Calling all Olympia Cremina aficionados --> what other upgrades?

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

Postby mdmvrockford » Feb 19, 2017, 10:01 am

Question: what other upgrades can be done to my 1990 Cremina?

Home-barista.com has an encyclopedic amount of knowledge. I tried my best 30" search prior to this posting. There is no FAQ on lever forum for this. To moderator, should not there be given the enthusiasm for Cremina (and same for LaPavoni Europiccola)? Again if the thread exists then (1) sorry :oops: (2) please post the uri.

What has been done so far (in chronological order) to my 1990 Cremina:
* "erics" group head thermometer
Need advice re: Eric's Thermometer kit for Olympia Cremina

* deeper basket
49 mm basket comparison
No need for VST type for Cremina. I found post on this but at over >20 tabs open in Chrome while typing this I am getting a headache !

* new steam wand from Cerini
I have marginal steam improvement vs. original wand that had 3/4 holes plugged (determining factor is the user IMO). But at least the new wand is nice and shiny.
I may eventually spring for the Sproline tip (and adapter) but since I prefer to steam with my Alexia I doubt will get this.
Question about the 67' Olympia Cremina steam wand
[SOLD] Olympia Cremina steam wand upgrade: Sproline Foam Knife + HG One Adapter + OE Steam Wand

* heat break gasket
DIY Teflon Boiler Heat Break for older Olympia Cremina
So I bought me a Cremina.
I like this as lets me leave Cremina on longer (though that wastes electricity).

* "homo barista" 's pressure piston rod and bottomless portafilter
Olympia Cremina piston pressure gauge unboxing
I am eagerly awaiting this mailing from Hungary.
Another source of Cremina bottomless portafilter is Richard Penny and pictured here
[SOLD] Olympia Cremina Richard Penny Bottomless Portafilter. I received PM from "eastsideloco" on 2/21/2017 that the Penny bottomless PF still available at CoffeeBOS shop on Etsy.
Of course one can make own bottomless portafilter. But for persons like me that will likely result in trip to trauma hand surgeon for finger reattachment.

Other possible upgrades:
* pressurestat
Olympia Cremina replacement pressurestat option
Not needed as mine just fine and this does not seem to be an improvement over the original.
Also per some posts, the newer Mater pstat does not appear as durable as the pre-2002 ones.
Olympia Cremina Shootout - 2011 vs. 1991

* steam wand knob cover
Olympia Cremina Mod of the Day
My fellow Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln was the G.O.A.T. I.M.O. (and many historians agree) US president so this is ruled out. Besides, I don't like the look of this.

* heating element
Olympia Cremina - Heating element replacement options.
Like the pressurestat, I see no reason for this unless current one fails to function.

* PID
PID'ing the Olympia Cremina
I think this would be detrimental to shot extraction.
From Dan Kehn's Cremina review
"Because the brew water is drawn from the steam boiler (so-called "dipper" design), the temperature profile spikes dramatically above the target brew temperature at first, then tapers off as the group head draws off excess heat. I believe this initial temperature spike has the positive effect of tempering acidity without flattening the fruitiness. For this particular coffee, the Cremina delivers sweet fruits and a crisp clean finish of cranberries as promised, but most importantly, without the pucker I would have expected from a pump-driven espresso machine."

And with all due respect to "starry" (no sarcasm meant and its engineering is amazing), it is not aesthetically pleasing.

* Wood lever handles and knob
If I can find a really nice black wood with little grain then I'd be interested. But then again it would just be similar to existing plastic. I'll actually try to save money for once!
If you want custom wood for the Cremina, this is the reference I.M.O.
Custom Wood for your Espresso Machine

* Insulate the boiler tank with wrap.
In terms of saving electricity, this would be a good idea. But even with group head thermometer, I know the right temperature (within few degrees ) but just touching the top. So a boiler tank wrap would necessitate relearning the right temperature by touch.

* Permanent pressure gauge (so that would be similar to 2002 and beyond Creminas)
I see no thread for this. The likely reason is the effort would far exceed its need as temporary ones work just fine.
Richard Penney Boiler Cap for Manometer
LMWDP #568

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drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Feb 19, 2017, 1:08 pm

With Mike's agreement I have moved this thread from the Levers forum to Repairs, Restorations & Mods. I've also encouraged him, as I encourage anyone else to create a FAQ-worthy thread if they want one. Moderators are volunteers with limited time, and we appreciate all such contributions.

