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La Pavoni - Lever Basics

Table of contents
  1. Preface
    1. Useful Resources
    2. Europiccola - A Brief History
    3. Key change timeline:
  2. Common Issues
    1. Rust
      1. Treatment
      2. Prevention
    2. Leaks
    3. Blown fuse
  3. Regular Maintenance
    1. Daily
    2. Weekly
    3. Monthly
    4. Yearly
  4. Making Espresso
    1. The Basics
      1. Temperature control
      2. Pressure control (and why you shouldn’t be too worried about it)
    2. Advanced Techniques and Recipes
      1. Fellini
      2. Preinfusion stuff

This page is under development, information may not be accurate or reliable.

Preface

This page aims to cover most of the key points needed to own, use and maintain a La Pavoni lever espresso machine.

Useful Resources

The definitive source of La Pavoni history and knowledge has to be Francesco Ceccarelli’s website. Francesco has documented the full history of the company and every espresso machine and grinder they have ever made. If you want to identify your La Pavoni, compare it to the images on the Europiccola or Professional pages.

Don’t forget to read through the Dr. Pavoni section while you’re looking at Francesco’s site - while it’s old and in some places out of date for the latest machines, it’s a wealth of detailed information about how to maintain and repair La Pavoni lever machines.

Another great resource is the La Pavoni Owners Group on Facebook - they’re a welcoming and friendly bunch, and they have a full list of useful resources from group members at lpowners.org. It’s worth noting that accessing these resources requires that you are part of the Facebook group. You don’t need to actually own a La Pavoni to join, but you need a Facebook account and an admin has to manually review your joining application - don’t worry, they accept almost anyone!

And of course check out #lever-squad on the EAF Discord server!

Europiccola - A Brief History

The La Pavoni Europiccola was first released in 1961. Since then it has undergone a number of changes to its design and construction, although this can be broken down to a few critical milestones.

The most significant change is the grouphead redesign done in 2000 - this splits Europiccolas into two major categories, Pre-Millennium (premill) and Post-Millennium (postmill).

Premill machines use a 49mm portafilter and have a 50mm outer diameter piston cylinder, while postmill machines use a 51mm portafilter and have a larger 60mm outer diameter piston cylinder to accommodate a plastic piston sleeve.

Francesco further splits the premill machines into two major versions. The first, machines made from 1961 to 1974, have a different group assembly that directly screws onto the boiler, as opposed to machines made from 1975 onwards which are attached using two bolts.

While pre-1975 machines may have some common parts with later premill machines, double check before buying replacement parts as there were a number of changes especially in the early years.

Key change timeline:

  • 1961: First release (first version)
  • 1962: Added sight glass
  • 1964: Added drip tray
  • 1970: Removeable shower screen
  • 1973: Added three-way switch for new 200W / 1000W heating element
  • 1975: Replaced group assembly
  • 1978: Swapped three-way switch for double switch - on/off and low/high power
  • 1984: Added safety one-shot thermal fuse (protects element from overheating if running dry)
  • 1991: Added pressurestat (replaces double switches, automatically toggles between low and high power to maintain boiler pressure)
  • 1993: Introduced the Cappuccino Automatic (Cappuccinotore) tool, swappable with new normal steam wand
  • 1997: Swapped thermal fuse to resettable thermal fuse
  • 2000: Completely new 51mm group assembly

The above list is not exhaustive - see Francesco’s website for images and more detailed descriptions of the differences.

Common Issues

So you bought a used Europiccola - but it has some issues. Don’t panic! These are generally quite easy machines to work on thanks to their simple construction and largely common parts across most versions.

Rust

Rust is a relatively common issue in all models that have a steel base. Rust commonly develops in the drip tray, particularly around where the screw that attaches the bottom plate to the base is, and can develop under the base in other areas. Painted bases are less likely to develop rust, while the aluminium bases cannot rust.

Treatment

Surface rust can be removed with a wire brush followed by a chemical rust converter. See this page as a more detailed example.

If the rust is deep enough to compromise the strength of the base, you should replace the whole base with a new one.

Prevention

The main catalyst for rust formation is water - drying underneath the drip tray after every use is the easiest way to prevent rust here.

Rust formation underneath the base is more difficult to directly prevent, but there are suitable rust preventative paints and sprays that can be used. Ensure that no moisture is trapped underneath the base while reassembling your machine, and watch out for leaks from the heating element to boiler gasket.

You can also paint the base, or get it professionally powder coated - try your local alloy wheel repair shop!

Leaks

Leaks and lever stiffness can often be attributed to old seals and gaskets. Some suggest that you should look at replacing all the seals on a regular basis, but it’s the grouphead seals that usually need the most attention.

Most online La Pavoni spare part retailers will sell kits of new seals and gaskets - make sure you get the right version for your model.

You should also get some food grade silicone grease for lubricating the moving parts, although olive oil can work as a temporary solution. If you are using any natural oil, make sure you disassemble and wash the old oil off on a somewhat regular basis, as it can go rancid.

Blown fuse

There are only a few ways the thermal fuse could blow:

  • Running the machine dry (never do this!)
  • Faulty fuse (unlikely)
  • Scale buildup

Depending on the model of your machine you will either be able to reset the fuse by pressing the red button on it, or you will have to replace the whole fuse unit.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is a key part of keeping any espresso machine in good shape for years to come. La Pavonis can be kept in great condition for decades even with daily use given good maintenance and care.

Daily

  • Use good water - softened or remineralised recipe water will prevent scale buildup and give you better tasting coffee
  • After every use, clean the steam wand out with a damp cloth and a quick blast of steam
  • If you use the automatic frother attachment, flush it out by running some clean water through it
  • After you’ve finished pulling shots of espresso, flush a little water out through the group and wipe away any grounds or coffee with a damp cloth. Remember, the group will be hot!
  • Clean out the drip tray, clean and dry underneath the drip tray to prevent rust
  • Wipe away any splash or spray on the chrome surfaces. Remember, the boiler will still be hot!
  • Optional - Empty the boiler of water, especailly if you don’t expect to use the machine for some time. Remember to fill it up before you turn it back on!

Weekly

  • Full clean of auto frother, shower screen, group gasket, baskets, portafilter, and anything else you use

Remember - don’t use abrasives on the shiny chrome outer parts! That means no wire wools, scouring pads (including sponges with them) or Brillo pads.

Monthly

  • Descale the boiler
  • Check under the base for rust
  • Disassemble the group and lubricate moving parts with food safe grease

Yearly

  • Test for leaks
  • (optional) Replace seals and gaskets (more often the group gaskets, as they’re under more repeated load and movement)

Making Espresso

This section needs writing!

The Basics

Pull lever make coffee, done!

Tamp with plenty of force - light tamping can result in an unstable puck that is more susceptible to damage and channelling.

Temperature control

Temperature strips save shots

Pressure control (and why you shouldn’t be too worried about it)

PPK, or just put whole LP on scales and calculate it

Advanced Techniques and Recipes

Fellini

Pump that lever (gently)

Preinfusion stuff

Boiler pressure preinfusion

Lever preinfusion