When I found out there was going to be an updated version of the Profitec Pro 800 spring brew lever espresso machine, and that I was going to be able to take the machine home to test and review, I “sprang” at the opportunity.
Poor puns aside, I embraced the task of using a brew lever machine for the first time, and quickly came to realize why there is a passionate and proud group of those who prefer to make their espresso the “old way” that originated in the 1950s in Italy.
Continue reading to check out my review of the 2022 updated version of the Profitec Pro 800, and see for yourself why the tried and true process of brewing with a spring lever continues to stand the test of time.
New and Updated Features
Steam and Hot Water Spring Lever Valves
For this iteration of the Pro 800, Profitec updated a number of key features. The first and arguably most noticeable difference is the replacement of the steam and hot water knobs with joystick operated spring lever valves. These new and improved lever valves have the option to operate manually if you slightly push on them in any direction, as well as the option to lock in place for hands-free operation before you nudge them back into their default center position to stop the flow of water or steam. After trying my hand at both versions of the Pro 800, the levers were easier to use, very smooth and responsive thanks to the springs, and much more aesthetically relevant as the smaller supplementary levers positioned on both sides of the centerpiece that is the brew lever.
Handcrafted Wood Accents
New to the Pro 800 and included as part of the machine’s stock model are beautiful handcrafted American walnut accents. This magnificent design update is featured on the handles of the lever valves, the hand lever, and all of the included commercial 58mm portafilters. Wood accents are typically offered as a premium add-on, so the fact that they come included at no extra cost is extraordinary. In my experience, the accents also made a huge difference in the overall appearance and presentation of the machine as it sat on my countertop, especially when compared to the black plastic parts that were previously included.
Redesigned Pressure Gauge
Located below the levers on the face of the Pro 800 is a redesigned pressure gauge. Now larger with a pine green background and more pronounced white type, the gauge manages to be easier to read while also blending perfectly into the rest of the machine’s design and layout.
Programmable ECO Mode
A third update is the addition of an optional ECO mode, which will shut the machine down after a certain amount of time following the last use. This is something that is not immediately noticeable, but it does come in handy on those days when you forget to turn your machine off manually before leaving for work in the morning. This prevents your machine from running idly for hours on end, which helps prolong its total lifespan.
You can access ECO mode via the PID display, which is located behind the drip tray. First press and hold the plus and minus buttons together until “T-1” appears, then quickly press the minus button to cycle through the menu options until you get to ECO mode. From there, press the plus button to begin cycling through different time increments that will determine how long before the machine goes into standby and stops heating the boiler. This ranges from zero, which essentially turns the mode off, all the way to 10 hours, and goes up in 30-minute increments.
Stainless Steel Base Frame
Also new to this version of the Pro 800 is a stainless steel base frame that consists of one continuous piece front to back and side to side. This helps provide additional support to the machine, which weighs in at roughly 70 lbs.
Returning Features and Included Accessories
Aside from the updated features, the Pro 800 has also retained the trove of features that has made it the standout machine it is today.
As previously mentioned, a Gicar PID display returns, and it’s as straightforward to operate as ever. The PID is located behind the drip tray, and easily accessed by removing the drip tray. To activate PID settings, press and hold the plus and minus buttons on the display until “T-1” appears. If you quickly press the plus button while “T-1” is displayed, you can easily set the machine’s boiler temperature. I, along with staff expert, YouTube personality, and all-around great guy Marc Buckman, recommend starting with a temperature of 248 degrees Fahrenheit. From there, you can raise or lower the temperature to your heart’s content. To access the PID’s other functions, again press and hold the plus and minus buttons, when “T-1” appears, press the minus button to cycle through the other menu options. Aside from the aforementioned ECO mode, you can also set the PID’s temperature display to read either Celsius or Fahrenheit.
While you’re operating the PID, you’ll probably notice the switch located behind the drip tray as well. This is how you set the water source to either the 2.8 L reservoir – which is the default option – or the alternate option of plumbing in the machine. Push the switch to the left if running from the reservoir, and to the right if plumbed to a fixed water connection. The location of the waterline connection for plumbed operation is underneath the machine next to a valve for selecting plumbed or reservoir operation. A braided stainless line is included with every machine purchase for those looking to utilize this feature, and connection to a water drainage is also possible. Regardless of your water source option, cold water gets drawn from either the plumb line or vibration pump before feeding into a solenoid valve.
It’s also worth noting that the machine is silent when plumbed directly to a waterline as it negates the need for the vibration pump to run. I didn’t have a chance to test this out, but all of my research and staff experts I talked to confirmed a silent experience. This is not to say the machine is overly noisy even when drawing water from the reservoir, which is located on the top of the machine and underneath the removable cup tray. I turned the machine on and off countless times while testing over a 2-week span and brewed seemingly countless shots, and the sound of the pump running to draw more water never became grating or a nuisance first thing in the morning while my fiancé was often still sleeping. The machine is by no means quiet when the pump is running, but it is not loud enough to significantly hinder the coffee making experience. The pump also only runs when drawing water from the reservoir, so the actual brewing process is silent, which was a new and welcomed experience for me.
