My summer lever adventures of 2012

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.

#1: Post by Tom@Steve'sEspresso » started when I converted my new co-worker from being a noncoffee drinker to a coffee snob in about 3 weeks time, after only briefly asking about his past experience with coffee. He initially took some interest in my 1G CMA and wondered why I had such a setup at the office.

So all I did was place a fresh latte in front of him and said "try this." Short version of that outcome puts an '89 MCaL and Pharos #40? on his countertop within 4 weeks of his first sip!
Over time we discussed beans, grinders, the shop, and how I came across various machines we discussed. One day I showed him how I searched CL and to my surprise I came across an Orione listed for locally for $400! It looked good in pictures, and sounded good in the ad, so I immediately Emailed the seller and eventually zipped waay across town-an hour's drive one way-and sealed the deal. What a BEAST! The lever was a bit stuck-and I've since discovered that it needs a new pinion gear for $190.00-ugh. I think the Gaggia dates to '79. It was May 13, a good day regardless.

Time goes by, and I wasted no time stripping, cleaning, and disassembling the beast. Off to the powdercoater with the frame. Out go orders for parts, etc. You know the drill. In the meantime the net trolling continues, strictly for entertainment purposes-or so I thought.

Jump to June 6. CL search pops up a Carimali 2group lever for $550-in San Diego. Hmmmm.....2 days later I'm paying Enterprise rentacar-they are our next door neighbor at our shop-$35 for a 24 hour unlimted miles rental. 10 hours 45 minutes and 715 miles roundtrip scores the Carimali. Awesome! 2 machines on my hands. I'm going to have a great summer working on these machines.

Fast forward another 2 weeks. My co-worker walked in and showed me an Ebay auction that he found. It was for 2 machines, matching Rancilio S10s. Pretty cool I think; I've always liked the S10. The starting bid was $300 and he had that look in his eye. The machines were listed as local pickup only, in Portland. And I should have known better...

Side story here: I had promised my new nephew back in March that I would come visit him and the folks in Portland very soon. He came to Phoenix in March to see his beloved uncle one last time before uncle passed away. His uncle was my friend, a sweet man that will always be close to my heart. March 23 was not a good day.

My co-worker, Luke, said that it was time for me to go to Portland to pay that visit to my new nephew like I promised. But I knew what else he was getting at. I may be somewhat pretty but I wasn't born the day before we struck a deal. But first the auction had to end in our favor. After 10 long days, we placed the winning bid-$610-for both machines! And after exchanging with the seller, the arrangements were made. A 4 day visit with my new extended family in Portland was arranged, and when the final day of my visit arrived it was time to go home, via rental car, with 2-2 group machines stuffed into it.
Luke arranged to fly 1 way Portland and drive back with me and the 2 machines, that was the agreement. Another friend arranged a great deal on a rental and made it totally reasonable for us to drive from Portland to Phoenix, versus risking having the machines shipped commercially-because we all know how things can go wrong there. So I picked him up at 11 on Saturday morning at the airport, flipped on the radar detector and off we went. 18 hours and 1400 miles later, we rolled into his driveway in N. Phoenix. Needless to say, we had that rental screaming through the mountains and deserts, and in return gave us about 24 mpg! I had no idea of what was under the hood of that car until we got home...300 direct injected Chevy horsepower. Holy Smokes! Impressive indeed.

That brought the tally to 3 machines. Bloody hell, what have I done????
Fast forward to today...ha.

Gaggia: Fully reassembled and looking GREAT in its new panelless powdercoated exposed frame. This machine must have been very lightly used as it didn't even smell of old coffee when I tore it down. Though I still need a fairly expensive part to get it completed, I'm excited to see this machine pull shots in the very near future. This machine is one that I want to hold onto for a very long time.

Carimali: Still disassembled. This machine was a little dirty on the surface, it still had water in the boiler,and the levers were frozen. Upon disassembly the springs were found to be well-rusted. But Luke was handy enough to get things cleaned up pretty well, and luckily the cylinders were spared any corrosion/pitting that could have seeped from the springs. I'm now reassembling the machine gradually. It's a cool machine though I don't think I'll hang on to this one.

Rancilio: I wasted no time in tearing down this filthy beast as I was eager to get this one reassembled ASAP for use in the coffeeshop. It is now in its new orange glory, converted to 110v, although I am seriously thinking of going right back to 220v with the old element. 110v is just too slow in a boiler this size, but we needed to see for ourselves. We plan to run the S10 only on weekends once we build a traditional sit-down-at-the-bar space for the machine at the shop. The S10 is looking pretty sweet. We are very happy with the results.

3 different machines. 3 different design approaches to espresso extraction. It's been a learning experience, a bonding experience, and a lightening experience on my wallet as well. But in the end you can't take it with you anyhow. After my friend died in March I told myself that I had to find bliss every day, no matter how silly or insignificant the source. So as I look at these machines now, I will think back to the lunacy that brought them to me and smile. I needed a distraction from the emptiness of his loss, and I think that this adventure was somewhat successful. Although some things just can't be replaced no matter how hard we try. Find your bliss. You owe it to yourself. I owe it to my friend.
LMWDP #222
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Be kind
Have fun


#2: Post by Paolo »

Thanks, Tom.... for sharing this epic story within a story.
I forgot who said it first but I remember the words and the sentiment behind them....enjoy every sandwich.


#3: Post by jonny »

That is excellent Tom! Here in Portland, I had kept an eye on those Rancilios. I wondered what had become of them. It is nice to see them pop up months later in our community and it looks great! I wish I had known where they had went as I was in Tempe just 2 weeks ago. I started every morning at Cartel. Next time I'll have to pay your shop a visit... on a weekend :wink:
My deepest regrets for your friend and the grief you have had to endure. The loss of someone dear is no light burden. May he rest peacefully and live on in your fond memories.

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#4: Post by Chert »

Great account! Sorry you lost your friend but it sounds like he lives on in some caffeinated memories.

For my part it's not too healthy to read a story like this. I might start watching Craigslist too closely!
LMWDP #198

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#5: Post by TomC »

Best thread in a long time! Well done

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#6: Post by drgary »


I'm also sorry for your loss and appreciate your living intensely. That will be one inspired shop when you're bringing that much leverage and devotion to the craft.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!


#7: Post by mborkow »

Great story!

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#8: Post by Possepat »

"Do what you want, you're gonna do it anyways!" - My father

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#9: Post by doubleOsoul »

That truly was the best thread! And it brought back so many memories on my end (especially squeezing a huge commercial unit in the back seat of a midsize Some of the best finds involve crazy 24 hour road trips.


#10: Post by Tom@Steve'sEspresso »

Awww you all are too a big vanilla latte with an extra splash! :D
LMWDP #222
Live graciously
Be kind
Have fun