Some planning is necessary before Junior's arrival for its water supply and waste water drainage for the driptray. If you need assistance, you should discuss the required hookups before ordering since the technicians at Chris' Coffee will gladly install the required fittings as part of their pre-shipment bench testing.
Junior's plastic driptray is flat and shallow because it's expected to drain into the location's waste water system. As delivered, the driptray has no exit hole, so you could presumably defer installing a drain and empty as needed, but realistically its limited capacity dictates a drain hookup. The stock drain hose is made of black heavy-duty tubing. The incoming water and outgoing drain connections are typically routed though a 1½ inch countertop access hole in Junior's familiar milieu of stainless steel laden restaurants.
Your own kitchen may not be well suited for such an installation, especially if you have granite or marble countertops. One convenient option, if Junior will be located next to a sink, is to run waste water directly into the adjacent drain. Junior is NSF approved, so there's ample clearance under the machine for cleaning. This extra room could alternatively allow a drain line to run beneath the machine and behind your kitchen's backsplash, and then connect to your waste water system, avoiding the need to pass through an access hole in the countertop.
I believe the additional installation effort is worthwhile to have the luxury of a direct-connect espresso machine. Pourover tank models need refilling more frequently than you might expect. It's easy to drain half the tank of your typical pourover espresso machine in one morning and require refills if you're serving company. In addition to the convenience, you can also save the expense of bottled water by filtering and softening your water instead. And not having to empty a driptray? Or clean the tank out each week? That's two cleaning chores I surely didn't miss.
Once Junior arrived on our doorstep, it was clear that despite its name, this machine was anything but "Junior" in size or weight. It arrived double-boxed at near the maximum weight for a non-pallet shipment. To save you a strained back, I suggest the following steps to extract Junior from its cardboard and foam cocoon:
- Removing the inner carton from its shipping carton.
The smooth inner carton containing the machine lacks handle grips, so it's easier to slide the inner carton out sideways than try to lift it up. Begin by gently laying the shipping carton on its (long) side. Don't worry that the machine will be momentarily lying on its side. Everything inside is firmly secured and nothing will shift during this maneuver. Remove the packaging tape from the top and bottom to allow the flaps to swing out (you may need a knife to break the packaging tape—be careful, not too deep!). Thankfully there are no "foam peanuts" between the inner and outer container to make a mess, only solid foam corner supports and Instapak foam side supports. With the top and bottom open, remove the four bottom corner supports. Enlist a volunteer to hold the outer carton steady while you push the inner carton from the top and out the bottom of the outer carton.
- Removing the foam shell from the inner carton.
The Cimbali Junior is boxed inside a split-shell foam enclosure with no clearance between the carton's sides and the shell. The lack of easy handholds is no problem; simply repeat the previous step, this time pushing the machine's foam enclosure out the bottom of its containing carton. The foam enclosure is split along the longer side. Remove the upper half.
Inside you'll find a three-eighths inch stainless steel braided water line, black flexible drain tubing, four adjustable feet sealed in bubble wrap, a plastic package containing the single portafilter, double portafilter, rubber backflush disk (inexplicably some high-end machines like Junior include one of these instead of a stainless steel blind basket; I prefer reserving the single-pour portafilter for backflushing), and obligatory disposable plastic tamper. Junior also includes a well-written and informative owner's manual. In fact, a portion of past Buyer's Guides were dedicated to overcoming the incomplete (or incomprehensible!) instructions that accompany some products. Not necessary this time around— Junior's instructions cover how to adjust the boiler pressure, brew pressure, and more with crisp, clearly illustrated steps. I was pleased to see the manual even includes a hydraulics and electrical schematic.
Remove all the accessories and find the four adjustable feet. Spin down the top portion of each foot to meet the bottom, thereby exposing the length of the bolt fixed to the middle of the foot. Next screw each foot into the four corner holes about ½ inch deep. One end of the braided stainless steel inlet hose will already be attached to the pump inlet. If you plan to install the drain hookup, screw the elbow end of the black drain hose into the fitting on the bottom right side near the front of the machine. The male fitting is made of plastic and its size and threading looks like a typical outside garden spigot connection. The final piece of heavy work is next: With the assistance of a second person, pick up Junior and place it carefully on the counter, and then adjust the feet to the proper height and level (front-to-back and left-to-right).
