Restoration of an Olympia Cremina

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

#1: Post by srobinson » Aug 18, 2005, 10:25 pm

All of you have done it. You have seen that machine on EBAY, the object of your dreams and secretly hoped you could get a low bid on it and convince the wife that yet another trophy could be added to your collection. Then after a few beers and a couple episodes of American Chopper, you decide that not only do you want a new machine, but you also want to tackle restoring one. How hard can that be...a few sparks will fly, a little polish here and there, send the tins out and then you would really have a machine to fulfill your fantasies.

Well my friends this will be one of those stories. A story where the ending has not been written, but an adventure all the same. A story that will be filled with highs and lows and hopefully result in a new addition to the cronicles of lever machine history....the rebirth of a classic Olympia Cremina.

Now those of you in the LMWDP or follow our insightful posts know that the machine of our dreams is the Olympia Express Cremina. This is a machine made in quantities of only 160 a year in a small factory in Switzerland by an Italian whose objective was to make the best home espresso machine with the best engineering...price be damned.

Let's take a second to reflect on the history of this machine:
For over 81 years Olympia Express has been one of the pioneers able to draw on a wealth of experience in the construction, research and design of first class high precision fully automatic/super automatic espresso. coffee machines for meticulous connoisseurs.

Until the early 60's when Luigi Bresaola, Jr. took over the company from his father, Olympia concentrated on production of commercial espresso machine. In the middle of the 60's Olympia started production of espresso machines for home use.

Although expensive-perhaps the most expensive espresso machines of their time and crafted for a service-free long life, the high demand for Olympia espresso machines flourished and 1965 the company moved from the old production factory in Chiasso to the newer and modern large factory in the Swiss town of Morbio Inferiore.

In 1979 Olympia determination in design and first class construction was recognized in a survey published by The New York Times as the best home espresso machine.

In 1992 Luigi Bresaola, Jr. closed production and sold his factory. The original Olympia Express company was succeeded by a holding company, Mokaespresso SA.
So with the seed of desire planted firmly from Dan's picture of a beautiful Olympia Cremina 2002, the hunt begins...

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Steve Robinson

LMWDP #001

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srobinson

#2: Post by srobinson » Aug 18, 2005, 11:39 pm

With goal in hand, I began the search for a worthy candidate for restoration. With the hope of scoring one of the Olympia's from their original factory. After many months of mindless EBAY surfing, the following popped up:
This is the Olympia Cremina espresso maker. It works fine, heats, the frother works fine. The person I got this from said the seal gasket was leaking on the bottom, he put in a new one it does not leak now. From the water leaking the bottom plate got a bit rusty, the inside was in excellent condition, with no rust to the tank, or other seen portions of the machine. The pump handle seems a bit tight, at least until it runs the hot water through, (Im not sure if this is normal or not). Cosmetically nice with a few scratches. I am offering this AS-IS.
These are typically very basic machines so I decided to roll the dice and won the bid.

While expecting the machine not to be in perfect condition, I was quite surprise to see it show up with the worst packing job I have ever seen. Tossed in a box of peanuts, with only one layer of bubble-wrap which resulted in the case being damaged in transit.

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While this was not expected, negotiations began with the owner on some restitution for this surprise.

Now I am a true believer in EBAY so I quickly opened up the machine to see about that replaced gasket and that slight rust.

With regards to the gasket, I found this.

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Now this wins McGyver points just out of sheer ingenuity. Instead of dropping the $12.71 to order the correct gasket from Switzerland, the previous owner cut his own out of 1/8" cork and rubber gasket paper. Well you have to hand it to him...looks like it did work.

Now prior to this fix, it did look like this machine suffered a bit of rust, so the bottom plate looked like this.

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Now with hours fading in the day, I decided to take a look at the grouphead internals before I called it a night and had this vision to haunt my dreams before my early morning flight:

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Is this the work of a true Swiss artisan? No it is the work of some idiot prying the dispersion screen off with a screwdriver which resulted in bending the grouphead shaft out of round. How could this be? Had not everyone read my posts on how to properly remove the piston? At stress overload I decided it was Miller time and headed to bed.

