Olympia Express Maximatic




S$6700 nett*

Tax waived for local orders

*price excludes shipping for orders outside Singapore




Born in 1974

The Maximatic is the perfect partner for all those who are looking for a little more luxury. The electric, semi-automatic espresso machine with vibration isolated pump is so handy and small that it almost fits on an A4-sized piece of paper. This has been made possible thanks to the individual production of all components, ranging from the vibration isolated pump to the boiler and thus making the Maximatic the smallest espresso machine with a dual circuit heating system in the world. It is so straightforward and easy to handle that it can be used at home as well as in offices, studios, doctors’ surgeries and galleries.

Since 1974, the Maximatic has followed the tradition of a classic commercial machine, and can more than match its role model from the catering trade. Here, too, its owner experiences the maximum espresso taste, day by day!

No seasonal product. No expiry date.

The Maximatic embodies the philosophy of Olympia Express in every detail. Each and every one of our machines is built with the expertise and the experience of more than 85 years of manufacturing espresso machines. This is why the Maximatic is so compact, so reliable, and why its noise level is so low. Simply Swiss made.

The Maximatic has two water tanks: a fresh water tank and a boiler. The fresh water tank holds 2.64 pints and can be refilled while operating. the water is lead from this tank through the boiler. During the process, it is heated to 212°F, so that when it reaches the brew group, it has a temperature of 198°F – the ideal brewing temperature for espresso. The boiler (capacity 1.32 pints) also produces the steam for frothing the milk. The fresh water tank and boiler are made from high quality chrome steel guaranteed not to affect the taste.

The front is made of high gloss polished steel. Frame and casing are lacquered with a highly resistant powder coating. The Maximatic’s surface can be used to pre heat the espresso cups; the drip tray and the grate can be easily removed and cleaned. Not to mention the illuminated extraction button with the Express Olympia-logo, the water gauge, the extra long steam wand, the thermal protection of the heating element, the mechanic safety valve for the, boiler the high tech gaskets etc., etc., etc. This exceptional manufacturing quality can only be reached, because it remains the engineers’ and designers’ prime goal to build the perfect espresso machine.

Technical Specifications Maximatic

Current supply 230-240 V / 50 Hz¹
Cable length 5.25 ft
Power input 1000 Watt

Additional information

Weight 36.38 g
Dimensions 13.39 × 7.68 × 14.57 cm
Power Supply

110 – 240 / 50-60


Contact us for quotation


Up to 2 years parts and labour
Lifetime limited warranty

Country of Origin


Servicing & Repair

Coffee in a place

Video and Reviews

Olympia Maximatic

Review 1

JmanEspresso (Home Barista)

I think its a very nice looking machine, and by the pictures, well-built is an understatement.

I think, if I got a significant amount of time using a “Dragon” HX machine, my opinion of HXs might change. Whether if it was this machine, or an Elektra Semi-auto. It probably relates to easier-to-control temps, especially for first time users. Not in the sense of, “I want to pull shots at 197, how do I do it”.. But just getting the water where you want it. IME, Ive tried a bunch of different P-stat setting on MY machine, trying to find the flushing method that I liked most. IMHPO, I think when it comes to HX machines, the “Dragons” are probably the most user friendly. When I first got Anita, it took a while to get the flushing/rebounding down, and to be able to be consistent with it. Having a machine with fast recovery and low-thermal memory, though possibly uses more water, seems a simpler approach.

The Vac-breaker, personally, I dont think is a big deal. BUT.. The auto-fill I would certainly miss. I leave my machine on 24/7, so no vac-breaker would only affect me on those occasions the machine is off for a while.

I dont expect to see this machine on any top seller lists.. But I am pretty sure its going to be popular as time goes on. In todays economy, if you can buy something with the confidence that it will last for a long time, thats probably something that will sell. This machine is certainly not for everybody, but no machine is. But I look at it like this.. How many disappointed Cremina owners are there?

Review 2

Dave Stephens (Home Barista)

Olympia Maximatic redux

Some items just exude quality. A Rolls Royce, a custom shotgun, a Rolex watch. The Maximatic falls into that category. Simply taking the machine out of the box and setting it on the table top you know it is above and beyond the usual build quality.

I cannot convey the quality of the build and design on this machine. Every edge is rounded, every seam straight. A cursory external examination reveals a flawless machine. No sharp edges, loose panels or gaps in seams. The polished stainless is nothing less than perfect which takes some serious work and attention to detail. The powder coating is perfect, no ripples or bare spots on the external surfaces or the internal, a real professional job. Even the chrome plating on the inside the portafilter, no brass showing, no nickel spots, smooth and perfect coverage.

It appears that Olympia’s modus operandi was if it takes two screws to secure it, use three. Everything is solidly assembled.

The machine has a very small footprint so the internal space is very limited. Every inch was used. Every piece thought out and meticulously assembled. Recessed Allen head set screws all around the internals. I am no stranger to the internals of an espresso machine. Home, single group, multi group, old and new but when I took the covers off this machine I just stood there and stared. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Will the Olympia Maximatic’s price live up to its reputation? Stay tuned for the Olympia Maximatic redux.

Out of the Box

One of the unique things about the Maximatic is that right out of the box you have a full kit. The machine includes a stainless knock box, aluminum tamper, stainless funnel to fill the boiler with, stainless coffee scoop even a stainless steaming pitcher. You have both a double and single basket for espresso, a single portafilter and the owners manual. All you need is a grinder and some fresh beans to start pulling shots. One thing you will need is a blind basket for backflushing. I keep a generic rubber insert that sits inside a basket to plug the screen onhand. Sine the Oly does not use a 58mm portafilter none of my baskets will fit, so I use the rubber bathtub stopper for backflushing.

The knockbox is rather shallow and uses a lay across double bar made from what appears to be nylon or other polymer. I have had issues with splattering coffee and water when I knock the puck into the knockbox. It is functional and much better than what most machines come with which is nothing but you may want to upgrade to a deeper knock box.

The tamper is a solid piece of machined aluminum. There is a couple millimeters of space around the tamper piston and basket. Those that are obsessive compulsive about having a friction fit tamper to basket will no doubt want to order a replacement. Since the Olympia uses a 54mm basket none of my current tampers will fit but I see no issue with using the included tamper. It is well beyond what most manufacturers include which is normally a plastic hunk of junk suitable for use as a door stop.

The Maximatic is a small footprint heat exchanger. It measures 7.75 inches wide, 13.5 deep and 13 inches tall from the table top to the top of the cup warmer edges. The boiler fill cap adds another inch and a half to the overall height as measured with my ruler. It is small enough to have a minimal footprint on your kitchen cabinet and does not require two people to move. However, as Dan eluded to, it is no light weight at 40 pounds.

Getting Started

The Maximatic is decisively low tech by modern espresso machine standards. The boiler is a manual fill using a sight glass. No auto fill or level box in this little guy. It is strictly a manual process. With a cold boiler, you unscrew the boiler fill knob from atop the machine, insert the supplied funnel and pour in water. You can see the boiler water level through the sight glass on the front of the machine. There is a Minimum and Maximum mark for your water level. Since the boiler water is not used for brewing, you can save yourself some maintenance by using distilled water in the boiler.

