Best La Cimbali Espresso Machines (2021 Reviews)
Whether you’re starting a business or just looking for a commercial-grade espresso maker for your home, Italian company La Cimbali should be on your radar. They’ve been making espresso machines for almost a hundred years, and their current models blend the best of modern technology with that long tradition.
In this review of the top La Cimbali machines, we’ll look at six different options. Whether they’re designed for home or business, all are incredibly well-made and long-lasting machines. And one of them is perfect for you, so let’s find it!
At A Glance:
The 7 Best La Cimbali Espresso Machines in 2021
La Cimbali makes primarily commercial espresso machines that fall into one of two categories. They’re either traditional semi-automatic and automatic coffee machines or more modern super-automatic models. The right equipment for you depends on both your business and budget.
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Here we review six top La Cimbali espresso machines, including our favourite options in both styles. One of them is sure to be the right fit for you.
The S30 is the perfect La Cimbali machine for a business that prioritises reliability and ease of use without sacrificing coffee quality. It’s a super-automatic espresso maker, so it isn’t necessarily the best choice for a specialty coffee shop. Still, it’s ideal for a restaurant, bakery, or any business looking to offer coffee without keeping a dedicated barista on staff.
Using the massive 10” touchscreen, you can choose between 96 different drinks, each of which can be customised to your taste. It can even prepare cold milk froth for iced beverages. According to David Walsh of Marco Beverage Systems, the biggest advantage to these automated machines is their consistency. Once you’ve programmed a recipe, you know you’re going to get the same drink every time (1).
In most culinary fields you create a recipe, refine it, perfect it; after that, you want to replicate it. Automation, to some degree, can take care of that part.
The La Cimbali CS30 can prepare up to 300 drinks a day. Thanks to the two integrated grinders, each coffee drink is prepared with fresh ground beans, with a cumulative 2.2 kg hopper capacity. It even has a separate hopper for hot chocolate powder.
It’s WiFi-enabled, so you can monitor all aspects of the machine with an app, even when you’re not around. It reports on the current supply of beans, chocolate, and milk, how many drinks have been made; and whether cleaning or maintenance is required. Of course, the cleaning cycle is fully automated.
It looks fantastic and will definitely add some high-tech class to any business. The design was awarded the coveted Red Dot Design award in 2016 for its clean lines, innovative technology, and environmental friendliness.
If you don’t want to go all-in on the S30, take a look at the slightly more affordable La Cimbali M1 super-automatic machine. Like the S30, it prepares barista-style drinks from start to finish using its built-in grinder and automatic frother. The main difference between the two is capacity and variety. It has a smaller drink selection without chocolate options, and with only one grinder, the M1 has a lower output than the S30.
The M1 makes eight different base drinks: espresso, coffee, cappuccino, café crème, caffe latte, latte, double espresso, and cappuccino with a double shot. But each can be customised, so the overall number of possibilities is enormous. It doesn’t have the same fancy touchscreen as the more expensive models, but it is very straightforward to use. It’s perfect for a small or mid-sized business where barista training isn’t a priority.
This isn’t a one-touch machine. Espresso and milk are prepared separately, though both processes are fully automated. Then you mix them by hand. This takes a bit more effort, but the quality is better, and (bonus!) it means you can practice latte art (2).
The La Cimbali M26 heat exchanger espresso machine is one of the brand’s flagship models. It comes in several versions, but the 2-group semi-automatic BE model is our pick for a great value. It perfectly balances the features you get with the price you pay.
By offering this base model without too many bells and whistles, La Cimbali has created one of the most affordable 2-group machines on the market, perfect for a mid-sized cafe. It’s a semi-automatic machine, so it does require some barista skill, but its operation is very intuitive.
The M26 is well designed from both an ergonomic and aesthetic standpoint.
Notably, while it doesn’t have many extra features, it does have the La Cimbali thermal system. This patented design is the foundation of the finest machines the company produces. It allows you to control the brew temperature for each group independently, and a cold water mixing valve allows you to quickly cool the boiler temperature without using long cooling flushes (3).
Coupled with the ample 10-litre boiler capacity, and this model can easily keep up with busy rushes.
If you want a La Cimbali machine for your home, the Junior Casa DT1 is the model you’re after. I’d be lying if I said it was the most attractive prosumer espresso machine, but boy is this thing built to last! It’s essentially one of their commercial models shrunk to a domestic size, with many of the same components. That means you can pull shot after shot for decades.
It has a stainless steel 2.5-litre boiler and a quiet rotary pump. And while it may have a bit of a retro look, it has some thoroughly modern new features, including programmable volumetric dosing, passive pre-infusion, gauges for pump and steam pressure, and an improved three-hole steam tip.
One thing to keep in mind with this machine is that it is plumb-in only. It doesn’t have a water reservoir. This is in keeping with its commercial roots. Plumbing in an espresso machine makes it a treat to use, but it could be a deal-breaker if you don’t have the right place in your home.
This is the second La Cimbali M26 on our list, but now we’re talking about the top-of-the-line model. If you have a steady stream of customers demanding top-quality drinks for hours on end, this is one of few coffee machines that’s going to be up to the task.
First of all, this model has three groups, two steam wands, and a hot water tap. It’s wide enough for two baristas to work side by side comfortably. Its heat exchange boiler has a total capacity of 15 litres so that you can make many drinks in a row without pause. And it has the unique thermal system the M26 models are known for.
The TE distinguishes itself from the BE model with its user-friendliness. It’s automatic rather than semi-automatic so that you can pre-program shot volumes. And it has a backlit electromechanical button panel that is ergonomic and intuitive to use. Ergonomics might not be too important for the average home user, but avoiding barista strain is a huge factor (4).
