Learn to use a La Pavoni, step by step

Although very busy for several months, I decided to take over my blog on coffee. Today, I offer a detailed tutorial, on all the steps that allow me to make a success of my coffees with a levered La Pavoni.

You should know that the levered La Pavoni are very “sensitive” machines. That is to say that the slightest “mistake” has consequences that are immediately felt in the cup. Therefore, when you start with a La Pavoni, the first coffees are very often missed. But do not be discouraged, with practice, you manage to find your technique and implement your protocol to make all your coffees successful.

Old photo of me extracting coffee with a La Pavoni. I changed the portafilter and filter (I switched to the IMS filters and the same for the shower). I really like the colors we have in this flowing coffee.

Several essential points for the success of a good coffee

Use bottle water

I recommend using bottle water to make your coffees. This gives a better taste to your coffees and this water is often less limey than tap water (allowing better storage of your equipment).

Choosing the right coffee beans

The choice of coffee beans alone will determine the quality of your cup coffee. The main recommendation I have for you is to buy it from a roaster rather than a supermarket. Briefly, the coffee from a local roaster will be fresher, roasted slowly and not quickly like most industrial roasters. The provenance will be easier to trace.

There is a lot to say about the difference between coffee from a local roaster and coffee from a supermarket. This topic was covered in more detail in this article.

Regarding the origin of coffee, there is a book that sums it up well, it also inspired me a lot for the writing of the subject “Coffee producing countries“.

Invest in a coffee grinder

With a La Pavoni (like any other semi-professional / professional machine), it is essential to use freshly ground coffee. Coffee bought already ground can in no case be combined properly with a La Pavoni. So the first point is to invest in a good coffee grinder. As such, I have already written several articles to test three good quality coffee grinders.

  • If you are looking for a manual coffee grinder instead, I compared the Apollo and Kinu M47 grinders and I also listed a large part of the premium manual grinders.
  • If it is rather an electric mill that interests you, I tested the Eureka Mignon and the BZF64. They are both very good but with regard to the Eureka Mignon I would recommend you rather to take a model of a higher range).

If you don’t have a coffee grinder and are thinking about investing, find out before you buy. There are quite a few people on the internet who probably already tested the equipment that you hesitate to buy. The “La Pavoni” are really demanding machines. You really need a mill that goes well with this machine.

Always use the same amount of coffee

Preparing coffee is a bit like preparing a recipe. For example, when preparing a cake, add a suitable quantity of flour or sugar. Well for a coffee, it’s the same thing. You will have to find your recipe by adjusting the amount of coffee. When you have a new coffee, several tests are necessary (between the grinding of the coffee grinder, the weight of the coffee). Once the right amount is found, just keep it in mind until switching to another coffee bean.

As an example, I often turn around 16 g of coffee for an espresso. The last sachet of coffee beans I bought, I take 16.5g for a preparation.

In the past I have already mentioned the importance of weighing your coffee. I even wrote this article to help you choose your balance.

Maintain your equipment well

The maintenance of your coffee machine will have an impact on its longevity and on the quality of the coffees. I have detailed in this article how to maintain your La Pavoni coffee machine. The maintenance to be carried out is not long or tedious but is necessary.

How to use a levered La Pavoni?

Now that you know the “few essentials” we will be able to tackle the heart of the subject, namely, how to make a success of your coffee with a levered La Pavoni. I will try to detail the steps as well as possible, obviously if you have any questions come and ask me in the comments of the article, I will be happy to help you.

  • 1: Switch on and let the machine warm up for a few minutes. Please note, however, that the machine should not overheat or you risk burning your coffee. To verify this, I bought a self-adhesive thermometer on the piston. This purchase is not compulsory because personally I no longer look at it.

Weigh the coffee beans to keep the same setting in your recipe.

Little tip: to avoid static electricity sticking the coffee against your mill (and causing retention at all costs), add 2 or 3 drops of water to the coffee beans before grinding it.

  • 2 : While the machine is heating, I start to weigh and grind my coffee: in my case 16.5g, ground by hand with my manual coffee grinder.

Adding coffee beans to my coffee grinder: The Apollo from BPlus. I set it to notch “3.1”.

