La Pavoni lever history--age of used machines

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.
User avatar

#1: Post by rpavlis »

There are pictures and a lot of other information about La Pavoni lever machines at

The pictures for the models ascribed to the early 1990s imply that the switch in the Europiccola to pressure switch instead of two elements, 800 watt and 200 watt, occurred around 1990. At another place in the site they say 1998. The later statement seems to be the correct one.

The company constantly changes the design of components, sometimes the new components will fit on other models, sometimes not.

The first machines were produced in 1961. They had the brass liner group, and no sight glass.

In 1962 the sight glass was added. (There was a low priced model made much later, however, without one.)

There were several changes between 1962 and 1973, I am not sure of the dates of any of them.

Around 1973-1974 the greatest change ever occurred. The boiler threads were converted from male to female, and obviously this required a sex change for the caps too. The group was completely redesigned, earlier models had a brass liner, and tended to require special tools to disassemble. The 1974 to 2000 group was little changed in all those years, and had no liner. It is about 50 mm in diameter at the top and has an angular appearance, making it look very different than the earlier type and the later type.

Heating elements screwed onto the bottom of the boiler until about 1979. (The screw in models are made of unobtainium.) In 1979 a flange was developed that screws onto the boiler, and three screws hold the element in place. This design remains in place today. Unfortunately in about 1982 or so the threads were changed to a coarser pitch. The earlier flanges seem difficult to obtain. This makes element replacement of earlier models a bit difficult sometimes. I believe the early flanges permit attaching modern elements to even very early models. Is this true? It would not be particularly difficult, I suspect, to machine a flange of this sort from brass plate, though a machinist would likely charge a lot, because it would take substantial set up time. I have seen instructions on the Internet for attaching elements from other sources onto the bases from the screw on system. This requires also modifying to add a pressure switch as in the very late models, because one is more likely to be re materialise on Mars 5 seconds from now as a result of the quantum mechanics wave nature of matter then to find a double element that could be modified!

Sometime around 1982 or so La Pavoni made a VERY bad modification. The sub base was now made of plastic and attached to the base with a single screw through the well for the waste tray. This can allow liquid to get through to the electrical things beneath. Even worse was the much later modification that requires a special tool to remove the single screw. The bad design is still in place. One can tell the new and old designs at a glance because of the wide black rubber like ring around the early models.

Around 1986 or so there was still another very bad modification, the metal and plastic boiler cap was replaced with an all plastic one. One can tell at a glance whether a given machine has the new or old style because the all plastic ones are taller. (And maybe a bit uglier.)

Sometime in the 1980s the portafilter was changed. The new ones have a 12mm screw, the old 10mm. The new ones have a more angular appearance. They are interchangeable, however.

Sometime around 1995 or 1996? the "brass" models were modified so that the bases really became brass. This was a very good thing, as brass does not rust. (But it did not effect the chrome plated models.)

Also sometime, I think in the mid 1990s the detachable steam wand was added.

Sometime in the late 1990s the abominable polysulphide piston was added, and it was restored to brass around 2004 or so?

I think in 1998 or so the double heating element was replaced with a single 1000 watt one and pressure switch. (The professional, I believe, was always this way.)

In 2000 the group design was modified dramatically for the first time since the early 1970s. The new design has a plastic liner. The new design is "fatter," about 60mm on top, and has more a more "rounded" appearance. The portafilter had to be changed from 49mm to 51mm? as a result of this change.

Machines show up commonly with pressure switches that are obviously earlier, La Pavoni spare parts were less expensive in the past, and I suspect many "upgraded" their older machines then.

Many of these changes are obvious, permitting one to determine the approximate age of a machine at a glance, unless there have been modifications.

There usually is a sticker inside the base that tells the date. This is often missing. Some models have the date printed inside too. Dates are commonly also present on heating elements.

If you have further information or corrections, please reply.

User avatar
Team HB

#2: Post by homeburrero »

Nice summary!
rpavlis wrote:Sometime around 1982 or so La Pavoni made a VERY bad modification. The sub base was now made of plastic and attached to the base with a single screw through the well for the waste tray. This can allow liquid to get through to the electrical things beneath. Even worse was the much later modification that requires a special tool to remove the single screw. The bad design is still in place.
I think they fixed that around 2008, still use a torx screw but it screws up from the bottom rather than down through the well under the drip tray.

