We all know that the quest for the perfect cup of espresso is both a passion and a delightful challenge.
Among the various types of espresso machines, lever espresso machines hold a special place.
Revered for their classic design and hands-on brewing process, these machines offer a unique combination of art and science in coffee making.
This is why we have meticulously tested and reviewed many models to bring you our top 7 picks.
This guide aims to help you find the perfect lever espresso machine that suits your needs, preferences, and budget.
7 Best Lever Espresso Machines: At A Glance
- Flair 58 Espresso Maker: Best Overall
- La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola: Runner-Up
- Flair Classic Espresso Maker: For Travellers
- ROK EspressoGC Manual Espresso Maker: Best Budget Choice
- La Pavoni PC-16 Professional Espresso Machine: Best For Crowds
- Elektra S1C Microcasa Lever: Best Splurge
- La Pavoni PSW-16 Stradavari: Most Beautiful Design
1. Flair 58 Espresso Maker: Best Overall
The Flair 58 Espresso Maker is a professional-grade, fully manual lever espresso press that’s perfect for those who love the ritual of at-home coffee brewing.
This machine is a favorite among old-school coffee enthusiasts, thanks to its manual lever-style operation that harks back to traditional coffee brewing methods.
What sets the Flair 58 apart is its 58mm portafilter, a significant upgrade from previous models.
This industry-standard size allows for a wide range of accessories and baskets and accommodates the larger coffee doses commonly used in cafes – we’ve tested up to 22 grams.
This feature is something baristas will especially appreciate.
The machine boasts a premium build quality with stainless steel components and a die-cast aluminum frame, ensuring durability and a top-notch espresso-making experience.
Its pressure gauge ensures precise control over your brew, and the preheat control system with three temperature settings adds to the machine’s versatility.
The Flair 58 is known for its advanced mechanics, allowing for quick and efficient extractions.
The design is elegant and practical, featuring an elongated lever for easy pulling at higher pressures and a comfortable T-grip for better control.
Add to this, there’s a “Plus” version that comes with extra features like a hard travel case and various portafilter baskets for more customization.
Since its launch in 2021, the Flair 58 has undergone significant enhancements.
The team at Flair has meticulously refined every aspect of this machine, resulting in a top-tier lever espresso maker that stands out.
It’s a blend of the classic charm of manual lever brewing and the convenience of modern features.
One point to note, though, is that the Flair 58 isn’t the most portable option in Flair’s lineup.
Also, you’ll need a separate kettle to heat the water.
But if you’re an espresso enthusiast who loves a hands-on approach and complete control over the brewing process, the Flair 58 is a compelling choice.
- Fully manual, professional-grade lever operation
- Industry-standard 58mm portafilter for compatibility and larger doses
- Precise pressure gauge and preheat control system
- Premium build with stainless steel and aluminum
- Rapid extraction with advanced mechanics
- Elongated lever and comfortable T-grip for ease of use
- Ideal for enthusiasts who prefer hands-on brewing
- Not the most portable option in Flair’s lineup
- Requires a separate kettle for water heating
2. La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola: Runner-Up
The La Pavoni Europiccola EPC-8 is a beautifully designed, manual lever espresso machine that combines durability with classic elegance.
With its chrome base that’s triple-plated for longevity, and a boiler crafted from brass and chrome, this machine doesn’t just look great – it’s built to last.
La Pavoni, one of the world’s oldest espresso companies, has hit the mark with the EPC-8, arguably their most popular model.
It can make about 8 cups of espresso from its 20-ounce water reservoir.
While this isn’t the largest capacity on the market, it’s certainly ample for most needs.
The EPC-8 doesn’t just look good; it performs exceptionally well.
It features internal thermostats to monitor pressure, ensuring you get a consistent extraction every time.
The machine is equipped with dual frothing attachments, including a handy steam wand and an automatic cappuccino frother.
The steam wand, which swivels easily, is straightforward to use.
Using the machine is a breeze.
The manual lever allows for precise control over the extraction, and operating it feels smooth and satisfying.
With a bit of practice, making espresso with the La Pavoni becomes intuitive, almost second nature.
Plus, cleaning and maintenance are pretty straightforward, thanks to its removable parts like the lever handle, knobs, and drip tray.
