- Updated Mar 26, 2020
- Writen by Robert Smith
7 Best Manual Espresso Machines (Spring Piston & Direct Lever)
- Updated Dec 14, 2018
- Writen by Robert Smith
The manual espresso machine or what many baristas and coffee lovers will also refer to as the lever espresso machine is the oldest high-pressure espresso machine, and it has been in use for more than half a century.
With the best manual espresso machine, you always get a more hands-on approach to making your favorite brews.
But, what many baristas and coffee sommeliers love most about these machines is that they allow you to have complete control over the brewing process. And so you can easily tweak every minute detail to ensure that the brew always suits your preferences.
Also, manual espresso machines will allow you to appreciate the art and skill involved in making espresso which is something that is missing on the automatic models that only require you to push a button to make your espresso, latte or cappuccino.
The classic aesthetics of these machines also means that they will look good in your kitchen or anywhere else you place them, and they will always be an attention grabber for your guests.
There are many other benefits that come with a manual espresso machine, but to get them, you need to choose a good model. With our 7 manual espresso machine reviews and handy buying guide below, this should be easy.
7 Best Manual Espresso Machines – Reviews
1. La Pavoni PPG-16 (The Sleek Looker and High-Performer)
2. Flair 4335463425 (A Great Choice When Shopping on a Tight Budget)
3. Rok ROKMAKER (Top-Quality Hands-On Manual Espresso Maker)
4. Quickmill 980 (For High Capacity and Faster Brewing)
5. La Pavoni EPC-8 (Stylish and Built to Last)
6. La Pavoni PC-16 (A Top Brand Product That you Can Trust)
7. Elektra ART-S1 (For the Everyday Espresso Drinker)
1. La Pavoni PPG-16
(The Sleek Looker and High-Performer)
2. Flair 4335463425
(A Great Choice When Shopping on a Tight Budget)
3. Rok ROKMAKER
(Top-Quality Hands-On Manual Espresso Maker)
4. Quickmill 980
(For High Capacity and Faster Brewing)
5. La Pavoni EPC-8
(Stylish and Built to Last)
6. La Pavoni PC-16
(A Top Brand Product That you Can Trust)
7. Elektra ART-S1
(For the Everyday Espresso Drinker)
1. La Pavoni PPG-16 – The Sleek Looker and High-Performer
- Water Tank: 38 ounces
- Material: Brass
- Dimensions: 16.2" x 4.5" x 12"
- Weight: 17 pounds
The sleek looking PPG-16 espresso machine model by La Pavoni is the kind of appliance that will always draw the attention of anyone that comes into your home.
But, besides the appealing finish, this is also a high-performing spring piston espresso machine that will make some great tasting brews.
The coffee maker has a 38-ounce solid brass boiler that is designed to provide fast heat up to ensure that it will be ready to use in just a few minutes. And it also uses a steam-pressure piston for easier and more efficient shot pulling.
With the dual frothing system on this coffee machine, it is also designed to be more versatile because besides your typical espresso shots, you can also use it to make cappuccinos and flavorful lattes.
Like most other pump-less manual espresso machines, it also delivers a quiet operation, and it has a highly durable overall construction for a longer service life.
Although it is one of the priciest models in our list, for a manual espresso machine, it is still quite affordable. And this is more so when compared to similar size ones from other top brands.
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2. Flair 4335463425 – A Great Choice When Shopping on a Tight Budget
- Water Tank: 60 ml
- Material: Aluminum/stainless steel
- Dimensions: 12" x 6" x 10"
- Weight: 5 pounds
Being the cheapest model in our manual espresso machine reviews, this Flair product is the best choice for coffee lovers shopping on a tight budget as it is hard to get anything cheaper that makes similar or better espresso quality.
Despite its affordable price tag, this is also a well-built machine that features an aluminum press stand and stainless steel brewing head.
Also, the brew head is designed to be detachable for easy heat up and clean up to make this an even more convenient coffee maker. And when compared to other manual espresso machines, it is also relatively easier to use.
This top rated manual espresso machine is also made to be lightweight, fun to use and highly portable, and it will also come with a free custom travel case for easy transportation.
Because this machine produces only one espresso shot at a time and has a small brew head, it might not be ideal for making a lot of coffee, but it should still be enough for one or a couple of people.
3. Rok ROKMAKER – Top-Quality Hands-On Manual Espresso Maker
- Water Tank: N/A
- Material: Stainless steel
- Dimensions: 12.2" x 8" x 10.5"
- Weight: 7 pounds
Few other espresso machines will give you a more hands-on approach to making espressos than this one by Rok. Hence, if you are one of those espresso enthusiasts that like having more control over the brewing process, this machine will impress you.
And it is also designed to be lightweight and to take up little space in your counter and with a reusable storage bin for easy transportation. There are also non slip legs to protect the counter surface and prevent sliding.
The polished metal frame makes this a highly durable machine designed to for many years of service, and everything else including the portafilter, splitter, and stainless steel manual milk frother is also designed to last long.
This espresso maker does not take a lot of effort to use and pulling a short should also be a relatively quick process and without using any electricity.
