1979 La Pavoni Europiccola buying advice

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Hangingout

#1: Post by Hangingout »

Long time reader, but my first post.
I am asking for expert buying advice on a La Pavoni Europiccola. 1979. Copper and brass. $350 Looks all stock/unmodded. It's hard to tell from the pictures how good the finish is, but it looks okay. Underneath looks really clean. I haven't talked to owner yet, so I don't have any history. I have done a lot of reading on La Pavoni machines. I'm also looking at an Elektra, but it's $1000.
My questions are: Does that seem like a good deal? What are things to examine or especially look for when I see it?
For reference... It will be for my home use on weekends. I have an OE Lido E grinder. I'm meticulous and scientific in how I make coffee. My point is, I'm not expecting more than this boiler can produce, and I'm able to climb the learning curve.
Thanks!

Hangingout

#2: Post by Hangingout »

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Hangingout

#3: Post by Hangingout »

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Hangingout

#4: Post by Hangingout »

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IamOiman

#5: Post by IamOiman »

If everything works I think that is a pretty good price. The drip grate does not appear original with the machine. If you see the machine these things heat up so quick you can ask to have it turned on to test boiler and gasket integrity. Can't think of too much else. These machines are absurdly simple and the bottom is in very nice condition as you note. That is usually a common issue with these machines, a rusty underside from a leaking boiler gasket.

A Pavoni Professional was my first espresso machine and I enjoyed the learning curve. It took me about 2 weeks to properly pull shots and to this day some of my thickest shots came from that Pavoni.
-Ryan
I'll throw my portafilter in the ring
LMWDP #612

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drgary
Team HB

#6: Post by drgary »

The price looks fair. The base is probably brass-plated steel and the boiler is copper plated brass. You might try a magnet on it. If the base isn't magnetic it is real brass. Even if not, it's very pretty. I'd have the seller demonstrate to you that it works, making sure it's tested when filled with water. If there's a short or the heating element is shot that's a good basis for haggling.

Here are some great quotes from the late Robert Pavlis:
rpavlis wrote:Since the mid 1990s the brass ones have been practically completely brass.
rpavlis wrote:I have a 1999 Europiccola that I purchased about two years ago. If one run a magnet over it, one will find that there is practically nothing magnetic on the whole machine except for the group handle and some weakly magnetic pieces of stainless steel. The boiler and all of the brass things directly soldered to it are bare metal with no protective coating. Everything else has some sort of polymer coating that is amazingly durable, as it looks nearly perfect 13 years later. From time to time I take some "Brasso" and polish the boiler and the brass parts that are directly attached. I try to avoid getting milk or anything else on the boiler. Immediately after I polish it it looks like any piece of bare copper. It soon darkens, and if I take care the darkening is even and absolutely beautiful. I have a piece of flannel that I rub over the boiler like a shoe shine cloth usually after each use. Everything else is covered with this protective polymer. I gave it the Brasso treatment a few days ago. The machine with its ebony handles is so beautiful at this point that I just like to look at it! It will remain that way for quite some time provided I take the care not to allow anything to splash on it when hot.

What puzzles me is my 1978 Europiccola. The base is highly magnetic. All of the brass parts are plated with what appears to be nickel or chromium, and then over plated with the yellow metal. The boiler is also plated the same way, but plated with reddish metal. The colour of the yellow metal is quite different than the brass on the 1999 model. The reddish metal on the boiler does not change colour when cleaned.

Considering the machine is 34 years old most of the finish is still in near excellent condition. The metal does not seem to have any polymer over it at all. Gold is very durable to chemical attack. Did La Pavoni plate these models with gold?

The brass is a bit soft, so one needs to treat it decently. I have seen some really ugly chrome plated models with pealing plating. The only plating I can find on the 1999 "brass" is on the group handle. Perhaps I should mill and turn one from solid brass and remove this last large piece of steel!
Also this thread is helpful:

Real brass or fake brass re: used La Pavoni Europiccola
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

Hangingout

#7: Post by Hangingout »

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New Zebrawood handle, brass bottomless portafilter, double Elektra basket, and newly de-varnished and polished grouphead.

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drgary
Team HB

#8: Post by drgary »

That's looking really good! Please show us more when you have it polished.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

Hangingout

#9: Post by Hangingout »

After I removed the lacquer with Citristrip, the base and boiler turned an awful color! It scared the crap out of me because I thought it was ruined. I sent an email in a panic to Dr Gary. Nowhere have I read that this is part of the process during stripping and restoration. Mine looked silver, like I had stripped all the way down to the nickel beneath the brass and copper. Perhaps it was the rubbing alcohol I used after the Citristrip. After another tense hour and cleaning with a brass tarnish remover, it looks much better. Color is starting to come back. I found a few spots where I had to reapply Citristrip because pieces of lacquer remained. I have a little polishing and touching up to go; I hope I'm not doing too much. It's all done by hand though. I'll post again when I get it done, then again when it (hopefully) oxidizes and gets a little more color/patena. Any suggestions or advice are welcomed.
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drgary
Team HB