  • 3 : Pour the ground coffee into the portafilter. To facilitate the operation I bought a funnel. It is not essential but it is really practical.

The filter of the La Pavoni is 51mm in diameter. The funnel is really useful for making it easier to add coffee to the filter.

Personally I find that we have a better rendering by using the “double cup” filter rather than the “one cup”. Several factors such as the amount of coffee and the shape of the filter influence this result.

  • 4 : Break the lumps of ground coffee with a “wire“.

After breaking the lumps. The important thing is to level the levels well before packing. This allows a better crossing of the water (a more regular crossing, without favoring this or that path) to allow better extraction

  • 5 : Use a “coffee distributor to homogenize the surface of the ground coffee well before tamping it.

Here is the result after using my coffee distributor. It’s not packed yet, but it’s all smooth. Once packed, the water will not be able to favor one path over another crossing the cafe ensuring regular extraction.

  • 6 : Pack the coffee with a tamper. For this operation, I stay within the standards of what is indicated in the coffee literature. That is to say: between 15 and 20 kg of pressure.

I’m using a 52mm diameter tamper. In reality the IMS filters are very slightly wider than the original La Pavoni filters which are 51mm. The tamper just passes, if the purchase was to be redone, I would have preferred a tamper of 51.8 mm in diameter rather than 52mm.

Note that steps 5 and 6 are really important. This is something that I have more broadly described here. Briefly, this avoids having a heterogeneous density of packed coffee in the filter. If this density is heterogeneous, the water will tend to take the easiest path to cross the coffee cake, causing poor extraction of the coffee. Conversely, if the coffee density is uniform in the filter, the water will pass through the cake without favoring one path over another.

Example of a broken coffee grounds cake.

  • 7 : Place a cup under the shower of “La Pavoni” and raise the lever so as to pour a little water. Running a little hot water will have 3 effects:
    • Finish heating the piston (do not hesitate to run a little water again if necessary)
    • Heat the cup that we are going to use to prepare our coffee (coffee does not like thermal shocks)
    • Remove coffee residues that may have attached to the spray during the previous extraction.

To check the temperature of the piston, I bought a self-adhesive thermometer which I stuck directly on the piston. The temperature measurement is of course approximate but allowed to have an idea. Over time, reading this thermometer becomes more and more complicated as it changes color less and less. Too bad, at first it worked well. However, the purchase of a thermometer is not mandatory to properly use this coffee machine. The most important thing is to find your protocol to minimize errors that can cause poor coffee extraction.

  • 8 : There are two ways to run the coffee:
    • Method 1: (the one I use) lift the lever to the limit of running the water
      • attach the portafilter
      • fully lift the lever
      • apply a pre-infusion of 5 to 10 seconds (to adapt according to your feelings)
      • lower the lever (there must be resistance and a pressure of approximately 12 kg must be applied)
    • Method 2: attach the portafilter
      • fully lift the lever (but lift it gently to prevent the suction from breaking the coffee cake)
      • apply a pre-infusion of 5 to 10 seconds (to adapt according to your feelings)
      • lower the lever (there must be resistance and a pressure of approximately 12 kg must be applied)

For the two methods that I have just described, it is very important not to lift the lever too quickly when the portafilter is attached to the piston. Otherwise, the vacuum created will by its suction effect, split the coffee cake. This break prevents good quality extraction (the water will pass through the break instead of passing through the coffee cake).

With method 1 you get a little more water in a cup than method 2. When you lift the lever before attaching the portafilter, you capture a smaller air bubble between the piston and the coffee the portafilter fixed.

  • 9 : After pouring the coffee, do not immediately remove the portafilter as it is still under pressure and may splash coffee grounds in all directions. Wait a few moments (usually I wait until it stops dripping) to remove it.

The coffee grounds cake should be compact and should not have water on top / breakage when ejected. When you start, I advise you to check the condition of the coffee grounds cake. In the photos below, you can see some examples of pancakes.

You can recycle your coffee grounds by using it in your daily life for different things.

Here is a short video where I explain each of the steps to try to help you use your La Pavoni with lever.

How to know the temperature of the boiler of a La Pavoni?

There is a formula for converting boiler pressure to temperature. I explain everything in this article.

