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    5 Best Manual Espresso Machines

    by Scott Deans | Last Updated: October 6, 2021

    For those folk who take coffee SERIOUSLY, a fully automatic espresso machine brings tears to their eyes and these are not tears of joy. Espresso making is a highly versatile and adaptable skill that’s more like an art than a learned procedure.

    Any budding barista knows, to get the very best aromas and flavors out of your coffee, you need to be in control of the brewing process. To make coffee that stands out in a crowd, you need to be able to adjust every brewing parameter and tweak each little thing until you reach perfection.

    The only way to achieve this at home is by using a manual espresso machine. These machines don’t use electric pumps to create pressure, they require physical input from you by the use of a lever or pump mechanism. This is what gives you such great control over the espresso brewing process.

    We have a treat in store for you today with a range of manual espresso machines reviewed so you can easily see which is the best one for your needs. We have options with and without internal water boilers and top of the range to budget picks to choose from. Whether you need a device that can brew espresso after espresso as well as steam milk or just a portable option for travel, we have them all here.

    If you need a little more automation when it comes to brewing coffee then check out the last three devices we have here as these are the best semi-automatic options available on the market. These machines still give you loads of control over your coffee brewing but the electric pumps create the pressure profile for you.

    Have a look through the choices available and if you like the look of any of these options, click on the ‘Price and Reviews’ button to check current prices on Amazon. We will get started with our top pick today, which is the La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola.

    5 Best Manual Espresso Machines

    1. Top Choice – La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola 8-Cup Lever Style Espresso Machine

    La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola 8-Cup Lever Style Espresso Machine

    Brand: La Pavoni

    Heating Element: Yes plus internal thermostat

    Pressure: Steam and Manual Lever Pressure

    Steam Wand: Yes

    Price & Reviews

    Our top choice today has to be La Pavoni as this high-quality manual espresso machine is everything you need to become a pro barista. Made in Italy it has chrome-plated, steel construction that is sturdy and substantial, built to last and it looks stunning in your kitchen. Nice features like the water level window make it easy to check and fill the water tank. A minor issue is that the hot water can heat up parts of the machine so be cautious when you’re using this one!

    It uses steam pressure alongside the manual lever to create the most delicious espresso with the thickest crema. The steam wand works perfectly to create thick, textured milk, perfect for lattes. You can add on a cappuccino attachment that creates a more aerated and bubbly milk texture so this is a nice extra.

    It comes with a tamper, measuring scoop, screen, and screen holder so all you need to buy are coffee beans and you’re good to start the brewing process. The only real issue with this machine is the temperature can get a bit too hot after making several shots of espresso. It’s important to monitor this and switch off the machine to cool down so you don’t end up with burnt beans.

    2. Runner Up – Elektra Microcasa Lever Espresso Machine

    Elektra Microcasa Lever Espresso Machine

    Brand: Elektra

    Heating Element: Yes

    Pressure: Steam Pressure and Manual Lever

    Steam Wand: Yes

    Price & Reviews

    The runner-up choice is this extremely high-end coffee maker by Elektra. The design of this machine is just stunningly intricate with a chrome and brass finish and includes the Elektra Eagle perched on top, a true Italian masterpiece.

    The design features everything you need to tailor the best coffee to suit you. A pressure gauge helps you to fine-tune your coffee and although this machine has a pretty steep learning curve for amateurs, once you get the hang of it you’ll never buy a cup of espresso ever again.

    It’s built to last a lifetime and is a manual press home espresso machine that can rival any professional espresso machine. The water boiler can produce steam to froth milk so you can enjoy any coffee drink you like best using this machine.

    The only reason it’s in second place is the price tag. It’s not an affordable machine for many but if you do have space in your budget and you’re looking to brew the perfect espresso then this is the ideal coffee machine for your home.

