A Used Commercial Machine Buying Experience

La Cimbali M31 Bistro DT/1

Shunning Dave's sagely advice against buying a used commercial machine, I was on a mission. I'd read about La Cimabli's build quality, and seen many going second-hand in Germany on well known auction sites, for well under half the price of a new HX machine. Moreover, I'd not yet tamed the cacophony of noise that erupted from the Bricoletta each time I operated the pump. Once I'd made a few internal modifications, the noise had decreased to the point of being quite acceptable. But before I'd known this was achievable, all I had in mind was a quiet rotary pump at whatever the cost. And these were found mainly on small commercial machines.

Funny enough when I finally got this beast home, stared at it's enormity, and opened up the insides, what did I find? A vibration pump. I laughed at myself. Or maybe I cried. I don't know, but my coffee-forum buddies enumerated the complicated models of the Cimbali line, which had vibes and which had rotaries. And the Bistro I'd picked up had a vibe. Oh well. More on that later.

The Bistro is the larger brother of the La Cimbali Junior, a popular 1-group commercial packed into a very compact form, and well-reviewed on other espresso forums. A 2.5 litre stainless boiler, 'dosatronic' electronic dosing (DT/1), a massively heavy brass group head sharing nothing in common with E61 groups - except all that brass - and none of the chrome. All that heaviness means exceptional thermal stability, and the engineers at Cimbali sure made it heavy.


The business on the left side of the group head and the long rubber hose is an auto milk frothing mechanism to get around steaming milk yourself. This was removed swiftly. The machine had served about 7 years in a small hotel on Brighton beach, had recently failed, and the owners wanted rid of it, via internet auction. They threw in the grinder (and a hopper full of beans), which turned out to be a la Cimbali Cadet, a not-too-shabby grinder on par with Mazzer.

Beside the Bricoletta, there's definitely a size difference.


The machine is meant to be plumbed in, but has a pour-over tank as well. This gives it about 4 inches more depth than the Bricoletta. The thick base below the drip tray houses a sealed electronics box, away from the heat of the main compartment and drainage smartly routed round to the right.


The big brass group and electronic controls sit in the housing above the work area.


A filthy group head was not the last instance of neglect I was to discover on this machine. As I grew to learn more about her though, I learned that it would take quite an amount of neglect to seriously harm this machine. The build quality is more than rock solid, more than over-engineered, more than bomb-proof. I'm still searching for a suitable adjective.


The boiler has a drain plug for descaling, or rather, getting rid of descaling solution afterwards. There's insulation between the water tank and the boiler. Below you can see a line of scale running around the water tank, promising more surprises ahead.

Above I said the group had no chrome like the E61 - that wasnt true - the 'doughnut' surrounding the head is also solid brass, and is chromed.


More adventures coming soon.