Forget the complicated aspects of making great espresso and start getting flawless results with De’Longhi’s professionally inspired La Specialista. This semi-automatic espresso machine implements key innovations that allow you to handcraft consistently great-tasting, sophisticated espresso-based coffee beverages the right way.
- Please refer to user guide or user manual or user guide (provided below in PDF) before first use
Whether you’re just starting out in espresso making, or you work as a barista, when handcrafting espresso drinks, there are several factors that can cause you to pull a lack luster shot.
The La Specialista takes out the guesswork by automating the manual process where it can, via its sensor grinder, dual heating system, advanced latte steam wand, smart tamping station, and dedicated Americano and coffee buttons.
Yes, you can create a versatile number of café-quality beverages quickly, beautifully, and correctly every single time.
A machine like this is great for intermediate or advanced espresso lovers, but an interested beginner could easily surpass the learning curve and get a lot of great use out of this machine.
In fact, its timesaving features often double as quality assurance corrections that can help circumvent a lot of typical beginner mistakes. Still, no matter your skill level, you know that an elegant machine like the De’Longhi La Specialista comes with a high price tag, so you want to make sure it has all the features a passionate espresso lover, like yourself, is looking for.
What we love about the De’Longhi La Specialista:
- Elegant, Professional Look and Feel
- 1-Second Quick Start Saves you Time
- Authentic Americano Recipe
- Customizable “My” Button
- Smart Sensor Grinder Optimizes Coffee Dose
- Smart Tamping Station to Ensure Quality and Consistency
- Advanced Latte System Steam Wand for Multiple Beverage Types
- Dual Heating System with Active Temperature Control Technology
- Pre-Infusion System for Best Flavor Profile
- Dedicated Hot Water Button and Spout
- Active Rinsing to Keep the Portafilter Hot
- Magnetic Small Cup Tray to Avoid Splatter and Achieve Thick Crema
Design of the De’Longhi La Specialista
The De’Longhi La Specialista with Sensor Grinder has a sophisticated, professional design with all the components you need in your at-home espresso station or small business café.
This model has two color options, stainless-steel and black stainless-steel:
The stainless-steel machine sits at 14.48 inches wide, 17.5 inches tall, and 14.48 inches deep, providing a larger workstation and footprint compared to some other all-in-one espresso machines on the market.
Starting from the top of the machine, you’ll see the 8.8-oz capacity bean hopper on the left with a beveled heated area on the right to keep your mugs and espresso glasses warm.
On the left-hand side of the machine there is an innovative smart tamping station to give you accurate pressure for your shot of espresso.
On the right-hand side of the machine there’s a dial to help operate the steam wand below it.
On the front panel of the machine, you’ll find the control center.
Starting from the left there’s the power button and just below that the dosage dial that you can use to hone in on that perfect dose with the smart sensor grinder.
Next to that there is an x2 button for a double shot and an active rinse button. You can simply press once shortly before you start your process, so that the portafilter gets some hot water in it and is hot and ready.
Tip: a cold portafilter can potentially sour the taste of your shot.
At the center of the control panel is the OK button and pressure gauge.
On the right side of the machine there’s a dedicated hot water button, which leads to the hot waterspout for true Americanos and long blacks, as well as tea or hot cocoa.
Next to that is the De’Longhi “my” button which allows you to customize recipes that are on the recipe dial next to it, which include espresso, Americano, and coffee.
Finally, just above the drip tray there is a smaller magnetic tray that can be moved down to set short espresso cups on.
Features & Performance:
Programable Recipes with the “My” Button
One of the unique features about this professional at-home espresso machine is its recipe nob. You can make espresso, authentic americano, and coffee.
With De’Longhi’s “my” button you can customize each of these recipes to be the way you like.
For example, you might like less water in your Americano than the standard. Simply press the “my” button while it’s turned to Americano and the OK button to activate recipe programming.
You’ll press the OK button at each stage of the recipe to show the machine how you want it, then you press the “my” button again and it’s programmed from there on out.
Advanced Latte System
This machine comes with a special steam wand that does more than the average. It can be used hands free, and integrating De’Longhi’s “Advanced Latte System”.
You can adjust the wand for “flat” or “foam” before or during the milk frothing process to get the precise amount of air you need for your desired beverage.
This is a favorite feature in our home. With past machine’s, we found it difficult to make our family’s favorite flat white; usually ending up with cappuccino style foam too often.
Dual Heating System with Active Temperature Control Technology
With De’Longhi’s Active Temperature Control technology, you’ll get great temperature stability with this machine.
There are two heating elements within the La Specialista, so that you don’t have to worry about the different temperatures required for milk frothing and pulling shots.
Note: While it’s helpful to avoid getting wires crossed, you cannot froth and pull shots simultaneously. However, this still means there will be no down time between brewing espresso and frothing your milk.