    3. Best Non-Powered Option – Flair Espresso Maker

    Flair Espresso Maker - Classic

    Brand: Flair

    Heating Element: No

    Pressure: Manual Lever (6-10 bars)

    Steam Wand: No

    Price & Reviews

    A non-powered espresso machine is a perfect way to make quality espresso anywhere! You can take this one camping, to work, or into the great outdoors. It even comes with a custom travel case to keep it safe whilst you’re on the move. You do need an external heat source to warm the water but the manual spring piston lever arm does all the work to extract those wonderful coffee flavors.

    You do need a bit of enthusiasm to really press that lever down but the machine can create up to 10 bars of pressure and this is essential for real espresso making. You have full control over the pre-infusion and full extraction time and this allows you to create coffee that’s on a whole new level.

    The brewing head is completely detachable which allows for easy cleaning. As with most manual lever machines, the ease of use is pretty straightforward, add coffee and pull the lever, but to move on to really high-quality cups of espresso you need whole bean coffee, a burr grinder, and plenty of practice to fine-tune your skills.

    4. Best Portable Espresso Maker – Leverpresso 2020

    Leverpresso 2020 Non Pressurized Filter Basket

    Brand: Leverpresso

    Heating Element: No

    Pressure: Double Manual Lever – 9 Bars of Pressure

    Steam Wand: No

    Price & Reviews

    There’s always a requirement for delicious coffee in the morning and this need doesn’t go away just because you’re on holiday. This Leverpresso is the perfect coffee travel companion due to its compact size, it doesn’t need to be plugged in, and it makes real espresso.

    It works by using two lever arms that you press manually to create the 9 bars of pressure that are necessary for brewing espresso. The two levers give you all the control so you can create an espresso that’s perfect for you.

    It’s a sturdy design, made of stainless steel, aluminum, and BPA free plastic. It comes with the option of pressurized or non-pressurized filter baskets so you can choose whether you prefer tamping or not. This little device wins out where it comes to portability, rich crema, and even price! It’s the best option for on the go, as long as you have a source for hot water on hand as well.

    5. Budget Option – Rok Manual Espresso Maker

    Rok Manual Espresso Maker Silver

    Brand: Rok

    Heating Element: No

    Pressure: Double Manual Lever

    Steam Wand: No

    Price & Reviews

    The Rok manual espresso maker is a budget option by price, you don’t have to compromise on functionality. The steel design is attractive and durable and the glass compression chamber provides the pressure you need to create rich espresso.

    It works by you adding hot water, lifting the arms, and then pressing down to create a coffee shop quality espresso. This device comes with a traditional-style portafilter to add your coffee grounds and you can use the tamper provide to tamp the coffee down smooth.

    There are some reviews that report issues with the rubber seal for this product and if this is malfunctioning then the pressure can never get high enough to brew espresso with a thick crema. the company is happy to replace defective products and this option comes with free returns so just get in touch if you have any concerns.

    Manual Espresso Machine Buyers Guide

    Heating Elements and Thermostats

    When choosing a manual espresso machine they will typically fall into one of two categories. Those that heat the water and those that are just a lever so you need an external water heating option.

    The machines with heating elements should always have an inbuilt thermostat to avoid heating up too much as boiling water will end up burning the coffee. The downside with these machines is they need a power source so aren’t portable like the manual lever arm ones. They are also a lot more expensive so you do need to ensure you check prices before hitting buy.

    Pressure Gauges

    To brew ‘true’ espresso you really need to be achieving 9 bars of pressure to extract all the aromas, flavor, and crema from the coffee. Often, coffee connoisseurs like to balance the pressure as they brew, starting off with a low pressure and gradually increasing over the 25 seconds or so to a peak. If you’re serious about espresso brewing then choosing a machine with a pressure gauge gives you full control over the whole brewing process.

    Portafilter

    The kind of portafilter you opt for can give you more or less control over the coffee you brew. A pressurized filter basket forces the coffee down through a small hole so the grounds don’t need any tamping.

