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 14 g of coffee for an espresso. The last sachet of coffee beans I bought, I take 13.5g 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 13.5g, 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“.
  • 5 : Use a “coffee dispenser to homogenize the surface of the ground coffee well before tamping it.
  • 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.

Is it important for you to know the water temperature at the piston on a La Pavoni?

Is it important for you to know the water pressure at the piston on a La Pavoni?

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.

Problems encountered and solutions

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

Problem Cause of the problem Solution
  • Water passes through the filter too quickly
  1. Not enough coffee
  2. Coffee grind too large
  3. Completely broken cake
  4. Coffee not sufficiently fresh (for example coffee from a supermarket)
  5. Coffee bought already ground
  1. add more if needed
  2. finer grind
  3. lift the lever more gently or apply method 1 of step 9
  4. buy fresh coffee from a local roaster
  5. replace it with coffee beans and grind it before use
  • Water does not pass through the filter
  1. Too much coffee
  2. Coffee grind too fine
  3. Piston temperature too high
  1. reduce the amount of coffee
  2. Grind bigger
  3. 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)
  1. The coffee is not evenly distributed in the filter (steps 4; 5; 6)
  2. The cake has small cracks
  1. Review the explanations in the note for steps 5 and 6
  2. lift the lever more gently or apply method 1 of step 9
  • My coffee flows well but is not good
  1. Most likely the water temperature
  1. Reduce 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 crema
  1. Most likely the freshness of the coffee
  1. Buy 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).

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11 comments Add yours
    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.

  1. 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.

      Thomas

      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.

  2. 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?

    Regards

    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?

  3. 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?
    Thanks

  4. 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.

  5. 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).

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