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Olympia Cremina sight glass seals leak - SIMPLE FIX! - but perhaps not the best
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ChrisDuffield
Senior Member


Joined: 20 Jun 2011
Posts: 3
Location: Tucson
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Olympia Cremina
Grinder: Gaggia MDF
Posted Mon Jun 20, 2011, 9:40am
Subject: Olympia Cremina sight glass seals leak - SIMPLE FIX! - but perhaps not the best
 

Our Olympia Cremina sight glass seals were leaking.  Water was pooling under the machine.  The nice people at Orphanespresso.com provide replacement parts, and a wonderful step by step restoration guide to fix this at this web page.  However they warn that "This repair is the most invasive of them all. It requires complete disassembly of the machine, save the boiler and element. This is the repair most people hope they don't have to do and for good reason...."  It requires new seals and 22 steps.  If you are a perfectionist, and like rebuilding things to factory specifications, this is definitely the way to go.  I had a wonderful experience rebuilding our Cremina's group and piston seals, and lever bearings, using OrphanEspresso's parts, instructions, and personalized help.  I don't think there is any other way to fix those things, and I was very grateful for their parts and support.  

But I am a pragmatist, and I just wanted to stop this sight glass seals leak with minimum effort, hopefully without having to go through the daunting disassembly, parts replacement, and reassembly process.

So I tried something much simpler.  And it worked!  Here is how I did it:
  1.  First I drained the tank by turning the machine upside down.  Then I unscrewed the top nut and removed the top and back housing.  I let the wet sight glass assembly dry overnight.
  2.  Then I used some alcohol to clean the area where the seal-holding nuts surround the sight glass.
  3.  After the alcohol quickly dried, with the machine upright, I applied to the lower seal some FLOWABLE Silicone Windshield & Glass Sealer (Permatex item #81730, available at Ace Hardware).  I let the sealer flow into the crack between the nut and the slight glass, and spread it across the top of the nut and a little way up the sight glass to make a smooth fillet all around it.  I was careful not to let the silicone spread up onto the VISIBLE part of the glass.  But even when it did, I just wiped it off quickly, while it was still liquid.  This flowable silicone gels in 1 hour and fully cures in 24 hours.  Normal silicone sealer, such as aquarium sealer, might also work.  But FLOWABLE silicone is probably much better for this project because it has wicking action, penetrates deeply into small cracks, and lets air bubbles rise and pop.  On the other hand, it drips, so just apply what you need.  The package does not say that this flowable sealer is safe for food contact.  But cured silicone is generally quite inert, and there would be little if any contact of the boiler water with it, so I felt safe using it this way.
  4.  I waited an hour for sealer gelling, turned the machine upside down, supporting it in the vertical position with blocks of wood, and did the same thing for the upper seal.
  5.  After another hour I turned the machine right side up again, and could reassemble the back and top housings, replacing the top nut. (But I actually didn't put them back until after I tested the unit to verify that the leak was sealed.  Be careful if you do this -- the boiler and other parts are HOT and could burn you!)
  6.  24 hours later, after the sealer was fully cured, I refilled the boiler with water, turned on the power, let the Cremina build up pressure, and there was no more leak!

Six months of regular use later, this fix is still working.  I don't anticipate it ever needing fixing again, because silicone is flexible, and heat and fatigue resistant.  But if it ever does, I can just apply more sealer.  And if that doesn't work, I am sure that I can still rebuild it the correct and complicated way, because I am almost certain that the silicone sealer can be easily broken by turning the nuts, and scraped off the parts.

This flowable silicone sealant approach might also work on other leaks in the Cremina, such as at the tank gasket.  Let us know what the results are if you try it.
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Sherman
Senior Member
Sherman
Joined: 30 Sep 2007
Posts: 29
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: '91 Cremina, '90 Coffex
Grinder: K10, SJ, Maestro+
Vac Pot: Yama SY8
Roaster: HG/BM
Posted Mon Jun 20, 2011, 1:05pm
Subject: Re: Olympia Cremina sight glass seals leak -- SIMPLE FIX!
 

