6 Best Lever Espresso Machines For the Home Barista

There’s no better way to start your day than with a good shot of espresso. Manual espresso machines have a charming old-school touch, but they aren’t always as simple as they sound. Here you will find the best lever espresso machines reviewed and compared so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

Things to consider when choosing a lever espresso machine

Lever espresso machines offer a tactile and artisanal experience. They allow you to appreciate the skill of making the best shot of good coffee. It’s easy to be seduced by a beautifully designed manual espresso maker that offers high-tech features. Still, you need to ask yourself whether the appliance fits your needs. Here are the things you should consider before making your choice on the best lever espresso machine for home use.

best lever espresso machine

Type of lever

Two main types of lever espresso machines are spring piston and direct lever. Spring piston machines have the lever in the upright position when resting, and direct lever machines have the lever in a lower position.

A spring piston machine, also sometimes referred to as a spring lever espresso machine, does some of the work for you. Meanwhile, direct lever machines give you more control over the outcome.

You may find a steeper learning curve for mastering the technique of a direct lever espresso machine. However, all manual devices require practice, especially if you’re used to semi-automatic espresso machines or fully automated coffee machines.

No matter what kind of manual espresso machine you choose, the full control you get from pulling shots by hand is a tradeoff against the convenience of an easy cup of coffee.

pulling espresso with flair lever machine

Brewing pressure

Espresso machines can generate different pressure, depending on their design. For example, if a device has a pressure below 9 bars, it won’t be enough to extract real espresso.

While 9 bars is the minimum pressure necessary to qualify as espresso, some manual machines are advertised as having higher pressure, such as 15 bars or 20 bars. That said, especially on a lower-end lever espresso machine that claims to have 15 or more bars, pressure can dissipate while operating the appliance. As a result, you might end up with about 9 bars by the time you pull shots.

coffee dripping from lever espresso machine

Espresso quality

Espresso shot quality may vary from cup to cup in lower-end manual machines. It is due to instability in maintaining temperature in the machine and lack of complete control.

Are you planning on using your espresso machine to make mostly milky coffees such as lattes and cappuccinos? Then the espresso quality may be less of a concern for you, as milk will dilute and mask the coffee flavor. Make sure you have a way to steam and froth milk, as lower-end fully manual lever espresso makers don’t have a steam wand.

As with any other coffee machine, you can improve the chances of getting delicious coffee by using coffee beans freshly ground to the required grind size. For an espresso maker, that will typically be a fine grind. You’ll also need to tamp the grounds with a tamper or spoon.

Factors that affect the quality and taste of good espresso include the number of boilers present. A dual boiler espresso machine has one boiler for steam and another for brewing, so it can help if you consecutively pull one shot after another. Other models with just one boiler may need more time between shots.

You’ll also want to consider the highest temperature the lever machine can reach and whether it can maintain it. Note that fully manual lever machines that don’t use electricity don’t have boilers, so you’ll have to add boiling water from an external source.

The coarseness of your grind, under and over-extraction, and consistent steam pressure can all affect crema when pulling espresso. For example, if your crema dissipates after less than a minute, your coffee roast was too light, or the extraction was too fast.

pulling espresso with lever machine

Quantity of shots

Even the best manual espresso machines are limited in functionality regarding the number of consecutive shots they can make, which can be a challenge. Eventually, their boilers need to be refilled, and their pressure needs to rebuild between beverages.

Depending on the model, a home espresso machine can typically hold between 16 to 50 ounces (0.5 to 1.5 liters) of water. For example, a tank with a capacity of 38 ounces (1.1 liters) can produce 16 two-ounce shots.

High-end lever espresso machines connect to a water supply, so quantity is not an issue. However, these devices are priced much higher and have a steep learning curve.

espresso shots

Ease of use

One of the biggest differences between various manual espresso machines is the ease of use. It will become clearer as you read through the descriptions and reviews of the different brands and models.

Some manual espresso makers are relatively portable and even suitable for camping trips. These are generally the easiest to use for beginners. The ones that can go on the road are usually durable too.

You might want to take note of the cleaning requirements of different lever espresso machines, as it is an often-overlooked part of coffee making.

