Product Type: DeLonghi coffee machines
Newest Review: ... on the eye, and has a stainless steel top and a tray at the bottom. There is a milk frother attachment that can be used to make the milk u... more
Caffè con Cosa Nostra
DeLonghi Icona Espresso Maker
Member Name: Joker25
DeLonghi Icona Espresso Maker
Advantages: Makes a great espresso and cappucino.
Disadvantages: Takes quite a few minutes, can be a bit fiddly.
'Psst. I've got something for you. Something you wanted.' Such was my mother's opening line after a recent visit. The rest of the conversation went a little something like this:
'Oh. Okay. Why are we whispering?'
'Well, you never know, do you?'
'Never know what, mum?'
'Who's listening. You never know who's listening.'
'There's only you and me in the house, mum. And the dog. Or do you think he's a double agent?'
'Don't be ridiculous. I meant Norman next door. He has connections in the middle east.'
'Mum, Norman next door owned a factory that made Yasser Arafat's headscarves. It's not like he's a member of Black September. Also, he's nearly 80, deaf and called Norman. How much of a threat do you think he's going to be?'
'I don't want to compromise my contacts.'
'Your contacts? Do you mean Alice from the gardening club?'
'No, the contacts I got your present from.'
'Oh Christ. Are you in the Mafia, mum?'
'I wanted to be when I was younger. But then, I wanted to be a nun as well. You grow out of things. I hope you like your present. If you don't, though, you can't take it back or get a refund. That's not how this arrangement works.'
'I told you. My contacts don't work like that. *You* know.'
'I swear to God, I really don't.'
So, my dutiful daughterly visit has equipped me with the following: a brand new DeLonghi espresso/cappuccino machine and the knowledge that my mother is possibly working for the mob. I take solace from the fact that she's probably not one of their hitwomen, though, as she hates getting stains on her twin-sets. That said, she has just texted me to ask what the Japanese word for flower-arranging is. There are two possibilities with this: either she's doing the Saturday Times mega-big crossword, or my answer 'ikebana' is my tacit agreement that I'll off Joey Five Fingers and hide the body.
Until I locate the weapons cache, though, I thought I'd have a bash with my new toy.
Mine is black, but they're also available in red, blue and white. It has a footprint that's roughly twice as big as the average kettle and it's about as tall as a microwave. It'll fit pretty neatly on the average kitchen counter.
It looks quite sleek and expensive although it is reasonably lightweight (i.e. can easily be lifted one-handed) and should therefore be a doddle to put in a kitchen cupboard if you don't have the room to keep it out all the time.
~*~How to make it work~*~
Take a deep breath because the instructions are of next to no use. The English is fine and it does all kind of make sense in isolation, but put together in paragraphs it becomes like the manual for flying a stealth fighter. Too many pictures (29! Which increases to 50(!) if you include the utterly bewildering and misleadingly-named 'quick start' guide) and too many instances of 'for advice on this, refer to previous paragraph points 5, 6, 7 and consider diagram A.1'. Luckily, I used to work in a Virgin cinema where one of the many perks of the job was serving coffee to the film-viewing public, so I'm something of a pro (seriously. I once served Liam Neeson a cappuccino and an ice lolly. Friend of the rich and famous, me).
Essentially, it works much like any other coffee machine: there is a clear plastic water tank at the back which can either be removed and filled via the tap or filled with a jug. Once the machine is turned on, this water is heated and filtered through the coffee.
There are three buttons on the machine: the top is on/off; the one below has a ready light - when it turns green it is ready and the button can be pressed to allow water to trickle through the coffee in the filter holder - and the last button is for the milk steamer spout. When you've made your cup of coffee you press this button, wait for the ready light to turn green and then use the knob at the top of the machine to control the level of steam that comes out through the spout.
Once you've figured out what to do, it is much less complicated than the instructions would have you believe. Before making your first cup of coffee DeLonghi recommend that you run water through an empty filter at least 5 times, presumably to clean out all the Mafioso juice.
