Lever Espresso Machines Smackdown - Page 23

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#221: Post by peacecup »

1. I always blow LOTS of steam off out of the steam wand after steaming milk. This reduces the likelihood that any will contaminate the boiler.
2. Once I've done that I leave the valve open while the machine cools down - this will allow air, not any remaining milk, to be drawn into the boiler.
3. There is more range than simply "on or off" on my Export. It is a simple valve, probably the same as the one you're using, but it does allow some range of steam volume.
4. Because that machine has been used a while, and apparently allowed to cool with milk in the tip, there may be some clogging that is slowing down the steam volume. The little instruction booklet that comes with the machine suggests cleaning the holes with a needle.
5. Overall, it would be nice if Ponte Vecchio added a swivel feature and removable tip to the steam arm. Even my Estro Vapore has this, and it is convenient.
6. It also sounds like a vacuum breaker would be a big help.

One nice feature about the Export is that it is small enough to hold upside down over the sink to empty the boiler each night.

Still waiting for someone to cram 15 g into one of those 45-mm baskets!

LMWDP #049
Hand-ground, hand-pulled: "hands down.."

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#222: Post by cannonfodder »

I make a habit of purging the steam wand after I have thoroughly wiped it down but it only takes once. The tiny steam wand holes would need a little more attention than most, it would not take much to plug them but if one does get plugged you should notice it in they steaming performance. I make a habit of taking the steam tips off my machines every few months and soak them in JoGlo to make sure they are good and clean.

You bring up a good point that I neglected to mention, the three hole steam tip is brazed and chrome plated onto the steam pipe, there is no removing it. If you have aspirations of putting a multi-directional steam tip on it you are out of luck. What you see is what you get but thankfully the steam tip on the little Lusso does a good job as is.

There is a small amount of variability in the steam valve, but not much which is why I said it is 'essentially' an on/off prospect. The problem I have with these types of valves is that as the valve heats, it expands and the steam flow reduces, it essentially tapers off as you steam if you just crack open the valve. I have had them suddenly stop steaming in the middle of a session before. You can keep working the knob but it takes constant attention. The steaming volume of the Lusso is low enough that you should be able to do 3 ounces of milk with the valve wide open with no issue. That makes steaming on the machine much easier for the first time user. They have more time to incorporate the microfoam or break up any bubbles they accidentally make.

All things considered, I was pleasantly surprised by the steam on the Lusso. It was nice and dry, had adequate velocity, a little anemic in volume but adequate. Sure beats the heck out of those 'froth-aid' steam tips that come on some of the lesser expensive machines, and a couple expensive boxes.
Dave Stephens

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#223: Post by narc »

Dave, thanks for your input. Your point on a non-removable tips, non-pivoting wands are points I forgot to add to my TopTenWish list of improvements. A factor to consider if anyone decides to purchase the 2 group Ponte Vecchio Lusso (PVL) is less room between the grouphead and both steam & water wands.

On the PVL 2 group that I own during heat up the steam wand has sputtering at about 5 minutes into the warm up for about a minute then stops. Valve knob is as tight. I'm assuming when using the steam valve for releasing false pressure some moisture gets trapped. Next session when the unit heats up it is forced out. Very little if any false pressure based on minimal to no movement of the pressure gauge. Maybe the steam valve seal doesn't seat completely until there is some positive boiler pressure. Could be why the minimal false pressure. Have you or anyone else experienced this sputtering steam wand?

Even with a vacuum breaker cleaning & blowing out the wand is important to prevent clog tip and fouled boiler. Vacuum breakers do stick or fail.
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#224: Post by cannonfodder »

narc wrote: On the PVL 2 group that I own during heat up the steam wand has sputtering at about 5 minutes into the warm up for about a minute then stops. .
My single group does the same thing from the water tap. I get a small puddle of water on the drip tray cover, which could also use a little redesign as the small holes and large spacing do little for drainage from the cover to the basin although I flush into a cup, drips and drops just pool.
Dave Stephens

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#225: Post by cannonfodder »

My time with the Lusso ends today, so I decided to do some side by side comparisons with the Lusso and Elektra Microcasa a Leva.