#10: Post by drgary »

We used to enjoy the posts of a retired chemistry professor, the late Dr. Robert Pavlis. Searching his threads tells me that you may have a real brass Europiccola. You will see how he determined this at the end of the first long quote, below. I've bolded that part. The link at the bottom is another such post and shows photos of his polished Europiccolas.
rpavlis wrote:Several years ago when I got my used 1999 La Pavoni Europiccola I deliberately got one made of real copper and brass because of previous very negative experience with plated items. I am VERY glad I was so "fussy". This particular model has a REAL brass base. The boiler is copper with some brass fittings soldered on. The only large steel part on the whole thing is the brass plate handle. The brass parts were all coated with a very sturdy polymer, which is still in extremely good condition, except for the portafilter. I stripped it a long time ago, and simply wipe it each day with a towel or else, perhaps weekly, a dry polishing cloth that has some polishing agent on it. It generally looks BETTER than portafilters that have a polymer coat. If I fail to wipe it, however, it quickly begins to look drab and ugly. When I was in South America for six weeks, when I came back I had to use brass polish on it.

Now the boiler on this machine is solid copper, not copper plated brass. The zinc in brass forms oxides and carbonates that are dull and grey. Pure copper forms cupric and/or cuprous oxide which very strongly protects the metal from oxidation, though not as well as Cr, Ti, Ni, and many other metals. This coating is, unfortunately soluble in acids, so treating it with acid removes the surface coat, and more copper has to oxidise to form more.

I do not know if the former owner stripped coatings from the boiler, or if La Pavoni made it that way--the boiler had no polymer on it when I got it. For years I have been periodically polishing this bare metal boiler with mild polishing agents.

It occurred to me about six months ago that another approach to keeping the boiler looking decent might be to go over it with a polishing cloth every few days. I took a piece of felt like material and made a strip about 5 or 6 cm wide and about a metre long. I wet it a bit and sprinkled some copper polishing powder on the cloth, I let it dry. I run it over the boiler like I am shining shoes! I always take great care to avoid getting espresso or anything else on the boiler. After a few weeks the copper remains very shiny, and the oxide coat tends to become increasingly stable and even. It is much darker than "naked" copper.

(As has been discussed by several of us on other posts, some La Pavoni brass and copper machines are fake copper and brass. Bizarrely they first plate the boiler and all its attachments with nickel and chrome and then plate it over with copper. You can tell real brass and copper from the fake ones by looking at the attachment points for the group. They will be copper coloured if you have one of La Pavoni's fake brass and copper machines. A real one will have the fittings brass coloured and the rest of the boiler copper coloured.)
rpavlis wrote:Copper and brass are widely used in lever espresso machines. To me properly cared for copper and brass machines have a truly outstanding appearance. There are several things to consider here:

1. Pure copper tends to become dark with a surface layer of CuO. Unless the material is kept clean the layer may become uneven and blotched. Cleanliness is especially important immediately after a thorough polishing. Pure copper always seems to benefit from a thorough polishing with various copper polishes every few months. To me it looks its very best about two weeks after the polishing. Others may like other colour shades it goes through as the oxide coatings deepen.

2. Brass (really zinc bronze) has a tendency to become very dull (and ugly) from formation of Zn compounds on its surface. Simply washing most brasses at least daily and wiping them with a clean towel will keep them looking beautiful. Only a few days without washing and wiping will result in the beautiful shiny appearance giving way to dull and ugly. A few months without such a treatment requires polishing with materials like Bar Keeper's Friend, Brasso, or Semichrome to get them sparkling again.

3. Bronzes with metals other than zinc often have quite different properties. Many remain beautiful for long periods with no polishing at all, and with no protective coatings. Others tarnish rapidly.

4. Copper and its alloys can be coated with materials to cause them to remain bright for long periods of time--often many years--without any polishing at all. These coatings often are not very thermally stable, and most are prone to scratching. Polyurethane works very very well for this.

On espresso machines some brass parts just sit there! Other parts are subject to use every time the machine gets used. Portafilters are subjected to steam all the time, which often causes protective coatings to deteriorate. Drip trays have cups sliding over them all the time so that the coatings scratch and become worn. I like to have a brass and copper machine's base and other fixed parts coated, and portafilters and drip trays bare metal. (Bare metal looks somewhat better than metal coated with protective polymers.) I always wash both in clear water after each use and rub them with an ordinary towel. About once every month or two I may rub them with a flannel cloth that I use for polishing things that retains the polishing agent. That generally removes any tarnish that may have developed. If I go away from home for a month or more I usually have to get out the polish to make them look decent again.

Another hint: When coating brass and copper with various protective finishes like clear polyurethane, one must allow the polymer plenty of time to cure very well or it is apt to get damaged by using it too soon.

There is more maintance with copper and brass. However, plated things peel. Dealing with peeling is a VERY difficult thing. Also copper and brass are far more stable to corrosion than steel unless they are allowed to contact too much chloride.
Beauty of brass and copper espresso machines
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!