By Dougie Fresh
on 2015-09-29 Surprisingly excellent entry-level espresso machine
I've been enjoying the De'Longhi ECP3630 for a week now and in celebration of National Coffee Day I am writing this review.
Over the past 10 years or so, ever since my boss (an Italian from Rome) introduced me to the world of non-drip coffee, I've really enjoyed espresso and cappuccino. When I can, I enjoy a nice Starbucks and I've been lucky enough to do some traveling and experience the original Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Tully's and overseas Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero (who looks to have landed in Boston) as well as whatever local shops I can find. My favorite coffee drinks are espresso, cappuccino and something called a "Doppio con Panna" which is a double-shot of espresso with whipped cream on top (if you haven't had this order it at Starbucks -- it is so good). At home, for a while I owned a very nice looking entry-level Breville espresso maker (an earlier version of the Breville 800ESXL
that never quite lived up to its promise and eventually just died. I long lusted after something like a Gaggia but I could never justify spending so much money on a machine. Eventually, I just gave up on the whole idea of coffee drinks at home. 10 years later I can say that the world of entry-level home espresso machine has changed for the good.
The biggest problems with the Breville were it took forever to heat up, made a really soupy puck and mess out of the espresso and was really finicky with the grind and couldn't push through a pod, never did a great job of getting a nice foam with the steamer wand and it was super noisy. The results were just so-so and I found myself not using it as much as I had wanted. There was definitely not after-the-kids-went-to-bed drinks allowed with all the noise. The De'Longhi is just the opposite. The first time I turned it on, it heated up in about two minutes. I was expecting more like five. I didn't have any espresso coffee around so (and I now this is absolutely sacrilege but I was desperate) I took a scoop of Folger's "Half Caff", tamped it and ran it. I was shocked to see a nice dark espresso with a decent crema forming in the cup. I was even more shocked with the taste. It was actually really good! It wasn't the "right" roast or grind but it came out really nice. Yes, I know, Folger's, really? But I didn't want to wait to play with my new toy!
The machine comes fully assembled and almost ready to go. It's nice and compact and doesn't take up much counter space. The appearance is very nice even though there's a mix of metal and metal-colored plastic. I am not sure what the "full stainless steel housing" refers to but it's definitely plastic and metal mixed. It's fully in-line with this price point though and it's very nice looking overall. It comes with just about everything you need: a portafilter (the thing with the handle that holds the coffee), three filter baskets (single shot; double shot and E.S.E. Pod) and a scooper/tamper combination tool. Unfortunately, while there is a place to store the baskets in the machine there is no good place to store the scooper and the portafilter. The top flips open to reveal the water container and a place to hold the other filter baskets. The water container lifts out to make it easy to fill. There isn't a charcoal filter like you'll find with some coffee makers so you'll need to use good cold pre-filtered water. There was a strong plastic "new" smell to the water container so I took it out, rinsed it with cold water and as suggested by the Getting Started guide, ran half a container of water through the espresso and steamer sides of the machine.
Getting going with the De'Longhi was really easy. Brewing is a matter of first turning the dial to "On" while it heats up. During that time, I filled the basket using the included scooper (one scoop for a double-shot) and tamped with the other side and then inserted the portafilter into the machine. Once the green light came on, I turned the dial to the right. This starts the brewing process. At first I wondered if it was working because it was so quiet but soon enough, the espresso was flowing. That was a nice suprise. By the way, you need a pretty short glass here -- you won't fit your coffee mug under it. Once I had enough espresso to my liking I then turned it back to the left through on, off and to the steamer side and made sure the top of the wand was slid down to the "cappuccino" mark. While waiting for the green light to come back on, I put some milk (you'll have to play with the amount here) in the steel pitcher and holding it at and angle in my left hand, inserted the steamer tip just below the surface. With my right hand I turned the dial on the side of the machine down and let it start foaming. Again, even during this process the machine was relatively quiet, at least compared to what you'd hear at a coffee shop. However, don't expect micro-foam here. This is not an $8000 machine. But, what you do end up with is very good. I let it go until the bottom of the pitcher gets too hot to hold comfortably for more than a second. You don't want to go too long and scorch the milk. I then poured the hot water out of my mug, dropped in my espresso hot and then poured what's left of the milk over the shot and then scooped the foam on to the top. Voila, my first De'Longhi cappuccino. Cleaning the portafilter is easy. You just knock it on the side of the trash can or compost bin. I was happy to see a pretty dry puck and not a soupy mess like the aforementioned machine. Supposedly, a dry puck is a sign of a good espresso shot. The steam wand tip can be taken off and rinsed with hot water. It's very easy to clean. Overall, the resulting cappuccino was so much better than I expected and I was so delighted not only by the drink itself but how easy the whole experience was.