The Oly is a vibe pump pour over machine so you have to fill the internal reservoir with your brew water. The machine uses a well thought out and simple lid over the reservoir. Most machines require you to remove the entire cup warmer top to access the water tank. The Olympia has a 1/3 sized lift off panel. That way you do not have to take the entire top off and remove all your cups to fill the tank. That is a good thing because the tank is small and requires frequent refills.

The reservoir is also unique. Unlike most pour over machines, the Oly does not use a plastic water reservoir, it is brushed stainless. It appears to have been bent from sheet stainless and TIG welded. A perfect job, no weld seams, everything ground and polished so it looks like a single piece of stainless. The reservoir pulls up out of the frame and has a cutoff valve in the bottom under the pump intake. No hoses to pull out, it is all self contained and does a very good job. I have pulled the tank out several times to see if it would drip and it has yet to leak. Under normal circumstances there would be no need to remove the reservoir from the machine.

It would be very wise to fill the reservoir before you start each session. Keeping in line with the low tech design, there is no low water shut off. No magnetic switch or spring loaded contact switch to shut down the pump when it runs dry. While that sounds like a big deal, it is not as critical as you may think. Since the boiler is not fed from the reservoir, you will not burn up your heater if the tank goes empty. The vibratory pump changes pitch noticeably when the reservoir gets low and starts sucking air. You will just ruin a shot, not melt your machine.

Once you have the boiler and reservoir filled, you turn on the small rocker switch on the right side of the frame to start heating it up. You will need to run the pump to fill the heat exchanger then let it heat. It comes to temperature quickly. From a cold start you need about 20 minutes to bring the machine to operating temperature.

During the heatup you will have to take into account another little quirk of the 2008 Maximatic models, like the evaluation model we tested, that do not have a vacuum breaker. After 10 minutes you will have to open the steam want to purge false pressure out of the boiler. If you do not, it will never come to the proper operating temperature. After the warm up, you are ready to start pulling shots.

Pulling Shots

Now to the meat and potatoes of an espresso machine. All the window dressing in the world does not mean anything if the machine does not pull a good shot. Testing out a new machine will use up a lot of coffee so I dropped our friends at PT’s Coffee an email and the generously supplied me with ample coffee. Some La Bella Vita, Gizmo, El Salvador Finca Los Planes Pacamara variety (they also have a peaberry), Panama Elida Estate and KenyaAA Thunguri microlot to test the mettle of this machine.

Out of the box the Olympia has the boiler set at 1.3 bar. That is hot, real hot but I gave it a go as it was. My results were mixed. The machine needed a substantial cooling flush to bring the temperatures down which emptied the reservoir quickly. It also reheated very fast. It was a flush and go machine but even with a 10 ounce flush it was heating to the point of flash boil by the end of the shot. I decided to turn it down in 0.1 bar increments settling on 1.1 as being the sweet spot for me.

Once I had the boiler turned down things started to settle in. Now I have just moved out of state and am living in a little apartment while my house is finished. All of my stuff is in storage so I am going strictly by taste. This is a first, no temperature profiles, no data logging, we are going old school in the review. Might I add that the form factor of the Maximatic lends itself nicely to cramped quarters. I did have the foresight to pack my LaCimbali Max grinder so I have one piece of equipment that I am familiar with.

After a pound of La BellaVita I had my temperature management figured out. I was going with 10 seconds past flash boil, around 10 ounces followed by a 5 second rebound. I could not tell you what the actual temperature is, no thermocouple, but the taste buds say that is right. The shots were not as deep and heavy as I am accustom to but that is strictly a machine limitation. La Bella is best at high dose ristretto shot. PT’s recommends a 21 gram dose. Since the Maximatic uses a 54mm portafilter, there was no way I was going to get anything close to that in the basket. So I had to compensate with a tighter grind, lower dose and tight ristretto shot.

This is a good time to bring up another interesting thing about the Maximatic. The dispersion disk is very similar to the ones Elektra uses. There is a solid brass dispersion disk screwed to the group bell with a single screw which also holds the shower screen on. Knowing that the Elektra does not work at a high dose due to the lack of headspace I anticipated that the Oly would be no different. After a couple pounds of coffee, I believe that is the case with the Maximatic. High doses tend to melt down and channel. If you live for coffees that work best at high doses requiring triple baskets, the Maximatic may not be the best fit for you. While you can compensate by using the maximum working dose the double basket will provide and simply grind tight and reduce volume the espresso will still not be the same. If I had to venture a guess, I would say around 15-16 grams is the most you will get in the double basket.

Tasting Notes

After several pounds of coffee, I have developed an opinion about the shots the Maximatic pulls. As previously surmised, the machine likes headspace. As a result you cannot over stuff the basket. The Olympia revolves around the ‘standard’ Italian way of making coffee using 14-15 gram doses. Again, I do not have a scale right now to confirm, so take it with a grain of salt, but my gut tells me I am in the ball park.

The shots are nice and lively. The machine appears to draw out the higher notes in coffee, accentuating the bright citrus and fruit notes in most blends. Even coffees that would normally present themselves with heavy herbal, spice, and chocolate notes are brighter and less heavy in the cup.

When using PT’s La Bella Vita, I get a medium acidity cup with sweet fruit notes. On the Maximatic, I had to grind tight and pull short shots. PT’s recommends a 21 gram dose for two ounces. I had to pull my shots in the 28-30 second range for just over an ounce to get similar results. It still lacked some of the body I would have normally gotten in a larger dose shot but still good. The down side is the shot gets lost in milk with the reduced body. It still pulled a good cappuccino but you have to keep the milk in the 4 ounce range. Otherwise the shot got lost.

PT’s also sent me a few single origin coffees to try out. Given the Maximatics tendency to produce bright and lively shots, most of the single origins did not fare well. The El Salvador Finca Los Planes was bright, but manageable as an espresso. Prominent flavors being citrus and floral but it was tamed by lowering the dose and raising the extraction temperature another couple of degrees.

The Panama Elida Estate was super acidic and bright. Too much so for espresso from the Maximatic. The coffee was a pineapple bomb with a twist of citrus/lemon. So much so that it would make me pucker. I also had some Kenya AA Thunguri. It has a wonderful dry aroma but pulled in the Maximatic it developed a strong grapefruit. I pulled most of these coffees as americanos. That lowered the citrus pucker factor and mellowed out the cup. The Kenya developed a little berry while taming the grapefruit. They all made nice americanos and wonderful press pot coffee.

PT’s Gizmo blend was something new to me. It is a darker roast geared to stand up in milk, which it did nicely. With the Gizmo blend, I could pull 1.5 ounce shots with 5-6 ounces of milk. The coffee liked a lower temperature, so I increased my flush by 2 seconds. That gave me a 10 second past flash boil with around 5 seconds recovery before I started the shot. The chocolate notes come through very well in the milk. In keeping with the lively profile produced with the Maximatic, the body was still slightly reduced. In addition to the deep chocolate notes, I was getting a distinct red berry note that was absent when pulled through another machine.

