The La Pavoni Europiccola is the grandfather of home lever espresso machines. It was the basis for the first Olympia Creminas (pre-1967), inspiration for later Elektra models, and a full half-century before modern models from Rok, Flair and others. Over 60 years since the first Europiccola debuted, the model remains one of the preeminent in the home lever espresso niche. Grandpa’s still got game.
As good as the Europiccola is, even the oldest and best can sometimes benefit from re-tuning. You can improve the model’s performance, user-friendliness and aesthetics in a variety of ways if you’re inclined and a little handy.
Here are some of the best upgrades and mods for the La Pavoni Europiccola (and some modes that are mostly overrated).
In This Guide:
Grouphead Heat Sink
Cost: $60 – $100
Time: 10 – 20 minutes
The biggest issue with all of La Pavoni’s lever espresso machines is how hot the boiler and grouphead get. This happens in the grouphead because the grouphead is the largest heatsink on the machine.
An excessively hot grouphead increases the water temperature at the point of brewing, leading to over-extraction and uneven extraction. The issue might not be prevalent if only pulling one or two shots immediately after heating up the machine. If you notice shots becoming more bitter as you pull several in a row, the culprit is likely a grouphead that’s getting hotter with each pull.
The solution is to add a heatsink onto the grouphead, a heat sink for the heat sink. The most aesthetically pleasing is a metal fan-shaped heat sink that screws horizontally onto the grouphead. The fan’s shape provides plenty of surface area for heat to escape, and has a steampunk look that goes with La Pavoni Europiccola’s aesthetic.
This particular design comes in two pieces that screw together in the back. Just be sure to order the right one depending on whether you have an old generation grouphead or new generation grouphead design. La Pavoni increased the grouphead size around the year 2000. There are a few grouphead heat sinks on Etsy:
As an alternative, you can set a wet towel on the grouphead. The towel will act as a passive cooler, as the water absorbs heat and evaporates. Another option is to put the portafilter in ice water. This won’t change the grouphead temperature, but will quickly cool the water as it flows from the grouphead and into the portafilter’s puck.
Cost: $10 – $30
Time: 5 – 30 minutes
Because the grouphead’s overheating has one of the most significant negative impacts on shot quality, one of the most popular upgrades is a thermometer for the grouphead. There are two main styles, both of which are DIY.
A generic temperature strip can be purchased for ~$10, and easily stickered onto the grouphead. These have sections that change color according to the temperature, showing you a small range that the grouphead’s temperature is in. This is plenty precise enough.
A thermometer with wire probes can be affixed to the side of the machine, and the wire probes affixed to the grouphead. The thermometer will give you an exact reading of the grouphead’s temperature. There’s no need for this level of precision, but many find it more aesthetically acceptable so long as the wires are discretely situated. A temperature strip on the front of the machine doesn’t exactly match. The easiest way to attach a thermometer and probes is with blue tacky adhesive, like teachers often use in classrooms.
Neither a temperature strip nor a thermometer is specific to espresso machines. Just order an acceptable and cheap one.
PID Switch (Don’t Do)
Almost all espresso machines benefit from having a PID switch. Rather than just toggling the boiler’s heater on and off when the water temperature reaches the end of a temperature range, a PID switch uses an algorithm to scale the amount of heat. This leads to the boiler’s water maintaining a more consistent temperature.
La Pavoni’s lever espresso machines are one of the few models that don’t benefit from this upgrade (Olympia Cremina are another for the same reason). To be clear, there’s absolutely no reason to make this upgrade.
The grouphead’s overheating issue is greater than any variance in boiler water temperature, and occurs after water has passed through the boiler. Any increased boiler temperature stability is rendered moot by the grouphead, even if a heat sink is used on the grouphead.
Steam Wand Tip
Cost: $10 – $15
Time: 5 – 10 minutes
Changing out the steam wand’s tip will greatly improve the quality of steamed milk, and correspondingly your ability to make latte art.
The La Pavoni Europiccola comes with a steam wand tip that has three holes. This makes it difficult to control the actual direction of steam, and thus difficult to actually create the texture of your foam.