Regular decalcification with “Cleancaf” by Urnex is required to keep the EPC-8 in top shape.
For those who want to fine-tune their espresso-making skills even further, La Pavoni offers an upgraded model with an external pressure gauge.
Like other La Pavoni lever machines, the EPC-8 relies on a piston powered by the user, giving you complete control over the brewing process.
Although there’s a bit of a learning curve at first, we think the control and quality of the espresso produced make it well worth the effort.
- Durable and classic design with triple-plated chrome base
- Brass and chrome-plated boiler for longevity
- Produces up to 8 cups of espresso from a 20-ounce reservoir
- Internal thermostats ensure consistent extraction
- Includes dual frothing attachments (steam wand and automatic frother)
- Easy-to-use manual lever for precise control
- Removable parts for easy cleaning and maintenance
- Limited water reservoir capacity compared to larger models
- The steep learning curve for beginners
3. Flair Classic Espresso Maker: For Travellers
In 2016, the Flair Classic Espresso Maker made waves in the craft coffee industry with its sleek design, ease of use, and portability.
This 100% human-powered, manual espresso press stands out for being environmentally friendly and portable.
As a key member of the Flair Espresso Maker product line, which includes the Signature and the Pro models, the Flair Classic is known for its durable construction, combining cast aluminum and stainless steel.
It’s also easy to clean and comes with a reassuring 3 to 5-year warranty.
One of the great features of the Flair Manual Press Espresso Maker is its lack of electronic parts, eliminating common breakage issues.
It also boasts a detachable brewing head, simplifying the cleaning process.
Capable of achieving the 6-9 BAR pressure necessary for café-quality espresso, the Classic is tailored for espresso lovers, especially those who favor ristretto shots.
However, it’s worth noting that it’s designed to make only this type of espresso.
The Flair Classic includes a variety of handy accessories like a brewing guide, dosing cup, funnel, and a carrying case for on-the-go brewing.
There’s even a refurbished version available, offering the same functionality with potential minor cosmetic differences.
Users appreciate the Flair Classic for consistently delivering great espresso shots and offering excellent value for its quality.
But, it’s important to note that brewing with the Flair Classic requires a fair amount of effort and time.
You typically get between one and 1 ½-ounce shots, which is less than a full two-ounce shot.
Also, preparing a second shot right away isn’t feasible because the cylinder gets extremely hot and needs time to cool down.
So, if you’re short on time, making another espresso might not always be possible.
- Sleek and elegant design
- Portable and easy to transport
- Durable construction with cast aluminum and stainless steel
- Easy to clean with a detachable brewing head
- No electronic parts, reducing breakage risk
- Capable of brewing café-quality espresso
- Includes useful accessories like a brewing guide and carrying case
- Requires significant effort and time to brew
- Produces smaller shots (1 to 1 ½-ounce) than standard
- Cylinder gets very hot, requiring cooldown time between shots
4. ROK EspressoGC Manual Espresso Maker: Best Budget Choice
The ROK EspressoGC is a user-friendly, manual espresso maker known for its solid construction of cast aluminum, steel, and glass composite.
It comes equipped with essentials like a portafilter, coffee spoon/tamper, dosing funnel, and a clip-on double adapter.
This non-electric espresso maker is not only portable and durable but also allows for a high degree of personalization in the espresso-making process.
Priced reasonably, the ROK EspressoGC is a hit among those who love manual brewing.
It offers complete control over the extraction process, appealing to both beginners and seasoned espresso enthusiasts.
The machine prioritizes functionality, and while it may be no-frills, it excels at producing great-tasting espresso.
One of the standout features of the ROK EspressoGC is its sturdy build, backed by a 10-year warranty.
It doesn’t need electricity and operates simply by pushing down to build pressure.
However, this simplicity comes with a catch: achieving consistent results can be challenging.
In our experience, it takes some practice to perfect the espresso with the ROK, especially as there’s no pressure gauge to guide you.
Lightweight at less than 4 pounds, the ROK Presso includes a tin for easy storage.
It’s particularly great for car camping due to its near-indestructibility.
Plus, its stable base ensures it stays put during use, even on uneven surfaces like a rough picnic table.
While it might take some effort to get that perfect shot of espresso, the ROK Presso’s durability and portability make it a worthy companion for coffee lovers on the go.