The two machines are similar but different, does that make any sense? It is like comparing two E61 group machines, i.e., while they may appear on the outside to be the same, they are two different machines. The Elektra uses a spring lever group bolted directly to the boiler while the Lusso uses a spring lever group that is frame mounted and actively heated via a thermosiphon line. The Elektra uses 49mm group while the Lusso uses a 45mm group. The spring assist on the Lusso is noticeably lighter than the Elektra but the piston travel feels around the same. One little difference between the two machines that jumped out at me today: the Lusso's short and wide stance combined with its little rubber feet make it very countertop steady. While I was trying to work a stopwatch, camera and cup placement with one hand, I had to hold the lever down with the other hand. While both machines have wide bases and are not prone to tipping over, the Elektra would wiggle around while the Lusso never moved an inch.

Today I was using Greenline, which is Metropolis Coffees' signature Redline blend in the green for home roasters. The coffee was roasted 5 days ago and kept in an air tight container until today. The grinder of the day is the Cimbali Max. I was not trying to duplicate shots between machines but produce 3 consistent shots from each machine. My definition of consistent:
  • Dose within 0.1 gram,
  • No difference in shot volume measured with a graduated shot glass,
  • Extraction time +-2 seconds but preferably +-1 second.
With the Lusso I have settled on an 11 gram dose in the stock 45mm double basket using a light tamp and suitable grind. I use a 5 second preinfuse lever hold, release the lever and allow it to make a full stroke, re-cock the lever, hold for two seconds and release. After a couple of grind adjustments, the next three shots were well within acceptable timing. The little Lusso dispensed just less than one ounce with crema but the scale showed it produced just over 0.8 ounces by weight. All three shots were close in flavor and typical of what I have come to expect from the Lusso.

The shots from the little machine that could are an interesting mid ground between the thick and heavy bodied shots of the manual levers like the LaPavoni and the light bodied but bright and acidic Elektra. The Redline pulled lighter in crema color, but still produced a fair amount of crema with nice tiger striping. The flavor was light with hints of floral with some pit fruit in the background with no chocolate notes. I was getting a fair amount of earthy peat, presumably from the Sumatran in the blend. The shots had a nice palate coating creamy consistency, but it was missing the heavier butter mouth feel that the manual lever and some pump machines produce. This blend was actually kind of flat and not one of my favorites for use in the Lusso. It was good, but unremarkable.

The Elektra Microcasa Leva has been my benchmark for bright and clear espresso. I find that it produces one of the more unique cups of any machine I have used. For the Elektra Microcasa Leva I settled on a 13 gram dose in the stock double basket. With the Microcasa I use a pull and a half on the lever versus the two full pulls on the Lusso. I lower the lever, hold for 5 seconds and release. Half way through the first lever stroke the espresso is just starting to flow from the portafilter. I then lower the lever, hold for two seconds and let the shot flow to completion. In my metered shot glass that put the volume at the very top of the glass rim. When weighed on the scale it was one ounce, the timing was slightly slower on the Elektra and the shot more ristretto than what I produce from the Lusso.

Again my coffee was home roasted Redline. In the Elektra I had more floral and fruit notes with the peat note I got in the Lusso having transformed into just a hint of chocolate. The mouth feel was slightly heavier than the Lusso, but not quite as creamy. There was much more life in the cup than Lusso produced with the same blend. This coffee worked best in the Elektra.

I have noticed that some coffees work better in the Lusso than the Elektra and vice versa. As a general observation, the Lusso appears to favor slightly darker roasts that are heavy in the chocolate and spice. The Elektra tends to work better with lighter roasts that accentuate fruit and floral overtones. That may be due in part to the design of the machines. The Microcasa tends to produce high peak brew temperatures. I also like the Lusso's ability to be turned on and left on for extended periods without overheating. I have run the test unit for 48 hours with no issues and only turned it off to fill the boiler. The Lusso however cannot compete with the Elektra for build quality and counter top presence. The fit and finish of the Elektra Microcasa unmistakably better.

I have enjoyed using both machines. They have proven to be complementary to each other in flavor. I have enjoyed the Lusso; if you are looking for a spring assisted lever machine that's a price performer, the Lusso will fit the bill nicely. Don't expect the fit and finish of a premium sports car; it is more utilitarian but will get the job done.
Dave Stephens

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#226: Post by narc »

Dave, my opinion overall from my experience with the MicroCasa a Leva (MCaL) and Ponte Vecchio Lusso (PVL) are similar to yours. Thanks again for your review. The PVL has become my daily use machine. The replacement for an old E61/HX vibe machine.