Materials & Workmanship

As I alluded to earlier, Olympia spared nothing in the build of the Maximatic. To call it solid is not an exaggeration, it really is solid. They used heavy gauge stainless steel for the front and top of the machine. The frame is heavy gauge mild steel and the internal components milled from blocks of brass.

The assembly of the machine is rather unique. Most of us have spent a half hour removing numerous small screws to remove the shell of a machine for some simple adjustment. The Maximatic is exactly the opposite of that. Remember back in the day when you use to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Bugs Bunny would disassemble Elmer Fudd’s bulldozer by removing one screw, the nut that held everything together. Well, the Maximatic is built just like that. One nut, unscrew it and the entire thing opens up. Remove the boiler fill cap, unscrew the large nut from the boiler fill spout, lift the entire top off the machine, lift the shell off the frame and the machine is fully disassembled. Remarkably easy, yet once assembled it is solid, no wiggle room anywhere.

Under the covers, Olympia made liberal use of fasteners. Most every component is secured to the frame or boiler with stainless steel Allen screws that are recessed into the parts. There are no friction fit parts or spring clips. All the brass tubing has been kept to minimum lengths and the fittings are compression type.

The boiler is made from stainless steel. The ends of the boiler are TIG welded on. The boiler is secured to the base of the machine with several screws. The boiler also have reinforcing extensions that rest against the front panel to further brace all the components. The heating element is bottom mounted. The boiler cap contains the boiler emergency pressure release valve.

The Maximatic uses a vibratory pump but due to the solid construction there is little to no harmonic vibration. It is one of the quietest vibratory pump driven machines I have used. The pump uses a rigid plastic line to feed the heat exchanger. Olympia elected to not install an over pressure valve, so there is no water return line to the water reservoir and no pump pressure adjustment, similar to a few other espresso machines like the Elektra Semiautomatic and Salvatore One Black (for a technical explanation, see I still don’t get it: Why adjust the OPV?). Since the flow rate indirectly determines the brew pressure for such espresso machines, proper grind adjustment and distribution are critical.

The Maximatic is simply off the charts when it comes to build quality.

Steaming Performance

Well my time with the Olympia Maximatic is drawing to a close. It is time for it to move onto its new owner. So a few closing thought about the the machine and its steaming performance.

Normally, I like to do a video or two, especially when it comes to steaming performance, but due to my limited resources, I cannot manage one right now. Steaming performance is very good provided you stay within the design intent of the machine. As I mentioned earlier, the Maximatic appears to be geared to the European way of making coffee. The steaming performance appears to be no different. A traditional 6 ounce cappuccino is the sweet spot.

The steam wand on the Maximatic has a single pivot point under the front shroud of the machine. That gives you a front to back swing on the steam wand. The wand itself is about 3 inches long from the bend in the pipe. I occasional find myself wishing it was an extra inch longer. When steaming small amounts of milk the steam tip will occasionally breach the surface of the milk as the spinning vortex drops below the tip of the wand and the pitcher is bottomed out against the bend in the steam wand. The wand uses a small 4 hole tip.

I have been running the boiler about an inch below the max mark on the sight glass. That appears to give me the best velocity to longevity mix. With a high water level I get more velocity but less volume and the steam is a little on the damp side. Lower and I have a problem keeping the vortex swirling in the pitcher.

A few quick tips, use a smaller pitcher than the one provided with the machine. The pitcher that was included with the evaluation model is way too large for steaming but is better than what most machines come with, which is nothing. I use a 12 ounce pitcher with about 5 ounces of milk and it works wonderfully. Purge the steam wand for around 7 seconds and let the boiler rebound to almost the pressurestat shutoff point, then start your steaming. That will ensure you are running at maximum pressure. Angle the pitcher so the wand is just slightly off center where it enters the milk and the tip is close to the side of the pitcher, also tilt the pitcher toward you. That will work up a vigorous rolling vortex in the milk.

The Maximatic has no issue producing latte art worthy microfoam (my latte art skills not withstanding), but as I pointed out earlier, keep the milk amounts down. Six to eight ounces are the most I would recommend. She is simply not designed to steam 12 ounces of milk for those coffee flavored milkshakes that many Americans drink. It will do larger quantities, but you lose too much boiler pressure and cannot maintain that nice vortex. The Maximatic is a more than capable steamer.

Final Thoughts

[Dave] I enjoyed my time with the Maximatic. It packs a lot of machine in a very small footprint. The shots are good, exceptional when you compare it to other machines that have a similar footprint. The build is second to none, it is as comfortable in a boardroom as it is in a kitchen.

[Dan] I was surprised by a few things.

First, being a Swiss-made machine, I expected it to exude precision, and it does. But being an HX espresso machine with a shallow drip tray, it’s a messy affair unless you enlist the help of a “catch bowl”. My regular go-to kit, the Elektra Semiautomatica, shares this same character in use, though it’s not in the same league as Olympia Express on build quality, despite that Elektra is a top-notch Italian espresso equipment manufacturer in their own right.

Second, I was surprised how easy it was to pull shots on, once again similar to the Elektra; however the Maximatic’s espressos are lighter bodied that the Semiautomatica’s.

Third, I was surprised by how popular the Maximatic was at the Counter Culture Coffee Camp, attended by 60+ coffee enthusiasts. Perhaps the attendees’ heightened interest was attributable to the novelty of the Maximatic, a relative enigma in the US? The Olympia saw lots of action those two days and many were impressed how easily they mastered the basics after a 2 minute demo. I ribbed one attendee who was distributing the grounds using a deft Stockfleth’s Move, “Hey, this thing is Swiss, not Eye-tal-yen. It doesn’t want you to fuss. Just a straight cut across the basket, flush the group, lock and load.”

Fourth, the price is still a bit of a shocker. I don’t have the financial cushion to spend that kind of money, but I don’t dispute the price is justified. For example, my E61 La Valentina goes for ~$1800 today and the construction looks mid-grade in comparison and it sounds like a rattling jalopy next to the Maximatic’s smooth operation. If you have ample funds and worship build quality, quiet, assured mechanics, ultra compact footprint, and solid performance, you’ve found your espresso temple.

Review 3

KarlSchneider (Home Barista)

An unexpected collection of circumstances brought it about that Olympia Express, through its American Distributor, Swiss Coffee Products, has made a new Maximatic available to me for a continuation of this HB review. As a dedicated user of two lever machines – an updated Olympia Cremina Millenium (2002) and an Elektra Microcasa a Leva, I bring to the examination of this not well known espresso machine a different set of experiences from my review predecessors, Dan Kehn (aka HB) and Dave Stephens (aka cannonfodder).

It is worth clarifying that I was from 2002-05 a daily user of an HX ECM Giotto which I “traded-in” for lever machines. I have been completely satisfied with this move to lever machines and have said elsewhere on HB that I consider my two machines the “ideal home espresso 2-group”. But we all are inclined to wonder about other machines. In my case my “wish-list” included only two machines: an Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica (thanks ? to Jim Schulman) and the Olympia Maximatic. Said otherwise, I am not a purely disinterested participant.

First Impressions

I am approaching this review as I did a previous section of the review of the Ponte Vecchio Lusso. Since its arrival I have stopped using my own machines and inserted the Maximatic into my daily routine.

