Looking at the La Pavoni Professional, almost everyone likes it. They like the look, they like the symbol it presents, they like the highly technical example of polished, shiny machinery.
Using the La Pavoni Professional is a bit different. Some love it, and some hate it - I found there was very little middle ground in this arena. I also found that women tended to have a more difficult time with the machine than men did. I don't think it has to do with work expended, or guys being stronger than girls, per se - I think it has to do with the "angle of attack" you have to take with the Professional - it is more suited for a taller person.
For me personally, this was an excellent experience, and using a lever machine so extensively for the first time in my life had me actually wanting... wanting to change my espresso progression somewhat. I think if I had purchased a lever machine instead of a semi automatic many years ago, I probably would appreciate espresso even more today. I was absolutely enthralled with the hands on, "you are one with the machine" approach of the Professional, and my dedication to using the machine saw serious improvement in my espresso during the test period.
I do recognize that for a lot of people, even serious espresso enthusiasts, this is not the ideal machine. Multiple shots are a difficult proposition, and the relatively small amount of coffee grounds you can use in the small baskets gives you shorter coffee volumes (or you sacrifice some body and fullness if you pull the same volumes a 58mm commercial double basket would give you). And you have to pay attention to what you're doing with this machine - the smallest variance in grind, tamp, or pull can affect your shot quality. For many, these are tradeoffs they aren't willing to make.
Normally I would post some ratings on this page for the product I'm reviewing. In this case, I hesitant to do so, mainly because I don't have much to compare it to. I could rate it against the Elektra (and the Elektra Micro Casa a Leva would score higher), but it's not entirely fair because they are different machines using a different method to produce espresso - the Elektra uses a spring; the Pavoni uses you.
Still, ratings were promised, so here are mine. They are based on the things I could directly compare - ease of use, shot quality, materials used, steaming ability, value for money, and product desirability. I scored a 10 for the top performer in each category, then based the other numbers in that category on the relative performance to the high scoring machine.
|Micro Casa||La Pavoni||SL-70||Livia|
|Ease of Use||7.5||7.2||8.5||10.0|
|Value for Money||7.5||7.5||10.0||8.0|
Would I recommend a La Pavoni Professional? I certainly would, if you're a person ready and willing to roll up your sleeves, practice for months, and hone and perfect your skill with the machine. You'd also have to give up some niceties you get from traditional pump machines. If you're up for that, you'll love owning this machine.
Two months with the La Pavoni is simply not enough time, I think. Like any craftsman tool, you get better the more you use it, the more you practice, and the more you experience. I was very fortunate that on a recent trip to Seattle, I was served shots pulled from a six year old La Pavoni Professional by a guy who is so in tune with his machine, it left my own experience feeling completely inadequate. And it was an amazing shot of espresso. From a single basket no less!