- Made from durable materials
- Includes essential accessories
- Portable and lightweight, ideal for travel and outdoor use
- Offers full control over the espresso extraction process
- Suitable for both beginners and experienced users
- Sturdy build with a 10-year warranty
- Ideal for camping due to its robustness and stable base
- Consistency in espresso quality can be challenging to achieve
- Lacks a pressure gauge, making precision more difficult
5. La Pavoni PC-16 Professional Espresso Machine: Best For Crowds
The La Pavoni PC-16 Professional Espresso Machine is a dream come true for home baristas who are passionate about the art and science of making espresso.
This manual lever espresso maker boasts a 38 oz. boiler, capable of producing up to 16 2-oz cups of espresso.
It features the advanced “Millennium” brew group, equipped with heat diffusers to manage unwanted heat, enhancing your coffee’s flavor.
This Italian-made machine includes dual frothing systems for cappuccinos, a mounted pressure gauge, and an internal thermostat to keep the pressure in check.
It also comes with a 1-year warranty and a helpful demonstration DVD.
Known for its durability, some users have reported their machines lasting for 20 to 30 years, making it a solid investment for those looking to craft perfect espresso at home while saving money over time.
Using the La Pavoni PC-16 is an experience in itself.
You’ll want to lift the lever until it clicks into place, then wait a few seconds for a small amount of coffee to trickle out before starting a slow, steady pull lasting about 25-30 seconds.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks.
The filter basket’s capacity is on the smaller side, which can be a bit limiting when trying to make a robust double shot.
Also, the machine could benefit from being more bottom-heavy, as you might need to hold down the base while lifting the lever.
Price-wise, it’s an investment, typically costing over $1000, which might not fit everyone’s budget.
But for those serious about espresso, the La Pavoni PC-16 offers an authentic and rewarding brewing experience.
- 38 oz. boiler capacity can make up to 16 2-oz cups of espresso
- Features “Millennium” brew group with heat diffusers for temperature control
- Dual frothing systems for cappuccinos
- Mounted pressure gauge and internal thermostat for pressure control
- Durable, with reports of machines lasting 20-30 years
- Made in Italy with a 1-year warranty and demonstration DVD
- Offers a hands-on, authentic espresso-making experience
- The small capacity of the filter basket, challenging to make large double shots
- Could be more bottom-heavy to stabilize during lever operation
- A high price point, over $1000, may not be affordable for all budgets
6. Elektra S1C Microcasa Lever: Best Splurge
The Elektra S1 Microcasa is a stunning espresso machine that seems to have stepped right out of a Milanese café during the Belle époque.
It’s a real showstopper with its eagle-topped dome and a platform finished in gleaming mirror polish.
Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, each model boasts a polished copper and brass finish, embodying unrivaled quality.
You can also find it in other finishes like chrome and brass.
But the Elektra S1 Microcasa isn’t just about its looks.
This manual espresso machine offers a traditional, hands-on brewing experience with its lever-operated design.
The spring piston lever gives you precise control over the espresso extraction, making the process both artful and engaging.
Plus, the pressure gauge is a handy feature, showing steam pressure in the boiler and signaling the best time to whip up an espresso.
With a 1.8-liter boiler, the machine excels at producing exceptionally dry steam, perfect for frothing milk for cappuccinos.
It’s not just about the functionality; this machine is known for making excellent espresso while operating quietly.
However, it’s important to note a few things.
The machine’s retro style means many of its heating parts are exposed, so be cautious and give yourself time to get used to its operation to avoid burns.
Also, the Elektra S1 Microcasa is one of the pricier options on the list and is not the most portable choice for a lever espresso maker.
But if you’re after a machine that combines exceptional quality with stunning aesthetics, it’s a choice that’s hard to beat.
- Eye-catching design with a polished copper and brass finish
- Offers a traditional, hands-on espresso brewing experience
- Precise control over extraction with spring piston lever
- Equipped with a pressure gauge for optimal brewing timing
- A 1.8-liter boiler provides excellent steam for milk frothing
- Known for producing high-quality espresso
- Heating parts are exposed, posing a burn risk during use
- High price point, making it one of the more expensive options
- Not designed for portability
7. La Pavoni PSW-16 Stradavari: Most Beautiful Design
The La Pavoni Stradivari is a high-end espresso maker that, while not the easiest to use, rewards those with the skill to master it with amazing, crema-topped espresso shots.