Relative to the MCaL I found it to be a bit more forgiving. Outside of the relative thermostability of the groups it seems to be easier to be more consistent with the quality of the espresso pulled. For me Newd portafilter extractions using the PVL have been visually consistently better than the MCaL extractions. When pulling single origin (SO) espresso my personal preference still is the MCaL. My taste agree with your observation that the PVL strength are espresso pulled from darker roasts. Others may disagree, but better tastes are what the individual perceives. The only major unknown with this specific machine is the durability. I'm assuming it will last based on the number of older similar machines (PV Export, Sama) out there.
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#227: Post by RapidCoffee »

Team H-B members burn through a lot of coffee during bench testing. Fortunately, many of H-B's sponsors have been extraordinarily generous in support of our efforts. The following sponsors deserve a big shout out for donating world-class coffees to the Lever Smackdown.

Paradise Roasters

Paradise Espresso Classico

Coffee Klatch

"House" espresso blend, Belle Espresso, USBC espresso blend, WBC espresso blend

PT's Coffee Roasting Company

Finca El Patio Costa Rican SO, La Bella Vita espresso blend, Sulawesi organic SO

To help wrap up my review of the Pavoni Europiccola, Counter Culture Coffee just sent me this shipment:

Espresso Aficionado and Espresso La Forza

Espresso La Forza is a dark roasted espresso blend in the southern Italian style, full of smoky bittersweet flavors. The dark notes cut through milk very handily for a delicious cappuccino.

Who says you can't get crema from a lever?

Espresso Aficionado is a lovely lighter roast in the northern Italian style. I'd characterize the flavor profile as soft and sweet, nearly devoid of bitterness. This blend works particularly well for straight shots, but the delicate flavors may get overwhelmed in milk drinks.

New bottomless portafilter: anything this much fun should be illegal. :)

These nekkid pours were single pulls on the La Pavoni Europiccola. As I've mentioned before, there seems to be no compelling reason for multiple pulls on the Pavoni (or Gaggia Factory). Plenty of volume is possible with one pull. In fact, since chopping my portafilter, I've even put the Fellini move into cold storage. My best results have come from single pulls.

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#228: Post by mogogear »

Dan or Doug or anyone--- Did I miss this - but at one point was the Cremina to be interjected in to this thread?

Sorry of my quick browsing missed the directive.. The Cremina is guilty of "too much press" but I thought I had read it would appear and see how it compared to these other little wonder machines...

Thanks for helping me past my "brain deadness"
greg moore

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#229: Post by cannonfodder »

The Cremina is not included in the lineup but those of us that have had the fortune to use one have mentioned it on occasion as a point of reference. Charles (KarlSchneider) would be the best one to chime in on the Creminia vs Lusso/Elektra. He is a long time user of the Cremina and participant in the review.
Dave Stephens

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#230: Post by KarlSchneider »


I did not include any detailed comments or comparisons of the Cremina to the Lusso or Elektra. My main reason was that the Cremina is not currently available except through ebay or other special offerings. Given the very limited availability I thought there was little need to make comparisons.

I can offer some general comments.


I start with the most important category to me. The shots from a Cremina, a Lusso and an Elektra are unique. You cannot get the same shot from the others. The Cremina makes the richest, thickest by a significant degree. By comparison the Elektra Microcasa a leva makes the most elegant shots. If you put the Elektra at 0 and the Cremina at 100 on the two ends of a scale from elegant to heavy, thick, I would put the Lusso at 65. I should also add that having both a 67 Cremina and a 2002/Millenium Cremina -- the taste from the two is indistinguishable to me. Olympia appears to me to have a very distinct taste profile and has maintained it from 67 to 2002.


On a scale from easiest to use / most forgiving to most difficult to get a fine pull I would make the following sequence:

67 Cremina > Lusso > 2002 Cremina > Elektra

I almost never miss with the 67. The Lusso was close to the same in regularity. The 2002 Cremina is noticeably more finicky. It does not like over dosing. The Microcasa is by far the hardest to make work well. But when you get it right it is unsurpassed.

In terms of temperature stability the 2002 Cremina is the best of this group and the 67 Cremina second. While the Lusso never seemed to overheat I had to work constantly to keep it at a good temp to use. The Elektra quickly overheats. In all cases this is manageable.

Build Quality

As a non-engineer I note subjectively that the Lusso while well made seems less well made than the Elektra by a big margin. The 67 Cremina surpasses the Elektra by a wide margin and the 2002 Cremina is at the top of this category.

I think all four are fine machines and would happily own any.

In case anyone wants some controversy I would say that if I had to have only one machine it would be an Elektra Microcasa a leva. This is because when I get everything right and the coffee gods smile on me I have the most beautiful shots I ever get.

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