The following will take you through my journey of old lever style espresso machines, But this is where I am today. She produces the espresso I drink everyday . I can not describe how pleasurable the machine is for me to look at and use. There are many features on it that I will fill in later , but the most prominent are the custom ebony wood handles and tamper which were turned for me by Richard Penney ( espressme as he is know on the Home Barista Website..)He is a true artist that loves lever espresso machines and the nectar they produce!
Enough already-- These Cremina's were made in Switzerland in 1980 and 1985....Rebuilt to this level in 2007. The Black one now lives with Mark Prince..yes, THE Mark of CoffeeGeek fame. The Orange one with the old bubble-type grips will look some what like the Cremina that follows in the next picture. I have to laugh at myself, I only burned through 25 other lever machines before coming back to almost the same machine. Did I gain anything? Sure, the realization that this was the machine for me! If you look close in the background you can see my Bezzera Family Club machine that was a wonderful little spring lever.
Olympia makes a "cult" machine like few others. Even though they make more than one model, this one is what I am all about. The new version of this machine sells for well over $3,000US and old used ones in various states of repair go for $800+ on ebay all day long. A serious investment for anyone.
They are handmade in a small factory with a limited number made each year. The original model differs little at first glance but the subtle technology they use and attention to detail is astounding. I full expect this machine to last my daughter well into her life with little upkeep.There is an "on" switch, safety valve built in to the system, high temperature thermostat( that can be reset) and a boiler. The basket is very small compared to commercial standards... 49mm versus 58mm in most commercial machines.
There is a long build thread you can check out to see what happened to these two during restoration
Cilck her to check it out.."The Oly Twins"
Nuances...? You bet ...... I am in love all over again each morning.. Sorry no great sexy photo here but this is what you get.
and with the beautiful matching accessories
and the naked portafilter Richard made
Pure joy to make espresso with every morning!
So how did all this happen??
After a trip to a small resort near Portland one Spring break with friends and families- One morning the discussion turned to espresso and the need to have a machine at home. Since I have been in the beverage business supplying foodservice operators for many years and actually working with the ESI \ La Marzocco folks in Seattle a little, I launched into the search for the perfect home espresso machine.
Up to then all I had ever worked with at home was a poor little Krups steam toy that did barely more than give some kind of strong gushing brown liquid into a cup. A grinder-? sure I had one of those "whirly" things... chunks and bits and dust...The world was about to change...a lot!.Are my taste buds happy it did change!
After a few brushes with a larger Krups pump machine and the like - I discovered another great web resource"CoffeeGeek" and then Home Barista. From there I jumped on a new Rancilio Sylvia- stainless steel and the ultimate starter machine... true to form before it even arrived...I had purchased my first manual espresso machine, a La Pavoni Europiccola.. the grand Daddy of lever machines... I was off on the lever search.
Next up was ironically - my first Swiss made legend of a machine . Designed in Italy and then produce in Morbio Switzerland, The Cremina arrived...all European retro orange..How Cool it was... just HOW cool I would not find out for a long time.
That little man serving coffee in the logo plaque is 'DA Man!! She( this Cremina) now lives with my friend Richard in Wisconsin-- he named her "CLEO"
So if you ever noticed a lever operated espresso machine in your life, it was probably this one. This one is a mid to late 1960's model.
Next up was a gaggle of La Peppina's.. all these lever machines have something in common. Poorly written instructions , abandonment issues from owners who didn't understand how to make them perform and a cult following today. The color just screams 1970's - and that would be correct. Fun little machine as long as you remember that there is a pot with almost boiling water on top that just has a plastic cap sitting there to cover it.
Pull the lever wrong and not keep the machine firmly on the counter at the same time and this shot of espresso will be memorable for the wrong reason !
Next, the machine that looks like it wants to date a 1957 Chevrolet!! The Caravel. from Milan. Made by a defunct company called VAM.
I loved this machine, it is so pretty to look at. She was gifted to a friend who has taken her to live and make espresso in Sweden- Here is to you Jack Piccolo! Save those salmon !
The pride of Monaco..,a semi- commercial machine with a 5 liter boiler. My wife is a saint for letting me have this in our kitchen for 6 months. The base is 15" wide x 18" deep. It is 22" to the top of the cup warmer tray on top. It was lovelingly restored by Bill in Dallas.
Richard also snagged this machine from me......I see a pattern!!
ISOMAC / TEA( Tia)
A few non-levers came by the house for as while. Beautiful With that E61 clone solid brass ( chromed) head.
A very nice machine - My wife scratched here head when I sold it...she loved it!!
Bezzera/ Milan/ Family ( club )
This was a proud 6 months when I had my Cremina and the Bezzera on the counter in the kitchen. The Cremina is a manual lever , and the Bezzera is a spring assisted lever. She sported a 3 liter boiler hotwater and steam spouts, boiler refill and a really pretty look in a small space!
Gaggia / Compacta
Sexy red , built in 1975 and b=never used. I found it on CL - it was originally purchased by a soldier stationed in Germany who I guess thought he would open a espresso stand when he came home. It would not fit anywhere, but it was stunning. She was traded to Bill in Dallas for the Conti
I have to include a shot of the chrome pretties