Fantastic machine, great espresso, and a touch of class too.
Positive Product Points
What a machine. Enables one to pull a beautiful, and delicious shot of espresso. After an initial "break in" period for the operator (not the machine,) pulling impressive shots with a rich crema is easy. Great steaming accessories (the auto-cap works well) as does the wand.
Negative Product Points
Light base could use some weighting down to make operation easier. The bulk of its weight is in the boiler so the machine tends to tip back. The double filter makes about only 1.5 shots worth, but with a carefully timed "half pull" it is easy to get the 2 oz. for a delectable double. My pressure-stat was set to 1.1 which is too hot for espresso (about 208 degrees.) Junk tamper is included. Not for a beginner.
La Pavoni Professionals are beautiful and functional machines. However like any other "from scratch" cooking technique it takes time to develop the skills and master the machine. Don't be intimidated by it. It is not difficult, and if you buy a can of Lavazza (which is a decent grind, a little on the course side though,) one can easily master the tamping portion of the preparation. With Lavazza espresso, it takes a good firm press to properly tamp; the resulting lever pull is almost but not quite equal in force and will be very smooth (no straining allowed) and will start rich flow enhanced with crema. Then you can make the move to grind your own beans and match the fineness to your tamping technique. My Pavoni Pro was an "Ebay" purchase that turned out to be a great buy. It is a 3-year-old machine for which I paid less than half of the cost of a new one. I found the service provided by Forzano Importers to be outstanding. They shipped me new gaskets, and a schematic for service (since it is out of warranty and there are no repair spots in Maine.) They talked me through a quick "readjustment of the pressure-stat to top it out at around .8-.9. Now even the 6th shot is as good as the first. I also discovered that by plunking down about 2 pounds of lead weights inside the base and just forward of the drip tray hollow-out, the balance was remarkably improved. I will say though, that even out of the box, with no tweaking, it made great espresso, but the adjustments are easy and the machine is durable such that any service makes its product that much better. It is a simple piece of machinery whose form follows its function. Using the double filter with a single firm pull yields a not quite double shot (closer in form to a double ristretto.) By allowing a good "pre-drip" and pulling the handle to the horizontal, pushing up and then resuming the pull I made a full double espresso with no sour character and a still remarkable crema. I advise against a full two stroke pull however, as this will guarantee over-extraction and the resulting "lungo" is to thin for my taste. My wife recently began using it and has given up using our old Krups Novo. The quality of shot from the Novo varied from Ok to decent. With most being ok. The Pavoni will give you some poor excuses for espresso as you learn the machine. But after a little practice it will yield shots that far exceed that which can be obtained by a home pump system. The purchase of a second filter basket (double of course,) enabled me to pull multiple shots in very quick succession. If you are in need of a durable tamper (but want to stay in the sub $20 range, the Starbucks tamper (without the attached spoon) works like a custom designed tamper. Overall it is an outstanding product, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys not just coffee but the art of preparation and the resulting gastronomic euphoria that only results from the intimation of skill from the creator though his tools to his art. I would also like to reiterate that caution that others have posted about it being a "hot" one...it can and will burn you if you let it. Consequently, and with a little common sense, one should not let children use it unattended (however if your 4 year old is a budding barista...)
An ebay purchase, buy only from a reputable seller, it is not a good idea to buy blindly.
Three Month Followup
La Pavoni has surpassed my expectations. Having hooked myself on an espresso habit, I recently purchased a Rancilio Rocky grinder. The addition of well ground (consistent quality) coffee allows one to tailor their preparation technique (a finer grind=less tamping.) The shots pulled from La Pavoni are of an exceptional quality (easily matching any that I consumed in Italy including Torrefazioni's Tazza d'Oro.) I am impressed with the quality of La Pavoni espresso machines. The day to day cleaning amounts to pulling a "blank" shot of just water before the first shot and after the last, wiping down the machine, rinsing the steam wand, and then after turning off the boiler, draining the remaining water by lifting the lever and catching the runoff in a mug. I had to replace the plunger gaskets a little bit ago (my machine is about 3 years old.) The process was easy and after about 20 minutes I was back in the espresso business. The looks of the machine make it a conversation piece. The ability to pull shots that are superior to store bought espresso, by hand, has made me and several friends converts from the automatic style of espresso machine. I have been completely pleased with "La Pavoni" and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who desires a little more craft in the creation of espresso. Please email me if you have any questions either before or after your purchase.
One Year Followup
I am a little late on the one year followup, but my job has kept me ever busier. La Pavoni continues to challenge and delight. It has sustained us through 2 moves including a cross country drive. Of all the appliances in our kitchen, the pots/pans and the Pavoni came with us on the trip. It was a nice touch to move into a new home, spread out the picnic blanket in the soon-to-be family room, and enjoy some good espresso while waiting for our posessions to arrive.
The brass has held up exceptionally well, and even the relatively cheap auto-froth attachement remains in working order. I re-greased the piston and checked the condition of the group, and all remains tight. Upkeep is easy, and is one area where the simplicity in design shines through. The (now) 5 pounds of fishing weights in a bag now mounted in the base keeps it still during use.
In all, the Pavoni will be in our kitchen for some time to come. Even with the addition of an Isomac Tea to the line up (expediency over formality), the Pavoni is the machine of choice for our quiet Sunday brunches. More to come in the future