Jul 222011


One of the great aspects to living in Spain (and many Mediterranean countries) is the quality of coffee served wherever you go.  In fact, it is so difficult to find a bad cup of coffee in Spain that I once had a competition with a friend to find somewhere that served a truly rotten cup of coffee.  Needless to say, it took well over a year before my friend and I (awash with caffeine!) finally located a small bar here that served coffee that was almost undrinkable!

So, what makes a cup of coffee in Spain so good?

Well, the surprising thing is that virtually everything has to do with the quality of coffee machine used – combined with the way that they are operated.  Obviously, the type of coffee chosen is important but even the finest coffee can be ruined through a poor coffee machine – with modest coffee capable of being improved radically by a quality coffee machine with a competent operator.

With this in mind, I decided to visit one of the biggest coffee machine manufacturers in the world. After all, what they do not know about making great coffee is probably not worth knowing and I was sure that they would be able to tell me the secret to the perfect cuppa!

By chance, close to where I live is a company called who operate from Gandia in Valencia Province, Spain.  They are best known for their espresso coffee machines and their brand name Expobar, which you may have seen on espresso coffee machines in bars and hotels that you have been to.  I say ‘may’ because many of Crem International’s coffee machines are sold ‘white label’ meaning that other coffee roaster companies place their name (by agreement!) on Crem international’s coffee machines.



In any event, you will almost certainly have enjoyed an espresso coffee from one of Crem International’s coffee machines at some stage in your life and travels.  They are sold all round the world and are renowned for their robust quality and reliability – essential pre-requisites for any bar or restaurant.

Indeed, Expobar is one of the preferred brands amongst the international catering trade, not least because the last thing a bar or hotel needs is for its coffee machine to be unreliable.  What a disappointment that would be for any customer (and what a guarantee of a savage complaint!), given that a great cup of coffee is de rigueur after a meal and, for most of us, pretty important in between.

Now the interesting thing for me, whilst being shown Crem International’s factory in Gandia, was to find that each and every coffee machine manufactured by Crem International is assembled by hand!  I had imagined this being done by robots and I was prepared to be assailed by the whine and thump of robots as I entered the factory. However, I could not have been more mistaken.



In fact, not only is each espresso coffee machine assembled by hand but each one is assembled by a skilled worker who builds the entire machine from beginning to end (apart from the fitting of the final stainless steel casing).  I suspect that this is the secret behind the quality and market success of Expobar coffee machines.

Indeed, few things concentrate a worker’s mind (mine included!) more than creating something from start to finish and then having one’s name on all the paperwork to do with the product (or service) concerned.  This is the case with each espresso coffee machine manufactured by Crem International and means that any coffee machine found to have a fault can be traced straight back to the person who assembled it!

It is therefore all the more surprising to hear that Crem International in Gandia manufacture some 80 to 100 espresso coffee machines daily with each assembly operative putting together 4/5 large espresso coffee machines per day or 5/7 small espresso machines.  These, of course, are then extensively pressure tested before the final fitting stage and onward distribution around the world – with the majority of Crem´s customers coffee roasters and the food service industry.



Interestingly, the name for the coffee roaster industry and its products is HORECA, which I was curious to find out was an abbreviation of HOTEL / RESTAURANT / CAFÉ!  So, if you ever hear someone talking earnestly about HORECA then you know that they are probably a coffee connoisseur or someone who works in the industry and knows what he is talking about…

‘But what,’ I hear you asking,’ is the secret to a decent cup of coffee?’

Well, I asked the same question of the managing director, Rafael Olaso Castelló, of Crem International in Gandia.

‘It is all about getting a combination of things right’, said Rafa.  ‘Obviously, you need a reliable coffee machine that is easy to operate and that maintains a constant brewing temperature.  It must also be a coffee machine that is sparkling clean, as any detritus at all affects the taste of a cup of coffee.  However, you also need to make sure that the coffee you use is not ground too fine nor that it is too granular.  You then need good quality water that does not calcify your coffee machine and milk that is fresh and preferably full fat.  You must then make sure that you do not burn the coffee during the brewing stage.’

‘But what about the froth – a great, attractive, tempting froth?’

‘Ah,’ said Rafa ‘that is quite in fashion at the moment and takes a bit of practice to master!’

‘And what coffee should be used – what is best?’

Rafa raised an eyebrow at me, clearly realizing that I was no connoisseur and should probably not have been allowed anywhere near a top manufacturer of coffee machines.

‘Coffee’, Rafa stated, with great tolerance ‘is like wine.  There are hundreds of different varieties available to match individual tastes and particular occasions.  So, you have to find what suits you.’

‘But what,’ I insisted urgently, ‘do you like, what do you use – when you make your own coffee?’