The TE models are also equipped with the patented Turbosteam milk system. You can program up to four automatic frothing recipes with different milk temperatures and textures. In a busy rush, this is a significant time-saver for baristas.
For a small cafe, a machine with one group is usually sufficient. But that doesn’t mean you can grab a home model off the shelf. For starters, commercial espresso machines need to be certified as such. Still, more importantly, coffee shop models are built with heavy-duty components designed to accommodate the wear and tear of being used all day, every day.
So if you have a small cafe or coffee cart, the La Cimbali M21 Junior Commercial is the model for you. Its specs and price are very similar to the Junior Casa, but it is commercially rated.
Inside, you’ll find a 2.5-litre stainless steel boiler and rotary pump. It’s an automatic espresso machine, so you can program dosage by volume or start and stop shots manually. This is an excellent option because you can increase the automation during a morning rush, for example.
It has a professional-grade multidirectional stainless steel steam wand as well as a separate tap for hot water. This model may be La Cimbali’s smallest, but it still has everything you need to satisfy customer demands.
How to Choose the Right La Cimbali Espresso Machine
A commercial-grade espresso machine is a big investment. If you’re starting up a cafe, it may be the most important investment you make. So you must get the right La Cimbali model for you, your baristas, and the customer.
Fortunately, you need only answer a few simple questions to narrow down your options. This buyer’s guide will show you the way.
Is it for home or business?
For the most part, La Cimbali is known for its commercial coffee machines. If you’re shopping for a home machine, you only have one good option, the Junior Casa DT1. If you want a bigger selection of home models, consider some other brands known more for prosumer machines than cafe machines.
For some examples, check out our Izzo Alex Duetto review or our round up of the best Quick Mill espresso machines.
On the other hand, if you’re running a cafe, coffee cart, catering company, or any other business where you’d like to serve quality coffee, La Cimbali has a variety of excellent models. Let’s keep going to find out which one meets your needs.
How much capacity do you need?
The capacity you need comes down to the number of people you plan to serve, both per day and per hour.
For a busy cafe, you’ll need a large capacity machine.
That means multiple group heads and a bigger boiler. These features allow baristas to make multiple drinks at once and make a lot of drinks back to back without letting the machine recover. Of course, higher capacity machines are more expensive and take up more space, so be sure to measure both your countertop and your bank account carefully.
As a general guideline, only the busiest cafes require a machine with three groups. Average to large cafes can typically get by with a machine with two groups. Small cafes, coffee carts, or home users should look at single-group machines.
How much control do you want?
La Cimbali makes machines with all levels of automation, and there are pros and cons for each style of machine.
A super-automatic espresso machine does everything, from grinding the coffee beans to frothing the milk. You program want you to want, push a button, and await the results. They are great in businesses where coffee isn’t the focus and barista training isn’t a priority, according to coffee professional Dominic Vittitow (5).
Thanks to this increased convenience and the capacity for self-service, super-automatics have understandably become popular in non-café settings. Hotel lobbies, airports, and offices are all great examples.
The drink quality from a super-automatic can’t match that of a professional barista, but it is getting closer to modern technology. These machines are usually larger and more expensive but don’t forget to factor in the cost and space savings of not buying a separate grinder.
An automatic espresso machine strikes a nice balance between drink quality and ease of use.s It requires some skill to use but can be programmed to deliver specific shot volumes. This frees the barista for other tasks like steaming milk or interacting with a customer. It’s an excellent option in a busy cafe as it facilitates multitasking.
A semi-automatic espresso machine requires the most skill to use and takes the barista’s full attention. However, there is a reason these machines are so popular. With a skilled users, they deliver the most impressive results. Additionally, they are the least expensive style, perfect for small businesses with lower volume.
La Cimbali is unusual because it produces traditional semi-automatic espresso makers and thoroughly modern super-automatic models. But no matter which style appeals to you, you’re getting a beautifully engineered machine and delicious coffee. This year, our top pick is the super-automatic S30 CS10, which stands out for its user-friendliness and huge drink selection.
La Cimbali is headquartered near Milan, in northern Italy. But they have four major production facilities throughout the country. Along with La Cimbali, they also make Faema and Casadio branded coffee makers and grinders.
Other brands known for commercial espresso machines include La Marzocco, La Spaziale espresso machines, and La Pavoni. You might notice a common theme: they’re all Italian!
To be used in a business, an espresso maker must be certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and the Electrical Testing Laboratories (ETL). These certifications have nothing to do with the taste of the espresso and everything to do with the safety aspects of using the equipment (6).
- Grant, T. (2021, July 22). How is automation shaping the coffee industry? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/07/how-is-automation-shaping-the-coffee-industry/
- Uusilehto, J. (n.d.). History and Basics of Latte Art. Retrieved from https://www.baristainstitute.com/inspiration/history-and-basics-latte-art
- Randolph, J. (2019, August 9). How to Choose Brewing Temperatures for Different Roast Levels. Retrieved from https://fellowproducts.com/blogs/learn/how-to-choose-water-temperature-for-different-roast-level
- Bernson, A. (2014, August 12). New Study Suggests That Baristas Are At A Significant Risk For Injury. Retrieved from https://sprudge.com/barista-injury-study-ergonomics-dainty-gregory-60680.html
- Vittitow, D. (2021, June 24). How are super-automatic espresso machines evolving? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/06/how-are-super-automatic-espresso-machines-evolving/
- Clive Coffee. (n.d.). Commercial Safety Certification Guide. Retrieved from https://clivecoffee.com/blogs/learn/commercial-safety-certification-guide