's that has a working propane option. I've also used propane lever machines for countless hours of outdoor event concessions. Again, it's all about the tuning in regards to the machine's ability to maintain boiler pressure/temp. I use a propane regulator with a high btu rating, and I believe that this helps the machine's recovery time. I could be wrong? The boiler temp/pressure is regulated by a diaphragmatic device that allows propane to flow into the burner when the boiler pressure falls to the pre-determined level on the machine's pressure gauge. There are two flathead screwdriver adjustments on this device that determine how much propane will flow through it. When this device is optimized, you can watch the burner flames respond to the opening of the steam wand by increasing in size/intensity to keep the boiler's temp/pressure stable. It is immediate and very cool. It keeps the boiler temp/pressure very consistent. My machine's recovery time with propane is faster than it is when I'm using its 110v option. You can swap out an internal part of the system and use natural gas. I've never done it or seen it done, but I've seen the part referenced in schematic diagrams. John at Cafe Mam in Eugene taught me everything I know about using propane machines. What I know is just enough to make a good shot, and not get "blowd up".

As for Lever machines having less parts than semi-auto machines, I'd say that they're about the same. An exception is the Famea e61 manually operated group, which has a ridiculous number of parts. I really had to put the pipe down before re-assembling one of those... I've pasted some links to the Marzocco group, the Cimbali group, the Faema E61 group, and the Astoria lever group for comparison.

http://www.espressoparts.com/LeverGroup

http://www.espressoparts.com/LineaFB-70SolenoidGroupFlowmeter

http://www.espressoparts.com/M20M25SolenoidGroup


At home I use a La Pavoni Europiccola that looks very much like the La Pavoni Professional model that I've posted here. I restored the Professional and sold it on eBay last year. My early '70's Europiccola is the most difficult machine to use that I've ever had (and I've had a lot of espresso machines). screwing a manometer onto it's portafilter where the spout normally goes allowed me to see where 9 BAR is as it relates to how hard I'm pulling down on the lever. 9 BAR was just at the point where I had to use my free hand to hold down the rear end of the machine to keep it from tipping.

With the Pavoni, the strength of your arm is what forces the piston to push water through the grounds. Repeatability is tough, but over the last 3 or so years I've mastered it. I can steam pretty well with it too. I can get a very nice reddish brown shot with thick crema and a milk texture good enough to create some nice latte art. Yes I'm bragging, but I earned it because that machine is a bitch to use. I remember thinking that I'd have an easier time forcing two ounces of palatable espresso from my ass than I would using the Pavoni... Still, I love it, and I love lever machines!
Attachments:
Chad,
That is one of the best write ups that I have read. It gives a very good idea of the options and trade offs. A lever machine does require consistency of knowing the grinder and the beans in use. A choked group can be really a bear if the choke is early in the pull, when the channel to the boiler is open!! There is no, in many lever machines, 3way valve to relieve the pressure from the boiler!
Here are a couple of you-tube videos of a busy time in a lever machine shop:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXJc2bzVX3I&feature=related
There are 4 videos here on the tube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfk-VgeZlk4&feature=related
Have fun!
~Respectfully
~Richard

Great post. I'm new here on the forum. I'm looking to acquire a 2 group lever espresso machine that runs on propane to use in the local Growers and Crafters Markets. I've learned a lot from this site and other sites on the net. I'm having a problem locating a good used machine like an Astoria Gloria or Rapallo or a Rancilio Classe 6. I saw that Chad said he learned all he knows about propane machines from John at Cafe Mam in Eugene. I'm a couple hours south of there. Would he be a good person to contact about this? Any help any one can give me would be much appreciated.

Clint

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