La Pavoni Millenium for Newbies

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.
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#1: Post by TUS172 »

These La Pavonis are a well built machine and if properly cared for will last for ever. They are designed to never overheat or build up too much pressure. This model has a reset button under the bottom cover and if the heating element ever gets too hot or if it is not covered by water (a big no-no) the button will pop, protecting the heating element from damage. The older Pavonis have a fuse wired in. This machine (the Millenium) has the auto switch that monitors the heat of the unit and shuts off when it reaches temperature and then kicks the unit back on when it falls below a certain range. You will hear the pressure relief tube sputter for just a few seconds and then it will cease as it expels some false steam pressure. These newer Pavonis have a great number of advantages over the older units some that I have just stated and also they have a 51mm filter basket instead of the 49mm the older Pavonis had... it makes a difference. The reason I kept my older one is that I totally rebuilt that one and have extra parts for it just in case... By the way, the Reg Barber tamper that you are getting is one of my favorites! It is beautiful and has a great fit in the basket and a great feel to it.
So that is some information about this machine. I have used this machine for about a year now and it is doing great. I use only filtered water and I regularly dump the machine to clean it of any impurities that may be gathering in the bottom below the siphon tube that goes to the grouphead. I have never had to descale the machine because of these couple of rules that I follow.
If these units are properly cared for they last and last and...well you get the idea. The only thing you will need to replace on a regular basis is the grouphead and piston gaskets. So I will just take the opportunity to give you a few tips.
 Always make sure you have at least ¾ of the sight glass boiler filled before heating. But don't go way over the sight glass level either.
 Wait until the green light has flashed off and then back on a few times before attempting a pull, this ensures that the unit is up to temperature. Once the machine is up to temperature it will hiss and may even sputter a bit for a short period of time (that is perfectly normal).
 I put the portafilter in with an empty basket and lift the lever fully (Just for a second or two) to let off false pressure, steam, and any impurities that may be on the shower screen.
 I then take off the portafilter dry the shower screen, and filter basket and then load a filled basket into the portafilter.
 I then put the portafilter into the grouphead and turn it just enough to know that it catches, but do not tighten it down yet.
 Then raise the handle about ¾ of the way towards getting hot water, and then tighten down the portafilter firmly. (A learned art) This procedure prevents a vacuum being created above the espresso in the filter basket which usually causes channeling during the pull.
 Raise the handle to the full height and allow hot water into the grouphead for about 10 - 15 seconds before starting a firm (But not hard) down stroke for a ristretto.
 If the stroke goes very easy and you get weak espresso with no crema. You probably have too coarse a grind, have used too little espresso in the filter basket and/or you have not tamped the espresso firmly enough.
 If the stroke gets choked (the lever doesn't want to go down even with very firm pressure)... It means you have either used too fine a grind, have tamped the espresso to hard and/or used too much espresso in the filter basket.
 If you choke the pull do not immediately take off the portafilter! You will get a pressure release of hot water, and wet espresso all over the place (called a severe sneeze). If you have gotten the handle down far enough to be past the point where hot water is introduced to the grouphead; wait for about 30 - 45 seconds without further pressure on the lever. Try the stroke down from there again. If it goes hard, don't force it, turn the unit off and turn on the steam wand to release pressure in the boiler. But be aware that pressure may still be in the grouphead, so be careful with the portafilter.
 Now after a normal pull there will be residual pressure in the grouphead above the filter basket. If you attempt to turn out the portafilter too quickly you will also get the sneeze. The best thing is to keep an eye on the lever and see if it is up a hair from the bottom of the stroke. If it is you got pressure... the best thing is to wait a minute and then turn out your portafilter very slowly and when you hear the pressure let off go slower...
 What happens if you forget and do get a sneeze with your Pavoni? You may blow the portafilter gasket in the grouphead out of its groove a bit and will then have to let the unit cool and work it back up into its groove with some sort of blunt but thin tool (perhaps a screw driver with a dull end). Not a big deal but a pain. So just take it slow...
 On successive pulls you will get two or perhaps three great shots before the grouphead begins to get too hot for good espresso. The solution is to cool off the portafilter by putting it in cold water.
 La Pavoni advertises that these units can pull 8 doubles... Wrong; at best you will get 5 or perhaps 6 pulls before the water level gets dangerously low to the heating element. You never want any part of it above the water line.

