Restoration of an early Olympia Cremina (a.k.a. 'the Cremoni')

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

#1: Post by Sw1ssdude »

It happened again.

So i'm back here to tell the story of my newest Olympia Express. Just to make it clear right away:

Even though the machine looks like a Pavoni, and functions like a Pavoni, and weighs about the same as a Pavoni (due to the fact that most of the parts are made by Pavoni) it is made clear by the badge that this is in fact an Olympia machine.

Completely different thing. Olympia. Not Pavoni.

So first thing I had to do was getting my hands on a Pavoni sleeve removal tool, as it was clear that this machine needs a full rebuild. I got the machine on a local trading website, and paid shy of 200 bucks for it. It was complete, apart from the power cord.
The main difference between a regular Pavoni and an early Olympia is the wiring. Pavonis had the iconic (but from a manufacturing point of view very lazy) minimo-massimo switch, and on-off was determined whether the power cord was plugged into the outlet or not. Ground lead? No. why would you need one? Pavonis are designed to deliver a quick pick-me-up upon touching, and a refreshing espresso upon pressing the lever.

Creminas on the other hand have a very neatly woven wiring loom, with two independently operated heating element circuits. And indicators for the both. Plus a thermal fuse. And most importantly, they have a ground lead. On the downside, they also used a very funky power cord plug, which plugs right into the socket on the base of the machine. It's a very early style of similar plugs used today on laptop power adapters and computer screens, etc. unfortunately, its not the ceramic plug used in early toasters, Peppinas or irons, it's a very obscure thing, and I still haven't found the right name for it.

But it was missing anyway, so I started working on other issues.

The machine was completely covered in yellow grime, which made me believe that this machine was used in the kitchen of an old couple. And after the husband died, the machine remained unused in the kitchen, as a memento of sorts, doing nothing more than collect dust and kitchen grease for some more years, until the wife died as well, or went into a nursing home, and their home was dissolved in a huge estate sale. Something along those lines... The machine was really, really filthy.
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Sw1ssdude (original poster)

#2: Post by Sw1ssdude (original poster) »

So I first reached out on social media to see whether someone in my area has a pavoni sleeve tool, and a tool for the heating element. And I found another swiss HB member who as kind enough to provide me with all the tools I needed. I then jerry-rigged a cable to see whether the heating element still worked (it did), so I was prepared to go all in.

Other than the Pavonis with their rubber bases, the Creminas come with a floorpan and rubber feet.

(It's not even a Cremina, it'a a C10T...)

After removing those three pan screws, the whole wiring circuit was exposed. The wires were all neatly bent into place, with tiny loops at the ends, and very few spade connectors.

The thermal fuse was clamped down with a spring attached to one of the heating terminals (and therefore carrying 230v), but isolation was given with a sliver of Mica (german: Glimmer). The bulbs were super strange, tiny flashlight bulbs with the leads soldered directly onto the threaded body, and lens shaped glass bodies. The filament must be a gas discharge type, as they glow faintly orange (possibly neon?). Most likely made from unobtainium.

The switch was big, and had some nice girth. Upon first glance I knew that this switch is most likely the last part on the whole machine to ever break. If ever...

I disconnected all the cables, and took out the power socket panel. It was nice to see the file marks for the square aperture, they really just hacked a big hole into the side of the Pavoni base at the Olympia factory.

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Sw1ssdude (original poster)

#3: Post by Sw1ssdude (original poster) »

Once al the electrics were out, I took off all the accessories like the glass tube, overpressure valve, and steam wand, plus the lever. I then started to pick on the very petrified and very hard portafilter gasket, and marred the brass sleeve a bit in the process. This would have been easier with the base off, but after a huge c-clip popped off from underneath all the grime, the gasket finally gave in and dropped out the groove, piece by piece. I was glad to see that the pin holes for the tool were still in good shape.

The brass sleeve was very reluctant to leave its home, but with a little help of a 'negotiator' (a steel pipe for more leverage) it gave in quickly. Those pinhole spanners are fickle things: you get around two to three three slips, after that, the pinholes are chewed up, and you have to rely on punches, hammers and brute force to loosen stuff, most likely with destructive outcome. Its best really clamping the tool into the pinholes, as downward force is much more important than torque. As soon as the thread budges, you can gradually release the clamping force to make way for the unscrewing thread. Speaking of slipping:

The sleeve was quite nasty, and the piston dropped right out. The rod sealing in the group was so dry and shriveled up that it didn't even touch the rod. Luckily, the clip that holds the rod seal in place wasn't rusted in its groove, and came right out. After it came the perforated washer and the gasket itself, they all fell out from their seat from gravity alone.

After that, the heating element was the last remaining part that had to come off, which it did, with the use of an oil filter tool and a proper wrench. The heating element was crusty, but nothing too concerning.

I immediately regretted taking out all the accessories from the boiler, and plugged every single orifice (sight glass, steam wand, overpressure valve, water pipe...) with a matching rubber plug. I then replaced the gasket in the boiler filler cap, screwed the cap into place, flipped the whole boiler upside down, and suspended the machine from the table by clamping down the base. In this upside-down-position, I could fill the plugged up boiler like a bucket, and had it descaled with some Durgol. Next to it, the heating element sat in its own bowl and did soak in descaler (take care not to submerse the contacts). (Zitronensäure = Citric acid).

