Translated by Gary Seeman

How I Got Here


While buying a machine like any average consumer, I came across a forum that opened my eyes to a world more complex, more varied and frankly more fun than I had imagined. I started with an Ascaso Basic, accompanied by a mini grinder of the same brand. I often ogled a particular home lever machine, a La Pavoni Europiccola. This was because it is certainly the lever machine that has been manufactured in the greatest numbers historically and now. It is also one of the most beautiful with its timeless design. So I managed to acquire one, my first lever! I bought a wreck of a machine! This led me to restoration. I love the puzzle of restoring, the assembly of parts, a house of unfolding questions with rooms still available .... It's almost a breeze.


I continued my coffee adventures with two other pump machines, a Brasilia Mefra (Lady) and a Rancilio Audrey. I have since sold these to make room exclusively for lever machines. This is a personal choice that does not disqualify the performance of the two aforementioned machines, which provided very consistent extractions. Now consistency is less often my goal, but when it is, nothing beats the little lever machines, and their use is much more suitable to a playful pasttime. Indeed they are mostly antique dusty machines, or are restored or rehabilitated back to working condition. The first date from the 50s and go to the 80s. I guess in those years we preferred the convenience of not having to press a button.


At the consumer level, the alleged improvement of home pump machines has fallen short of its promise, so today we often find ourselves with espresso that is not worthy of its name.
Mefra Brasilia (what a lady!) Extraction with Ascaso Basic

Mefra with Bottomless Rancilio Audrey

[Movie caption] Ascaso Basic and PID and Bottomless

Nevertheless, the espresso machine is not all, far from it.

First one must employ a high quality coffee grinder, then the machine. These will not be effective if not accompanied
by the skill of the user and fresh, high quality coffee.

If your appetite for the adventure of levers has left a machine languishing in a corner or if you know one,
do not hesitate to contact me!

I can find that little gentleman a place close to his new girlfriends!
How Does a Lever Espresso Machine Work?


A lever machine has a tank that heats water. That water is fed to a piston that compresses water through ground coffee. The piston may be assisted by a spring. On this type of machine, there is a downward lever action that will compress the spring as the piston rises and lets the water enter gradually. When you release the lever (with caution) the spring relaxes and raises the lever while the piston travels downward and presses the water through the grounds. There is another type where the lever is in the down position at the start. Raising the lever allows water to enter the brew chamber. You apply hand pressure to the lever, causing the piston to press water through the grounds. For both systems there are machines with open or closed boilers. Closed boilers hold water under pressure. The hot, pressurized water has steam on top that can be used to froth milk, or hot water lower in the boiler can be delivered through a tap. The pressure also helps with coffee extraction through the brew chamber. So there are machines with sealed boilers that require pressure to operate.

For everything to go well it is necessary to have the small accessories that complete the brew chamber for each machine. This includes a portafilter and filter basket, and a tamper to press the coffee into the basket. The portafilter holds the brew basket and locks into the brew group to form a seal for extracting coffee under pressure. There is no one standard size of these important parts. In many cases no portafilter or filter holder can replace those of a machine that is missing these piecea. (Well there are rare cases where these parts from another machine will work.) This is why we must ensure those parts are present when buying a machine. For some machines, these parts are uniquely configured, so you end up with an unusable machine, and that’s a shame. Or, if the machine is collectible it loses value when it does not have the original, complete parts. 

Some tampers.

Even if the diameter of some filter baskets are identical from one machine to another,
it does not mean that the portafilters between them are interchangeable.