The Lure of the Lever

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.
User avatar
orphanespresso

#1: Post by orphanespresso »

I have been looking over the lever group posts once again, to find that there is not much happening. But also observe through emails on our website and our general enthusiasm, that there is actually a lot of excitement about our lever machines. Just what is it about these machines? The espresso, of course.

We are currently using a Conti Comocafe. Much like a La Peppina in function. An open boiler machine....and I sing the praises of the open boiler. So simple and the temperature so easy to plot to get such a sweet cup every time. As a sidebar, the Caravel, makes a cup that rolls the eyes. And we can't let the Faema Faemina out of the kitchen, total Italian industrial art, with a small commercial vibe and once I get the heat mastered, a definite keeper. Having a lot of different machines can create a jack of all trades master of none situation, but time spent with one machine over weeks or months can make a real difference in the knowing of the machine and the espresso.

The Conti is our constant user and I observe that day in and day out, one just gradually, though dosing, tamping grind etc, begins to get better and better shots. Espresso blends, then single origins, and the next time I order beans I'm going for all single origins, just perfect in the open boiler levers. All the nuance of each bean right out there to enjoy.

There's a lot of fine hardware out there and we could scrape up the bucks for a decent HX machine, but for the cost of a Silvia and a Rocky, we are really getting into some fine espresso with our vintage levers coupled with a simple hand grinder, which is a whole topic in itself.

So anyway, we'd just like to know, how's your espresso going? Are you there yet? Where do you go from here? How's it working for you?

No specific problem to solve here, just wondering if anyone else has a philosophical bent on their lever espresso experience.

Doug

coffeefrog

#2: Post by coffeefrog »

Doug,
I miss using a turkish hand grinder in the mornings because I no-longer wander around the garden turning that bloody handle for ten minutes in the early morning. The coffee is unquestionably much better (and lots and lots quicker), but the lifestyle took a slight hit and I'm not always sure I'm better off.

I agree with you that long exposure to a machine (23 years with the same one in my case) gives a certain perspective but for me its not all upwards progress. The quality of my otherwise minimally-measured espresso goes up and down unpredictably; I think you're doing awfully well if you get a continually increasing quality in your coffee. For my part, there are days when I just cannot make a decent cup and then there are days when I wander around the kitchen at 6am going "oh that was so good lets do that again" (which is actually a dumb idea with an Elektra lever, but what the hey). The variablity is one of the things that I like.

I'm really attached to Sidamo or more specifically Yirgacheffe at the moment, a nice sweet coffee. A local roaster has it in stock fairly often and they do a startlingly good toast with avocado and tomato and stuff that makes getting there at the right time of day fairly important.

What I really want is a balance of enjoying a simple, low-tech craft process and enjoying the product of the process. Coffee, bread and pasta have surprising amounts in common.

Greg
LMWDP #15

User avatar
peacecup

#3: Post by peacecup »

«missing video»

Nothing much has changed since the time that video was shot - the kid is older (and has a sister), and I'm about 10,000 miles East and a few miles north. I'm still finalizing an order with Ponte Vecchio to get the 220V parts for the Export, but the Caravel (with a 10 SEK Ikea milk frother) is doing a nice job, especially considering the coffee is whole bean, undated Lavazza. Who knows when it was roasted. But if I can get it to taste good I must be doing something right.

I still need to finalize my Orphan order to get the seals to rebuild the Caravel. One of the great joys of that machine is the ease with which this can be done. Hats off to those unknown Italian designers who thought that an espresso machine should last a lifetime or two.

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

Paul

#4: Post by Paul »

I love low tech. I love slow food. I love not getting obsessed by things such as PID'd minute temperature or pressure control ;-)

An old, ugly, c.1979 3gr carimali lever has graced our kitchen for the past 5 years. I can't see it moving any time soon. It is just too easy to use. During that time, I have rebuilt everything from LM linea to very special 1950's vintage machines. Many of these would be more consistent but where's the fun in that?

My first exposure to lever machines was whilst at uni, drinking terrible coffee from one at a nearby pub. It was a 2gr cimbali. Probably m20. I wonder if they still have it . . . .
cheers
Paul

LMWDP #084

User avatar
peacecup

#5: Post by peacecup »

peacecup wrote:
especially considering the coffee is whole bean, undated Lavazza. Who knows when it was roasted. But if I can get it to taste good I must be doing something right.
And, since there's nothing more humble than quoting one's self, i have to say the two shots I've pulled on the Caravel since I posted yesterday have been quite good. The seals on the machine seem to be performing better over the past couple of weeks, I guess because of constant use. So now I can really lean on the lever a bit, which is important with older beans. This somewhat confirms my opinion that manual levers are good for squeezing the best out of less-than-great beans.

For daily (or nightly) espresso, however, I really miss the spring lever. As Paul said, they are just so easy to use. I gotta go call PV now and get those parts....

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

User avatar
orphanespresso

#6: Post by orphanespresso »

Thanks for the thoughts and posts. When it's late at night, or early in the morning, after the day's work is done and the nightly emails sent to faithful correspondents, I always check the HB and CG forums to see what's up. Too late in the day for espresso for me at least. Good to hear from you.

A two group in your kitchen...must be a big kitchen, or likey a very crowded one.

