Last Updated on September 25, 2021 by John Moretti
Using a manual espresso machine is a great way to have full control over your much-needed morning espresso. These machines can be easy and fun to use, and the feeling of satisfaction you get from physically pulling your own espresso shot is unrivaled. But choosing the right manual espresso machine that suits your needs can be challenging.
There are many manual espresso machines on the market today, but I have selected the five best manual espresso makers according to my research:
- Classic Flair Espresso Maker – Fully Manual
- The LA Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola – Antique Style Machine
- Elektra S1 Micro Casa Lever – For Advanced Users
- Rok Presso Lever Maker – Highly Portable Espresso Maker
- Wacaco Minipresso – Perfect For Camping
So, what are the five best manual espresso machines that you can choose from? Are there any considerations to keep in mind when you are looking for your manual espresso machine? What makes these five manual espresso machines my top picks? Why should you choose a manual espresso machine in the first place? We will go through all this and more in this article.
Considerations When Choosing A Manual Espresso Machine
When choosing a manual espresso machine, you need to look at a few factors in order to get the best options for your needs. You need to keep in mind the size of the machine, ease of use, the material the machine is made from, as well as the versatility of the machine.
Size Of The Espresso Machine
The size of the espresso machine can play a big role in choosing an excellent manual espresso machine as you are limited to your available counter space. The size of the espresso machine will largely depend on specific features that the espresso machine has, for example, the capacity of the water tank or the milk carafe and the levers.
If you are having a problem with counter space, then simpler versions of the espresso machine will probably suit your needs better. You can then look at getting a hand-pump version as these do not include steam wands or internal boilers, meaning they are smaller and weigh less, so you need less counter space for them.
If you still want these extra features, smaller versions of machines offer them, but you will need more space for them than the hand-pump models as they are a bit bigger. However, models with these features can still be compact, but this will depend on the water capacity they offer. In these smaller versions, there is generally only a single boiler that is used for both the steaming and the brewing.
Ease Of Use
A fully manual espresso machine takes a lot of practice to use correctly to make a good espresso. The reason for this is because the operator of the espresso machine has to control every step of the process, and this can be a difficult skill to learn in the beginning. There is a high margin for error in this as there are multiple fascists to using the machine that you have to get right to make a good espresso.
The operator has to do everything from grinding the coffee beans to controlling the pressure of the machine. This can take multiple tries and lots of note-taking, but once you get it right and make a perfect espresso, the result is well worth the effort.
Suppose you are a beginner or you do not have the time to practice using the manual espresso machine. In that case, a fully manual espresso machine is not for you, and you should instead opt for a semimanual espresso machine. These will still allow you some hands-on involvement in your espresso-making, but with a lower chance of error.
Material The Machine Is Made From
When you are looking for an excellent manual espresso machine, then the machine’s material needs to be considered. You need an espresso machine made from material that not only looks good but it also needs to be long-lasting and durable. The best materials that match these requirements are brass, aluminum, stainless steel, and chrome.
Some manual and semimanual machines do have a few plastic parts in them if you go for cheaper options, so for these models, make sure that you look for BPA-free options.
With machines that have internal boilers, the aluminum heats up and can transfer the heat quickly, but they tend to lack temperature stability. In contrast, brass boilers offer better temperature stability for the water and can keep the temperature consistent for a longer time. Some high-end espresso machines have copper boilers; these will also provide temperature stability and consistency.
These copper boilers are generally plated in another metal to ensure the copper does not leach into the espresso. With stainless steel boilers, you need to be careful of the quality because the lower the quality of the metal, the lower its effectiveness will be in heating and transferring the heat.
The Machines Versatility
Operating some manual espresso machines can typically be a one-step process, but some can be quite versatile and offer other options, not just espressos. Having a versatile espresso machine can be very handy when you are catering to people with different tastes, as you do not need an entirely different machine to ensure everyone is happy.
If you can, then getting an espresso machine with a steam wand and an internal boiler can be more beneficial. These can then be used to make cappuccinos and lattes, offering you more variety from your machine. If you get a cordless manual espresso machine, then this makes your espresso machine portable, meaning you can then take them on camping trips, and they are perfect for your business travel needs.
The Best Manual Espresso Machines
Now that we have looked at the important aspects needed when looking for a manual espresso machine, we can now go over our top ticks for the best manual espresso machines. These manual machines have been chosen to fit some or even all of the criteria we have mentioned.
Some espresso machines are more expensive than others, but we have added in a few budget options. As we believe that even if you do not have much spending money, you can still have a good espresso. Let us go through our top picks so you can choose the best option for your specific needs.