Mike asked me offline what mods I would recommend for a Cremina. I'll answer that here. My suggestion is different than implementing all of the above. I like to use a simple, elegant machine with only very helpful mods. So, I would say use simple measurements and work on your technique. I don't believe a PID adds anything, since measuring temperature at the group is what's essential for Cremina temperature control. There the focus is less on "accuracy" than on a guideline that you calibrate to taste. You can get a good sense of the offset by tasting a coffee brewed at exact temperature and correlating that taste with the measurement of your group thermometer at the start of a shot. It's good to have a steam wand manometer for measuring boiler pressure and setting the pressurestat to cruise just below brewing temperature. Half pumps introduce hot water to the group to bring it up to temperature. I use the manual feedback in a manual lever for gauging brew pressure. Varying that consistently will give me control. Sometimes I apply declining pressure to avoid overextraction near the end of a shot. Similarly I rarely weigh a shot but instead guesstimate dose and grind needed for any coffee and adjust from there. Regarding timing of shots, I look for slow versus moderate flow as observed visually. That's more important, I believe, than timing a lever shot.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

mdmvrockford

Postby mdmvrockford » Feb 21, 2017, 12:14 am

drgary wrote:I like to use a simple, elegant machine with only very helpful mods. So, I would say use simple measurements and work on your technique. I don't believe a PID adds anything, since measuring temperature at the group is what's essential for Cremina temperature control. There the focus is less on "accuracy" than on a guideline that you calibrate to taste. You can get a good sense of the offset by tasting a coffee brewed at exact temperature and correlating that taste with the measurement of your group thermometer at the start of a shot. It's good to have a steam wand manometer for measuring boiler pressure and setting the pressurestat to cruise just below brewing temperature. Half pumps introduce hot water to the group to bring it up to temperature. I use the manual feedback in a manual lever for gauging brew pressure. Varying that consistently will give me control. Sometimes I apply declining pressure to avoid overextraction near the end of a shot. Similarly I rarely weigh a shot but instead guesstimate dose and grind needed for any coffee and adjust from there. Regarding timing of shots, I look for slow versus moderate flow as observed visually. That's more important, I believe, than timing a lever shot.


Overall I have two "big picture" impressions.
(1) It is great for the Cremina-consumer that choices exist for this machine. I am not an engineer and stink at modding/fixing mechanical & electrical parts. Thus my knowledge of Cremina parts (and how may be modified/fixed) is effectively non-existent.
For example, I never would have figured this out recommendation in this thread.
Olympia Cremina pressurestat microswitch replacement
I am just an enthusiastic novice Cremina end user.

(2) Given the choices that exist for the Cremina, one can use the machine as delivered from the factory (except add group head thermometer) like experts such as Gary. And such as an approach will preserve the original state of the machine. Or for the lever neophyte or novice (e.g. me) or if just want specific repeatable measurements then add Gabor "homo barista" pressure piston gauge.
jwCrema wrote: We'll have a community all chasing different profiling techniques - the ultimate, you go one way, I'll go the other and we'll meet back to trade findings in the supreme art of finding the perfect shot.

I am eagerly awaiting this shipment and hope to have this installed prior to the 3/25/2017 Chicago/Milwaukee HB get together. I would like to get others' opinion after using it. Currently, I do not have good lever muscle memory "to vary that consistently" like Gary mentions. Perhaps with more experience, I will not need the pressure piston gauge but I doubt this will happen. It took me about one year before I felt confident to stop using the Espro 58mm tamper. Part of this is I make at most 3 espressos per day and only about 6 months per year (excluding family get-togethers) as I take a break from espresso after every 2-3 months.

