This is a write up of the main differences between the Pavoni lever machines for those who may want to start out a coffee voyage with a lever. When I was looking for one I had to search for quite a while to try to figure out where the difference was about style and where substance so hopefully this will help others with that issue.
There are several versions of the Pavoni levers. The most expensive ones are substantially more expensive than the cheaper ones, but are they better? For the most part I think the answer is no. The main two sold in the United States are the Europicola and the Professional. There are cosmetic differences between machines within a given line, such as chrome versus brass and colored bases or wooden handles, but functionally these are the same. The Pavoni Stradavari is a pretty variation, with a curved handle, but again it is not functionally different from the others.
The biggest difference between the Europicola and the Professional is the size of the boiler. It turns out that both machines overheat after a few shots, so it does not mean that you can make more espresso on one than the other. On the other hand, you will get longer, better steaming power out of the bigger boiler. I find that there is plenty of power for a cappuccino or two, but if you wanted to produce two large lattes and or loved large milk drinks there might be an incentive to buy the bigger machine. The other advantage of the bigger machine is that it has a pressure gauge that tells you the pressure in the boiler. This is a minor advantage that some people really like, but again it is a feature that mostly would be fun to have as opposed to one that is likely to improve your espresso’s taste.
Now there are, of course, always people with different opinions or strategies to change the way a machine works. Some people, for example, put ice cold towels over their machines to cool them and keep them from overheating as quickly or running the portafilter under cold water hoping for the same effect. If you were willing to do that in order to pull a more shots you might find the bigger boiler of help with espresso, too.
In summary, I think the Europicola is probably the best choice when price is taken into account, but certainly if not the Professional does add some pleasing features.
I also should add that the Pavoni is not the only game in town. The Elektra while more expensive is a great machine. Their machines in general just pull great shots. The gold standard of home levers is the Cremina from Olympia. I’ve never used one, but it has a cult following. Then again at $3,850 for a new machine it ought to be great. The PV Lusso is supposed to be a very good machine at a little under 1k, so while the Pavoni is one of the cheaper levers and it is one of the best looking machines out there there are other options that are supposed to produce espresso as good or better – just not cheaper ones that pull off that feat.
Buying used is, by the way, a great way to go with levers because they have fewer parts to break down so a less known brand used lever can sometimes be a steal especially if it has been treated well over the years.