Two failed auctions later, we finally landed our dream machine, a '70's era Cremina (sn 7719363, ebay item 4407127205). A week later, UPS finally delivered our new baby. To our surprise and delight, the machine exceeded our expectations out of the box. First of all, it came in its original box! Here's what we found when we unpacked the outer box carefully surrounded by peanuts:
(My wife said "oh no, look at our messy kitchen" -- I said "hey, look, you can see our Rancilio and Pavoni")
Not shown are the portafilter, one single, and two double baskets, and the original tamper! (note the interesting spelling of Olympia:
After a visual inspection showed no obvious issues, we couldn't stop ourselves from pouring in some water, turning it on, and pulling a couple shots. It amazed us with its sturdiness and stability -- absolutely stable even under fairly firm pressure on the lever, which is a significant contrast from the Europiccola, whose base flexes slightly as we pull shots.
We decided to proceed with our original plan of replacing all the gaskets and polishing it up to as close to new condition as we could. The seventies-looking paint job and details charmed us into keeping its original look. Here's the decal on the back -- note its location in the lower-right instead of the more modern machines' upper left position. (for the detail-oriented among you, the plate is 17mm from the right, and 28mm from the bottom).
At this point, we pulled out our wrench and screwdriver, and started to take this beauty apart. The first thing we noticed was a remarkable lack of rust. Here's the bottom plate:
Here's the bottom of the boiler:
the red oozy stuff is the sealant for the element contacts. Notice the ceramic around the left element contact is cracked. The right one has a smaller crack as well. We didn't photograph it, but the gasket had signs of age and a little leakage at one point.
The other thing that impressed us was how beautifully the whole thing comes apart. The collar-nut around the tank opening came off easily, then the stainless steel well lifted off, followed by the stainless top, then the outer case easily slid off. One nut holding it all tightly together!
Another demonstration of how rust-free it all is, here's the bottom edge of the outer housing:
So, that's all the good stuff...now for the "interesting" stuff. First, the entire boiler is surrounded by an asbestos coating. Fortunately it's in good shape -- not flaking or anything -- but still asbestos is a scary word. I think we're inclined to leave it alone, but will read up on risks and options for stabilizing or removing it. We may just leave it well enough alone. Here's a view of the asbestos enclosed boiler:
The next interesting thing is that one of the ears on the portafilter shows significant amounts of odd wear, and the spout has lost a lot of its chrome
This makes us wonder about the relative pristine-ness of the rest of the machine -- was it used a lot, just very very carefully? The next obvious thing to check was the matching portion of the group-head lock (next picture), which doesn't show the cause of that wear:
This mismatch makes us wonder if this portafilter doesn't match the rest of the machine. Given everything else about the machine, this seems unlikely, but it does leave one wondering...
Finally, as I was removing the bolts that hold the tank bottom on, I noticed that they were in varying condition. Some of them were pristine, others showed signs of pitting. Just as I was struggling a bit with one of them, my wife said "watch out -- don't force anything", and the bolt-head gave. Just the head. Uh oh.
A second bolt refused to budge, and I decided not to force the issue. Fortunately, my wife repairs equipment for a living, so she has some experience with drilling out stripped bolts and screws. She's never had to do it in anger or fear, though, so we'll be venturing into new territory.
Our overall plan for this rebuild is to:
- Finish safely disassembling the boiler, then clean it, replace the element and gasket and reassemble
Rebuild the piston
Clean and rebuild the sight-glass
Replace the gaskets in the steam-wand
Polish the stainless
Buy a second portafilter, and choose one of them to become "naked"
Tidy up, reassemble and enjoy!
dylan mcnamee (LMWDP #33)