La Cimbali M32 Bistro arrives

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#1: Post by jesawdy »

Well, it may have seemed too good to be true (and Dan even warned me of eBay scams mentioning an LM eBay scam), but I scored myself a La Cimbali M32 Bistro DT/1 on eBay for about the cost of a new LaPavoni Professional (minus shipping). Shipping was certainly dear since, at the advice of folks here, I went for freight shipping. Insurance on a $5K machine (I opted for $3K) was equally dear.

Machine arrived today via UPS freight (did you know UPS bought Overnite Freight Co.?). It was wrapped in cardboard, strapped to a pallet, it looked to have survived the trip from Minnesota to North Carolina just fine. It could've been a bit more padded, but isolated in the middle of that pallet, it didn't have much opportunity for knocking around.

Okay, she's heavy... supposedly 108 lbs or so. She's pretty, I thought I might be getting the polished brass version (an add on), but she is thankfully just stainless, that's gonna go over a bit better on the home front, my wife hates brass and gold. Does she love commercial-sized espresso machines in our kitchen? Probably not, but I'm working on her. She's in good shape. Manufacture date of Dec 2001, no dings or scratches in any of the steel parts or panels, just a little worn paint on some of the plastics (mostly on the front below the drip tray). She is also pretty clean. She could use a little TLC, the water reservoir has some deposits, so I suspect the boiler may too.... PF's need a JoeGlo soak, and some general cleaning of the nooks and crannies. She seems to have been well cared for. The grouphead is a bit dirty and scary by my standards, but hey, I'm OCD like the best of 'em (although I am not paranoid about my PF spouts touching things like clean towels or clean countertops :lol: ) . The LCD indicates 73,000 (!) drinks dispensed (and may have been reset), but I figure she is just getting started. For 5 years, that would be 40 shots per day, she can enjoy a nice retirement at average 4-6 shots per day at my place! She's complete, less a manual, with two portafilters (double spout, single spout), double, single and blind baskets, the requisite $2 plastic tamper(!), the water supply and drain hoses, and even a brass adapter and copper washer that allowed her to be plumbed neatly to a dishwasher hookup (dishwasher, who needs that honey, just rinse them with this handy hot water faucet, see?). Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it looks like she MIGHT fit under the upper kitchen cabinets if I crank down the support legs, might need some tweaking for that last little bit, we'll see.

Plumbed it and plugged her in, straight 110, no special plug. Reservoir fills (do most plumbed machines even have a reservoir?, no idea), after full, I hear boiler fill, takes good 10-15 minutes to reach boiler pressure, seems to be set at 1.1 bar. In the meantime, I press buttons, and dispense water through the grouphead, cool! Try the steam and hot water buttons. I hear solenoid open for steam but nothing, not at temp yet, no concern! Hot water button does nothing. Hmmm. I pull the side panels off, oh wow! It's pretty tight in there. Wow, that boiler is a thing of beauty, are the boiler end caps cast and chromed? Sure looks like it. What is all this stuff? I need to do some reading.... Ah, SH#*&#, what's that, I see a little water in there where it ought not be.... it seems there is some leaking where the grouphead attaches to an offshoot from the boiler (not right at the boiler). I see a little evidence that it had been doing this prior to it's arrival here (some deposits, minor rust). Once the machine gets up to temp, no evidence of more leaking, and hey, that hot water button works just fine and neatly dispenses 6 ounces of water... cool! Well, I play a bit more with the coffee buttons, single short dispenses about 50 ml, okay, double short, not quite twice that, seems right.... haven't tried the lungo buttons yet. The Milk and Cappa buttons seem to do nothing, perhaps the included frothing attachment is disabled already, not going to use it anyhow. I tried to get into the programming after fumbling a bit to find the access buttons (you remove the front bezel). Can't seem to get anywhere here yet, beyond setting the day/time and seeing the beverage counts (man I need a manual). I am a bit surprised that I don't feel like the steam is blowing me away, but it does have four holes... and it is dry, dry, dry, no water accumulates after the initial first flush. Boiler pressure drops pretty rapidly to 0.8-0.9 bar with the steam.... should I be concerned? Not sure, 5-liter 2.5-liter boiler, likely not, anyone know? Since I was only playing, no milk or anything, not sure if it will take 10 seconds or 30, we'll have to see.

No espressos yet... looks like I need a gasket or two or three, and a little cleaning.

Okay, very late, must... sleep.... more... later. Oh no.. PDF manual in my Inbox... must resist reading!

Pics to come.