Setting up the machine was easy and I was able to pull three passable single espressos after one test shot to get the grinder setting in range. The shots were not in any way remarkable except for the very remarkable fact that I have never succeeded so quickly with any other new machine and avoided a series of sink shots. Getting a drinkable shot was my clear goal for this opening session. An auspicious beginning.

Setting up and using this machine for the first time revealed a number of details worth sharing. My regular routine includes filling the boilers of both my lever machines at the start of each use. While the design of the Elektra allows this without the use of a funnel, the Cremina requires one. I have purchased two used Creminas and neither came with the original funnel from Olympia.

Details Matter

The funnel that Olympia included with the Maximatic is the best-designed funnel I have used. My regular funnel is stainless like the Olympia one (and not the standard coffee machine plastic), but it has to be held suspended above the filler tube with one hand while pouring water with the other. It has a large top and small bottom spout with an inadequate air vent. The Maximatic funnel has a small top bowl which, before using, I imagined would be a problem. It also has a larger bottom spout and a larger, functional air vent making filling much simpler.

As one who uses a funnel daily, I very much appreciate this attention to detail. Another distinction is found in filling the water tank.

Unlike all other HX machines I have used, this one has a direct connection between the tank and the pump and no plastic filler tubes. More importantly, it has a stainless water tank instead of the commonly used plastic ones. The Maximatic has a “pour-over” tank-fill design and does not provide for autofilling the steam boiler. As a lever user, this fact did not draw my attention since my routine for the past 4 years has included twice daily refilling of a small boiler.

Size Matters

It is clear from the manual provided with the Maximatic and from texts on the Olympia web site that an essential element in the design on this machine (and its sibling Cremina) is the “small footprint” or “compact design”. Based on my having owned two different Cremina models and now using this Maximatic, I am fully in agreement with their assertion that these machines are ideally sized for home use. The Maximatic both fits under standard kitchen counters and is small enough to be moved out easily for manual filling. The more typical larger and heavier HX machines are not as easily movable for pour-over filling. I can fully understand wanting an auto-filling component of every one of the larger HX / pump-driven machines. By contrast, the Maximatic is “handy” in that it can be moved easily into a fillable position. The compact size of the Olympia machines is a very conscious choice made by the designers. I find the decision very rational and preferable.

The new Maximatics have a 54mm portafilter compared to the 49mm portafilter on the original Maximatics and to the old and current Creminas. For someone used to a 49mm portafilter/basket, a 10% increase looks immense. Although I had a 58mm machine, my memory of its size has faded. The manual recommends a 7.5-9.0 gram dose of ground coffee for a single shot. Since this corresponds to my normal dosage for my regular machines, I used the same amounts from the beginning of my test shots on the Maximatic.

The tamper currently supplied by Olympia is a quantum step above the plastic throwaway tampers other espresso machine manufacturers typically provide. This high quality tool reflects a passage at the beginning of the manual that presents the concept of “no compromise” as a principle articulated by the founder of the Olympia Express that remains a top priority of the company.

Taste Matters Most Of All

To this point, this review has been a patient overture to the one real question I have had from the first time I learned of the Maximatic: Does it make espresso as good as the Cremina? The immediate answer I got to that overarching question was a very simple Yes!

While this was very much the outcome I anticipated, I was not at all sure it would present itself until I made my first shot on the Maximatic. I was using a 1-day-old SO Yemen Ismaili, which is for me is the pinnacle of espresso roasts. I could taste the clear essential Yemeni earthy-herbal character. In terms of body, my first impression was that the coffee was the same as I would expect from the Cremina. I must say this outcome was, as indicated, not unexpected. My expectation came from having had first a Cremina 67 and then acquiring a Millenium Cremina (the first version of the Cremina 2002).

Tasting coffee from both side by side, I was not able to distinguish a difference. Based on this experience, I believe there is an “Olympia style” of espresso.

This is also the basis for my continuing curiosity about the Elektra Microcasa Semiautomatica. My unabated passion for espresso from the Microcasa a Leva leads me to think I might similarly favor Semiautomatica pulls. Jim Schulman’s review served only to encourage that anticipation.

There is much more to this Maximatic exploration. As I have learned already, one has to expect the unexpected.

Nothing brings forth my fascination about the Maximatic more than the question of how the coffee it makes tastes. The speed with which I was able to make really acceptable espresso is intriguing. As I gain experience, I taste subtle but unmistakable differences between the espressos made on the Cremina versus the Maximatic.

Studies in Taste

A first attempt to describe the difference:

– Maximatic espressos have greater body,
– Maximatic presents a fully blended collection of flavors,
– On the Cremina, the separate flavors are more distinct.

Keep in mind that I have used a very tiny range of coffees and other roasts may produce different outcomes. Directly connected to this is how the two machines being compared are set up. The pressurestat on my Cremina has a deadband of 0.2 bar. In contrast, the Maximatic pressure range is 0.10 bar. Whether this matters, I cannot say with certainty, but over the years using the Cremina, I consciously pay attention to where the pressure is for each shot because the lower the pressure, the richer the ensuing shot. At the high reading, the Cremina moves in the direction of the taste profile of the Elektra. In the lower ranges, it makes “thick” espresso. On the Maximatic, the narrower range of pressure readings encourages me to ignore the differences of top and bottom.

As a devoted user of the Cremina, I can say that I find this subtle distinction very insightful. The Maximatic makes espresso of a comparable high quality and of similar style to the Cremina, but it does so by design more conveniently. This is certainly part of the explanation of my producing good shots so quickly.

I think it is quite fair to say that using a lever machine to produce the finest espresso takes continuous practice. The analogy to a musician is quite appropriate. In order to be able to perform at the highest level one has to be constantly practicing. Having not used either of my lever machines since the Maximatic arrived will result in a need to practice to return to my best productivity. The manual Cremina allows the most fine-tuning of how I make each shot. Not only can I make subtle adjustments based on pressure I can obviously adjust the amount of force applied through the lever. On the spring lever Elektra there is no adjusting the force and I have never watched its pressure gauge while making espresso.

In contrast, the semi-automatic Maximatic makes espresso of comparable highest quality but is significantly less demanding of technique. This is clearly a convenience. If I were (or were to become) an occasional user of an espresso machine this difference would make the Maximatic preferable to either the Cremina or the Elektra Microcasa a Leva. The latter, by the way, is for me the most demanding of technique but when done well produces a different espresso than either Olympia machine.

Convenience names the decisive quality of using the Maximatic in terms of ease in obtaining good results. It is also a central part of the previously noted compact size. This machine is far easier to fit into a kitchen and to move about as needed. I have never succeeded in getting my wife to spend the time to learn how to use the lever machines. Undoubtedly she could use a Maximatic far more successfully with less work on the finer points of dose, grinding and tamping.

Closing Observations

Among the many details that I noticed during my investigation of the Maximatic is the provided user manual. On the one hand it does exactly what one expects: tells the user how to operate and maintain the machine and does so as well as any such manual I have read (and far better than most, including my Elektra manual). As previously indicated I have been using the Maximatic “according to the book”. I should spell out some of these choices for interested readers.

