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Olympia Cremina Routine Maintenance & Troubleshooting FAQ

How often do I need to descale my machine?

If you have very hard tap water, it is generally recommended that you use filtered, softened or bottled water to minimize scale buildup.   The best approach to take is to concern yourself with scale before it is manifested in a problem.  Scale can appear as white lines in the water level sight glass tube, white patches on the sides of the boiler, or on the element.   An inspection light, and a good look inside the boiler, is the best approach to determining if descaling is needed.    As a rule of thumb use water with proper mineral content, inspect, and you will find only a very occasional need to descale the machine.   All chemical descalers have an effect on the surfaces which they contact, so prevention is a better approach than frequent descaling.

If I do need to descale, how do I do it, and what do I use?

All chemical descalers are based on some organic acid formulation.  Dilute citric acid, or dilute acetic acid (vinegar) are common food safe descalers.  We prefer dilute citric acid.  Some proprietary descalers use a combination of acids - be sure to read the label for compatibility information. 

A proper descaling citric acid solution should be no more than 1 tablespoon of citric acid crystals per liter of water.  To descale your machine, prepare the solution, fill the boiler, power the machine on to heat, allow to sit approximately one hour, empty the descaler from the machine, and rinse repeatedly before using the machine. 

My boiler cap sputters - what is wrong with it? 

The Olympia boiler cap contains a Vacuum Breaker Valve (also called an "Empty Valve"), it will have either a ball bearing, which seats to an o-ring, or a weighted shaft with an o-ring seal.  The seal, and seat of the valve can become fouled with mineral scale.  The simple solution to this problem is, with the machine cold, remove the cap insert by pressing on the edge of the insert with your thumb - this will pop up the opposite edge so you can remove it.  Add a few drops of vinegar to the top of the shaft or the hole in the brass fitting & let stand for 15 minutes, approximately.  The vinegar will dissolve the scale.  Rinse the cap, and replace the insert, before use.

Is there any maintenance I need to do to the steam faucet?

The best advice for increased longevity of the steam faucet seals is to not overtighten the knob.  There is a Viton seal on the end of the steam faucet shaft which seals against a brass ring.  Over tightening, beyond just having the steam stop, will reduce the life of this seal.  The seals in the steam valve will generally last a very long time with no maintenance issues. 

How to I change the Pressure Switch Setting?

The Pressure Switch, or Pressurestat (pstat) is located inside the case of the machine.   To access the switch, remove the boiler cap, remove the large nut on the boiler neck (watch out for scratching the top plate), lift off the top plate and drip cup (note there is a ground wire attached to the top plate, and one attached to the case).  Remove the back case.  Pressurestat is located on the steam knob side, front corner.  On the top of it there is a screw with indications of plus (+), and minus (-)   A small increment of screw turn in either direction will affect the pressure setting.

Is there anything else inside the case that I need to maintain?

No.  But, if you have the case off, look around!  Check for evidence of scale at any fitting - white patches, green patches on fittings, discolorations or wet spots - there shouldn't be any.

What do I need to do to maintain the group?

There are 2 issues at play here - one is cleaning, the other is lubrication.  Both are generally done during the same session - clean, then lube.  There are 2 different methods for approaching group maintenance.   One is with the group removed from the machine, the other with the group attached to the machine.  I find removing the group the simplest.  The new Cremina machines use a group to boiler seal which can be reused, so no replacement part is needed generally.

With the machine unplugged, and cold, and with the boiler water level below the point where the group attaches (you may empty the machine but it's not necessary as long as the level is low!): 

Loosen & remove the 4 socket head cap bolts that hold the group onto the boiler, using a hex key tool (Allen wrench).    Lift the group away from the machine.  Looking up into the bell of the group you will see the dispersion screen which is held in place by the Portafilter Gasket.  Using a thin, probe tool, on the screen side, slide it along beside the gasket, and pull the gasket out - it will usually come out together with the screen, as one unit.  If there are coffee oils apparent under the screen, soak it in coffee cleaner, wipe out with cloth, hold it up to a light to see that the holes are not clogged.  A toothbrush works well for cleaning the screen. 

Lift the lever so the piston moves up, into the cylinder, to the top.  Wipe the cylinder walls clean with a cloth, apply a small dab of lubricant - we recommend Dow111 Silicone Valve Lubricant.  Don't over apply it - it doesn't take much!   Spread the lube around the walls of the cylinder, run the piston back down to the bottom, and wipe off any excess lubricant.  Place the portafilter gasket on the group screen, at the bottom edge, install the screen over the cylinder, push the gasket into place using a blunt tool.  Using the portafilter with no basket in it, as a tool, finish pushing the screen with gasket into place by locking the portafilter in.  Install the group back onto the boiler, with the 4 socket head cap bolts, tightening them in an X pattern.   