Note: All the machines are bench tested before shipment, so you may see evidence of dried water droplets or some fingerprints on the outer casing. This is normal.
I asked Chris' technician to prepare the inlet hookup to accept three-eighth inch John Guest tubing since I already had a water filter and softener that use this quick-connect system. Some machines will drip from the grouphead because the brew solenoid wasn't designed for constant high line pressure, so I also asked them to include a pressure regulator and gauge. As a test, I ran Junior for a couple weeks connected to a water line at 110 PSI, and although the group never dripped, it was necessary to re-regulate the rotary pump's pressure. In my opinion, a pressure regulator and gauge are a small but worthwhile investment just for the peace of mind. A final advantage is the brew pressure can be regulated before shipment at a fixed inlet pressure— I recommend 20 PSI —and using the inlet water pressure regulator to set the incoming water pressure to the same value, you'll be certain to have the same brew pressure once Junior is installed in your home.
With the driptray hole drilled out to allow for emptying into the sink and the water supply attached, I plugged in Junior and powered it up. OK, I first had to sheepishly look around the machine because I forgot that the power rocker switch is located on its underside, front and center, as indicated by the red downward pointing arrow and the universal ON symbol ("1") directly below the driptray. Junior typically spends its days in a commercial environment where it's rarely powered down, so the manufacturer chose a switch location that wouldn't be inadvertently bumped by passing restaurant staff. The boiler refill light to the left and below the driptray illuminated as the pump started; about 30-45 seconds later, it stopped and I heard the sounds of water churning as the heating element powered up.
Most Cimbali Junior owners will probably choose to keep it powered on at all times. If not, plan for at least 90 minutes of warm-up time to bring the group to brew temperature. It was summertime when I began this review in earnest, and although Junior's boiler doesn't give off a ton of heat because it's well insulated, I didn't want to burden our air conditioner by adding another heat source. A heavy-duty 15 amp timer set to turn on at 4am gave Junior a few hours to warm up before I stumbled down the stairs for my usual morning espresso and cappuccino combo.
Junior's control panel has four programmable volumetric dose buttons and a continuous pour button, as shown below (looking left to right they are ristretto single, ristretto double, continuous pour, single, double). Baristas in a cafe use these buttons to avoid over-pouring in a moment of inattention, but I found a more practical use for them in a home environment: Simplifying the heat exchanger's cooling flush regime. Allow me to explain how to program the dosing buttons and why I chose the volumes below.
Programming the volume dispensed for each button is simple. Begin by pressing and holding the center button until the yellow PRG light on the front of the machine beneath the driptray blinks; this indicates the machine is in its programming mode. Given my chosen usage of these programmable buttons, I ignored the button symbols and set the volumes shown in parentheses, nicknaming them as follows:
Spritz, the leftmost button, is for checking if the heat
exchanger needs another flush, in case you don't remember when the
last shot was pulled. If there's no sputter of steam, it's
ready to go (30 milliliters).
Mini Flush is used after a short idle period of three to five minutes (60 milliliters).
Free Pour, the center button, is for rinsing the dispersion screen, backflushing, and pulling unmetered shots (programming not applicable).
Double is for pulling a double espresso (90 milliliters; note the extra 30 milliliters above the volume of a standard double accounts for the water absorbed by the puck and the space above the dispersion screen).
Big Flush, the rightmost button, is used after an idle period greater than five minutes to clear the exchanger of overheated water (120 milliliters).
Don't worry if your programmed volumes aren't precisely as indicated above. A quick way to set them is to fill half a demitasse for Spritz, one demitasse for Mini Flush, one and one-half demitasse for Double, and two demitasses for Big Flush. Briefly press the button you wish to program to start the water flow, meter the desired amount, then press the same button again to stop. Repeat this for each button, and then press the Free Pour button to exit the program mode. The programming is saved even if the machine is unplugged for days.