Olympia describes the correct dose for a single shot as 7.5 – 9 g. Since acquiring my first lever machine I have used the single basket for single shots and continued that practice with the Maximatic and have used the recommended amount of coffee. My only use of the double basket is to make Caffè Americanos. As with the levers I use 13-14 g.

Caffè Americano
The manual includes a glossary of names and descriptions of espresso-based drinks. Included in the list is Caffè Crème. When I had my semi-automatic ECM Giotto I developed a taste for Caffè Cremas (see How to make cafe cremas) and was looking forward to trying them again with the Maximatic. I switched to Caffè Americanos when I got my Elektra Microcasa a leva because they tasted better. I had assumed that the different machine types made the difference. Now having tried Caffè Crème again, I find it is my taste preference that changed. Adding hot water as opposed to adding more “diluted” espresso gives greater clarity of flavor in the Americano.

Vacuum breaker
The test machine I have has the vacuum breaker installed in the boiler cap. The manual says to open the steam knob during heat up to release air from the boiler. Although this appears to be unnecessary (and may be from an old printing of the manual), I continue to do this with each start up. My Elektra requires this bleeding of false pressure and it has been a part of my routine for more than four years. I do it automatically without noticing as one does many things while driving a car. When I got my first Cremina, it had a vacuum breaker, but I continued to release air during its start-up. When I moved to the Millenium/2002 Cremina it also has the vacuum breaker and I continue to release air on startup. The valve on my Cremina 67 had to be de-scaled when it stopped working. I monitor the valve on the Cremina Millenium/2002 for scale build up.

Cooling Flushes
This is a complex topic. The manual does not refer to cooling flushes. It does recommend pre-heating the brew group. After the machine has reached operating temperature the manual recommends running 140ml (a full cappuccino cup) of water through the group. I have followed this procedure and have done no additional cooling flushes. I have tasted no adverse effect from using the machine without cooling flushes. I have tasted some small temperature differences in the cup but have experienced no burnt flavors. On my Elektra and my Cremina 67, I have tasted the results of an overheated group as a burnt flavor. I have not tasted this on the Maximatic. I have made no more than three shots in a session and my practice is to make these three in succession without pause. The temperature of shots 2 and 3 is very similar. On an Elektra, after the third shot one needs to cool the group. On my Millenium/2002 Cremina I notice no heating with more shots in a session. I have not left the Maximatic on for long periods and cannot verify from experience the cooling flush that seems likely would be needed after sitting idle.

As I bring this discussion to an end, I have to say I am more surprised than I imagined. On the one hand, I did clearly expect to like this machine. Olympia Express has a long record of making superb machines. As a convert to lever machines, I did not expect to find myself tempted to want any semi-automatic. There is no question that I am now tempted in precisely that way. The Maximatic makes espresso with a taste quality similar to the very best lever machines and does so in a manner less demanding on the user. Its ability to make superb espresso is directly connected to its unequaled build quality and workmanship and to its compactness. It provides an option that no other machine offers. If one wants superb espresso output plus convenient operation plus authentic home size plus unequaled workmanship and build quality, there is no other choice. As Olympia Express says, its form is defined by its function. One can find a sub-set of these qualities in other machines but none contain the complete package found in the Maximatic.

Beyond this point, I want to test the Maximatic and the Cremina head-to-head on the same coffees. I will post follow-ups on these comparisons.

Testing Maximatic and Cremina head-to-head on the same coffee
This evening I had my first chance to directly compare espresso made on my Cremina and the Maximatic. The beans used were an SO Yemen Harasi roasted 54 hours ago. The roast is just barely entering the peak segment of its life and still quite a bit closed. It was roasted about a minute into second crack. I pulled two shots on the Maximatic and then two on the Cremina. My target was to “percolate” 30 ml in 25 sec. The second shot on both machines was close to this extraction.

Tasted blind I do not think I could detect which was made by which machine — they were that close in taste. The creamy richness of young beans was a major component of both. The Cremina shots may have been the slightest bit smoother in texture. Both had clear Yemen character and the heavier quality of all of this year’s Yemen crop was emphasized by both machines.

The first Maximatic shot was noticeably warmer than the second. The two Cremina shots were closer in temperature to each other and closer to the first “hot” Maximatic shot. This whole range was small and all of the shots were in the normal temperature range.

I had the same experience when I tried my two Creminas side-by-side. Their shots were much more the same than different. I had to “look” for differences to find any.

Perhaps I should have said above “tasted deaf” one could not tell the difference. We lever users are accustomed to the quiet of the machines. The Maximatic is very pleasantly quiet for a pump-driven machine. Actually I find the sound of the 3-way release valve at the end of each shot more surprising than the pump sound.

Cremina needs to be pulled out from its storage place for comfortable access to the lever. The Maximatic can remain in place while being used. Another convenience.

More notes to follow

It is always a real learning experience to do these concentrated tasting studies. In daily making of espresso I am focused on getting really good shots and on producing different tastes. When I make myself pay attention so that I can share observations I notice more things. Tonight I had two more Yemen Harasi’s on the Maximatic and then two on the Cremina. What jumps out to me at this moment is what a huge difference the past 24 hours have made in the character of the espresso. Last night I felt the coffee was just beginning to reach maturity and still a little closed. Tonight it is fully at its peak. There were still hard edges to the taste in both machine shots last night. From the first shot tonight I was tasting creamy background with a center of the distinctive Yemen earthiness and Harasi weight. The differences between the two machines were there but so slightly. The Maximatic shots were if anything a bit more integrated and the parts of the Cremina shots still more separate. The temperature of the espresso in the cup from the Cremina was slightly higher.

I am also conscious that my Cremina technique is not quite back to its regular fineness. I tend to do the same with wines. Put an 82 Domaine de Chevalier and an 82 Leoville Las Cases in front of me and I will pick them apart rather than focus on the wonderful nature of both.

Rather than trying to decide which is better the most pleasure comes from making the comparisons.

This evening’s espresso’s were very educational for me and instructive about the Maximatic.

I have recently been enjoying the day when I switch from last week’s roast to this week’s. The reason is because on a whim one day I made an espresso with a blend of beans 7 days old and one day old. I have started calling these shots solera espresso. In the Jerez region of Spain where Sherry is made the best sherries are made in a process called solera. The basics of the solera process are that each year when new wine is made it is blended into barrels of wine from previous years. There are actually multiple sets of barrels of wine; each set has some wine removed and added to barrels holding older wine. These wines are aged over many years and blended annually into barrels holding blends of wine from previous years. The end result is extraordinary wines of great complexity.

Espresso can, I propose, benefit from a similar process. Most espresso is made from blends of beans from various regions. The beans are roasted at the same time. I am a lover of SO espresso. But this experiment in solera espresso is changing that preference. Tonight I did two different solera espresso’s. The first was a blend of 2/3 Brazil SO beans roasted actually this morning. 1/3 of the blend (blended in the grinder) was week old Yemen. The result was a spectacular espresso that had a deep rich background defined by the young Brazil. At the center of the taste was a hard core of Yemen earthiness.. The second solera blend was a reverse – 2/3 week old Yemen and 1/3 12 hour old Brazil. It too was special but the Yemen background to an as yet undefined Brazil core was less exciting.

