Getting started with Olympia Maximatic

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#1: Post by tekomino »

After reading KarlSchneider's Olympia Maximatic - Second Look review and looking at machine and its specs I knew I had to have it. I ordered it and couple of weeks later it showed up. I've been using Maximatic now for 2 weeks and feel that I have good grasp of the machine and would like to share my experience with you.

Before diving into my review, let me tell you why I bought it. Obviously first on the list is ability to make great espresso, but I also appreciate the design and build quality, which on Maximatic is high. I like simple design of Maximatic and that it is built to last.

Also note that I grew up in Europe drinking Italian style espresso which is what supposedly Maximatic's forte is (but its range is much wider than that). I expected that I might like the machine. In terms of drinks, we drink both milk based drinks (cappuccinos) and espresso.

So after couple of weeks wait, Max arrived double packed and that was good since UPS completely trashed the outer box. It was battered and broken, but inner box was untouched and machine looked fantastic.

Let me get negatives out of the picture so I can wrap up on positive note which machine deserves. While reading this keep in mind that I absolutely love the machine.

Maximatic is sold and marketed as precision engineered Swiss product. And while it looks like that, the accessories that came with it are disappointing. The Tamper is about 1-2 mm smaller than it should be and it prevents you from making proper tamp. Specifically the edges of the puck do not get tamped correctly due to this and they get destroyed when you are making espresso. This results in channeling and bad tasting espresso. Take a look at the gap:

And look at spent puck, an ugly affair. Notice how edges got trashed.

This is last thing new owner of precision engineer Swiss machine that costs $3200 should deal with. Olympia should either not include tamper at all, or include properly sized tamper. This is pretty big out of box disappointment for new owners. You start making espresso with your new machine and get disappointed. This frustrated me.

Same applies to included knock-box. Olympia should be including Cafelat Tubbi knockbox with the machine instead.

As small business owner, I strive to have out of box experience for customers of my products as good as possible so my advice to Olympia is that they need to match quality of accessories included with quality of the machine or do not include accessories at all so each owner knows what to do. They could've made deal with Reg Barber to supply custom sized tamper with each machine... Include coupon or tamper in the box... Same for Cafelat for knock-box.

Other thing potential buyers should pay attention to is small drip tray. I know this was highlighted already, but drip tray is really small, probably not enough to hold single flush. I think drip tray could be made deeper. As it is you need another vessel for flushing and cleaning.

When 3-way release valve is released it makes little mess and splashes around. This is caused by shallow drip tray and I think that design of drip tray around the overpressure outlet could be improved so there is no splashing. Wear your swimming goggles:
And get your Sham-Wow's ready:

I also feel that there is no excuse for machine of this caliber to not have no-burn steam wand. While not a big deal, you learn your lessons fast and painfully.

All these are not big issues (well, except tamper) and would absolutely not stop me from buying machine. But correcting them would improve machine usability and how it feels when you are using it.

As pointed out earlier Maximatic is a fire breathing dragon HX machine. No big deal once you know what you are dealing with. I have not had any problems with this aspect of the machine.

With included tamper I struggled. I was frustrated. First shots where nothing to write about, except that they were not good. When I started paying special attention to edges of the pack the shots improved.
I measured both baskets and have ordered 54.3mm custom Reg Barber but while waiting for that I also got 54mm tamper from eBay which arrived and was pleasant surprise.

Afternoon new tamper arrived, and 3rd day of my ownership, I placed Maximatic on morning duty. Next morning using new tamper I made two singles and they were really, really good.

In fact, since getting new tamper I have not had sink shot from Maximatic. It is very consistent. Other day I posted on coffee thread that I've gotten amazing shot with Counter Culture Espresso Aficionado. And I managed to repeat that performance in second round. I was sad that after that I run out of Counter Culture Espresso Aficionado... It was brilliant.

I switched then to 49th Parallel Epic Espresso that was 5 days post roast. I tasted Epic Espresso from new local café (Comet in AA) that was made on 2 group Synesso so I had my high mark because it was really tasty. This is probably one of the best espresso cafes in Michigan.

After dialing in my Baratza Vario for new blend, I was getting same quality from Maximatic. In following days I may say I event improved upon it.

Here is what's amazing about Maximatic: Range. You can make singles that are light and nuanced and you can make doubles that are rich and thick and perfect for milk based drinks. Singles angst? Nope! I make them as often as doubles and they all are really good. Here is short-double for cappuccino I made this morning. I used double basket and 14 grams of 49th Parallel Epic Espresso (note this blends likes hot temperatures, high dose and short pulls):
It tasted amazing. It had that addictive quality that when you are finished drinking it, you have to make more.

