Probably the most fun we've had building a custom machine.
And the most satisfying.
We rescued a fairly homely Industrial looking '80s Carimali 2 group lever from a pizza "pop-up" that didn't get off the ground.
We had an idea about what we hoped to do with it as soon as we saw it. But after tearing it apart, and starting to put it back together, the machine sorta "revealed" itself. Once we got the ugly re-painted front fascia panel off the groups, it started to talk!
A bit like when a writer gets in the flow of a story after living with the characters for a while, and having them magically start to "speak for themselves."
And of course we were influenced by living with a kid who likes to point out that, "Steam trains and espresso machines are kind of alike!"
Hence: The Polar Expresso machine.
Aside from a ground up rebuild, including the typical resealing of the piston groups, and water and steam valves, descaling of the boiler, re-routing wiring, fixing leaks, etc., we ended up having to do a lot of aesthetic stuff once the groups were "exposed."
Like swapping all the hardware in front from "plain" steel to stainless.
We also needed to strip and coat the brass group assemblies with secret sauce to preserve the "brass" coloring, and prevent the white powdery oxidation that normally happens when brass/bronze are left uncovered.
Finally, we built a custom walnut fascia panel. (Had to buy a lot of new hole saws!)
Oddly enough, the one thing we thought would be "no big deal" when we bought it, became the biggest pain in the ass with this project.
The portafilters were missing.
So just buy some new Carimalis, right? Wrong.
Turns out Carimali lever portafilters were slightly different than their automatic machine counterparts, and no longer sold!
Good luck finding used Carimali lever portafilters in the US!
Luckily, a trip to our generous German friend saved the day. He's not only a Leverhead like us, but a natural genius at engineering on the fly. And he has a metal lathe in his shop!
So after cutting and grinding a pair of "normal" Carimali portafilters (one bottomless, and one spout intact) we ended up with two portafilters that work.
To celebrate, we screwed on some walnut handles.
The result is a one of a kind commercial lever. Easy to use and maintain, with a modern autofill system, and pressurestat thermal control, while looking timeless. And pulls fabulous shots. A machine that can go into a secret coffee cave, or small cafe.
We'll hate to give it up!
Even though Carimali levers are really rare in the US, the seals and gaskets are still readily available. The pistons are easy to remove and seals are simple to replace. (Four bolts, pull on the handle, and swap the gaskets.)
Not a heavy behemoth like some commercial 2 groups can be, it's still a big box. So unless you're local, or can come pick it up, it will have to be shipped on a truck in a crate.
Oh yeah, it's 220 volts.
We're having a mild summer here while the rest of America is hellish. So drive out to San Francisco, check out the City, visit the Wine County, go to the Sierras, drive down the Coast... And take this baby home with you.
We'll help load.
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