If you want to make great espresso at home, you have many options, including both manual and lever-based espresso machines.
A semi-automatic espresso machine, on the other hand, allows you to take more control over the brewing process, but at the cost of some of the convenience offered by espresso machines with built-in grinders.
You have other options, too. Some latte and cappuccino makers also make great espresso.
Of all the options at your disposal when it comes to home espresso machines, none offer you the level of control you can achieve using a lever based espresso machine. When it comes to portability, no other options can compete with a manual espresso maker.
Today, then, we’ll be combining these with our guide to the best manual and lever espresso machines on the market.
Before you explore our reviews, focus on the following pointers to ensure you get the right solution.
If you bear these elements in mind, you should have no problem finding the best manual and lever espresso machine from our curated selection below.
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The 8 Best Manual and Lever Espresso Machines
1. Our #1 Pick:Flair Classic Espresso Maker
First in line and our overall favorite in today’s collection of the best manual and lever espresso machines comes from Flair.
This is one of the most portable espresso-making solutions on our shortlist today, making the perfect travel companion to ensure you’ll never miss out on your favorite morning shot. You even get a carrying case bundled.
Unlike many manual presses, the Flair Classic gives you enough pressure to get an authentic shot of espresso. You can generate more than 9 bars of pressure by pressing the lever of this unit, ample for a shot of espresso as the Italians intended.
Thanks to the detachable brewing head, this is one of the easiest manual espresso makers to clean, removing one of the main bugbears of using a manual press.
As long as you don’t mind putting in a little physical effort – and it really is only a little bit – you’ll be rewarded by one of the only methods of making genuine espresso without relying on electricity or battery power.
Backed by a 3-year limited warranty, the Flair Classic is not a cheap manual espresso machine, but it’s undoubtedly among the very best. Made from stainless steel and cast iron, you should get years of faithful service from this manual espresso press.
2. AEROPRESS Coffee and Espresso Maker
Next in line is the AEROPRESS, a pioneering total immersion brewing system, but what do you get for your money?
Firstly, you do not get authentic espresso from the AEROPRESS, even though the resulting coffee is rich and intense. To extract a proper espresso, you need at least 6 bars of pressure, and this is not achievable here.
This model operates on a similar principle to the French press, but you get an accelerated brewing time, meaning you won’t need to wait around for a full 5 minutes. As well as saving you time, this rapid immersion brewing gives you coffee free of bitterness.
The AREOPRESS can deliver up to 3 cups of joe in sixty seconds flat, outperforming many coffee machines in this regard.
The paper microfilters included cut down on mess and cleanup while preventing any sediment from making its way into your cup. You get 350 of these thrown in with the AEROPRESS to keep you going for a few months.
With a lightweight and compact form factor, this manual coffee press is ideal for use camping, boating, or hiking, giving you top-notch coffee on the go without needing to rely on electricity or battery power. All you’ll need is some hot water and coffee grinds and you’re away.
As long as you accept that you won’t be getting pressurized water for espresso with this unit, you won’t be disappointed at the quality of the coffee it generates.
3. Wacaco Minipresso Portable Espresso Maker
The Wacaco Minipresso makes a great gift idea for any coffee lovers in your life. The problem is, you’ll need to resist the temptation to keep it for yourself!
This is a complete handheld espresso maker, requiring no batteries and no electricity to deliver gourmet coffee on the go.
The first thing to point out about the Minipresso is that it works better for occasional use than when hammered daily. Several users report build quality issues developing after periods of sustained use.
The lightweight plastic unit is perfect for hiking or camping, but the overall feel is pleasingly solid.
Using this thing couldn’t be easier. Load in your pre-ground coffee using the scoop provided. For best results, always grind your coffee directly before brewing. Beans degrade quickly after grinding, so grinding before brewing gives you maximum freshness.
With your coffee grinds inside, applying gentle pressure tamps the grinds, leaving you to add some hot water to the tank – between 190F and 196F is optimum for espresso – and then pump the piston to enjoy authentic espresso on the go.