La Pavoni lever machine – regular maintenance

Maintaining your equipment is important. I explain all this in this article.

Problems encountered and solutions

Some problems are recurring. I will try to list them to give you the corresponding solutions.

ProblemCause of the problemSolution
Water passes through the filter too quicklyNot enough coffee Coffee grind too large Completely broken cake Coffee not sufficiently fresh (for example coffee from a supermarket) Coffee bought already groundadd more if needed finer grind lift the lever more gently or apply method 1 of step 9 buy fresh coffee from a local roaster replace it with coffee beans and grind it before use
Water does not pass through the filterToo much coffee Coffee grind too fine Piston temperature too highreduce the amount of coffee Grind bigger Reduce the machine heating time or run less water in step 7
The coffee flows in an archaic way (more visible on the portafilter without spout)The coffee is not evenly distributed in the filter (steps 4; 5; 6) The cake has small cracksReview the explanations in the note for steps 5 and 6 lift the lever more gently or apply method 1 of step 9
My coffee flows well but is not goodMost likely the water temperatureReduce the machine heating time or run less water in step 7. However, if the coffee is very acidic it can be caused by too cold water temperature. At this time it must be increased.
My coffee has no cremaMost likely the freshness of the coffeeBuy fresh bean coffee. Often robustas give more crema than arabicas.

I will update this table little by little (depending on the questions that may be asked and my personal experience).



  1. Hi. I’ve recently been looking to get a manual espresso machine. Would you recommend a La Pavoni or Elektra?

    1. Hi
      I never use Elektra machine. So I can’t say if the Elektra or the la Pavoni are better.
      For me, the la Pavoni coffee are similar of a Elektra coffee. So I recommend to take the design you prefer.

  2. Hi there,

    For the past 3 months I have been using the wonderful La Pavoni EP! Loving it. A few questions I have that may also help other people:

    1. Shot timing: I find that the outcome for most of my shots is definitely around 35 seconds. Where are you finding the best balance in terms of taste? Obviously this is longer than normal machines.

    2. Tamp sensitivity. I have just ordered a distributor as any issue with tamp results in water running straight through during pre-infusion. Are you finding a similar issue?

    3. Triple Baskets. I am thinking about getting an IMS competition 20g basket, but conscious this will limit the ratio to about 1:1.5 at most with a 30g extraction. Have you tried them at all?

    Thank you so much for all your detail! Really love it. Wil be making a donation 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your comment 🙂
      Yes the coffee dispenser is important. I’m trying to explain why here: https://coffeegeek.co/en/barista-tip-spreading-the-coffee-in-your-portafilter/
      Yes I use a 20g IMS filter. The widest version. I found my coffees to be better with this filter. There is no more water coming out but I have more possibilities. Please note that the large IMS filter does not fit into the old La Pavoni porta filters.
      Thank you for your donation and your message touches me a lot.


      1. Did you have any thoughts on the shot timing?

        As I said I’ve been finding I’ve been finding success at the higher 35s from first drop.

        Should I be ignoring the standard 25-30 that is recommended on Normal machines.

        1. I also do my coffee extraction for longer than 25 to 30s. Usually I’m around 35 seconds. I think it’s better with the coffee I’m using right now. This is mainly due to a long pre-brew. Because I press the lever a little, I pull it up to recharge the piston in water and then I do my extraction. so I have between 35 and 40 ml of water.

  3. Hi, thank you for your advices. Im from Colombia and here just produce arabic type. Followed all your steps but I dont know the pressure inside and water temperature (suposs all right). Why makes no cream?


    1. Hi
      I need a few clarifications.
      What coffee do you use? Did you try to grind it with different sizes? Is the water passing too fast? Is there resistance when you press the lever?

  4. Hi. Thank you for your atenttion. Used good quality arabig type médium toast and finelly grind just before to use but haven’t try another grind (will try today in the morning). Regarding the machine, water passes very slowly (slower than your video) but my lever dont resist when I lower it. Conversely, suction lowers the lever.
    Whats going on?

  5. Hi, i bought 2 old used la pavoni. I think they aré broke. Whrn i pull the leve yo dome water stars to fall, Is this normal?
    I algo feel no pressure when i pull the lever down.