    A non-pressurized filter basket gives you a bit more control over the brew process as you have to manually tamp down the coffee.

    Coffee Grinder

    To brew espresso you really do need a good quality burr grinder to get the coffee grounds to the correct consistency. Blade grinders end up creating a mix of coffee grounds that are uneven so you get an inconsistent espresso that’s either watery and weak or bitter. A burr grinder will give you a uniform grind that is the perfect size for espresso and repeatable between batches.

    Steam Wand/Milk Frother

    If you like frothy, milky coffees like lattes and cappuccino then you need a coffee set up that can froth or steam milk. A milk steaming wand is the best option for restaurant-quality, thick microfoam as the steam finely aerates the milk and heats it at the same time.

    A milk frother introduces air to the milk by mixing it or pumping a mesh or similar through it. This creates a weaker foam that doesn’t hold its shape as well and is better for cappuccino rather than lattes.

    Best Manual Espresso Machines

    F.A.Q.s

    Are manual espresso machines better than automatic espresso machines?

    The answer to this really depends on how you like to make your coffee and how enthusiastic you are about brewing to perfection. Manual espresso machines give you complete control over every aspect of the brewing process and you can finely tune the pressure profile as much as you like.

    The downside with manual machines is they are very tricky to get the hang of and some people find the process too frustrating. Automatic machines are much easier to use so better for beginners but they don’t give you fine control over your coffee brewing technique.

    Are espresso machines hard to use?

    There is a steep learning curve when it comes to using espresso machines, especially manual ones. You need to get familiar with the machine and all its settings but that’s not all. You also need to practice to get the coffee grind size and tamp pressure just right. There’s no magic value that works across all machines and even different kinds of coffee can affect how finely you need to grind the beans. It’s a bit of trial and error and a lot of patience to get good at brewing espresso.

    Why are lever espresso machines so expensive?

    High-quality materials such as brass and stainless steel are used to construct these machines. These materials are costly to source and espresso machines also need good quality engineering to support the moving parts. A well-made espresso machine should last 10+ years (if well cared for) so you do get plenty back for your investment.

    The manual lever machines that don’t have an internal heating element (so you add the hot water from a kettle) are much cheaper to buy.

    Should I turn off my espresso machine at night?

    It’s always a good idea to switch appliances off at night and especially those that produce heat. Always switch off your coffee machine after use.

    What espresso machine does Starbucks use?

    The majority of Starbucks coffee shops use a fully automated espresso maker called the Mastrena High-Performance Espresso Machine. This is a bean-cup machine with a large capacity hopper to hold enough coffee for all those thirsty customers.

    Other Espresso Makers Reviewed

    STARESSO Portable Espresso Machine

    STARESSO Portable Espresso Machine

    Brand: Staresso

    Heating Element: No

    Pressure: Manual Pump 15-18 bars of pressure

    Steam Wand: No but It can be used for Milk Frothing

    Price & Reviews

    This mini espresso maker is the perfect companion for those who love milk-based coffee drinks. This is because this device can double as a milk frother! It features a manual pump system when you press on the top of the device to brew coffee and if you swap out the coffee and hot water for milk then you use the same action to aerate and froth the milk. This is perfect for lattes and cappuccinos.

    The chamber can create 15-18 bars of pressure which is plenty to extract a delicious crema from the coffee. It can also accept many kinds of coffee capsules including nespresso, so this makes brewing coffee even easier.

    The inner tank is stainless steel which makes it extremely durable, corrosion-resistant, and hygenic. It won’t crack under pressure!

    Wacaco Minipresso NS Portable Espresso Machine – Compatible with Nespresso Original Capsules

    Wacaco Minipresso NS Portable Espresso Machine

    Brand: Wacaco

    Heating Element: No

    Pressure: Manual Pump 8 Bars of Pressure

    Steam Wand: No

    Price & Reviews

    If you’re a fan of Nespresso machines then this manual espresso maker is the one for you! It has a semi-automatic piston that, when pressed, creates up to 8 bars of pressure. Typically you would expect 9 bars to deliver true espresso but this machine gets pretty close.

