Is the La Cimbali Junior too difficult for the average home user?

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podo98

#1: Post by podo98 »

I have read Dan's review on the La Cimbali Junior and I was a little worried that the machine was not that forgiving when it came to average technique especially as compared to the La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi II or the Vetrano. People rave about all machines but I worry that with the La Cimbali i may biting off more than I can chew. I am considering the La Cimbali because there is a local dealer in houston who has both the machine and the Mazzer Mini E grinder.

Ken Fox

#2: Post by Ken Fox »

podo98 wrote:I have read Dan's review on the La Cimbali and I was a little worried that the machine was not that forgiving when it came to average technique especially as compared to the La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi II or the Vetrano. People rave about all machines but I worry that with the La Cimbali i may biting off more than I can chew. I am considering the La Cimbali because there is a local dealer in houston who has both the machine and the Mazzer Mini E grinder.
The current Junior model "D" or M21, uses a rotary pump. Unlike the earlier vibe pump model, the pressure ramp up is immediate and the puck receives ~9 bar almost instantaneously. As a result, proper dosing, packing, and distribution are necessary or you are likely to get channeling, which will be most obvious with a bottomless portafilter.

Apparently, this is more likely to occur with North American dosing, which tends towards updosing of double baskets. My normal operating procedure on my Cimbalis is to use about 18g of ground coffee in a double PF that was nominally designed for 14. Jim Schulman has done quite a bit of research recently on the whole topic of espresso shot dosing and extraction ratios. As a part of that experimentation, he has discovered that channeling is much less likely to occur when typical Italian dosing standards are followed, e.g. 12-14g in the double basket in lieu of N. American doses. Presumably this would reduce the likelihood of channeling on a Cimbali Junior. Jim has also observed that in many cases with many coffees, a better tasting shot results from these lower doses; of course, one would need to grind finer if the dose used is less than what has been used previously. I have myself only just begun to experiment with this and have little first hand experience, especially in how it effects channeling.

In my own rotary machine, I performed a modification which was recommended to me by Michael Teahan, who occasionally posts here. This modification involves using a pressure regulator on the input water side, combined with a solid state "delay on make" timer on the rotary pump circuit. These timers are cheap and cost about $25, and are cube shaped; they will fit in unused space in the under drip tray electronics compartment. With fairly simple wiring, the timer will interrupt the flow of electricity to the rotary pump for a user-settable period of time. In my case, the pump is delayed for 6 to 7 seconds, however the input solenoid valve opens as normally. Since I have my pressure regulator set at about 3.5 bar, and since the solenoid still opens as normally, when the shot button is pushed water enters the portafilter at around 3.5 bar for the initial 6-7 seconds and this serves as a "poor man's preinfusion." After this period of preinfusion, the puck is then hit with the full 9 bar. The net result is much less frequent channeling.

Any modification like this is probably going to invalidate your warranty, so it would need to be done later, after the warranty has expired. Another modification I have done to this and also to my older pourover Junior, is to control the boiler temperature via PID (electronic temperature control) in lieu of the pressurestat. I have been able to obtain repeatable shot temperatures with this approach combined with low volume flushing.

The major advantage of buying a Cimbali Junior over most other machines is that they are generally "bulletproof," giving long service without much need for repair, if treated well. They are also very well laid out internally and easy to work on for most owners with a little bit of mechanical skill.

I like my machines a lot, and they produce consistently tasty shots.

All of the above having been said, the stock Cimbali D is now, in my opinion, becoming a dated design and could use a little refreshing. Hopefully this will happen soon, although I have heard nothing about changes being made imminently.

ken
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Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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timo888

#3: Post by timo888 »

In my opinion, "average home user" and "cooling flush" don't belong in the same sentence. For the average home user who has above-average $$$ to spend, who wants to buy a semi-auto pump machine, I would recommend La Spaziale.

The average home barista
-- won't want to buy or use a thermocouple to measure brew temperature
-- won't want to get involved in a cooling flush regimen
-- won't want to buy a naked portafilter
-- will want to grind, dose the filter basket, tamp, lock, push a button, and have a tasty espresso

You definition of average may vary, but that's my rationale for steering an average user towards a dual boiler machine like La Spaziale.

