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I am a great coffee lover and love going to coffee shops whenever I can. My husband bought me this Delonghi Eco espresso machine as he thought it would save money as I would drink more coffee at home, however his wish hasn't been entirely granted as I do use this machine very regularly but still do love visiting coffee shops as I just can't make carrot cake like they do!
My husband bought this from John Lewis and paid £129.99 which isn't a bad price compared to a lot of other espresso machines. It is a lovely bright red which matches my other accessories in the kitchen but also comes in black, red and white. I would describe it as a bit retro looking especially in the red colour. It measures 38cm high, 29cm wide and 34cm deep and weighs 4.1 kg so it is light enough to move around and small enough to fit inside a cupboard if you are one of those people who like a non cluttered worktop. It has an input power of 1100W can hold a cup up to 7.7cm tall so you can't fit a large mug underneath, but a petite cup of a strong cup of espresso is usually perfectly adequate for me.
It comes with two filters, a shallow one for coffee pods and a deeper one for ground coffee. As ground coffee is the cheaper of the two by far I usually use this and will use a good quality coffee such as Douwe Egbert or Carte Noire, although I do buy the pods when I can get them on special offer. My friend goes over to France very regularly and will bring me a few boxes back as they are much cheaper over there.
There is a cappuccino system which mixes air, steam and milk to produce a creamy frothy drink however I have never used this as I am not really keen on cappuccino as I like to really taste my coffee. It has a cup warming plate which is great for keeping your coffee and cups nice and warm and it also has a plastic water tank which you can remove to fill with water. As we have a lot of fluoride in our water where we live I will usually use bottled water. It takes around three minutes in total for your cup of coffee to be ready to drink so you don't have to wait too long when you are craving caffeine.
I find this machine very easy to use as there aren't too many buttons or functions but it produces the same quality coffee as my friends espresso machine which was about three times more expensive than this one. I think there is nothing better than the rich aroma of real coffee in your house as it smells so warm and inviting. I do try not to drink coffee late at night as I find that I am still reading reviews at 2am in the morning so try and limit it to during the daytime.
I would recommend this smart little coffee machine as it is easy to use, delivers quick results and is a lot cheaper than a lot of other machines that do the same.
For a long time I had wanted a coffee machine which could provide me with a latte coffee just like Costa or Starbucks, but unfortunately I couldn't justify the cost of paying over £100 for something which most certainly would be a luxury item for me and not a necessity. Therefore I simply just put it to the back of my mind and mentally added it to my "maybe one day" list.
Then my eldest daughter bought one of these Delonghi Icona coffee machines for herself and partner and when I went to visit, she proudly showed off her purchase and made me a lovely latte. I then wanted one of these machines more than ever before, having seen it and tasting the results, but still couldn't justify spending my money on one.
Imagine my surprise when on Christmas morning last year, I opened a large box and found my very own Delonghi coffee machine inside! My two lovely daughters had clubbed together to buy me one as a Christmas present. I had no idea they were going to do this and I was absolutely thrilled. My eldest daughter demonstrated how to use it and we all enjoyed our coffees on Christmas day.
The model they bought me was the exact same model as pictured here, but mine was a shiny black colour instead.
~~ Using the coffee machine ~~
Now I must admit I am not a fan of using anything complicated and when I first saw my daughter making coffee with her machine, although I was impressed with the results, I thought it was a fair bit to take in as she was demonstrating from start to finish. However, when she demonstrated on Christmas day again how to make a latte on my machine, I found I had remembered most of what she had done the last time.
Full instructions are included of course and are so comprehensive it can seem quite daunting, but it is simplified by also including picture instructions too which clearly show what you have to do. It is worth having a good read of these even if you are slightly impatient like me, as it is important you follow the right steps each time to make your coffee and take care of your machine at the same time.
My daughter bought me some ground coffee to use with my machine and my other daughter also bought me some coffee from Starbucks to use too. I must point out here that they also bought me a stainless steel milk jug, thermometer and two small espresso cups. These are not provided with the machine but are essential items you will also need and they can all be purchased reasonably priced from Amazon.
You must fill the water tank at the rear of the machine with fresh water. I don't use tap water, I would advise to use filtered or bottled water.