(see: new style base )
nínádiishʼnahgo gohwééh náshdlį́į́h

User avatar
rpavlis (original poster)

#3: Post by rpavlis (original poster) »

There are two other changes that I forgot to mention. The sight glass was protected by a metal protector until sometime around 1990, I think, when this was replaced by a plastic sleeve. The former looks better but the latter is easier to use and provides better protection.

Immediately after the group modification in 1974 or so, the new boilers had finer threads on the bottom and the threads on top for the cap were M32x2. The top threads have not been changed since then. The threads were originally recessed a bit on the top, but in the early 1980s they were given lips, so they protrude. One can notice this at a glance. The time when the "lips" were added was in the same time frame as when the threads that attach the boiler to the base were made coarser.

Thus early boilers after the 1974 group change have no lips where the cap attaches and the bottom that fits into the base has fine threads. Later boilers have lips, and the bottom has coarser threads. I do not know if both changes occurred together. (If they did, this permits someone considering buying used machines to be able to tell at a glance whether a future burned out element is likely to be difficult to deal with.)

User avatar
Team HB

#4: Post by drgary »

Some other tidbits, many dates unknown.

The Millennium Europiccola I have came with plastic sight glass fittings. Christopher Cara gave me metal ones to replace them.

The older sightglass has a metal protector and transitioned to also being covered by a plastic snap-on cover. The plastic cover was provided, I presume, for consumer protection should the sightglass be broken while the machine is heated.

The newer models have a resin badge. My early 1990s Europiccola has a cast metal badge.

At one point the PSTAT was glued so you couldn't change it. I'm not sure but I don't think that's the case recently.

And here's a bad change. Some of the newer levers are made of pot metal plated in chrome. I saw one where the chrome plating had deteriorated and the pot metal underneath was badly rusting. The play on my Millennium model has increased with use and this may be due to the inferior quality of the metal. I'll need to gently try and squeeze it back to shape with a vise. My early 1990s model has a lever with a very solid feel where the play hasn't increased with use.

Here's a good change. A secret I've tried to reveal in an earlier thread is the Millennium models with the PSTAT properly dialed in are easy for temperature control. The 51mm basket holds more than the old 49mm basket and maybe more than even an Elektra 49mm basket.

Contrasted with my early 1990s dual switch model, the Millennium steaming is adequate. The dual switch machine is a steaming demon and also heats from a cold start very quickly (about 6 minutes versus about 13 minutes for the Millennium model, which isn't bad.) On the dual switch model it's essential to add a pressure gauge to monitor temperature. I prefer these to the stick-on temperature strips. Odd that they didn't include that, but I think they wanted to use it as a selling point on the more expensive Professional model.

The earlier machines without PSTATs constantly vent steam through the OPV, so it's not a good idea to leave them coasting. I can leave my Millennium model coasting for hours. If I cool the portafilter in water or leave it out of the group, it's good to go. If your Millennium model starts to constantly vent steam the OPV is stuck, perhaps scaled. Scale also tends to build up in the steam valve and some people mistakenly replace the valve or valve body. A modified rotary tool grinding tip that is also lengthened can get in there and clean out that scale.

Some of the 49mm portafilters can accommodate the slightly deeper Elektra double basket. Others can't. So I chopped out my portafilter.

Nowhere in here have we covered the Stradivari model that looks cosmetically different but may be functionally the same as similar vintage models.

The Gaggia Factory or "Tin Man" is a rebadged Pavoni (Europiccola, I believe, but correct me if I'm wrong).

Also there have been different color finishes offered. The early models had a painted base as do many contemporary ones. I've seen ones with decorative brass and copper plating, similar to some of the Elektras.

Also at some point the drip tray grate changed from metal to plastic. I don't know what was underneath the earlier metal drip tray grates.

And Robert mentioned the clumsy inclusion of a screw at the bottom of the drip tray where water can leak into the electricals. The plastic drip tray is an invitation for careless owners to allow water to sit underneath and rust out the base, a very common problem that is so easily avoided by wiping it dry after use.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

User avatar
Team HB

#5: Post by homeburrero »

... and more tidbits ...

The La Pavoni Romantica models were available from around 2000 1999* to ~2006. Came out with pre-millennium group, and later with millennium, in Europiccola and Pro versions. Romantica has a different boiler - instead of an external OPV valve and drip tube, the filler cap contains the safety valve and vacuum breaker (*?), with the cap hidden by a decorative top. All have pStats. The La Pavoni site still shows the Grand Romantica (with an eagle on top) as a current model, but I don't think it's being imported and sold anywhere. The group, base, element, and wiring of the Romantica is interchangeable with the Europiccola and Pro.

