Excited and overwhelmed new owner of a La Pavoni Pro

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.

#1: Post by Iambob »

Hi everyone

Been a long time lurker but a first time poster ! I am new to the lever espresso maker world! Coming from a dual boiler e61 machine.

I have been eyeing for a used La Pavoni for quite some time and recently bought one for $350. I didn't know what to look for so just handed the guy money and took the thing home. I didn't even notice the lever was bent. That's how newbie I am :( this was the first time I even touched a lever machine !

Through the help of members from a Facebook group, they help me identify it as the 1980-1983 La Pavoni Pro.

This machine is in rough shape (to me) and while I am excited, I am a bit overwhelm where to start to refurbish it.

I spent some time yesterday and cleaned the outside so it looks shinier. I turned it on and moved the lever up and down. Do not notice any leak when the lever is all the way down. I turned on the steam wand and it seems to work normal. No drip.

The base is pretty rusty. The bottom plate has some serious rust, and I was told that circle pad is asbestos. The rim of the bottom base is also all rust. Rust can also be found where the drip area is.

I don't know if the wires are in good shape or not. I attached a picture. The pressure gage is not accurate. It rests above zero.

So far these are all the information I have. I looked inside the tank. And it is just darkness. But I assume it will need a good decalcify process.

I watched few videos on rebuild. Some people take everything apart and soak it in citric acid. But I am worry this will destroy the chrome finish ? I also am worry I won't be able to put it back together if I took everything apart.

I don't know where I am going with this. Hence the overwhelm. Lol

I suppose my no.1 priority is that it functions and it makes a food safe cup of coffee as I feel this machine is very dirty. And then it would be nice for it to look shiny. Lol

Any input or direction of resources is very much appreciated ! Thank you so much !!

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#2: Post by drgary »

Hi Bob, and welcome to H-B!

You may have a slightly earlier version of the Pro, a version 2.1, made from 1978 to 1980. This is because you seem to have an unplated plain steel base and a rubber base instead of a chromed plain steel base with a plastic bottom plate. It's hard to tell with your photos. Also, when La Pavoni transitioned from one model to the next, they often used parts from adjacent versions.

Here's the reference page on Francesco Ceccarelli's amazing site. Your browser may react that the site isn't safe, but it's simply because he has not made his site https.

It looks salvageable, and yes, more than a little rough. You'll need to take it completely apart and treat the rust, stripping the paint and using a product like Evaporust to dissolve the rust and a good rust-proofing paint like POR-15. I can also see that the pressurestat pipe is disconnected from the center.

The pressure gauge can be easily replaced. When you remove the heating element and other parts, you'll clearly see what's going on with the heating element and any descaling that's needed. You are correct in fearing that immersing chromed parts in citric acid or a vinegar solution can quickly remove the plating. Generally you'll descale by only immersing water-exposed parts in descaling solution. You may also need to use coffee detergent like Pulycaff to clean off old coffee oils. And, you could need to replace the seals.

You can get replacement lever arms. It looks like a previous owner "cleverly" bent the arm on purpose to "improve" it.

In any case, I wouldn't use it in that condition because rust will quickly destroy the base, and a pressurestat isn't going to work if it's not connected to the inside of the boiler. Plus, a machine leaking water (the cause of the rust) and powered by electricity isn't safe.

You'll need a replacement drip tray and grate. The plastic drip tray will fairly well protect the drip tray well underneath it but it's good to keep an eye on that.

Take care with asbestos removal (often done under water) and disposal. There's a lot of crud on that base and I don't know whether it's salvageable, but you can ask those questions as you go along and there are DIY replacements of the base like the one on Francesco's site.

When you look at rebuild videos, they often cover different versions than your machine. If you are guided by a video, please post the link here.* But you'll learn it by stripping it down and rebuilding it. This is a do-able project. Feel free to ask for help, and I suggest you do that in one thread on one site. **

One thread that people find helpful is "Refeathering the Peacock," which teaches you how to service the group head. Using the Search function can help you find threads on servicing the steam valve and wand.

People add modifications of these machines to make them more temperature stable. And you'll learn that the key to making consistent shots on machines like this is to measure temperature on the outside of the group. But first things first, it's time for a teardown and basic rebuild.

