Espresso machines were once seen only in coffee houses, but have now made their way into thousands of homes. Espresso is a traditional Italian coffee beverage and preferred by some to any other brew of coffee. An espresso machine, in general, produces this strong beverage by forcing extremely hot water, (200 degrees Fahrenheit), through finely ground and compressed coffee. Although there are several types of espresso machines on the market today, the lever espresso machine is one of the best.
The lever espresso machine is also known as a piston-driven machine. An Italian named Achille Gaggia is credited with creating the first lever machine in the year 1945. He discovered that by employing a consistent and fine coffee grind along with the spring-powered piston; the machine could produce a shot of espresso with seconds. Instead of using steam pressure, he used high pressure, and found that it produced a better tasting espresso. His design quickly became popular once people began to taste the espresso created by his manual makers.
You’ve heard of “pulling a shot”? The phrase was coined since the operator has to pump the lever to pressurize the hot water and send it through the finely ground coffee, and then pull the lever to produce the espresso shot. Crema, a reddish-brown froth, which was once thought to be an undesirable waste product, was first produced by the piston-driven espresso machine. Now, a shot of espresso isn’t viewed as the perfect shot, or a true espresso, without crema on the top. Baristas have even made crema into an art form!
Lever espresso makers are offered with two different designs: the spring piston design or the manual piston design. The spring piston lever machines have an internal, calibrated spring that is engaged, or “cocked” into place, by the operator pulling on the lever. When the operator lets go of the lever, the water is then forced through a bed of finely ground coffee at a specific and declining pressure. The spring piston machines have a boiler designed to run at very hot, or steaming, temperatures consistently. This means you can pull a shot and steam your milk right away.
The biggest difference between the spring piston machine and the manual piston espresso machine is that the operator is the one applying the pressure to the water that is forced through the ground coffee directly via the lever. It actually takes a bit of practice to manually get just the right amount of pressure to the lever in order to create an ideal shot of espresso.
The manual espresso machines require a hands-on approach to making espresso. It is a very quiet machine, which makes it very attractive for home use. This style of espresso maker requires very little maintenance since it has only a few parts. The lever espresso machine is more expensive than other espresso makers, but for good reason. The lever machines make true espresso lovers feel as though they have a piece of history in their home, as though they are in Italy every time they pull a shot of robust espresso. Also, the lever espresso machine will produce the richest tasting espresso you’ve ever had, bar none. For those who love espresso and the history behind it, it’s worth every penny (or dollar) spent for an “authentic” espresso maker for their home.