Well by now you realize that these machines can be quite a challenge. But once you get to know Miss Pavoni, she will make the best espresso you've ever had in your life. The espresso itself is actually creamy and the crema ooohhh... the crema! And also a Pavoni will outlast any semi auto machine (including a Silvia) by decades!!!
As I mentioned earlier a lot of making a good espresso depends on you. The machine is not the problem. You have to consider the Espresso blend, the grind, the filter basket, the tamper, the tamp itself and finally the pull. Allot of variables depend on you 'the home barista'. I suggest you visit some of the many internet sites that fanatics like me tend to visit, there is ample great information out there to help you out of any jam you may get into.
Another issue is the tamper; I don't know why a company as prestigious as La Pavoni sends a tamper of such low quality... In layman terms, "It sucks." Reg Barber makes a top of the line tamper at a fair price and they 'turn' the tamper to the measurement of your basket to within 1/10thmm... So you have a top of the line tamper $65.00 with shipping.
Lastly, the single size filter basket for the La Pavoni is worthless. In the pictures I took to sell this unit I used the double basket sold by La Pavoni and it can make great espresso with practice That is why I bough an extra one for around $40.00.
Since you already have a bottomless portafilter you will have the advantage of watching the flow from the bottom of the filter basket to see just how well you are doing.
Well that is about it. By now you may realize that I love espresso machines and I love espresso. I collect them, I use them and I thoroughly enjoy all different types of machines... But my wife thinks I have gone a bit overboard. So I agreed to sell a few... But that does not mean I won't be tempted on EBay by some unique find...

Have fun with your machine. Hopefully what I have written here will help you on your way to years of great espresso... enjoy!

Bob C.
(No longer a lever purist!)
LMWDP #012

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#2: Post by Neurogensis »

Thanks for the guide Bob! I just purchased a La Pavoni Professional Millennium and found it extremely helpful.
Does anyone use a Rocky grinder with their La Pav and have recommendations for approximate grind settings? I am playing with it and have delivered a few decent shots, but am curious what the community has to say about the matter....

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#3: Post by zubinpatrick »

the markings on the rocky are not precise enough to compare one to the other not to mention differences in bean, roast, freshness. Sounds like you're getting close, follow your mouth and your nose, they will get you where you want to be.

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#4: Post by F.M. »

Neurogensis wrote: Does anyone use a Rocky grinder with their La Pav and have recommendations for approximate grind settings?
That's exactly my set-up; very happy with it.

In general I end up between 5 - 10 on the rocky grinder. That's a wide range, but as Zubin mentioned, different beans absolutely require different settings, plus weather and other factors....

Two things I would highly suggest though!
Pick up a digital spoon scale (I got mine from orphan espresso) if you aren't already weighing the beans. I fought this one for a while because it just sounded like an extra time-consuming step... but my shots are far more consistent now. 12 grams seems to be a good baseline for the double basket. I'm not adjusting the grind nearly as often since i started weighing the beans.

Chop your portafilter! For me, shot quality and things became much easier once I could see what the espresso was doing at the basket screen.

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#5: Post by !Neurogenesis »

Thanks FM!
I appreciate the knowledge. I have been looking for a cheap and accurate digital scale, and that spoon gizmo fills the bill. I'll have to pick one up when I grab supplies from orphan next.

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#6: Post by davidrobb118 »

Great Guide for a great machine. I've been using one of these with a Rocky Grinder for about 3 years now and pretty consistently get good if not great shots with it. I was surprised at how well I was doing after I did an espresso tour of some of the best Seattle Coffee shops.....

Two things I'd like to add from my experience. 1) is that it is often helpful to open steam wand and expel some steam for about 20-30 seconds once you get a sense the machine is warmed up (a few cycles of the green light turning on/off, about 8-10 minutes). This helps get rid of false pressure. Otherwise your first shot may pull badly.

2) I often use 13-14 grams of coffee per double shot (depends on the coffee) this allows me to only do a light leveling tamp and still get good ristrettos.

As for dialing in the Rocky it is necessary to experiment, but I too usually fall within the 5-10 range for beans usually ending up around 5 or 6, but it all depends on the beans and also how long they have been around. I recently was pulling a shot with some month old beans and was down in the range of 3. I'm hoping to upgrade grinders soon - to a stepless, because I've found the rocky adjustments to not be precise enough, there have been many times when I've wanted an adjustment between two of the steps. Unfortunately the vario didn't exist when I bought my machine or I would probably have that.

At any rate have fun with your machine! These can pull amazing shots!

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#7: Post by F.M. »

Hey David,
You can mod your rocky to make it stepless- I did this almost immediately to mine and have been very happy with the results. No drift...Here is a thread on the mod I did to mine:
Stepless mod for Rancilio Rocky- a cleaner approach]

The only caveat, not an ideal mod if you frequently do wide changes in adjustment range (like going from espresso to french press).

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#8: Post by davidrobb118 »

Hi FM,

Edited my earlier, post. My response was for the pipe clamp style of rocky stepless mod. I have NOT tried this method that F.M. recommends above. I may though...sound good.

Thanks for the suggestion.


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#9: Post by !Neurogenesis »


Just read your post on the other forum. That is absolutely awesome. I can't wait to do it.
Thank you so much for the advice all!