Used Olympia Cremina asbestos concerns

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
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#1: Post by Chopwet »

Hello all, I have been a lurker for a while and have found these forums to be a great source of information, thank you to everyone in the community. I am seeking a bit of guidance:

I recently moved countries (again) and left behind my beat up, old La Pavoni Cellini CL (the one that looks like a robot of sorts). I have however brought along my Mazzer Super Jolly that I freshened up and converted to single dosing thanks to these very forums. With my previous setup I really felt like the machine was letting me down and that the grinder needed something better.

I am really all over the place in terms of what to look for. I generally prefer buying used and had set my limit to around $1200. Since I live in Switzerland there are a few Olympia Creminas available and I just love everything about the machines: they are compact, well made, can be rebuilt and maintained easily and should last me forever.

From what I've read the lack of PID temp control shouldn't be much of an issue and I should be able to get good espressos out of a range of different coffees. I like trying different types of coffee and usually switch between roasts at least once a month. Milk foaming really isn't a priority but I would like to try and learn just to improve my skill set. I usually pull two espressi first thing in the morning and then maybe another two in the evening and that's it usually.

I really have my heart set on one of these but my head is concerned about the heat up times, I like to switch on and pull shots as quickly as possible, and of course the asbestos boiler insulation which is midly terrifying.

I have checked the removal process and it seems rather straight forward and there are several for sale that have already had the insulation removed but I am really concerned about the presence of any remaining asbestos. I'm looking at this machine which is going for a great price, it's a bit rough but that's part of the charm and I'm not against doing work on it myself:

- How do people clean the boiler inside and out thorourghly after removing the outer insulation?
- What kind of risks am I realistically putting myself and family at by buying one of these older machines that has had the insulation removed?

I know these might be impossible to answer but any input would be much appreciated.

The Cremina is definitely a 'heart' choice. My head is telling me to just go for something like a Lelit Victoria or Profitec go that have PIDs, OPV easy to adjust and quick heat up times. I love the look of E61 machines but I think waiting 30 or more mins for proper heat up wouldn't fit in well with my coffee habits.

Thanks in advance and apologies for a long first post

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#2: Post by Marmot »

Don't worry about the absestos. The problem with asbestos is its shape and what it does in your lungs when you inhaled large amounts of it over a long time. If there even was any asbestos in the insulation of this machine it will now be gone after removal. If you enter a house built or renewed in the 70s you probably get more exposure to asbestos then owning a Cremina with an old insulation ;)
The inside of the boiler should also be alright and I would only clean it a little by boiling water in it because it probably wasn't used in a long time. As far as I know the consumption of absestos shouldn't even be a problem as long as it doesn't get into your lungs. But don't quote me on that :mrgreen:
The Cremina is a good choice and many eventually end up using one as their only machine after having owned several other types. If you buy it used you don't lose anything since you can easily sell it at the same rate again.
You could get a temperature strips to know your brewing temperature (approximately). But I don't care much about it. Overheating will probably only be a problem at the beginning when you do a lot of shots to dial in new beans. But for your use case of one to two shots it should be perfect.

Chopwet (original poster)
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#3: Post by Chopwet (original poster) »

Thanks for the reply!

To be clear: the used Creminas I am looking have already had the asbestos containing insulation removed years ago and they have been used by the current owners for several years, so I am looking at well used machines that have been in use regularly since the insulation was removed a while ago.

Since the living spaces are compact over here I would prefer a machine that is compact too.

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#4: Post by Marmot »

I guess there is not much space left next to your Super Jolly :mrgreen:
The Cremina is very compact. There is also the Zuriga in Switzerland which you sometimes can get at a similar price. But with the Cremina you can play around a lot more and I really like that you can adjust pressure during the shot. You don't have to hit the grind size exactly compared to a pump machine since you can just pull harder or softer if it is off.
In your case you could also get a hand grinder like a 1zpresso JX Pro or something from Kingrinder. This way you also have a conical grinder and you might prefer it to the Super Jolly because you have no retention.

Chopwet (original poster)
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#5: Post by Chopwet (original poster) »

Thanks for the further suggestions, I have seen the Zuriga machines and I quite like their simplified looks but they seem to offer very little in what is a very competitive prive bracket ($1500). At this stage I have no plans to change my grinder, the burrs are relatively new and with the single doser conversion and a puffer there is almost no retention.

Do you have experience with the Cremina and removal of the insulation? How do you clean and outside the inside of the boiler after the process?

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#6: Post by Marmot »

I have removed the insulation on an Olympia Club and Cremina. On the Cremina I didn't even removed the boiler from the machine. You really just have to soak the insulation and can then easily scrape it off the boiler. You just have to make sure the material remains wet during the process. You don't want to have dust flying around.
I did not clean the inside of the boiler other than using soap since my machine did stand around for a long time.
The important thing is to get rid of any dust when everything is dry again.

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#7: Post by LewBK »

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#8: Post by mrgnomer »

Marmot wrote: You really just have to soak the insulation and can then easily scrape it off the boiler. You just have to make sure the material remains wet during the process.

Yup, keep it wet. Airborne asbestos is the danger. If you can keep it from getting airborne you should be ok. The asbestos coating the Cremina boilers are bound together by some hardened paste. Mine still has it and any time I expose it I spray it down really well and wrap it in plastic.

I've worked in reno construction, sometimes in old buildings, so I'm sure I've been exposed to asbestos. Absolutely there is no safe level of exposure. Your body cannot absorb it. But it takes a good amount and some time to be fatal.

Apparently the same thing can be said of alcohol.
LMWDP #116
professionals do it for the pay, amateurs do it for the love

Chopwet (original poster)
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#9: Post by Chopwet (original poster) »

Thanks for the replies, it's a difficult decision because I really would love a Cremina but I am freaked out by exposing myself and my family to any sort of asbetos risk. My plan is to keep the machine for as long as possible so there is the potential for some kind of daily exposure over years. Right now my head is telling me that it would be silly to take this kind of risk but at the same time I am so tempted :evil:

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#10: Post by jedovaty »

The previous replies have provided some advice how to deal with asbestos, and you continue to be very worried about the potential health implications, possibly concerned about your ability to deal with it even though the machine you're looking at has the asbestos (mostly) removed. Without knowing you internet stranger it's hard to say if you are looking for this forum to convince you to buy it or to walk away from it. It does seem like if you go forward with the purchase you will constantly be looking over your shoulder.

Therefore, here's a good compromise if you have your heart set on a Cremina AND you are so worried: consider purchasing either a new unit or one manufactured sometime after ~1983.

You may need to be patient and/or adjust your budget accordingly. New unit will be available straight away and probably a bit over double your budget. Can you put a value on your family's health? And, consider if you plan to keep the machine for the rest of your life, amortize that extra ~2,500 over your estimated remaining life-span and you'll see it's not really that much money.

If that's still too much money, then keep your eye out for a used machine after 1990 (search on this forum suggests 1983 may have been the cut-of time, to play it safe maybe make it 1990 and on).

Good luck :)