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Officina Rancilio Museum Visit
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: March 22, 2011
Article rating: 9.2
feedback: (8) comments | read | write
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On my first full day in Milano, I was very pleased and honoured to be invited out to the small town of Parabiago where Rancilio, the famous Italian espresso machine manufacturer had their original factory. This wasn't a tour of the factory -- that would come later -- but instead, was a private tour of something that is the Rancilio family's pride and joy: the Officina Rancilio Museum.

This museum is the product primarily of Luca Rancilio, the grandson of Rancilio's founder. You can tell within just a few moments of meeting Luca that he has a serious passion for the history of his family's business. He gave me a private tour of the museum and as he discussed each machine, you could tell he had not only intimate knowledge of the machines and the family history, but he also relished in it.

Rancilio started this project about 8 years ago. The family had several historical machines in their possession, but Luca went on the hunt for more, and was able to find (and restore) some amazingly rare models of Rancilio machines. He estimates that in Rancilio's pre-World War II era, the company was only building machines in the single digits every month, so finding versions of these machines today is incredibly difficult.

Rancilio was able to track down what he believes is the first machine his grandfather (Roberto Rancilio) built for commercial sale, and it is in the museum, along with another machine from 1927. There were machines from all eras up until the 1970s inside, showing a wide range of technology and design styles through the decades.

It's important to note that this museum is housed in a building located in the exact same part of Parabiago that the original Rancilio Factory was located. That building was torn down many years ago, and a new multiple-use building (offices, residential, etc) was built in its place. Though very modern, the building does evoke memories of the old factory.

The Officina Rancilio museum is not open to the public, but can definitely be visited upon appointment. It is in Parabiago, which is about 30-40 minutes outside of Milan by car (also accessible by train) and trust me, well worth the visit. If you are interested in checking out the museum, contact Rancilio in Italy for more information.

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Door to the Rancilio Museum
New(ish) with the Old
Luca Rancilio standing over a Z series machine from the 1970s, with a very distinctive textured panel design. In the foreground is what Luca believes to be the first machine his grandfather ever built and sold.
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Surprisingly small!
Another Rancilio machine from 1927. I was actually surprised at how small the machines were - I'd seen an original Pavoni Ideale, and it was huge by comparison. Very well preserved model.
The Early Models
THis could be the first Rancilio machine built. Interestingly enough, it was also electric (most machines of the era were gas).
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Ottoganale 1930
One of the earliest "Art Deco" espresso machines manufactured, this is Rancilio's offering in 1930, and it has been beautifully restored. Amazing lines.
Rancilio Logo
All the older drip trays on most models through the 1950s had this signature double-reverse R as the drip tray grid. Very unique stuff (RR for Roberto Rancilio).
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Horizontal
This is a closeup of the two groups on Rancilio's first post-war machine design. Note the reverse double-R logo on the drip tray stands. Also note the old design portafilter spouts on the right.
1950s Style
The back the Rancilio horizontal machine had a nice 1950s style, but I believe the machine is from the late 1940s, putting them ahead of fashion!
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Lever
A machine designed a bit in the style of Gaggia's Crema machines (this is a lever), it nonetheless has a distinct Rancilio style.
Ducale - 1957
These are the first machines Rancilio designed after Roberto passed away. They hired an outside design firm to come out with a new look. I find it hard to believe these are 1957 - the look is years ahead of that era - these machine evoke a cool 1960s vibe.
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Bright!
Rancilio designs for the Ducale weren't afraid to jump out at you!
Wasit? A 20th Century Loysel Machine?
Luca Rancilio isn't even sure himself how this machine worked, or what it did. It was designed and produced by a company Rancilio bought several years back - Egloli & Co (which became Egro). My bet is it was a more modern version of the 19th century Loysel hydrostatic coffee maker.
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Record - 1937
Here on the machine is a central area where Luca Rancilio (and Ernico Maltoni) believe a large size brewing vessel was attached. I still think this is a hydrostatic coffee brewer.
Ducale Machine
This is one seriously sexy beast of a machine. If Rancilio made this design (and levers) today in a slightly updated format, it would fit right in and be in style.
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1960s Retro (but not)
In the 1970s, Rancilio has the Senior Line which were some of their first heat exchanger systems.
It's a lever!
This is actually a lever espresso machine, but it uses hydraulics to compress the spring, instead of the human hand. Saves carpal tunnel syndrome and other barista maladies.
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Interior of the Museum
Inside the Officina Rancilio is absolutely awesome - a mix of the old (the machines) and the cutting edge modern of Italian design. I loved how it gelled together.
Logo Closup - 1930
A look at the logo on Rancilio's 1930 Octogane machine.
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The 1920s
This is one of Rancilio's earliest machines, and this detail picture shows the amazing restoration done to it for the Museum.
Mignon Lever, 1950s
This is actually Rancilio's second lever machine design - and it has a similar silhouette to Gaggia's famous machine. Rancilio's first lever machine looks quite different.
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The details
Love the little restored details on these machines, including the Ranclio-branded logo on the pressure gauge.
The 1950s
On the Ducato machine, this little logo badge on the back features the Rancilio R, and the snake-crown symbol is actually reference to Milano.
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Supra 1 - Egloli & Co.
Very cool machine that isn't an espresso machine, but a slightly pressurized coffee brewing device (larger quantities). Note the glass chamber and giant portafilter underneath it (above the dispensing groupo).
Details
Luca Rancilio isn't quite sure how this machine worked either, but best guess is it was sort of like a higher-pressure press pot, with a pressure plunger system pushing into a huge portafilter full of ground coffee.
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The Details
Details on an early Rancilio lever machine.
The Details
One of Rancilio's earliest horizontal boiler machines - again, the details are beautiful and well maintained.

Still can't get enough of the museum? Additional outtake pictures are now up on CoffeeGeek's Flickr pages.

Article rating: 9.2
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: March 22, 2011
feedback: (8) comments | read | write
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