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Compass Coffee

#2: Post by Compass Coffee »

Congrats! Look forward to pics.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)


#3: Post by T.J. »

Let me know if you want the user's manual.

Best of luck with the Cimbali......they are the best (in my opinion)he he he

T.J. Tarateta
G.M. Ammirati Imports
La Cimbali

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jesawdy (original poster)

#4: Post by jesawdy (original poster) »

Well, I must be a very patient person, as I have resisted actually pulling an espresso on the M32 until this evening. I had powered it up a few times, made sure things were good, and they mostly are. It only needs a little attention, and I have just been too busy to do much with this machine yet.

Tonight, I finally cleaned it up enough to pull a few shots. I was not disappointed. :D

I had a little trouble with the vacuum breaker for the first time tonight. I checked on the machine after it was on for 15-30 minutes and she was hissing. I monkeyed with the vacuum breaker a little bit and got it to seat better, with the faintest hiss from time to time. After a few hours, it was properly seated, no hissing at all. I assume it needs to be cleaned? Not sure of the construction of these to know if the seat is replaceable, or you just swap out the whole thing, or just clean it.

I did not tonight, but have previously had a little dripping where the grouphead assembly attaches to the grouphead neck off the boiler. The drip stops as things heat up. A few gaskets needed here.

I dropped the grouphead/portafilter ring (two bolts and one allen screw), to expose the grouphead gasket. removed the dispersion screen and cleaned things up, soaking the removed parts in a JoeGlo "wicked" solution. Everything cleaned up well and quickly with the JoeGlo and a brush. There was some gunk built up on the grouphead under the dispersion screen, and some real nastiness in the portafilter lock-in ring (does anyone else almost vomit at the smell of all the rancid coffee oils once they've been in the JoeGlo for a few minutes?). The grouphead gasket is still serviceable, and the dispersion screen is okay. However, I do intend to replace both.

The pressure stat seems to be a unique La Cimbali part.... it is not a Sirai or other pressure stat that I have seen or read about. It is big and very mechanical looking.... It uses a big brass arm and adjustable spring. My impression is that other pressure stats use a membrane and transducer, but I am not familiar enough with HX machine parts to know for sure.

I struggled with trying to remove the front panel of the machine to expose the grouphead to boiler connection and 3-way solenoid assembly and drain. The bottom right screw is right near the drain for the three way solenoid, and watching it during backflushing, etc., I can see that it is constantly getting wet. The screw must be rusted and or crusted onto the frame as I can't get it to budge. I tried some WD-40, and even an impact driver with no success thus far. I could not locate the phillips head for my big long Yankee screwdriver, which it what I will try next. So far, this is about the only major design flaw I have encountered in the machine.... everything is very easily accessible with a minimum of tools and fuss. Why this panel connection and screw is constantly wet, I do not know. I'm wondering if there is a piece missing off the bottom the 3-way solenoid drain line.

So I gave up on the front panel removal for the time being and decided to pull some shots. I backflushed until clean, and seasoned the machine with old coffee grinds (Thanks to Compass Coffee for that painfully obvious tip once I tried it). I filled up the 18g LM ridgeless (Synesso :lol: ; Spanish) basket using my new to me Cimbali Junior grinder. I finished with a bit less headspace in the basket than I would on Silvia, and to my surprise it locked in without scraping the dispersion screen.... I think the machine will allow for some serious updosing in this basket. First shot seemed excellent, but not using a bottomless, so no idea if there were any major problems. Tasted good, and looked good. I now know what 'red' crema looks like! I definitely think my Silvia's pressure is too high, or it's water path is drastically different or flawed, as the dwell time before espresso appears is easily 3-4 times what I am used to. I assume there is no preinfusion in this machines design, like the Cimbali Junior. It may be too early to say, but I didn't get an impression that it would need it either. This first real puck was a little soggy on top, but not too bad.

My first milk attempt was pretty pitiful, as expected. 4-holed tip and big boiler. My experience on an LM Linea machine a month ago prepared me for this. My second attempt was passable, so I made a cappa/latte. Prepared the espresso like the first, about the same dose, and puck not soggy this time. Whenever I hit a few gallons of milk later, I think I might nail the steaming... it seems doable. If I struggle, I'll try the toothpick trick.

My plan is to use the M32 a few weeks on and off, tear into to it a little bit more, and figure out what needs to be serviced/replaced before placing a parts order. I am resisting the urge to tear down to the frame and build it back up.... I don't think it really needs that level of attention right now. I do intend to get into the boiler at some point to see how much scale there is and descale it. The machine does have a small softener in the pourover tank, I'm certain it needs recharging, and I doubt that was done in it's previous setting. I have acquired a larger softener for when I direct plumb the machine.

