Building the Ultimate La Pavoni Europiccola - Page 5

Equipment doesn't work? Troubleshooting? If you're handy, members can help.
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Team HB

#41: Post by drgary »


Thanks for the detail and great photos on dealing with the heating element and flange. Looking at the massive brass one, are there any modifications one can do with a rotary tool or a drill? So, for instance, can you use a grinding wheel on a rotary tool to fit it inside the base, taking material off the outside of the flange? Is it possible to drill and tap holes that will fit old and new generation heating elements or heating elements from the brand you prefer?

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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pizzigri (original poster)

#42: Post by pizzigri (original poster) »

drgary wrote:can you use a grinding wheel on a rotary tool to fit it inside the base, taking material off the outside of the flange? Is it possible to drill and tap holes that will fit old and new generation heating elements or heating elements trim the brand you prefer?
Hello Gary!

Of course it's possible, you need at least a press drill though, and also be extremely accurate in placing the holes to be threaded; there's lots of material. Same goes for the flange edge bevel, you can grind off material and maybe even machine the correct notches on the side of the flange... But that's beyond the scope of this post... It should be plug and play!

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#43: Post by homeburrero »

Another excellent and very informative post - thanks, Franco!

I think you're the first to point out that the spacing of the three holes in the flange decreased slightly when they went to the coarse threaded boiler/flange. Interesting theory that for some reason they did it intentionally to prevent using the old brass HE on the newer machines. I've read elsewhere (Ceccarelli?) that the coarse thread change came in with the black plastic flange, something about the plastic needing a coarser thread. Perhaps the different hole spacing was also required by that change.

Note - I think most folks believe the coarse threads came in around 1996* with that plastic flange and the stainless element. This means it came in a bit after the introduction of the pStat and single element, but well before the millennium group. Of course, with Pavoni you can never be sure about what component was used on what date.

Hope you convince those folks in Germany to act on your good suggestions.

* Two parts sites, Stefano's espressocare and espressoshop claim that their coarse thread brass flange fits everything after 1983. So perhaps the change was even earlier still.
nínádiishʼnahgo gohwééh náshdlį́į́h

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#44: Post by drgary »

pizzigri wrote:you need at least a press drill though, and also be extremely accurate in placing the holes to be threaded; there's lots of material. Same goes for the flange edge bevel, you can grind off material and maybe even machine the correct notches on the side of the flange... But that's beyond the scope of this post... It should be plug and play!

I don't have the parts in my hand, so please correct anything that wouldn't work. It's not insurmountable or even always difficult to reshape some parts with simple tools, not even requiring a drill press. That Coffe maker flange looks like an adaptable part as-is. This may be a thought exercise but here goes. I imagine using a Dremel or similar rotary tool with a grinding bit to grind off enough base or flange rim to fit the flange snugly in place, like you've done. The key is to work slowly and keep trying it until you've achieved a fit without much play. I assume the heating element bottom plate fastens against a gasket around its rim and is held in place by the three bolts. Adapting the flange to the heating element seems to be a matter of turning the heating element so its three bolt holes are over solid metal on the flange and tracing where the holes are needed with a Sharpie (permanent marker). The next step is to use an automatic center punch to create a divit, a starting point to guide the drill in the middle of each mark. Then taking care to keep your hand drill vertical, drill a hole just a touch smaller than the right size for the intended bolts. Thread the holes with a tap that matches your bolts, and you're ready to attach the heating element base plate to the flange. You can create slots at the edge of the flange that would fit the official tool, or even one notch would be all you need to loosen the flange by tapping it with a punch and hammer. The flange can be easily tightened into place using an oil filter wrench.

Many of those reading this thread have the skills to do this or even the machining tools to do it with more precision. Not everyone needs complete plug and play, although if you spec something that is, all the better. Some of us just need a way to adapt obtainable parts and get an ultimate Europiccola up and running. :D

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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pizzigri (original poster)

#45: Post by pizzigri (original poster) » replying to drgary »

Yes, the Coffee maker flange is as customizable as can be. The very difficult part - inside threading of such a large diameter, involving a LARGE lathe capable of very low rpm and auto feed and thread cutting capability- is what we're actually paying for; of course, if the bolt-on holes were placed in the "old" location, the flange would be already compatible with all HE elements and every EP built until 1996, that is when the first synthetic flange was introduced - and the actual thread changed from 1.25 to 1,5 - reason behind this decision, simply because the 1,25 threading is too fine to be used with a plastic component - cfr. Francesco's website.
Instead, as stated, only SS HE are currently supported by this flange.

