De’Longhi La Specialista Arte review: Control your cup of morning brown

Quick verdict: This semi-automatic coffee machine is a great option for coffee lovers who like to customise their brew to personal perfection.

Pros

  • Excellent customisation to get your coffee right for you
  • Good option for someone with a bit of experience
  • Very sleek and professional looking
Cons

  • Pricey
  • Bit of a learning curve for absolute beginners
  • It takes longer than an automatic machine, which you might not love if you’re impatient

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De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

I was a barista in a former life. I conjured this golden liquid of the gods for years to pay my way through uni. A decade later I still enjoy taking the time to make a damn fine cup of coffee. Enter the De'Longhi La Specialista Arte – a coffee machine that sits somewhere between manual and automatic machines in the consumer-grade market.

I wasn't sure if I was ready to go back to the literal grind to make my cup of morning brown. I've been using automatic machines at home over the past couple of years, and they've done a great job. Could I really be bothered with the whole portafilter, tampering and milk frothing processes?

As it turns out, absolutely.


Design

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

The most significant design aspect of the De'Longhi La Specialista Arte is not just its chic cafe-style chassis. Although yes, it will elevate your kitchen bench with its stainless steel design x professional-looking accoutrement. It's hard not to be impressed by the pressure gauge gracing the front of this beast even if you're not quite sure what it does.

What really makes this thing interesting is its status as a semi-automatic machine.

But what does this actually mean?

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

This kind of espresso maker gives you more control over your final cup than machines where you press a button or, in a more boujee case, tap a drink on the touch screen.

This begins at the bean stage where you choose the type of grind you're after - an 8 being quite coarse and a 1 being (damn) fine.

From there you can select the dosage – the amount of ground beans that you will use – before actually getting your grind on.

You also select how much water you want to run through the portafilter (the big metal handle that you see in coffee shops) and how hot you want that water to be. This is important because different beans and roast types require different temperatures for an optimal result. Though to be fair you can't select the actual temperature. You just have 3 undefined heat options instead.

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One issue I had with the design was working out how to get ground beans into the portafilter. There didn't seem like an obvious way to start the grinding process – no button or switch.

I checked the manual and found no solace there either. As it turns out, it's embarrassingly simple. But let's not dwell on how long it took me to figure it out.

You simply place the portafilter (with the tampering guard attached) into the slot and push it slightly to trigger the grind.

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

From there you have 3 options – espresso, long black and water. Feel free to choose your weapon – this is a safe space. I'm personally an espresso girl who then tops up with a little frothed milk to make a silky flat white.

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

The manual nature of the machine continues with the milk frother, but it's not as complex as professional machines.

Rather than utilising a dial or switch, there is a simple button you need to push to activate the steam.

Between the style, relative ease of use and the extra goodies (portafilter, tampering accessories and milk frother) the De'Longhi La Specialista Arte is a beautifully designed unit. While it does take up a bit of bench space, it's not overly oppressive.


De'Longhi La Specialista Arte performance

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

Judging the performance of a coffee machine can be difficult. There are external factors that can impact the final product, especially with a manual machine.

Does the user actually know how to use it? Are the beans any good? Were the beans ground appropriately for their type and the sort of coffee the user is after? Were the grounds tampered enough? Was the heat of the water and milk correct?

Any 1 of these factors going awry can contribute to a subpar or even bad cup of coffee.

Fortunately I've had years of practice and some fresh beans at my disposal. And personally, I've found the De'Longhi La Specialista Arte to be a pleasure to use.

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

I enjoy being able to customise, play around and perfect my cup of morning brown.

Once I got beyond the initial portafilter kerfuffle, it has been a breeze. It's very easy to use if you know what you're doing.

However, if you haven't manually made coffee before you may want to thoroughly read the manual and also do some research into beans, roasts and techniques.

Jumping into it blindly could be a little overwhelming and result in some sad caffeine moments.

However, the machine does at least help you in terms of dosage and tampering. Once you set the dose, it measures the exact amount when the button is activated. And if you need a little more hand-holding, there is a tamper guard that clips into the top of the portafilter as well as a holder you can rest the entire shebang on. These extra gadgets allow you to tamper the grounds without making a mess. I still use them months later.

The machine isn't overly loud and the process is sped up by the 2 in-built heating systems. This means you don't have to wait between making your coffee and frothing your milk. This is a bugbear of mine about coffee machines (especially with pods) so this was a happy surprise.

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

Now, we should probably talk about the actual coffee.

The best results I've achieved have been with pre-ground beans, a dose level of around 20g and medium water temperature. This has created a beautifully rich espresso experience complete with a gorgeous crema on top.

That being said, I did run out of beans at 1 point and resorted to a bag of pre-ground beans from god knows how long ago. It wasn't as good but it did the job.

At the end of the day, coffee is a deeply personal experience, so it's always worth experimenting to find your bliss.

And much like the De'Longhi Magnifica S, I found that the milk frothed by the La Specialista is superior to that of the Maestosa, a machine that costs around $5,000.

The La Specialista Arte also isn't shy about letting you know what it wants. There are warning lights for when it needs to be refilled and descaled.

Speaking of which, the cleaning process is easy. Like other De'Longhi machines, you can easily run hot water through the milk nozzle and the coffee filter area after every use. This isn't mandatory but I do it for hygiene purposes.

And when it needs a more substantial clean, the drip tray and other elements of the machine come apart simply for easy access.


Should you buy the De’Longhi La Specialista Arte?

  • Buy it if you are looking for more control and customisation of your coffee.
  • Don't buy it if you're prefer something quicker with the simple push of a button.

The De'Longhi La Specialista Arte is a great machine if you're a coffee fan who either has some experience or is looking to learn more about making a great cup of joe.

With a read of the manual and a little research, it's not difficult to determine what the grind numbers and pressure gauge mean, allowing you to discover exactly how you like your coffee made.

And if you do find you like a more hands-on coffee making experience, it is a good fiscal decision at an RRP of $749, which is cheaper than many of the manual machines out there. Sure, that's still an investment, but depending on how much coffee you drink, it will probably still work out cheaper than buying 2–3 cups a day instead. Especially if you're working from home.

Personally, I have been loving it during our most recent stint in lockdown. It became part of my morning ritual, a constant during a time of turmoil and uncertainty.

But if you would prefer something of a more automatic and lower effort, you might want to consider the De'Longhi Magnifica S instead.

It doesn't take up much room, makes a great cup of coffee and is easy to use. It also looks chic as hell.

However, if you're looking for something even more automatic with app access, touch screens and different coffee profiles for your various household members, you'll want to look elsewhere. But be prepared to pay for it.


Pricing and availability

Price

The De'Longhi La Specialista Arte has an RRP of $749 but you can also find deals from online retailers.

Where to buy


Specifications

Technical Data

Weight (Kg)
8.8
Water tank capacity (l)
1.5
Input power (W)
1,300
Dimensions (wxdxh) (mm)
285x365x399 (with bean container)
Maximum cup height (mm)
120
Pump pressure (bar)
15
Rated voltage/Frequency (V~Hz)
220–240 V/50–60 Hz

Images: Finder

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