A single-hole steam wand tip will provide much more control, so you can direct the steam exactly as it needs to be for velvety microfoam. Most home baristas prefer a hold that’s 1.2-1.4mm.
The tip unscrews from the end of the steam wand. Just be sure to not torque the wand itself as you unscrew the tip. A new tip can be purchased for $10-$15.
Boiler Pressure Gauge
Cost: $15 – $45
Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Knowing the water pressure in the boiler isn’t essential to pulling shots, but it’s useful when making multiple beverages. The boiler will lose pressure when pulling shots and steaming milk. Knowing the pressure of the boiler’s water will tell you when the machine is ready for the next shot or pitcher of milk. (You’ll also know when the machine’s ready for its first shot when turning on.)
A boiler pressure gauge can be added to the sight glass. Gauges that screw to the sight glass’s top can be purchased from multiple sources for $15-$45. The sight glass’s top and the boiler pressure gauge should just screw/unscrew — but be careful to not break the sight glass in the process.
Piston Pressure Gauge
Cost: $240 – $300
Time: 30 – 60 minutes
The La Pavoni Europiccola is one of the few truly manual lever espresso machines (non spring-loaded). This allows for complete pressure profiling, provided you can monitor the water pressure as you pull shots.
- Instant read for pulling pressure during coffee extractions on La Pavoni Europiccola
A separate pressure gauge can be attached to the top of the grouphead’s piston. This’ll read the water pressure in the piston, which is the water pressure that shots are pulled with and different from the boiler’s pressure.
The most well-known vendor of La Pavoni pressure gauges (and many other parts) is Gabor of Naked-Portafilter.com. He’s based in Hungary, has specialty and well-made parts, and responds promptly to inquiries. Many on Home-Barista.com have had positive experiences purchasing from him.
Cost: $30 – $50
Time: 45 minutes – 1.5 hours
The most important protective change is adding a metal case around the sight glass. Without a case, it’s only a matter of time until someone bumps and breaks the sight glass, rendering the machine unusable until the glass is replaced.
The sight glass simply slides into a metal case that’s made specifically for the La Pavoni Europiccola. The metal case has a slot cut out where you can see the water level. Be careful to not break the sight glass when adding the case onto it.
Shut-Off Power Adapter
Cost: $10 – $15
Time: 2 – 5 minutes
The second most important safety upgrade is to use an automatic shut-off power adapter. These are plugs that go into the outlet, and then have an outlet to plug a cord into. A simple switch sets how long whatever is plugged in can stay on. The adapter automatically cuts power after the chosen duration (e.g. 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours).
Almost everyone will accidentally leave the La Pavoni Europiccola on by accident sometime. An auto shut-off adapter ensures that the machine doesn’t stay on indefinitely. It helps prevent boiler burn-out, and reduces the risk of little hands accidentally touching a hot and unattended boiler.
Second Shower Screen
Cost: $10 – $20
Time: 2 – 5 minutes
If channeling is a persistent issue, first try adjusting your grind and dosing. Check your tamping technique as well.
When these don’t fix channeling, a second shower screen can be used to better disperse water over the grounds. This is a metal screen that sits directly on top of the puck. It needs to be the right size for the portafilter.
Although a metal shower screen on the grounds would theoretically lower brew temperature slightly, several tests have shown that a second screen has no meaningful effect on temperature.
Gaskets and Seals
Cost: $40 – $60
Time: 3 – 6 hours
All gaskets and seals will eventually wear out, leading to untight seals that can leak and lose pressure. Changing out the stock seals with new silicone ones is the fix for this (and the same is true on most other espresso machines.
Replacing all of the gaskets and seals requires fully disassembling the machine. If you’re taking the machine apart for another reason, replace all seals with new silicone ones while everything is disassembled. If you’ve purchased and older used La Pavoni Europiccola, the seals should be replaced unless you know that the previous owner did so. At least some seals will be in poor condition.
- La Pavoni - Complete Replacement Gasket Set
- Fits: La Pavoni Europiccola millenium and pre millenium
- Contains :gaskets and o-rings - Silicone, Rubber, Teflon, Klingerite
- OEM parts sold by Coffeesection
Gasket/Seal kits are available for $40-$60. If there’s a specific issue with the piston’s seal, this seal can be purchased individually for ~$10. Video tutorials show how to disassemble the machine and replace all seals.
