Best Manual Espresso Machine 2017 Picks – For True Coffee Jedis

If you’re looking for the best manual espresso machine on the market, you’re probably already a pretty darn good coffee maker.

Let’s be clear, manual espresso making is not for the faint of heart.The elektra is the oldest and possibly best manual espresso machine still sold today.

The market these days is full of semi-automatic and fully automatic espresso machines, for every conceivable budget and skill level. It’s almost rare to see a fully manual coffee maker in stores, which is why I’ve always had to turn to the internet to source these things.

If you’re looking for the ultimate, hands-on, most rewarding experience possible, you’re in the right place.

Manual, also known as lever espresso machines are a flash back to a more elegant time, back to the old country Italian Cafes where the espresso was born.

Manual or lever based espresso machines are piston-powered, as opposed to pump-powered semi-automatic espresso machines which are more commonly used today.

Are they easy to use? Heck no.

I’ll be honest, I’ve outgrown the idea of using a full manual, and I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind. My semi-automatic provides plenty of that hands on, physical feel, without the headaches.

I must also mention the size. The best manual espresso machine setup of a commercial coffee shop is simply impractical to be placed in a home kitchen.

I had the pleasure of working with a fully automatic setup at one of my earliest bistro jobs. Customers would huddle around the pickup area, trying to catch a glimpse of me using this huge Italian-imported behemoth of a machine.

If you’re just trying to save a few bucks, instead of a semi-automatic or above, don’t do it.

There are plenty of affordable espresso machines out there, that I would highly recommend. These will cost you less than what it will pay for the best manual espresso machine, and you’ll have a much better experience due to their ease of use.

A manual machine is for someone who wants to become more of an ‘advanced user’, and cross that final frontier into total mastery of their brew craft.

In the hands of an expert barista, a properly made lever espresso is second to none.

Some espresso connoisseurs claim that semi-automatic espresso tastes slightly bitter, and it is inferior to the lever pressed variety. I’ve never been able to taste the difference, but I will admit that my palate is a little bad (I could never be paid to taste coffee, or wine, or anything else).

When looking for the best manual espresso machine, you’ll choose between two kinds.

Direct Lever

  • You have to manually pump the water from the reservoir, through the coffee grounds. This takes a little more ‘muscle power’ than a spring piston assisted machine.
  • With this direct manual lever comes more control, and a trained barristas can dial-in the optimal amount of pressure just based on the feel of the pump.
  • These are more affordable than spring piston models.

Spring Piston

  • Much more user-friendly, you don’t have to learn the ‘feel’ like you do for a direct lever
  • Generally more costly, also carry the possibility of maintenance issue on these additional parts
  • Dial in a set amount of pressure every time, which may or may not be better than the skill of a manual barista.

Here’s a great authoritative source, from someone who knows these machines better than I. I learned so much from that page, as again I do not consider myself a manual espresso expert by any stretch of the imagination.

All these years later Elektra, the originator, is still considered by most to be the best manual espresso machine maker out there. But there is some competition, and from all I’ve read La Pavoni seems to be the real favorite of most enthusiasts.

I honor your commitment if you have come this far

By taking this final step, you are truly an elite level coffee craftsman. I envy your determination and perseverance to reach this stage. I won’t lie, when I used to work the old lever machine at the bistro, I never got good at it. In fact, I knew I was bad, so it just added to my frustration and resentment at the time.