So the plot thickens dear readers. Can the machine be fixed? Will the seller provide some compensation for the unseen damages? Does Lino hold the tools to get the head back in shape?

Look forward to another chapter in this cliff hanger to see if the Olympia gets reborn....
Steve Robinson

LMWDP #001

lino

#3: Post by lino » Aug 19, 2005, 6:03 pm

Oooh!

Love where this is going.
Think we could start a new show "Ristretto Reconstruction"!

I can also offer to host a "garage day" out at my place at some point if there is interest...

I can at least offer sandblasting and powder coating for the frame...


ciao

lino

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srobinson

#4: Post by srobinson » Aug 20, 2005, 1:05 am

Well dear reader, as we left this thread we were in the perils of a damaged case, bent head and awaiting a mutual agreement from the seller that would help me afford the needed repairs on this machine.

What a difference a day makes. With a few quick emails to the prior owner we were able to strike a deal that was fair to both parties, which not only confirmed my faith in the coffee gods, but also my faith in fellow EBAYers that all can be put right in the world. So with the means now to complete a first class restoration on the machine without depleting the LMWDP war chest. Thus, our story continues.

The first order of the day was to get case back in shape without having to purchase a new cover from Olympia. As I mentioned above, these machines are extremely well made, so I thought I would give it a shot and block out the case and give it a few licks with my plastic body hammer. I first attacked the stainless steel top followed by trying to rebend the case.

After a few trial fits, I felt I had a respectable fit and short of a few surface dings had a case that could be brought back to life with a good powder coating. Here are a few shots to show the machine before the real work begins:

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Look hard at those beautiful browns....may be the last time you see them before the repaint. And finally a full frontal:

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So the steps began to see if I could get this machine fully apart and down to its base frame. The first step was to remove the Olympia badge from the back and the manufacturing plate from the side. In my case I found these held on with close to what you see holding on trim pieces on autos. The trick to do this quickly and without damaging the case by trying to pry it off is to pull a piece of dental floss between the pieces to get them to remove. Once this is completed the remaining residue can be removed with 3M adhesive remover.

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Now the real deconstruction. What impressed me the most on this machine is the fact that a lot of thought went not only into the construction of the machine, but also a lot of thought went into how to take them apart.

The main case comes of by removing a single threaded washer at the throat of the boiler neck and the top and back case come right off.

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And what do we find inside....A stainless steel boiler, commercial fittings and all stainless steel piping. All electrical wires have blade connectors which simplifies the disconnections. The order I removed things on the front were to disconnect the steam arm and tubing, removed the switches, four allen bolts and the head comes off and you have the front free.

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To fully get the machine apart, the next work is to remove the pressure regulator and carefully take off the glass site glass. This is the trickiest part since metal and glass together are not a good mix for me. After a bit struggle to remove the rubber feet and finish up the electrical, everything was apart. Quite a few pieces but it does show some progress and gets us to the next stage in the build.

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Steve Robinson

LMWDP #001

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KarlSchneider

#5: Post by KarlSchneider » Aug 20, 2005, 2:50 pm

Steve,

I can see where this thread is going to lead me. Do you have any thoughts about the differences you anticipate between the Olympia and the Elektra and Pavoni? I am probably more interested in taste differences than in technological ones although the latter are hardly insignificant.
LMWDP # 008

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#6: Post by cannonfodder » Aug 20, 2005, 5:24 pm

During the entire deconstruction, that diet Pepsi did not move.

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srobinson

#7: Post by srobinson » Aug 20, 2005, 6:05 pm

Ad placement. Pepsi is underwriting the project :lol:
The truth is that you can see how often I clean off my workbench. Chuck, we will get into some comparisons soon and when totally together I will do some side by side testing. Right now I am just working through the problems to get it in shape to compete with the newer machines...one step at a time.
Steve Robinson

LMWDP #001

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srobinson

#8: Post by srobinson » Aug 21, 2005, 12:03 am

Another one of my favorite shows is Monster House, where a team is given a set of impossible tasks to complete with a big timer staring them in the face to add additional pressure to the work. Well the wife and daughter were off to shop for school clothes and I had a good three hours to try and get the group head ready for chroming. Tasks facing this monster build included:
  • 1) Remove petrified boiler gasket
    2) Remove petrified head gasket
    3) Remove lever piston gaskets
    4) Try and true up the piston sleeve
    5) Clean the dispersion screen
All of these tasks are difficult and with just a few wild stabs on how to accomplish them, I dug in....roll MacGyver music....