Switching topics back to building on my original post (OP) :
* How should additions & elaborations to my OP be done? Should I just edit the OP or should I just add replies to it?
* For now I took the liberty of adding to OP about new pressurestat --> I found few posts that newer (2002 onward) Mater pstat not as robust longterm and the pre-2002. Also I added uri to Dave Stephens' custom wood Cremina parts. And I added 2nd source of premade bottomless portafilter.
* PLEASE home-barista Cremina aficionados and moderators correct me if I link to post whose information has since proven to be wrong or outdated information. My general M.O. is I believe something to be true if multiple experienced HB members post same statement or if a single post from known expert (e.g. Doug Garrott). Again I am just a novice Cremina user and have little engineering and electrical knowledge.
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drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Feb 21, 2017, 12:58 am

Mike,

First, I applaud your effort to bring together the body of knowledge about Cremina modifications.

The point I'm trying to make, though, is that for many the point of a machine like a Cremina is that it's an analog experience, and the machine is so good you'll get tasty shots and good steaming even if there is slight variation. This appreciation of analog with less focus on measurement may distinguish many lever users from others seeking ultimate precision and repeatability using something like a Decent Espresso machine or a La Marzocco Linea Mini with a highly precise and repeatable grinder. For grinders I'm happy with a basic large conical, others want no less than a Monolith. I don't want to be buried in measurements when pulling a shot. My choice isn't better but it's a different preference. If I would suggest anything to explore the analog home lever territory, it's to try the Cremina as designed, then add whatever mods you feel comfortable with. You may be surprised that you like the results even if the shots differ a bit from one to the next. Or you may find that repeatable measurements are your preference. Both paths lead to the same goal. With regard to feedback from pressing the lever, I'm not talking about high precision but something more akin to learning to skillfully scramble eggs, which takes adjustments to heat, the amount of butter or oil used in the pan, how much water you add to the eggs before whipping them, how quickly you move the eggs with a spatula and whether this is in broad sweeps or circular motions. I used to visit a coffee bar in Redwood City, CA where there was a talented barista whose shots were always superior. One day I asked him to brew what he would recommend. He loaded some beans into their Ditting brew grinder, dosed the shot and tamped it without measuring and watched the flow on the Synesso Cyncra machine at the bar. The shot was sweet, nuanced, stunning. He could do similar things time after time. I don't think he could achieve that without lots of practice and tasting the difference with variations in technique.

Okay. Sorry for the digression and back on topic, which is about cataloguing Cremina modifications.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

mdmvrockford

Postby mdmvrockford » Feb 21, 2017, 1:18 am

Gary,
You originally typed but then edited something along this idea: different means but the end product is the same...exceptional espresso. I completely agree. I do not cook except I can boil noodles al dente (though I appreciate fine food) so your cooking terms are Greek to me :(
One audio analogy I would say applies: unmodified Cremina is like quality turntable playing well mastered 180 gram vinyl. A modified Cremina is like well mastered SACD through a tube amp system. I like repeatable analog with little variation. You can guess which audio system I own.

Please give me your preference on how to add to OP (questions in my prior post (#3)). Thanks.
LMWDP #568

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drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Feb 21, 2017, 2:16 am

Hi Mike,

I'm still in agreement with you that different paths lead to the same goal. That is still in my post, above. To modify any post you've made, click on the pencil icon, which is to edit that post. I've made my points above and encourage you to proceed with your original effort.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

jwCrema

Postby jwCrema » Feb 21, 2017, 2:43 pm

Unfortunately the original wand on my Cremina made met an untimely demise through no fault of its own. I never found a substitute for the OEM wand and spent a lot of time and money trying. I also tried the adapter & foam knife and removed it - the hole seems too big for this boiler. I am using the new four hole tip, and am pleased with the morning cup. I think a one hole tip would be the best, but it's close enough.

I am extremely pleased with what Gabor's pressure gauge has done for the morning cup. I after attempts at lower pressure, I'm using a 10 sec pre-infuse with a 9 bar pull with Redbird. The Cremina is remarkably consistent without it, but this gauge takes it home. And, maybe to expand a little, lower pressure shots tasted a wee bit bitter. Going much higher than 9 bars is too much force, which requires one to hold the machine in place with the non-lever hand.

The only thing I feel a Cremina should have is a boiler cap gauge. This tells you where the PSTat is set, which I like to check every six months or so. I don't think there is a consensus on this point on this board, although Olympia did add one to the new Creminas.

I have no plans for any further mods and like it's stone simple modus operandi.