Gaggia Factory came in two versions corresponding to the millennium Europiccola and the Pro. Like the Romantica, it has the safety valve in the filler cap, which is covered by the distinctive 'tin man' top.

The Pro came out with a pStat, so maybe it made sense that it should also have a pressure gauge. It was always a single 1000 watt element. The early pStats were not glued.

*later edits: Clearly (see later posts in this thread) Romanticas were made in early 1999. Also, the vacuum breaker function of the Romantica/Gaggia cap may or may not be present. Newer Romantica models like the Gran Romantica are still being produced.
nínádiishʼnahgo gohwééh náshdlį́į́h

User avatar

#6: Post by hankbates »

And some more....

The special models which Pavoni made for certain markets were the Mignon (Germany), a EP without a sight glass (talk about flying blind!!), and the Ambassador (US), a EP with a professional boiler.

I think that when LaPavoni was approached by Gaggia in the 90's to private label the Factory G105(EP) and G106(pro), they decided to also make their own version of the same machine, the Romantica series, also in EP and pro versions. A search of part numbers on the web discloses that they shared identical boilers (version for version) and boiler caps (which included a pressure relief function but not a vacuum breaker function). About the same time the switch to the bayonet type steam wand (for the inclusion of the cappucinatore auto frother) was introduced on the romanticas, but I think that this lagged behind on the GF's.

Interestingly enough, all the GF's appear to have been produced in chrome, and at least all of the romanticas imported into the US were made in brass. Although La Pavoni continues to produce the romantica in chrome, none have been imported for sale here, and the importer (EGH) also discontinued sales of the brass models a few years ago. They had too many issues with lacquer deterioration over the brass, and replacement under warranty of the boiler caps was also an issue.

Always kind of wanted to see a GF up close (or own one). My wife would probably like it more than the romantica because the GF would remind her of her uncle Jack.

I have never seen any LaPavoni which had a vacuum breaker function some how combined with the safety reilef valve, even though I frequently read references to it. I have dismantled both the romantica style boiler caps and the side mounted steam release valves on regular models, and I don't see how either would allow air ingress to the boiler when it cools causing a vacuum. Could it be that the vacuum breaking actually occurs due to slight leaks elsewhere in the machine, (or across a worn seat / plug in an earlier double switch unit)?

I have owned two Romantica Pros, both built in 1999, and the one I bought nearly new (produced 8/99) had plastic sight glass nuts which soon failed. I replaced them with brass, and the other unit (I got it a few months ago with little use, produced 2/99) had brass nuts already.

I did a rough calculation on the volumes of the Pavoni made double baskets and the Elektra double 49mm basket and came up with the conclusion that the relative volumes of the three are in the following ratios:
Pav49, 1.0, Pav51, 1.2, and Elek49, 1.5. Since none of the baskets are filled to the top when in use, the effective ratio of the Elektra basket could be even higher. (certainly seems to use a lot more coffee...) There is a lot of impact on group heating from the variables these baskets introduce, and this could be covered in another post. It certainly seems to me that the deeper elektra baskets give far less channeling than do the shallower baskets.

User avatar
Team HB

#7: Post by homeburrero »

Lot's of interesting new info in this thread.

hankbates wrote:I have never seen any LaPavoni which had a vacuum breaker function some how combined with the safety reilef valve, even though I frequently read references to it. I have dismantled both the romantica style boiler caps and the side mounted steam release valves on regular models, and I don't see how either would allow air ingress to the boiler when it cools causing a vacuum.
My earlier post might be in error about the vacuum breaker function - I've never taken it apart to see how it works. However, I did just take it off, block the hole in the threaded part, and verify that I can easily suck air into it but not so easily blow air out of it. It also sometimes misbehaved on the machine like a stuck vacuum breaker would -- hissing steam until I gave it a good rap. Here's an HB post with a picture of this type of cap:
Any help diagnosing my faulty La Pavoni?
hankbates wrote:the effective ratio of the Elektra basket could be even higher.
A while back i posted measurements of three of my baskets, and the to-the-brim capacity of my millennium and Elektra baskets were about the same, so the effective max dose of my Elektra basket was slightly higher than my stock millennium, although the difference was very small: Pavoni Basket Size Identification
nínádiishʼnahgo gohwééh náshdlį́į́h

User avatar
rpavlis (original poster)

#8: Post by rpavlis (original poster) »

The electrical switches of the Europiccola have changed. In 1998 or so when the single element pressure switch models appeared the red and white double switch had to be changed, and it became the single red switch with a green indicator light beneath.