This model has a complementary range of accessories, so explore the manufacturer’s website for more details on how to get the very most out of your Wacaco Minipresso.
4. Staresso Portable Espresso Machine
Not all portable manual espresso makers manage to deliver enough pressure for an authentic espresso, so how does the Staresso shape up?
Well, you need to keep your expectations reasonable. You start by loading in only half the amount of coffee grounds you would use in a portafilter, so you won’t be getting the strongest shots.
The pressure valve baked in is supposed to achieve 15 bars of pressure, ample for great espresso.
Another key draw of this manual espresso machine is the fact you can get a thick crema on your drinks, meaning you’ll get a close approximation of a genuine espresso without needing a machine.
In addition to allowing you to make a reasonable facsimile of an espresso, you can also create milk foam with this unit. You can then use your espresso as the base for longer and creamier coffees when you feel like something different.
Overall build is solid with 304 stainless steel meaning this manual coffee maker can withstand some rough and tumble. Some plastic parts around the pressure-valve are the weak point on this model.
While manual espresso makers won’t give you the same results as you get using a traditional semi-automatic espresso machine, you won’t get the same stiff price tag either. Beyond that, the portable nature of the Staresso lets you enjoy great coffee on the go.
5. La Pavoni Professional Espresso Machine
Having highlighted several outstanding manual espresso makers, we’ll switch our focus to lever espresso machines. As outlined above, these hands-on machines promise a highly flexible approach to racking up first-class espresso.
La Pavoni machines are all pretty pricey, but you won’t be complaining about value for money if you choose to invest in one of their impressive line.
The PC-16 Professional is the perfect addition to any home kitchen, and it wouldn’t be out of place in a small commercial premises either. The commanding lines and stainless steel finish, not to mention the ostentatious lever, ensure the machine makes a statement wherever it stands.
If you’re put off buying a lever-based machine due to the perceived learning curve, La Pavoni anticipates this and provides a detailed instructional video. This helps you to see the machine in action and shows you the relative ease with which you can make top-tier espresso at home.
Not only can you make exceptional short shots, but the steam system also lends to lip-smacking cappuccino if you prefer longer, creamier coffees.
Despite the complicated looks of this machine, you’ll find it reassuringly easy to keep clean, and it requires very little by the way of upkeep.
Buying into La Pavoni’s line of coffee machines isn’t ever cheap, but this model is one of the more affordable models, and you’ll be getting the perfect solution for hands-on espresso and cappuccino at home.
6. Elektra Microcasa a Leva Espresso Machine
Elektra make some highly effective lever-based espresso machines that are not cheap but not quite in the stratosphere of the upper-range La Pavoni machines.
As with all lever-based machines, you’re benefiting from a visually striking addition to your kitchen if you choose to take on the challenge.
By the standards of lever espresso machines, the Elektra is straightforward to use. There is, of course, a slight learning curve to master, but that’s all part of the fun. Once you are up and running, you’ll exercise full control over the brewing process, impressing any guests who see you playing barista with panache.
You can see the water level at a glance, and there is also a handy pressure gauge on the Elektra, enabling you to keep the water pressurized to the optimum 6 bars great espresso calls for.
Under the hood, you get a rugged brass boiler that delivers dry steam for microfoam to die for.
As long as you don’t object to rolling up your sleeves and getting to grips with a new skill, you’ll be rewarded with a hands-on approach to brewing and the best espresso you have tried outside of a coffee shop.
7. La Pavoni EPC-8 8-Cup Lever-Style Espresso Machine
As you can see by now, La Pavoni has a stranglehold on the lever espresso machine vertical due to the sheer quality of their appliances.
Like all coffee machines from this upscale brand, the EPC-8 looks great on the kitchen counter, with an expanse of shiny stainless steel and that large, bold lever that draws the eye in.