    Add your capsule to the top and screw on the lid tightly to pierce the capsule. Fill the water tank with hot water and screw the device back together. Twist the piston to unlock and use this to pump the hot water to brew your coffee.

    This little device works extremely well to produce a lovely tasting cup of joe with a rich crema but you are limited to using the Nespresso original capsules. If we’re being fussy, it doesn’t make “true” espresso but it does make a rich, full-bodied shot of coffee that’s hugely satisfying.

    Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines

    Breville BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine

    Breville BES840XL Infuser Espresso Machine Brushed Stainless Steel

    Brand: Breville

    Heating Element: Yes

    Pressure: High-Pressure Professional Pump

    Steam Wand: Yes

    Price & Reviews

    Breville is always in our top picks when it comes to high-quality espresso machines. This Infuser ensures optimal water pressure and precise temperature control to deliver coffee that’s rich in flavor and never burnt.

    The steam wand gives you the option of all the finest, cafe-quality specialty drinks from lattes to macchiatos and mochas to cappuccino. Low-pressure pre-infusion gradually adjusts the machines pressure to give an even and full flavor extraction and auto-purge flushes the machine out so even after steaming milk, it won’t burn the next coffee.

    This machine is compact and doesn’t take up much space in the kitchen. It’s easy to use and makes espresso taste exactly how it should. The only downside is that with all these great features comes a price tag to match. It’s not cheap but you sure get your moneys worth and then some!

    DeLonghi EC155M Espresso Machine

    DeLonghi EC155M Manual Espresso Machine

    Brand: DeLonghi

    Heating Element: Yes

    Pressure: 15 Bar Professional Pump

    Steam Wand: Yes

    Price & Reviews

    This machine by DeLonghi is a much more budget-friendly way to brew espresso with ease. It has a self-priming system so it’s always ready to go and a separate thermostat for coffee brewing and milk steaming means you’ll never suffer from a burnt cup of joe again.

    It has easy-to-use dials and the portafilter can hold coffee for single shots, double shots, or for ESE pods that do all the hard work for you. The coffee tamper is built into the machine so is right where you need it every time.

    The steam wand works great for all kinds of specialty coffee and the 15 bar, professional pump brews coffee as good as any coffee shop. It is a very small machine so you will need low espresso cups to brew into and it doesn’t come with a milk pitcher so make sure you have one of these to hand if you like milky coffee.

    Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro Espresso Machine

    Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro Espresso Machine

    Brand: Gaggia

    Heating Element: Yes

    Pressure: High-Pressure Professional Pump

    Steam Wand: Yes

    Price & Reviews

    Last, but defiantly not least we have the Gaggia with this extremely high quality espresso machine. It’s a machine that’s built professionally but compact for use at home. You get the full hands-on barista experience from this machine.

    It has a commercial three way solenoid valve and commercial chrome-plated brew head. The portafilter is heavy and solid to hold and the steam wand rotates so you can choose a position to suit the placement of the machine.

    With solid stainless steel housing, it’s a machine that’s built to last, and rapid heat up means you don’t have to wait around for your coffee. This is a machine that’s perfect for those who take espresso brewing seriously but want something a bit more automated than a manual option.

    Final Thoughts

    The art of espresso brewing is a tricky one to master but well worth the effort. It’s such a pleasure to be able to enjoy espresso and especially a good espresso, from the comfort of your own home and a high-quality espresso machine is an essential tool that allows you to do this. I hope this review has been helpful in showing you the options available and highlighting which is best for you. In the end, the best espresso machine has to be one that you’re comfortable using as this will yield the best results for you. Happy Brewing!

    Can you guess what keeps me up at night? You guessed it! Copious amounts of coffee beans. What? I brew them first.