Semi-automatic or automatic espresso machines can operate with less effort than manual ones. The semi-automatic kind allows you to customize your shots, just not as much as you could with a manual machine.

using flair lever espresso maker outdoors

Durability

Before purchasing a manual espresso machine, it is important to know how much espresso the device can handle. Lever espresso machines that are budget-friendly and smaller can overheat or even break if used all day — not fun!

Professional-grade and high-end lever espresso machines should be able to work all day without any malfunctions. It is paramount for manual espresso machines to handle lots of steam pressure.

pulling espresso with cafelat robot lever espresso maker

Price

Lever espresso machines range in price from $100 to over $1,000. It is hard to find a proper espresso machine that costs less than $100.

If an espresso maker is cheaper than $100, it most likely brews what can be described as espresso-like coffee. These might be something like Moka Pot or AeroPress coffee — and those affordable brew methods may be a better fit if you don’t want to spend a lot of money.

A manual espresso machine might not be much cheaper than automatic espresso and semi-automatic machines in the long run. Therefore, when you are ready to invest in a manual espresso machine, it’s best to focus on other factors aside from price to get the best value.

dollars and coffee beans

Best lever espresso machines in 2023

Now that you know what factors to consider when choosing a lever espresso maker for your home, let’s take a closer look at the best lever machines reviewed. They come at various price points and capacities so you can choose the most suitable one.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Best Overall
La Pavoni PC-16 Professional Espresso Machine

La Pavoni PC-16 Professional Espresso Machine

  • Can make one or two espressos at a time
  • Dual frothing
  • Mounted pressure gauge
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Rok Coffee Press GC

Rok Coffee Press GC

  • No electricity required
  • Durable design
  • Portable
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Personal Favorite
Cafelat Robot Barista

Cafelat Robot Barista

  • Fully manual
  • No need for preheating
  • Retro aesthetic with fun color options
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Value For Money
Flair Classic Espresso Maker

Flair Classic Espresso Maker

  • No electricity required
  • Slick modern design
  • Consistent espresso quality
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La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola

La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola

  • Makes 8 cups of espresso
  • Sturdy all-steel construction
  • Automatic milk frother
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La Pavoni Esperto Edotto

La Pavoni Esperto Edotto

  • Makes 16 cups
  • 2 frothing systems
  • Mounted pressure gauge
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La Pavoni PC-16 Professional Espresso Machine

La Pavoni Professional 16-Cup Espresso Machine, Copper and Brass

Espresso aficionados around the world may be familiar with the Pavoni name. In 1905, the Italian man called Desiderio Pavoni was the first person to produce commercial espresso machines.

Although the coffee world has changed due to the development of technology, La Pavoni continues to manufacture high-quality manual espresso makers in Italy for those who want a taste of the old world. The entire line of La Pavoni machines has a classic design, including the La Pavoni PC-16 Professional.

The La Pavoni Professional features a stunning, streamlined design with a copper and brass finish. The shiny look is maintained by a coat of jewelry varnish over the metal.

Beyond the gorgeous appearance, this machine also has advanced technology. Its generous electric boiler holds enough water to brew 16 shots of espresso, and the sight glass on the boiler shows you how much is left. In addition, a pressure gauge is visible at the top of the boiler.

You can extract one or two shots of espresso at a time. If you want an espresso-based coffee drink with milk, you’ll also have to decide whether you’d like to use the machine’s steam wand as is or add the auto-frothing attachment. However, while this high-end manual espresso machine does a lot for you, you’ll still have to learn a few essential skills.

You’ll need to master the craft of the pre-infusion, which is similar to letting the coffee grounds bloom when you do a pour-over. You’ll also have to tamp the coffee grinds evenly to deliver consistent espresso quality.

Maintaining slow and consistent pressure for 25 to 30 seconds will yield a great espresso shot. You can quickly tell from the gauge how well you are doing. Once you perfect the extraction, you will pull full-bodied espressos with plenty of golden crema.

Choosing this time-tested brand means investing in high quality. If you have a large family or want a professional espresso maker in your office, this is the perfect espresso machine for you.

