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Best manual espresso machines

Flair Pro is one of the best manual espresso machines

Most people start their day with a nice, hot cup of coffee. So do I. Sometimes, when I am in a hurry, I don’t even have breakfast, but I always have time for wake-up juice. It gives me the energy I need until I get something to eat. I am aware of the fact that it’s not such a healthy habit, but it doesn’t happen very often. I just love coffee more than I love breakfast.

Over the years I tried a lot of coffee makers and espresso machines, even manual machines. I was searching for the best coffee anyone can make. I can’t say that I didn’t find what I was looking for. Some of the products I tried make fantastic coffee, but there is one that left me in awe entirely. I will never give up on it. I am talking about a manual espresso machine, and it makes the best espresso shots I have ever tasted in my life.

What is a manual espresso machine?

A manual espresso machine, also known as a lever espresso machine, is a coffee maker that requires your strength to pull the lever that pushes the water down through the ground coffee. You fill the portafilter with your favorite ground coffee, temper it down as much as you can, fill the water container, and then you push it down to extract the essence that is a real espresso. I can guarantee that never in your life had you drunk a better coffee than that.

You can find the manual espresso machine in many shapes and sizes, but there are also a lot of models. Some come with two levers, some with just one, and a few models even have a sort of pump right on top. No matter the model, the principle of squeezing out the perfect shot of espresso is the same.

The benefits of a manual espresso machine

 This coffee maker is meant for people who are willing to put a little bit of work into brewing the perfect espresso. It’s not very hard, per se, but let’s just say that you will pour some muscle power into the making of the ideal shot. In the end, it will all be worth it. Here are the major benefits of a manual espresso machine when compared to a commercial espresso machine.

I said it once, and I will say it again. A lever espresso machine makes the best coffee in the world. I am not trying to exaggerate or anything, but I can honestly say that I have never had such a tasty espresso in my life. I don’t even know if it’s enough to call it coffee. It’s the essence, it’s the very heart of coffee. The flavor and the cream will make your taste buds crave more. Of course, as you can imagine, the espresso it’s very strong. I once had a double shot, and it kept me awake half the night. And I drank it at 2 in the afternoon. The point is that a manual espresso machine will get the best out of that ground coffee. The coffee brand matters too, but it’s the machine that extracts everything out of it.

You can control the process a little better than with a regular espresso machine. Just in case you don’t know how that works, an electric espresso sends pressurized hot water through a pod or capsule (or even through a portafilter, it depends on the model) and into the cup. But that water goes at a certain speed that you cannot change. Basically, you have no control. A manual espresso machine, however, it’s a lot easier to control. You even have the possibility of pre-infusing the coffee, and you can send the water through at any speed you want. It allows you to extract even the last drop of flavor.

It lasts a very long time. Lever espresso machines are known to have durability that regular machines don’t. That is because there are no electrical circuits. Everything is mechanical. However, there are manual espresso makers that are connected to a power source to heat the water, but that’s about it.

It looks amazing on your countertop. Owning such a machine will definitely draw attention when you have people over. Some models look vintage and appear as if it’s select items. It depends on what metal they are made of, but I haven’t seen one that does not look good.


Like any other item in your kitchen, a manual espresso machine comes with a few drawbacks. In my opinion, it’s not something that cannot be overlooked, but it depends on the person who is purchasing it.

  • They can be rather expensive. It’s true that they have spicy prices, but there is a price range. Some come cost as little as 200$, while others go as high as 2000$. It depends on what they are made of more than anything else. The metal ones are the most expensive, while the models with the pump on top are available for under 100$. Personally, I wouldn’t choose that particular model. There is no harm in it, but many people do.
  • If you have never dealt with a manual espresso machine, it can take a while to get the hang of it. I ruined a lot of coffee until I learned how to brew the perfect espresso. You get instructional videos, and you can find them online, but when you actually get to operate the machine, it’s not as easy as the people from the video make it be. You must learn how to pre-infuse, and how fast to push down the lever (or levers), sometimes people don’t get it right because they don’t temper the ground coffee enough in the portafilter. There are a few mistakes that you can make. But after a while, and a lot of practice, you get the hang of it, and brewing an espresso will be a piece of cake.
  • Some people don’t like that they have to add hot water to the container. They have to heat the water first. It’s true that it may seem like a drawback, but I don’t see it that way. However, if you think that it’s an inconvenience, some models can be connected to a power source and deliver hot water themselves. The choice is yours.

What are the best manual espresso machines?