This manual lever espresso machine stands out for its superior build quality and classic design.
Crafted in Italy, it features a chromed metal base with elegant wood accents, making it a stylish addition to any kitchen.
Designed to be compact, the Stradivari has a small footprint, ideal for home use.
It boasts a 38oz. boiler capacity, enough to make 16 2 oz. cups of espresso – perfect for entertaining or for those who drink multiple cups.
The machine is well-equipped, featuring a recessed power switch and button, dual frothing systems for cappuccinos, a steam wand, an additional cappuccino automatic frother, and a reset fuse.
While the La Pavoni Stradivari is celebrated for its craftsmanship and the traditional lever-operated experience it offers, it’s not without its downsides.
There have been some quality control issues reported, including faulty handles and pressure valves.
Though most of the machine is made from high-quality metal, it does incorporate a few plastic parts.
Additionally, considering its high price point, the one-year warranty might seem a bit short.
Nevertheless, for those who value the art of espresso making and are willing to invest time in learning, this machine can be a delightful choice.
Lever Espresso Machine Buyer’s Guide
When searching for the best lever espresso machine, there are several key factors to consider.
These machines offer a more hands-on approach to espresso making, which can be both rewarding and challenging.
Here’s a detailed guide to help you find the right lever espresso machine for your needs.
Build Quality and Materials
- Durability: Look for machines made with high-quality materials like stainless steel, brass, and aluminum. These materials ensure longevity and consistent performance.
- Aesthetics: Lever machines often have a classic, elegant design. Choose one that not only performs well but also fits your kitchen’s aesthetics.
Boiler Size and Capacity
- Boiler Volume: This determines how many shots you can pull consecutively. Larger boilers are great for serving multiple people, while smaller ones are sufficient for personal use.
- Heat Retention: A good boiler should maintain a stable temperature for consistent shots.
Pressure Control and Stability
- Pressure Gauge: Some models come with a pressure gauge, which can be crucial for monitoring and achieving the correct pressure for extraction.
- Consistency: Look for machines that maintain stable pressure throughout the extraction for the best results.
- Standard Size: A 58mm portafilter is standard and allows for more coffee, leading to a richer shot. It also offers compatibility with a wide range of accessories.
- Quality of the Basket: Ensure the portafilter basket is well-made for even distribution of water and pressure.
Ease of Use and Learning Curve
- User-Friendly Design: Some lever machines are more intuitive than others. Consider your skill level and willingness to learn.
- Manual Effort Required: Remember that lever machines require physical effort to pull a shot. Look for a machine with a smooth, manageable lever action.
- Steam Wand Quality: If you enjoy milk-based drinks, check the quality and ease of use of the steam wand.
- Frothing Performance: Look for a machine that produces dry steam for high-quality frothing.
Size and Portability
- Counter Space: Consider the amount of space the machine will take up in your kitchen.
- Portability: If you plan to move the machine often, look for a lighter and more compact model.
Maintenance and Cleaning
- Ease of Cleaning: Look for a machine that is easy to disassemble and clean.
- Maintenance Requirements: Be aware of the maintenance needed to keep the machine in top condition.
Warranty and Customer Support
- Warranty Period: A longer warranty period can give you peace of mind.
- Customer Service: Good customer support can be invaluable for troubleshooting and advice.
Price and Budget
- Cost-Effectiveness: Balance the quality and features of the machine with your budget.
- Long-Term Value: Consider the machine’s durability and potential savings over going to a coffee shop.
Brand Reputation and Reviews
- Brand History: Brands with a long history in espresso machines are often more reliable.
- User Reviews: Look for reviews and feedback from other users to gauge real-world performance and reliability.
Why Are Lever Espresso Machines Better?
Lever espresso machines are often considered superior by espresso enthusiasts for several reasons.
Firstly, they offer unparalleled control over the extraction process, allowing users to manually regulate pressure and flow rate, which can result in a more tailored and refined espresso shot.
This hands-on approach not only enhances the flavor profile of the coffee but also turns the brewing process into a more personal and artistic experience.
Additionally, lever machines typically have fewer mechanical parts, leading to greater durability and a longer lifespan with less need for repairs.