An insulated 3.5 L copper boiler that utilizes a dipper system also returns, in addition to a surprisingly large 1.25 L drip tray with a removable plug and collection cup to run a drain line, no-burn steam and hot water wands with a two-hole tip for the steam wand, spacious removable cup tray with rails that runs along the top of the machine, and a flawlessly reflective mirror finished case. I’m a stickler for keeping my at-home appliances clean, so seeing the Pro 800 in all its reflective glory on my countertop was something to behold.
Additional features that Profitec clearly put thought into when it comes to simplicity and reliability are a metal counterweight in front of the pump inside the machine which adds stability when pulling the lever down, a static relay that supplies power to the 1500 W heating element, and two resettable high-limit switches which cut power to the heating element if things get too hot. A boiler fill level probe, a safety valve rated at 2-bar and a vacuum relief valve are also present.
Also included with every purchase are 7g, 14g and and 21g filter baskets, a high quality and weighty tamper, a group brush, and user manual.
How to Use the Profitec Pro 800
So just how does a brew lever machine work? If you’re like me and have little to no prior experience with this type of machine, I’m sure you’re wondering like I was. After some research and observation, I was able to get a hang of the process fairly quickly.
When you pull the brew lever down, low pressure in the boiler pushes brew water to the group. So, as long as you leave the lever down, water will continue to move at a low flow rate and pressure to pre-infuse the coffee. This means once you find a pre-infusion time that works for a particular coffee, it’s easy to repeat and get the same flavor shot after shot. For me it was around 4-5 seconds. It also means that beyond the typical normal coffee selection (I used Gaggia Intenso), grind size, brew temperature, and dose weight, the amount of time you choose to leave the lever down is the only significant decision you have to make. The end result is a surprisingly reliable level of consistency, especially considering how daunting the machine and brew lever appear at first glance.
Once you lift and release the lever, the machine does the rest by starting at high pressure and then gradually lowering as the shot progresses. The shots I produced pleasantly surprised me, as they were richer and more flavorful than I was expecting.
Milk Frothing and Hot Water
When it comes to milk frothing and hot water dispensing, my experience was once again overall pleasant. Without a sizable learning curve in my way like the one I faced with the brew lever, I was able to use my prior experience to easily steam milk for lattes, and dispense hot water for Americanos in no time at all. As previously mentioned, the updated spring levers were also extremely easy to use and responsive.
Thanks to the included dipper boiler system, steaming and pulling a shot at the same is also a possibility. I tested this out and it worked flawlessly, but I prefer to follow a step-by-step process when making milk-based drinks, so I didn’t take advantage of it as much as I could have.
Marc, however, did a wonderful job showing off the Pro 800’s streaming capabilities in his review video at the beginning of this article, which I will also link to here.
Things to Consider
Before deciding to invest in the Pro 800, here are a few things to consider:
- The brew group lever is heavy! Weighing in at more than 17 lbs, it will require a significant amount of force to pull it down. So much so that you may think you are going to break the machine the first few pulls. The pull back up is easier, but be careful not to have your head in the way. When brewing, the lever will catch and slowly release at the top, but will snap back with a solid amount of force if pulling up when the machine is off or there is no water being pulled.
- As previously mentioned, the machine itself is a weighty 70 lbs. So, be prepared to ask someone else to help you lift and/or move it.
- When it comes to finding a suitable location for the machine in your home, office or business, you need to take into consideration the amount of clearance required to comfortably and safely maneuver the brew lever. When fully raised, the lever needs at least 29 inches of vertical clearance. Open setups that don’t have to take overhead cupboards into consideration are ideal.
- I clocked the total heat-up time in the 30-40 minute range, which is unsurprising given to the size of the boiler and group. Keep this in mind when considering the amount of time you allocate to getting ready in the morning. You can also choose to invest in a compatible appliance timer that can be programmed to turn the machine on automatically and be ready for use by the time you wake up.
In all of my research and conversations leading up to using the Pro 800 for the first time, the overall sentiment was that brew lever machines are something of a lost art; an old-fashioned way of doing something that when done right, can produce something special.
After spending substantial time with the machine, I wholeheartedly agree. While lugging the machine around and getting it on my countertop wasn’t exactly easy, the more time I spent honing my craft with the machine, the more pleased I became. After about a day or so, I had the basic processes down, and after a week I was at the point where I could differentiate the quality of my coffee by the amount of pre-fusion time I allotted. By two weeks, I was a staunch believer in the process and now I consider myself a brew lever believer.
Hopefully I have been able to convey this sentiment to you, the reader. I also hope it's now a little bit easier to understand why those who use spring lever machines are so devoted to such a long-standing process. From a look that is equal parts powerful and nostalgic, to an outstanding level of control and quality when it comes to brewing delicious shot after delicious shot, the most recent edition of the Profitec Pro 800 is truly a thing of beauty, inside and out.
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