Pros
  • Large boiler capacity
  • Heats up quickly
  • Makes one or two espresso cups at a time
  • Built-in pressure gauge
  • Dual frothing
Cons
  • Needs to cool down before refilling the water
  • It may overheat when used continuously
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Rok Coffee Press GC

Rok Coffee Press GC Espresso Coffee Press - Black

Crafted from powder-coated cast aluminum, steel, and glass composite, the Rok Coffee Press GC is a lever machine built to last. It also has thoughtful touches like rubber legs to help keep the machine in place as you use it.

Using this human-powered espresso maker is straightforward and doesn’t require electricity. It’s a good option for camping trips, and it is relatively light, weighing only 4.95 pounds (2.245 kg).

This manual machine has no boiler, so you will need another way to get hot water. After adding ground coffee and hot water, you pull down the levers to extract coffee.

It takes 25 to 30 seconds to pull a quality shot of espresso. The pressure is on the low side, 5 to 10 bars. You, therefore, might not get crema on your first try making espresso, but it is possible as you refine your technique.

This straightforward manual espresso machine is designed to make a double shot of espresso by default. However, an attachable double spout can split the single shot into two cups.

While the Rok espresso maker does not have a steam wand, it can help you make a barista-grade Americano, cappuccino, flat white, or latte at home. You’ll have to get a handheld milk frother to froth the milk.

Pros
  • No electricity required
  • Compact size
  • Lightweight & portable
  • Made of sturdy metal alloy
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Has to be preheated
  • Can produce a single shot of espresso at a time
  • Water tends to lose temperature
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Cafelat Robot Barista Manual Lever Espresso Maker

Cafelat Robot Barista Manual Lever Espresso Maker

Cafelat based its Robot espresso maker design on the old Italian model Faema Baby. The Robot adds a cute and quirky personality to the mid-century modern aesthetic.

The Robot is a unique lever espresso machine that takes the best parts of the vintage design and adds some improvements. Like the Faema Baby, the Robot has two levers instead of one, making it easier to press down when brewing your coffee.

This manual espresso maker does not require electricity. Just add hot water (which you will need to heat separately), ground coffee beans, and press.

Other benefits of the Cafelat Robot include its oversized basket rather than a big brew chamber. It is a great solution, as you don’t need to preheat the machine for brewing. The main components of this espresso maker device are made of aluminum, while the filter baskets are made of stainless steel.

The Cafelat Robot can achieve the 9 bars of pressure required for extracting espresso, and it has a pressure gauge so you can see how close you are to that goal. However, some users find that the Robot makes better quality espresso with shots pulled at around 6 or 7 bars. In addition, this lever machine can produce thick crema if you know what you are doing.

To truly appreciate the Cafelat Robot design, you must see it in real life. This manual espresso maker is relatively small, so it will not take up a lot of space and look like a modern piece of art on any kitchen counter.

The only downside to the Robot is that it doesn’t have the feature of steaming milk. So making a cappuccino or latte at home would require using a separate milk frother.

Pros
  • No electricity required
  • Quirky design
  • Extremely sturdy stainless steel
  • Good water heat retention
  • Easy cleaning
Cons
  • Silicon gasket can wear out if it stays in the portafilter too long
  • Needs preheating when using lighter roast beans
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Flair Classic Espresso Maker

Flair Espresso Maker - Classic: All manual lever espresso maker for the home - portable and non-electric

The Flair Classic Espresso Maker is a sleek, hand-powered lever espresso machine that does not require electricity. It creates enough brewing pressure to mimic the top-of-the-line appliances and their techniques — at a fraction of the cost! Its lower price point makes good value for money. It is perfect when you prefer to start small if pulling espresso is a brand new skill for you.

Due to it being human-powered and relatively light (5 lbs, or 2.27 kg), the Flair espresso maker can be taken on a trip. It comes with a padded travel case designed just for that. However, you will need a way to heat the water separately.

To make espresso with the Flair machine, you need to insert the coffee into the portafilter. Then, you fill the water chamber, which sits above the coffee, with boiling water. Finally, pull the lever by forcing the water through the coffee grounds.

This action creates enough pressure to extract the coffee properly, producing a great-tasting shot of espresso. The Flair espresso maker reaches a pressure of 6 to 9 bars, which is a little low but should still be enough to get you a rich layer of crema on top.

