Note: This is a reproduction of an Amazon.com review I wrote on this machine.
I purchased this espresso machine in April 2012 from a different retailer and I’ve enjoyed having it. Before purchasing the EC155, however, I did a significant amount of research before settling on this one. It’s a great little machine, and I feel it does a good job — even with seeing what the better machines can do.
One thing to bear in mind: if you’re expecting from this machine the kind of lattes or espresso you can get from coffee shops staffed with professional baristas, prepare to be disappointed. That’s just not going to happen.
But, as the title hints, there are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing and using this machine.
1. Small boiler. The boiler in this machine is probably 4oz at most. This will be a major limitation on its ability to push out espresso and steam/froth milk. You will need to account for this when using the machine. This is especially the case when you’re frothing milk, as the small boiler will limit what kind of results you can get.
The smaller boiler also means it doesn’t have the greatest temperature control. To get the best espresso temperature, learn about something called “temperature surfing”.
2. Short frothing wand. This is one thing that many people have noted in their reviews. You won’t be able to get this very deep into the milk, but I’ve used this successfully with a 20oz pitcher without any issues, but I tend to make lattes large enough to fill a 16oz travel cup.
3. Warm-up time. If you read the manual to the machine (available on the manufacturer’s site), it’ll tell you that you need to give it at least 15 minutes to warm-up, but there’s an alternative quicker approach. Either way will work, but the warm-up is essential to avoid pulling a cooler shot. Bear in mind, too, that virtually every espresso maker has some kind of warm-up period, with some machines needing more time than others.
The way I do things in the morning is I turn on the espresso maker to warm-up, feed the cats, and take my shower. By the time I’m out of the shower and dressed, the espresso maker is warmed up.
4. Pressurized portafilter baskets. Many have complained about the quality of the coffee they get from this machine. The reason is the pressurized portafilter basket. You’re never going to get great coffee as a result. An alternative is changing the portafilter basket with a non-pressurized basket. Doing this, however, will require you to purchase a good grinder and tamper. But while having the pressurized portafilter will mean you never get a great espresso shot out of the machine, if you’re going to be doing lattes or cappuccinos, this shouldn’t be a huge deal. Just pick a decent coffee, preferably locally roasted, and you should be good.
On this mark, one commenter said that if you tamp too hard or have too fine a grind on your coffee that you can clog up the machine. This is true on any espresso maker, even the expensive prosumer models. What the pressurized portafilter means, however, is that you can have a coffee grind that isn’t very consistent or a tamp that isn’t quite right and still get something workable.
Also, speaking of the basket, the manual says to take it apart and clean it every couple hundred coffees. Umm…. I’d recommend doing this once every week or two. You don’t need to do it after every coffee, but you do need to rinse it out reasonably frequently.
5. Steaming milk. The frothing aid on this machine means that you will never get the same kind of results that will come with more expensive to prosumer machines. The small boiler is also a limiting factor. Make sure to use *cold* milk, and one thing that’ll really help too is if you keep your pitcher cold as well, so put it in the fridge for a few minutes before using.
Also, make sure to take the frothing aid off the machine after each run and at least rinse it out, and give it a soak in some soapy water every once in a while as well.
Now bear in mind that the frothing aid is plastic and screws onto a steel pipe. This means that the threads on the frothing aid will eventually wear out and the frothing aid will start to leak. It could also crack and leak. Don’t worry, though, it’s a cheap part to replace and you can order a replacement through the manufacturer or a parts dealer. Ironically shipping it may cost more than the part itself. Perhaps De’Longhi should start including one or two spares with the machine…
6. Water. Your water quality will always play a role in what comes out of the machine. First, NEVER use distilled water in this espresso machine. Some espresso machines will not even function with distilled water, and while this one might (according to some statements I’ve seen), it’s never recommended. Do get a water filtering pitcher, such as from Brita or Pur, and only use filtered water in this machine. If you have hard water in your area, a water softener will provide benefits beyond just your espresso machine.
7. Maintenance. The manual that comes with the machine is way off on its maintenance timetable. How often you descale the machine (DeLonghi has a descaling solution available) will depend more on the quality of your water (see above) than how many espressos you make. The manual says you need to descale every 200 coffees, which if you only make espresso and only do so once a day, that’s about 6 months you can go without descaling. Yeah, I don’t think so.
I descale mine about once every two months. You might need to descale more often. If you notice the machine slowing down (especially the milk frothing) or the flavor of the coffee tasting either burnt or unusually bitter, and you’re using relatively fresh coffee, chances are you need to descale the machine.
The screen on the boiler outlet should also be removed and cleaned whenever you descale the machine (make it part of a routine cleaning), but I’d recommend doing this at least once a month, and you should clean it off after every espresso. You should also get a good grouphead brush to clean around the grouphead every once in a while.
This is a good little machine that should really be considered an “entry level” machine, one to get you introduced to making espresso at home. So while you’re using this little guy, put some money aside for a better machine. I’d also recommend getting a good burr grinder at some point — I have a Breville Smart Grinder — and always try to use a local roaster instead of the mass-produced stuff from Starbucks and the like. The grinder and coffee will always be more important than the machine.
And if you’re new to espresso, there are plenty of videos on YouTube to help you out.