Sorry for all the words and no pics, I will try to get some soon.
Jeff Sawdy

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Team HB

#5: Post by cannonfodder »

jesawdy wrote:My first milk attempt was pretty pitiful, as expected. 4-holed tip and big boiler. My experience on an LM Linea machine a month ago prepared me for this. My second attempt was passable, so I made a cappa/latte. Prepared the espresso like the first, about the same dose, and puck not soggy this time. Whenever I hit a few gallons of milk later, I think I might nail the steaming... it seems doable. If I struggle, I'll try the toothpick trick.
You should be able to purchase a two hole tip. Most all the large commercial machines use the same thread. I took the two hole tip from my Isomac, drilled out the holes just a hair more (1/16 inch) and put it on my Faema. I do not believe the manufacturer planned on someone using an 11 liter boiler to steam 4oz of milk.

After a month I did change back to the 4 hole tip.
Dave Stephens

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jesawdy (original poster)

#6: Post by jesawdy (original poster) »

Well, about time I add a bit more to this thread. The pic above is from when I had the machine setup for my Office Coffee Christmas Party.

If slow and steady wins the race, then I am doing pretty good. :D

Okay, things that need/needed attention on this machine....

Boiler and heat exchanger
- descaled in situ with citric acid blend, I did not defeat the autofill, I just descaled with solution to the standard fill line. When I can get the heat exchanger apart, I will see how bad any scale that remains is.

Vacuum breaker
- original was leaky, had a hard time reseating. The $10 vacuum breaker that Chris' Coffee sells, while of a different design, fits perfect and works great.

Heat exchanger/group head connection
- leaks at warmup, I now have all the gaskets I need to tear this apart and put it back together, 3 gaskets about $13.

- works fine, deadband is approximately 0.2 bar, going to live with that for awhile. I am toying with the idea of installing a PID, and have acquired parts to do that. A couple things are scaring me off. Conversations with Chris Natrieb as well as with the local NC Cimbali service representative, indicate that the controller board in this machine is VERY expensive to replace. Neither quoted me a price, but I am guessing upwards of $1k, they would only say that it was ridiculously expensive and that customers that had a bad board out of warranty usually went through the roof. I wouldn't want to fry anything with my amateur electronic skills.

I also aquired some group gaskets and a new shower screen. The gasket in the machine is still serviceable, and the screen cleaned up just fine, but I will replace both.

I have had two breakthroughs though in the last two days.....

Breakthough 1 - I FINALLY got the front cover (behind the grouphead) loose from the machine to expose the grouhead to heat exchanger connections. The one screw in the lower right corner was fused to the mounting bracket. This screw constantly gets wet and covered in coffee from splashing from the the 3-way valve to drip tray. I tried WD-40 and other pentrating oils, I tried an impact driver, I tried beating on it, I tried a 3 foot long screw driver for maximum torque, the screw head is in tight quarters, so attempts with locking pliers were futile, but I tried it. Finally I looked more closely at the mounting bracket.... turns out that the bracket could be removed from the side of the frame, duh :oops: ! I removed the screws holding the bracket and voila, cover off! The screw is still fused on the bracket, but now I can perhaps attack it a bit better. Now I can finally get in there and get to that leaky heat exchanger.

Breakthough 2 - This machine has an internal computer board and small LCD display. The machine can be set to lock the customer out of ALL programming.... My machine was set this way, presumably so the machine could be setup by the local installer and NOTHING changed without a service call. This meant I could not adjust any of the dosing buttons, the only thing I could do was set the clock and view the counters for drinks dispensed. Well, just today, I was able to get the machine unlocked by the 'not so local' local NC Cimbali service representative (they had a few service calls in the area). This required a small electronic key, and took about 1 minute to do.... Woo hoo!... I can now use the internal timer to turn the machine on/off, adjust the dosing controls, and whatever goodies are in there. Prior to the electronic key fix, there was some hope that the lock could be defeated from the PC board, but alas not on my particular board.
Jeff Sawdy

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#7: Post by Kristi »

Very very very very VERY pretty.

Looks super!

Yeah, the top several inches of the HX never contact water, but get scale.

Super job on the xmas party! Very surprised you didn't have to pull more shots!

Were you able to view the inside of the boiler to see how well the citric acid worked?

Love it!