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Olympia Cremina 2002: The evolution of design

Postby srobinson on Tue Dec 06, 2005 12:26 am

After completing my restoration of the Olympia 67, and the positive feedback we had with that project, I started talking with Dan that it would be interesting to do a review of a new Olympia Cremina compared to my 20 year old machine. One of the things that attract me to these machines is the timeless design of them and I was interested in showing how they have evolved over the past two decades to the Cremina that is on the market today.

So with the power of the HB network, we began discussions with 1st-Line, Olympia Express' distributor in the US and Jim was gracious enough to drop ship us a brand new machine last week, to bring this project to life. So after swinging by Dan's house on Sunday, I can proudly say that I am probably the only lever-addict in the US with this in their kitchen:

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These machines have a great following on HB and I am truly excited about having it as our first lever machine to do a bench review. As we saw with Danno's recent post on the Olympia factory, there is a philosophy and passion that goes into these machines as well as the manufacturing objectives of the company...as they state on their website:

Faddish gimmicks never stood a chance at Olympia Express. The design has certainly changed over the decades, but only as necessary to accommodate the desires of its customers and always adhering to the classic design principle: form follows function.

That is why Olympia Express machines are never loaded down with exotic features, but retain a simple, timeless beauty.

Olympia Express has neither the ability nor the desire to compete with lesser quality mass-production; or with overly-sophisticated, failure-prone, automatic mechanisms and electronics.

Instead, we attach a great deal of importance to the use of high-quality materials, dependable craftsmanship, and tried and tested, easily repairable technology. Thus, the current attention paid to "lasting technology," has been faithfully followed for decades by Olympia Express.


So with this as a backdrop, I will take the next couple of weeks to show how the Olympia Cremina compares to other levers, how it has evolved over the past couple decades and whether it warrants its lofty price....and give you a good look at a machine in this day and age, where the employee who built it still signs their name to their handiwork.

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Postby skyryders90 on Tue Dec 06, 2005 12:58 am

srobinson wrote:So with this as a backdrop, I will take the next couple of weeks to show how the Olympia Cremina compares to other levers, how it has evolved over the past couple decades and whether it warrants its lofty price....and give you a good look at a machine in this day and age, where the employee who built it still signs their name to their handiwork.]


In today's world of mass production, generic corporate-speak, and abstraction-to-distraction, there's almost something romantic about a product that is signed by the person who put it together. More products today - from $9 blenders to $500k software - might benefit from this. Not to lapse into the afore-mentioned corporate-speak, but talk about instilling a sense of ownership...
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Postby Teme on Tue Dec 06, 2005 3:36 am

I think the boiler pressure gauge on the new model adds a nice modern touch.

Are the groupheads identical on the two machines? I may be wrong (maybe it's the picture or perhaps it's just my eyes) but the portafilter in the new model seems slightly deeper?

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Postby RCMann on Wed Dec 07, 2005 2:48 pm

The portafilter may be deeper, but the double basket certainly isn't!

I was shocked last week when I (finally) received my gasket set.

I had added a double basket to the order, anticipating it would be the same depth as the one on my 67.

Surprisingly enough, the one I got from Olympia is exactly the same depth as the double basket on my Europiccola, which means a couple of mm shy of the depth of the 67 basket.

Unless I received an anomaly, I guess Elektra baskets will be the way to go in future.

I know, way OT and I'll say no more.

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Postby Compass Coffee on Wed Dec 07, 2005 6:54 pm

Kudos :!: Stunning restoration and such great detail given along the way.

I agree with your choice of letting Thor add at his magic touch. Les really is an excellent craftman. (Though you should see some of his very early model tampers, one of mine is #2 I believe, totally worthless functionally but not complaining, it was a gift and it's a beautiful work of art)
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Postby srobinson on Thu Dec 08, 2005 11:26 pm

Based on the comments, I'll hit two topics tonight to cover the discussion on the portafilters and then get back on the normal review. First on the size of the portafilters, RCMann hit it right on the head. The newer model is taller/deeper, but the portafilter is shallower. New on the left, old on the right...sorry the pic is a bit dark. I'll do some compares on the baskets later in the reviews. I am getting very good performance from both on the older machine.

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Now the portafilter is a good place to start seeing some of the changes that have happened over the years. On the new portafilter there are several changes:

1) New one will take a clip
2) The spout is not cut-through
3) the spout has a rubber gasket where it meets the base
4) the spouts are spaced a bit wider than on the older machine

New on the left, old on the right.

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Now, I am going to be picky. I really think the design of the spouts on the older portafilter is superior to the new one. With the way that I pull, I really like the cut-away spout since it gives me a very early sign on how the pull is going. Like a naked portafilter, you can see the striping of the coffee and I use that indication to slightly adjust my pulls. The new design does not allow me to do that and I must look in the cup....this is a nit to many, but bugged me with the first few pulls.

Secondly I like the way that the spout attaches on the old portafilter. As you can see in the picture it is split at the top and this design gives it a slight amount of pressure against the screw, thus is very easy to adjust. On the new design they had to add a washer to allow the spout to get tight. Without the washer you cannot tune the spout..it will just loosely turn until it hits bottom. Now I twiddle quite a bit with the machine, and I have already torn one washer since it is fairly soft. As such I like the older design with this regard.

