Most of us don't get to operate much manual machinery - the Pavoni Pro provides the opportunity - an opportunity to learn, enjoy and produce some pretty good espresso.
Positive Product Points
A quirky functional Italian work of art – bit like an Alfa Romeo, only it works very well. It’s made for those with a sense of humour, plenty of time to practice, a love for the ritual, learning and understanding an art to produce the end product – a perfect Espresso. And if you like you can buy all the spare parts and fix it yourself.
If you really want one of these (and you really have to want it) first go out and learn to juggle. Why you ask? Well it’s simple really. They both take around the same time to master and when you do learn both arts you’ll understand my reasoning. Both are also pretty good fun… and it’ll impress your friends…if you have any left.
Negative Product Points
Bad workmen always blame their tools – and there are 1001 excuses if you fail with this machine. It’s too light, gets too hot, the tray is plastic, the angle of the foaming arm is wrong, it's Italian, the lever is loose, the baskets are too small... you need 15 hands to operate it, a degree in thermo-nuclear physics and a 6 year apprenticeship to Louigi the Barista who lives with his goat in a secret yet to be found location, in a small mountain village just north of Milan. I will concede that the tamper is hopeless and as for the single filter basket????
If you just can’t be doing with a learning curve and simply want the end product buy a Nespresso machine (had one for years and it was excellent).
You know you’re on to a winner when you say I want one of those and the shop salespeople give you a funny look. “.....No Sir, surely you want something a little more convenient, with a consistent electric pump… those lever thingies look great but …and the price. How about a nice jar of Nescafe….”
Well I wasn’t going to be put off. Having just reached 40 I wanted to live dangerously, so despite the advice I opted for the Pavoni Pro.
Just because someone tells you something is going to be difficult doesn’t mean you quite understand how difficult. Actually, learning to make a reasonable espresso isn’t that difficult - making a really exceptional one consistently is.
You can read 101 sites but the best advice I got is to learn through experience. I’d never made a manual Espresso in my life before but after around 6 hours of practice over two weeks (yes obsessive, compulsive disorders can come in useful) I’m pretty consistent.
Based on my experience here’s my Do’s (don't do dont's - too negative):
- Buy good quality coffee. First off however pick your favourite coffee house and buy the coffee they use. That way you can compare the result you get with the objective being to better what they give you from the same beans. Believe me it is possible but be prepared to get through a couple of kilos first.
- Buy a decent burr grinder and grind relatively fine. Mine’s a Rocky and I’m grinding at between 6 and 10 points from where blades touch.
- Do buy a decent (52mm for the new grouphead) tamper and tamp at a repeatable pressure. Mine's around 25lb - yes I got the scales out.
- Do buy a measuring glass so you can see what you are doing. Tose nice mouse tails and caramel liquid is what you're looking for.
- Do use the double filter basket for doubles or singles & measure the quantity of coffee and adjust to taste.
- Do pre-heat everything and let some steam out to balance the boiler....don't ask???
- Do (when you first start) have a watch nearby to measure the timings ie 10 second infusion, 20-30 seconds pull time. Don't worry if the coffee doesn't start dripping before you start the pull.
- Do pull up the lever just below the point of waterfill before fitting the filter – it really isn’t that hard and keeps the tamped coffee …..err tamped.
- Do ensure that the group head has enough time to fill (a few short pumps until the lever feels stiff tends to work for me).
- Do wait to fill the group head until after the water heating stops – you’ll hear it.
- Do let the pressure dissipate before releasing the filter holder carefully unless you like that new coffee look all over you, the kitchen ceiling.....
- Do clean the shower head after every use.
- Do let the machine cool down by switching off after making 2 coffees. It's true, it's a two coffee wonder. Burnt crema after that. 4-5 minute cool off and it's good as...
- Do ensure that when you pull the lever the pressure is consistent from start to finish – around 15lb’s of pressure. Believe me it is possible – just practice to get to this stage without worrying too much about the taste of the coffee, particularly as the machine will start to burn the grinds when you practice the pull 10 times in a row. Once you have the tamp consistent adjust the grind accordingly. You should not need a 30lb pull as some will tell you.
- Do throw away any Espresso's you don't like the look of.
- Do burn yourself a couple of times on all the exposed chrome. After all experience is something you get just after you need it.
- Do use the standard frother (not the auto thingy) - it's great with a bit of practice.
- Do explain to me how to effectively pull anything more than a single. Double pulls of the lever just don’t work for me.
- Do keep at it and enjoy the challenge – you will get there in the end - just like the juggling.
- Do remember that when you're learning to juggle the wife and kids will understand - they may even join in and celebrate the experience. This may not be the case when you're spending every spare moment in the kitchen like a demented scientist seeking to answer the quest for alchemy, whilst covering the kitchen in a brown mud. Flowers for the wife and chocolate for the kids sort of worked for me.....ok and a a new handbag.....
- Do remember that there is a life beyond coffee and try to get out more.
Via ebay went to OE Components direct (http://www.myespresso.co.uk/shop/). Did look at all of the Italian Oulets but did not have the courage to buy from them. You need to have someone you can talk to on a product that is this complex. – if only for a bit of handholding. OE were very helpful.
Ok so it's a bit more than 3 months but I've been too busy making coffee and this remains one of the best and most fun, functional toys I've ever bought.. Every time I use it I enjoy the experience and despite the fact that I still get it wrong on occasion I'm generally able to produce perfect espresso's. I've even learned to overcome the overheating problems by adjusting the grind which means the coffee doesn't burn when I make multiple cups. One minor flaw is the plastic thingy that surrounds the water level measure tube - it's melting but it's easy and cheap to replace and to be honest it's part of the charm.