Today for the first time I got to play with a Cremina. I will start with the anticlimax up front though. I was expecting plenty of time to play with it, but things came up that meant we were only going to have time for a shot each. On the bright side, one shot beats no shots any day!
This machine was lovingly restored to its glory by a fellow coffee fanatic who lives near me. We met through a common love for coffee and while I started as a lever machine user and moved to a pump he has gone the other way starting with a pump machine and buying a lever later.
The Cremina is stunning. It has been rechromed and powder coated. I had only seen one ever before and it was to be honest ugly. This one was far from ugly. Anyone would be impressed even if they did not like coffee.
We did not, however, get together to admire its looks. The obvious real reason was to try out some coffee. I brought along my Pavoni so we could try them side by side.
I expected the Cremina to outshine the Pavoni since after all it is the legendary lever that most lever heads covet. Hey, it goes for $3850 new and the Pavoni is about twenty percent of that. While paying more does not always get you more the Pavoni is still in the price class where increases in price do allow for the potential for dramatic improvements.
Now after all that build up the question is how was the coffee? And the answer is that it was very good. We first pulled shots on the Pavoni and it went from a shot that was a little too bright on the first pull to one that was edging towards bitter on the second pull (not quite there, but you knew that any hotter and you would arrive at officially bitter).
With the grinder dialed in for the Pavoni we moved over to the Cremina. The piston slides up with a grace that outshines the pavoni. It is super smooth and has no extra side to side play in it, which the Pavoni does have.
We used a temperature strip to gauge the temperature and pulled the first shot. It was quite similar to the second shot on the Pavoni, but without the bitter undertones. Interestingly in the cup it was very hot – hotter than shots usually are off of my machines – the lever or the pump. This is where the lack of time got in the way because although this shot had a slight edge over the Pavoni shots, it also seemed like a slightly lower temperature was the ticket to an even better shot. We did not have time to let the group cool, reheat, etc to see how it would be with the new temperature (if we had needed a higher temperature that would have been easy). I also think the Cremina may have needed a slightly coarser grind than the Pavoni, but again that confirmation will take until there is a more leisurely testing.
So in summary, I like the machine and it is clearly crafted from higher quality internals than the Pavoni, but it will take more testing to confirm how much better it is in the cup. It is a dirty job, but someone has to do it (and I volunteer).
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