Revisiting the Pavoni Manual Lever
Since my main lever espresso machine the Ponte Vecchio Lusso is waiting to be serviced (piston seal change, pressurestat change) and the my HX the Nuova Simonelli is waiting to be plumbed in. In the mean while, because I can not live without espresso, I took the La Pavoni out of its box and start to use it again. I'm glad that I did not sell the Pavoni on ebay several month ago and kept it as a backup. It is in my experience of owning espresso machines (been using espresso machines for four years) that they eventually develope prblems even if you buy new. Therefore it is always a good idea for an espresso enthusiast to have backup machine just in case their main machine need to be serviced.
Anyway, because I have not been using the Pavoni in a while, my espresso shots from the first day with the pavoni had been not very good. Dosing with the Pavoni is no big deal as long as I keep the dose below 14 grams for most coffees, I would be fine; I usually start with 12 grams for most types of coffees and adjust it up and down one gram (+/- 1 gram) for taste. However, what I had the most problem with the Pavoni is in term of temperature management group head. I admit that I had been spoiled by the convinience of the Ponte Vecchio and the Musica thermo-compensated group and their turn-on and forget nature. Now that I'm back to using the Pavoni full time I'm a bit lost.
My Pavoni is equipted with the Orphan Espresso temperature sensitive strip which I put it at the group bell. I always try to keep the 1st stripe light up (194F) but no more than that during the shot. My thinking is that at approximately 194 external temp of the group, the water inside must be higher than that and probably about 200F and perfect for brewing. I have had success with this method before but now it is not as easy; I find that the pavoni can easily overheat if I'm behind. Additionally, I find that the pressure of the Pavoni is a bit higher than usual (usually it peak at .7bar but now it peak at 1 bar)and I think it prabably has something to do with scale buildup, so I think I must either descale the machine or turn down the presurestat on the Pavoni; this is prabably the cause of the group overheating too quickly on me. It is time to to buy some more citric acid for descaling!
Because the nature of the Pavoni lever is that you have an oportunity to make one good shot and if you miss this oportunity, you must wait about 10-15 minutes for the group to cool down enough; you can use some tricks to cool the group down such as cold towel or running the portafilter under cold water; if you are interested, you can read this blog: http://coffeekind.com/reading-room/blog/cooling-down-lever. However, I found that in term of shot quality, cooling down method on the Pavoni does not produce consistent results. This makes dialing in espresso on the Pavoni especially frustrating.
On the positive notes, steaming on the Pavoni is a dream. Since I equipted it with a one hole steam tip, it produce velvety microfoamed milk very easily; I can easily make high quality steam milk on par with the Nuova Simonelli Musica pretty easily and these milk did rescue my hot espresso shots my making them into delicious cappucino!
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