Last year I sold a decent manual lever, the Gaggia Factory 106, a rebadged LaPavoni Professional, after not being satisfied with the consistency of espressos it made. It seemed the coffee was seldom made at the correct temperature. Since I only did one shot per day during the weekdays, the machine was often either not quite hot enough or too hot since it was warming up while I showered. Frankly, I got tired of inconsistent shots.
I thought about getting a super-automatic for convenience, and then one with temperature control, or at least a consistent temperature profile. The Crosslands CC1 looked interesting as did the Oscar.
Since I like the “authenticity” and simplicity of a lever machine, I read many reviews of the Ponte Vecchio Lusso. I ordered a two-group Lusso from Vaneli's in CA, but canceled it when I found a one-group Lusso here in Seattle. The Lusso is the fifth lever espresso machine I’ve owned. I can now see why having a second grouphead would be a handy thing.
The many reviews over the years are pretty positive about the Lusso. Some have commented on a more "industrial" design with some pans about the finish. I see no such problem with it, especially at this price point.
With a thermo-syphon supplying hot water to the grouphead, and the grouphead not attached to the boiler, the Lusso does not suffer the same over-heating fate as most all the lever machines for the home.
The lever spring is pretty stiff and does its job pushing water through the 46mm diameter puck. It is important to grind fine and tamp lightly. I haven’t yet had a choked shot. My first lever was a Sama Export, the little brother to the Lusso, and I sold it thinking I liked the Gaggia better, so I am familiar with the spring lever.
Warm up time on the Lusso is about 12 minutes. False pressure can be an issue with the Lusso, but I discovered that if the water tap is very slightly open, about an ounce of water will come out during that time, making it not necessary to relieve the false pressure by turning on the steam wand. That in turn heats up the shot glass or cup. One short rinse from the grouphead and it is ready to go.
The three liter tank is large for a small home machine. The steaming power is very strong. The low center of mass for the machine makes tipping over a non-issue compared to many tower lever machines like the LaPavoni, Export, MCAL, etc. The Lusso doesn't require a second hand to steady the machine as is common on the more usual tower type machines.
The shots coming out of the Lusso are the best ever from this home. Most of the shots rival the best coffee shops, with my ineptness at latte art being the only visual drawback.
The top of the Lusso is a very effective cup warmer.
The typical routine now is to grind up 7 grams of coffee in the hand-grinder for one small basket, and another 7 grams for the other small basket which I bought separately. The grouphead is small. It takes two pulls to get an ounce of espresso, which is our usual amount each. About 120 ml of milk for both lattes gets (quickly) steamed while the second basket is running its course. It takes only a few seconds of waiting before the portafilter can be removed, albeit slowly to make sure the pressure is gone.
The large basket will take up to 16g or so, and I usually make a weekend lunch latte with 50-60 ml of espresso and about 100ml of milk.
Since I bought the Lusso, I have used it every day. There has not been a “sink” shot yet. I’m noticing more flavor components from the roasts than before. It is great to be able to leave the machine on for a stretch of time during the day and not worry about it overheating the grouphead.
With the new LaPavoni prices up near $1k these days, and the MCal more than that, and a new Cremina WAY more than either, the Lusso is an amazingly good deal. For me, a lever upgrade would be a lot more expensive.