Without a doubt, the finest single group espresso machine under $10,000. Incredible machine.
Positive Product Points
Incredible build quality! I had this on the counter next to a Wega Lyra, and the difference is remarkable (and the Lyra is a beautiful mcahine)...
Solid, well made portafilters - heavy, flawless finish, and smooth locking. Nicer than the La Marzoccos.
Nearly silent operation, all the more amazing since the motor looks like a VW starter motor (only more powerful!).
Nice cup rack on top keeps fluids from dripping down into your machine, unlike most others.
The pressurestat is completely indestructable. Way ahead of even the vaunted Sirai, and definitely more durable than the maligned Mater.
High capacity drip tray is nice, if you can't plumb in a drain.
Amazing espresso, even for an amateur, though I'm having a bit more trouble with consistent shot pulls than I had with the Lyra (3 Week review: Shots improving TREMENDOUSLY as I climb the learning curve).
Negative Product Points
The La Cimbali is substantially heavier than the Lyra. Although online resellers lsit the specs as Wega, 77lbs, and La Cimbali, 68lbs, this is NOT the case. The Cimbali is significantly heavier than the Lyra (plumbed/rotary vs tank/vibratory, though). This isn't necessarily negative, since plumbing is required, you won't be moving it ( I'm a firefighter, and I needed help getting it onto my counter. . .).
Motor mount bushings are a bit flimsy for the bulk/weight of the motor and pump assembly. My motor was torn from the mounts in shipping. It was easy to repair myself, but it was lucky nothing more was damaged, with the heavy motor and pump bouncing around in there.
I'm still torn about whether this was worth the price of TWO Wegas, LaValentinas, Andrejas, etc... Ultimately, if you can afford it, it will outlast those machines, no doubt.
Plumbing it in was more difficult than I thought it would be (but I set it up with a chrome valve and quick release connection on the countertop, in case I need to move the machine).
Learning curve seems steeper than the Wega, at least when it comes to consistency. The best shots have been better than the best on the Lyra, but it seems like it's more touchy when it comes to grind/tamp pressure/shot time.
This is my second machine (long story, but I bought and sold a Wega within a two week period. Replaced with a La Cimbali. Not because of any issues with the Wega).
The Wega Lyra was a gorgeous machine, and would have functioned nicely in my kitchen, but the La Cimabali M21 is in another league entirely. I believe the overall rating of 9.6 for the M21 is relatively innacurate, if you pay attention to the reviews of the few machines that receive a higher numerical rating on this forum: The higher rated machines are almost entirely rated by individuals upgrading from consumer machines, or Silvias. The Cimbali, rated slightly lower, seems to have been reviewed by individuals who have more experience, and understood the complexity of these ratings better. That said, I'm scoring the Cimbali a flat ten in four out of five categories, and I believe it deserves the high marks.
The shot quality so far has been superb. I use the Clicker Tamper available form EPNW (not the Espro), and reall like it. I'm not certain that it's a true 30lb tamp, but it is very consistent. With at tamp and a twist, I need a much finer grind with this machine than with the Wega (around the "4" vs "6" on my Macap M4). Slightly soggy puck, but the espresso is perfect. (the Wega had nicer, dry pucks, but a bit less crema). All this with home roasted SM Espresso Monkey or Sulawesi Toraja G1, roasted to Vienna.
This machine is so quiet when the pump runs you can't hear it in the next room. The Wega was noisy, and vibrated enough that you had to hold shot glasses down or they would ealk away! I guess that's to be expected (rotary vs vibe, $1500 vs $2500), but it's a nice improvement.
I haven't programmed the buttons yet, but intend to once I settle in on a favorite roast/grind. Seems easy enough, though. (3 week review: I can't get the buttons to work - seems like pressure is less when using the programmed buttons vs the center on/off button. Could this be? More later).
Good instruction manual, though I had hoped for one of Chris Coffee's legendary supplemental instruction sheets. The Cimbali has a nice quality control certificate (in Italiano) and a well printed manual that is detailed, but not overly so, in every language but Swahili.
I'll fill in more as the days go on. Check back again.
Chris Coffee was great. They sold me a one week old return, and discounted it heavily, although the machine looks BRAND NEW. They could have easily sold it as new, and I wouldn't have known the difference. Slight shipping damage (a torn motor mount) was easily repairable by me, though I'm sure Chris Coffee would have made it right if I weren't capable of fixing it. The packaging was perfect, pleasant salespeople (Barbara?). My second purchase from them was a great experience.