Before making a purchase, I recommend that you do your homework first. Some research is required in advance. First, you must determine what you are looking for and what features you would like it to have. Only then you will be able to make an informed decision and go on with the purchase. Here are a few suggestions that may make your task a little bit easier.

Flair Espresso Maker – Manual Press

The Flair manual espresso machine is among the cheapest I could find. It doesn’t mean that it’s low quality, quite the contrary. I struggled to find an affordable lever espresso maker that can guarantee quality and durability. Flair is what I found.

You can make your own double-shot professional espresso without leaving the perimeter of your house. You can have this every morning for the next 10 to 15 years. That is after you learn to operate it, of course. Just like any other manual espresso machine, the Flair requires some practice before managing to brew the perfect coffee. From what I see, if you pay attention to the instructional video and practice a few times, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting the hang of it. 

There is nothing to plug in because this espresso maker doesn’t require electricity or batteries. All you need is sheer force and determination. As a result, you have to heat the water yourself first. Bring it to a boil and then fill the container. A quick tip: don’t forget to get the piston out first. It’s a common mistake.

The machine is very easy to assemble, you will receive a manual with all the instructions. It’s among the few espresso machines that have a detachable brewing head. After you get used to it, the Flair is very easy to use, and it’s also portable. You can simply disassemble it and put it in the case you will be receiving. As long as you have the possibility of heating water, you can take it anywhere. If you like camping but cannot live without coffee, you can take it with you.

The construction of the Flair manual espresso machine is very sturdy and durable. The press stand is made of aluminum, but the brewing head is made of high-quality stainless steel. No matter how much force you use, it will not break.

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La Pavoni EPC-8 Europiccola Lever Style Espresso Machine

Remember when I told you that manual espresso machines could be expensive? Europicola is one of those. It doesn’t have an inflated price, though. There are a few models out there that are three times more expensive, but this is not as affordable as the previous model, for example.

Unlike the previous model, La Pavoni must be connected to a power source, but it has just one switch. It is steam-pressure and piston operated, and the internal thermostat monitors the pressure. It’s the perfect manual espresso machine for those who don’t want to bother heating the water before making an espresso. It can make one or two cups of espresso at a time. What you will enjoy even better is that it also has an automatic milk foamer. You can make more than espressos with Europiccola. Cappuccino, Macchiato, Americano, you name it.

La Pavoni is perfect for your kitchen counter. It has a stylish design that will draw attention. The durable triple-plated chrome design makes it look fantastic. The lever is easy to operate, but it still requires some practice before being able to brew the perfect espresso. As far as safety is concerned, you don’t need to worry. Where there is pressure, there can be accidents, but Europiccola has a safety valve that will prevent that from happening. 

The heating elements are made of stainless steel, which ensures durability. The drip tray can be removed for easy cleaning, but the chrome, after a thorough cleaning, will look as good as new every time. I don’t see how you can scratch it. The water tank has a capacity of 20 ounces and is completely removable. The steam wand will provide thick, rich foam, but also heats milk for lattes and cappuccinos.

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Rok Rokmakercop Presso Manual Espresso Maker

Last, but not least, the Rok manual espresso machine is my all-time favorite. It has the perfect balance between quality and price, although I tend to believe that it is worth more than it is. Not only that, but you get a 10-year warranty. Not many manufacturers provide it. Make you feel more sure about your decision.

What I like about this manual espresso maker is that it’s manual from start to finish. You have to boil the water yourself and then pour it into the container. The process is entirely controlled by you. This one also requires some time to get used to, but after you do, espresso-making will be as easy as pie.

The polished metal frame is made to last, and the milk frother is made of stainless steel. Yes, there is a hand-operated milk frother. That is one of the things I like the most about it. The Rok comes in a reusable metal tin that looks vintage-like. Although I cannot understand why anyone would keep this machine enclosed. The four rubber legs will prevent the espresso maker from slipping on your counter. Also, you don’t want it to slide while you apply pressure.

The accessories include the stainless steel milk frother, the tapering spoon, and a detachable double-shot spout. In my opinion, the Rok Rokmakercop is the most attractive manual espresso maker, and might as well be the best manual espresso machine on the market. I like everything about it, from design to functionality.

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Final thoughts

I don’t know about you, but I value a good cup of coffee. And espressos are not as easy to make as it seems. Making coffee is easy, but brewing a perfect shot of espresso requires the perfect combination of ground coffee and the pressure of the water that goes through it, which a manual espresso machine can provide better than any other coffee maker.

Last Updated on April 3, 2023

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