Automatic espresso machines produce what is called “modern espresso” and this is not always a term of endearment. Automatic machines brew espresso via a high pressure system. There is nothing wrong with such a process, but many people do yearn for the traditional method of producing espresso. Hence, some people prefer beverages produced by a manual espresso machine.
The Manual Process
Manual espresso machines are common called lever espresso machines. These machines are modeled after the original ones that existed prior to the development of the modern automatic espresso devices that emerged in the 1940’s. As the nickname suggests, these machines come with a lever that is used to actually make beverages in a hands-on manner. There are two different types of manual machines. One version is the spring piston lever machine and the other is the direct lever machine.
Spring Piston Lever vs. Direct Lever
First, it is important to note that one form of lever machine is not inherently better than the other. They both work quite well; however, some may have a personal preference for one over the other. Those interested in a more hands-on approach to making espresso may wish to buy a direct lever machine. The reason is you will be required to pump this espresso machine. Not everyone likes to put in that much effort to make a cup of espresso which is why they may wish to buy a spring piston lever model.
Regardless of which type of manual espresso machine you purchase, the basic concept remains the same from model to model. Water will be pushed through a clump of ground coffee. The pressure will be significant at first, but then it will slowly reduce. The lever will be used to help put the necessary spring in place to ensure the water is pushed through in the desired manner. With a spring level system, you cock the device and let it go. As previously mentioned, with a direct pump version, you will have to perform a lot more manual work.
It would be inaccurate to assume the only way you can acquire the classic version of an espresso machine would be to purchase an older, antique model. There are many new manual espresso machines offered for sale. The key is to look for a reliable machine that fits your budget. The size of these different machines will vary. Some are actually compact models that are perfect for an apartment kitchen. Despite the smaller size, high quality models by name brand manufacturers can still produce restaurant quality espresso and steamed milk.
Buying a Machine
There are a few attributes to look for when buying a manual machine. Ease of use would certainly be one. The other would be the durability of the model and the capacity of the water container. It is also important to take into consideration how easy the machine is to clean.