  6. Hi Thomas, what a comprehensive explanation on La Pavoni that deserved a great compliment. Bravo.
    I just got my toy yesterday, anyway it only manage to achieve 4 bar as I was pressing till the last drop. What could be possibly gone wrong ?
    Grind size has been adjusted to “very fine” but still… 4 bar. Lol. (I’m using fiorenzato).

  7. Hi,

    we got a used Pavoni professional for my shared flat and I´m having a couple of problems. In most cases water can not make it through the filter. Therefore I tried a lot of things and wrote them also down.
    Im using the Greaf cm 800 grinder without any modifications and a high quality espresso from El Salvador which is roasted fresh in Germany.

    -I tried systematically to change the grind from 5 till 14 (out of 40 posible sizes) with always 13 grams of beans.
    -I also tried different pressure of tamper by pressing it on a scale to see the weight of my pressure.
    -And I tried it with 10 grams of beans instead 13.

    It´s mostly completely locked with a lower grind and I need to hang half my bodyweight into the arm in order to press it. It also takes longer then a minute. Even when I barely tamp it does not go through. A higher grind then 10 does not seem right for my understanding.

    My question: Do I suck or is probably something wrong with the machine. We had a 50 Euro machine before which was incredible horrible. But even this one made it trough the 20 grind.

    Thanks a lot

  8. Many thanks for this interesting article! I noticed that you suggest a Breville smart grinder and I’m just wondering (if you use this tool yourself) roughly what settings you’d suggest when grinding for the la Pavoni?

  9. Hi Thomas,
    thanks for your explanation. i have a few pronlems with europiccoal (recently purchased brand new).

    1. coffee too sour, you guess something related temperature. but i always pull shot when the green light is off, or about 10 secs after. what are the odds?
    2. with IMS extra large basket naked porta, i hv 20gr coffee with outcome about 30ml; i guess ratio too small? i expect to get 40ml extraction. i am using distibution tool n 51,6 tamper and about 30 secs time after the first drop.

    thank you for yr advice,

    jusuf from indonesia

    1. Hello, are you sure that the water coming out is hot enough? because when the boiler is hot, at first the piston is still cold then it cools the water that comes in. To increase the amount of water, you have to press the lever a little, pull it up slowly and press again. This fills the coffee patty with water and increases the amount of water. Be careful because if you pull up the lever too quickly you risk breaking the coffee cake.

      1. Hi Thomas, i forgot to flush the gh. it was my main problem i think. on the next day i was able to pull much better shot after carefully performed each steps. I guess my best shot after all. but this morning I tried again same procedures and the outcome was a bit sour, and less water. I ve been using this machine for 7-10 days n the learning curve is steep.
        1. what is max cap of water in the gh?
        2. how long normally it takes to reach optimum pressure after purging false pressure?
        3. if i dont feel resistance when pulling lever, what did i miss?
        thank you

  10. Hello Thomas,
    I followed your recommendation to buy a self-adhesive thermometer. what would be the right temperature of the grouphead to aim for? I also have the post-millennium version and it operates on 1 bar. When I’m only pulling one shot it’s fine because I have my routine but when I pull multiple shots the shots sometimes turn bitter. Thus, I guess the grouphead got too hot.
    Thanks for your help,

  11. I hear a lot about lack of crema due to coffee that is not fresh. There may be some effect of this, but given the same coffee with a higher pressure, there will be more crema. I changed the spring on my La Riviera. Using the exact same coffee before and after. The weak spring before produced very little crema. The new stronger spring produced a good amount of beautiful crema. More likely pressure is affecting lack of crema than needing very fresh coffee.

  12. Hi, Instead of bottled water why not use filtered water? It tastes better, it prevents limescale and much less wasteful and more environmentally friendly than bottled water.

    1. Hello,
      you are absolutely right. it is not environmentally friendly to buy bottled water.
      I do not use a filter because I live in an area so rich in limestone that the filters do not manage to retain everything.

  13. This was great! I just got the machine and I think it might be running too hot. How do you reduce the Machine’s heating time? Thank you!