The detachable brewing head makes cleaning this espresso maker a breeze. Just don’t forget to rinse it with water after each use. If you are worried about putting it back together afterward, you shouldn’t, as it is pretty easy to assemble.

The only shortcoming of the Flair Classic espresso maker is that it doesn’t come with a gauge for pressure monitoring like the more advanced models of the same brand. However, you can purchase it separately.

Pros
  • No electricity required
  • Delivers consistent results
  • Suitable for traveling
  • Easy cleaning
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Metal parts must be preheated
  • Makes a single shot of espresso at a time
  • Needs to cool down before brewing another shot

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La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola

La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola 8-Cup Lever Style Espresso Machine, Chrome

The La Pavoni Europiccola can brew one or two espresso shots at a time. It has a direct lever, which gives you complete control over the brewing process.

Europiccola uses electricity to heat its water tank. It holds enough to make 8 two-ounce shots of espresso. That way, you don’t have to preheat water or refill the tank for every use.

This lever espresso maker is built from durable materials, with brass boilers, stainless steel heating elements, and a triple-plated chrome base. La Pavoni Europiccola also features a safety valve and a water level gauge. However, unlike the more advanced models of La Pavoni, this one does not have a pressure gauge.

When you add your coffee into a portafilter, insert it into the group head and lock it in by turning to the left. Position your cup right under it and lift the lever. When you feel it catch, the water will go into the system. For a single shot, pull the lever once; for a double shot, pull it twice.

One of the best features of this machine is its commercial-grade stainless steel steam wand. It also comes with an additional automatic milk frother, which makes it easy to prepare excellent milk-based coffee, such as latte or cappuccino.

You must have a good espresso grinder when using this machine, as it will help you to achieve the best quality espresso with a decent amount of crema.

Pros
  • Sturdy all-steel construction
  • Makes one or two cups of espresso at a time
  • Built-in thermostat for monitoring water temperature
  • Comes with a cappuccino attachment
  • Perfect for home use
Cons
  • Does not have a pressure gauge
  • Requires electricity
  • Steep learning curve
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La Pavoni Esperto Edotto

La Pavoni Esperto, Edotto

La Pavoni Esperto Edotto is an elegant and unique high-end manual espresso maker. The state-of-art design features hand-crafted wooden handles and knobs, a chrome base, and a stainless steel finish.

Its electric boiler holds enough water to make up to 16 cups of espresso. The mounted gauge helps monitor and control the pressure during an extraction process. Of course, with a machine at this level, you don’t have to worry that you won’t get the 9 bars necessary for making espresso — but it’s nice to see what you are doing!

The Esperto Edotto machine allows the home barista to prepare the espresso you’d get in a specialty coffee shop. The machine’s settings allow you to decide whether you want to produce one or two espresso shots at a time. Either way, you will get thick espresso with plenty of crema. The unit also has a cappuccino attachment if you fancy a frothy cappuccino at home.

A unique attribute of the Esperto Edotto is the ability to use a bottomless portafilter, which allows you to look closely at the brewing process to diagnose the issues. This feature could be great for experienced users, but it is probably not the best manual espresso maker for a beginner.

While it is an investment, La Pavoni Esperto Edotto is worth the price if you want to enjoy cafe-quality espresso every morning without leaving your house. Your first few shots might be challenging as you discover how much pressure gets you the desired result. There is a steep learning curve, but if you’ve made it this far, you probably want more than just a basic cup of joe.

Pros
  • State-of-art design
  • Sturdy construction
  • Mounted pressure gauge
  • Group temperature indicator
  • Bottomless portafilter
  • 2 frothing systems
Cons
  • Requires electricity
  • Steep learning curve
  • Higher priced than other lever machines
Check Price on Amazon

With practice, you’ll learn what to adjust to get more crema and less bitterness — or vice versa, depending on your tastes. Of all the ways to brew espresso, a lever espresso maker would give you the most control over your shot.

Do you look at the descriptions of the best lever espresso machines and feel like they require too much work or sound too complicated? There’s no shame in admitting that something like a Keurig or Nespresso might be a better fit for you. Also, you may want to consider an AeroPress or a handheld portable espresso maker, even if you don’t plan to take it outside your home. After all, the best coffee maker for you is the one you’ll actually use!

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