Cost: $1 – $5
Time: 5 – 10 minutes
To reduce manufacturing costs, La Pavoni used non-stainless metals in all of the pins that hold various parts together. Whenever you work on a part that’s held together by a pin, replace the pin with a stainless steel one if you’re able to find the same size. This will ensure the pins don’t corrode.
You don’t have to replace pins unless already taking a component apart for another reason. You might have trouble finding a compatible replacement pin, in which case the original can still be used. The time range of 5-10 minutes assumes you’re taking the machine apart for another reason, so replacing the pin itself takes virtually no additional time.
Cost: $40 – $100
Time: 5 – 10 minutes
The handle of any espresso machine’s portafilter can be upgraded for aesthetic reasons, but there’s also a practical reason to upgrade the handle when using a La Pavoni Europiccola.
Most people find La Pavoni’s stock portafilter handle not too comfortable or ergonomic. It’s also quite short, which puts knuckles precariously close to the overheated grouphead (see above) and extremely hot boiler. More than one Europiccola owner has singed their knuckle hairs when trying to lock the portafilter into place.
The solution to this is a more ergonomic and longer portafilter handle, and hopefully one that looks nicer than black plastic too. Beautiful wood portafilter handles can be had for $40-$100, or more if you want something truly exotic.
Installing a portafilter handle is as simple as unscrewing the handle from the portafilter, and then screwing on a new handle. Just be sure to order a handle with the right thread spacing. Almost all La Pavonis have 12mm threads.
Note on Corrosion: The stock portafilter handle has a threaded insert made from non-stainless metal. The insert will corrode over years of use, since water inevitably collects in the threads and sits there.
As a minor added bonus, most aftermarket portafilter handles have stainless steel inserts that screw onto the portafilter. Some made from ebony, lignum vitae, desert ironwood or similarly hard exotic woods have the threads cut directly into the wood. Either of these options won’t corrode.
If you don’t have the budget for a portafilter handle, you can alternatively dab a little olive oil on the threads of the stock portafilter handle. The olive oil will create a protective layer that helps prevent water from contacting the metal, and the protective layer will remain even after the olive oil dries.
Steam Valve Knob
Cost: $40 – $80
Time: 10 – 20 minutes
If you’re replacing the portafilter handle, you can change out the steam valve knob with a wood one that matches your new portafilter handle. This is solely an aesthetic change.
Wood steam valve knobs should be made from a dense and/or oily wood, such as ebony, lignum vitae or desert ironwood. These woods won’t absorb as much moisture when steaming, which can lead to cracking as the knob expands and contracts.
Single steam valve knobs are difficult to find, but a few are available for $40-$80. You’re more likely to find kits with a matching portafilter handle, steam knob and tamper handle for $130-$180.
If making your own, you may chisel out a little indent to glue/screw the original knob decal into place. The decal will simply pop off or unscrew from the stock knob. Be sure to drill a small hole where the pin pops out (see below).
You’ll find a small pin recessed on the side of the knob, hidden by the handle. Press this pin in (use a pin punch or fork prong) to release the handle, and then hold it down as you put on a new handle. All new handles should have a hold that the pin will pop into.
Metal Drip Tray
Cost: $10 – $25
Time: 5 – 10 minutes
If you find the La Pavoni Europiccola’s plastic drip tray unappealing, it can be switched out with a metal one inexpensively and easily. A new one costs $10-$25, will match at least your portafilter and steam wand, and simply sets into the space under the grouphead.
Cost: $5 – $25
Time: 20 – 40 minutes
The visible screws can all be replaced with matching bronze ones, for an inexpensive and easy refresh. Matching screws will be cheap if you can purchase individual ones, or a little more if you need to get small packs.
Upgrade Your La Pavoni Europiccola
The La Pavoni Europiccola is a great lever espresso machine as it is, but these upgrades make it that much better. Consider what changes you’d like to make, and elevate your espresso-pulling game.
Scott M. Brodie has over 20 years of professional experience working in coffee shops and writing about coffee (including selling superautomatic machines). When not writing, he can usually be found roasting a new African single origin or composing a fictional work.