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La Cimbali - Other - Barry Nielsen's Review
Posted: July 30, 2012, 10:43pm
review rating: 9.5
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
La Cimbali Machines - Other
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Arrow The La Cimbali - Other has 8 Reviews
Arrow The La Cimbali - Other has been rated 8.73 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow La Cimbali - Other reviews have been viewed 64,954 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Barry Nielsen 9.50
Java Man (Espressopithecus) 8.29
Espresso Lover 8.00
Ken Fox 6.42
Justin Knotzke 6.42

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 9.2
Product Reviewed: M20 Lever
Manufacturer: Cimbali Quality: 9
Average Price: Varies Usability: 9
Price Paid: $1,600.00 Cost vs. Value 9
Where Bought: Used Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 3 years Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Cimbali Junior
Bottom Line: The lever suits me well both in the style and method of coffee prep, but has also convinced me that it provides an unsurpassed quality drink and very consistently.
Positive Product Points

Very simple design, no electronics.  Very quiet! Great thermal stability with massive group. Very unique and satisfying to use yet not difficult. Fully plumbed in. Great steam. Very forgiving. Full control over pre infusion.

Negative Product Points

Hmm. Thinking hard here. How about, "it's not portable"? The only thing that I don't care for is trying to stretch the piston gaskets over the piston without damaging them.

Detailed Commentary

This is a Cimbali commercial spring lever machine.  It has been converted to 110 power, which only affects the refresh speed. I pull enough coffee for 3 people a day (usually 2each) with the occasional party where I serve 8-10 guests. I have it paired with a Mazzer Major E grinder. This is a machine for people who like "old school" style. No pump. No noise. Even the way that you manually draw water into the boiler by pulling out a long rod with a knob on the end and holding it down to open the valve gives this machine a very special user feel. If youre like me and think that sometimes the simpler older styles are better than the new tech, then there's  a lever in your future. I prefer tube amps over electronic, an old Benz to a new Honda, and fly fishing over spin casting. I confess that I simply fell in love with this thing when i saw it and sold my Junior to have it. But, my coffee has not suffered. Quite the opposite. My Junior, like any pump machine, was very demanding of grind and dose. This lever is wonderfully forgiving. It turns out that all of the technology and engineering that has gone in to provide instant and steady 9 bar pressure as well as micro control over temperature is not necessarily producing better coffee. The cimbali dealer (who I bought this refurbished machine off ), told me that Cimbali is using electronics to try and emulate what the levers did. This primarily refers to pre infusion, but also dynamic pressure profiles (the pressure on a lever does not remain at the same bar through the whole shot). Other high end machines like Kees and Synesso are doing the same thing. I always use fresh coffee (home roasted) and have invested in a high quality grinder and am now at the point where i rarely drink coffee when i travel because  its just not the same beverage. I like bright coffees from central America that are roasted just into second crack. It could be that the lever has a taste profile that suits my preference, I'm not sure.  
The M20 Lever is a "dipper" machine which refers to the method of retrieving the hot water for brewing from the boiler. It draws super hot water from a "dipper"tube into the group and the thermal mass of the group is designed to cool the water to the proper brewing temp. If you "flush" too much the group gets too hot and the coffee will get burned (bitter).  I run the boiler at 1.0 bar and it makes great coffee while still having lots of steam power.
Levers do not have 3 way valves like pump machines that discharge the pressure when the pump is shut off. This means that you may have to wait a few moments after pulling a shot while it stops dripping, but it also means that your dirty water is never being drawn the wrong way through the shower screen and i never have to use chemicals to backflush (you cant backflush on a lever). But if you're steaming milk or serving the coffee to a guest, you just learn to work this into your routine.  
This machine is easy to use. Both my wife and teenage daughter use it. If i dont change coffee, the grinder  rarely needs adjustment.  It has a large place on top that holds and preheats about a dozen cups. To make an americano, i lock on the portafilter, pull down the lever, this begins a preinfusion,  grab a mug off the top and use the hot water tap on the machine to fill it, slide the cup under the spout, and then release the lever. Levers dont, generally, produce as much crema as a pump. If you make coffee to show off your crema, then this machine might make you sad. Personnaly, i find the first sip of crema the worst sip of the whole cup.
I leave it on 24/7. I dont know exactly how long it would take to heat up, but i suppose about 30 minutes, and it needs the false pressure bled off when starting ot cold. I really like having it on all the time. I can offer coffee to guests or have one ready for myself in about 90 seconds, anytime.
The boiler is big enough that the hot water tap is often used for tea for 2 or 3 people. The steamer is very powerful. Stock it has a four hole tip. It took a lot of practice before i could get micro foam in small amounts. Larger amounts are easy and fast. I have a large 20 oz pitcher that i often use to steam enough milk for 4 large chai lattes. I have recently blocked one of the steam tip holes with a toothpick to make it easier to steam milk in an 8 oz jug, which still only takes about 10 seconds. My wife and daughter struggle to get nice velvety milk because it really does take a lot of practice. Plugging one hole has made ot a lot easier for them.
Over all, i would say that this machine has made me a lever user for life and my kids will probably still be using it when thats over.

Buying Experience

Very good. I live close to a Cimbali dealer. I bought a Junior on Craigslist and took it in for servicing. I saw the lever sitting on his bench. I asked about it immediately. It wasnt for sale. But i was smitten with the prospect of an all manual machine. A year later i was in for something else and it was still there. I inquired about buying it again. This time it was for sale. Fortunately my neighbor wanted to buy my Junior,  so it was a very simple thing to switch machines. Ive since found the dealer very helpful for any help or service that I've needed (mostly piston gaskets).

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review rating: 9.5
Posted: July 30, 2012, 10:43pm
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