I also tried the De'Longhi with some Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso Pods
to very good result. These are great if you don't want to deal with the grinding, tamping and all that. They still need to be tamped but all the grind is self-contained in a little paper envelope you can easily throw out when done. I think they can even be composted. At a quarter or so a piece, a cup is still so much less than what you'd pay at a shop. They do make it too easy though to have 4-5 cappuccinos a day so be careful. I might need to order some decaf pods.
Obviously, I am very delighted with this machine. After my first entry-level machine experience, I wasn't expecting much at all. At the price point, the ease-of-use and the results far exceed my expectation. The machine heats up quickly, is quiet during brewing and makes very good espresso and cappuccino drinks. It has the power to push through pods. It also looks nice on our counter. I've already been talking this one up to friends. I am really looking forward to making my own doppio con panna, pumpkin eggnog lattes (when the season rolls around and Hood puts out their Pumpkin Spice Eggnog) and especially a nice after-dinner decaf espresso.
Just a few words about making espressos and cappuccinos from my own experience...
At first, one of these semi-automatic machines can seem intimidating. If you Google "how to make espresso", there's a huge deal made out of every aspect of making the "perfect cup" of espresso. If you had an $8000 machine and maybe it was your job or you're Italian and your national pride is on the line, sure. But, honestly, you don't have to make "the perfect" cup. You just need to make a cup you can enjoy.
A good espresso starts with the coffee. It doesn't absolutely have to be the darkest roast. It's up to your taste. But, good beans do make good espresso. Heck, I made a decent cup with Folgers (again, I was desperate)! It's best to avoid oily beans so as not to clog things up. A regular blade grinder isn't going to cut it so a burr grinder with an espresso setting is the best bet. If you don't want to drop that kind of money on a nice Capresso burr grinder, just have your coffee shop grind it for you and tell them it's for espresso.
All these sites make a huge deal over getting the tamp exactly right like they're expecting you to have a torque wrench attached to the tamper or something. I just push down gently with a little twist until there's no more give. That seems to work just fine. How long to run a shot? The goal is 30 seconds to get 1.5oz. But, it's ok if it's not right at 30 seconds. You'll have to play with it to find what works best for you grind, your tamp and your machine. Play with it and do what tastes good for you.
A good hint I found is to keep your espresso glass and your mug warm. This machine is advertised to have a cup warmer on top but that's a great way to smash your glasses and mugs when you bump them trying to make drinks. I just fill them with hot water and let the water sit in them until they're ready to be used.
Foaming the milk isn't really that hard. You just insert the tip right below the surface of the milk and as the foam rises you keep moving the cup up (get yourself a nice metal foaming cup -- don't try to do it in the coffee mug) while holding it at an angle to try to get a whirlpool motion going. If the bubbles are too big your wand is too high above the milk so put it more down into the cup. I find holding it around 45 degrees works. How much foam and how much milk in a drink is about your taste not the official definition of the drink, if you can even find agreement on what the ratios of foam to milk should even be.
The bottom line is don't be intimidated and don't be afraid to fool around and experiment. Play with it and find what works for your taste. No pressure! Enjoy it!
By 2DayDeliver Customer
on 2018-01-10 That low end machine made a lot of very good espresso over the years and thought I would just ...
