With Cimbalino espresso becomes coffee

Cimbali Group: “Technology heart, Human mind”. Over 100 years of innovation, technology and quality

Do you want a coffee? by Mumac ArchiveAssolombarda

“Shall we get a coffee?”

This simple sentence opens up a multitude of different worlds, both stated and implied. New journeys begin over a cup of coffee, business deals are made, friendships blossom and love is revealed.

Coffee demonstrates that we belong to a world that evokes different emotions and experiences for each of us.

We rarely ask what lies behind coffee and above all whether it is good: rather than asking questions, we simply drink it. If something bothers us, we ask “Why?”.

But usually we are distracted by something else and we do not ask for further details.

Within a cup of coffee, there lies a universe of people, technologies, machines, care, innovation, patents and culture.

You can begin to understand this universe by occasionally looking beyond the cup, raising your eyes and starting to observe what comes before: from the person that has made and presented the coffee to the maintenance and importance of the equipment, to the grinder that has expertly crushed the beans, to the blend (or single-origin coffee) that took over nine months to mature before reaching us and, obviously, to the coffee machine that skilfully mixed the raw material with water and then applied pressure and heat to preserve the best essence of this alchemical process. A good coffee is truly magical.

MUMAC, Coffee Machines MuseumAssolombarda

History of Italian espresso

For over a century Gruppo Cimbali has been dedicated to the magic of coffee, mixing innovation, technology and design to promote and spread knowledge based on values handed down from generation to generation, culminating in the foundation of MUMAC, the largest professional coffee machine museum in the world, and its Academy, an outstanding centre for the promotion of coffee culture and coffee machines.

MUMAC, Museum of the coffee machinesAssolombarda

Indeed, MUMAC presents a story that extends from early history to the present day, going beyond machines to explain to us how this invention accompanied the social changes and the evolving lifestyles experienced first by Italians and later by consumers worldwide.

MUMAC not only retraces the evolution of over a century of company history, but above all explores the evolution of the technology and design of an entire “Made in Italy” sector, exhibiting machines by every brand.

The liberty style by Massimo FazioAssolombarda

Visiting Mumac means retracing a hundred years of history of Italian customs and society.

It starts with the first steam machines, beautiful with their liberty friezes, sought after for the refined and exclusive premises of the early twentieth century where coffee was rigorously prepared by the licensed stoker and served at the table by the accomplished waiter.

The Fifthy's by Matteo ValleAssolombarda

A visit to MUMAC gives you an insight into a hundred years of the history of Italian customs and society. It starts with the first steam machines, which feature beautiful Art Deco decorations and were highly sought-after by the sophisticated and exclusive cafés of the early twentieth century, where coffee was meticulously prepared by the licensed stoker and served at your table by a courteous waiter.

You will be enchanted by the machines that were positioned on the counter in the ’50s when coffee cream appeared alongside the first televisions and transformed cafés into bars, places for socializing, discussion and entertainment.

MUMAC, Coffee Machines Museum by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

You then come to electronic machines and to the machine’s confinement to the back counter in the following decades, which was a way of freeing up space and growing the business to accommodate more frenetic consumption by standing customers (coffee “on the move”).

Finally, the museum focuses on the return to more conscious, well-informed coffee consumption: coffee is increasingly important to us and coffee machines are now returning to the counter, in front of customers, enabling coffee specialists to give us a new interpretation of an ancient story.

The discovery of espresso by Matteo ValleAssolombarda


In Italian, espresso means a product that is immediately pressed or extracted.

In everyday use, we now mean a coffee expressly made for customers using a special extraction method with a machine that produces a very concentrated, creamy drink with an intense flavour and aroma.

The history of espresso coffee dates back to 1884 in Turin, when Angelo Moriondo invented an innovative machine for his bars that enabled machine operators to rapidly serve different cups.

In 1902, Desiderio Pavoni created and marketed an espresso coffee machine with a boiler kept under pressure by a gas stove, patented by Luigi Bezzera, while Pier Teresio Arduino enabled fast pouring and small-size coffee with his “Vittoria Italiana” (Italian Victory).