After turning on the machine you place the espresso cup(s) upside down on the hotplate on top of the machine to warm them, then prepare the coffee by inserting one of the two ground coffee filters provided into the filter holder. The smallest filter is ideal for one cup of coffee and the larger sized filter for two cups.
After filling the filter with coffee, you then tamper it down by pressing it under the tamper device on the machine. Once this is done you then attach the filter to the machine and turn it fully home to the right, just like you see them do in coffee shops. You then press the second button after placing an espresso cup underneath the filter and the coffee will begin to filter through.
If making a latte or cappuccino you will need to pour some milk (semi-skimmed is best and also it must be at fridge temperature) into the jug, bearing in mind the milk will treble in volume when frothed and when the coffee is finished filtering, you turn off that button then press the third button which will illuminate when the milk frother is ready to use.
I place the thermometer into the jug also and then place under the nozzle, before slowly opening the steam tap which is a knob on the top of the machine and the milk begins to froth. I keep an eye on the temperature until it reaches the 60oC recommended and then pour into my coffee cup with the filtered coffee and I have the perfect latte or cappuccino.
You can also use ESE pods with this machine, but this is something I haven't done or intend to do.
It may seem a little daunting a first, but it is quite simple to use and after a couple of practice runs you will soon be in the swing of things.
You must follow the instructions carefully however and some handy tips are given and reminders such as cleaning the frother right away after use. You are advised to clean the filter holder and ground coffee filters about every 200 coffees, but I do this after every use to try and minimise the need to take them fully apart to clean if becoming blocked, although you will still need to do this from time to time.
There are full instructions provided on cleaning the entire machine, including the boiler outlet which involves needing a screwdriver. Again this is advised to be done after 200 coffees but I haven't actually had to do this yet. It doesn't sound too complicated at all, but you would be forgiven for reading through all the instructions and thinking owning such a machine is a lot of hassle. Likewise, when reading the 'problem' page at the back of the booklet which lists a whole page of possible problems and causes with solutions, it can be quite off-putting, but I suppose it is really good that they do supply this information.
~~ Do I recommend this machine? ~~
Well yes I do.... but...
I do feel the need to share the problem I experienced with my coffee machine, in that after around half a dozen uses the milk frother stopped working.
I followed the solutions provided after ignoring the first one which suggested the milk was not cold enough, as it was. I was then advised to clean the holes in the milk frother as indicated by a diagram but to be honest I had already done this, so I wasn't hopeful it would work and unfortunately I was right. For some reason and despite repeated attempts my milk frother had stopped working.
My daughters had purchased the coffee machine via an Amazon Market place seller and therefore returning it wasn't as simple as it would have been if purchased directly from Amazon. I must point out though that Amazon were very helpful when my daughter experienced a few problems with the seller not getting back to her quickly and then having to pay to return the machine to the seller which was £15! The seller promised a refund but was not going to refund the postage, but thanks to Amazon intervening, this was rectified. I think this is an important point to note that it would have been far less hassle if purchasing direct from Amazon as they would have sent a replacement right away and my daughter would not have had to pay to return the machine or experience any delays as it did take a few weeks to resolve.
On receiving a refund, my daughter then ordered another machine, but directly from Amazon this time. She ordered a dark purple coloured machine which is really lovely and I have had my machine a few months now with no problems. I will also point out that my daughter has experienced no problems whatsoever with her machine which she has had quite a while longer than I have had mine.
I must admit I was a little hesitant about my new machine after the frother broke so quickly on the first one, but it seems fine. I did think on one occasion something was wrong, but this was down to me not realising it wasn't ready to use as the light had not illuminated. Once illuminated, it was fine. This wasn't what had happened previously however, the frother on that first machine was well and truly broken.
I am quite happy to recommend this coffee machine. The good outweighs the bad for me ( the bad being the cleaning procedures and amount of instructions you need to read to ensure you are using the machine correctly) and the lattes I make are identical to those I purchase in coffee shops.
I would also like to see Delonghi provide a jug, thermometer and espresso cups with these machines too as these are quite vital to have when using your machine.
The price of the Delonghi Icona coffee machine seems to vary depending on the colour it seems and prices seems to fluctuate a lot.