Two filters are included; a shallow one for pre-prepared pods, and a deep one for your own ground coffee. A box of Illy espresso pods is included with the machine and these make a *really* good cup of coffee. They are mess and hassle-free, as the pod is just thrown away afterwards, but the downside is that the cheapest price I can find for them is £9.95 for a box of 18 from coffee-beans-direct.com. The machine will take any ESE pods, so you might be able to find an alternate supplier for a cheaper price.
I've tried the machine with Douwe Egbert ground coffee and this way also makes a great brew. Just use the scoop provided to put one and a half scoops of ground coffee, press it down with the tamper that's on the left hand side of the machine, fix the filter into the machine and follow the same procedure as with the pods. Obviously the filter will need to be thoroughly cleaned of grounds after use, unless you're a student or my aunty Anne as both of these categories think you can get 3 cups of coffee out of one portion of grounds.
* Warming plate* The top part of the machine is metal with a guard around it, and this is where the steam knob is. The metal plate has room for two cups and heats up sufficiently to keep a cup of coffee warm whilst you froth the milk. It doesn't get so hot that a hand can't be placed on it and thus there is no risk of a burn.
* Frother* This is the bit that elevates it beyond being a bog-standard espresso machine. The frother is on a small lever at the right hand side of the machine and can be moved away from the machine by a couple of centimetres so you can fit a jug of milk under. Obviously, the amount of froth depends on how skilled you are. If you've achieved the dizzying heights of barista-dom that I have, it should be a doddle.
* Hot water dispenser* If, having forked out over a hundred quid for your espresso/cappuccino machine, you decide you don't like coffee, the machine can be used just for hot water. Just don't attach a filter and press the on button, then the hot water tube button and hey presto, hot water is dispensed and you've bought what is, essentially, the most expensive kettle EVER.
* Drip tray* The machine comes with a cup tray and a drip tray to facilitate easy cleaning. With the metal cup tray in place, though, a regular sized mug won't fit underneath (although a teacup/cappuccino cup will). It is easily removed if you like to drink your hot drinks from a suitably plebeian vessel.
* You can get matching stuff* Admittedly, that's not really a feature, but it is handy to know if you're the kind of person who gets a bit OCDish about all their appliances looking the same.
Admittedly, I'm not one of life's clean freaks, but this is an easy beastie to clean. If using grounds, rinse the filter after every use. The drip tray and cup tray can both be easily removed and washed in soapy water. The outer part of the frother can be removed and washed; the actual nozzle just needs wiped clean as soon as you've finished using it. DeLonghi recommend that you descale the machine using their own brand descaler once every 200 uses but I would imagine this is dependent on water hardness. I live in a soft water area and I'm proud to say I've never descaled anything in my life.
~*~Where to buy~*~
Any electrical retailer should supply it, although prices vary from £130 up to £200. As ever the best deals are usually to be found online and Amazon has it for £128.99 with free p&p.
~*~Reasons not to buy~*~
I'll be honest, it is a little bit fiddly to make your coffee and then froth milk but this probably isn't something you'll mind if you're a real caffeine fiend. Otherwise, it isn't the quickest machine in the world: it recommends that you only run coffee through the filter whilst the green ready light is on and for no longer than 45 seconds, so it takes about 4 short bursts to make an average sized mug of coffee. The same is true of the frother - it takes about 30 seconds to reach temperature and should then only be used in short bursts. All in all, I'd say it takes 3 minutes to make an espresso and around 5 minutes to make a cappuccino. It should be noted that the coffee won't come out boiling hot - but true coffee aficionados wouldn't want it that way.
Fairly obviously, part of the machine dispenses steam so the opportunities for scalds are plentiful. If you have children who are very young or eejits who don't know to stay away from hot things, you might be better getting a cafetière.
DeLonghi also suggest that you shouldn't be allowed near this if you have 'reduced physical, sensory or mental capabilities'. So, if you're nuts and have poor circulation in your hands, it looks like you're going to have to stick to Nescafe.
Lastly, if it comes as a present from my mother, you shouldn't underestimate the possibility that you may be enjoying your first cup of coffee as a horse's head stares at you from your pillow. In every other case, though, that's a pretty unlikely scenario.
Summary: Quality mid-sized pump espresso/cappuccino maker.
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