Finally both Dan and I noticed that the spout itself was not finished to the same degree as other parts of the machine. As I mentioned above there is some shockingly good metalwork on this machine and some of the seams are invisible....extremely well done. Well on the bottom of the spout you find it not smooth finished and some of the casting marks are not buffed on the base of the spout. I wonder if this is one of the parts that Olympia are now outsourcing:

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If you look at this pic, it is still the old style, so this must have been a late change. Will have to see from Jim if you can still get the old style.

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My final comment on portafilters is that there is another feature that Olympia just got right. On both the Pavoni and Elektra, they are very sensitive to an overfilled basket. Now I am sure that most of the leverheads on this forum are very exact in their routine, but I will admit from time to time I overfill....guilty. Now on the Pavoni and Elektra, what will happen is that they will not let an overfilled basket lock in...thus you waste a shot, or try to remove some which never works. What Olympia got right is that it is very forgiving and I have been able to a good lock on every try, even when I am a bit sloppy and overfill. This is a very small item, but is one of the many little things that differentiate these machines and show how well they are thought out and executed.
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Postby srobinson on Fri Dec 09, 2005 12:19 am

So back to the review. One of the nice things about buying an Olympia Cremina is that they really try to give you close to everything you need to get started right out of the box. Even the box is impressive....it is one of the largest pieces of Origami that I have ever seen. Some serious thought went into how to pack so many accessories into a tiny box. Here is what you will find when you unpack. The only assembly required is to screw in the handle.

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Included accessories:
Portafilter handle
One cup filter basket
Two cup filter basket
Measuring spoon
Stainless steel milk pitcher
Stainless steel knockbox
Stainless steel Funnel....that's right, a stainless steel funnel.

The only thing missing is the tamper....but wait, you read the book and find out that the measuring spoon can be used as a tamper as well.

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It does work, but due to the way the handle is attached you don't get much travel with it and the rounded corners on the bottom make it hard to get a good edge seal. You are going to need a good tamper.

Finally, once you get it out of the box you finally get to see what color the case is. Now with the older models you have seen the browns, yellows and reds. On the new Cremina, it is actually a silver/grey powdercoat finish, that look black under low light. Not the gloss black of my Swiss Miss.

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Also no rear badge. Icon and name are now fully displayed on the front.

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Postby RCMann on Fri Dec 09, 2005 9:01 am

srobinson wrote:My final comment on portafilters is that there is another feature that Olympia just got right. On both the Pavoni and Elektra, they are very sensitive to an overfilled basket. Now I am sure that most of the leverheads on this forum are very exact in their routine, but I will admit from time to time I overfill....guilty. Now on the Pavoni and Elektra, what will happen is that they will not let an overfilled basket lock in...thus you waste a shot, or try to remove some which never works. What Olympia got right is that it is very forgiving and I have been able to a good lock on every try, even when I am a bit sloppy and overfill. This is a very small item, but is one of the many little things that differentiate these machines and show how well they are thought out and executed.


Hear, hear!

That's one of the first of many things I found that puts this machine above the rest.

The annoying tendency of even slightly overfilling a Pavoni basket prevents locking in the portafilter; so back out, scrape some off the top, retamp, etc.

A slight over/underfill on the Cremina is adapted for much more easily by the machine.

The difference (I assume) is due to the depth of the ears on the portafilter-the Cremina ears are much thinner at the thin end than the Pavoni ears, which are quite a bit thicker.

Anyway Steve, this is very interesting reading, I'm enjoying comparing my 31 year old machine to the latest state-of-the-art.

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Postby Teme on Sat Dec 10, 2005 12:31 pm

I've always been a bit curious as to why the Cremina's portafilter locks in counter-clockwise onto the right (vs the Pavoni's clockwise and to the left). With the Pavoni I like holding on to the pf handle when pulling a shot - it feels the natural thing to do. This does not work with the Cremina if you use your right hand to pull the shot - could the designer have been left handed?

Another thing I have noted is that the Cremina weighs about twice as much as a Pavoni Pro. Both have 1.8 L boilers and are roughly the same size. I guess the shell on the Cremina contributes towards the increased weight - a more robust build might be another reason?

I saw a picture of the piston of a current Cremina on their German website http://www.olympiaexpress.de and it did not have the 4 holes shown and discussed in the Restoration of an Olympia Cremina thread. I wonder why Olympia would have abandoned this design?

..and a couple of further points I have been pondering:

- In the Pavoni there is some sideways play in the lever handle. How is the Cremina? More precise finish is apparent but is there still some slop with the lever?
- What is the approximate volume of the grouphead comparison to the Pavoni? I.e. short of double pulling the lever and all other things being equal, are the respective shot volumes for the Cremina about the same or larger than those from a Pavoni?

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Postby KarlSchneider on Sat Dec 10, 2005 12:56 pm

srobinson wrote:Now the portafilter is a good place to start seeing some of the changes that have happened over the years. On the new portafilter there are several changes:

1) New one will take a clip
2) The spout is not cut-through
3) the spout has a rubber gasket where it meets the base
4) the spouts are spaced a bit wider than on the older machine


Hi Steve,

As you know I am among the many who are reading your latest story word-by-word. Each of us seems to have our own questions. When I read the above I immediately asked, "How much wider are the spouts spaced?" Or, more concretely, can one pour into a single "standard" espresso cup with this pf? I can do this with my Elektra pf as long as I am careful to place the cup on center. Alternatively I wonder if there is a single spout available.

A related question of interest to me is whether I can use my Elektra baskets in the Cremina pf.
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