The alternate method is to do the same cleaning & lubrication but with the group still on the machine.  This is done by first emptying all the water from the machine, lay the machine on it's back (use a towel or other protective material), and proceed with the above described maintenance.   Once you become experienced this takes only a very few minutes! 

How often should I maintain the group?

Of course, it depends on your level of use.  I recommend at least once a month.  A good maintenance schedule helps to ensure the best performance, and best longevity of the seals, and the machine in general.

My lever feels jumpy, draggy, jerky, what is wrong?

Almost all issues relating to the 'feel' of the lever can be traced back to cleaning & lubrication. 

What should I do, if anything, about the lever pins & yoke?

Lever pins & yoke should be kept clean, and lubed.  We recommend Dow111, or our Pin Lube for the pins.  An occasional applicating of a drop or two with a toothpick at the yoke pin holes, the through axle hole, the rear bushing slot and the pins - it doesn't take much, just a little lubrication on all of the mating surfaces will help keep the action smooth & wear free.  The rule of thumb - if it moves, lube it!

How often should I change the seals - just in case or to prevent a problem?

There are 2 kinds of seals in the machine - passive, and active.  The passive seals are those used in places where parts don't move - sight glass, heating element, group to boiler, etc.  In the case of passive seals the machine is assembled, heat cycled, and fittings retightened.  These seals last a very long time, and we don't recommend changing unless there is a leak, or a steam sputter you notice.  Usually it can be solved easily by a minor tightening of a fitting or part - this is due to heat cycling & normal use.

The active seals are ones in locations where there are moving parts - boiler cap, steam valve, piston rod seal & piston seals, as well as the portafilter gasket.  These seals should be replaced upon failure - again, manifested in a leak or problem.  Current materials of Viton, and silicone for many of these seals allow them to last a long time, as long as the regular maintenance is done.    Changing seals to 'prevent' a problem is generally not necessary or recommended under most circumstances.

But, what about the piston seals?

The piston & cylinder is the heart of the machine.  The piston has 2 seals on it, that are u-cup type, responsible for keeping the pressurized water in the group from leaking out, and for creating the pressure when you pull the espresso shot.   Inadequate lubrication or seal wear can manifest itself in drips while the machine is heating up.  This is an indication that you need to go a bit farther into the group than in your normal cleaning.  You may need new piston seals, but perhaps not...  If you do need to change the piston seals, the 2011 Cremina is very simple - while doing your cleaning you may have noticed a hex head screw on the face of the brass piston.  The seals can be changed without removing lever pins, piston rod, etc.  Using a hex wrench, loosen & remove the screw, and pull the brass piston out of the cylinder.  This allows you to examine, clean & lubricate the entire cylinder surface inside the group, clean, inspect & lubricate the piston seals, and if you detect some damage to a seal (if the drip on warm up is the problem it will likely be the top seal) then replace.  If you detect no damage, then replace the cleaned & lubed piston into the cylinder making sure that the leading edge of the seal slides nicely into the cylinder, and doesn't become pinched or torn.  Replace the screw in the face of the piston, replace the dispersions & portafilter as you did in your routine maintenance.

Should I keep extra seals on hand 'just in case'?

Not a bad idea - having them on hand means less down time!  Every espresso machine will need new seals or gaskets sooner, or later.  No reason to change them recreationally, but it's good to have a spare for the piston at least!

My machine is a month old, and it drips - what is wrong?

A very common thing that happens when a person receives a lever machine - the first thing they want to do is pump the lever up & down!  Absolutely understandable, and absolutely should be avoided.    Do not cold pump, or dry pump the lever.  This will aggressively move the lubricant away from the seals, causing premature wear, or dripping.  The group is designed to function while it is full of hot water.   The lubricant does not properly function when cold, or in a dry situation - it needs both heat, and water to function properly (and water itself is part of the lubrication of the machine!).  Dry dragging, or cold dragging can damage the seals.    Your machine cylinder needs to be warm, and wet to function properly.    Most often removing the piston, cleaning & reapplying lubricant to the seals & piston/cylinder will solve the problem.

Where can I get more information about making repairs myself - I don't want to ship my machine! 

The new model Cremina is nearly identical to the old models of the Cremina - there have been some changes, but much of the information we've covered regarding vintage Olympia Cremina is also applicable to a new model. 

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