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Best Manual Espresso Machine Reviews 2018

We’ve scoured the internet in search of the best manual espresso machine being sold today, and we’ve rounded up our finalists and declared a winner. Before we get into the particulars of each machine though, let’s take a top-level view at all five of our finalists to give you a broad overview of what they can do:

OUR PICK

HONORABLE MENTION


OVERALL BEST
Best Manual Espresso Machine

Espresso Machine Under 600 Dollars
Last update: October 17, 2018 1:54 am
Last update: October 17, 2018 1:54 am
Last update: October 17, 2018 1:54 am
-1% La Pavoni EPC-8
$889.54 $899.00
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Last update: October 17, 2018 1:54 am
Last update: October 17, 2018 1:54 am

Rating

Price

$$$

$$$$

$$

$

$$$$$

Dimensions

31” x 14” x 20”

10.6” x 7.9” x 13”

16.25” x 4.5” x 12”

11” x 7” x 12”

20” x 16” x 20”

Weight

88 pounds

15.2 pounds

17 pounds

14 pounds

100 pounds

Reservoir Size

RESERVOIR SIZE

3 liter tank, option for a dedicated water line

60.8 ounce reservoir

38-ounce capacity

16-ounce capacity

6 liter capacity

Boiler

BOILER

Single boiler, insulated copper

Single boiler, stainless steel

Single brass boiler

Single boiler, stainless steel

Single boiler, stainless steel

Cup Warming Tray

Yes, passively heated

No

No

No

Yes, passively heated

Pros

A legendary machine, offered by an excellent company

Precision engineering.  Pre-infusion piston system.  Solidly built.  Some of these machines are still going strong after 40+ years of use!

Small footprint, elegantly designed

Small footprint, elegantly designed

Italian-made.  Hand built, not mass produced

Cons

None.  The only machine we’ve reviewed to date that got a perfect five-star rating from us

Pricey

Smallish capacity

Tiny capacity.  Machine is made of steel with stainless plating

Insanely expensive.  Brutally heavy

Extras/ Notes

NA

NA

Constructed of brass and rosewood.  A beautiful machine to look at

NA

Construction is solid stainless steel with walnut handles and a leather-wrapped lever

Recommended For

RECOMMENDED FOR

Large households, busy offices or restaurants, coffee purists, and power drinkers.  Not recommended for casual coffee drinkers.

People who value longevity and precision engineering and manufacture.  These machines last forever.

Smaller households, casual coffee drinkers, and those with limited space.

Smaller households, casual coffee drinkers, and those with limited space.

People for whom aesthetics are just as important as functionality.  These units are true works of art, and each one is unique.

Do you consider yourself to be an old-school, hands-on type of person?  Are you interested in hand crafting your specialty coffee drinks, rather than having a machine do it for you?  If so, then you’re just the kind of person this article was written for.

The market for manual espresso makers is much smaller than the one for the sleek automatics that offer one touch convenience.  That’s because people who like these models are a breed apart.  They don’t want a computer to do it for them.  They want control.  The kind of control that only a manual machine can offer.

As you can tell at a glance, these machines fall broadly into two categories: Machines for power drinkers and large households, and machines for casual drinkers and small households.

In the latter category, there’s only one company that matters.  La Pavoni dominates this segment of the market, capturing both of the slots on this list occupied by small-capacity machines.  But enough talk about the generalities, let’s jump into particulars!

Overall Best Manual Espresso Maker Quick Mill Achille

Our website has tons of espresso machine reviews.  The Quick Mill Achille stands out though, because it’s the only machine we’ve reviewed so far that earned a perfect five-star rating, and it is well deserving of that honor. In some respects, it’s almost not fair to compare the Achille to the other machines on this list, because it’s more of a “prosumer” piece of equipment.

An image of the Quickmill brand logo for Best Manual Espresso Machine

That is to say; it would be equally at home in a professional coffee shop as it would be in your kitchen.  The same can’t be said for the other models on this list, with the exception being the Strong Classic.