* Posting videos on HB

** If you have posts going in Facebook groups and here, you may get people answering the same questions, some of them incorrectly, and with those unaware of the other posts not knowing what's been suggested so they can respond to it.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

Iambob (original poster)

#3: Post by Iambob (original poster) »

Hi Gary,
Thank you for the welcoming note and the SUPER DETAILED RESPONSE AND GUIDANCE!! Thank you for your time in sharing with me your knowledge!
Really appreciate it!!

It appears I got myself some further homework to do before I start taking this unit apart. And also a list of items to buy.

I do have a question about the descaling - since the citric acid is not recommended to touch the chrome finish, will it be better for me to descale it before I take it apart?

As for the base, thank you for that link on the rubber DIY project. I will likely do that as that metal plate is so rusted and I don't want to deal with the asbestos.

Are there any other places that asbestos would be found on this machine? I took the portafilter handle off, there were some white filament thingy inside the handle... I don't think it is asbestos but thought to ask (even if it sounds silly).

I am sure I will have lots of questions to ask as I take this project on. I hope to capture the details so I can contribute back to this community! I will stick to HB as I can't keep track on the facebook group. Thanks again!


#4: Post by jtrops »

This is just a guess, but the fibers you found in the portafilter handle could have been put in there as a thread lock to keep the handle from loosening (a common problem). I can't imagine any reason for asbestos in that role. Wool/cotton works fine.

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#5: Post by drgary »


You might as well disassemble the machine before descaling to see how much scale has accumulated. Descaling done too aggressively leaches metal from the boiler, so search this site for descaling instructions.

You can descale some parts before reassembly and can also do so after reassembly. You'll need a total teardown anyway to resolve the rusting base.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!


#6: Post by Utking »

Welcome Bob!

I'm in the same boat as you, pretty new here. But I already love this forum! There are a lot of great threads on these machines if you use the search function.

It's a shame rpavli isn't with us anymore. I'd love to chat with him about these machines. You should check out his posts as well.

Seems line you've gotten yourself into a project here! I'd probably descale before pulling apart. That'll also give the parts some time to oxidize again before you'd use it.

Good luck!

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#7: Post by drgary »

The reason I am advising not to descale before disassembly is that descaling easily leaches metal out of the boiler and can cause pinholes. If you use the same search function mentioned immediately above, you will see that Dr. Pavlis (rpavlis) posted a detailed chemistry lecture about that very topic. He and I were friends and sometimes collaborated. Here he explains the chemistry of descaling a copper boiler and why the water can turn blue. It's happened in some of my descaling and was not fatal to the machine but you need that metal.

Blue water after descaling...

Look up rpavlis water and you will see that he suggested a formula that prevents scaling while still being able to do good espresso extractions.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!


#8: Post by mathof »

Iambob wrote: I watched few videos on rebuild. Some people take everything apart and soak it in citric acid. But I am worry this will destroy the chrome finish ? I also am worry I won't be able to put it back together if I took everything apart.
I've found that taking photographs from all angles before I take anything apart is of great help when it comes to putting it back together.

Iambob (original poster)

#9: Post by Iambob (original poster) »

Thank you so far for all the tips!
I have successfully taken the La Pavoni completely apart. The water tank took FOREVER to detach from the base. But through heat and cool treatment, the ring finally budge and was able to take it off the base.

I now will focus on treating the rust on the base and also cleaning and descaling the machine.
Any advice on descaling the water tank without assembling back? Or I must assemble it back together first? I bought a bag of citric acid.

@Gary - "I can also see that the pressurestat pipe is disconnected from the center" Can you expand on what you mean by this? I think the wiring is screwed up on my thing... ? But i don't know what you mean the pipe is disconnected.

Thank you!

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#10: Post by drgary »

Francesco's photos of machines like yours show that the pressurestat accesses the boiler water through the hole in the center. The pipe to your pressurestat doesn't look like it's connected there.

Scroll down on this page to see it.

How much scale is there? Please show us photos. If the heating element is very scaled but stills tests well on a multimeter, you can immerse the coils upside down in descaling solution but don't immerse the terminals because you can cause a water short that would need to be baked out.

If you don't have very heavy scale, you can also descale using distilled water for brewing, which will leach off the scale without removing metals from the inside of the boiler.

If there's a lot of scale you can scour it out, but if you immerse the boiler in descaling solution when it's disassembled, the solution will also dissolve the chrome plating. That's why I like to descale when the machine is assembled.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!