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Buyer’s Guide to the
LaCimbali Junior DT1
By Dan Kehn
“Junior” in name
For travelers who’ve visited Europe, LaCimbali will be one of
the few names that they can rattle off as automatically associated with
espresso bars. From the expansive café machines to their logo on
espresso cups in Rome, there is an unmistakeable association in their
name. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise — afterall, the
company has been in business since 1912!
For espresso aficionados throughout the world, LaCimbali additionally
means uncompromising quality of materials and workmanship, and
unparalleled temperature stability among heat exchanger espresso
machines. Given the Cimbali Junior DT1’s reputation and its ardent
followers who expect in-depth treatment for their hero, this
Buyer’s Guide goes to greater lengths than the previous reports,
featuring a side-by-side group taste comparison against another espresso
industry icon, La Marzocco.
I logged more than four months of daily use of this machine before
arranging the test to be certain I had a firm grip on the nuances of
operating Junior. Frankly, the tallied votes surprised me. But before
getting to the results of the shootout, allow me to first introduce the
LaCimbali Junior DT1, whose nickname is simply “Junior”.
Although it’s really designed for small cafés, the Cimbali
Junior DT1 is an appealing high-end choice for the home barista because
it can be powered by an ordinary household 15 amp outlet (modern home
kitchens generally have at least two 20 amp circuits for appliance
outlets), and it fits comfortably beneath standard kitchen cabinets.
Junior’s appearance also blends well with today’s popular
choice of stainless steel kitchen appliances and granite / marble
countertops. Once out of the box, the first thing I noticed about Junior
was that it is shorter and deeper than it appears in online photos. The
feet are individually adjustable in height; extending them out halfway
gives about 1½” of clearance for the incoming water
connection and the outgoing drain while keeping Junior’s overall
height to below seventeen inches.
Because the Cimbali Junior is rated for commercial duty, it has
features that distinguish it from many prosumer espresso machines, such
- Large 2.25 liter boiler and heavy commercial group,
- Whisper-quiet rotary pump and ready to plumb driptray,
- Huge warming shelf that accommodates 24 Illy demitasse cups,
- Ample clearance underneath for easy cleaning,
- Design features to avoid downtime for repairs (more on this later
in Materials and Workmanship).
Junior’s look is minimalist and no-nonsense. I had read about
Cimbali’s legendary brew group design and studied its schematics,
but had never seen it first hand, so I wasted no time getting the covers
off. The two side panels remove easily with only a Phillips screwdriver.
The quick access to the interior demonstrates another quality of
well-design commercial equipment: Repairs are fast and not disruptive.
For example, there’s no need to remove the cups from the warming
tray to get at the majority of the internal components. You’ll
appreciate repair technician-friendly thinking like this the day you
want to adjust the brew pressure or boiler temperature, or if you live
in a hard-water area where it’s necessary to drain the boiler for
preventative descaling (again, more on this in Materials and
Steam knob with
Beyond the niceties that please those who enjoy tinkering,
there’s also small attention to details that caught my eye. For
example, the rubber-dimpled steam and water tap knobs have little
retractable “skirts” that close the gap between the back of
the knob and the machine’s faceplate. Whether the knob it
tightened down completely or wide open, the brass valve and its stem are
not visible and errant splashes can’t make their way behind the
faceplate. Such circumspectness is unnecessary in the friendly
environment of an average kitchen, but in a commercial venue, gunk of
every description will invariably make its way into any exposed crevice,
potentially causing maintenance problems after years of hard use.
My love at first sight experience of its construction and
design didn’t match up to the first few days pulling shots on
Junior. I expected that given Junior’s premium price, it would be
dreamily easy to make fabulous espresso. However, that wasn’t to
be in the beginning. I learned that getting proper extractions from
Junior demands that the barista pay more attention to technique,
otherwise there’s a risk of channeling.
I partially blame my lazy habits acquired from years of using
prosumer equipment, especially E61s, which are more forgiving of
imperfect technique (see Espresso Machines
101 to learn more about the E61 group design). To reach
Junior’s potential, I needed to raise my barista skills to the
next level. During the same period I began my evaluation, a buzz about
“bottomless portafilters” erupted on the Barista
Guild board. Inspired by Chris
(malachi) Tacy’s diagnosis series Training with the Naked
Portafilter, I started my own case study of
what’s going on behind the pour spout. The results were
eye-opening and revealed the reasons behind my initial disappointment.
The how-to Perfecting the Naked
Extraction documents the results of my journey from
Junior’s ordinary to extraordinary espresso, all thanks to the
consistent application of fundamental barista skills.