Comparing the Faema President, Urania, and Lambro

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Brick88
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#1: Post by Brick88 »

Hello everyone,

I have been interested in buying a vintage lever espresso machine for some time now and am specifically considering the Faema President, Urania, or Lambro models (I would be open to hearing other suggestions).

Given the significant investment involved, I'm seeking insights on how these three machines directly compare. While I've individually researched each machine, I've found limited direct comparisons. So, how do these models stack up against each other? Is there a standout performer, or are they all comparable? Are there specific features, years, or configurations that distinguish one from the others?

For context, here are some specifics I'm considering:
  • I typically enjoy medium and light roast coffees, mostly in the form of iced lattes.
  • Space isn't a major concern for me, so I'm open to machines with 1-3 groups.
  • Initially, it would mainly be for home use, but my dream is to open my own design studio and envision incorporating it into that space for coworkers and clients. While not a top priority, the potential for scaling up it's use is a consideration.
  • I'm willing to put in some effort and take on a project to restore or refurbish the machine if needed.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on these three models (or others) and which you consider "best". I understand "best" can be subjective, but I'm eager to learn more about how these machines compare in a side by side comparison. Thank you all in advance for your insights and recommendations! Your expertise will be immensely helpful, and I'm excited to hear what you have to say!

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IamOiman
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#2: Post by IamOiman »

Internally they are all similar. Boilers on the Uranias, especially the earlier ones, can differ, but seals and heating elements can be purchased pretty easily for most cases and configurations (or can be made). For the group I'm presuming only the Zodiac group or 1st gen thermosyphon group is used (earlier groups use similar or the same seals).

Performance should be very similar between the three models, and I've used all three models as daily drivers for 3 months or more. It's just some different frame chassis and body panels surrounding the boiler with the group(s). I actually dislike my Lambro, and that is because of the extremelly small clearance between the portafilter spout and drip tray. The Urania and President give more height for my tall cups I occasionally use.

If you don't need to deal with snapped bolts or serious repairs then a first project with one of these machines should be feasible with the available online resources and help. I also recommend any of the machines with the 12 hole boiler lids since those have the most available parts (specific parts suppliers will offer older stuff, but will not offer certain things).

1 group machines of course are the easiest to move around. 2 groups and up can quickly get very heavy, so make sure you can figure out how to move them prior to getting that bigger machine 8) . Also make sure you have the power requirements for 240V if you need that.

Note the similarities of the boiler on each machine.

President 1 group - 8 liter/1800W 120V or 2400W 240V



President 2 group - 13.4 liter/2600W 240V or 1800/2000W 110V. note this boiler failed so I'm replacing it with an E61 boiler that will require some pipe rearrangement



Lambro - 5 liter/1500W



Urania - 5 liter/1500W. Note this is a very, very late Urania so the boiler is the 12 hole lid style. It's basically a Lambro boiler but with one less boiler fitting on top.



Urania, earlier version/1st series Just to show the old style boiler and an older grouphead (there's also intermediate styles that have 9 hole or 10 hole arrangements but I don't have any of those in any of my machines)

-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
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Brick88 (original poster)
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#3: Post by Brick88 (original poster) »

Thank you for such a detailed reply! I have definitely learned a lot from reading your forums in the past and love your beautiful collection!

So it sounds like they are all pretty comparable from a function standpoint and it mostly comes down to preference and maintenance standpoint. I am guessing they all make really good espresso that is pretty even across the board. Do you find they have limitations with different roast level?

I would love to eventually get more machines but to start want something that I could scale up outside of home use if I opened my own design studio or hosted a work event. From a workflow function, do you feel the one group would be limiting for making multiple shots in a row? Anything else I should take into consideration when looking for machines or other machines I should look into?

Sorry for all the questions and thank you for your great insight and being such an amazing resource to the community!

jedovaty
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#4: Post by jedovaty »

Other commercial, single-group machines you can look into: conti prestina, brugnetti aurora / europa. There are varying vintages! The BA comes in a few flavors, including dipper tube and HX.