The Achille has it all.  It’s ruggedly constructed of stainless steel (both inside and out), and it utilizes the legendary E61 group head, making it a study in reliability.  If you’ve read other manual espresso machine reviews elsewhere on the web, you’ve probably seen this model mentioned more than once, and with good reason.  It’s simply one of the best machines in its class being sold today.

Even better, although its hefty 3-liter water reservoir can keep pace with even the most diehard coffee drinkers, the machine can be plumbed with a dedicated water line, giving you an unlimited supply of water.  While that might be overkill in most home kitchens, it’s one of the things that makes this machine a “swing model,” just as capable in your home as it is in a busy office or coffee shop.

An image of the Quick Mill Achille, our top choice for the best manual espresso machine

If the machine has one shortcoming, it is its aesthetic.  While we personally find the machine’s look to be quite appealing, not everyone will appreciate its industrial appearance.  If you’re looking for something with a bit more elegance, then one of the other models on this list will probably be a better fit for you.

On the other hand, the Achille delivers the goods where it counts.  It connects you with every aspect of the drink making process and gives you full control over whatever drink you’re crafting. 

Combine that with the fact that it's solidly built and manufactured by one of the legendary companies in the industry, and it’s hard not to love this machine.  Perhaps best of all though is the fact that you won’t pay an arm and a leg for the unit.  It’s significantly less expensive than some of the other models on our list.

On that topic, some people might be surprised at how expensive is a fully manual espresso machine.  After all, most people assume that stripped of all the fancy electronics, manual espresso machines would be a good deal cheaper than their super automatic counterparts.

Yes and no.

While it’s true that you can find a relatively inexpensive manual espresso machine that will meet your needs, the reality is that the manufacturers simply spent the money on different things. 

For instance, you won’t find any cheap ABS plastic in any of the machines that made our list of finalists.  They’re all ruggedly built, either of stainless steel or brass, and some of the machines listed here have hardwood accents and other high-quality finishing touches.

In other words, what these machines lack in high tech components, they make up for in quality materials and exceptional craftsmanship.  That’s really what you’re paying for when you buy a machine like this.

Olympia Express Cremina Lever Espresso Machine

Where the Achille is a “prosumer” model, the Cremina is designed specifically for home use.  Its 60.8-ounce water reservoir can keep pace with even heavy coffee drinkers in a home setting but might be overwhelmed in a busy office environment.

While the Italians are known for coffee, the Swiss are known for precision engineering, and this machine is exactly what you’d expect from a Swiss company.  It’s awesome.  It's durably constructed and designed to last forever.  In fact, you can find 40+-year-old Olympia machines still in use today.  Now that’s quality workmanship!

The big draw with this machine is its pre-infusion piston system, which allows you to draw a small amount of water into the chamber and then to the waiting puck.  This pre-infusion helps to more fully bring the flavor of the coffee to life, resulting in a more robust tasting shot, or whatever other drink you’re making.

It’s a beautiful, well-built machine, but compared to our top pick, we have the following gripes:

  • It’s more expensive, and yet, has a significantly smaller capacity
  • It cannot be plumbed with a dedicated water line
  • It’s made with a thinner grade of stainless steel than our top pick

While there’s no denying the longevity of the machine, we found it to be a somewhat weaker pick than the Achille, although we realize that not everyone will agree.  If you place a premium on precision Swiss manufacture, then this is probably the one you want.  This is truly one of the best manual home espresso machines on the market today, and well deserving of your consideration.

An image of Olympia Express Cremina, a durable, Swiss-made espresso machine

Pro Tip:  Although this machine cannot be plumbed with a dedicated water line, you can order them to be compatible with either natural gas or propane.  This is another unique aspect of the Cremina, and makes this model especially attractive for people who live off-grid!