Regards
Timo

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HB
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#4: Post by HB »

timo888 wrote:In my opinion, "average home user" and "cooling flush" don't belong in the same sentence.
Good thing this site doesn't cater to average home baristas. :wink:
Dan Kehn

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#5: Post by Compass Coffee »

OTOH it's good to recognize one's limitations. Managing machine temps isn't necessarily that easy for everyone just like some people aren't adept at learning other advanced culinary techniques. Personally I don't believe I'd have a problem with virtually any machine given a bit of time to get to know it. OTOH I have friends that need to keep it simple to have any chance of shot success. If you're really in doubt ability wise get a double boiler machine, regardless the cost even if it means waiting, or you'll likely never be happy or worse severely frustrated.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
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podo98 (original poster)

#6: Post by podo98 (original poster) »

The average home barista
-- won't want to buy or use a thermocouple to measure brew temperature
-- won't want to get involved in a cooling flush regimen
-- won't want to buy a naked portafilter
-- will want to grind, dose the filter basket, tamp, lock, push a button, and have a tasty espresso
No to thermocouple
Yes to cooling flush
Yes to portafilter

I don't know what that makes me, a guy that loves espresso who wants a nice machine for his house?

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HB
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#7: Post by HB »

Ken Fox wrote:In my own rotary machine, I performed a modification which was recommended to me by Michael Teahan, who occasionally posts here. This modification involves using a pressure regulator on the input water side, combined with a solid state "delay on make" timer on the rotary pump circuit. These timers are cheap and cost about $25, and are cube shaped; they will fit in unused space in the under drip tray electronics compartment. With fairly simple wiring, the timer will interrupt the flow of electricity to the rotary pump for a user-settable period of time. In my case, the pump is delayed for 6 to 7 seconds, however the input solenoid valve opens as normally. Since I have my pressure regulator set at about 3.5 bar, and since the solenoid still opens as normally, when the shot button is pushed water enters the portafilter at around 3.5 bar for the initial 6-7 seconds and this serves as a "poor man's preinfusion." After this period of preinfusion, the puck is then hit with the full 9 bar. The net result is much less frequent channeling.
Forgot to add this to my last post... For those new to the forum, Ken and Jim documented their preinfusion experiments: 1 and 2.
Dan Kehn

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timo888

#8: Post by timo888 »

HB wrote:Good thing this site doesn't cater to average home baristas. :wink:
Right, but you have to flush 'em out (the posters) to see what they mean by "I'm average".

Ken's mods to the Cimbali have caught the attention of the Cimbali engineers, so that puts him so far above average, he may have lost sight of l'homme moyen. Me, I'm still ankle deep in my own mediocrity, and so ideally situated to assess the espresso machine requirements of the common man. 8)

But let it be noted that I recommended to the OP a La Spaziale, hardly a heap o' nuts and bolts.

Given his concern that maybe he was getting himself in deeper than he was ready for (I think so), the La Spaz seemed the right call. What else is there but temperature management and instantaneous brew-pressure ramp-up with an un-PID'ed unmodded Cimbali that would give one pause? That is, bitter or sour espresso from the wrong temp and sink-shots from channeling. La Spaziale's dual boilers address the temperature issue and its deeper basket mitigates channeling.

Regards
Timo

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HB
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#9: Post by HB »

timo888 wrote:Given his concern that maybe he was getting himself in deeper than he was ready for (I think so), the La Spaz seemed the right call.
It's certainly a good recommendation. My point is that brew temperature management is one of the easiest skills to learn.
Dan Kehn

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#10: Post by Compass Coffee »

HB wrote:My point is that brew temperature management is one of the easiest skills to learn.
From your point of view and your personal aptitude this is true for your reality. It happens to be one that I agree with for my reality. Yet I do know individuals who do not have the aptitude for HX or single boiler machine temp management to ever become easy or intuitive. This is not meant in any way condescending but simply acknowledging different people have different strengths. Having hosted numerous Gathering and Jams over the last 5 years I've observed some people struggle and continue to struggle year after year where others find it easy to pick up. Even my wife who knows how by watching and being instructed cannot or is unwilling to attempt any type of accurate temperature manipulation. Even with group digital thermometer is just seems too hard a concept for her to offset mentally 6f for the shot let alone know or decide what the temp should be in the first place. So I've work out a method that works for her of strictly by volume flushes that get her in the ballpark for a acceptable shot temp range for an Americano, the only thing she'd make if I'm not home to make something for her. (Or a nuker milked drink, she still won't use a steam wand after over 5 years having an espresso machine at home.) Made it into a step by step detailed documented printed and inside cupboard door for her, did this previously for Miss Silvia too and have posted both previously here. But she never would have been able or willing to figure it out on her own or by reading online.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com