It’s a whole five years since I last mentioned the espresso-creating kit installed at Losing it HQ. That was a bargain-priced Saeco
machine, which did its job for a few years before developing an annoying problem. While continuing to produce perfectly acceptable coffee, it became a bit awkward to use, as one of the coloured light elements that made its informative display work totally failed, giving the impression it was off when it was actually on. So, it was replaced by the then current equivalent model (at a similarly discounted price from John Lewis). That one avoided having a fancy display, and just had illuminated buttons, which seemed like a more resilient option. That one worked nicely for about two and a half years before developing an occasional reluctance to build up pressure and deliver coffee, not to mention a slight dribbling from its bottom. As it was a low-cost (as these things go) device, it didn’t seem sensible to spend money on having it service, repaired, or whatever, so the hunt was on for a replacement.
I always like to see these things for real rather than relying solely on online images, so I had the usual wander around the department stores. The first thing I noticed was a distinct lack of Gaggia or Saeco on sale. Presumably after swallowing the brand, Philips lost interest in marketing to consumers – the big kit for cafés is still around.
The next thing I noticed was a lot of DeLonghi machines – they used to have more basic ones, but while I hadn’t been paying attention, they’d clearly been doing some serious development. I spotted a few possibles, and went away to do the research. I eliminated the more fancy ones with built in milk tanks that can (depending on model) do anything from making it easier to froth milk up to creating a milk shake for people who don’t really like coffee (or “latte”, as some call it), on the grounds that I’m not the kind of person who thinks milk belongs in coffee. This still left a larger number of machines than seemed necessary, but hey ho and all that.
More digging led me to this model – nice features, useful display and (most important) reviews suggesting it would indeed do the job required. The only problem was the price – at around £450, it was a fair bit more than I was comfortable with paying. Experience suggests that about three years is the lifetime of a coffee machine in my kitchen, so I feel moderately happy spending around £300 (give or take, more or less). Mind you, that price was a lot better than in one shop that had it at its earlier price of £650, which is a lot more than I’d have even thought about.
So, more research. And I’d almost decided to leave it for a bit, when I had another look on the manufacturer’s site (yes, I’d had a look at all instruction videos and the PDF of the manual, it’s what I do) and found that they’d reduced the price to £319 with free delivery. Well, that turned it from a “maybe later” into a “take my money now” kind of thing, and I ordered it.
It looks like the Autentica range of machines have been superseded by some functionally identical, but cosmetically different ones, so they might well have been looking to clear stock, which suited me fine – especially when I noticed that the original price was apparently over £700. I have seen it on sale more recently at £399, so it may be a general “end of line” thing, but I still got the best deal, so there.
A few days later, it arrived and I wasted no time in setting it up. As always with a new bean to cup machine, you have to make a few coffees before it comes through in full strength. It’s important to remember that, as otherwise you might get the idea that your new machine doesn’t make proper bloody espresso, which would be Very Bad.
After a bit if a tweak of the grind size control and setting it to “extra strong”, it started to deliver as good an espresso as I’ve had anywhere. I use the Espresso Crema blend from Pumphrey’s in the Grainger Market, which is a dark, strong roast that is the best for my taste, and it works as well with the DeLonghi as it did with the Saeco.
Maintenance is a bit different – the grounds box and drip tray are combined, so it’s a simple matter to remove and empty both daily. The water tank is at the rear of the machine, so you may need to think about where you place it for easy access without having to move the whole thing. A water filter is included, and unlike the one that came with the Saeco, is the right size, so I’m using it.
When I bought it, DeLonghi had an offer on – register your machine and get some free stuff (the more expensive the machine, the more free stuff you get). I got two packs of descaler (this will be needed every few months, useful), a water filter (recommendation is replace every two months, so useful again), some stuff for cleaning the outside (nice), a cloth, a spare cleaning brush and three 200g packs of coffee beans. Nice.
One useful feature I should mention is the automatic start setting. So long as you set the clock on the machine, you can set it to start up at a particular time of day. It will wake up, warm up, do its rinsing thing and be ready to deliver coffee when you get up. I like that – it means I’ve had to change my routine, so that I fill the water tank in the evening rather than the morning, but that’s fine.
So, nice kit, bargain price. The equivalent model in the newer “Eletta” range is over £700 (and I see mine is now out of stock at DeLonghi, and listed at a similarly painful price), so it looks like I got my timing just right. I love it when that happens.