Funny how "vintage" the Coffex looks now, considering it was Olympia's answer to the fancy new wave of semi-automatic home espresso machines threatening sales of their venerable Cremina levers.
People wanted "modern," push button convenience. And levers were so Stone Age.
So Olympia put their design minds to work, and came up with this "heat exchanger" electric pump as their answer.
No physical exertion required! Simply hit the brew switch and espresso.
In a "h/x" (heat exchanger) machine, the brew water is pulled from a reservoir and heated as it's pumped through a pipe in the steam boiler. This means you can theoretically steam your milk and pull a shot at the same time. (As if that really matters on a home machine.)
More importantly, it means the water you use to pull espresso shots can run cooler than an "normal" single boiler machine. Those generally need to run at a water temp high enough make nice dry steam, as well make espresso. Which means it is really too hot for an ideal espresso shot.
There's a "compromise" necessary in the temp of a single boiler machine you don't have to make with a well designed heat exhanger. If that doesn't make sense to you now, it will if you've tried using both kinds for a while. ("Too hot" often translates into bitter espresso.)
This has to be the most compact H/X (heat exchanger) machine we're aware of. (The typical E61 "chrome box" H/X, like the Rockets, etc., are about twice the size of this Coffex.)
But the "compactness" is a just added attraction. Even if counter space is at a premium.
Because the main feature of the Coffex really is the legendary Olympia build quality. Like the Cremina, using it to make espresso just "feels good." Everything about it seems precise, thoughtful, and made to last. It's one of those machines that makes you want to pull shots even when you don't need anymore! The shots this pulls have a definite character, unlike other semi-auto machines we've used.) That's pretty cool when you wake up and use something every morning.
It may be relatively small, but it's a suprisingly heavy beast. Olympia managed to pack a lot of brass, copper and stainless steel into an elegant, incredibly efficient footprint.
They're also pretty rare. Only a few of these produced and sold in the US in the 80's, before they were replaced by the Maximatic models. So they're becoming a bit collectible, not unlike vintage Creminas.
The portafilter is also "compact" (same as the Cremina, or Pre-Millennium La Pavoni levers, at 49mm.) So the shots are going to be smaller than you'd pull on an E61 machine with a commercial size portafilter.
The trade-off is those "smaller" shots tend to be very sweet.
This uses a vibration pump (albeit a super fancy brass body one, not the cheaper plastic Ulka pumps most manufacturers install.)
The pump was frozen when we got it, after sitting in a pantry for a few years, so it's got a brand new one. We got lucky because we just happened to have the same "fancy" pump bought for a Faema project (we'd given up on) a couple years ago! So justice prevailed, and we were able to use this expensive vibe pump we had sitting in a drawer, formerly written off as lost money!
Turned out to also need a new "three way" solenoid valve. An electromagnetic device that opens a valve to vent pressure from the brew group into the drip tray after a shot. Means you won't blast wet coffee grounds across your clothes when unlocking the portafilter.
The heat exchanger o-ring was replaced along with that solenoid (a common eventual leak area on old Coffex machines) and we installed a new group to boiler seal, a new portafilter gasket, and new cap seal. AND we rebuilt the steam valve with new o rings, and cleaned and lubed it so it's silky smooth. (A common idiosyncrasy of all Olympia machines seems to be stiff steam knobs.)
So a lot of money and love was invested in rebuilding this machine!
The top layout may be a little confusing. There are two places to add water. One is a plexiglass reservoir under the lid on top for the brew water. And the second is through the cap on top, which goes into the steam boiler. (The sight glass on the front is to monitor the steam boiler level.)
The stainless fascia panel on this Coffex is nearly flawless. The top panel has some light scratches. The body panels have some paint chips on the front edges. There's a small rough spot on the left side, and a small ding (hard to see) also on the left near the bottom. The trademark Olympia gold pin stripes are mostly intact. Overall considering it's age, it's a very presentable machine, in impeccible working condition.
Comes with single and double baskets, and the original plastic Olympia branded tamper!
Grab this rare Coffex while you can!
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