I agree as well about the spring levers, way easy to use and the espresso just keeps getting better and better, with a few clunkers. That Caravel continues to amaze, but the only problem is that there are two of us here, and we like to sit down together and sip, what is a pretty small cup when you split the shot from a Caravel. In fact it is not possible without making a mess and wasting the shot. The Comocafe has a handle on the front which is handy in that our counter is not level, and even if it was one spout always seems to produce more than the other so I tip the machine back and forth using the handle to distribute the shot. Barb is using a tall cone shaped cup she got at SCAA by being sweet to the Della Corte sales rep, and mine is an Italian bar cup ACF. So I take the left spout which gives to most of the shot and tip her cup some of the best from the early part of the pull. I get a lungo and she a ristretto, and even though I get more, she gets the best part, and then I get the compliments, so it's a win win situation.

With the Caravel, I make her a cup (and therefore now know how to approach the second cup to improve the pull), and I still get the compliments, AND the better cup, or not.

A friend was over for an espresso fix and I split a shot (double pull) on the comocafe 3 ways by running the slow spout as one and then shifting the other two cups in and out of the stream. Felt like the plate spinners on Ed Sullivan, but it turned out that we could all sit and sip at the same time.

Cheers
Doug

User avatar
zix

#7: Post by zix »

Just a short one - I am not quite there yet, but I know I am on headed in the right direction, anyway. The big spring lever somehow seems to suit me and the way I expect things to work.
As long as my arm is good enough to pull, I will probably keep pulling. Flip a switch - naaah. Pull a big lever - yes!
The downside is that this lever needs a reeeaally good grinder. There is much more taste in every shot now than there was with the E-61 single boiler I had before - and that was not a bad machine. I wouldn't say the bad shots taste worse on the Bez. It's just that the good ones taste much better... and a good grind *will* bring out more of the goodness, I just know it.
So, in a year or five, If man is still alive, if woman can survive, I will still be using a lever. For me, there is no turning back, unless maybe I turn back even further and get a 50's Faema or something like that. On the other hand, that Idrocompresso looks mighty good...
LMWDP #047

User avatar
Chert
Supporter

#8: Post by Chert »

zix wrote:So, in a year or five, If man is still alive, if woman can survive, I will still be using a lever.
I heartily agree. If I come across a gravity fed lever, I'd love to try that or find someone to do a lever-lever swap to try say the Gaggia Achille or Bezzera family. The idrocompresso is grand, but I'd settle for a Nuova Simonelli two group spring lever arranged on a sturdy and portable cart. Occasionally, I'd be the barista for a day and the proceeds would go to charity. Boy, can coffee help generate some fine pipe dreams. I don't think the other recreational drugs do that quite so well... :twisted:
LMWDP #198

now more than ever

caeffe

#9: Post by caeffe »

orphanespresso wrote:............. Just what is it about these machines
We are currently using a Conti Comocafe. ............. Having a lot of different machines can create a jack of all trades master of none situation, but time spent with one machine over weeks or months can make a real difference in the knowing of the machine and the espresso.
........ All the nuance of each bean right out there to enjoy.
So anyway, we'd just like to know, how's your espresso going? Are you there yet? Where do you go from here? How's it working for you?

Doug
Doug-
My journey into coffee and espresso started many years ago however it has accelerated within the past year especially with the addition of a europiccola and now an Elektra Leva. I have an HX (NS Oscar) as well as 2 levers- Pavoni europiccola and Elektra Leva. I've had all 3 less than a yr with the Elektra the newest member.

After some time with the Elektra recently I understand full well now your 2 statements:
"....master of none" as well as "nuance of each bean"

With the Elektra I've been stumped. I'm unable to get consistent results compared to either the pico or the Oscar. I do however can clearly tell the "..nuance of each bean" with the Elektra leva. Maybe it is the lower pressure - the flavors are not overpowering compared to the Oscar HX or the pico. My son who seems to have a much more refined palate than me (maybe he's got a fresher palate - no?) stated - it's like munching on a raw bean, you can taste the flavors better. With the leva I notice that the crema and body is much thinner. I wonder if it's time to change the spring on it?

All in all, my answer to your philosophically bent question is - nope, I don't think I'm there yet. But, I think I'm almost there. Maybe in a couple more minutes/miles. Maybe the next sip/cup.
LMWDP #162

User avatar
espressme

#10: Post by espressme »

I finally have my old Modified Faema MPN grinder on line and so now have a great doser grinder. The SJ is still my doserless. I find that I still like a doserless when i have a single pull to make. A doser grinder, in my hands, is ok but coffee grind still clumps in humid weather. I still use the big Conti spring lever most every day. I find she is a good companion. I pull ristretto and about an ounce and a half plus for a pull with no preinfusion. I get thoroughly confused when I've read too much about how to pull a perfect shot. Some Info just does not transfer. The Cremina is on loan to a lucky group of professional Baristas so they can learn what a godshot is. They spend all their time on a Synesso. They will have it for a month then they get the LaPeppina. That machine is still the finest ristretto machine I have ever experienced. I just pulled it down from the refridge top last week and after four shots I found the kettle temperature should be at 206°F for the Paradise Roaster's Classico. I was pulling dark creamy godshots in a row for a buddy and myself. i did get a bit buzzed. I haven't used the Europiccola in a year and may get around to rebuilding her later this year.
Each machine requires a different set of skills but any lever, with practice, can be a really enjoyable companion on the coffee journey.
My 1¢
Richard
richard penney LMWDP #090,