1. Classic Flair Espresso Maker
This espresso machine is a unique-looking and fully manual machine that operates without electricity, which makes it an eco-friendly machine. To use this machine, you heat and assemble the group head for every shot you make. You will then pour boiling water into a cavity that sits above the ground coffee beans by hand. Then you wait for the espresso to brew.
This espresso machine is also travel-friendly and easy to store as it can come apart, and everything fits nicely in a compact bag, making it easy to clean. The stand is made from aluminum, and the brewing head is made from good-quality stainless steel, making this machine quite long-lasting and durable.
This espresso machine has a lower price point, making it very affordable. The classic Flair espresso maker is relatively easy to learn compared to most other manual espresso machines, so you do not have to spend days learning it before you make a good espresso.
2. The LA Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola Espresso Machine
The LA Pavoni Epc-8 is a nice-looking machine made to resemble the antique machines used in the early 20th century, which gives this espresso machine a nice aesthetic look. This espresso machine is relatively easy to use and is generally recommended for first-time manual espresso makers.
The machine is a lever design and uses steam to control the piston with an internal thermostat that will monitor the pressure through the whole process.
The La Pavoni EPC-8 is a highly durable machine, the boiler is generally made from nickel-plated chrome, and the heating elements are made from good quality stainless steel. But you can get this machine in many different metals to suit your style and needs. If you take care of this machine and clean it regularly, then it can last you decades.
This espresso machine is versatile as it comes with a cappuccino attachment and a steam wand, so you can use this machine to cater to different tastes.
3. Elektra S1 Micro Casa Lever
This espresso machine is stunningly beautiful as it has a brass and chrome finish and wooden handles. It is a modern spring-piston machine that is designed to look and function like classic espresso machines. But this espresso machine also has modern features that make it easier and safer to use, like pressure and temperature gauges.
This machine does have a large capacity boiler, which does mean that this machine is bigger and requires more space. The Elektra S1 is a versatile machine as it does come with a steam wand, making it easy to make other drinks like cappuccinos.
It does, however, require a good amount of practice to use correctly and make a good espresso as you need to practice monitoring different aspects with the gauges on the machine. But this machine does have built-in safety measures, so you do not need to worry about messing up your first espresso too much.
4. Rok Presso Lever Maker
This is not technically an espresso machine, it is just an espresso maker, but this espresso maker still deserves its place on this list as it does its job exceptionally well. This is a sturdy and solid piece of equipment with two levers instead of the usual one that most machines have. This double lever alleviates some of the physical work if manually making espresso, as you can push down both levers simultaneously.
This espresso maker is suitable for traveling and storing as it is highly portable and is relatively small. The Rok Presso Lever is easy to learn, and once you get the hang of it, it is always easy to use. It is also a cheaper option compared to other espresso machines, but it still makes excellent espressos.
5. Wacaco Minipresso Portable Espresso Machine
The Wacaco Minipresso is an espresso machine that you can use almost anywhere due to its compact size. You can take this machine to the office for a good shot of espresso, or you can even take it camping as it does not require electricity to function.
This machine weighs less than a pond and is only 7 inches tall so that it can be stored easily. This espresso machine is easy to lean and use as you just need to pack in your favorite ground coffee beans, then add in boiling water and pump until you have a nice, hot single shot of espresso.
The Wacaco Minipresso is not very versatile, but some accessories are sold separately that can increase the versatility of this machine. It is made out of a highly durable plastic that is BPA-free.
Why You Should Use A Manual Espresso Machine
With many different espresso machines on the market today that allow you different control options. While still requiring you to use enough technique for you to feel like you have earned your shot of espresso, it may seem unnecessary to invest in a manual espresso machine.
But, if you are committed to your coffee and looking to expand your coffee experience, investing in a manual espresso machine is a good option. Manual espresso machines offer you more control over the pressure that is pulling your shot of espresso. This allows you to have more variation in your espresso and experiment to figure out different tastes.
Creating your espresso from scratch and physically pulling an espresso shot from a machine is often considered a beautiful and artistic skill to have, and it can be quite impressive depending on the machine you use.
Manual espresso machines are more durable and are built to last, so you do not need to replace them every few years. The parts for manual espresso machines are also more readily available, so if something does break, you will be back to making excellent espressos in no time.
This makes a manual espresso machine well worth the effort to learn and the money to buy it as you know it will last you a long time, and it will cost you less down the line, even if you need to buy some new parts.
The Final Word
Manual espresso machines are a good investment, and they can be fun to use, and they come with a nice feeling of satisfaction when you have pulled a good espresso by hand. There are many different manual espresso machines to choose from, but we hope this list will help you decide the best machine for you. Have fun and good luck with your espresso-making!