Liberty design by Matteo ValleAssolombarda

The coffee of those years was different from what we mean today for espresso: steam extraction with pressure at 1-2 bar and "fast" delivery (in a few minutes!) meant to have more in the cup than today, of a black, burnt, bitter and boiling product.

We must wait for a patent of 1938 and ten years later with the Milanese barman Achille Gaggia the production of the first lever espresso machine with which to obtain a pressure of 9 bars.

The beginning of the crema caffè era by Matteo ValleAssolombarda

Thanks to the insertion of a piston mechanism that pushed the water through the coffee powder at a high temperature, it was no longer necessary to use steam, and instead of black coffee, it produced that distinctive feature that we now consider a fundamental element of an espresso: coffee cream.

The firts logo La Cimbali by Matteo ValleAssolombarda

La Cimbali

La Cimbali entered the arena in the ‘30s, a period when Giuseppe Cimbali, who for twenty years had managed a workshop for processing copper and producing components, including boilers, bought S.I.T.I., which specialized in the production of espresso coffee machines. This led to the foundation of Ditta Giuseppe Cimbali: copper constructions, coffee machines and soda carbonators. The company first created La Rapida, a column-style model, followed by Albadoro, one of the first horizontal machine models, which was more efficient from an ergonomic point of view. Finally, in 1950 he invented Gioiello, which featured lever technology that enabled the production of a real espresso with cream.

The innovative model Gioiello by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

The innovative Gioiello model

In the ’50s, cafés began to transform into bars with highly visible machines and a new star, the barista, who used skilful, ritual-like manoeuvres to reload the coffee doser, hook the filter holder to the machine, position the cup and allow the drink to flow.

La Cimbali Gioiello, presented at the 1950 Fiera Campionaria, was enclosed like a jewel in casket that opened up to enhance its precious design. It was a true spectacle and a benchmark for coffee cream.

Along with Gioiello, another name was devised to promote coffee with cream: “Cimbalino”.

A name that soon became, thanks to a marketing strategy that was well ahead of its time, the way to ask for an espresso coffee at the bar: a hot, intense, rich, creamy coffee with a hue somewhere between hazelnut and dark brown and reddish reflections decorated with light stripes that create a uniform tiger-stripe effect.

A coffee with a fine texture, without air bubbles or white spots, or the tendency to open up to give you a glimpse of the underlying liquid.

The espresso from a bar becomes Cimbalino by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

The espresso from a bar becomes Cimbalino

Italian coffee thus transformed from north to south into Cimbalino: “full coffee-cream: an aromatic, stimulating, creamy and very hot coffee, in other words the perfect coffee,” as one advertisement put it at the time.

It was the second-generation Cimbali brothers who wrote the phrase “il Cimbalino”, the sign of an outstanding Italian coffee, on the exterior of the machines, on the stands at fairs and on coffee cups.

The van Cimbali around Italy by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

“At the start of the ‘50s,” recalls Maurizio Cimbali, the grandson of the founder and current president of Gruppo Cimbali, coffee was a long, dark drink that was slightly burned and lacked aroma.”

With the invention of lever machines, which used water pressure rather than steam, it became possible to produce coffee cream, a rich, aromatic espresso that literally travelled and spread throughout Italy.

“For us,” explains Maurizio Cimbali, “espresso became the Cimbalino, a creamy coffee served in the most prestigious bars in the big cities, as well as in the squares.

"My father and his brothers had, in fact, customized a series of vans that travelled the length of Italy offer to offer the new Cimbalino espresso for free to passers-by.”

Cimbalino's ads by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

One radio advertisement in the ‘50s announced that “La Cimbali means divine coffee, so rather than asking for a coffee, ask for a Cimbalino”.

Cimbalino's ads by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

Rhymes alternated with irreverent ads. The machines were featured in short films, targeted sponsorship in the sports and entertainment world

Cimbalino's ads by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

Cimbalino's Bar in Australia by Google ImagesAssolombarda

Cimbalino in the world

Cream coffee made using Cimbali machines spread all over Italy and abroad thanks above all to the Granluce machine, which became the company’s first machine to be distributed internationally, exporting the Cimbalino claim beyond the Alps and spreading the expression everywhere to the extent that it became synonymous with high-quality espresso.