To be honest, only Stainless steel HE parts are commercially available as well, both single coil and pstat ready, and double coil (nominally to support the never advertised but still commercially available Mignon model, I suspect...), so I can easily understand the commercial reasoning that Coffee Maker did engineering this flange.

What you suggest is absolutely doable: whoever wants to use an "older" (maybe 1994 era) HE needs to bore three new holes in the flange (use a 4,5mm drill - remember to keep at least a 15mm offset from the original holes), passing completely through the flange, and thread them with the correct M5 tap. Hole placement is a simple matter using the brass & copper HE as a template (I suggest to do this with the flange threaded to the boiler). Boring the holes is NOT. As a minimum, you need a drill press, since you do have to go all the way through at least 10mm of brass, and it needs to be real strtaight and each hole parallel to the other.

Bevelling the edge is a simple matter, just use a stationary sander with a metal grade sandpaper band, the result is better than dremeling or using a rotary grinder - or, if you have access to a good lathe...

Same thing with the grounding threaded holes, which i also use to fasten the power cable. Making a couple additional holes, or notches to assist mounting or disassembly is again almost trivial, since they do not require the perfection of the threaded holes for the HE. You're absolutely right on the money, most people here would be able to do all this in a couple hours or less!

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pizzigri (original poster)

#46: Post by pizzigri (original poster) »

Why am I doing all this, again...?

Yeah, still waiting on the HE in 110v i purchased a long time ago. So, just to keep you interested, I'm going to go through a few, and not all, of the reasons we are detailing this modification to a 1970-74 La Pavoni Europiccola.
Most of you guys already know all this, but hey! I've got GREAT pictures here!

First off, what I am going to show is the lowest of the low. What La Pavoni did really wrong in the EP range, in my opinion of course, all meant to cut corners, lower production costs and get a larger profit. Many of these things are already addressed in present day and commercially available EP, but, especially if you want to shop in the used market or out of Ebay, either you're REALLY knowledgeable or you may come across models that include some of these "features". Which, of course, you avoid altogether by building an Ultimate Europiccola! Please don't kill me!

Ok, let's start with less than stellar filling cap quality.

A 1973 Europiccola cap vs a 1997 cap.

It should be obvious, since present day caps are all plastic, with threading that tends to strip after a while. Yeah, I know "after a while" means somewhere around 10 or 15 years... but please compare this very seldom used cap from 1997 vs the 1973 cap, which looks new...

And what about the Delrin (or similar plastic, I can never remember its name - just that it breaks!) piston head? Today, all EP come with the brass piston, since LP recognized the error of its ways. But, if you find one in your Ebay purchased EP... it's not cheap, I can tell you.

And here's the Millenium sleeve, which is in use in every EP built today. It's plastic, it can break, but it is not very expensive to replace. It does tend to wear piston gaskets faster than brass, especially if it is not replaced every 7-8 years or so. Compare with the beautifully machined sleeve of the 1973 EP.

For a while, there were plastic piston heads used in Millenium EP. This is one of them.

And the beautifully machined lever head, built of cast brass (autolubricating - never seen one of these with the dreaded "slotted" rear holes) of the 1973 EP, vs the stamped sheet steel that every following EP has.

And the base... apart from the very rare real brass base (and super expensive - La Pavoni charges 230 Euro, believe it or not, for it - which is still stamped sheet metal!), every single EP after 1978 comes with a stamped steel base, prone to corrosion, actually it can corrode to the point of crumbling! And, it "gives" when you pull the lever, flexing unpleasantly. None of this with the first generation cast aluminum base, a full 3-4mm thick everywhere, incredibly stable and rigid slab of metal... and although not corrosion proof... surely better than the steel one. PS. The chromed version of the base rusts just as bad - actually worse - than the painted version.

The flange. Granted, we need to change it because 1970's machines have screw on HE, but still, it's much better to have a brass flange... especially because the plastic ones do tend to come loose after a while, and unscrupulous LP service centers used to glue them to the threads to stop this problem... generating a much worse problem down the road.

Everybody hates these, the clear acrylic level glass bolts. With 1973 machines, you will not have to replace them...

And the acrylic viewglass protection. It corrodes badly and can yellow and crack with heat. The corrosion comes from a ill-attempted descaling with citric acid. It ate the acrylic level glass bolt as well, and leakage occurred. Compare with the MACHINED! brass tube we find in some 1970 EP for level glass protection

More coffee grounds, please!

Another little gem: the baskets of the 1970 machines are deeper than most following baskets, holding more volume inside. Here's a 1973 basket (note the "P") vs a 1997 basket. You can put more coffee in there, if it's needed to reach nirvana with your particular blend.