I had a Delonghi in our family for over 10 years similar to De'Longhi EC220CD 15-Bar Pump Driven Espresso Maker
and when it finally died I figured I would just replace it in kind. That low end machine made a lot of very good espresso over the years and thought I would just replace it with the same model because it did so well. But when I finally decided to purchase another machine I stepped up to this one and was glad i did. So far the machine has performed fabulously. I teamed it up with an inexpensive Capresso conical burr grinder Capresso 560.04 Infinity Conical Burr Grinder, Stainless Finish
and I can't say enough about the quality of the coffee it delivers. Nice thick crema and tastes great. If you don't consider yourself a "Barista" and don't want to spend $500-$1000 on a system, but just want a good shot of espresso, I would highly recommend this machine.
4 Stars By 2DayDeliver Customer on 2018-01-10
Great for the price, but buy the protection plan
Works wonderfully for the price, but always buy the protection plan. We had a different delonghi machine that sprung a leak about 6mo after we got it. We continued to use it for another 6, then cashed in the protection plan and upgraded to this one. For being a relatively inexpessive espresso machine, I don’t expect it to be up to the task for long. It makes a decent espresso, and has certainly cut down my coffee bill.
4 Stars By A. Bottaro on 2016-06-12
Very good machine. We have hadit about a week and ...
Very good machine. We have hadit about a week and so far works great. Had one instance where no water was flowing out and it had not yet run out of water in reservoir, so maybe pump somehow needed to be reprimed. But worked very nicely after that.I would have given it 5 stars if it would make espresso with as much "foam" as another Espresso machine of different Italian brand , but foam is adequate. Very surprised that this Italian machine was "made in China", but I guess Italian companies outsourcing too..
3 Stars By SJ on 2017-02-04
Good for a firs time buyer
It's a very nicely build machine, all stainless steel, looks very durable. I bought it to replace a Philips Saeco Poemia, which was amazing. I've only used it for 3 days and decide to return it. Unfortunately, coffee tastes weaker and watered down in comparison to the Philips. I've tried different types of coffee with different grinds and it didn't help. I've been drinking only espresso since the day i started drink coffee and I've owned many espresso makers during the years, so i can tell the deference between good and great espresso. I would recommend this one to someone who is upgrading to espresso machine from a standard drip coffee maker.
5 Stars By 2DayDeliver Customer on 2017-02-15
A great espresso maker for THIS price
A great espresso maker for THIS price. Very easy to operate. Looks classy. Coffee comes out strong, which is the point, isn't it? Filter cups are kind of hard to insert, but once you get the gist of it, it becomes easier.
5 Stars By Jennifer A on 2017-01-06
Love this machine!
I've been using this machine for a month now and absolutely love it. I had a lower end model previously and this was a nice upgrade. Frothing and steaming are much better. Heats up quickly and reheats quickly. Cleans up easily. Make a perfect espresso. It also has the ability to use a normal cup for frothing and brewing or just using a shot cup. Love the versatility.
4 Stars By Robert O. Chase on 2016-01-28
Excellent entry level for the price
This is sturdy and well made. Heavy duty cord and solid stainless. Heats quickly and steam spout is easy to clean. For multiple cups, keep in mind that this is for home use. When making foam, water comes out first, so spill it into a cup and then put the spigot in milk when turns to all steam. It may cool and have to recover before you have a full head of foam. Therefore you cannot rush multiple cups. However, there is plenty of head pressure, the espresso comes out with a nice brown foam, too. It is delicious. The best features are that it is made of sturdy material and that it is relatively easy to use and to clean.
4 Stars By Danielle Johnston on 1969-12-31
So far so good. We've been using it for about 2 weeks ...
So far so good. We've been using it for about 2 weeks and it makes good espresso. We switched to DeLonghi from the Breville Cafe Roma when the bar stopped pumping. I thought it was odd that the handle was hard to pull to the right when attaching it, but it seems to be getting looser and easier to turn, and it doesnt effect it's ability to pour a shot. There isn't a difference between the Breville (which we loved) and this one so we like it!
4 Stars By John A. LoPresti on 2017-06-13
I've had this machine for a while, now. It's a good, reliable machine, which produces a respectable cup of espresso.