Job 1: Boiler gasket

To start with, please let me reiterate that this is an old machine....so old in fact that the gaskets are not just brittle; they are really petrified and fused to the metal. All hopes of quickly popping them off were quickly dashed when techniques used on other machines yielded no results.

What did work was to use a dremel cutting blade to get an initial hole cut in the gaskets.

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Which after careful work would give you this:

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Then utilizing a handy 90 degree scribe pick like this

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Job one was completed in record pace with all fingers in place on only minimal bleeding.

Job 2: Petrified Head Gasket

With process now successfully patented for gasket removal, I was able to quickly drill, pick and pull the head gasket out in similar fashion.

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It is really hard to believe that the gasket was once pliable rubber, so those of you with lever machines, please take my advice and do maintenance on your machines to avoid drills, cutting bits and metal picks on your expensive machines.

Job 3: Remove Lever Piston Gaskets

Now for the next job look at the picture above and take a glance at that rusted spring clip around the small hole. Wonder why it is rusted? This is one of the gaskets that I have rarely seen replaced, because it takes a special tool to remove this style of fastener. Now most garage mechanics think that anything can be fixed with a hammer, flat bladed screwdriver and a hand drill, but this is one of the times that the right tool will make the world of difference. A simple set of spring clip pliers like the ones below:

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make this a simple task and for me the easiest of the day.

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Clip pops out, and the washer and gasket easily come out from behind it. . Job 3 complete and now the fun begins.

Job 4: True-up the piston sleeve

As you could see from my second post, I had a bad problem where one of the original owners has deformed the lip of the piston sleeve by prying on the dispersion screen to get it off. After a long discussion with one of my car buddies, we came up with an unorthodox way to try and fix this short of sending it to Lino who was willing to use his big hammer approach. The idea was hatched to try and see if I could get something the size of the piston to shape the interior wall and then something on the outside of the wall to shape the outer edge of the lip. . While using wood was our initial thought. We came up with the idea to see if PVC pipe could be used. It is easy to cut, solid density and by cutting it down the side, it should be able to create a perfect fit. What the hell, let's give it a try.

The first step was to cut a piece and stretch it out to fit the outer circumference.

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With that in place I then cut another piece and notched out a bit more so that it could fit inside the sleeve.

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And now to make the magic happen, I applied a hose clamp and wrenched it down.

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The end result was fairly impressive from where I had started and I think I now have something that is workable.

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With Job 4 complete, time to pop a beer to thank the coffee gods for not allowing me to screw up the group head. With time still remaining on the clock I thought I would get an early finish, so on to the next job.

Job 5, Cleaning the Dispersion Screen

For those of you thinking that my morning went smoothly, let me tell you a little secret: "The Coffee Gods have a nasty sense of humor". Fresh from a string of good luck with the group head, I started to clean the silly little dispersion screen. Tried scrubbing, tried cleaner, tried straight dishwashing detergent, tried toothbrushes, tried scrub bushes...none would work. What was lodged into every little machined hole of Swiss Miss' dispersion screen was the equivalent of petrified black tar. The only way I could get it out was to use a sewing needle and work each hole.

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My 5 minute job resulted in being the longest task of the day taking over one hour to complete. Had I been on Monster House, I would not be leaving with the Makita tool kit or welder. But, on the bright side the group head is completely apart, usable and now ready for rechroming.
Steve Robinson

LMWDP #001

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Jepy

#9: Post by Jepy » Aug 21, 2005, 1:54 am

Just curious, if you get time to take a pic of how the dispersion screen is held in I'd like to see. Clip, or maybe part of the PF gasket?

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srobinson

#10: Post by srobinson » Aug 22, 2005, 9:56 pm

Jepy, here you go. It simply clips on the end of the grouphead. This is unlike the way it works on a Pavoni or Elektra where it is held in place with the head gasket. You can see the dispersion screen has the spring edges on the lip.

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Steve Robinson

LMWDP #001