One of these countries was Portugal, where you can still say “caffè espresso” or “un Cimbalino” when ordering an espresso at the bar, while in Austria and Australia there are still cafés called “Cimbalino”.

Cimbalino in Portugal by Matteo ValleAssolombarda

The Granluce by La Cimbali by Matteo ValleAssolombarda


However, the ritual of making increasingly numbers of espresso coffees every day required a lot of effort, since the lever groups that operated the spring, which in turn pushed the piston for “hydro-compression”, demanded great exertion.

Thus in 1955, La Cimbali invented the Granluce model, the first coffee machine equipped with a hydraulic group capable of overcoming the drawbacks of the lever without sacrificing anything in terms of the product dispensed.

With Gioiello, La Cimbali had instantly produced the beverage into coffee cream, while with Granluce it made espresso preparation increasingly efficient and less laborious.

Design innovation for Granluce model by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

Cars in the ‘50s were showy, irreverent and dynamic, such as the “dream of dreams”, the Fiat 1900, a two-door sedan that stood out aesthetically due to its expanse of glassy surfaces.

The Granluce coffee machine took inspiration from this car, dominating the café scene thanks to a beam of light that defined the contours of its body.

At the centre of the large metal surface, a luxurious plaque displayed its logo and name, while the large transparent strip with its double curved extension, which overhung the top to protect the cup warmer, bore the “un Cimbalino” logo.

Granluce product placement by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

We can find Granluce model also in animated television shorts in what was then an evening show consisting of short advertising stories after which all children went to bed: Carosello by RAI (Radio Audizioni Italiane is the national public broadcasting company of Italy)

The discovery of a constant temperature by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

Automatic La Cimbali Granluce

“The Automatic La Cimbali Granluce provides you with a reserve barista during peak hours,” reads a Granluce presentation folder from the time, explaining how the theoretical supply capacity could really be exploited.

The discovery of a constant temperature by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

With Automatic La Cimbali Granluce indeed an operator could easily make 130 coffees per hour per group for the entire duration of the peak period, always producing a very creamy espresso.

The Granluce by La Cimbali, MUMAC Archive, From the collection of: Assolombarda
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The Automatic La Cimbali Granluce thus eliminates downtime, service crises and physical fatigue.

The discovery of a constant temperature by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

In 1959, a very important Cimbali patent was filed, leading to the creation of a thermos-compensated model with a heat exchanger that enabled the production of coffee at a constant temperature that was creamy and boasted a very balanced taste and aftertaste.

La Cimbali Granluce becomes the star of the bars by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

The coffee machine becomes the protagonist in the bars

The coffee machine, positioned on the counter of a bar, thus became a guarantee of quality.

Model Granluce Cimbali by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

“I still remember,” says Maurizio Cimbali, “Sundays with my father visiting our most important customers such as Campari, Alemagna, Zucca and Motta to share experiences of using our machines".

Bar with model Granluce Cimbali by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

"Being with our models at the centre of the most prestigious bars was the best business card for us and a way for the bars to stand out and distinguish themselves by offering pure Italian expresso: the Cimbalino”, Maurizio Cimbali tells today.

The Cimbali coffee machine becomes the protagonist of the bars by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

The Cimbali coffee machine becomes the protagonist of the bars by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

The Cimbali coffee machine becomes the protagonist of the bars by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

The Cimbali coffee machine becomes the protagonist of the bars by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

The Cimbalino in the world by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

Beginning in the ‘50s, foreign tourists, who were becoming increasingly numerous, began to appreciate the quality of Italian espresso coffee.

The process of internationalization that began in those years saw La Cimbali Granluce conquering the most sought-after bars with prestigious presence: from the castle of Versailles to the glass UN building in New York, from Algiers to Johannesburg, from Lisbon to Melbourne, testifying to "Made in Italy excellence”.