A few limitations of many of these machines: shot volume, time between shots, time to heat up.
- shot volume only potentially problematic if you want to run the 3-5x modern ratios with 20-22g doses -- EDIT: some people can apparently get 80-100g outputs, awesome! See Ryan's response below.
- if you like ristretto style and/or choke the machine, you have to wait for the lever to complete the pull and pressure to dissipate before you can pull your next shot - there's no way to "cancel" mid shot, unless you get a modern lever that has the bypass valve in the group; you can somewhat mitigate this by having a second/third portafilter, and really is only an issue when you are trying to dial in a shot and want to move quickly.. you can't have to wait!
- long time to heat up (45-60 minutes), but this isn't much different from other commercial groups

:)

Do concern yourself with heating elements and their power draw, make sure they are on a circuit that can handle the load. Careful with timers, especially "smart" timers, many are maxed at 10A, and may not be designed for 30-60 minutes of maximum load at once.

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IamOiman
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#5: Post by IamOiman »

Brick88 wrote:Do you find they have limitations with different roast level?
I only have experience using darker roasts, but the few times I had friends over (like Brian Quan), they brought light roasts that we tried on my machines and they claimed it was pretty good for their preferences. We were able to pull pretty large volume shots, like 50g+ for 18g of coffee. We even did turbos on a few machines at 80-100g!
Brick88 wrote: From a workflow function, do you feel the one group would be limiting for making multiple shots in a row? Anything else I should take into consideration when looking for machines or other machines I should look into?
If you pull light roasts I notice that the grind is pretty coarse and will complete the shot quicker than what I pull on my darker roasts. This will reduce the time the pf will need to be kept in the group to prevent portafilter sneeze. I often wait about a minute or two before unlocking my pf from the zodiac group, so if you need to pull shots faster than that I would consider adding another group. The San Marco 54mm group is zippy fast, maybe 20 seconds is all I need for no sneeze and a dry puck.
-Ryan
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jedovaty
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#6: Post by jedovaty »

IamOiman wrote:We were able to pull pretty large volume shots, like 50g+ for 18g of coffee. We even did turbos on a few machines at 80-100g!
WOW! I've corrected my earlier post. I can only get up to about 60-70g output with an 18-20g dose (light roast). I haven't tried smaller doses to see if the volume change allows more water in my prestina, or perhaps longer cocked lever position so it does a sort of longer pre-infusion. Neat.

LObin
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#7: Post by LObin »

I thought the Urania was a dipper design,
the Lambro an open loop thermosyphon and the President a true Heat Exchanger.

If that's the case, a heat exchanger system gives you the flexibility to preinfuse at line pressure and change that preinfusion pressure.

A big advantage for modern roasts imo.
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IamOiman
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#8: Post by IamOiman »

The President is still a thermosyphon. Some models had pipes on the exterior feeding water from the boiler to the big tubes you're thinking are HX's, and some models had a hole drilled in each tube. Earlier Uranias were dipper, but switched over to thermosyphon just like a Lambro.

I bought a new E61 boiler to replace my President's original boiler that will require making some pipes and using the hot water pipe fitting to get the open thermosyphon config, but I could also in theory do a real HX and just hook up the tubes to a water inlet.
-Ryan
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LObin
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#9: Post by LObin replying to IamOiman »

Thanks for clarifying this.
I always assumed that at some point after 1961, Faema also implemented the HX design to the President model and series.
Also, when the first Londinium L1 came out, people would claim the open loop thermosyphon design was based on the Lambro (and not the President).
1+1=2 . The President must be a true HX!

Are there any levers from that era that are true Heat Exchangers?
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realdoctor
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#10: Post by realdoctor »

Do you have a rough idea when thermosyphon designs appeared in the Urania series? I have never seen one. All the Uranias I have seen have been either dipper, open loop, or the occasional rare model with a heating element in the group and the boiler used only for steam.

I have seen a couple of vertical boiler Uranias. I believe they were dippers. They used to show up for sale about 10-15 years ago in Europe now and then. I suspect they are all in collections now.

Jim