Their classic, often elegant design makes them an aesthetically pleasing addition to any kitchen or coffee setup.
The absence of electronic components not only adds to their longevity but also their environmental friendliness, as they consume no electricity.
Lastly, the physical interaction required by lever machines adds a sense of ritual and satisfaction to the coffee-making process, appealing to those who view espresso brewing as a craft rather than just a quick caffeine fix.
What Are The Different Types Of Lever Espresso Machines?
There are primarily two types of lever espresso machines, each offering a unique approach to espresso extraction:
Spring-Piston Lever Machines
- Mechanism: These machines use a spring to create the pressure for espresso extraction. When the lever is pulled, it compresses a spring, and upon release, the spring pushes water through the coffee grounds at a consistent pressure.
- User Effort: Requires less physical strength compared to direct lever machines, as the spring does most of the work.
- Consistency: Generally offers more consistent pressure, making it easier to pull a shot with stable quality.
Direct Lever (Manual) Machines
- Mechanism: In these machines, the barista directly applies force to the lever to push water through the coffee grounds. The pressure is entirely controlled by the user’s manual effort.
- User Effort: Requires more skill and physical effort, as the barista must manually control the pressure during extraction.
- Customization: Allows for a high degree of control over the extraction process, appealing to experienced users who enjoy tailoring each shot to their preference.
How Long Should A Lever Espresso Shot Take?
The optimal extraction time for a shot from a lever espresso machine typically ranges between 25 to 30 seconds, starting from the moment the lever is engaged to the end of the extraction.
This time frame can vary slightly depending on factors such as the grind size, the amount of coffee used, and the specific characteristics of the espresso blend.
The key is to achieve a balance where the water has enough time to extract the flavors and oils from the coffee grounds without over-extracting, which can lead to bitterness.
It’s also important to note that, with lever machines, the barista’s technique and the pressure applied can also influence the extraction time and the quality of the shot, requiring a bit of practice and finesse to perfect.
The Verdict: What Is The Best Lever Espresso Machine?
After a thorough evaluation, we’ve chosen the Flair 58 Espresso Maker as the best lever espresso machine due to its exceptional balance of manual control, build quality, and innovative features.
It stands out for its ability to produce café-quality espresso with a hands-on brewing experience, offering both precision and versatility.
The Flair 58 particularly excels with its industry-standard 58mm portafilter and robust build, making it a top choice for both beginners and seasoned baristas.
As a runner-up, the La Pavoni Europiccola impresses with its classic design and durable construction.
It offers a more traditional espresso-making experience, appealing to those who appreciate the art of espresso.
While it requires a bit more skill to master, its compact size and consistent performance make it an excellent choice for espresso enthusiasts.
Why are lever espresso machines unique?
Lever espresso machines are unique due to their manual operation, which offers a more hands-on and artisanal approach to espresso making.
They allow the user to control every aspect of the brewing process, from the pressure applied to the extraction time, resulting in a highly personalized cup of coffee.
This method of brewing is both an art and a science, appealing to those who enjoy the ritual and craft of coffee making.
Additionally, lever machines often feature classic, elegant designs, making them aesthetically pleasing additions to any kitchen or café.
How long will a lever espresso machine last?
Lever espresso machines are known for their durability and can last for many years, often decades, with proper maintenance.
They typically have fewer mechanical and electronic components than automatic machines, which means fewer parts that can break or malfunction.
The longevity of a lever espresso machine depends on the quality of its construction, the materials used, and how well it is maintained.
Regular cleaning and occasional servicing can significantly extend the life of these machines.
Are lever espresso makers portable?
Portability varies among lever espresso makers.
Some models are designed with portability in mind, being lightweight and compact, making them suitable for travel or small spaces.
These portable models often do not require electricity, further enhancing their mobility.
However, many traditional lever espresso machines are heavier and designed more for stationary use in a home or commercial setting.
If portability is a key factor for you, look for models specifically advertised as portable.
Are lever espresso machines difficult to use?
Lever espresso machines can have a steeper learning curve compared to automatic machines.
They require a level of skill and practice to operate effectively, as the user must manually control the pressure and timing of the espresso extraction.
This can be challenging for beginners, but many enthusiasts find that the process of learning and mastering a lever machine is part of the appeal.
With practice, using a lever espresso machine becomes an enjoyable and rewarding experience.