The innovtion of Pitagora by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

Pitagora's innovation

While in the case of Granluce, the design enhanced the model’s aesthetic but did not expand its functionality, the Pitagora, launched in 1962, was a true breakthrough. It was awarded the Compasso d’Oro and soon became one of the most widespread and best-known Italian products abroad. “My uncle Vittorio,” commented Cimbali Group’s president, “had the excellent, very courageous intuition to entrust the project to the Castiglioni brothers, mass-producing coffee machines with a unified system for the body of the various models and above all with ergonomics that allowed all the dispensing tools to be recessed in the same work surface.

Internationalization of Cimbali Group by Matteo ValleAssolombarda

The process continued in the ‘70s with Pitagora and was consolidated in the following decades thanks to the advent of electronics, allowing the company to quickly expand exports to every corner of the world, becoming a launch pad for the growth of the Group.

Today, international sales account for 80% of the Group’s sales and it encompasses brands recognized all over the world: La Cimbali, Faema, a historic company bought in 1995, and Slayer, an American company acquired in 2017 to consolidate the Group’s position in the specialty coffee sector, which is one of the main coffee consumption trends.

Contemporary design by Matteo ValleAssolombarda

The Cimbali Group, with the brand LaCimbali, Faema and Slayer is always engaged in the conquest of the world market and in continual technological challenges, always with a focus on models with an intelligent design. Intelligent in their functionality, innovation and proposition.

M100 installation in MUMAC museum by Matteo ValleAssolombarda

Traditional and super-automatic machines

In the course of over one hundred years, Gruppo Cimbali’s technological evolution, enhanced by constant research and numerous patents, has allowed us to respond to the multiple demands of the market both in terms of traditional machines, which allow operators to personalize coffee from cup to cup or to minimize human intervention thanks to increasingly advanced super-automatics, and in terms of performance and the creation of truly varied menus. Finally, the introduction of the IOT now allows remote maintenance, rapid interventions and specific monitoring of customer needs.

Tecnology Heart Human Mind by MUMAC ArchiveAssolombarda

But technology would be nothing without the human component: this is why the “Technology heart, Human mind” exhibition was set up in Hangar 100, a large multi-functional space in MUMAC.

The exhibition is a tribute to the history of a brand and above all to people put their mind and heart into their work every day.

The extraordinary harmony between technological innovations and people who have worked and created the history of Cimbali for more than one hundred years can be experienced today in the exhibition, where experiences become memories, evoking many feelings and triggering deep emotions.

At Cimbali, sharing and spreading coffee culture in the world means cultural, philanthropic, local and international commitment that is tangible every day.

Federico, Maurizio and Fabrizia Cimbali by Massimo FazioAssolombarda


Cimbali’s history not only bears witness to constant focus on innovation but also to solid family unity, safeguarding fundamental values such as passion, transparency, humility, participation and constant desire to change.

“It is a source of amazement and a little pride,” comments Fabrizia Cimbali, who is part of the family’s 4th generation along with her brother Federico, “over the last 15 years we have expanded from 2 to 9 branches, from 360 to around 700 employees and from 28,000 to almost 50,000 machines produced a year."

Tecnology Heart Human Mind by Massimo FazioAssolombarda

This growth is the result of people, passion and daily challenges.

This is not just expressed by a large company but also by a place, Mumac, which is enlivened by a permanent museum, by an Academy devoted to the promotion of coffee culture, by highly impactful temporary exhibitions, by a library recognized as a historical coffee library, by international loans and by an awareness of being the content and container of culture and beauty, a bridge between past and future.

Tecnology Heart Human Mind by Gruppo CimbaliAssolombarda

Discover more at MUMAC museum!

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the MUMAC MUSEUM (www.mumac.it) of Cimbali Group (www.cimbali.it).

Thanks to:
Cimbali family and team, first of all
Exhibition Curator: Team MUMAC - Barbara Foglia, Cinzia Cona (www.mumac.it)
Storyteller, writer and content curator: Margherita Pogliani (www.storifai.com)
Technical contents supervisor: Enrico Maltoni (www.espressomadeinitaly.com/)
Photography by
MUMAC Archive (www.mumac.it)
Matteo Valle (http://www.matteovalle.com
Massimo Fazio (www.massimofazio.com)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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