On a side note, the shower of the brass sleeved machines... is the same for every following EP until the Millenium group. So, no fear! If your 1970 brass sleeved with removable shower has the removable shower lost... just buy a pre-mil shower. Shown, a 1973 EP shower on the left, with a 1997 EP shower on the right.

See? they are the same. Actually, the older one is slightly thicker steel, but functionally ininfluent. But here comes the nice part.

When we place the different group gasket, there's an obvious difference in height. Remember, originally these machines had a 5x7mm square group gasket. If we want to use present day 5mm round gaskets, we need to place a 2mm thick additional gasket (the pictured one comes from Francesco).
What does this mean for us?

Essentially, that the volume inside the basket is even more, so more coffee grounds!!

The 1997 portafilter with the parts. I'll post more about this later today. Comments?


#47: Post by tr6greig »

Hi Franco

Great thread, I'm sure we all appreciate the time and effort you have put in to so comprehensively document this build.I took delivery of one of
those brass flanges a month or two back and was also impressed by the weight and quality, I am at present seeing about getting some produced locally.
My reason for acquiring these was as you pointed out, to allow the fitting of a new element if the original twin screw on type fails.Fortunately the three
I am restoring at present have fully functioning elements, however I will convert another in a similar way to yours.
Have you ever had any dealings with Peter at I haven't been able to contact him for the last few months, he has some great contacts and parts.

One question where did you get the LED and how is it secured to the base?

Keep up the good work


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pizzigri (original poster)

#48: Post by pizzigri (original poster) »

Nope, Cameron, I sent at least three emails but never got any reply from Avicennasolution. Sorry.

So, let's move on with an actual update!
I'll cover the group, sleeve and piston installation today. I will assume that everyone knows how to replace the piston gaskets... I mean, there are tons of posts out there, so let's just say we already installed them on the cleaned piston.
Also, the quasi trivial installation of the level glass. Next time, the headspacing of the piston and lever installation.

Let's start with the level glass installation.

The parts for the level glass.

Place the level glass gasket in each recess and follow up with the brass ring.

Then, place the level glass metal protection with the level glass bolts in the posts and finger thread the bolts in the recesses.

Carefully insert the new level glass from above

push it all the way inside and make sure, with a pencil butt, that it's fully seated.

Hand tighten the bolts again, as much as you can with your bare fingers. We will tighten this later on, once we try to seat the gauge adapter nut.

Now, let's go to the next part: group installation.

First thing, insert the piston rod gasket in its recess, making sure the grooved end is facing you. Then apply liberal amount on food safe grease, Dow Corning 111 or equivalent. Here I'm using OKS 1110, which is a perfect clone of Dow 111.

Placing the brass shield. If you have a Stainless part, use it, but the brass one works great anyway. Be careful to inspect the brass shield, as they can warp after so many years; replace it if damaged.

The retaining circlip, placed in its seat with the specific tool. Now, never reuse a standard spring steel circlip, always use a Stainless steel part!

The group with the properly fitted gasket, shield and circlip.

Remember this? Let's place the specific gasket, purchased from Francesco (which provided the one pictured - Thanks!) or from Orphan Espresso between the sleeve flange and the threading.

Then, let's place a small amount of Dow 111 grease over it. Remember to clean off excess with a lint free cloth.

Place it in the group and gently turn it by hand until snug.

Then using crappy tool #2 (or your equivalent - OE's tool, i.e.) finger tighten the brass sleeve. Give it a final quarter to a half turn with the wrench, but DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN. It will damage the gasket.

The installed brass sleeve in all its glory!

Let's take the piston, and give a light coat of Dow 111 on the upper threads. This is actually only to prevent damage to the piston rod gasket, sometimes the threads are quite sharp.

Same thing with the piston gaskets. This is to help installing the piston in the sleeve; you'll find that when the gaskets are new they're a tight fit and without 111 it'll be real difficult to make the gaskets pass the sleeve rim.

Gently push the piston in the group. Be careful to align the holes in the piston rod with the upper grooves in the group.

Use your hands to fully seat the gaskets in the group. Do not push it past this point.

If we correctly aligned the holes when inserting the piston, the holes should show thru the group grooves - like this. Now, let's take a break.

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Team HB

#49: Post by drgary »

For others reinstalling pistons, you can keep the lever pin hole on the shaft accessible by inserting a Phillips head screwdriver. Thank you, Franco, for such a beautiful step by step description.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!


#50: Post by tr6greig »

Worth mentioning that it's very easy to cross thread when screwing in the brass sleeve,so take some time to make sure it right.