  14. I am trying to use my La Pavoni Professional (I say Professional because it has the gauge pressure). How much temperature should I wait until I start lowering the lever ?
    and also will the pressure stabilize at some point ? the first time I used it, the pressure was going up and up until I shut the machine
    I would kindly appreciate any comment

  15. G’day,

    great website.

    I just bought a Stradivari about a week ago. I’ve done about 50 shots and can finally get a few good ones.

    I’ve also just purchase a temperature strip.

    I was wondering what your total time for extraction is, ‘including’ the pre-infusion. I’m going for 5-10 seconds for the pre, but still a little unclear as to how long to pull down. How long do you need the 9 bars for?

    Also i was wondering why you prefer the Apollo over the Kinu? Are they both step or stepless?


    1. Hello,

      At first it’s complicated to use a La Pavoni, don’t be discouraged.
      For the extraction, it is not necessary to make a pre-infusion of 5 to 10 seconds. Personally, I do one of about 10 seconds by pressing lightly on the lever to inject more water inside the coffee. Then I slowly raise the lever to fill the piston and I extract at 9 bar for about 20 seconds.

      When I say that it is not compulsory to make a pre-infusion of 5 to 10 seconds, it is because the pre-infusion is part of the total extraction time. You can do an immediate extraction or a longer pre-infusion.
      You just have to be careful not to have too long a total extraction time.

      Then, this protocol adapts according to the user and the coffee. The main thing is to have a good cup of coffee. and the time indications are to be adapted :).

      Where you really have to be careful is not to break the coffee cake by lifting the plunger too quickly, be careful to compact the coffee evenly.

      Please do not hesitate to write to me if you have any further questions.

      1. Thanks a lot. That’s helps and I will give it another whirl.

        I just bought a Breville grinder but was wondering about the Apollo.


  16. Hi,
    I’m considering buying the Stradivai 16 cup or the 8 cup machine. I noticed the 16 cup machine has a temperature boiler guage and the 8 cup does not. How important is the guage? Anyone know why the 8 cup machine does not have or need one?

    Are there other features of the 16 cup machine other than boiler size that I should consider from experience?


  17. Hi Thomas,
    I have a La Pavoni EL and a Eureka Mignon Silenzio. I found the Mignon didn’t grind fine enough even if I use setting “0”. With 16.5g coffee cake well spread and tamped, there was not enough resistance against the lever, water ran through the coffee cake too fast and crema was thin. Ironically I got finer grind on a $50 WPM grinder. Was it the problem with Mignon? Would you recommend a manual grinder instead, or any electric grinder that goes well with La Pavoni?

  18. I am a newbie here to your site but you seem to know what you are talking about. I have owned my LP for 20 years, rebuilding it several times since then. In a nutshell my coffee is tasting horrible. I have tried many types/ companies/ brands of beans, none of them came out good so it is something I am doing. I am about to sell the machine and get a pump style. I have read to use anywhere from 13 gr. of beans to 16 gr. I can only get, at best, 10 gr. of GROUND bean into a double basket, so that is situation one. I used to have a temperature strip, and only the first pull was 160-180 degrees. After that water is always much hotter. I have played with grind, tamping, amount of water pressed through, everything I can think of but always bitter coffee. The one modification I made on the machine is I stretched the blow off spring slightly to increase the steaming pressure. Could that have any effect? Again I am about to surrender after all these years.

  19. Firstly thank you for your helpful tips. A friend has just given me a La Pavoni Europiccolo, barely used but about 10 years old as they didn’t get used to it. So, I am trying and have more patience to try and work this out. I am getting ‘reasonable’ expresso but not ‘good’ so have some way to go. I don’t yet have a grinder but have bought a pack of locally roasted and ground coffee (I asked for it ground for a La Pavoni) a few days ago. I have watched lots of videos and pack the portafilter as well as I can. I lift the lever gently, allow some water to run in to soak the coffee but when I pull the lever there is very little resistance and the coffee trickles out unevenly from both spouts. No crema. Coffee is drinkable though, mostly. What can I do to improve?

    1. Hello,

      The problem you describe is because the coffee was ground several days in advance.
      To get a cream, it is necessary to grind the coffee just before use.
      I recommend you consider buying an espresso-compatible coffee grinder.

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