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Ponte Vecchio Lusso Lever - Norm Hardy's Review
Posted: February 22, 2013, 2:16pm
review rating: 8.7
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Ponte Vechio Lusso Lever
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Arrow The Ponte Vecchio Lusso Lever has 1 Reviews
Arrow The Ponte Vecchio Lusso Lever has been rated 9.40 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since January 29, 2011.
Arrow Ponte Vecchio Lusso Lever reviews have been viewed 7,899 times (updated hourly).

Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 9.4
Manufacturer: Ponte Vecchio Quality: 9
Average Price: $1,000.00 Usability: 10
Price Paid: $850.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: The Good Coffee Company, Seattle Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 6 months Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Sama Export, Gaggia Factory 106
Bottom Line: Temperature stable, great shots every time, the Lusso is a home lever lover's delight.
Positive Product Points

Consistency of shot quality
Temperature stability (no surfing required)
Ease of use and cleaning
Powerful steaming
Large boiler
One-handed operation

Negative Product Points

The small grouphead means an extra pull for a larger shot
False pressure must be released upon warm up.

Detailed Commentary

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.

Buying Experience

Joe and Carl at the Good Coffee Company were excellent to deal with.  Joe made sure the Lusso was properly set up before letting me buy it.

Three Month Followup

The Lusso is used every morning and also at noon on weekends.  

I drain and refill the boiler every other day, and the grouphead and body panels also get cleaned.  

I still use two small baskets for two separate pulls.  The larger basket is used occasionally on weekends.  For that I do two or three pulls.

With my own roasts and a Pharos hand-grinder, the coffee is truly café quality.  Maybe better.

One Year Followup

After a year, I've come to appreciate even more what the Lusso does.  It is a solid machine with virtually no faults.  It still get used every morning for 2 singles, and at noon on the weekends with the large basket.

The typical shot now is 7.5g in the small basket.  One pull held until coffee starts to come out yields about 18g of liquid.  I prefer the small basket and just use one pull when using it.  

When the second shot is coming out, the milk gets steamed.  There is no need to wait for one before doing the other.

When I use the large basket with 15g, two pulls yield about 33g.  The larger mass of coffee in the basket retains more water, of course.

Since the temperature if very stable, it can be left on during the day.  I usually let it warm up for at least a half-hour in the mornings.  A full tank obviously takes longer to warm up.

The Lusso gets emptied, flushed, refilled, and cleaned about every 6 days.  A jet spray of water helps clean the grouphead gasket.  A Q-tip is used as well.  

Although I have my eyes on a Stega or Londinium lever, the Lusso is not likely to be pushed out of the kitchen any time soon.

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review rating: 8.7
Posted: February 22, 2013, 2:16pm
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