My 1978 Europiccola has the red and white double switch, but the frame around it is WHITE. Later ones have the plastic frame around the switch Black. This colour change seems to have occurred in the mid 1980s.

Ones even slightly older than mine seem to have a single "rocker" plastic switch that looks very different than later ones. The screw in group, pre 1974 models, have a metal frame toggle switch, and I think they varied a bit too. I do not know if any bolt on group types have the metal frame toggle switch?

From the switch arrangement one can instantly note whether the machine has a single or double element heating system.

The decals on the front, as mentioned above are very different between my 1978 machine and my 1999 one, the 1978 one has a metal one held in place with little metal tabs, the 1999 one is a plastic thing glued on, I think, but am not sure that this change occurred in the very early 1990s? Also ones older than mine seem to be still another type.

The first sight glass plastic covers, mentioned earlier had plastic screws to hold them in place, but later ones simply snapped in place. I think the snap on arrived some time in the mid 1990s.

The screw in plug on top of the sight glass changed from M12x1 to M11x1 around the time of the switch to the plastic lined group, about 2000, I think. M12x1 is a relatively common thread, M11x1 is not. Also there are some with plastic nuts on the sight glass, I think this bad innovation occurred about the time of the switch to the plastic lined group.

There are lots of wiring changes and variation in the safety turn off system, thermal fuses, etc. My 1978 model has a screw in group with a thermal fuse similar to early professional models.

The unlined group from 1974 to 2000 seems to have been practically unchanged over that 26 year period, however, I believe my 1978 model has two holes, side by side to admit water, whilst the 1999 one has just one.

As mentioned earlier, the date of manufacture is generally on a sticker inside the base or sometime printed on the inside of the base, and there is usually, I believe, a date of manufacture on the heating element. When older machines are sold on line there is virtually never mention made of date of manufacture.

By noting the things we have posted here one can tell within a few years the age of machines when that information is not given, because most of these changes are very apparent from images. If you look at the Europiccolas for sale on ebay auctions you can generally date them to a three or four year period. One age indication that is frequently over looked is the colour of the frame around the switches. White means early 1980s, black later unless there has been a switch in switches by former owners. The lips on unlined group machines indicate a machine that probably has a fine threaded boiler and maybe a screw on heating element set. The single red and green indicator switch on an unlined group model indicates it was probably made after 1997 and that it has a pressure switch, very desirable.

User avatar

#9: Post by hankbates »

I am intrigued by the difference between the "switch with pilot lite" Pavoni supplied with pressurestat EP's, and the ordinary switch supplied with Pro's. I think I'll look into what it would take to retrofit my machine with one. The light would be a good extra safety feature, as all these machines will boil off their water if left on long enough (such as on a week's vacation?). Actually, if I am going to be away for more than a half day or so I pull the cords from the outlets on the grinder and the espresso machine.

It occurs to me that a good device to provide automatic venting and also vacuum breaking would be the thermostatic air vents which were used on one-pipe steam heating radiators. (You know, if you are as old as I am, the kind that rattle and bang when the steam comes on). See ... Valves.htm The place to install would be off the top of the sight glass, or in the boiler cap (if you don't have a GF or romantica). Anyone ever looked into these?

User avatar
rpavlis (original poster)

#10: Post by rpavlis (original poster) »

Auto venting is a wonderful idea for pressure switch machines of all kinds. Some of the steam radiator things are straight and some angled. I wonder if one could find a fairly small straight one, and as stated in the post above, use this as an auto vent auto vacuum breaker system. This could be attached to a brass machined cap such as the ones that I have described in earlier posts here by simply drilling and tapping the cap. One could fit a wooden shell over it to remove and attach it without burning the fingers. (The boiler cap thread, remember is M32x2, dies this size are about $25 from China, generally much more from elsewhere.)

I think there are two different types of these things, one kind uses a device that expands to close a valve and the other uses the fact that when the air is gone pure water vapour condenses when it cools and the liquid that forms around it pushes the valve closed. This type is used on most pressure cookers.

This would eliminate an annoyance! Any one know of good sources of these things of either type that are small enough to put on a cap?