Building the Ultimate La Pavoni Europiccola

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

#1: Post by pizzigri »

Hi!

In my other post, La Pavoni Europiccola Rebuild... sort of different., I showed that it is possible to rebuild an Europiccola with modern parts from a reasonably well preserved 1970's machine.
I really did not think to make a step by step guide, as I just did a gamble, unsure of what would actually come out and much less if it worked at all. But... it worked.

People here (thanks Gary) suggested that a step by step guide would be a good help to walk someone else to do a similar build.

So, I got another machine, again for free, from the same exact barn where the first was found (no, there are no more...), my uncle's farm in the country. Clearing the place, he actually was going to throw these away. They have been in a dusty corner for the last fifteen or so years, and the condition of these machines (the one I restored and this one) is uncannily similar.

For "reasonably well preserved" I mean a machine that has a good condition boiler, no pinhole leaks, no deformations, dings, or badly corroded parts, good chrome, complete for the main parts, and not been tampered with.
Most 1970's EP that are featured on Ebay priced around 50-100 $ are much better than the one shown below that I am going to rebuild, most of those actually work!

Before I introduce you all to the sad remains of the Second Europiccola, I'd like to discuss what I aim to do in this thread. I aim to build (not restore; build) The Ultimate Europiccola espresso machine.
An Europiccola that is better, and noticeably so, in actual performance and features than the current brand new version of the EP, including the best of all the features that in the years made La Pavoni's lever espresso machine an icon, and then some.
Let's take a look at what we want.

The 1970 EP have the super desirable brass sleeve in the group. Alas, the group is actually screwed in the boiler, so there's no way to thermally isolate the group from the boiler itself, with a 1-2mm thick Teflon full surface flat gasket. But it's the single feature we won't miss too much anyway (except when it's time to change the small gasket in the group...).
Watch out! We need to use an EP that has SN from B0000 to 51000, these are the ones that have a removable, separate shower that is effectively kept in place by the undergroup gasket, and although earlier versions could be used, the integrated screen shower in the brass sleeve make those less desirable for our build.

As for the group gaskets, the piston uses current gaskets (as you all know) and although I've found someone in the US that builds the old square section undergroup gasket, by either turning a simple 2mm brass ring, or cutting it out of flat gasket material, we can easily use standard and very inexpensive, older size O ring type gaskets.

The 1970 EP have the super desirable cast aluminum base, very sturdy and tough, which also doubles as a super effective heatsink (we'll see why it works even better than it does originally during the rebuild).

We will change the heating element to a modern, less desirable single coil, stainless steel built unit, that is a bit more noisy, and less thermally efficient, but is easily replaceable and immediately available (and also lots cheaper).

We will add a current Ma Ter pstat, the Echo 125u is in my opinion (YMMV) a very accurate and super fast unit.

Add modern and safer Silicone and fiberglass armored wiring, with resettable thermal fuse protection, and operating light that is in function absolutely on a par with current EP function.

An Antivacuum valve system, not going to delve into that, there are tons of threads, I feel there's a need for it, so I'll add it.

Since 1970 EP have the 12mm sight glass screw on top, it's extremely easy to adapt a standard pressure gauge with the Professional adaptor.

Surprise! The new and current steam body with detachable wand actually has the same threads as a 1970 steam body on the boiler. The knob and inside parts are totally compatible. So, we can add a detachable wand if we feel like it, including the dreaded cappuccinatore. But, detaching the wand and being able to soak it and clean it is good too, right?

Finally, the portafilter feels really good and heavy in the hand. Great for dipping in cold water and do more espressos in a row (I learned that here! It works!).

Last but not least, the cost. In the end, including the 100$ needed for the EP, my aim is to stay way below the cost of a new EP.

What do you think?

Ambitious, right?
But, it can be done!

So here it is, I've just got in the sad remains of a 1972 Europiccola. It has a burnt coil, no wiring whatsoever, badly corroded base, cracked glass, every single gasket to be replaced, no rubber cover for the base... but is otherwise complete, with its own portafilter and one and two cup filters.


right side


left side


serial number: B7605... possibly 1971 or 72.


Second version PF


Although it does not look like it, the sight glass is cracked and filled with scale. It'll be a chore to remove.


...Ouch. Turned bottom up, this is what I saw. Almost as bad as the first one.


The heating element. No ohm reading on both; dead.


Detail of the totalled switch.


Detail of the OPV and steam tube. Don't look too bad


As expected from the SN, a removable shower. Good!

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rpavlis

#2: Post by rpavlis »

I have always thought it strange the way that when one examines La Pavoni machines between 1961 and now there are many parts that are improved, and many also that have been seriously degraded.

The first obvious degradation comes from the use of inappropriate use of polymers. We see the plastic boiler caps introduced in the mid 1980s. We see the (later recinded) use of plastic pistons. We see the use of plastic cylinder liners starting in 2001 or so. We see the (also recinded) use of a plastic ring to hold the boiler to the base and hold the heating element.