I realize Dan may want to split this to a different topic but it is relevant to the Maximatic in that it was obvious to me that the Maximatic did a great job of getting the two components of each solera to stand out. This was a very different test of the Maximatic. My Cremina has so far made all the solera espresso’s and done so with great distinctiveness. The Maximatic did just as well.

I make these solera blends only on the day when I have the last beans of a roast and a full jar of the next batch. I usually get one or two shots. Between these two today I had a shot of a high quality commercial espresso blend well past a week old. It was fine. But what really stood out was how much the Maximatic made the two much fresher solera espresso’s stand out. For me the essential test of all espresso machines is how well they can make espresso from fresh beans. Fresh beans help all machines but the really good machines make the best use of the freshness. The Maximatic was up to this test.

This week’s roasts are now at their absolute peak at 4 days after roasting. The morning roast for Americanos is a Brazil Daterra Farms-Sweet Yellow and the evening espresso roast is a Brazil Fazenda Vista Alegre Natural Dry. I am now beginning to taste the subtle differences the two Olympia machines make. It is my natural inclination to look for these kinds of differences and I am always excited when they do arise.

Last evening it was the Cremina that was in its element. For me an SO Brazil is a hard path to find perfection. But it can be done. The first shot was extremely good in having the kind of fullness unique to a Brazil and without the over-heaviness or dull flavors of the usual. A great tenor in the middle of the tenor range. But I thought it was ever so slightly over-extracted. The Cremina allows one to make the finest of adjustments on extraction and shot two was as good a Brazil as I have had. The third was also perfect but different. This is what I most like about the Cremina. A Bjussi Bjoerling aria followed by an Alfredo Kraus. (Neither a Pavarotti High-C).

This morning it was the turn of the Maximatic. I admit that as I work with the two I no longer find head-to-head comparisons that fascinating. Now the task is exploring the full range of each. The two Brazil’s are different. The higher acidity of the Daterra Farms lends itself to Americanos for my palate. Another difference is that the Vista Alegre has a flavor profile that is best when the separate elements are brought out as distinct from each other. The analogy that comes to my mind is ensemble singing where one needs to hear each of the four voices yet they have to be sung together as in Beethoven’s Fidelio. The Daterra Farms taste profile is best in symphonic form where all components sing the same tune. The Maximatic is better at symphonic expression than the Cremina. This morning’s Americano’s were truly special. I am among those who wake up quickly so I notice the taste in the cup very distinctly. These jumped out from the regular.

I want to emphasize that the distinctions I am making here are of the most subtle kind. I could happily use either machine to get wonderful results with these two different Brzil’s. Having the opportunity to use both I am immersed in exploring the differences and rewarded for looking.

Making espresso is (no surprise to HB readers) so fascinating precisely because one never knows for sure what results will present themselves. In my previous post I mentioned two spectacular espresso’s from my Cremina. That was three days ago. The following evening I fully expected to have more variations on that theme of superb Brazil SO espresso. It did not happen. And it did not happen last night either. Three shots each evening. Nothing approaching the level of three days ago.

I decided to switch this evening to the Maximatic. As I said, one just never quite knows. The first shot was 100% the same Brazil Fazenda Vista Alegre Dry Processed that had made both superb espresso and than far less than superb espresso. The shot this evening was closer to the two pinnacle shots of three days ago. An essential element in all of this is that coffees change very dramatically in the first 7 days. I choose to follow them in precisely this window. One tastes the fullest range of flavors with this approach. The Cremina shots of the precious two days were bringing out the bitter side of the taste. The shot tonight on the Maximatic was rich and full and did not have that bitterness.

At this point my supply of “mature” coffee was close to the end. I made a solera espresso as described above with 2/3 Brazil Nossa Senhora Fatima (roasted 12 hours ago) and 1/3 6-day old Fazenda Vista Alegre. The hard edges of the predominant young coffee did not allow the older one to show. My last try today was a reverse of this ratio — 2/3 6-day Vista Alegre and 1/3 12–hour Nossa Senhora. It was wonderful. All three shots this evening were with the Maximatic which continues to be a true treat to use.

Concluding Unscientific Postscript

It is time to bring my contributions to this thread to a close. As is often my observation of having followed a new path, I should have expected the unexpected. Curiosity was the driving force for inquiring into this opportunity. I really wanted to taste what kind of espresso the new Maximatic would make. HB, Olympia Express and Swiss Coffee Products graciously collaborated to indulge my curiosity. My sincere thanks.

I made the switch in 2005, soon after HB started, from a semi-automatic pump-driven espresso machine to an Elektra Microcasa a Leva. It is fair to say I was a convert to lever machines. I much preferred the taste of the espresso I made on the Elektra. I preferred the hands-on experience of using the machine. I preferred the scale of the machine and its quietness. I also enjoyed no longer having to flush the group for cooling. A year later I acquired an Olympia Cremina 67 and my conversion to Steve Robinson’s LMWDP was complete. The Cremina added a new, expanded taste profile to my espresso making and a significant step up in hands-on experience quality. The Cremina also offered better temperature control without the need to use cooling flushes. One year later I acquired an Olympia Cremina Millennium which provided improvements in build quality and temperature stability over the C 67. The Elektra-Cremina has proven to be an ideal home 2-group lever.

When this Maximatic review project began, I understandably had no intention of acquiring any more espresso machines. But the path turned. I did not imagine how much I would like the Maximatic. I have found it to be much more than the anticipated machine with an unsurpassed build quality. The unexpected postscript to my exploration of this machine is the realization that it is a unique machine and so I decided that I have to keep it.

A Home 3-Group

Last evening I had espresso made with 30-hour Brazil Nossa Senhora de Fatima made in the Cremina. I roasted “Our Lady” beyond the supplier’s recommended full city roast to my usual full minute into second crack. The outcomes were all three delightful. They reminded me of what the ancient Greeks referred to as the “bloom of youth”. The coffee will change as the week progresses but this was a fine start. With each week’s new coffee I guess which machine will make it best and make adjustments to a different machine if needed. These options will expand as I learn more about the Maximatic’s subtle characteristics.

The Cremina is distinguished for me by the richness of flavor and the experience of making the espresso. Nothing compares to using a manual lever – hence the origin of the term “pull”. The Elektra’s spring technology gives the user less engagement in the process. The Elektra, however, is unequaled in my experience in the clarity and lightness of Being in its espresso with the right beans.

The Maximatic earned its place in the pantheon of my espresso machines. I am enthusiastic about this unexpected change.

I have been asked via pm by several HB readers about my response to the Maximatic now that I have lived with it for a longer period of time. I can share the following for all who are interested.

I have now had the Maximatic over two months. The short version of my general response to it now is that I am even more pleased with its character than my initial very favorable response. At the time my test of the Maximatic started my Elektra Microcasa a leva had reached a point where I had to send it off to be serviced. I had had it for 4-1/2 years of virtually daily use and often twice daily use. I concluded it needed professional service and I sent it off to Stefano’s Espresso Care in OR. It has now returned and has resumed a central role in my machine use alongside my Millenium/2002 Cremina and the Maximatic. Allow me to add a note of praise for the servicing done at Stefano’s. The Elektra now operates as it did when new from the factory. The espresso produced is once again superb and the action of the lever a delight to use.

