Sunday, 26 April 2009

Visit to Olympia Express, Switzerland

I havent time to write a meaningful report right now, but I will at least make a start and post some images...

A flight to Milan & an extremely pleasant trip by car up into southern Switzerland where the people bring a winning combination of Swiss precision & Italian flair. No surprise then to find a large number of successful manufacturing companies based here.

The purpose of the images below is to demonstrate that the Cremina is a domestic machine built to a commercial standard. This is not the consumer grade junk that proliferates today, where you throw it away and buy another if something breaks. No, the simple sturdy Swiss engineering means these machines are easy and cost effective to service.

A relatively recent change in ownership of Olympia has seen heavy investment in developing the engineering excellence of the machine even further. A more precise thermostatic switch has been developed, along with a new pressure guage without a stop pin to ensure the needle of the guage is not damaged under the vacuum that occurs when the machine is turned off. Olympia have also changed the press tool for the top cowling on the boiler to allow you to warm your espresso cups on the top of the machine. In addition the piston has been changed to a twin seal design. Quality control programs have also beeen embedded in the production process to ensure all components meet the design specifications provided by Olympia. The design of the drainage tray has also been refined, and the pins on the lever are have reverted from machine screws with grub screw retainers to circlip retainers on each end to assist ease of correct reassembly when servicing the machine.

Left end elevation: Olympia Cremina with boiler housing & group removed. Old style thermostatic pressure switch clearly visible in brass housing. Now replaced with a much smaller & more accurate design.

Main elevation: group removed.

Right end elevation with group removed. Clearly visible mounted to the top of the boiler are the over pressure release valve (mounted vertically), the feed for the pressure guage, the outlet pipe from the base of the boiler to feed water to the sight glass water level indicator, and the return feed from the sight glass to the boiler (top)

A new design of bronze piston with marine grade (316) stainless shaft with the two seal seats clearly visible

A collection of pistons fitted to shafts and ready for installation.

Externally I thought the shower screen was in good condition...

...but it wasn't! Coffee oils had formed a hard residue on the inside.

The key to staying young is to stay flexible! Both seals under pressure between forefinger and thumb; old seal (top), new seal (bottom). A new generation of silicone seals are currently under development.

What's the collective noun for espresso machines? A hiss of espresso machines, perhaps? Olympia Maximatic model almost ready to go to their new owners. These are selling like hot cakes.

Moca grinder showing off the engineering excellence for which it is renown. It took me a while to come around to agreeing with the design of this grinder, in particular the fixed box for the collection of grinds, but I am now an advocate.

This is due to the quality of the grind, the quiet operation, its very small footprint, and the fact the I no longer spread coffee grinds all over the kitchen as they are captured in the box very effectively.

And far too quickly it is time to make the return journey to Milan.

All in all a great day with great people. I personally learnt a lot about how the machines were manufactured, the history of the company, and the plans that the [relatively] new owners have for the company. In all aspects they are seeking to build on the fine history of Olympia, and expect to see some exciting new machines from Olympia in the not too distant future.

If you can appreciate the value in an espresso machine that will deliver espresso that is superior to what you will receive in any retail establishment, can be readily serviced, and will be in a fit condition to pass on to your children, then there really is only one choice. Olympia of Switzerland.

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