For many of us, coffee is not just a beverage but a passion. For the past few decades, the Olympia Cremina has been responsible for brewing that passion in us by making one of the best, if not the best, manual espresso machines in the world. Period.
It turns out the Swiss are not only good at crafting exquisite watches but coffee machines too that were way ahead of their time. With these machines, the Swiss have made sure to tick all boxes when it comes to meeting quality standards & they have done so quite straightforwardly yet elegantly.
Olympia Cremina Lever Espresso Machine
Many owners have developed a relationship with this machine throughout the years to the point where they do not even feel like upgrading their machine at all. We’re talking 35+ years!
Keep reading to find out the secret to the Olympia Cremina success as an absolute reference in the coffee world.
Olympia Cremina – Pros & Cons
● Very robust espresso machines. These machines have lasted for generations. You’d find a 1960s model in good condition because of its durability. Think of them as the ‘Toyota’ of manual coffee machines; they just won’t die.
● Easy to repair. The only technical feature in a Cremina is the on/off switch, thus making it less complicated to service them. Also, parts are widely available. Even a spare part from the 2019 model can fit perfectly in a ’67 model.
● The group heads, in the newer models, have a lot of brass and can hold the temperature very well.
● Newer models have improved temperature stability. Basically, you can leave them on for a whole day and expect them to be warm at all times.
● Steam power is very strong. The Creminas fail to disappoint even the latte-lovers. Expect a very creamy and rich froth for your lattes.
● The petite size means that it won’t take up as much space in your kitchen as other automatic/semi-automatic espresso machines.
● Noiseless machine. The Cremina makes little or no noise. For a machine from the 20th century, that’s quite fascinating. The only noise you’d hear is the silent dripping of the rich-textured coffee into your cup.
● Very basic machine. Unless you do everything by the books, it’s hard to pull a bad shot, which can be less frustrating for beginners.
● Newer models have a vacuum breaker boiler cap which eliminates the process of bleeding false pressure from the steam wand.
● Very expensive for a manual espresso machine. Even semi-automatic machines like the Rancilio Silvia V6 cost almost $3,000 less. Also, it is important to note here that this machine hasn’t seen any significant updates for almost fifty years.
● Not good with a large number of servings. While the Cremina may be good for pulling like 4 shots per day, it is not capable of producing espresso for a large group of people because the boiler can only hold enough water for limited use.
● The drip tray is shallow. Expect more cleaning after every use.
● Temperature control is difficult. Because the Cremina has few technical features, controlling the thermostat can require some practice.
● As with all machines, regular maintenance is required to avoid any future issues like leakages or malfunctions. Also, you need to ensure it remains preserved for the future, which is exactly how it’s meant to be.
● The grouphead assembly costs $750. By comparison, you can buy a brand new fully-automatic espresso machine for the same price. This machine requires extra care as some parts can cost you an arm and a leg.
Olympia Cremina – Who Is It For?
If you are new to the coffee universe and want an immersive experience brewing your own coffee, the Cremina is your answer. Yes, it may be very frustrating to pull your ideal shot, but practice makes perfect. Once you master this machine, you’ve basically hit the jackpot.
For those who have a slightly tight budget and cannot spend a fortune on coffee machines, you can still look for second-hand Creminas. Good examples can cost less than $1,000. Coupled that with a few mods, you’ve got the deal of the century.
However, for those seeking a bigger shot value, this may not be your ‘missing piece.’ Because of the limited water reservoir, less water is stored. So, it can pull no more than 4-5 shots at a time.
Although you can pour more water when the water reservoir is empty, however, it’d then require you to preheat the group head all again to ensure that water is cycling through it. Otherwise, you’d just be pulling a bad shot, which can ruin your experience.
Olympia Cremina History
Before spending thousands of dollars on a manual coffee machine, you should know a bit about Cremina’s history because that’s part of the reason you’d buy one.
Originally founded in 1928, the Olympia Express was run by a family-owned business. However, it wasn’t until 1961 that they introduced their first model, named Cremina.