This machine provides a great meeting point of capacity and form factor. The space-saving dimensions mean you can slot this machine in a crowded kitchen, while the 8-cup capacity makes it a great family machine.
You get a generous bunch of accessories included from a tamper and ladle through to a screen and screen holder. You also get a cappuccino attachment bundled so you can enjoy longer and frothier coffees when it gets too late in the day for espresso.
La Pavoni caters for beginners to the art of espresso making with a detailed video showing you how to get the most from your new espresso machine. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the EPC-8 and you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the switch to a lever espresso machine ages ago. Let us know how you get on if you treat yourself to this La Pavoni.
8. La Pavoni ESPCO-16 Espresso Machine
We saved the best for last in today’s showcase of the best manual and lever espresso machines with yet another offering from the inimitable La Pavoni.
The two-tone finish gives you brass and copper along with a contrasting rosewood for an elegant and elaborate coffee machine to grace any kitchen or coffee shop.
While ideal for home use, you could easily roll this machine out in a small commercial outlet, too. This is a pro-grade unit throughout.
A pair of frothing systems onboard ensure you can enjoy longer coffees as well as you favorite short shots. You also get just the right pressure for authentic espresso, with a gauge built in so you can monitor this at a glance.
The generous boiler allows you to pour up to 16 shots of espresso before you need to top the machine up.
While you’ll need to spend a little time initially learning how to use this machine, experimenting is all part of the fun. In next to no time, you’ll have all the variables dialed in for your perfect golden cup of coffee and a top-notch espresso.
1) What is a manual espresso maker?
Any form of manual espresso maker gives you much more control than you can achieve using a super-automatic or a semi-automatic. From grinding and tamping to pressure and extraction, you take charge of all aspects of the brewing process when you use a manual espresso machine. Only you know whether this level of control is something you would appreciate, or whether you prefer the lure of push-button ease.
2) How do you get pressure from a manual press?
All you do is pull a lever and this forces the hot water through your coffee grinds at the 6 bars of pressure ideal for authentic espresso.
3) What are the best coffee beans for espresso?
Dark roasts have always been the industry-standard for espresso, but you will also find that medium roasts work well. While you can find beans marked as espresso beans, espresso refers to a brewing method rather than beans. Be prepared to experiment until you stumble on your perfect coffee beans. It is vital to store your coffee beans correctly, and you should grind right before brewing for maximum freshness.
4) What grind size do I need for espresso?
You need a fine grind for espresso. The consistency should be less coarse than the medium consistency you would want for drip coffee, but not as powdery as you use for Turkish coffee.
5) Does it matter what type of grinder I buy?
Yes. Super-automatic machines come with integrated coffee grinders, but if you are opting for a manual or lever espresso machine, you’ll need to think about a third-party grinder. Blade grinders might be cheap but they cause too much heat and too much friction, damaging the coffee beans. Use a conical burr grinder instead for optimum efficiency.
6) How much pressure is required to make authentic espresso?
9 bars of pressure will return an authentic shot of espresso. Most of the manual espresso makers we review can achieve this, and all of the lever espresso machine, too.
7) Are manual espresso makers difficult to clean?
You should look for espresso makers with removable brew heads if you don’t want a tasky time cleaning up. The straight-up manual espresso makers we review are even easier to keep clean. As with all equipment, if you clean your espresso maker after every use, you should never end up with a big job.
8) Can I only make espresso with a manual espresso maker?
The lever espresso machines we review today allow you to create steam so you can enjoy latte and cappuccino as well as espresso. The benefit of making longer and creamier coffees with an espresso machine, of course, is that you can take advantage of the perfect short shot as the base for your long coffees. You could use a manual espresso maker for this purpose, too, but you will need to consider a manual milk frother if you fancy a frothy and foamy coffee.
We trust today’s exploration of the best manual and lever espresso machines has given you plenty of options for barista-grade coffee from the comfort of home.
There is no right or wrong when you’re choosing a coffee machine, and you should stick to your own needs rather than getting the same machine as a friend.