Right now the red machine is priced at £124.97 from Amazon, whilst the purple machine I own is £162.40 which is quite a difference in price just for a different colour!. There are also cream, black light blue and olive machines priced from £141 to a whopping £171 too. They are identical models but a different colour, so it definitely worth taking into consideration before purchasing just how much you are paying for the colour here.
I have tried to give a blanced review the way I see it from my own experience of the Delonghi Icona coffee machine and will finish by saying I am really happy I have one of these coffee machines at last and wouldn't really like to be without it now. You can make your own Starbucks/Costa style coffee at a fraction of the cost, so the machine does pay for itself eventually and keeps me away from the Starbucks Drive Thru!
I want to dedicate this review to people who, like myself, enjoy a really good coffee and given the wide range in price and functionality of coffee makers wonder what one to opt for, if any.
If you are an expert in the subject of espresso machines and wonder which specific one to go for, this review is not for you.
First a few words about my needs. We are a household of 2 coffee lovers, who drink about 2-3 mugs of coffee a day each. I love a good coffee with crema on top and every time I have to drink a cup of drip coffee at friends I realize what difference there is between coffees. We were using the Philips Senseo machine for about 6 years until it eventually didn't work at all anymore. I did like the taste of the coffee it made but was fed up with having to pay so much for the coffee pads. So after reading dozens of reviews and looking at all the options I decided that this machine would be the right one in the prize range I was considering.
Since I ordered online I was quite surprised with the size of the machine when it arrived. It is small! Which means it fits nicely into the kitchen without taking up too much space, but it also means you may struggle to get your cups underneath. In the description they say "built to accommodate 2 full sized cappuccino cups", well to be honest I wouldn't know the standard specs of a "full sized cappuccino cup" but I should mentioned that none of our cups did fit. We have a fair range of small to large cups and mugs and even the smallest one did not fit underneath. However there is a solution to the problem:
1) You can remove the drip tray, which makes it useless but nearly all our cups fit now.
2) You can use a carafe. I bought a microwave saucepan, which is cheaper and easier to come by than a glass carafe. It fits the machine perfectly and has a spout.
Admittedly both ways are not particularly elegant, but then I am only after a good coffee.
I read different opinions on noise in different reviews, so how noisy is it? Well for heating the water, you will hardly hear anything. When the coffee runs through, there is the noise of the pump and the machine is rattling. So how loud is that? I would say it won't bother my neighbours through thin walls but it may waken my baby sleeping in the next room when the doors are opened. It will be louder if the machine is on an uneven surface or you have something on top
Of course the most important point, and making up the stars in my review: the coffee quality. Once you learned how to, it makes a really really nice coffee with a good crema on top. Not Starbucks or Costa quality but better than senseo and miles better than any filter coffee.
If you are new to espresso machines, I would say it may take you about weeks to get the perfect coffee out of the machine. This is because you need to experiment with the type of coffee powder, the amount of it, the amount of coffee you get out and the amount of pressure to apply. What I did not realise when I bought the machine is that there is only one button to start and stop the flow. I was used to the senseo machine where you have two buttons for 1 cup and 2 cup and the flow would stop automatically. Here you have to stop the machine manually, if you don't it will just go on running until the water tank is empty. However if you get used to it the operation is easy. The water heats up quickly and the coffee is dispensed fairly quick too.
What powder and value
As I mentioned in the introduction I switched to an espresso machine because of the prices and lack of choice of senseo pads. So this machine take ground coffee and ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) pads. It comes with two coffee filter, a small one where the ESE pads fit in and a 2in1 for ground coffee only which De'Longhi claims to have patented. In my opinion, don't bother with the ESE pads, they are quite pricy and you will soon figure out how to make the best coffee using ground coffee. As for the ground coffee: You need to make sure to use espresso powder because normal coffee powder is not ground fine enough creating a very week coffee. Also if you want to make a good sized cup of coffee the 2in1 filter is your only choice. I have tried for a long time to get a decent sized coffee out of the smaller filter using the strongest powder available and pressing it so hard that the coffee took ages to come through, but the best is really to use the bigger filter.
Yes it is a bit messier than the pads but simply prepare the coffee on surface that is easy to clean or wash. I pay about £3,50 for a pack of espresso that lasts me for about two weeks, so that is 28 good sized cups of coffee, making it 12 pence per cup. I dare say you can find even cheaper powder, and you could also buy beans and grind them.