The included instructions are not very useful for beginners, but because this is not a complicated machine, this should not be a deal breaker.
4. Quickmill 980 – For High Capacity and Faster Brewing
- Water Tank: 3 liters
- Material: Stainless steel
- Dimensions: 138" x 210" x 189"
- Weight: 55 pounds
It is always great to have an espresso machine that can make lots of coffee and do it relatively faster, and this is more so if you will be making coffee for more than one person. This premium model by Quickmill is a great example of one such machine.
It is also a highly durable model, and it features a stainless steel construction and a high wattage pump that is not only high-performing but also produces less noise.
There is also a second magnetic sensor designed to make things more convenient as you can easily tell when it is time to refill before the tank runs out of water completely. And the boiler is designed for easy access when you need to empty it.
This is a relatively pricier espresso machine when compared to others on our list, and it will also take a lot of counter space, but given its performance and quality of coffee, it is still worth buying.
5. La Pavoni EPC-8 – Stylish and Built to Last
- Water Tank: 20 ounces
- Material: Steel
- Dimensions: 11" x 7" x 12"
- Weight: 14 pounds
La Pavoni makes their high-performing EPC-8 for coffee lovers looking for the best home manual espresso machine. But, it is also a stylish machine with a sleek and retro look and a polished finish.
This coffee machine is built to last for many years thanks to its all-steel construction with heavy chrome plating.
You can use it to make one or two cups of espresso at a go, and it also includes an automatic milk foamer to allow you to make other beverages like lattes and cappuccinos.
Monitoring the brewing process is also made easier by the built-in thermostats, and this machine is also designed to provide hands-on and easy-to-use lever and piston operation.
Cleanups should be quick and easy after brewing as there is also a removable drip tray. And with the removable water tank, stainless steel filter baskets and measuring spoon this will be an even easier and more convenient espresso machine.
When compared to other top espresso machines, this model seems to take longer to heat up and the water reservoir is relatively smaller. However, for a manual espresso maker, it still works pretty well and gives you enough control over the brewing process.
6. La Pavoni PC-16 – A Top Brand Product That you Can Trust
- Water Tank: 38 ounces
- Material: Chrome
- Dimensions: 16.1" x 14.6" x 9.8"
- Weight: 14 pounds
You can always trust La Pavoni to have a good manual espresso machine for you as they are one of the top brands and most trusted coffee machine manufacturers.
The quality and performance of their 38-ounce model PC-16 show why many baristas and coffee enthusiasts across the globe trust their products.
This professional-style espresso machine is designed to be easy to use and to provide a more hands-on lever and piston operation which is just what you want on a manual coffee maker.
Also, it has a great steaming mechanism that will help you make other great tasting brews like cappuccinos, and when compared to other manual models, it is relatively faster and more reliable and consistent.
Although the base is made of plastic, it is still quite sturdy and should keep the machine in place when pulling a shot.
7. Elektra ART-S1 – For the Everyday Espresso Drinker
- Water Tank: 61 ounces
- Material: Chrome/brass
- Dimensions: 22" x 10" x 10"
- Weight: 25 pounds
Elektra is another highly reputable coffee machine manufacturer that makes some amazing manual espresso machines like the Microcasa which is designed to be easy to use and to offer relatively faster brewing for the daily espresso drinkers.
Its 61-ounce water tank capacity is one of the largest in our manual espresso machine reviews, and it will ensure you make several cups before you have to refill it.
Also, there is a convenient water level sight glass to make it easy to monitor the water level and a pressure gauge that will show you the steam pressure so that you can know the perfect time for extraction.
This is also well-built chrome and brass espresso machine with an attractive finish, sturdy base and comfortable Bakelite handle for easy operation.
Quality of the included plastic tamper is a little wanting, but this is not a significant drawback as you can easily and cheaply replace it.
Manual vs. Automatic Espresso Machines
One of the most common debates among coffee lovers when it comes to choosing an espresso machine is whether to go for the classic manual ones or the more advanced automatic models.
While the decision ultimately rests on your budget and preferences, understanding what both have to offer and their pros and cons will ensure that you always make a more informed choice.
1. Manual Espresso Machine
Manual espresso machines offer the original way of making espresso, and this is why they are still the preferred machines by traditionalists and professional baristas.
As the name suggests, these machines will require you to put in some work when making coffee as the process is more manual. They will use either a direct lever or piston lever to push the steam through the coffee grinds to make the espresso.
These machines allow you to control every part of the brewing process, and so you can easily tweak the espresso strength, taste, and temperature to suit your preferences.
But, this also means that you can easily ruin it if you do not know what you are doing. This is unlike an automatic machine where you can almost be sure of getting consistent brews every time.
Manual espresso machines are also very appealing aesthetically, and in most cases, they are almost as decorative as they are functional.
Although the brewing process can be cumbersome and exhausting, these machines will produce some of the best tasting espressos once you master how to use them.
2. Automatic Espresso Machine
The coming of the automatic espresso machines is one of the main reasons why the popularity of the traditional manual ones has dipped tremendously.
These machines are designed to make espresso brewing an easy and quick process as in most instances all it takes is a single push of a button and you will have a nice hot espresso in seconds.
