A guide when buying a manual lever-press espresso machine.
First things first, Newton Espresso sells manual espresso makers - specifically lever-press espresso makers. We design them, we make them and we sell them. It’s how we survive, so we should be trying to convince you that every espresso fanatic needs to have a manual espresso maker on their brew-bar right? Not quite.
Our advice: Purchase a manual espresso maker by first understanding why you want to brew manually and knowing what to look for.
Truth is, we only want happy customers and the happiest of all customers are the ones that know exactly what they’re purchasing and know why they need it.
If by the end of this guide you realise you don’t actually want (or need) the control or simplicity you can only get with a manual lever-press espresso maker, then we’ve equally done our job as if you recognise you need one more than ever!
In each article of this four-part series we will discuss one of the following key areas to consider when deciding if manual espresso is for you:
Our Advice: This guide is applicable to ALL manual espresso machines. Use it when deciding if a Newton BRUA, or any other manual machine is right for you.
So let’s go!
1. Do you need a manual espresso maker?
There are numerous reasons you might be looking to get into manual espresso.
- Maybe you're working from home and would like to enjoy quality espresso without sacrificing the bench space required by a much larger automatic coffee machine
- Perhaps the recent cost increase at your local cafe is no longer sustainable and you need an alternative cafe coffee equivalent
- Or you're a seasoned home barista wanting to master another style of espresso brewing
Whatever the reason, we've outlined some key considerations below to help you decide if manual espresso is right for you. Keep reading to see where you land on each!
If cost alone is your main motivation, then a lever-press may not be the most suitable option for you.
Misconception: Manual espresso makers are always the cheapest espresso makers.
Just quietly, there are plenty of cheap automatic espresso machines on the market that might suit your needs perfectly - if you don't mind drinking rather average coffee.
Alternatively, there are also entry-level manual espresso "style" coffee makers available, so if you're looking for a low-cost manual coffee maker and don't care too much about quality, these could be a great option.
You really need to consider the other reasons you might be looking at buying a manual coffee maker before making a decision and this guide will help.
Do you have limited space in your kitchen or on your brew bar? Perhaps you're looking for an espresso maker to take away in the caravan, to the holiday home, or on the yacht? If so, then maybe a portable coffee maker is a good option for you, but does it need to be an espresso maker?
Our advice: Consider where you brew and what you want to brew.
Many compact coffee makers are perfect when you don’t have the space required for a full-on espresso machine. Think of those hand-held travel espresso makers that you’ve seen online - could these be the better option for you? Absolutely!
Maybe you’ve seen people demonstrating how to make “genuine espresso” using these tiny, portable devices next to a river, on top of a mountain, in a tent or out at a picnic. Cool right? … but what happens if you also want control of the process? This brings us to the next consideration, brew control.
Brew control allows you to control your brewing process. A lever-press espresso maker gives the user full control.
“Wait, don’t you still have a lot of control with most espresso makers?”
It’s a “kind of, sort of, yes and no” situation.
A lot of electric espresso machines offer control over many of the variables that go into extracting perfect espresso, but the type of control differs a lot.
With automatic/electric machines, often the user is required to set and execute the brew parameters by briefly turning a knob or pressing a button. This can be a half step too far away from the control many of us like when making coffee.
Manual espresso offers hands-on, real-time control that you can feel (literally) in the palm of your hand.
Our advice: Consider what type of control is right for you.
It's no secret that we live in a throwaway culture.
With so many new coffee products being introduced to the market there's a mindset that nothing needs to last long, only long enough until the next new thing arrives.
At Newton Espresso, we challenge this mindset. We know that quality products last longer and are more enjoyable to use. We also know the more a product is used and enjoyed, the less likely it is to be replaced and therefore better for the planet!
So what does a good quality lever-press coffee machine look like?
Start by looking for these attributes:
Sturdiness - Is it made of solid construction with a strong, stable base?
Materials - Will the materials endure daily use for years to come?
Replaceable seals - Can the seals be replaced if required?
Our advice: Consider how long you'd like your espresso maker to last and how often you intend to use it.
There’s a lot of hype around sustainability in the coffee industry right now. Cafes are encouraging a shift away from single-use cups and roasters are pushing for the fair treatment of coffee farmers.
Perhaps you (like us) feel pretty strongly about making a conscious effort to look after the planet and the people living on it better than the previous generation has.
Just how far you take this within the context of making coffee and shopping espresso makers depends on your personal convictions, but often sustainability and fairtrade will likely come with a higher price tag.
With regards to espresso makers, manual machines won’t always be a perfect option if you are looking for zero waste - zero environmental impact and fairtrade.
Often manual coffee makers will still comprise plastic components, volatile production processes and manufacturing worker conditions, excess throwaway packaging, and over complicated distribution and transport journeys. It comes down to the individual company’s philosophy.
But all is not lost! At Newton Espresso we actively aim to be as kind as possible to the environment. Some ways we do this include;
- Using 100% recyclable and sustainable materials (including FSC timber and cardboard packaging)
- Direct-to-consumer shipping
- Local, low-volume production to minimise material waste and support fair pay
- Quality materials that will last a lifetime
- Simple design without any unnecessary mechanics vulnerable to breakage
So if sustainability and recyclability are key considerations for you, the best option is to research the environmental stance of the brands and products you like before purchasing anything that will compromise your environmental stance.
Going manual means getting tactile (as touched on in the previous “brew control” section).
Consider how hands-on you want your espresso making process to be. Many people love the feeling of unplugged espresso - “crafting” their brew with their own hands. Not one of them? Then manual espresso isn’t for you!
However, if you are one of the many that enjoy a hands-on coffee brewing experience, you will understand that manual espresso is a craft process. The user is the craftsperson and the espresso maker is a tool. A master craftsperson knows the importance of quality tools.
We understand that a quality espresso maker (or tool) extends beyond the resulting espresso to the machine's functionality and ease of use. This is why we have designed the BRUA workflow to be as simple as possible - from a safe and very simple preheat to pulling multiple shots in a single session.
So, do you need a manual espresso maker?
Hopefully now you have a better idea if a manual espresso maker is right for you and can understand how manual espresso machines are a great option for enjoying high-quality, uncompromised espresso.
If you are looking to gain total control over the extraction process, or if you don’t have the budget or space for an automatic/electric espresso machine, a lever-press espresso maker could be the answer!