‘Well, by choice, I will always buy 100% Arabica,’ Rafa said, thoughtfully. ‘It is a coffee that is mellow but with a light kick of caffeine.  It is perfect as a soothing drink but also gently invigorates at the same time.  A real pleasure.’



So, next time you order a coffee, savour the taste and recognize that probably it is from a carefully handmade coffee machine from Crem International….

Incidentally, if you want your own espresso coffee machine or are a company wishing to buy coffee machines then do drop me a line and I will put you in contact with an English speaking specialist who can help you further…

Nick Snelling


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  6 Responses to “Coffee machine manufacturers”

  1. Worst coffee in Spain?

    Starbucks or a place called the White Bull in Calpe where they proudly gave me a cup of Nescafe. Needless to say it was Brit owned

  2. Hi Nick

    Close – but no cigar.

    As we all know, ‘crem’ is that very thin layer of froth on an espresso. Difficult to get right, as I know from my own efforts.

    But when it comes to coffee machines, all must bend the knee to the ‘crem de la crem’ – La Gaggia. Even your friends in Gandia would, I believe, hold up their hands and say – Gaggia is the benchmark, the Mercedes Benz S-Class of coffee machines.

    Who makes the finest coffee on the planet? The Italians. Which machine is the default Italian coffee machine? The Gaggia.

    There are very few coffee bars – just plain coffee bars – which are famous in their own right, as opposed to being known, like Cafe Flor on Boulevard St Germain, as a hang-out for celebrities such as Hemingway and Picasso.

    Bar Italia, in Frith St, Soho, is one. But the thing about Bar Italia is that although many ‘celebs’ have been and do go there – the music industry and the TV/film industry are all over the immediate area – someone who has never heard of it and just stumbled in for an espresso would feel just as welcome as, say, Herbie Hancock relaxing with the band after a sound check across the road at Ronnie’s.

    Take a look at their website. There you’ll see a photo of Abbott & Costello fooling around, pretending to be baristas. The coffee machine? A Gaggia.

    I’ve been to Bar Italia many times. Soho was my stamping ground for years when I first got into photography. No – not pix of the ladies in the ‘clubs’! I used to assist a photographer who had an office not only directly across the road from Bar Italia but on the floor above Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Boho heaven…

    Coming back to London from a shoot in Milan, I brought home 2.5 kilos of parmesan cheese. This went down with the girlfriend far better than the snazzy chome leather evening bag I bought her. Bizarre. But my boss, an American based in London, his choice of goodie to bring back? A ‘Baby Gaggia’.

    It’s because of this – the example of Bar Italia and the supremacy of the Gaggia in coffee bars and restaurants all over, that I promised myself that one day I would have one. On a coffee aficionados’ website I learned that Gaggia UK sold machines direct at very reduced prices – 35% – off retail. So my ‘Coffee Deluxe’ 2-cup Gaggia stands resplendent in its chrome and stainless steel glory, en casa Nation, aka Dismantle Villas.

  3. Graham – wonderful!! It cannot get worse than that – surely…

  4. Interesting comments, Chris. One of the reasons that Expobar have such a good name is that their machines are known to be very robust and, when they go wrong, are easily mended. Italian machines are evidently more beautiful but also more complicated thus producing a dilemma for the HORECA industry who need reliability more than anything else. One is reminded of Ferraris – beautiful but not a vehicle for day to day (heavy) use.

  5. I’ve been served instant coffee as well. That was the nadir of a very poor meal. One step below the ‘postre’ which was a small branded tub of fruit yoghurt. I’m dredging the old grey cells to try to remember exactly where but somewhere in Cabanyal. N. It’s no good. So forgettable that I have indeed forgotten.

    I take yr point about Ferraris. I did have ideas once about getting a mid ’80s Mondial – you can pick one up for £15k and as a 2+2, I’d be able to get the dog in it – but went off the idea when I learned that it would need a new cam belt and retiming of the V8’s valves every 5000 miles and this involved removing the engine. Ferrari had thought briefly about hosw to make this more convenient – by installing the engine on a subframe which dropped the whole lot out of the bottom of the car. It would still cost £2500 a pop, tho’.

    Only slightly less mad is the procedure if you have a flat battery. You have to remove the FOS wheel, then take off a section of the wheel-well lining to get at the battery. Once recharged and replaced, you then have to drive to the nearest Ferrari agent to have the air-con reprogrammed…

    We must sympathise, must we not, for the tediousness of such exigencies in the life of the rich?


  6. By the way, I do still subscribe to the view that ‘a man in the position to buy a Ferrari but who fails to do so, should be shot.’

    I’ve never been in serious danger of that and the prospect is receding but did change tack from a 3 litre V6 to 4 litre V8 TVR on reading the comment – from a woman member of the TVR Car Club – that anything less than a V8 is for wimps.

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