Sensor Grinder with Smart Tamp Technology
Grind smarter with the built-in sensor grinder. Simply hook in your portafilter for hands-free, even filling every time.
You can adjust the grind coarseness by twisting the bean hopper to choose between 6 settings.
The sensor technology within the closed filling system will adjust automatically with the coarseness and fill your portafilter perfectly no matter which setting you choose.
Once your portafilter is filled with grinds, you can smart tamp while it’s still in the closed filling area.
Simply pull the lever on the left-hand side of the machine and it tamps with the precise amount of pressure needed for the best shot of espresso.
Ingenious Little Additions
The designers at De’Longhi have included small details that make your espresso come out far better. One is the active rinse button, which allows you to run hot water through the portafilter to instantly heat it up. This keeps your coffee from turning out sour.
Another little addition is the espresso cup grill, which magnetically stays up for bigger mugs.
Tip: We highly recommend you lower it for short espresso glasses for two reasons. For one, it eliminates splatter. Secondly, and more importantly, you’ll get a much thicker and lovelier layer of crema on your shot.
This machine has one of the easier descaling cycles we’ve seen, considering it’s dedicated active rinse button. The process is relatively short as well; however, considering all the other components in this machine that you must keep clean regularly, overall, this machine is one of the harder to clean.
Its user guide has the most pages of cleaning and maintenance than any other machine we’ve owned. And it’s very important to keep things clean because of the sensors within the machine – They won’t work unless it’s clean.
Things to Think About
The main complaints we have about this machine lie within two marketing-based features that are technically accurate, but certainly a little misleading. The first one is the dual heating system. This is correct, but it would lead most consumers to believe that they can froth and pull shots at the same time – this is not the case. There is no downtime between the two because of the dual heating system, but due to some circuit issues it cannot be used simultaneously.
Finally, some have scoffed at the De’Longhi’s addition of the “coffee” recipe button. The addition of coffee is unique, but it’s only a small 4 oz cup and it’s not truly a drip coffee. It seems to be more of a marketing tactic as the result is just a watered-down espresso.
Tip: We recommend going for the machine’s deliciously authentic Americano recipe rather than the inauthentic “coffee” recipe.
The setup process for De’Longhi La Specialista is as follows:
- Step 0: Lightly rinse all the parts that come in the box, then attach the bean hopper in the coffee mill and the drip tray and cup grill.
- Step 1: Remove the water tank and fill with fresh clean water then reattach.
- Step 2: Turn on the machine and rinse the internal circuits with the active rinse button and run some steam through the steam wand.
- Step 3: Activate the water softener filter by immersing it in water for about 10 seconds and then placing it into the filter housing on the machine.
- Step 4: Set up the temperature and water hardness in the settings.
- Step 5: You’re ready to go! Start making coffee beverages or program your “my” recipes!
Comparable Models: De’Longhi La Specialista vs. Breville BES870XL Barista Express
Both La Specialista and Barista Express are featured on our list of top-rated semi-automatic espresso machines. Here are their designs and functions in comparison.
The Breville Barista Express is several inches smaller than the De’Longhi La Specialista in all directions.
The Barista Express has less features to fit in, so it’s no surprise. Still, most of the main features are present visually from the bean hopper and heated top to the dial on the front control panel and steam wands on the right-hand sides.
The De’Longhi La Specialista and the Breville Barista Express are both stainless-steel, but they have a different impression. The La Specialista’s design has a more elevated look, but one could argue it should, considering its higher price tag. We think the notable features make it worth the extra cash.
These two machines have similar base functions. There’s the inclusion of a grinder, a tamper, an espresso maker, and a steam wand. Both come with cleaning accessories and a milk mug for frothing. However, that’s kind of where it stops for the Breville Barista Express.
The La Specialista takes it further with a sensor grinder for the perfect dose, an innovative hands-free tamp, coffee recipes, a dedicated hot waterspout, and a specialized steam wand that implements the De’Longhi’s advanced latte system.
It creates a versatile list of perfect coffee beverages every time.
Which model should you get?
If you’re a beginner and ready to invest in a machine, then the La Specialista is by far the better choice. It has safeties in place in its automation that will assist in your learning process and pull you better shots more consistently as a novice.
However, if you’re an intermediate or advanced barista, the choice is yours.
You might already know how to get the perfect amount of air into your milk based on the beverage you’re going for, and you may already have the perfect tamp down. In that case, do you want to spend more for the De’Longhi’s features? It’s up to you!
The De’Longhi La Specialista Espresso Machine with Sensor Grinder (view on Amazon) is a superb choice for any level of espresso lover that wants an easy hands-on experience making coffee beverages.
In our assessment, this espresso maker is worth the money – with these innovative quality of life features:
Just make sure you have the space for the machine in your kitchen or café, and we think you’ll be pleased with the beauty and consistency of your beverages with the De’Longhi La Specialista!