Like the look of a manual espresso machine with levers, but don’t know which one to pick for your business?
We’ve created this guide to help you make your decision. In this guide, we’ll show you the best manual commercial espresso machines.
Here’s what you can expect to find out:
- Why you should choose a manual espresso machine
- Common features of manual machines
- How you know which one to choose
- Our choices for the best manual commercial espresso machines
Let’s jump right in.
WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE A MANUAL MACHINE
Manual lever-operated machines are nostalgic. Unlike many modern espresso machines that use buttons, you operate a manual one by pulling a lever to generate the pressure for extraction.
Truthfully, semiautomatic or automatic machines tend to be better-suited to commercial environments in general because they’re faster and easier to use.
But a manual machine requires talent and experience to control, and when properly done, it looks undoubtedly impressive. These types of models would be right at home in specialty coffee shops going for a vintage aesthetic.
If that sounds like you, you couldn’t get a machine more traditional than a lever-operated one.
In addition, there are many espresso purists who say that a skilled barista on a manual machine results in some of the best-tasting espresso you can possibly get.
COMMON MANUAL MACHINE FEATURES
NUMBER OF GROUPS
While it’s certainly true that lever-operated machines are normally slower than automatic or semiautomatic alternatives, the speed of a manual model can be improved with more groups.
Group heads are what the brewed espresso comes out of. The more of them you have available, the more shots of espresso can be made at once.
There are many manual models out there that come with two or even three groups, which boosts your espresso output by two or three times.
So if you’re attracted to the vintage look for a manual machine, but need to be able to whip through shots faster, the number of groups is a factor you can look at.
BOILER PRESSURE GAUGES
Like all espresso machines, you’ll find pressure gauges on manual ones that give you a readout of what the pressure is like in the boiler.
The reason this is a must-have feature is that it lets you know with a quick look that the machine is warmed up and ready to brew or steam.
In a way, it also works as a sort of diagnostic tool. If you notice your machine consistently isn’t achieving the desired pressure, then you may be able to determine it needs repairs.
Boilers are a key component of every espresso machine on the planet, and the size of them can make or break you if you’re making constant shots for a line of orders.
Boilers get your water up to temperature and they provide the nine bars of pressure necessary for extraction. They also create the power you need to steam milk.
Smaller boiler capacities may be suitable for those at home or businesses that won’t need to use their machine often, but they would fizzle out in higher volume establishments. You don’t want to run out of steam power in the middle of frothing your milk for a cappuccino.
This is why it may also be a priority for you to examine the capacity of the boiler as you look at each manual machine you have an interest in.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT MANUAL ESPRESSO MACHINE FOR YOU
As uncommon as they are, manual lever-operated espresso machines still have a quite a few differences between them that might make one more suitable for your business than another.
You should form an idea of what kind of requirements your company has for its espresso machine and apply those requirements to each one you look at.
Here are some thing you could start with:
If you’re a high-volume coffee shop, restaurant, or café, a manual machine probably won’t be the best fit for your business.
But even if you’re a specialty coffee shop with a lower volume of espresso orders, you may be concerned with how fast a machine is to get through any occasional queues that form at your counter.
If that sounds like your situation, pay attention to the number of groups each machine has. More groups translates into making more shots at once.
Another component that factors into speed is the size of the boiler. Larger boilers won’t run out of power so easily, allowing you to make more shots without resting.
If you’re trying to cultivate a vintage atmosphere in your business, a manual machine might be perfect for you.
While the lever feature is common among them, there are still visual differences between them that might play a part in your choice.
Our selections of La Pavoni commercial lever espresso machines, as an example, come with graceful rounded tops and metallic faces that shine.
Victoria Arduino’s Athena Leva Lever espresso machine, on the other hand, is a visual masterpiece. Its minimalistic and classic look would blend right in in an old-style coffee shop.
The first thing on most people’s minds when they purchase anything is how much it costs.
This is understandable, and it’s also worth giving thought to when you look at espresso machines.
One great thing about espresso machines is that they come in a wide variety of prices to fit into any budget imaginable.
Manual commercial espresso machines are the same way. You’ll likely be able to find one in your budget with even having to sacrifice many (if any) features you desire at all.
That being said, we still recommend also considering each machine’s features in tandem with its price. The best one for your business will be both affordable for you and meet your company’s needs.
BEST MANUAL COMMERCIAL ESPRESSO MACHINES
Victoria Arduino is known for making artisan espresso machines, and nowhere is this clearer than with their Athena Leva.
The Athena Leva has a simplistic old-fashioned look with copper or chrome color combinations you can choose between to highlight the décor in your business. Its hand-hammered body will bring all the expertise of a manual machine to your countertop with no small amount of beauty, to boot.
The La Pavoni Bar 3L is a manual espresso machine that won’t be left in the dust by a list of espresso orders.
It comes with three groups, granting you to make up to three double shots of espresso at the same time. With two steam wands situated on either end, it’s also possible for more than one barista to work at the machine simultaneously without feeling too cramped.
Available in two-, three-, or four-group configurations, the La Pavoni Bar 2L is one fast espresso machine.
It has a substantial 14-liter boiler capacity that won’t leave you high and dry in the middle of back-to-back orders. You’ll also save time on cleaning with the Bar 2L’s anti-vacuum valve that prevents milk from getting sucked back into the steam wands and forming clogs.