And here is how spent puck looks like when you have proper tamper, notice difference from picture I posted before:

I also had some of Shakisso Natural Sun-Dried Single-Origin that I made as singles and was delighted to taste light strawberry short-cake with layer of milk chocolate. Surprising.

This is quite a range for machine and I attribute it to the Maximatic engineering and build quality. On paper it should not be doing such a good job, but in practice it does excellent job and amazingly I found it fairly forgiving.

I also feel I should say something about price. At almost $3200, yes it is high. But for me, I look at price as function of time and usage. If I am going to be using this machine for next 20 years, and if it makes great coffee as it does today (and there is no reason it should not) price is reasonable. We drink about 6 doubles every single day and for everything I use and enjoy every single day, I like to buy top-quality product which is usually associated with higher price. Be it computer, work chair, mattress or espresso machine. It makes sense to me. My thinking is, if you use it every single day, buy best product you can possibly afford. I am thankful I am able to do so and that Maximatic fits the bill.

I still have Quickmill Alexia with PID which is good, good solid machine, but since I dialed in Maximatic I have made just couple of shots with Alexia to compare. I have not had a need to turn it on for days. It will go on eBay soon (let me know if you want to buy it, it is still under warranty and practically new machine). For my taste (and this is really taste specific) Maximatic is in league of its own.

Maximatic is a "sleeper" machine. High performance with unassuming simple exterior. I absolutely love it.
Refuse to wing it!

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#2: Post by RAS »

I was just telling the president of my company about what a cool machine the Max is, and went to find it on the web. It's now $3677!!! :shock: ... ducts_id=2

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tekomino (original poster)

#3: Post by tekomino (original poster) »

Bob, wow, I saw that too. That is very strange pricing decision by Olympia and that is with Euro falling against dollar... We'll see how market reacts to that price.
Refuse to wing it!


#4: Post by zin1953 »

Yet one more reason I'm hanging onto my Olympia Express Caffarex NT . . .
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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#5: Post by RAS »

Me too Jason. In fact, the kitchen remodel my wife and I are now enduring is almost finished, and once it's done, I'll have a place of prominence for it... as well as my PV Lusso.

At $3677, eBay and Craigslist would be where I'd be looking if in the market for a Max or Caffarex.

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#6: Post by Bluecold »

tekomino wrote:Bob, wow, I saw that too. That is very strange pricing decision by Olympia and that is with Euro falling against dollar... We'll see how market reacts to that price.
Question for you:
"What do these countries have in common?"
San Marino
Vatican City
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"Though I Fly Through the Valley of Death I Shall Fear No Evil For I am at 80,000 Feet and Climbing."

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#7: Post by JmanEspresso »

Im not sure I agree with the tamper being as big a deal as you note in the review.

In the first picture of the tamper, where you show how it's "too small", the tamper isn't centered in the basket, its over to one side, so the other side shows maybe 2mm clearance(what you highlighted in the pic).

Now, if it were centered in the basket, as if you were actually tamping a puck of coffee, there would OF COURSE still be clearance, but Id bet about half of the clearance shown in the picture.

So, you ordered a custom piston fitted Reg Tamper(54.3mm), and the Maxi is a 54mm machine. What Im pointing out, is the nominal size. 58mm machines aren't technically 58mm...

Based on the picture of the tamper in the basket, Im going to assume they gave you a "53mm Tamper", same as if you bought a 53mm Cafelat, EPNW, RattleWare etc etc. For my Vivaldi, I have a 54mm Triple Basket(Dalla Corte Triple Basket), and when I use it, I use my 53mm Cafelat or EPNW Tamper. I dont see donut channeling or any breakdown of the sidewall.

Now, my point is twofold(and Im NOT trying to offend you, I promise). First, I dont think that Olympia supplying its buyers with the tamper shown, is bad form. Its a hell of a lot better then the plastic toy that is included with every other machine you can find anywhere. Second, I feel that custom piston fitted tampers(ala Pullman and RB), are a waste of money(when they're more money then the nominal option), and don't do ANYTHING to help the situation, aside from not leaving a couple grounds of coffee around the sidewall. My other problem with them, is that because they are "perfectly" fit to the basket, they're also only fit to a certain dose in the basket. IF you want to downdose, you are limited with how much you'd like to do so, as most basket slope inward. Furthermore, should you buy some different baskets, the tamper wont be custom fit to those.