What has developed now that I have these three machines all in perfect working order is that I find myself picking a single machine for every roast. Each one makes espresso that is distinct and each finds the sweet spot of a coffee that the other two do less well. Each week I have two different roasts and I determine in the first day or two which roast works best in which machine. This practice expands a long interest of mine in SO roasts for espresso and the full range of flavors to be found therein. In this practice it is clear that each of these machines is in my mind equal in its ability to find the best in single coffees that the others do not quite find.

I say the above with the full understanding that having three espresso machines in regular use is a wonderful opportunity for me to indulge my passion. Having three machines is also wholly un-needed. Each of these machines would suffice for making wonderful espresso on a daily basis and they would allow exploration of a wide range of roasts. My Elektra was my sole machine for 2 years before I acquired a Cremina. When I had the two both were used regularly and often daily (I make espresso mornings and evenings). Now with three machines I use two or occasionally one weekly depending on the coffee at hand.

While my circumstances allow for having three machines at once I do ask myself the question, what if I had to live with just one? As indicated I am certain each of these would be entirely satisfactory. I would then add, to my significant surprise, that if I had to choose one I believe I might choose the Maximatic. The reason is fairly simple. Of the three it has the broadest range of producing the best taste in coffees. I made fine espresso across the board with the Elektra but had broader great results when the Cremina gave me a “two-gouup”. The Maximatic has the broadest range of high end success. I am told that in Europe the Maximatic out-sells the Cremina by 3-to-1. I can understand. That said I must say the enjoyment of using the manual Cremina is superior to the other two. In the end I do not have to choose and am thrilled not to have to do so.

Review 4

Dan Kehn (Home Barista)

Olympia Express is a small Swiss company manufacturing finely-crafted espresso equipment since 1928. Most forum members recognize the brand by their flagship lever espresso machine, the Olympia Cremina. Over the years this manual lever espresso machine has garnered many admirers, including those who acquired old, abused models and restore them to their former beauty as Steve documented in Restoration of an Olympia Cremina. Despite the online popularity of the Cremina over the years, its pump-driven cousin has received comparatively little attention.

Recently a new start-up company, Swiss Coffee Products, became the U.S. importer of Olympia Express products and contacted me about joining the site’s sponsors. I owned an Olympia Cremina for years (see Steve’s review of it in Olympia Cremina 2002: The evolution of design), but had never used their HX espresso machine, the Maximatic. They agreed to loan me one for a few months.


The Maximatic arrived double-boxed in a neatly packaged custom-fitted enclosure. Although its footprint is small, it’s not a featherweight, weighing in at more than 40 pounds wet:

While some reviewers admonish their readers to read the owner’s manual, for this review I have intentionally chosen a more typical experiential format. So I left all the measurement aids in the drawer and have managed the Maximatic’s brew temperature by intuition. In this same spirit, I skimmed the owner’s manual, primarily to read the safety warnings and get a general feel for its quality of writing and usefulness. It appears to be competent translation to English with more flourish than most Italian manuals (e.g. “If you want to make espresso of the highest standard, it is essential to clean the machine on a daily basis and to have regular maintenance inspections!”).

First Impressions

Among espresso grinder manufacturers, Mazzer has established a reputation for solid, nearly bullet-proof construction. Until you’ve pulled one of their grinders out of the box, it’s difficult to appreciate; I almost wondered if it was cast and machined from a single piece of metal. It has that solid a feel. Olympia’s products echo the same sentiment. Looking over the Maximatic’s exterior casing, you will strain to find an exposed screw (hint: apart from those securing the grouphead, look for two tiny Allen screws in the bottom corners of the front backsplash). Each seam is carefully folded over and every edge is rounded. The lines between component panels meet tightly together.

Some home baristas may be surprised by these features of the Maximatic:

– Stainless steel water reservoir
– A quiet vibratory pump (!)

The last point is a welcome Olympia Express distinction; the Maximatic’s vibratory pump is snugly mounted to avoid propagating vibration through the casing. And unlike many Italian espresso machines available to consumers, all the interior components are secured so they don’t rattle like a bucket of bolts!

That said, it may surprise other home baristas to discover conveniences that are not among the Maximatic’s features:

– No steam boiler autofill (solution: allow machine to cool, remove cap atop the boiler, fill using sight glass to confirm water level)
– No vacuum breaker (solution: from a cold start, allow machine to warm up a few minutes, bleed some steam from the steam wand, then the boiler will continue heating to full pressure).
– No water tap (solution: draw water through the group or use a separate source like the microwave or hot pot).

I’ve owned several espresso machines with autofill circuitry and two without. If you want to regularly draw water from the steam boiler for Americanos, you will miss the convenience of autofill boilers, but for those who are espresso drinkers opting for an occasional cappuccino, it’s a minor issue. One advantage of manually filled steam boilers that’s not self-evident is the ability to use distilled water for the steam boiler and properly mineralized water for brewing espresso. Forget about scale buildup in the steam boiler!

While I don’t miss the autofill steam boiler, I find it tedious to bleed false pressure from the steam boiler at every cold start. When I turn on the machine, I must make a mental note to return in a few minutes to open the steam wand. As I understand it, Olympia Express omits a vacuum breaker because they are a maintenance issue. Indeed, it’s true that vacuum breakers do occasionally stick, requiring cleaning/descaling to return to correct operation, but that’s a maintenance inconvenience every few years versus the daily inconvenience of bleeding the steam boiler.

UPDATE: Newer models include a vacuum breaker in the fill cap.

Getting Started

If you missed this point in the introduction, it’s worth repeating: Olympic Express packs a lot of espresso machine in a very small space (the Maximatic has essentially the same footprint as the popular Rancilio Silvia). As mentioned earlier, some of the size reduction comes at the cost of convenience while arguably improving reliability. If you’re the type that admires engineering acumen and enjoys a slightly more hands-on approach to espresso, you’ll appreciate these distinctions. The first of these distinctions reveals itself in a throwback, the sight glass.

Nowadays there are few espresso machines with visual indicators of the boiler’s water level. While years ago a MIN and MAX score mark on a vertical water-filled glass tube was the standard means of monitoring the boiler’s water level, most of today’s high-end espresso machines with steam boilers have electronic autofill controllers and water level sensors. A water level sensor is no more than an insulated metal rod that enters the boiler from the top with its tip at the desired water level; if the water reaches the tip, an electronic controller detects the presence of an electrical ground. When the water level drops, the circuit is broken and the controller signals a boiler-refill solenoid to open and the pump to start, filling the boiler until the sensor’s electrical ground is re-established. Such an autofill circuit is handy if you steam lots of milk or draw water for Americanos (*). The main drawbacks of this feature are increased cost of manufacture and reduced reliability attributable to failures of the solenoid, sensor, or autofill circuitry (the latter being a rather pricey replacement part).

For an espresso machine without such circuitry, the barista is responsible for monitoring the boiler level. Fortunately the Maximatic’s range between MIN and MAX is large enough that you’ll only need to refill the boiler a couple times a week if you’re a cappuccino lover and barely once or twice a month if you’re mostly an espresso drinker. Of course, when the machine first arrives, the boiler will be empty. Filling it is simple: Unscrew the large black triangular cap atop the boiler (**), insert the included funnel into the neck, slowly pour water until the level shown in the sight glass on the right is near the top, then securely screw the boiler cap back on.