I don't know too much about the art of milk frothing but from what I can say it work very well and quick, furthermore it is easy to clean.
On the De'Longhi website I saw the "cup warmer facility" advertised. To be quite frank, if you wanted your cups to be warmed you are quicker boiling water and leaving it in the cups for a while than to wait for the warmer to have heated up. However if you have the machine on for a while anyway, you might as well place the cups on top. That is of course if you have small enough cups to fit.
I cannot say much about the built quality yet , I only own the machine for a couple of months, and so far nothing broke and the machine seems sturdy enough to last some years. But I will keep the review updated
The machine is really easy to clean, just wipe and occasionally descale by running descaler through.
I suppose the machine looks good. I really do not pay too much attention as long as it doesn't hurt the eye. But there are different colours and styles available too.
Yes I am happy with my purchase, I may have had different expectations but looking back I would go for the same machine again. I know what size an espresso is but somehow I still had hoped to get a good a good sized coffee out of an espresso machine. So I am glad now to have gone with this machine with the 2in1 filter. It is a very good value for money if you don't want to spend a lot more on a fully automatic machine. If you, like me, a torn between the fancy pod machines like Senseo or Nespresso and an espresso machine like this one, I can tell you, you may spend a little more on the machine but will save a lot more in the making and get a nicer coffee. Plus you are not dependent on a particular brand and the coffee making is eco-friendly in comparison to the nespresso system.
I picked up the Icona from John Lewis in Stratford just before Xmas 2012, at a reduced price of £120 (RRP is £190 according to the Delonghi site). I'd been after a coffee machine for a while, and had considered the Nespresso and Tassimo alternatives, but loved the idea of fresh ground coffee. It's also cheaper in the long-run, and I find you get a much smoother and more flavourful coffee from fresh ground beans rather than the capsules - it's also cheaper per cup!
So, having got the Icona home and following the pretty thorough setup instructions (flushing water through the system etc), I went to bed for the night, looking forward to a nice cup of fresh coffee in the morning.
Sunday morning: Dragged myself out of bed and to the local shop to grab the papers (the Times if your asking) and then back to my flat for breakfast and my brand new coffee machine's first experience! It was a simple process of using the supplied measuring tool to fill the single cup filter (the machine comes with both single and double cup filters, a nice touch) and then levelling it off, before locking the filter into place.
I'd already turned the machine on, and the green status button lets you know when it's good to go, so off I went, placing one of my new cappuccino cups on the tray and hitting the go button. The machine's noise surprised me at first, but it's gotten quieter as I've continued to use it (or maybe my ears have just adjusted). The small is incredible, nothing quite like fresh coffee on a Sunday morning to wake you up!
Once it had filled the cup, it prepares the milk steamer, should you wish to make a cappuccino. I had no problem getting the milk nice and frothy, and although I've still not mastered the barista art of creating a pattern in my coffee, it produces a nice head for the coffee.
The taste will obviously depend on the coffee you use, but I've never had a bad experience using John Lewis/M&S or Whittings coffee. The advantage you have over a Nespresso or Tassimo machine is the huge range of flavours you can sample, from the standard garage bought ground beans through to Kopi Luwak £90-a-bag gourmet beans.
A cup takes about 3 minutes in total to make, with the machine taking a few minutes to prepare. Some of the more expensive machines have timers to come on in the mornings, alas this model doesn't, but the speed of which you can brew a cup is fantastic, and your never left to wait long.
I've cleaned the machine a few times in the 6 months I've had it, and Delonghi do recommend a good clean every few weeks depending on your usage of it. I've never had any issues with the machine and feel that it's been a solid purchase - I've certainly saved a few hundred pounds from not buying coffeeshop coffees, and I get a greater range of flavours, with a better final product I feel!
The Icona is available in a range of colours to suit your kitchen, and it's classic retro design certainly makes it stand out amongst your usual kitchen elements and utensils. I'd highly recommend the machine for someone that loves coffee and is looking for their first home coffee machine - you get all the flexibility of an espresso machine, blended with a cappuccino maker and with a huge range of tastes available to you.
Shop around before buying, as I'm aware the Icona can often be had for around the £120-130 mark, and Delonghi often have discount vouchers for free coffee or cappuccino cups in the box - a nice extra bonus!
Short name: DeLonghi 310