The Cimbali's Fund and Enrico Maltoni Fund together to tell a century of history expressed by coffee machines that are more unique than rare
An entrepreneur right to his heart, Maurizio Cimbali is open to the future, humble about his past and focused on the present. He is a unique entrepreneur who embodies the values of a company that has been a purveyor of excellence in Italy for over a century.
Cimbali is the president of the Cimbali Group, which includes the LaCimbali, Faema, Casadio and Hemerson brands. Coffee machines are an integral part of the family’s DNA. “I’m part of the third generation, but my children already have a role in the company,” he explains…
One hundred years ago…
The Cimbali family’s relationship with coffee began over 100 years ago, when grandfather Giuseppe Cimbali opened a small store in central Milan’s Via Caminadella. From this store, the Cimbali family conquered café counters all over the world. Nowadays, the company is based in Binasco, on the outskirts of Milan. MUMAC stands alongside the offices and workshop. “It’s the jewel in our crown,” says MaurizioCimbali, with more than a hint of satisfaction. It was the third and fourth generations of the Cimbali family who had the idea of creating a museum dedicated to coffee machines in order to celebrate the company’s first 100 years.
“It was 2010, right in the middle of the economic crisis,” explains the president. “When we started to think about doing something special to celebrate the centenary, we had to choose between making a dream come true - the museum - and organising a big event. We opted for the first idea, despite worries about the substantial investment we’d need to come up with. The event would have been over straight away, but the museum would be there forever. That’s how we came to build MUMAC. It proved to be the right choice, because the museum now has a really important role within the Group.”
A cultural hub
Of the many brands available on the market, LaCimbali is one of the few never to have changed hands. “We told ourselves that if we didn’t build the museum, a company that’s been producing machines for over a century, nobody ever would,” he explains. Thanks partly to the contribution of Enrico Maltoni, whose extensive collection provided the majority of the models on display, MUMAC has become a cultural hub. The museum not only explores the history of coffee machines, but also documents the evolution of the custom of drinking coffee and of Italian society itself. Every single day, the museum is visited by stakeholders, students, families, researchers, technicians, designers and other curious souls. Cimbali, a fourth-generation Milanese, was recently awarded the keys to the city by the municipality of Binasco for having invested in the local area and for the success of the Group, of which the whole community is proud.
These successes have made the machines produced by the Group’s main two brands, LaCimbali and Faema, into cult Italian products. Such is the technology, innovation and style involved that they have even been compared to Ferraris. “It’s amazing to hear,” admits Cimbali. “The comparison is encouraging but also carries with it great responsibility: we’re leaders and as such we cannot allow ourselves to mess up.” And how is he going to ensure that they don’t? “You have to use your head, but most importantly your heart,” he explains. “I believe that having positive human relationships between my staff is fundamental. I learned that from my father and I'm trying to pass it on to my own children. When you realise that you’re succeeding, it’s a great feeling.”
Cimbali’s satisfaction is there for all to see when he excitedly explains that the most southerly bar in the world, in Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego situated just a few kilometres from Cape Horn, they serve coffee using a LaCimbali machine. Similarly, in South Korea and China small cups of espresso are becoming one of the trendiest drinks around, while people are gradually learning to appreciate it in India too.
The coffee machines are like global ambassadors speaking a universal language to all people around the world: the mouse-tail shape of that first drop of liquid, the perfect temperature and all the other rules that have to be adhered to in order to produce the perfect coffee.
MUMAC features some of the most important coffee machines in history, but Cimbali has his own favourites: the Gioiello and the Granluce. “The first one because I remember the presentation at the Fiera Campionaria in 1950,” he explains. “I was at my father’s side and it was an amazing feeling to see the machine presented inside an enormous jewel box with stunning water effects all around. As for the Granluce, I still love how original the design is, especially the strip of light which defines the edges of the bodywork. It was also revolutionary because it was fitted with our patented hydraulic system which makes the barista’s life easier thanks to fully automated output.”
MUMAC, documenting the evolution of a sector
The president speaks about his creations with all the warmth and affection you might have for a close family member. He grew up around coffeemachines and knew that his destiny might be there - in the family company - ever since he was a lad. “I nearly didn't make it,” he reveals. “My father tried to warn me off joining the company and instead encouraged me to find a different job. It was the late 1960s and the situation wasn’t the best. There was an epochal shift taking place in the factories - unions were coming in and the workers’ statute was introduced, none of which helped the climate of uncertainty.”
In the end, Maurizio did indeed follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, showing the same passion, strength and desire to bring the best possible products to market. Cimbali believes that there is only one way to do this: to design and produce all products internally within the company. “That’s still the way we do things here,” he says. “All the design, development, production, sales and assistance are all done here in the Cimbali Group.”