Unlike the manual espresso machines, the automatic ones make everything automatic including the delivery of water for brewing. While this makes things easier for you, it takes more control off your hands which can be a big deal if you like your espresso in a very particular way.
With an automatic machine, making espresso takes less effort and you can always be confident of getting consistent results.
But, these are not very customizable espresso machines, and the presence of many electronic parts makes them more prone to damages and also means they need more maintenance.
Buying Advice: If you are a traditionalist coffee lover looking for a classic machine that gives you more control over the brewing and also produces high-quality and great tasting brews, the manual espresso machine is your best pick. However, if you want something more user-friendly for making a quick cup of espresso in the morning, an automatic machine is the better option.
How to Buy the Best Manual Espresso Machines
The popularity of the manual espresso machine might have dipped significantly over the years, but there are still many coffee lovers that love them. What this means is that there are numerous models in the market from most top coffee machine brands brands like La Pavoni, Rok and Elektra.
With these many options, you need to know how to choose one that suits your needs or works well for you. However, this should not be a tedious task as you only need to consider the points below when shopping.
1. Types of Manual Espresso Machines
Before you think of anything else, you will first need to decide on the best manual espresso machine type for you. Here you will need to choose between two subclasses which are spring piston lever machines and direct lever machines.
Spring Piston Machine
A spring piston machine operates by having an internal spring that pushes water through the coffee grinds at a particular pressure. When using these machines, it is the user that has to compress the spring into the starting position using a lever.
Once you let go of the lever, the spring then does the actual job which is pushing water through the ground coffee. With the spring piston machines, there is often a boiler that will run at steaming temperatures for concurrent shot pulling and milk steaming.
The upward pointing resting position of the lever is one of the distinctive elements that you can use to recognize it. Although the spring does a significant portion of the physical work, these are still very manual espresso machines.
Direct Lever Machine
Direct lever espresso machines are quite similar to the spring piston machines in how they work with the only significant difference being that they do not have a spring.
Because they will not have a spring, the resting position of the lever will be downward. With a direct lever machine, you will be the one to apply pressure to the water. And to do this, you will need to push down on the lever to brew the espresso shot.
Direct lever machines are as hands-on as it can get, and you will need a lot of practice to master the brewing process.
Also, take note that with these machines, the pressure you apply will depend on the type of coffee beans you are using, their coarseness and also other things like the accuracy of your tamp and the espresso machine you are using.
The most exciting part of using direct lever machine is just how much there is to learn and the personal touch or control you get over the brewing process.
Buying Advice: A spring piston machine is your best choice when you want something relatively easier to use with a shorter learning curve. But, if you want a truly manual espresso machine and do not mind the steep learning curve, a direct lever machine is what you need.
2. Water Tank
The size of the water tank determines the amount of coffee or the number of cups you can make before you have to refill it.
Like with all other types of coffee makers, the larger the water tank on the manual espresso the better it will be as it will require less frequent refills.
With most of these machines, something with at least a 20-ounce water tanks should be good enough. But, if you intend to make more espressos at a go, something larger like Elektra's model ART-S1 will be more appropriate.
The ease of refilling and cleaning the water tank on your manual espresso machine also mater a lot, and so it is also important to take them into account. Removable water tanks are the easiest to clean and refill.
Manual espresso machines are some of the priciest, and so you cannot afford to choose something substandard as it will not give you value for your cash.
To ensure that your machine serves you for many years, it is important to make sure that you choose something made from a heavy gauge metal.
Sturdy all-steel materials with chrome plating are some of the best options as they are tough and highly resistant to corrosion and rusting.
But, stainless steel also makes some amazing and highly durable manual espresso machine. However, even as you choose the material, it is important to make sure that whatever you pick is not too heavy and hard to move.
4. Size and Design
There is no right or wrong size when it comes to choosing the best lever espresso machines as it is all about your personal preferences and budget.
However, it is important to make sure that the size is ideal for the counter space that you have or anywhere else you might want to place it. Also, a good espresso machine should not be too bulky and hard to move but should still have enough weight to keep the base stable when being used.
When it comes to the design, you need to look for something with a classic and aesthetically appealing look and a sleek finish. Luckily, top brands like LaPavoni and Elektra alwayss pay a lot of attention to how their machines look.
5. Ease of Use and Cleaning
The ease of use and cleaning your manual espresso machine will determine how convenient it will be to have around.
Manual espresso machines are typically harder to use than other types like the automatic and super automatic ones, but the ease of use will vary from one model to the other.
The design of the lever and other things like the ease of refilling the tanks and setting up the entire machine will determine the ease of use.
For cleaning, models with removable tanks are the easiest to clean. However, those that come with detailed and easy to follow cleaning directions will also give you an easier time.
For the coffee lovers that want to have maximum control over the brewing process and some high-quality and flavorful espressos, the manual espresso machines are the best choice.
However, like with any other coffee makers, you still need to choose the best manual espresso machine from the numerous options by considering factors like the types, water tank, and material.
Choosing a model that suits you should even be easier with our top 7 reviews above. But, note that with most of these machines there is often a learning curve before you can master how to make rich and flavorful espressos.