Chris,

I'm glad that the silicone worked out for you and hope that it continues to hold. That said, I'd urge you to consider the proper gasket replacement. Having done the work on the group/piston seals and lever bearings, the sight glass seals are really not that much more complex, as long as you have the right tool (a 17mm open wrench).

The problem with applying a flowing sealant is that, at best, you're shooting in the dark and hoping to hit your target. In this case it worked, but the next time (and the next time), it'll be more and more shots in the dark. In my opinion, it's not worth the gamble; you could have replaced the gaskets within the time taken between steps 3 and 5. In the process, you'd have accurately determined the cause of the leak and made the repair with confidence.

For what it's worth, I've done full gasket/seal replacements on a few Creminas now, and it takes less than 30 minutes to tear down the machine and get at the sight glass seals. Despite that, I've found myself moving slowly just to appreciate how well everything fits together. An impressive build quality overall.

 
Your dog wants espresso.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,670
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Tue Jun 21, 2011, 9:16am
Subject: Re: Olympia Cremina sight glass seals leak -- SIMPLE FIX!
 

So, you don't have any extra arms or legs or 3 eyes from using an automotive product on food contact equipment? NO, GREAT! LOL! I'm glad it worked out well for you!

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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ChrisDuffield
Senior Member


Joined: 20 Jun 2011
Posts: 3
Location: Tucson
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Olympia Cremina
Grinder: Gaggia MDF
Posted Wed Jun 22, 2011, 1:47pm
Subject: Re: Olympia Cremina sight glass seals leak - SIMPLE FIX! - perhaps not the best
 

This was my first post, and I'm very impressed and delighted with the passion of the community, and the rapidity of the replies!

Note that in response to the replies, I have modified the subject line, adding "but perhaps not the best", to let people know up front.

If I had read Sherman's kind post, saying that the rebuild is not so bad, coming from extensive experience, I probably would have fixed it the right way, with new seals.  But the instructions on OrphanEspresso.com made me shy away and try another approach, which has worked so far.

I also appreciate CalBlacksmith's humorous post.  After reading it, I turned green for a few hours, and felt around for the buds of any new appendages or eyes that I might be growing.  I had actually not thought much about the inadvisability of using unapproved silicone on food contact equipment.  Google tells me that food contact approved flowable silicone exists.  But it is not cheap and available at your local hardware store.  Considering the low leaking rate under full pressure, the leak must have been tiny, smaller than a pinhole.  So any contact of the boiler water with the unapproved silicone repair must be tiny, too.  Considering the inertness and hydrophobicity of cured silicones, any contamination would certainly be miniscule.  Personally I would worry more about possible traces of heavy metals in the brass parts of the Cremina, or about aluminum, non-stick, and plastic microwave cookware, or pesticide residues in non-organic produce.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,670
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu Jun 23, 2011, 6:24am
Subject: Re: Olympia Cremina sight glass seals leak - SIMPLE FIX! - perhaps not the best
 

UH, sorry I missed it the first time.

Welcome to the board!

Yes, I posted in jest. I really doubt that there would be much of a problem as, like you said, the contact of the water through the site glass is small  but with everyone so worked up about micro amounts of chemicals like BPA etc, you need to think about these things, if only in passing.

I am indeed glad it worked out well for you. Please do hang around, read and reply to the threads. Every voice is important, without new "blood" a community dies.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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ChrisDuffield
Senior Member


Joined: 20 Jun 2011
Posts: 3
Location: Tucson
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Olympia Cremina
Grinder: Gaggia MDF
Posted Wed Jun 11, 2014, 9:08pm
Subject: Re: Olympia Cremina sight glass leak - SIMPLE FIX! - but perhaps not the best
 

Update 2014.  The silicone sealer lasted about 2 years and then started leaking.  I finally surrendered and rebuilt the sightglass with proper seals from OrphanEspresso.  Sherman was right, it was fast and easy.  Maybe faster than using the silicone sealer!  So he was right, it's better to use the proper parts!
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