The Cimbali family is proud of its history and proud of its LaCimbali and Faema brands, which are fitting standard-bearers for a sector that has always been one of the most thriving of our economy.
And MUMAC is there to document it.
He bought his first coffee machine at a market - it didn't work, but he was fascinated by it. Since then, he’s dedicated his life to collecting and restoring machines. He has written books, organised exhibitions and - thanks to his collaboration with Maurizio Cimbali - realised his dream of setting up a museum
You know what they say: you never forget your first love. So it’s no surprise that Enrico Maltoni, one of the leading coffee machine collectors in the world, has no hesitation when asked which model he keeps in his heart: «“A Faema Marte from the 1950s - it was the first one I bought.”
That’s where it all began.
The year was 1988. Maltoni was just 18 years old, working as a barista making coffees in a café in his hometown of Forlimpopoli: “The first machine I ever worked with was a Faema E61” he recalls. Like all youngsters from Romagna, he had a love of cars. . “That was up until I went to a market in Arezzo and saw the Faema Marte on an antiques stall,” he explains. It was dusty and broken, but Maltoni was fascinated by the beauty of that object, the body of which was not dissimilar to the chassis of a classic car. He decided to buy it.
Coffee machines and documents
It was a moment that changed Enrico Maltoni’s life forever. When he returned home, he decided to restore it. But when he opened it up, he realised that he would never be able to do the job on his own. He was able to dismantle and reassemble a car engine, but coffee machines were a whole different ball game. He did some research, phoned the company and met up with local repairmen, who helped him restore the Marte to its former glory. The experience left him with a burning passion for coffee machines. Things started to change. He had stopped working for the café and was running a couple of clothing stores. At home, the old Marte was joined by other models he picked up in markets, antique shops, company storerooms and old cafés and restaurants. “In the space of ten years, I bought around 50,” he explains. “I started to realise that in order to have a complete collection, I needed documents as well as machines.” Today, the Maltoni archive holds over 25,000 documents including designs, patents, leaflets, stamps and advertising material.
A hobby becomes a job
In 1999, Maltoni noticed that interest in his collection was growing. He realised that something he had always seen as a hobby could now become aprofession. He created a network of collectors of 20th-century objects (not all from the same sector), who informed him when new models went on sale in the biggest markets in Italy: “They’re my informants,” he says. “I have a thousand of them around the world. We help one other reciprocally. I let them know when I see objects that might interest them in Italy.” He continued to buy, restore and resell coffee machines and even created an exhibition in his town named Espresso-Made in Italy. “I was stunned by the level of interest and the number of visitors it attracted,” he admits. «“I decided to replicate the exhibition in other towns, with similar levels of success. I put on 42 exhibitions in ten years and, thanks to funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was able to organise them overseas, in places such as South America and Thailand.”
Meeting with Cimbali and Mumac mission
The exhibition was followed by a book with the same title, but Maltoni didn’t just stop at writing the thing. “No publishers showed any interest, so I decided to do everything myself. I had it printed and published at my own expense,” he says. The book has so far sold over 9000 copies. Then, in 2002, he met Maurizio Cimbali, president of the Cimbali Group. “It is thanks to him that I was able to make my dream of setting up a museum come true,” he admits.
The two men met in Parma during one of Maltoni’s exhibitions. Cimbali invited him to the company and, being the two coffee-machine lovers that they are, conversation inevitably shifted from the collections to the idea of setting up a museum.
As a result of their meeting, Maltoni and Cimbali pooled their personal collections to create the largest collection of coffee machines in the world. “I instantly bought into the idea of helping to set up the museum because Maurizio Cimbali made it clear that MUMAC wouldn’t be telling the story of his company, but documenting the evolution of an Italian custom and the development of an important sector of our economy,” explains Maltoni. “The coffee machine is at the heart of that most natural of environments for Italians: the café. It’s an object that has had - and continues to have - a huge impact on our lifestyle and is a subject that has been explored by the great and good of design, such as Gio Ponti, Caccia Dominioni, Munari, Sotsass, Zanuso and Giugiaro.”
Though his dream was fulfilled, Maltoni didn’t let up. He continued to travel the world in search of coffee machines that fit his time-honoured criteria: quality, rarity, originality.“I find about 100 every year,” he says. “I buy some to restore them and sell them on.” In order to do this, he opened Officina Maltoni, a specialist workshop dedicated to the restoration of coffee machines produced between 1900 and 1960. Design and practicality are the two main characteristics Maltoni looks for in a coffee machine. “Aesthetically speaking, I prefer the La Pavoni DP47, nicknamed the ‘Cornuta’, the Faema Saturno and LaCimbali Granluce. I find that the most practical machines are the Classica Gaggia, which was the first to enable users to obtain a cream, the Faema E 61 and the Pitagora by LaCimbali.”