Once the steam boiler is filled to around the MAX line, fill the reservoir; it’s the open-top tank accessible underneath the back chrome cover. The pumps of most pourover espresso machines draw water through silicone tubing from a plastic tank. After a day or two, the plastic imparts an unpleasant taste to the water. In contrast, the Maximatic’s reservoir is made of stainless steel and the inlet is located at the bottom, eliminating the need for plastic and tubing.

Setup is nearly complete… your final step is to toggle the power switch located on the right of the machine and then press the Red Brew Button (RBB).

The Maximatic’s RBB serves two purposes: It engages the surprisingly quiet pump and it glows warmly when the heating element is on. Place a catch bowl under the grouphead and press the RBB to start the pump. You’ll hear water gurgle for a few seconds as the heat exchanger fills and then a steady stream of water will flow from the grouphead. Turn off the pump and allow the boiler to continue heating for awhile.

(*) Reminder: For an HX machine, the steam boiler water is never used for making espresso. Instead, fresh brew water is drawn directly from the water reservoir and flashed heated to brew temperature.

(**) NEVER remove the cap if the boiler is hot! When heated, the boiler is under pressure and will release steam and scalding-hot water if the cap is removed! Double-check that all pressure is released by opening the steam wand valve before loosening the boiler refill cap!

After filling the steam boiler, water reservoir, and priming the pump, all that remained was waiting for the boiler to reach operating pressure and the group to reach a steady-state temperature. Don’t forget that the older Maximatic models don’t have a vacuum breaker, so the warmup phase is a two-step process: First turn on the power and wait for the “RBB” heating element light to go out. Next, open the steam wand valve to equalize pressure; the needle will suddenly drop and then continue its slow rise to the boiler’s operating pressure.


Until this point, this review has focused on the Olympia Maximatic’s appearance, craftsmanship, and the basics of its design. The next installments will turn to how to operate the Maximatic, followed by comparisons of its espressos to those of other popular machines. As I mentioned in the introduction, this Second Look will have a more experiential slant than past research threads on the Bench, setting aside fancy tools of the review trade like thermocouples, precision scales, and timers.

To more accurately reflect the typical buyer’s early experience, I intentionally skimmed the owner’s manual (*), despite that it appears to be one of the better written ones among espresso machine manufacturers. That said, it’s not as if I’m blindly walking up to the Maximatic. I’ve used different heat exchanger espresso machines and I owned an Olympia Cremina for several years. A lot of what works for one machine applies equally well to others. So with that in mind, I waited until the Maximatic had a good 30 minutes of warmup time and checked the boiler pressure gauge.

I was surprised to see the needle resting comfortably at 1.3 bar. There no “green zone” indicator, but still, I mentally noted that the Maximatic’s factory boiler setting is blazing hot compared to the more typical 1.0 to 1.2 bar of other machines that I’ve tested (a quick flip through the owner’s manual confirmed it was within specification). Given the premium price and solid reputation behind Olympia Express’ products, I felt it reasonable to trust that they delivered the Maximatic with its pressurestat properly adjusted and moved onto the next step.

(*) Don’t try this at home! Wise consumers read the owner’s manually carefully, taking special note of the safety recommendations.

First Espressos, First Cappuccinos

Having identified the Maximatic as a Dragon and one quite similar to the Elektra Semiautomatica, dialing in the brew temperature was a snap. Although countless forum topics stress the importance of stable, repeatable brew temperature, the last couple years I’ve felt its contribution to quality espresso is frequently overstated. A more nebulous measure, referred to as the “morning after” score in the Buyer’s Guide or the “forgivenness factor” in discussion, carries considerable weight.

To put it another way, I’ve used espresso machines that were impressively consistent in terms of brew temperature, but were devilishly fussy about proper dose and distribution. Others I’ve used had unremarkable brew temperature consistency, but their espressos were an absolute delight for the modestly skilled barista.

Determining whether an espresso machine is a taskmaster or delight doesn’t take long, as was the case for this evaluation. I started with a level-cut double basket, which comes out to around 14 grams for the Olympia Maximatic. My first impression was that the Maximatic demands a tad more attention to technique than my other benchmarks, the Elektra Semiautomatica and espresso machines equipped with E61 groupheads like the Expobar Brewtus, Vibiemme Domobar Super, and Quickmill Anita. The telltale signs of channeling revealed themselves if the distribution was off (e.g., twisted barber poll stream, early blonding, reduced body and muted flavors). Through experimentation over the next few days, I found that nutating motion noticeably improved consistency. I used to deride this technique; now it’s part of my standard barista toolbox.

To eliminate concerns about the grinder’s consistency, I paired the Olympia with the Mazzer Robur, which menacingly towers over it. Within 3 or 4 pulls, PT’s Bella Vita was shaping up quite nicely, though it wasn’t the flavor profile I remembered for this blend.

He had mentioned that the blend was changed a bit lately. I have a second bag in the freezer and plan to return to it now that I’ve had a couple weeks of practice to see if the lower chocolates were a change in the blend or reflects the equipment choice.

During the initial week of testing, I switched odd/even days between my regular setup and the Maximatic. My general impression was that the Maximatic espressos had slightly less body and clarity than the Elektra Semiautomatica (by clarity, I mean separately distinguishable flavors versus a melange; think chocolate and nuts versus chocolate mousse). On the other hand, a surprise was a contrast of Counter Culture Coffee’s Gerbicho Rogicha single origin espresso on their La Marzocco GB-5 versus the Olympic Maximatic. It delivered an intriguing ultra fruity floral burst of flavor on the La Marzocco, but suffered from a lemon pucker finish. On the hot-headed Olympia Maximatic, the Gerbicho rocked. The lemon peel disappeared, replaced by sweeter, more balanced cranberry and light milk chocolate. I was disappointed when they ran out of that coffee, it really shined on the Maximatic.

I’ve only made a few cappuccinos. The steam arm rotates in a horizontal plane, has good depth for a small pitcher, and the dispersion pattern of the four hole tip doesn’t demand jostling for latte art quality microfoam.

Is it worth the premium price?

Always a difficult question! And one that the site’s Buyer’s Guides never attempt to answer directly. Instead the reviewer attempts to convey the strengthes, weaknesses, and “feel” of the equipment under consideration. Of course would-be buyers expect some sort of scoring and the reviews oblige:

The exceptional espresso score rates the espresso quality a barista with moderate experience should expect on a daily basis.
The morning after score considers those who are learning and what they should reasonably expect in the early days following delivery.
The cappuccino lover’s score weighs the speed and ease of frothing.
The materials and workmanship score rates the fit and finish.

There’s no final score; instead the conclusion leaves the overall value asse$$ment to the reader. In terms of the Olympia Maximatic, I knew it was a solid performer in the first three categories on day 1 and deserves top marks in the last category for the obvious heightened attention to design and finish details.

Although the materials and workmanship score is from 0.0 to 10.0, for this evaluation, we may need an 11.

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