La Pavoni PPG-16

An image of La Pavoni PPG-16, third place in our best manual espresso machine review

So far, both of the machines we’ve talked about have been designed with power drinkers in mind, but what if you aren’t?  What if you’re more of a casual drinker?

In that case, then the first two machines on our list will probably be overkill in your home, and this one might be just what you’re looking for.

With its brass and rosewood construction, this one looks like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, and if that aesthetic is appealing to you (it certainly is to us!), then you’re going to love the look of this machine.  Bear in mind though, that it probably won’t “fit” well into every home kitchen.

With its modest price, smallish reservoir size, and tiny footprint, the PPG-16 can find a permanent home in even the tiniest of kitchens where countertop space is at a premium.

Don’t let its diminutive size fool you though.  La Pavoni didn’t sacrifice quality here.  This machine is capable of pulling a shot every bit as good as our top pick, it’s just that it’s got a very different aesthetic, and is aimed at a different sort of user; one who values aesthetic at least as much as raw functionality.

La Pavoni EPC-8

If you’re looking for something even smaller, the La Pavoni EPC-8 deserves your attention.  It’s got the smallest capacity and the lowest price of any machine on our list.  Unfortunately, the company did skimp a bit on materials here, as the stainless steel is only plated onto the exterior.

An image of La Pavoni EPC-8, a top quality manual espresso machine

Even so, it’s a quality machine, and well deserving of a spot on our “best manual lever espresso machine” list.  It gets consistently good reviews from its owners, and the company did an excellent job of providing a top quality product at a budget price.

Strong Classic Lever 1 Group Espresso Machine

When it comes to defining the best manual espresso maker, opinions will inevitably vary.  How important is the machine’s aesthetic, compared to its raw functionality and capability?  What is the overall capacity, and can it keep pace with your home or office environment, or will it be overwhelmed? (or, at the other end of that spectrum, is the machine overkill for the environment you’ll have it in?)

Because everyone’s answers to these questions are different, the reality is that there is no “one right answer” to the question.

We should say right off the bat that the Strong Classic Lever 1 will not appeal to everyone.  Only a very few people reading this review will be drawn to it, or be able to afford it, but it’s such a remarkable machine that we felt it deserved a special mention here, which is why we wanted to give it an honorable mention.

The big draw with this machine?  They’re not mass produced.  Each one is hand-built in Italy, so no two are exactly alike.

They’re works of art that also happen to be fully functional, robust, and incredibly capable machines.

While they are not designed to accept a dedicated water line, with their massive six-liter tank capacity, this will seldom be an issue, no matter how busy your office, or how much coffee you drink.

Few things evoke the sense of nostalgia that the Strong Classic Lever 1 delivers, along with its impressive performance.

An image of Strong Classic Lever 1, an incredibly capable manual espresso machine

Everything about these machines is a lesson in quality and exceptional craftsmanship.  If you’re in the market for a one of a kind machine, and you can afford it, then this is undoubtedly the one you want.

Best Manual Espresso Machine Roundup Conclusion

So what is the best manual espresso machine for home use?  We stand by our top pick, regarding the Quick Mill Achille as being in a class by itself.  Having said that, we realize that everyone’s tastes and preferences are different.  With that in mind, here are some reasons you may find another of our finalists to be more to your liking:

  • If you’re looking to buy the last espresso machine you’ll ever own, then get the one that will last forever; the Olympia Cremina.
  • If space is at a premium in your home, and you’re looking for something with an almost Steampunk Aesthetic, then check out the PPG-16, by La Pavoni
  • Budget shoppers will want to pay particular attention to the EPC-8, also by La Pavoni
  • If you’re looking for something that’s as much a work of art as it is a functional machine, then the Strong Classic Lever 1 Group is the machine you’ve been dreaming of.  These hand-built wonders are literally one of a kind, and not to be missed.  You’ll pay a premium for it, but you’ll be thrilled with your purchase!

So which of these is the best manual espresso machine for you?

Sources & Resources

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