I personally think that the fact that olympia included a nice tamper should be a positive/pro, and the fact that there is 1mm of clearance when the tamper is being used to tamp the coffee, is irrelevant.

Ill refer to a past thread, should further discussion be warranted/desired...

Tamping Twaddle...

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tekomino (original poster)

#8: Post by tekomino (original poster) »

Jeff, you know, this is one of those things that are person specific, I believe. I have not had good results with included one and have noticeable improvement with proper fit.

Mind you, I did not go for ultra-fit precisely for reason you stated, down-dosing. It is measured so it can fit both single and double basked but deeper in the basket. Double-basket at 14 grams in my machine can fit 55mm tamper...

At the end it is about what works for you, I mean me, right. Maybe your technique is much better. In fact, it probably is. Tamper that fits right can't hurt either way :D It helped me.
Refuse to wing it!

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#9: Post by cannonfodder »

I had no issue with the tamper, pulled good shots for the entire review. I also noted the knock box and shallow drip tray. I flushed into a spare pitcher I kept on my coffee bar. The knock box is a little small and if you are a vigorous portafilter whacker, you will splatter grounds, but all it takes is a light thump and it is 100% better than what comes with other machines, which is nothing at all. I liked the little machine even with its little quirks, but then I have never used a machine that did not have a few.
Dave Stephens

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#10: Post by Teme »

I've now had my Maximatic for a while as well (I managed to get it just before the price increases by the manufacturer).

My machine came with the boiler set to 1.4 bar from the factory. It was running so hot that it was very difficult to get the brew temp down far enough for decent results. The cooling flushes were extremely long and large in volume. I really cannot understand why the manufacturer ships the machines with settings so far out of whack - I assume most buyers will not open their machines and will get poor results due to the temperatures being way too high. I adjusted the p-stat and now run the Maximatic at 1.1 bar and the temperatures are now nicely manageable for brewing with reasonable flushing.

The factory setting did yield very impressive steaming power, though. The Maximatic was not far behind my previous GS3 and on top of that the steam is a lot drier than with the LM. Of course steam power comes down when lowering the boiler pressure and I am considering going back up a notch to 1.2 bar as a compromise between ideal brew temp management and steaming power.

The build and finish of the Maximatic really is quite nice and I really like the simplicity of the machine both in terms of looks as well as technically. I have owned a few machines and used a fair amount in addition to the ones I have owned. The only machine I think is close or on par in the quality of finish are the Kees Van Der Westen machines.

And the results I am getting with the Maximatic? It's early days and I am still learning to get the most out of it, but so far it appears that the Maximatic accentuates the brighter notes in the espresso compared to a GS3. There is less body and less crema (or less persistent crema) in the shots. I am not saying it is better or worse than the GS3, but it does appear different.

I like the dry steam, but the wand is a bit on the short side and does not articulate fully. I do not mind not having a no-burn wand, but I would not mind having it move in all directions. As it is one needs to give a bit more thought on how to go about steaming / positioning the wand relative to the pitcher. Also, the machine is so small that there is not much room for the barista to work with. Having used the GS3 for the past three years where one has a lot of space on the broad drip tray and with the grouphead having plenty of room around it, the Maximatic definitely is different and takes some time getting used to. Having said that, I love the simplicity also in use - you have the on/off button, the brew switch and the steam knob and that's it. The GS3 was a fantastic machine, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong and it is a mess ergonomically.
tekomino wrote:Other thing potential buyers should pay attention to is small drip tray. I know this was highlighted already, but drip tray is really small, probably not enough to hold single flush. I think drip tray could be made deeper. As it is you need another vessel for flushing and cleaning.
I agree with you. The machine simply cannot be operated without another vessel and I think Olympia should supply one with the machine (in addition to the steaming pitcher and perhaps instead of the rather useless tamper and knock-box) or at least make the drip tray deeper. But then again - even if the drip tray was deeper, I think there would be water splashing onto the countertop because the drip tray (and the entire machine) is so narrow.
tekomino wrote:When 3-way release valve is released it makes little mess and splashes around. This is caused by shallow drip tray and I think that design of drip tray around the overpressure outlet could be improved so there is no splashing.
Again, I agree. It is also worth checking under the drip tray after each session to see if water has ended up there - just to be sure the water does not cause corrosion in the longer run. However, due to the small size of the drip tray the user is likely to check this area after each use anyway.