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#4: Post by Sw1ssdude (original poster) »

While the boiler and the heating element were soaking away, I picked (crumbled) the piston seals off the piston, and washed the brass sleeve and the piston with dishwasher soap, to completely degrease them. The non-greasy crud I etched away with citric acid, and an occasional rub-down with steel wool.

This really brings out the golden color of the brass, and guarantees for a smooth surface in the bore of the sleeve. The steel wool is not really abrasive, all the tiny strands glide like razors over the surface, and knock down everything that sticks out (works very well on chrome!). After that, the parts also got a free ride in the dishwasher, which they left squeaky clean.

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Sw1ssdude (original poster)

#5: Post by Sw1ssdude (original poster) »

The Durgol worked very effective, and after a thorough rinse, I cleaned the whole boiler and base, to get rid of all that yellow grime.

Luckily, that came right off, at least on the chrome, which was in really good condition. On the base, it sat in the nooks and crannies of the hammer tone paint, and needed some soaking, until it came off. The missing paint in the drip tray is still missing, and is now called 'patina'. The trickiest part to clean was the OLYMPIA badge.

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Sw1ssdude (original poster)

#6: Post by Sw1ssdude (original poster) »

With a descaled and clean boiler, reassembly was once again done in a jiffy. It's always the same with these kinds of projects: disassembling, repairing, sorting things out takes forever. The final assembly is usually done in no time.

The boiler was closed up with a freshly descaled heating element and a new gasket.

I put some silicone grease on the threads, which will be helpful the next time the element comes off. Unless it stays on again for 40+ years, then it will be stuck on like crazy and be a pain to remove. Most likely, it wont be me who has to deal with this, so that's fine. Next task was to plug all the holes in the boiler again, so a new glass tube with new seals, a properly descaled overpressure valve and a steam wand went back into their respective places.

The steam wand knob gave me a bit of a headache: for the life of me I couldn't get the black knob off. I figured that it has a splined joint, and is secured by the little set screw, so I started to exert violent amounts of force on the knob, but it didn't budge. After clamping the threaded end between aluminium jaws to go for broke, I accidentally brushed past the knob with my hand, and it immediately spun free. It seemed like I got it loose long time ago, but didn't figure it out till that moment, because I was too busy with thinking of other methods for more prying leverage. At least it didn't break, and in my defense: the knob of the last Europiccola I refurbished was a simple press fit. So be aware: old knobs might be threaded. The square rubber ring was changed, and the freshly rebuilt and slightly greased valve core went back into the steam wand valve body.

With the boiler completed, I installed a new piston rod seal with the perforated washer and c-clip. This is a bit fiddly on first-gen groups, since removing them from the boiler is not a good idea. But the clip went into position eventually, followed by the piston rod (and the piston itself) and finally, the brass sleeve. The sleeve was tightened with the Pavoni Olympia tool. And the lever could be mounted (after picking nasty grime from the grooves in the handle with some wooden toothpicks). Francesco ceccarelli provided some decent E-clips for the lever pins, the old circlips are really annoying to remove and install, so they had to retire.

Last thing to do was to install the portafilter gasket, and figure out if and how much shims the gasket needs to lock the portafilter in place in the right position. It took none. So on with the huge clip around the shower screen, and on with the Portafilter. Nice. All mechanical parts sorted out. Everything moves smoothly again.

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#7: Post by Sw1ssdude (original poster) »

The wiring went back into place as well, after thorough inspection: the power line socket was taken apart and degreased (its just metal and ceramic, no plastic at all), and the switch got its contacts cleaned.

The switch assembly even has a tiny service hatch, through which I could access the silver plated contacts and clear off all the soot. I reinstalled the switch onto the power panel, and was amazed by the screw threads: they made 1.5mm deep threaded holes in a 2mm thick brass plate... that is very ambitious! But hey, its an Olympia...

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Sw1ssdude (original poster)

#8: Post by Sw1ssdude (original poster) »

With all the wiring in place, and the floor pan installed, the last missing piece was the power cable. I found out that sewing machines and 8mm film projectors often used a similar power cable, so I searched in all the thrift stores, flea markets and welfare shops for a sacrificial sewing machine. To no avail. I also figured that saving one old machine by rendering another one cable- and useless is not the way to go. In the end it was Francesco Ceccarelli who sold me an old cable. The cremina plug was already fixed with glue, and the wall plug was missing entirely, but that was rectified right away, and now I got at least a working cable. After some probing with the multimeter I was sure that the wiring was done correct. Thanks, Francesco!

The machine works well since. No leaks, no fuzz, no nothing. I added a 3D-printed drip tray under the grid, which makes the cleaning a bit easier. That's it! It's a very, very small machine. Next to my Olympia Club, it looks like some sort of an accessory. I really enjoyed pulling espresso from this tiny machine. It had to go, though, there is only room for one coffee machine in my kitchen, and this happens to be an Olympia Club. The small Cremina-Pavoni, or Cremoni, is now at a friend's place, where it actually sees some action in daily use, after being decommissioned for so long.

I hope you enjoyed the read, now get out there and fix your own machine! You can do it, too!

...or read some other Olympia Restoration reports:
Olympia Club Restoration: Olympia Express Club rebuild (+ introduction)
Double Olympia Club Restoration: Ongoing Olympia Express Club Rebuild

Thank you,
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#9: Post by Pressino »

Very nicely done :!:


#10: Post by fredgab »

Very nice restore!

Just an additional tip for people that need to get the same power cable (for swiss people).
You can find it on some old raclette stove called "Raccard" you can find them quite easily on or thrift store as I found mine...


LMWDP #596