Coffee beans are like wine grapes – some are more choice and make a better finished product. Among the best coffees available in California are from Vaneli’s, a Rocklin boutique wholesale-retail coffee-maker that custom-roasts small batches of select beans from Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. It distributes to finer restaurants and grocery stores, including Biba and the Paragary Group, and Corti Bros. and Taylor’s markets.
Vaneli’s also sells new and restored espresso machines, grinders and other coffee-making accoutrements for home and commercial use, including Faema, Casadio, Vivaldi, Rimini and the house brand, Vaneli.
Vaneli’s sister store next door, Nuova Ricambi, supplies espresso-machine parts to multinational companies that repair machines. Awaiting repair and sale is a stockpile of machines supplied by a sister company in Italy. The Rocklin shops share warehouse space behind the storefronts.
The trio of businesses is owned by longtime coffee aficionado-businessman Gene Lemos.
That warehouse is crowded with espresso machines – many from the 1950s and ’60s – gleaming with copper, brass and stainless-steel housings, either fully restored or waiting to be.
That’s where Ron Lingren has worked part time for four years – his third post-retirement job – repairing antique Italian espresso machines for collectors, restaurants and home coffee-lovers. Lingren works with full-time restorer and “mentor” Josh Ryan, and brought plenty of mechanical expertise with him. For instance, since the 1950s he has restored Porsches, Janguars, street rods “and everything in between.”
We found Lingren at Vaneli’s, at 4125 Delmar Ave., Rocklin; (916) 315-2538, www.vanelis.com.
What are you doing back here?
This is a dream job. I get paid to restore espresso machines, and it’s fun. I’m constantly learning because each machine is different. I disassemble them down to the frames, diagnose the problems, steam-clean them, totally rebuild them, test them, paint the frames in some cases, and put them back on the market. There aren’t any books that tell you how to do much of this, you just have to fool around with them.
Looking inside some of these, there’s a lot going on.
They’re really complex. There’s wiring, plumbing, solenoid switches, washers, springs, gaskets, pumps, brass fittings, nuts and bolts, and “counters” you program. Press the “1” button, and the machine will make one shot of espresso.
These old Italian espresso machines look like sculptures.
Yes, especially the ones from the 1950s and 1960s. There are many old machines (in homes and cafes) that will never be sold. Some of them are really precious and can’t be replaced.
How many have you personally repaired and restored?
I’ve done about 12 of the old machines and repaired many newer ones. It’s a long process. Sometimes they no longer manufacture parts, so we have to customize them or (contract with craftsmen) in Italy or Germany to make parts.
What is it about espresso?
The ritual. Many years ago, I got into the habit of making espresso first thing in the morning. I started picking up machines on eBay and restoring and selling them. (Over the years) I’ve gone through a variety of espresso machines.
Then I married my (Italian) wife, Franca, in 1982 and she bought a (commercial-size) Pavoni. The tradeoff is that every morning I make her a cappuccino and serve it to her in bed. That’s our ritual.
Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.