Which Arrarex?

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#1: Post by nirdvorai »

I'm contemplating to buy Arrarex for refurbished. I don't mind to buy separate parts to rebuild or buying one to restore. I read Francesco article on the Arrarex and some of the information here. But as it goes with this kind of machines- small changes can lead to big differences when try to rebuild them.
Is there any recommenced model and version I should look for? I saw at Francesco website that there is 5 version of the piston - 1A, 1B, 1C, 2 and 3
If I understand correctly- is it best to avoid the 1A version without the hole in the piston?

Anther thing- Is the Caravel has some sort of thermostat that the VAM doesn't have? Is this the small knob on the back of the Caravel machines (second from the top)?

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#2: Post by redbone »

All espresso machine aficionados need a VAM / Caravel in their arsenal. Using Francesco's model coding. Refurbishing many variants I prefer the quality and functionality of the VAM 1.1 piston type with hole on the bottom and the Caravel 1.0 and 1.1 with metal button to release the boiler as opposed to lever.

Knob vs lever may just be a preference. Material quality is good up to 1.3 with aesthetics and grade changes dropping imo at 2.0 and onward.
Between order and chaos there is espresso.
Semper discens.

LMWDP #549


#3: Post by TanTanNoodles »

I've got a Caravel v1.3 (piston Type 2) and it's rock solid. I can't speak to refurbishing and part sourcing - I got mine and it was missing a portafilter and the element was a poor replica that didn't actually fit. I was able to get a bottomless portafilter/basket and 110v element from Levercraft Coffee in Austin, TX.

Correct - the small knob towards the top is the mechanical thermostat. It works pretty well for rough temperature management - it can fluctuate based on how the kettle is seated. I set mine to essentially go off right before boil, and about half the time the water starts to boil shortly after the element kicks off; boil or not, I wait about 2 minutes once the thermostat has turned off the element then pull.

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#4: Post by Nunas »

Anther thing- Is the Caravel has some sort of thermostat that the VAM doesn't have? Is this the small knob on the back of the Caravel machines (second from the top)?
Yes and no. The little round knob below the kettle release of the 1.1 and some others is indeed the fine-tuning adjustment for the thermostat. The actual thermostat element is a bimetallic strip welded to the back of the kettle. Also, pay close attention to the differences over the years. When shopping for some lever machines for my collection I came to the conclusion that if you've seen one Caravel, you've seen only one. For the Caravels with a bimetallic strip (most of them), the entire thermostat is the strip, a kind of see-saw arm at the back, a microswitch, and that little knob. If your Caravel works properly (shuts off just as it comes to a boil), then you're good to go. But, if it does not, then you've maybe got some tinkering to do, as the range on the little knob may not be enough to put it right. Somewhere here on H-B I posted what I did to bring mine back to adjustment. But, hey, I'm no expert! So, do a bunch of reading of old Caravel posts before you get in deeper than necessary. If you break some of the parts you can't get new replacements. Luckily, Levercraft has the common spares and right now even has the elusive 120-Volt heaters (I can't say enough good about Levercraft). BTW, you don't need a 120-Volt heater. I ran my 220-Volt Caravel off 120-Volts. The trick is to pour boiling water into the kettle...and be prepared to wait quite a time just the same. The 120-Volt heater, on the other hand, brings it up to operating temperature lickety-split.

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#5: Post by armindillo »

I became a big fan of VAM/Arrarex and managed to end up with 5 of them over the years.

From what I've heard, every model and variation will make great espresso. If the machine is functional, it's hard to go wrong.
Still, most people would consider the VAM 1.1 models with the piston hole to be the best of the best.

The earliest VAM Export models were patented in 1956 and I have one from 1957. The big attraction there is that the crest and knobs are brass and the base is gold-anodized.

VAM kept making improvements such as suction cups on the base, heavier piston, a wiring block for the power cord, and so on up to the famous piston hole from the 1.1 model (1961).

In my experience, the big advantage of the piston hole is that you don't get backwash into the kettle. I still consider the VAM1.0 the second best of all the models.

Once the branding changed to Caravel, cost-cutting set in. The materials and finishes and designs slowly got cheaper, but still effective and high quality in the absolute sense.

Starting with Caravel1.1, the internal thermostat levers changed. Those models have a plastic on/off switch at the bottom and a tiny adjustment knob higher up. Earlier models have a huge brass adjustment knob at the bottom. The new system, while made of cheaper materials, has a narrower temperature band and it's nice to have an on/off switch. Many years later, they got rid of the bimetallic strip and put in an on/off switch at the front, integrated with the lamp (Caravel3.1).

My youngest machine is a Caravel1.2 from 1968 and it is still fantastic. It was in rough shape when I got it, but with adventures and misadventures involving the paint and after replacing heating elements over and over and replacing the internal microswitch, I'm quite fond of it.
There are new replacement heating elements available for the models up to Caravel2.1, but the original 220V elements are much more durable and I'm happy using a transformer.

One more thing to look out for is that some of the Caravel1.2 and 1.3 machines have the shower screen pinned in. It is really nice to be able to remove it, but I suppose using a bottle brush to clean the fixed screen is ok.


#6: Post by nirdvorai »

Great input guys, thanks!

Now I narrowed my candidates Arrarexs and the hunt begin.

I'm pretty OK with the 220V heating element. I'm in the process of restoring (what seems to be barely used) La Peppina. It's 220V and I'm planing to buy the step up/down transformer. It seems like a good solution if someone plan to collecting vintage Italian espresso machines.