Finally! I had some free time over the holidays to enjoy some espresso with an old friend:Olympia Express Moca Espresso Grinder and Cremina
The grinder is a new espresso-only version of the Olympia espresso Moca grinder
. Needless to say, it's well proportioned to the Cremina and the pair look really sharp side-by-side. Unlike the many large semi-commercial espresso machines I've tested, the diminutive Cremina/Moca pair look perfectly natural in a kitchen environment. My wife mentioned she prefers the dark gray model, but I've warmed up to the bright "look at me!" red of the model above.
Over the coming weeks, I'll add more operational detail to this review, e.g., how to control brew temperature, manage brew pressure, and diagnose common problems. But keep in mind that lever espresso machine techniques vary widely from barista-to-barista. To get an idea of how enthusiastically Olympia Cremina fans embrace the subject, peruse the Lever Espresso Machines
forum where you'll find discussions like Olympia Cremina Temperature Study Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
(author change), and Part 4
For my part, I'll be advocating the K.I.S.S. principle
. For example, I manage brew temperature using the "cold portafilter" technique described in the Newbie Introduction to Espresso - Lever Espresso Machines
video. With a little practice, it's easy to select temperatures in three ranges: cool/medium/hot. As a good starting point, I'll start with medium brew temperature as described in the video and then shift the temperature up/down by allowing more/less recovery time.
To refresh my technique with a manual lever, I intentionally choose a temperature-tolerant espresso blend for the first week with the Cremina. After several days with Counter Culture Coffee's Big Trouble (formally known as Toscano), I switched to a more challenging single orgin:Ruvumbu, RWANDA from Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
For those who aren't familiar with Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, they package their coffees dedicated to espresso in black bags and the rest of their coffees in "traffic cone orange" bags. They describe their Rwandan Ruvumbu
coffee as follows:
Intelligentsia Coffee wrote:Focusing on ripe cherry selection, Justin Musabyimana's efforts have resulted in another exceptionally clean and flavorful harvest. Our third annual coffee from Ruvumbu tastes like apricot jam and butterscotch with the bright acidity of cranberries.
If you like fruity coffees, but flinch at the thought of lemon pucker acidity, lever espresso machines like the Cremina offer an interesting option. Because the brew water is drawn from the steam boiler (so-called "dipper" design), the temperature profile spikes dramatically above the target brew temperature at first, then tapers off as the grouphead draws off excess heat. I believe this initial temperature spike has the positive effect of tempering acidity without flattening the fruitiness. For this particular coffee, the Cremina delivers sweet fruits and a crisp clean finish of cranberries as promised, but most importantly, without the pucker I would have expected from a pump-driven espresso machine.
Before wrapping this review, I would like to hold a group taste test with a similarly fruity coffee and an ultra-flat brew temperature profile like the espresso machines from La Marzocco. Will the Cremina be able to reproduce this nicely-fruity-without-pucker espresso and how will it compare to a pump-driven espresso machine with flat brew temperature profile? We'll see. Admittedly because of the hands-on nature of a lever espresso machine, the results may not be readily reproducible, but it will be a fun comparison.