Almost everyone agrees that the 1961 to 1973 groups are better than both of the two later types, though the 2000 to date one might be as good if it were not for the junk plastic in it.

We also see the use of brass and gold plating to make cheap steel parts look like real brass or copper.

The main group handle was superior in early models. Now the fork of it is simply a piece of bent bar stock.

The early bases were made of cast aluminium. Most more recent ones are made of steel that rusts. (Though there are some REAL brass ones--not fake ones made by plating steel with gold or brass--bases! You may need a magnet to tell which you have.)

Early portafilters are much more robust.

La Pavoni has made many positive changes--pressurestats, removable steam wands, elimination of the screw on heating element, thermal cut off systems, stainless heating elements, drip trays, "lips" on boilers made after about 1981, change in the 1974 to 2000 group by eliminating one of the water entry holes, flange mounting of group rather than screw in--

Making the ultimate La Pavoni Europiccola really involves finding what was best for various parts and getting this onto the ultimate machine. Oddly I have never heard of anyone machining a brass sleeve for the 2000 to present day groups to replace the polyphenyl sulphide one.

OldNuc

#3: Post by OldNuc »

rpavlis wrote:I have always thought it strange the way that when one examines La Pavoni machines between 1961 and now there are many parts that are improved, and many also that have been seriously degraded. ....


Making the ultimate La Pavoni Europiccola really involves finding what was best for various parts and getting this onto the ultimate machine. Oddly I have never heard of anyone machining a brass sleeve for the 2000 to present day groups to replace the polyphenyl sulphide one.
Strangely enough I was thinking about that while reading the other rebuild/upgrade thread. It would not be a difficult task and only require digging up a millennium group to make the change.

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pizzigri (original poster)

#4: Post by pizzigri (original poster) »

Hiya.
I dunno, I do own a Maximat Super11 lathe, if only I had the time (and a Millennium EP to test it with) I would try to turn one. But it would address only one feature - granted, many others would be included in a Millennium, however build quality, base, and... coolness factor wouldn't.
I'll start stripping the machine in the week end. Also, I'd like to make this a "how to" thread, so anyone would be able to tackle such a build. Critical comments are welcome!

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Chert

#5: Post by Chert »

I think this thread and project is great. I have one of those functioning machines two switch that works slowly on 200 watts (too well to miss out on great espresso at work while I rebuild) but I'll delve in soon.

For me the ultimate LP will have an elegant temperature display of the group temp, very useful for controlled espresso creation.

(Also I think that Orange tabby will help a lot along the way)
LMWDP #198

wsfarrell

#6: Post by wsfarrell »

Wonderful project! My '73 with the dead 200W element is *really* looking forward to this.

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homeburrero
Team HB

#7: Post by homeburrero »

Chert wrote:For me the ultimate LP will have an elegant temperature display of the group temp, very useful for controlled espresso creation.
I agree. My jury-rigged digital thermometer is just ugly and incongruous with the machine so it generally stays in the drawer. I've learned to make temp strips work for me, but I don't really like the look of them much either. I always wondered if there's any possibility of drilling and fitting a dial thermometer in the group head that looks in keeping with the rest of the machine.
Pat
nínádiishʼnahgo gohwééh náshdlį́į́h

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dumpshot
Supporter ♡

#8: Post by dumpshot replying to homeburrero »

I always dreamed of having a wireless probe mounted out of sight under the backside of the group bell and having the readout unit away from the machine.
LMWDP #484

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drgary
Team HB

#9: Post by drgary »

I see the possibility of an attractive steel-encased dial or digital readout mounted centered behind the group and tilted somewhat upward so you can see it when pulling a shot. It could be attached to the group neck with two half-rings bolted together. The probe could go directly downward within the span of the ring and measure temperature at the group neck.

Added: I find the digital readout more useful as changing the target start temperature by a degree or two can perceptively change the flavor on second and third generation Europiccolas.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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pizzigri (original poster)

#10: Post by pizzigri (original poster) »

Perfectly doable. Cost may be an issue, but passive RFID technology temperature sensors are already available, if somebody here can find a suitable kit sensor plus reader, the readout may be placed in front in place of the La Pavoni badge on the base, there's a very crude example in Francesco's site. A small three or four digit display, better if illuminated, with a separate, heat resistant circuit board in the base and there it is! No wires going around the machine, no separate parts connected to the base, everything integrated. Too bad such a solution, as said above, may cost more than a whole brand new EP....

Otherwise, routing a steel threaded wire from behind the group all the way inside the base should not be too difficult, and the readout or dial could still be placed in front where the round badge is. Anyone want to suggest sensors and electronics/displays to integrate in the Ultimate EP?
Just remember, heat in the base may be an issue.