A high-quality machine for the espresso enthusiast. Must be willing to get your hands dirty.
Positive Product Points
By loosening only 4 screws, the machine comes apart quite easily for service Build quality is excellent, with a logical layout of parts inside Once at temperature, the machine produces consistent, top-quality espresso shots Easily produces tons of crema Rotary pump operates very quietly
Negative Product Points
Pressure gauge on front panel only shows boiler pressure, not group head pressure No "portafilter + pressure gauge" combo available for this machine, due to unique cimbali portafilter construction No pre-infusion of coffee Very hard to get parts for - few dealers and few online resources
using this machine has taught me about the importance of the espresso variables, one at a time.
i've made one or two double-shots of espresso almost every morning for the past 6 years with this machine. while the junior dt/1 automates certain functions of coffee making, basically you are on your own to produce the best shot of espresso you can, manually.
there is no pre-infusion of coffee on this model. i understand that new cimbali dt/1's do have pre-infusion, which would be a big improvement. but, without it, this model of dt/1 operates more like a manual machine than an automated one.
when you press any of the brew buttons on the dt/1, water comes gushing out of the group head, and onto the coffee. if you have not tamped your grounds correctly, the force of the water can easily cause channeling, yielding a blonde and tasteless shot. pre-infusion would help by moistening the grounds first, allowing them to expand. grind size and tamping are critical with this particular model of dt/1.
the second critical variable is the quantity of coffee in the portafilter. there is a line around the inside of the portafilter basket, showing the ideal fill level after tamping. if your tamped coffee goes over that line, the portafilter won't seal in the group head properly, and you may get water leaking from around the portafilter. :-( if you do not fill it enough, there may be a lot of water in your portafilter once you've brewed your shot, and the shot may be weaker than you'd expect. the coffee must hit the line exactly for the shot to stand a chance of being a good or great one.
the third variable is the group head temperature - all espresso machines have this variable in common. the heavy metal around the group head works both for and against temperature: temperature is kept constant once arrived at, but getting there requires patience. i push the brew buttons to release water as i measure, grind and tamp the coffee, allowing the group head to arrive at the proper brewing temperature. despite this, the group head has a tendency towards being too hot.
since there is no group head pressure gauge on the front panel, and no easily available portafilter with a pressure gauge for cimbali machines (due to the way they make their portafilters), adjusting the group head pressure is literally a best-guess. you have to like it the way the factory sets it, or make your own group head pressure gauge. the new cimbali dt/1's have a dual gauge on the front panel, showing boiler and pump pressures. nice improvement!
on the machine's good side, if you do hit all the espresso variables correctly, your reward is a FABULOUS shot! after 6 years of practice, i'd say i get god shots once or twice a week, excellent shots three to four times a week, and good shots once or twice a week. there is the occasional bad shot, but they are few and far between.
using the factory-set pressure adjustments, i get a thick layer of crema on almost every shot. there is no lack of boiler pressure or steam power. you just have to have it "their way".
opening the machine for service is a snap. remove the 4 rubber plugs on the top of the machine, and loosen the 4 screws below them. DO NOT REMOVE THE SCREWS! the side panels literally just pull off at this point, exposing 90% of the innards. if you need to remove the back or the top, it's now simple with the side panels gone.
overall, buying it from Chris Coffee came down to buying it from Mary. she was a delight, and i would buy from her again.
Three Month Followup
Please see the 1-year follow up.
One Year Followup
i'm writing a 6 year follow-up instead! i purchased this machine around january 2006, and it is now january 2012. now that i've dealt with the machine for a very long time, i have some perspective.
i am re-doing my original review. i'd rather see potential new dt/1 owners get the info they're looking for right away. :-)