Divine espresso from a beautiful machine that's a pleasure to use (if looked after) - what more could you ask for?
Positive Product Points
Beautiful, solidly built, stylish, wonderfully functional machine which produces gorgeous espresso. Easy-to-use powerful steam arm. Plumbed-in - great once it's done. Art as kitchen equipment. Good service back-up. Comparative small size.
Negative Product Points
Plumbing-in needs some preparation. Not too easy to clean underneath. Hot water supply a little underwhelming - you'll have to convert tea drinkers to coffeegeeks. Manual not helpful re fault finding/programming etc.
Making the decision to buy the M21 Junior was not an easy one. First of all I agonised over which machine (La Cimabali Junior, Rancilio S27, Fracino Classic, Wega MiniNova). I phoned La Cimbali here in the UK just in the hope they'd have a re-conditioned unit for sale - I never thought I'd be able to afford a brand new one. My luck was in as the gentleman I spoke to informed me that they'd had a cancelled order for a number of M21 Juniors - a cafe chain that wasn't going to start up after all. I ended up getting mine for about 25% off list price (list in the UK is £1300 + 17.5% tax). Overall size of the machine/grinder combo was an issue so I ordered the La Cimbali Junior grinder to make a matching set-up.
The two machines sit side-by-side on my counter-top and look absolutely fantastic. The M21 was installed by the La Cimbali agent for my area and he did a fantastic job - I wanted the installation to go as smoothly as possible so I got a number of plumbing fittings in advance to help him (especially the waste outlet) in my domestic setting. Once installed, the agent did a demo and, once I was happy, he left me to tinker with the grind/tamp and practice with my new machine. If I ever move house I think I'm going to try to set up the machine so it's visible from all angles - the back of the machine is a stunning curve of stainless steel with the La Cimbali logo and it seems a shame to obscure it on a counter-top!
Practical use of the machine has been dealt with superbly elsewhere in these reviews and I can only echo those comments. Easy to use, fairly easy to program, easy to clean (but not underneath) and you're always aware of the quality of the machine in use. Beware the power of the steam arm - it can blast the milk at first but with just a small amount of practice steaming produces fantastic results. Overall, highly recommended.
Having said that.... After a few months I started to notice the occasional small pool of water under the machine. On closer inspection this turned out to be water from the tip of the solenoid pipe just missing the drip tray - easily remedied by adjusting the position of the tip of the pipe so that the water goes where it should. However, an annoyance on a machine costing this much (and worrying when first discovered).
Hot water supply is also fairly average - it's great for 5 seconds then tends to slow to a trickle. You won't be making many pots of tea with this.
In the interests of a balanced review I'd like to add some more comments now I've had the machine for approx 22 months.... The Junior does not tolerate negligent lack of cleaning - especially back-flushing. If you do neglect it a drip will develop from a non-sealing pressure-relief valve seat and you'll wonder why you have so much water in the drip tray! Mine responded to a thorough clean and I've vowed to look after it better in the future. If you can get hold of one, try using the alternative steam tip (the one with 4 holes in the very end in a tight cluster) - gives really great steam delivery and better milk in my opinion.
However, after 22 months, would not hesitate to recommend to potential purchasers. Wonderful espresso.
Very positive - direct through La Cimbali UK.
Three Month Followup
Now I've had this machine for several years I thought some more anecdotes might be useful for potential buyers. No major hiccups at all. The main lesson learnt is that basic maintenance must not be ignored. Replacing the group gasket annually and keeping the shower screen scrupulously clean will make life much easier - I didn't do this at first and wondered why coffee was exploding out of the group head when trying to make an espresso! Keep backflushing regularly too. Still would not hesitate to recommend to potential buyers (but if I had the funds for a La Marzoccho GS3......)
One Year Followup
10 years on!!! Still going strong. Watch those seals/O-rings that can dry out and fail. Maintain the machine (to be honest it doesn't need a lot of tinkering with) - you'll have no regrets.