The first model shared most of its components with the La Pavoni Europiccola and was shipped directly from the La Pavoni factory. Till 1966, they made an estimated 2000 Creminas.
It all started in 1967 when the company rolled out yet another Cremina model. Instead of branding it as a ‘La Pavoni Europiccola’ machine, this was the first in-house manufactured Cremina. Little did they know that they built a machine that would last for generations. It was a simple piece of engineering that would completely transform the market for manual espresso machines.
The second-generation Cremina consisted of a single heated boiler housed in a casing, unlike the La Pavoni Europiccola, for protection against burning. Also, the second generation now consisted of a drip tray, a thermal safety switch, and an updated steam valve.
From then onwards, Olympia Express made very minute cosmetic changes to make it more feasible. This is the reason why most Cremina models look alike. Unless you’re a true coffee nerd, you won’t be able to tell the difference between a 1971 and a 2019 Cremina model.
Olympia Cremina – How to Use It (Pulling A Shot)
Most of these days, manufacturers try to make their espresso machines easy to use to the extent where putting even a little effort can reward you with a good shot. However, the Olympia Cremina is a bit different from others.
This machine can really put your skills to the test. Although you can produce great shots by following the right methods, however, in this case, the sky is not the limit. The more effort you put in, the sweeter your reward would be. It’s as simple as that.
With that said, pulling a good shot from the Olympia Cremina can be as simple as ABCD by following these steps: –
- Turn the switch on and let the machine heat for 5 minutes.
- Preheat the group head by running water through it. Slightly move the lever up and down to cycle water through the grouphead
- Now, test the steam wand to make sure that it’s clean and working.
- (OPTIONAL) Run the steam wand through the milk and steam it to get the desired amount of froth.
- Depending on the model of your Cremina, use the steam wand to release the false pressure from the boiler.
- Upon tampering with the ground coffee to the portafilter, link the portafilter to the group head.
- Now, slowly pull up the lever and wait for the pre-infusion. This creates a vacuum for water to fill in the group head.
- Upon feeling resistance, gradually increase pressure on the lever.
- Halfway through pulling, decrease the pressure on the lever to have a nice texture.
Olympia Cremina Vs. La Pavoni Europiccola
The Cremina and the La Pavoni Europiccola are very closely matched. In fact, you won’t be able to tell the difference between both if you take on a blind espresso-tasting test.
Both machines do the exact same job, both are some of the best manual espresso machines on the market, both look like a piece of art, and both even have the same roots, yet there is a catch…
That catch is the price. The La Pavoni is priced much lower than the Cremina which costs an eye-whopping number.
However, with that low price, the La Pavoni has a few drawbacks, like the flimsy group head, no protection against the hot boiler, and way less temperature stability than the Cremina. Evidently, there is a trade-off between the quality and price of these manual espresso machines. Yes, you are getting the same taste for more than half the price of Cremina but is that price worth burning your fingers. That’s for you to decide.
One of the major reasons why people would buy the Cremina over the La Pavoni in a heartbeat is its user-friendliness. Unless you are looking to burn your fingers in the process of pulling a shot, this machine is for you.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for an espresso machine with consistent steaming, better build quality, and overall friendly usage (while still wanting the safety of your hands), look at none other than the Cremina.
Olympia Cremina – Conclusion
All in all, the Olympia Cremina is a fantastic machine and a remarkable feat of Swiss engineering. I’d recommend this machine to anyone who’s looking to show off their skills (or polish them). I’ve seen many owners develop a close relationship with this human-like machine to the point that they feel like almost talking and communicating with the machine.
Unless you are a coffee nerd, there’s absolutely no excuse not to buy the Cremina. The second hands go for sale often on eBay and Craigslist, which eliminates the issue of availability. Moreover, second-hand Cremina examples sell cheap, and if you manage to find one in good condition, Herzlichen Glückwunsch! You’ve got the best bang for the buck.